I recently attended a bar mitzvah and entered a synagogue for the first time in my life. It was an enriching experience. Considering that Christianity is a religion based on Judaism, it was eye-opening to gain a glimpse of a service that Jesus was a part of. Reading the Torah and the prophets. Carrying the Torah. Imagine Jesus having a bar mitzvah at 13! The reverence for scripture is amazing.
It was also fascinating to hear Hebrew songs and read along with the lyrics in Hebrew (English translation provided on the other side of the page). Of course, none of the Hebrew characters made sense to me but to be exposed to them—reading an ancient language that Jesus would have read—was incredible. I really enjoyed attending a Shabbat service and definitely wouldn’t mind doing it again if presented with the opportunity.
While I was at synagogue in Philadelphia, on the other side of the state in Pittsburgh, an anti-Semitic man decided to bring his hate into the Tree of Life synagogue, killing 11 innocent people. The shooting hit close to home for me because it reminded me that it could easily have been the synagogue I attended. I sat on the train with profound sadness for those attending a routine Shabbat service, only to have it destroyed during at 20-minute hate crime. To be honest, I don’t think I would’ve experienced the deep sympathy I felt if I hadn’t been partaking in a Judaic service that very morning. As if Jewish people haven’t endured enough in history, to have such a terrible assault simply because of who they are and their religious faith was astounding. I shouldn’t be surprised by hate given what I believe about sin and the depraved souls of humans, but the depth of and actions from hate never cease to amaze me.
My deepest sympathies and prayers are with the Tree of Life congregation. May the Lord have mercy on the shooter’s soul. And I won’t go into the need for practical actions, such as gun restriction legislation, including mental health records in firearm background checks. I’ll save that post for another day.