It started with a knock on the synagogue door. The rabbi answered, saw the man looked cold, and offered him a cup of warm tea. That is how the terrorist entered the synagogue in Texas, last Shabbat. Our Jewish values opened the door of that shul, as a man, filled with hate, passed the Mezuzah on his way in.
We are grateful of the outcome, as we hear that no one was killed –but someone indeed was killed –the man with the gun never left the shul. We are commanded not to rejoice at the death of an enemy because it means we failed to fight the hatred, we ended up fighting the person. We’re grateful that no innocent lives were lost, but we know that what fueled this man continues to exist.
In this Shabbat’s Torah portion, Yitro, we read the Ten Commandments. Within these commandments lie the core values of Judaism, not just the laws. We hear that searching for God is an ongoing journey –we are searching for something singular and unique. We are told that relationships of family, and community, are the cornerstones of all societies. We learn that understanding the parameters of ‘what we do’, and ‘what we don’t do’, define things for us. But the Torah also tells us that the commandments fit within our Judaism, they are not the totality of it. We are also the children of our ancestors, the ones who taught us to invite in anyone who is in need.
The terrorist was invited to enter because he knocked on the door, and he looked cold. He stayed for part of the service. Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker told him he is free to remain, or if he was only seeking a moment of warmth, he is free to leave, no one will be offended. That’s when he revealed his gun.
We are commanded to offer shelter, food, and protection, to anyone in need. Fear and hatred will not redefine who we are. Sadly, we know to lock our synagogue doors, but when Rabbi Charlie was asked if he would again offer warm tea to a cold stranger at his door, he confidently said ‘yes’.
I am grateful that no innocent lives were lost; I am sad that the hatred at the core could not be addressed; I am proud that as children of Abraham and Sarah, we know to always hear a request for help. May we one day live in a world where the doors of all our shuls can be confidently left unlocked.
I’d like to wish everyone a sweet and peaceful Shabbat –our Jewish time to regroup, rest, and reinvigorate.