Let My People Know

"The right to be defended grows from deep roots"

From time to time Rabbi Steinsaltz particiaptes in the “On Faith” website sponsored by The Washington Post. Here is the Rabbi’s response to a recent question:


Some New York-area rabbis are planning to bring weapons to High Holy Day services this month to guard against terrorist threats. In June, a Kentucky pastor invited his congregation members to bring their firearms to church to celebrate the Second Amendment. Do weapons belong in worship? Should clergy be armed? Do the Ten Commandments trump the Second Amendment?

Rabbi Steinsaltz responded:

For many generations, perhaps millennia, houses of worship were supposed to be immune from attacks.

The fact that they are now endangered is a very sorry reflection on the state of our society.

When such a threat is not a paranoid response but has some rational basis, it is an issue that needs to be seriously discussed with a community’s leaders, security personnel and educators.

As for the question itself, traditionally, places of worship are not the right place to carry weapons.

In some faiths, this is very emphatically stated.

However, this is surely not a universal tenet of belief: in many faiths, religious leaders were also military leaders, and did not find any conflict between those two functions.

Even in Christianity, there have been several Orders composed of soldier-monks: the Templars and the Hospitaliers, among them.

If we live in times when a person in the house of prayer is prone to be killed, the right to be defended grows from deep roots.