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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Greenberg

Pittsburg: A Violation of Sacred Space

Our Grieving Hearts

When I was a child, I feared my parents more than my peers.  When I was in college, I feared my peers more than my parents.  When I finally recognized self-hatred was destroying my life, I learned to fear God.  I learned that what you truly fear is what you actually worship.  Hatred and violence destroy humanity.

I have had many interesting conversations with my children over these past several weeks.  I have been mute on the horrible tragedy at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh because I have been become increasingly and profoundly aware of the global threat of violence against children – yes – the children.  As an eight day old infant was being brought into the Presence of God for rejoicing, an innocent community that met to LOVE and REVERE God was invaded and viciously attacked.  The families that believed this moment to be sacred, this place to be holy and their hearts to be open, were violated – including the children.  What is happening to our country?

Many years ago, when someone threatened violence in our synagogue and we had them removed by police, the children were visibly shaken.  Seeing someone they trusted led out in handcuffs was very traumatic – we vowed to never let that happen again.  We decided we would leave – and protect the hearts of the children – rather than have a confrontation in the sanctuary ever again.  And every time we enter, I think: T-his is God’s House, “He will have to protect us.”  We live in the fear of God, because we love Him and trust Him. And our lives are in His hands alone.

What does the Bible say?

The Bible is very clear:  Love God and Love one another. Parents are responsible to teach their children to love one another.  Parents are the reflection of God’s love that includes both mercy and justice.  The Holy moment of obedience to God – the actual circumcision of a newborn son – is sacred.  Breaking that 3400 year old commandment is unthinkable for those who love God’s Words to Abraham’s Seed! No one there would ever conceive of disobeying God, any more than they would ever imagine that a destroyer would walk into His House and hurt an innocent child.

God hates people shedding innocent blood. Simply put, I hate what God hates. That is how I learn to love what God loves. And God loves children – all of His children.

My heart grieves for every child who was there, has heard about it, or is being taught tonight that evil is fun and games.  Celebrating death and wickedness is so fruitless.  We have to stop glorifying evil, soaking our brains in zombie fantasies and LETTING EVIL get too close to our children.  According to the Bible, the sanctuary had a pathway to gain access, a method to set ourselves apart from filth and hatred.  When I think about how callous and premeditated that manslayer was, my eyes brim with tears and all I can think about is how CLOSE evil is getting to the heart of America.

May I suggest that we keep guns out of sanctuaries and be more serious about who we let in?  Does an open door policy to share God’s love have to include turning a blind eye to evil in our midst? I would rather search bags and use metal detectors outside sanctuaries than teach our children that faith in God ensures freedom from liars and thieves.  Oh how I long to hear wisdom cry out in the streets – come and seek discernment!

Never forget. Approximately forty innocent and God-fearing people gathered around a sweet little baby, filled with promise and hope.  This is not just their tragedy, but ours.  This week our country was shown once again that there is no place too sacred, no people too safe, no sanctuary too small, no child too young, for evil to shoot a bullet through the heart of our faith community.  But, make no mistake, evil has been here all along crouching at the door – always urging one brother to kill another, divide our faith, and destroy our hope. Do not be afraid of evil, fear God alone.

A Reminder

Amen and amen, I tell you, The God of Israel in not asleep, and the mothers of our country are not deaf, dumb and blind.  The people killed at that horrific tragedy were not just targets, they were our sisters and brothers, mothers and fathers, and our Heavenly Father’s most precious treasures.

The manslayer’s target was our faith in a Creator who cares, a God who causes life – not death. A sanctuary is sacred, the sabbath is sacred, LIFE is sacred!  We have to teach our children about good and evil, because only a fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”  As for me and my house, we will serve ADONAI – Maker of Heaven and earth.

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