Question: [Tuesday, 23rd Iyar, 5782]
I once heard mentioned that the Rebbe stated that the terrible terrorist attack and ensuing horrific murder of the 22 Safed religious school students in the town of Maalot [known as Chaf Beit Yaldei Maalot] came as a result of the Mezuzos of the school not being kosher. Is this true, and if true how does it make any sense to say that G-d would kill 22 young students just because the Mezuzos were not Kosher?
This is only partially accurate. As always, whenever one hears a statement said in the name of another individual, especially if it is a puzzling statement, he should make the effort to verify it from the source, as often there are discrepancies between the original statement, and that which one was told, and on occasion, upon verifying with the so-called source it ends up being completely false.
What happened was as follows: A group of about 100 male and female students from a religious public school in Tzefas [Dati Mamlachti] were taken hostage during a sleepover field trip in the town of Maalot, and were brutally murdered by terrorists on the 23rd of Iyar 5734/1974 after a failed and error filled attempt by the IDF to save them. After this terrible tragedy the Rebbe directed to check the Mezuzos of the doors of the school building in Tzefas, where the students had learned. At first, it was discovered that 17 of the Mezuzos were invalid which exactly corresponded at that time to the known death toll of the students which was 17. It was later released that a total of 20 students had been killed, and not 17, after which the Rebbe instructed for further Mezuzos in the school building to be checked, and indeed another two Mezuzos were found to be invalid and another two were found to be questionably invalid.
Regarding the connection between the murder and the invalid Mezuzahs: The Rebbe begun the Mezuzah campaign a few months earlier on the 10th of Shevat 5734, asking for everyone to have kosher mezuzahs placed on their doorways, and for them to be periodically checked for their Kashrus status. The Rebbe stated that kosher Mezuzos draw down a miraculous form of protection from God for those who live in that home, even when they are outside the house, and gives them peace and security by Hashem. The Rebbe even stated that if this would’ve been followed years earlier it would’ve saved many Jews from tragic terrorist attacks, and other tragedies. After the above tragic terrorist attack happened with the students, the Rebbe immediately desired to discover the state of the mezuzahs of their school, and most astonishingly the number of invalid mezuzahs matched the number of murder victims r”l. The Rebbe made public mention of this in a talk on Shabbos Parshas Behar 5734, and used the event to further plead with the public to have kosher mezuzahs on their doors for the G-dly protection that they survive, stating “I have most enthusiastically been involved lately in the Mezuzah campaign. I was pushed and given no rest regarding this issue and was forced to publicize it. I myself had no idea why, and now we see [as a sign from God] that the entire event that happened was connected with the mitzvah of mezuzah.”
Despite all this, it is most inaccurate to conclude that the Rebbe is saying that the reason the students died r”l is as a punishment for their mezuzahs not being valid. We do not understand the calculations of Heaven, and cannot fathom at all the unthinkable tragedy that occurred to the 22 students, and as to why God chose them to die at such a young age Al Kiddush Hashem. God does not punish people who have invalid mezuzahs by killing them r’l, and G-d forbid to think of God in such a manner. Rather, the intent is that kosher mezuzahs provide extra protection against matters of severities and both spiritual and physical prosecutions, and when one does not have kosher mezuzahs he loses the special protection offered against spiritual and physical persecutors which try to compromise one’s safety. To use a simple parable to understand the above: if a security guard left the premises, which then allowed for a crime to take place, it is not the security guard who committed the crime. However, if the security guard would have remained it is very possible that the crime would not have happened, due to the security and protection that he provides. The mezuzah is our security guard against persecutions, and is not the criminal who commits the act when invalid.
This idea and concept that a mezuzah provides physical protection and safety is not the novelty of the Rebbe at all, and is explicitly mentioned in the Talmud, Rishonim and Poskim.
Sources: See regarding the 22 murdered students r”l: Igros Kodesh Vol. 29 p. 11 and p. 162; Sichos Kodesh 5734 2:126; See regarding the general reward of protection and security provided by a Mezuzah: Beis Yosef Y.D. 285; Avoda Zara 11a; Menachos 33b; Tosafos Menachos 44a;Tur 285; Taz 289:1; Likkutei Sichos 19 p. 121