Radical Reflections of an American Jew

Compassion/Rachamim: Part 3 of a 4 Part Series

by Howard Richard Debs

author drawing titled “Jerusalem of Gold” visualizing elements of the city and symbols sacred to three world religions plus three people hand-in-hand seen in the foreground dancing seemingly with joy.
Jerusalem of Gold — drawing, h.r.debs

The State of Hate

And God blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it — Tanakh, the Jewish Bible

Most of the synagogue members
in Colleyville Texas were watching
Sabbath services virtually from home,
concerned for their safety from a virus;
I too, with fear, my fellow Jews 1323
miles away, in the presence of a madman;
all of us staring at our screens, each
newscast starting with the same report,
three congregants there in person, the rabbi,
hostages of someone, a welcomed stranger,
armed, demanding; the Jewish Sabbath
lasts twenty-five hours, wanting to linger
we add time to the day we set apart,
but here each moment an agony,
waiting for a tragedy; the service begins
with daily morning blessings, being thankful
for the day’s renewal, followed by
songs of praise, leading to the Jewish
statement of belief in one God, the Shema,
then the main “Standing Prayer,” blessings of
praise, petition, peace, and gratitude; a portion
from the sacred Torah scroll is read, and
closing prayers including the Mourner’s
Prayer, in which we honor loved ones who
have died by affirming and praising God;
but when the gun was cocked
the service stopped; after eleven
hours, the rabbi threw a chair at
their tormentor, they escaped,
they survived; listening hour after hour
to the livestream, experiencing the trauma
within the walls of her own home, asked by
the Washington Post to comment, one of the
congregants said it was “kind of a scary time
to be a Jew in this country;” the service begins
with daily morning blessings — Selah

Afterword: From an article in the Forward: “a co-founder of Congregation Beth Israel, told her mother, a Holocaust survivor who will turn 100…about the crisis at their shul. ‘I saw it in her eyes: the pain, the fear, the memories.’’’ For further reading: “How antisemitic conspiracy theories contributed to the recent hostage-taking at the Texas synagogue

drawing by the author depicting a burning sacred scroll, the flames ascending as too the letters escaping, forming the Hebrew words Shaddai, a reference to the Almighty, and Shema, the first word of the central prayer of Jewish faith, God is one.
Burning Scroll — drawing, h.r.debs

Postscript: In Judaism the world begins with the word, from which arise a cluster of core ideas within the context of the Bible, (Tanakh) and the Talmud, each embodied in a Hebrew word which by its very nature encompasses and conveys nuanced meaning, these are “Jewish concept-words.”

References: For further exploration related to each “concept-word” addressed in this series, the following reference is given as a starting point, taken from Sefaria* the nonprofit platform of open access to Torah texts online. While there may be any number of articles associated with a particular topic, the material cited is felt to be particularly pertinent to the perspective here considered:

Regarding Justice, Tzedek [Go to Part 1]

Regarding Remembrance, Zachor [Go to Part 2]

Regarding Compassion, Rachamim

Regarding Peace, Shalom [Go to Part 4]

*Sefaria ensures that it is open to all to “join the conversation” allowing the combining of sources from its library with one’s own comments, questions, images, and videos.

Acknowledgments: “The State of Hate,” first published in Impspired

author drawing depicts as if soaring, the Hebrew letter aleph, first letter of the Hebrew alphabet; it is hovering as if protecting Jewish ritual items associated with the Sabbath, a wine goblet, candles, and a special covering for bread. Aleph in Jewish mysticism represents the oneness of God.
Wondrous — drawing, h.r.debs




In The Journal of Radical Wonder, we look at the world through the lens of wonder. We are looking for beauty, art, nature, humanity, truth. We fight against cynicism and try to understand the complex nature of joy. Art. Nature. Humanity. Beauty. Truth.

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Howard Richard Debs

Howard Richard Debs

Recipient, 2015 Anna Davidson Rosenberg Poetry Awards, his chapbook Political is the 2021 American Writing Awards winner in poetry; see https://bit.ly/3MHXYQO