Torah Tuesdays

Torah Tuesdays: the downfall of our enemies

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thinking about a response

It is, of course, old news now that Osama bin Laden was killed.  After seeing the rumors fly around on Facebook statuses (stati?), I confirmed the news on Cnn.com.

My initial response was to be relieved that he will no longer be able to do evil, but to not be overly public about my feelings.  Our enemies were, after all, dancing in the street after 9/11.  Why should I engage in the same behavior?

I’ve noticed a range of online reactions from “Woohoo!” to “I will not celebrate the death of any human.”  I’ve seen quotes from Proverbs to support both opinions (11:10 “When the wicked perish, there is joyful song;” 24:17–18 “When your enemy falls, do not rejoice, and when he stumbles, let your heart not exult, lest the L‑rd see and be displeased, and turn His wrath away from him.”)

So what’s the “right” attitude?  Since there are clearly different opinions about this, I went to the Orthoweb to see what some of my favorite Torah sites said.  This response from Chabad resonated the most strongly with me.

Its take-home point was that while it’s crucial to acknowledge that there is evil in the world, and to rejoice when that evil is removed, it is also crucial to acknowledge that all humans were created by G-d (even the ones who chose to do massive amounts of evil).  Essentially, we should both rejoice and mourn.  Rejoice for the cessation of evil, but mourn for the loss of a creation of our Creator.

What do you think?  How do you feel?

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9 thoughts on “Torah Tuesdays: the downfall of our enemies

  1. You bring up a good point and I’ve been thinking the same way lately. I wrote a blog post about this historic event as well. For me, it’s not about celebrating. No matter how horrible this person was, I am not about to dance in the streets for his demise. To me, it’s a recognition of a greatly historic day and it represents a sense of closure and relief. And I do thing it’s okay to be happy for those things.

  2. I’ve been pondering this myself and I’ve been somewhat surprised by how many FaceBook posts I’ve seen declaring how wrong it is to celebrate the death of another. My initial response, when I heard the news on tv Sunday night, was “woo hoo”! Evil guy + dead = good result. The next morning the FB posts really surprised me. I actually went on Aish’s website yesterday and Lori Palatnik had written a piece about how the Torah tells us to celebrate when evil perishes (which made me feel better about my initial reaction). I think the Chabad takeaway you referred to and described strikes a balance that feels good to me too. Rejoice, but also be sad. It’s hard to see it or feel it, but Osama was, at least at some point in his life, an innocent creation like we all were/are. Also, I like what Leah said.

  3. Great post. I am not really a dancing in the streets person, and I found the MLK Jr. quote going around Facebook especially poignant.

    On the other hand, I certainly feel no saddness at his killing. And all the more so knowing he was using his wife as a human shield. A deep and abiding love, no doubt.

    I was also thinking, and yes, l’havdil, but still – not only do we have an entire holiday dedicated to “dancing in the streets” over the death of an enemy (Haman), but wouldn’t we have reacted equally jubilantly had Hitler’s death happened in an era of social media?

    (P.S. Love your new header!)

  4. Thanks, ladies, for the great comments.

    Sindy and Mara, I hear what you’re saying about not being sad about the death of such a wicked person. And certainly for any of the really horrific villains of the past there has been joy.

    For me, I suppose, I feel the sadness as such: Each human has a spark of the divine, and when a person moves so, so far away from what is good and holy and completely squanders any opportunity to come close to G-d in their lifetime, and wreaks such havoc, that is sad. And to think that bin Laden believed himself to be a deeply religious man. That is extremely sad. What a waste. What a travesty.

    and Mara – thanks for the header love. :)

  5. I was very upset by the “celebrating” as well. Mostly because I felt it was ingenuine. For the most part, I saw college students who looked like they were looking for a reason to party. I think your thoughts are the wisest I’ve heard. We can rejoice that an evil man will no longer be able to do harm. But we must also mourn that a human life was taken.

  6. So interesting that my husband just brought up these points this evening. I will definitely relay all these thoughts and comments to him. Well said, ladies.

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