Osama bin Laden has been killed. Many are celebrating his demise. A few are confused – asking, do we celebrate the killing of this tyrant?
The Book of Proverbs teaches us: “at your enemy’s fall, do not rejoice.” (24:17) Related to this, the Talmud explains that when the Egyptians were swallowed by the Red Sea which had parted for the Israelites, the angels wanted to sing out in joy. God, however, intervenes, silencing the angels by saying: “My handiwork (the Egyptians) is drowning and you want to sing!?”
As G-d silences the angels, Moses and Miriam, having safely led the Israelites to the other side of the sea, lead their people in a celebration – singing the song we all know as “Mi Chamocha”. In joy, the Israelites sing out to G-d – saying who is like you G-d who has worked wonders and redeemed us from the evil of Egypt!? This celebration is acceptable to G-d. This song is still sung synagogues on a regular basis.
Why were the angels silenced while the Israelites were allowed to sing? The angels wanted to rejoice as they were watching the violent death of their enemies. Had they been allowed to proceed, this would have reduced the destruction of the evil Egyptians to a spectator sport. And this is not acceptable.
The Israelites, while certainly relieved that the Egyptians were killed and, thus, unable to pursue them, were celebrating the incredible fact that evil had been crushed and freedom prevailed. The Israelites were not celebrating the actual destruction of the Egyptian soldiers – rather, they were celebrating the destruction of everything these soldiers stood for.
You might argue that there is no difference between what the Israelites were celebrating and what the angels wanted to celebrate. However, most of us, I would argue, who feel the urge to celebrate the end of Osama bin Laden, understand that there is a difference. We are overcome with emotion today because Osama bin Laden’s death is a symbolic end of a terrible chapter in our history. While his demise does not bring “closure”, in many respects, his death is the closest we will get to justice for the murder of our family members, friends and countless other souls. We are in awe of the strength and fortitude of our military and our security experts who tirelessly pursued this criminal. We are awestruck that evil has actually been quashed – good has indeed triumphed over bad!
The angels who were silenced by G-d at the Red Sea were spectators – cheering on the actual fall of the enemy. We saw similar cheering in 2001 as people in foreign lands celebrated as they watched the graphic images of the World Trade Center being destroyed on their TV screens. The only people who were witnesses to Osama bin Laden’s demise were our brave Navy Seals and they were not spectators. They were pursuing an armed terrorist who was evading justice by living in a fortified mansion. The reality is, pursuing evil often involves the use of deadly force.
Osama bin Laden’s death will not bring back those who have been murdered. His death will not stop the violence and chaos in the world. However, his death does insure that the horrific evil he was determined to continue bringing into this world is no more. The details of what happened, the images of the battle that will soon appear, the fact that so much violence has had to take place to get us to this moment – this is not what should be celebrated! Knowing, however, that the demise of this wicked man has eliminated some of the evil we on this earth are charged to overcome is reason to celebrate.
May the memory of all those who we have lost at the hands of this terrorist only serve as a blessing and may G-d bless the United States of America.
UPDATE: From JTA ARCHIVE, MAY 4 1945 – “Crowds of happy Jews gathered in Moscow’s synagogues last night after the announcement by Marshal Stalin that Berlin had fallen and the report that Hitler was dead. Around the aynagogue on Moroseike Street a throng remained discussing the news long after Moscow’s usual bedtime.”