Let us begin our reflection on this post with a favorite passage of Scripture from Nehemiah 4:16-18 about the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem, a pivotal moment in salvation history:
And it came to pass from that day forward, that half of their young men did the work, and half were ready for to fight, with spears, and shields, and bows, and coats of mail, and the rulers were behind them in all the house of Juda. Of them that built on the wall and that carried burdens, and that laded: with one of his hands he did the work, and with the other he held a sword. For every one of the builders was girded with a sword about his reins. And they built, and sounded with a trumpet by me.
Another great moment in salvation history is the Lord’s passage with the Apostles, singing the Hallel psalm, from the Last Supper to the Garden of Gethsemene. We are in Luke 22:35-39:
When I sent you without purse and scrip and shoes, did you want anything? But they said: Nothing. Then said he unto them: But now he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise a scrip: and he that hath not, let him sell his coat and buy a sword. For I say to you that this that is written must yet be fulfilled in me. And with the wicked was he reckoned. For the things concerning me have an end. But they said: Lord, behold, here are two swords. And he said to them: It is enough. And going out, he went, according to his custom, to the Mount of Olives. And his disciples also followed him.
“Tactical Apostles”? It’s hard to know what this passage means, frankly. But the fact remains that the Lord wanted a couple swords around for whatever reason.
Shifting gears to present day and secular reporting…
From the LA Times:
The ‘Tactical Rabbi’ helps synagogues defend against anti-Semitic violence
It was 45 minutes into his lecture when the rabbi pulled out an AR-15.
“Who thinks, by show of hands, that we should be carrying more guns in shul?” Rabbi Raziel Cohen asked the crowd at a Westside Chabad synagogue Wednesday night, during an active-shooter seminar organized in the wake of the deadly attack at Chabad of Poway.
Half the room raised their hands.
In the days since the shooting, Chabad leaders in California have scrambled to secure public safety grants and to calm frightened congregants, mobilizing hundreds more through active-shooter drills and community defense training. In Southern California, religious security experts such as Cohen, who calls himself the “Tactical Rabbi,” are quickly becoming their own cottage industry.
Chabad is a movement of Hasidic Judaism. Unlike other Hasidic communities, which tend to be insular, Chabad views outreach to unaffiliated and less observant Jews as the heart of its theology — a position that sometimes puts it at odds with other Jewish groups.
Los Angeles has more Chabad congregations than anywhere outside Brooklyn. A deadly attack on one of their own just six months after the massacre in Pittsburgh has raised painful questions of identity for a group long animated by outreach. The sect’s embrace of ahavat yisrael — the commandment to love one’s fellow as oneself — is these synagogues’ reason for being.
“Our arms are open, but security always comes first — if some of the openness has to be sacrificed, so be it,” said Rabbi Simcha Backman, who heads Chabad of Glendale and is part of the sect’s California leadership. “In Jewish law, going back to the Torah, first and foremost is protecting lives. Everything else is secondary. And in the world we live in today, we need to focus on saving lives and keeping people safe.”
One rabbi outright opposed men coming to pray armed.
“The solution is never the gun,” said Rabbi Avraham Zajac, who leads a Chabad congregation in Los Angeles. “The solution is [surveillance] training.”
The synagogue recently hired an armed guard, but the rabbi sees this mainly as a deterrent. His true faith lies with fellow members of the community, dozens of whom have trained with Community Security Service.
“We have 36 volunteers — both men and women — who come every week,” the rabbi said. “They’re very vigilant, they’re very aware. They have a very sophisticated communication with each other and the LAPD.”
A typical Shabbat at this synagogue will see a mother in a skirt suit and bobbed wig standing guard with an earpiece and a walkie-talkie at her hip. Such electronics are forbidden to touch, much less use, on the Sabbath. But the commandment to protect lives in danger supersedes virtually every other rule of Jewish law.
“It’s like a neighborhood watch versus joining the Marines,” the rabbi said of the new program. “It demands almost a thousand hours of training.”
Read the whole thing there.
Interesting points for discussion.
Has your parish had any sort of meeting about or presentation on active shooter scenarios?
BTW… the emphasis at that synagogue on training is key.
Situational awareness and training.