What the Dead Professor Taught Me

What the Dead Professor Taught Me

Famed Archeologist Professor Ehud Netzer ate, breathed, and slept Herod the Great.

Netzer had many accomplishments in his celebrated archeological career. He discovered the world’s oldest synagogue in Wadi Kelt. He co-led the digs Masada. But for 35 years his primary obsession was his hero Herod, and his tireless search for Herod’s grand tomb described by Josephus at the Herodian. And he dreamed, like every Israeli archeologist, that his discovery would be so great and historic that his findings would inspire a grand exhibition at the Israel Museum.

And in 2007, the big day arrived…. Netzer found the tomb! The excavation got off to a promising start but Netzer was pushing his team to pick up the pace. He wanted to get his findings to the Israel Museum as soon as possible. But the day that the exhibition’s curator arrived to choose which artifacts to prepare for the exhibit, a tragedy occurred…Netzer fell from a high platform overlooking the site of the dig and died from his injuries a day later.

The Israel Museum Exhibit opened last spring to rave reviews. There was even a months-long waiting list to view the exhibit.

And of course the exhibit was dedicated to Netzer’s memory. How sad that he did not live to see the exhibit’s opening, the day for which he had yearned for half of his life.

I visited the exhibit twice— once on my own and once with my family. And while I saw the other visitors were fascinated by the reconstructions of Herod Winter Palace and the statues of Antony and Cleopatra and the rebuilt Tomb itself, the person I was thinking about most as I walked around the Herod exhibit wasn’t Herod, but rather the archaeologist who dedicated his life to that exhibit he would never see.

Which reminded me of how I sometimes think about all the fun and and independence and free time I’m going to have…

When all my kids are finally out of diapers…

When all my kids have finally started school…

When all my kids are finally grown and out of the house…

When all my kids are finally married…

But while I don’t feel like I can learn so much personally from Ehud Netzer and his life and aspirations, this is something I would like to learn from him.

Don’t live for tomorrow, because who knows what will be tomorrow?

Love today.


  1. So true now that my children are married, I see how those days of their childhood flew by. My Mom when she was 80 said that she didn’t know where her life had gone, it had flown by so fast, she couldn’t believe it. I cannot believe I am 63. Cherish every moment and make the most of our mitzvos, our tefillos our learning and caring for our children. Grab it all while its still there. Enjoy our chagim.

  2. Moshe springs to mind- although perhaps his life goal was not to enter the Holy Land but to lead the people- how painful it is to read about how he never stepped into the land that he so dearly waited to enter…

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