The Rebbe’s Response to a Massacre at an Elementary School

A new volume of the Rebbe’s Torah containing five hundred pages of sichos, newly revealed maanos, and the Rebbe’s perspective on the Maalot Massacre.

As tens of thousands all over the world prepare for the approaching day of Yud Alef Nissan, marking 120 years since the Rebbe’s birth, a new Sefer has appeared: “Toras Menachem – Hisvaaduyos” vol. 76, spanning the Rebbe’s farbrengens from Yud Alef Nissan 5734 through Yud Beis Tammuz 5734, and the twelve maamarim the Rebbe delivered between those dates. 

In the volume’s preface, which usually includes photographs of the Rebbe’s handwritten edits to the Sichos, there appears a unique shaar blatt to the Rebbe’s sichos with the image of a mezuzah with the letters shin-daled-yud, published by Vaad Mitzvah Mezuzah of Kfar Chabad, with seven glosses and comments by the Rebbe himself.

What is this image all about?

On Wednesday, 23 Iyar 5734 (May 15, 1974), a terrible massacre was perpetrated by terrorists in the city of Maalot. Three terrorists entered Israel from Lebanon, opened fire on a vehicle carrying working women from Kiryat Ata to Fassuta, killing one and wounding several. When they entered the city of Maalot, they killed a couple — Yosef and Fortuna Cohen — and their 4-year-old son Moshe. They then proceeded to the Netiv Meir school, where 102 students, ninth to eleventh graders from Tzfas, were staying overnight, taking the students hostage.

As IDF forces broke into the building, the terrorist killed 21 students. A total of 28 people were killed in their killing spree, and 68 were injured.

The terror attack shocked Israel, especially in light of the large number of dead and wounded, pictures of whom were published in the press in Israel and around the world. One of the Rebbe’s Shluchim to Tzfas in those days, Rabbi Avraham Eisenbach, went out to inspect the mezuzahs at the school, and they were all found to be invalid. When the mezuzahs were counted, it turned out to match the number of students killed — a fact that was quickly publicized.

The next Shabbos, Behar-Bechukosai, the Rebbe delivered an extraordinary sicha. The Rebbe opened the farbrengen with (restrained) emotion over the terrible attack, and spoke about the possul mezuzos in the school where the students were staying.

“Although the order [of the farbrengens] is that we first explain matters in Torah, in this case, due to the obligation to deal with the public’s needs, we will  change from the usual order and start with a matter that has happened in recent days — a shocking, inhumane, event…”

“After the occurrence, I waited a day or two, hoping that someone — especially someone appointed as a spiritual leader, and has semicha, and whose job it is to deliver Torah’s opinion — would stand up and clarify that gentiles obviously have no dominion over Jews, and therefore, when such an event occurs, we need to examine our own behavior. To preface: This is obviously not a justification for the terrorists who did this, and they must certainly be punished for it, but as for the Jewish people themselves, they should know that the gentiles have no control over them at all, and they are nothing but an ax in the hand of its wielder. We need to approach it as a message from Hashem in light of our actions.

“Which of our actions requires correction? Sometimes, the Divine hashgacha is hidden and one must toil to find the reason, but in our case, Hashem showed an open matter of Divine Providence: there is a young man in Tzfas who telephoned here. Being that the occurrence took place during the children’s trip to Maalot, but the children were from Tzfas, he asked that they be mentioned at the Ohel or in prayer. He added that he went on his own accord to check the mezuzos in the school, and all 17 mezuzos there were found to be invalid.

“This is a clear matter of hashgacha pratis — the number of invalid mezuzos was exactly as the number of the children, may Hashem avenge their blood. When it was reported the next day in the press that the death toll was higher, I was surprised, so I asked to find out again about the number of mezuzos, and indeed, it turned out that there were another four mezuzos, two were for sure invalid, and another two were in doubt. That’s how clear the matter was! When they announced that 17 children had been killed, they found 17 invalid mezuzos, and when they announced that there were more dead, they found more invalid mezuzas! …”

Here, the Rebbe uttered shocking words:

“And now, the deeper reason for the inspiration of Mivtza Mezuzah has become clear. In recent times [From Yud Shevat and on] I often spoke passionately about Mivtza Mezuzah. I myself did not know the reason for it, but I was pushed and given no rest, to speak and demand and to shturem about the need to engage in Mivtza Mezuzah.

