Dovid Vigler

When 105 School Children Were Taken Hostage in Israel…

Photo of the Dramatic Ma'alot Hostage Rescue Mission:

The Most Flawlessly Co-ordinated Military Campaign in History

Our hearts are shattered into 240 pieces as we pray for the welfare of our soldiers and citizens in Israel and the safe return of all 240 of our hostages kidnapped in violation of international law in Gaza.

This is not the first time that Israel has faced such a crisis. There is a powerful lesson to be learned from the last such crisis, just after the Yom Kippur War.

On May 14, 1974, three Palestinians, including two Israeli Arabs, infiltrated Israel from Lebanon, dressed in IDF uniforms. They entered the town of Ma’alot, near Israel’s northern border, founded by Moroccan and Tunisian Jews in 1957. They attacked a school, where they held 115 Israeli civilians hostage, including 105 schoolchildren, aged 14-16 years old, who were on a school camping trip from Tzfat (Safed).

The terrorists demanded the release of 23 Palestinian terrorists and 3 other non-Arab terrorists who were being held in Israeli prisons for launching terror attacks in Israel. If their demands weren’t met by 6 PM on May 15, they said they would kill all the hostages, G-d forbid. The students were forced to sit on the floor at gunpoint, with explosive charges between them.

At 5:25 PM, three divisions of the IDF Sayeret Matkal Special Forces unit stormed the building and managed to kill all the terrorists, but not before they managed to murder 22 children, in cold blood. World Jewry fell into a deep sense of grief and mourning. As a result of this event, Israel created the Yamam special forces unit—Israel’s National Counter-terror Division.

General Moshe Dayan rescuing a teenage hostage:

An Announcement that Shocked the Jewish World

Just 3 days later, on Shabbos, May 18, 1974, in Brooklyn NY, the Rebbe made a jaw-dropping announcement. He said that the Mezuzahs of the victims’ school in Tzfat (Safed) were inspected and 22 of them were found to be non-kosher!

The Mezuzah is one of the 613 Biblical Mitzvahs of the Torah. We are commanded to place a Mezuzah scroll, containing specific passages from the Torah, onto the doorpost of every room we own, except bathrooms. The Torah promises Divine protection to the residents of the space which the Mezuzah protects, both when they are in the room as well as when they leave (Zohar part III, Raya Mehemna, 263b). The three tiny black letters on the outside of the Mezuzah are the name of G-d which is an acronym for “Guardian of the Doors of Israel.” Unlike a human king, who positions himself comfortably inside while his guards protect his entryway, G-d, the King of all Kings, allows us to lounge comfortably indoors while He Himself stands guard over our doors!

Upon hearing this shocking news, the grief of global Jewry turned to outrage. What kind of heartless G-d would punish 22 innocent schoolchildren just because 22 scrolls were not kosher? Why were these children made to pay for a seemingly minor indiscretion that certainly had nothing to do with them?!

The Cemetery of the school children who were killed in the Ma’alot massacre:

For a Mezuzah to be kosher, it needs to be handwritten with specific ink on real parchment exactly like a Torah, with each letter perfectly formed. A single error or a touching or missing letter renders the entire Mezuzah unkosher. Humidity, sunshine, heat, water penetration, salty air near the sea, and multiple other factors can easily render the sensitive parchment of the Mezuzah unkosher and thus each Mezuzah needs to be recertified every 3 years. In addition, the Mezuzah needs to be placed in a specific manner at the proper location of the doorpost, in order to be effective.

The Rebbe proceeded to explain the profound significance of the Mezuzah and its miraculous protection over those whom it protects: When a soldier goes out to the battlefield, he knows that he is entering dangerous territory and must dress accordingly with a bullet-proof vest and a helmet to protect himself from harm. Were he to neglect to wear a helmet, or if he was to wear a faulty one, his being hit by a bullet would not be a punishment for his negligence but rather a mere consequence of his actions.

In much the same way, the Torah compares the Jewish nation to a lamb surrounded by seventy wolves (Medrash Tanchuma, Toldos 5; Esther Rabbah 10:11). Left to our own devices, our chances of survival are slim to none. It’s only because the shepherd is watching us closely that the wolves refrain from attacking us. When we place a Mezuzah on our doorposts (all of them!), G-d Almighty—our shepherd—is invited to watch over us and keep us safe. Neglecting to place the Mezuzahs (for any reason at all) exposes us to the grave danger of our surroundings without the presence of our shepherd. Thus, the Rebbe explained that the 22 children that were killed were not a punishment for the 22 mezuzahs that were not kosher, but rather a tragic consequence of our having 22 holes in our protective armor.

Applying the Lessons of History

The world is in awe of the courage and efficiency of the IDF. No army has ever dared to do what they are doing as they venture into the most advanced terror tunnels that the world has ever seen. We are so proud of our soldiers—the bravest in the world.

Never before in history has an army fought with such deadly precision coordination between units on the ground, air, and sea. When a troop of soldiers encounters a terrorist stronghold in Gaza, instead of engaging in arm-to-arm combat, they often order the airforce or naval command to take out the terrorist hideout from the air or the sea. This strategy keeps our soldiers safer and mitigates the loss of civilian casualties.

But there is one more vital link in the military effort that cannot be overlooked. As one who plants a field must pray for rain; like one seeking to make a living must work on making a deal and then pray for its success; to win a war, we have to deploy our army and leverage our political power, but without spiritual protection, we are exposing ourselves to dangerous vulnerabilities. When we—the Jews of America—make the effort to install Kosher Mezuzahs on ALL our doorways, we are procuring spiritual protection blessings to all our soldiers and hostages in Gaza as well as our fellow Jews everywhere.

We know that this might be more than you bargained for. But desperate times call for desperate measures. War is never comfortable. As our IDF soldiers stop at nothing to protect us, we have to stop at nothing to protect them!

We urge you to have your Mezuzahs checked as soon as possible. Remove them from your doorposts and bring them to the Shul to have them checked by an expert scribe. And if you don’t have kosher Mezuzahs on your doorways, we can help you install them right away. We have plenty of Kosher Mezuzahs that we can easily affix for you in your homes and offices. We’re just a phone call or email away.

Israeli soldiers and an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man pray in front of the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest prayer site, in Jerusalem’s Old City, on October 22, 2012. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images)

When it comes to a well-oiled engine working efficiently, even the smallest screw makes all the difference in the world. Am Yisrael Chai means that we are all one giant organism. We are all interconnected. If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the past few weeks, it’s that the world doesn’t care about us as much as we’d hoped and that we care about each other a lot more than we realized!

Rabbi Dovid Vigler
Chabad of Palm Beach Gardens

6100 PGA Blvd, Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418 | 561.624.2223

Instagram @JewishGardens

About the Author
Raised in South Africa and educated in some of the finest Yeshivas in Israel, England, New York, and Australia, Rabbi Dovid Vigler strives to share the beauty and depth of Judaism in a clear, conversational, and down-to-earth manner. Whether in private counseling, relatable sermons, weekly email broadcasts, or in his popular Torah classes on social media, he reaches out to every Jew with unconditional love, patience, and compassion. His inspirational talks and uplifting messages can be found on and
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