The Rebbe initiated the “mezuzah campaign” earlier this year. This was a call to assure that all Jewish homes should have a mezuzah affixed (and a kosher one at that!).

Two weeks before Shavuos, on the night of May 15 (Iyar 23), three Arab terrorists dressed as Israeli soldiers infiltrated Israel from Lebanon. They entered the town of Ma’alot, in northern Israel, and slaughtered a family of three in their apartment. They then stormed an elementary school filled with 100 sleeping teenagers, who were there following a day of hiking. The terrorists immediately murdered one security guard, another person and a student. Some twenty people managed to escape by jumping out of a window, but ninety or so students and some teachers were held as hostages.

The Israeli Government agreed to the hostage-takers’ demands, but the negotiations fell apart when the terrorists did not receive a certain coded message from Damascus. At 5:45 p.m. local time – 15 minutes before they had said they would kill all the children if their demands were not met – a unit of the elite “Sayeret Matkal” special forces stormed the building. They managed to kill the hostage-takers, but not before the terrorists had massacred some of the students. A total of twenty-six Israelis were murdered in what became known as the Ma’alot Massacre. Twenty-one of the murdered Jews were unarmed fourteen- to sixteen-year-old teenagers. More than sixty people were wounded.

During our stay in New York, the Rebbe addressed this outrageous tragedy at several farbrengens. The following are some of those points.

In the Shema it says that fulfilling the mitzvah of mezuzah “assures long life for you and your children.” In other words, a mezuzah protects the Jewish person and home even when its inhabitants are not at home.

Someone informed the Rebbe that twenty-one mezuzos in the school premises were later found to be not kosher – corresponding to the exact number of students murdered. In the home of the massacred family, every mezuzah was invalid.

[The Rebbe explained that he] was wondering what pushed him to campaign for this particular mitzvah over the past few months. It was obvious now that the mitzvah of mezuzah is one which requires greater attention and focus. It is critical that all Jews around the world, especially in the Holy Land, become strengthened in this important mitzvah by ensuring that a kosher mezuzah is affixed to every required doorpost, and the mezuzos must be checked that they are still kosher – as the code of Jewish Law maintains – at least twice in seven years. (The Rebbe also pointed out that the women should not solely rely on their husbands to take the mezuzos to be checked, but they should help make sure it gets done.)

[Some had accused the Rebbe of suggesting that without kosher mezuzos a Jewish person would be punished! The Rebbe seemed hurt and now] reiterated that he had never made such a statement. The Rebbe only repeated what is taught in sacred and authentic Jewish sources, such as the Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law), that mezuzos offer protection. A mezuzah is a lifeguard! A soldier wears a steel helmet because of the possibility of a bullet speeding directly to his head. A soldier would be very foolish were he to neglect to wear this helmet.

No one dares say that this brutality happened because the mezuzos were not kosher. (Such tragedies happen because of murderers!) Nevertheless, the Torah ordained that the mezuzah is also a shemira (guard) against such evil people.

We should not – and cannot – explain such senseless tragedies; we can only learn lessons. What we can do, though, is cry out to G‑d Almighty to bring an end to all suffering and send us Moshiach.

At the conclusion of the farbrengen, close to 2:00 a.m., we bentched and then davened maariv. There was a terrific commotion during maariv. Some of the appointed stewards were busying themselves rearranging and pulling away benches and tables in order to make additional space for the anticipated kos shel brocha lines to commence immediately following maariv. Their efforts made it a hazard to stand still to say the amidah. It was a miracle that no one was injured by the overhead progression of tables and benches!