When I was ordained as a Rabbi, a speaker told our graduating class that we were now all “officers in God’s army.” I was blessed last month to attend my friend, Pastor Rob McCoy’s Christmas service, where he delivered a beautiful homily on sheep, sheepdogs, and wolves. His teaching was that most people are sheep who just want to live their lives. There are wolves who want to attack them, and there are sheepdogs that serve the shepherd (God) and protect against the wolves. No matter the faith tradition or organization, the leaders have supposedly taken on the obligation and privilege to protect and serve the community and individuals against the “wolves.”
We have all watched our governmental leaders reject this age-old practice, choosing to be wolves rather than protect each individual. They seek aggrandizement and power over the good of the ones they are meant to protect. It is sad to say, but all too often this has now become commonplace even with clergy, who choose to support the wolves rather than have the awareness required for protection. And even worse, use any attack of the wolves for their own purposes.
Most synagogues I know of have armed security present, with guards and/or people with CCWs. With the attacks in Poway, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, and more over the last few years, this is a sad requirement based on the wisdom of survival. As Golda Meir famously said, “If the Palestinians lay down their weapons, there will be peace. If the Israelis lay down their weapons, there will be a massacre.” All sensible Rabbis recognize this sad truth and act accordingly.
So how did the tragedy in Colleyville come about?
Most people don’t want to be honest, and it’s appropriate that this thesis be presented by Jewish clergy as opposed to other non-Jews, but had this Rabbi done his duty as a sheepdog for his people, it is doubtful the crisis would have happened.
I am so grateful that Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker and his community are now safe, and I pray that he, his family, and his community heal and are strengthened after the horrors of the past weekend. And I hope that all religious communities, especially synagogues and Rabbis, remember this terrible incident as they discuss physical protection for their communities.
It is a reality that there are wolves at the door. There are anti-Semites who justify in their deranged consciousness that they should kill Jews. Even though it doesn’t fit into the leftist narrative, the vast majority of these terrorists are Islamic jihadists of one sort or another. This is not a condemnation of the Muslim world or Islam, and in fact, there is also beauty to be found in some of the spiritual teachings of the religion. (For years, I studied the spiritual writings of the Sufi mystic Rumi every morning.) But the majority of the attacks are either from secular extremists who hate religion or Islamic extremists who despise Western values.
The clergy, and all of us, need to be vigilant sheepdogs who seek peace and are simultaneously prepared to protect our communities. Both during a crisis and immediately following one.
We are already seeing how so much of the media, and even the FBI, are trying to spin what happened in Colleyville. They are saying it was “political” and not “anti-Semitic.” They are blaming it not on hate, but the terrorist’s “mental health challenges.” And soon, we will probably see this horrific event transformed into a call for more gun control, even though Biden has already admitted that the terrorist bought his weapons illegally. But since the idea of an Islamic terrorist taking a synagogue hostage to achieve a ransom of releasing one of the world’s largest terrorists from her prison sentence does not fit into the leftist narrative, we will undoubtedly see in the coming days and months this crisis in Colleyville being used for a political agenda.
Again, it is important to step back and be honest. Although Rabbi Walker is now expressing gratitude for the anti-shooter training that religious communities learn for his survival, we need to all ask ourselves if this situation would even have occurred if there had been armed security at the synagogue.
My prayers go out to the Rabbi, and I hope this crisis has made him reevaluate his values. According to a past member of the congregation, Rabbi Walker “called Israel an apartheid state against Islam,” and “didn’t allow his members to be armed during services.” Seemingly, this Rabbi was supportive of the recent school walkout in Colleyville to urge stricter gun control. And the Rabbi’s relationships with Islamic extremists who hate Israel is well documented.
There is an adage that if you lay down with dogs you will get fleas. The recent horrors in Colleyville remind us as well that if a sheepdog lays down with wolves, the sheep will be unprotected.
Clergy and all leaders are obligated to stand up for what is right and protect the individuals and community. That is our responsibility. Our job is not to pacify the wolves, and in trying, we will lose sight of one of our primary responsibilities.
When supposed leaders become pacifiers of hate, they have stopped being sheepdogs protecting the flock and have become wolves themselves.
May we all stay safe and protected from the dangers around us, and may all of our leaders have the courage to do what is right, protect their communities, and be honest in the face of evil.