“The death of His faithful ones is grievous in Hashem’s sight.” Psalms 116:15 (The Israel Bible™)
The horrific mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, killing 26 people while they were praying in their church on Sunday, brought death directly into a house of worship, waging what one rabbi called an “attack on prayer and the Creator.”
At 11:30, 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley approached the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas and shot two people outside the church. He then entered the small building and, in the middle of their prayer service, opened fire with a Ruger AR-556 semi-automatic rifle. At least 27 people were killed and 20 injured in the small church.
The victims ranged in age from five to 72 years old, with the pastor’s 14-year-old daughter and a pregnant woman reportedly among the dead. The shooting was the deadliest mass killing at a place of worship in modern American history, and the most fatal shooting in Texas.
Kelley was confronted by an armed civilian and fled the scene in a car. Two men drove in pursuit of Kelly until he veered off the road and stopped. When police arrived, they verified that Kelley was dead inside his car, though as of now it is unclear whether he committed suicide or was killed by those pursuing him.
Rabbi Yosef Berger noted that a mass murder in a church during prayer on this scale is unprecedented, indicating that the world is about to undergo a major transition.
“The world is entering a new period leading up to the Moshiach (Messiah) and the old rules no longer apply,” Rabbi Berger told Breaking Israel News. “The laws of nature have been cancelled out and we are seeing a time when natural disasters are commonplace. Rules of how people act, even in the worst of circumstances, have changed.”
The rabbi said that the norms pertaining to bloodshed in the End of Days will change drastically. He cited Rabbi Moses Ben Maimon, a Spanish Torah authority from the twelfth century known by the acronym Rambam.
“Rambam hinted at this when he wrote that in the days of the Messiah, three more cities of refuge will be added to Israel,” Rabbi Berger said.
The Torah commands the Jews to establish cities of refuge for those who kill inadvertently to escape revenge from the relatives of their victims. In later days, which Rabbi Berger understands to be those of the Messiah, Israel is commanded to add three new refuge cities.
If you faithfully observe all this Instruction that I enjoin upon you this day, to love Hashem your God and to walk in His ways at all times—then you shall add three more towns to those three. Deuteronomy 19:9
Rabbi Berger believes that this teaching has a direct relevance for the Texas shooting because it indicates that “killing, intentional and unintentional, will become far more commonplace in the days before Messiah.”
“The message is clear,” Rabbi Berger concluded. “We can no longer rely on the rules of man or even the rules of nature. We need to rely only on heaven above.”
Rabbi Chaim Amsalem, a former Knesset member for Shas, decried the act, saying that it cut across all boundaries of religion and was an assault on a basic universal tenet of humanity.
“Any murder is vile,” Rabbi Amsalem told Breaking Israel News. “But to kill people while they are praying to heaven, and it doesn’t matter if it is a church, mosque or synagogue, is an attack on the Creator they are praying to.
“To kill people while they are praying, while they are directing their hearts to God, it is an intentional attack on prayer and can only be done by someone who has no fear of God.”
The rabbi drew a Biblical parallel. “If people like that exist, the world cannot exist,” he explained. “That is precisely why God destroyed the world in the flood. The world before the flood could not go on because it was entirely full of violence and totally empty of God-fearing people.”
The investigation in Sutherland Springs is ongoing and officials are hard-pressed to find a possible motive. Kelley was a former U.S. Air Force member who, according to Defense Department records, was sentenced to a “bad-conduct discharge, 12 months confinement, and two reductions in rank to basic airman” after he was court-martialed in 2012.
With a dishonorable discharge and court martial in his record, it would be illegal for Devin Patrick Kelley to purchase or possess a firearm like an AR-15 in the United States, according to the Gun Trust Lawyer.
An outpouring of support came from Israel for those affected by the shooting.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted a condemnation of the “savagery” and pledged Israel’s spiritual support.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin tweeted condolences from Spain.
Interfaith leader Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, condemned the killing and called for a response of religious unity.
“Terror that penetrates into a house of prayer is a cruel and terrible terror, a terror that seeks to cut down the faithful lives of innocent people,” said Rabbi Eckstein in a statement.
He emphasized the need for interfaith support at this time. “In such difficult moments, all members of the Jewish and Muslim faith must transcend the gaps and condemn any attack, in order to ensure that such shocking events will not recur again,” the rabbi added.