Sunday, May 8, 2011

Osama's Death, Part I

An unabashedly Jewish response.

The welcomed, long-awaited news of last week have left many searching for answers.

Bloggers and readers alike grapple with the moral dilemma: What is the appropriate Jewish response?

I have remained silent thus far, hoping that we would hear from "Jewish leadership." But alas, no such leadership has materialized. The vast majority of material on the internet sadly reveals a profound lack of moral clarity, and a complete obliviousness to reality.

Worst of all, we are hearing from self-proclaimed Bible experts who quote haphazardly from Proverbs and Midrashic literature to further add to the misinformation.

So let's address the issues.

Should Jews rejoice over the death of an incorrigibly wicked mass murderer?

The answer is a resounding "YES!"
The deaths of Haman, Pharoah's armies, Sancheiriv, are but few of many examples.

Should we be thanking G-d? Absolutely.

True, our Sages taught that G-d chastised the angels for wishing to sing songs of praise while the Egyptians were drowning at sea. However, this was WHILE they were drowning at sea. Death is always a serious issue, regardless of whose death. It's not a time for revealed joy.

Immediately after their death, however, Moses led the Jewish people in the happiest song in Jewish history, sung daily in synagogues and homes throughout the world.

When the wicked Assyrian general Sancheiriv and his army were eliminated, righteous King Chizkiyahu ought to have sung a song of thanks to G-d. In the Talmud, Chizkiyahu was criticized for his failure to do so.

In fact, Chizkiayahu had been deemed worthy of being the righteous Moshiach. Because of his above-mentioned oversight, he was rejected! And we his decedents continue to languish in exile to this day.

In Mishlei, the wise King Solomon observed: "When the wicked get destroyed, there is joyous song."

But what of Solomon's other proverb, "When your enemy falls, do not rejoice, and when he stumbles, your heart should not be glad..."?

Deeper analysis suggests that it does not refer to a generic enemy, but to "your" enemy.
Indeed, the problem lies in the fact that you are gloating over the falling of your own personal enemy. There is a subjective, personal agenda here, so Solomon cautioned us not to rejoice, lest G-d find fault with you and your self-absorbed perspective.

Did you view Osama bin Laden, may his name be erased and his memory obliterated, as a personal enemy of yours? Were you personally outraged because of Osama's audacious attack on YOUR country? Did you view it as a vicious slight to your country's honor? Were you overcome by an exultant feeling of pride and patriotism when you heard the news of OBL's death at the hand of our Navy Seals?

If your answer is "yes," then this second Proverb may be speaking to you.

Indeed, this would not be the proper Solomonic response.

Instead, one ought to have viewed bin Laden as a menacing threat to humanity and an implacable foe of G-d Himself, as it were.

What we witnessed on September 11th, '01, was not a blow to our patriotism or American pride. It was a heinous attack on humanity. It was evil in its rawest form. It was unprecedented suffering and unimaginable darkness. It traumatized an entire nation and the entire civilized world.

The wicked man who funded and masterminded this atrocity was not "your" enemy whose falling ought not inspire joy. He was the very embodiment of wickedness refereed to in our first Proverb. When he is gone, "there is joyous song," in Heaven and on Earth.

Moreover, even if you feel a tinge of personal satisfaction that Osama has been eliminated, you still may rejoice. It's not his death that gratifies us. It's not the fact that he was shot in the head, or that we as a nation had "settled the score."

It's much more basic than that. It's because the entire world can now sigh a breath of relief that an arch-terrorist is no more, and that justice has been met.

We as Americans ought to feel a profound sense of pride in our country and our military, not because we "got even" with "our" enemy, but because we were able to be G-d's agents in making the world a safer, more peaceful and just place.

* * *

After having written this, I feel the need to clarify another crucial point:

In today's confusing world of moral relativism in which Islamofascist genocidal murderers are portrayed as "freedom fighters" and innocent Jewish children in Samaria are dubbed as subhuman "settlers" or "occupiers," it is more important than ever to get your facts straight when it comes to the death of a truly evil and dangerous man.

Wake up!

There is no moral equivalence between hate-monger Arab cab drivers handing out candies to celebrate the horrific murder of babies in Itamar, and between Americans and all peace-loving citizens of the world rejoicing over the elimination of a mass murderer. If you see any equivalence between the two, then you are morally compromised.

Compassion for murderers means cruelty to the innocents who were murdered (or would have been murdered had the murderer not been eliminated).

"Give thanks to G-d, for He is good... He cast Pharaoh and his armies into the sea... He killed mighty kings... for His kindness is everlasting."

"When the wicked perish, there is joy." Period.


Anonymous said...

Hooray for Rabbi Green - telling it like it is. Your clarity is refreshing!

J.F. said...

There are no wasted words with you. You speak with eloquence and conviction. I do not revel in OBL’s death but am delighted at the outcome of the SEAL mission. One very evil person removed from the earth makes a good day.

Rabbi Michoel Green said...

An afterthought:
On one Hebrew site, a rabbi blogger made mention of the fact that the complete hallel is not recited on the last days of Passover because of "When your enemy falls, do not rejoice." This too is an incorrect comparison.
On the Seventh Day of Passover, we relive the experience of crossing the red sea, so to say. At this precise time, the enemy was drowning. So the happy song of Hallel should not be recited at that time.
There are many other reasons why Halel is not recited on the last days of Passover.
The main reason is that the last days of Passover celebrate ultimate freedom that will only be in the times of Moshiach. The Egyptians' drowning was only the end to Egyptian subjugation, but not the fulfillment of Messianic Times. As such, Hallel cannot be recited. As to the closure to Egyptian bondage, Hallel was already recited for that on the first days of Passover, and need not be recited again.
Interestingly, we recite complete Hallel on the first days of Passover, even though our liberation came about at the moment of midnight when G-d killed all the Egyptian firstborn. No one invoked the verse from Proverbs mentioned above!
Lastly, the point of my article was not that we should be singing Hallel now that OBL is gone. Joy, expressing thanks to G-d, yes. Hallel is in the category of public celebration. See my next post for an analysis of that topic.

Anonymous said...

Excellent article. Can't be said in a better way!