“I did explain the reason for this — that outside the mezuzah is written the name of Hashem, ‘Shin-Daled-Yud,’ which stands for ‘Shomer Dalsos Yisrael…’ But why engage in Mivtza Mezuzah when there are many mitzvos, and each mitzvah has a special virtue? But we now see how the event was closely related to the mitzvah of mezuzah, whose virtue is to act as a guardian for the inhabitants. Therefore, every person that is able to engage in Mivtza Mezuzah — he should be blessed!”

The following Shabbos, Parshas Bamidbar, the Rebbe’s face was very serious. During musaf, when Reb Zalmon Jaffe began to sing Hu Elokeinu, the Rebbe didn’t encourage the singing. When davening ended, the Rebbe did not encourage the singing either. During the farbrengen, which lasted until 5:30, the Rebbe spoke a lot about the ‘mivtzoim’ and especially about Mivtza Tefillin and Mivtza Mezuzah. 

The Rebbe said, in a pained voice, that G-d forbid someone should say that the incident happened because the mezuzos were invalid. Rather, it was a case of cause and effect: Just as a soldier with a helmet is protected and a soldier without one could be harmed, so too, the mezuzah protects the inhabitants both when they are inside the house and outside of it, and when it is invalid, it affects the protection over them.

“The intention is not that because of the gezeirah of mihu yehudi or because of a lack of engagement with the mivtzoim, these events occurred, chas veshalom. Rather, it is comparable to the fact that the army has a very important rule — that when going to the battlefield, soldiers wear a helmet to protect them from the enemy’s ammunition. If someone would take the helmet from the soldier or prevent him from wearing it, and after time, even if a long time later, an enemy bullet was fired at his head and he was injured or… — obviously, the blame for the injury lies on the enemy, but if the soldier would have had a helmet, he could have avoided the injury, because the helmet would have protected him. Therefore, being that he denied the soldier the ability to wear the helmet, he is also to blame for the injury etc. of the soldier, because he prevented his proper protection.

“The same is true in this instance. There are reasons for the occurrence. As the Rambam says, ‘chas veshalom to suggest that it is the way of nature or happenstance.’ Of course, these are depraved terrorists who will find their end like Pharaoh and his men. But the terrorists entered the cities of Eretz Yisrael due to a deficiency in the barriers at the border, and the same is true spiritually: the decree of Mihu Yehudi destroys the barriers between the Jewish people and the nations of the world, to the point that according to that law, if those terrorists would have come openly through Lod (with documents of whatever form) and demand to be registered as Jews, they would be granted their wish according to this terrible and wretched law. 

“If this decree wouldn’t exist, and the barrier between the Jewish people and the nations would be strong, it would strengthen the Jewish people in a physical way, and therefore, this law is partly to blame for these latest events. As explained in the metaphor, the injury of the soldier is blamed, in addition to on the shooter, also on he who prevented him from protecting himself with a metal helmet. 

The same is true regarding the mivtzoim. Obviously, it’s not the lack in these mivtzoim that brought about these events, but the fulfillment of these mitzvos — in addition to the reason that they are the commandments of Hashem — also protect the Jewish people from the enemies around them. Chas veshalom to belittle these mivtzoim, because you thereby prevent the protection of the Jewish people (and although Hashem surely protects the Jewish people, and the Guardian of Israel surely does not slumber nor sleep, nonetheless, the basic strategy of war is to wear a helmet to protect oneself from the life-threatening danger).


As customary, immediately after emerging from the printing press, the first copy was brought to the Rebbe’s Ohel on the morning of Purim this year, by Lahak’s director, Rabbi Chaim Shaul Brook.

Anash, Shluchim and bochurim who are members of Lahak’s subscription club (in the US and Canada) will receive the book before Yud Alef Nissan, and it will be available in Kehos branches and Judaica stores at Anash centers around the world.

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