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“Reflections of Colleyville,” Rabbi Zecher’s Shabbat Awakenings

January 28, 2022 | 26 Shvat 5782

Welcome to Shabbat Awakenings as we make our way toward Shabbat. You can listen to it as a podcast here.

I share with you my d’var Torah from last Shabbat as we have all wrestled with the impact of the traumatic experience of Colleyville, Texas.

When we look back at this time—and we surely will—how will we convey our experiences?

For me, it is a reverse Dayenu.

You know that wonderful song we sing during the Seder that has the lilt of a drinking song? Dayenu, Dayenu, etc…We recount the wonderful miraculous life saving grace of the divine: taking us out of Egypt, giving us the Sabbath and Torah. So much goodness-Enough! We cry with joy.

N-O-W, it would have been enough:

A pandemic that stops us in our tracks with enough variants to teach us almost the full Greek alphabet—Dayenu!
With a death toll and too many who are anti vax that exacerbates fatalities—Dayenu!
An ex-president who doesn’t get the purpose of a democracy and the transfer of power—Dayenu!
And a climate crisis that is here to stay—Dayenu!
Systemic racism, sexism, antisemitism. And now …
A hostage crisis in a Reform synagogue—Dayenu!

Here, I again stop in my tracks because we may be able to reflect and not to mourn. And the ability to speak of prevention, reaction, and escapes should make our hearts soar. Yet, they remain heavy no matter how much training we can do—and we do a lot—and are prepared on multiple layers. Still, we cannot account for the familiar and dangerous trope that the Jewish community has so much power to free a criminal imprisoned for life or that antisemitism and Jewish hatred are growing not diminishing.

Or a hostage crisis that caused terror not just to one synagogue but to every single one.


It seems we are low on solutions. Thoughtful opinion writers concur. Deborah Lipstadt wrote:   We are standing tall and we are standing straight. But we are checking for the exits. And David Brooks who usually finds the good despite the bad has a dire ending in a recent piece that asks: Over the past several years, and over a wide range of different behaviors, Americans have been acting in fewer pro-social and relational ways and in more antisocial and self-destructive ways. But why?

Oh my goodness—Dayenu!

What are we supposed to do? We can’t turn inward to save ourselves and leave the rest of the universe to fend for itself. Where do we turn? We, in this community, in this synagogue, this sacred space of our sanctuary, online and onsite?

Where is the comfort in a very uncomfortable time?

First, perhaps, take a deep, cleansing breath.

It is at this very moment of uncertainty and pain that we turn to this week’s Torah portion, which brings us to the Torah’s very source. For today, we find our ancestors at Mount Sinai receiving the very Torah we hold dear. And it is here where we find instructions for how to make our way through a confusing, messy and often frightening world.

Remember that it wasn’t until the Israelites arrived to Mt Sinai that they settled a bit.

It wasn’t because it wasn’t frightening. There was thunder, lightning, and blasts of the shofar. A huge cloud covered the shaking mountain which made the people tremble.

What I think calmed them was clarity and purpose.

This week we hear the Ten Utterances also known as  the Ten Commandments. In that moment they represent all of the Torah. Some commentators call them the summary of the entire Torah.

One God, no others, no lying in God’s name or people. Honor parents, guard the Shabbat. No murder, no adultery, no stealing, no coveting.

There will be many more instructions and commandments. And in next week’s Torah portion, the people will respond. נַעֲשֶׂ֥ה וְנִשְׁמָֽע  (spoiler alert). We will do and we will understand!

With these directives, the people receive guardrails and guidelines for their lives in an uncertain world. They learn not just what to do but also how to do it, with clarity and purpose.

Deuteronomy 13:5 instructs:

After the Eternal your God, you should walk.
In the Talmud,(Sotah 14a) Rabbi Ḥama…asks:
What is the meaning of that which is written: “After the Eternal your God shall you walk…The meaning is that one should follow the attributes of the Holy One.
Just as God clothes the naked, (Genesis 3:21),
so too, should you clothe the naked.
Just as the Holy One visits the sick, (Genesis 18:1),
so too, should you visit the sick.
Just as the Holy One consoles mourners (Genesis 25:11),
so too, should you console mourners.
Just as the Holy One buried the dead (Deuteronomy 34:6),
so too, should you bury the dead.

With all the reverse Dayenus upon us, the Torah comes to teach us that the way we move in this unsettling and unpredictable world is the way we respond to one another.

When I think about what happened in Colleyville, I agree with my colleague, Rabbi John Rosove who wrote: Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker set the very best human face of the Jewish people before the world.

Before he was attacked, he welcomed the stranger who appeared cold and homeless. He displayed kindness and grace under pressure. His courage and calm presence brought strength in a time of great uncertainty.

And while Rabbi Cytron-White and the others were held hostage, those in other faith communities with whom the Rabbi had fostered friendship and relationship lifted up the solidarity that they had developed over years of working and striving together. We cannot take this for granted. They rallied around him. As Rabbi Jonah Pesner has said: There is security in solidarity.

These were moments of a true Dayenu!

And when the rabbi threw that chair, after retrieving a requested glass of orange juice for the gunman, he harnessed courage and strength to ensure his and the others’ safety. They ran to the door and he followed knowing he could have been shot as the last one out. They escaped. They lived. Rabbi Cytron-Walker’s face is the human face of what Torah teaches.

There are certain moments in our lives when we have choices about how we will act. Gloria Steinam once said: The art of life is not controlling what happens to us, but using what happens to us.

The Rabbi said he used his training. The Torah teaches that we are always in training.

Those rules at Sinai instruct us to do what is right and just, mixed with compassion and courage.

Despite all the calamities on a long list to challenge us and cause fear and anguish, Each of us lives in an arena where we can engage in goodness. And that is where in this very unpredictable way of being we have the power to produce great hope.

The Torah is our blueprint to smooth the rough edges of reality to lead us to compassion and courage. And that, along with the approach of the holidays of Purim and Passover is a cause to say with hope and joy in these times of struggle:


  • We gather for Qabbalat Shabbat at 6:00 p.m. Join us onsite or on Zoom, on Facebook Live, or stream on our website.
  • Tot Rock Shabbat gathers online at 5:00 p.m.
  • Torah Study will begin at 9:00 a.m. To join the conversation interactively, access Zoom. You can also watch on Temple Israel’s website or Facebook page.
  • 10:00 a.m. Thank Goodness it’s Shabbat at home.  Please register here.
  • 4:00 p.m. Village and FJECC Shabbat Singalong featuring award winning performer Vanessa Trien, online, followed by Havdalah with Rabbi Suzie Jacobson. Register here to get the Zoom link.
  • Havdalah will talk place at 8:00 p.m. Join on Zoom, or Facebook Live, or stream on our website.

Connect with me here. I look forward to corresponding with you and to hearing your thoughts.

Shabbat Shalom!