Sabbath Rest Comes

Sabbath Rest Comes

From the desk of Rabbi David Lyon

If life imitates art, then this past weekend closely followed the bondage we read about in Torah on Shabbat, and the redemption celebrated by the Israelites who went free at last. But life shouldn’t imitate art; it should learn from art and draw new lines of hopefulness on which we can all rely.

On Shabbat morning, as reported in the news, a deranged man entered Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, at the warm invitation of Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker. Unbeknownst to the rabbi, what unfolded would become a nightmare for the rabbi and the few congregants who came for in-person worship. The hours that were spent waiting and negotiating were masterfully led by law officials and the rabbi, himself, who had received training for just such an event. Near the end of the 11th hour, literally, Rabbi Cytron-Walker recognized an opportunity for escape. After the other two people with him made their way out the exit, he threw a chair at the hostage-taker and made his escape, too. The hostages were free and safe; the hostage-taker was killed by police.

Though prayers for their safety were answered in the able hands of law officials, our prayers are not done. The trauma of such a horrific event lingers in ways that aren’t always obvious. Like a tidal wave, the trauma has triggered feelings of horror, gratitude, anger, relief, and fear in Jewish communities and in synagogues, large and small, across the country. In many cases, those feelings linger. What to do?

First, I urge you to know that every day and every Shabbat when I enter our Beth Israel in Houston, I feel very safe. During the week, I say good morning to an HPD officer inside the door. On Friday night and Saturday, the HPD officers wish me “Shabbat Shalom,” as I know they would wish you, too.  

Second, our robust security committee routinely reviews our security plan, and, even after this past weekend, has determined that our security plan and protocols are first-rate. There are many security measures that are visible and many that are not. On Friday night, an HPD officer also enters the sanctuary during worship to scan the room.

Third, COVID has displaced us and separated us from each other. We can’t let antisemitism and events in Pittsburgh, Poway, or Colleyville, deter us from living, worshiping, and gathering as we need to do. I know we feel fear and anger, but we can’t live in constant fear, and we can’t thrive on anger.

On Shabbat, the peacefulness of worship removes a part of our fear and replaces our anger with mindful words and beautiful music. I know that it’s hard to come back, but we have worked together — pragmatically, financially, and optimistically — to create a synagogue setting where you are welcome to be at your best with like-minded people in faith and hope.

This Shabbat, we will begin with music to soothe us and include prayers to remind us that we are not alone. In all the ways we imagine the One God, we are safe in God’s “sukkat shalom,” tabernacle of peace, where our hearts and souls are nourished with hope for the future.


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