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But God does not chastise Moses and the Children of Israel for singing at the Egyptians’ drowning. People may do so; angels may not.
Secondly, it is one thing to celebrate the fall of one’s personal enemy; it is quite another to celebrate the fall of evil individuals. The two Proverbs citations are not contradictory. The vast majority of our personal “enemies” are not evil people. Therefore, we should not exult at their downfall. And the vast majority of the truly evil are not our personal enemies. Bin Laden was not my personal enemy. He was the enemy of all that is good on earth.
It seems to me that if one does not celebrate the death of a truly evil person, one is not celebrating the triumph of good over evil. I do not see how one can honestly say, “I am thrilled that bin Laden can no longer murder men, women, and children, but I do not celebrate his death.”
Yes, one can argue that bin Laden’s arrest and life imprisonment would have also prevented his murdering anyone else. But keeping him alive would have inspired others terrorists to murder on his behalf or to take hostage innocent Americans and others in the hope of forcing America to release bin Laden.
Celebrating the death of bin Laden is a moral imperative. The notion that Islamists who celebrated 9/11 are morally equivalent to Americans who celebrated bin Laden’s death is the essence of moral confusion. It equates the killing of 3,000 innocents with the killing of the person responsible for those 3,000 murders.
All those rabbis and others who think it immoral or un-Jewish to celebrate bin Laden’s death will one day have to confront a Jew named Arie Hassenberg, a prisoner at Auschwitz-Birkenau. As quoted by Holocaust historian Saul Friedlander, after one of the Auschwitz sub-camps (Monowitz) was bombed by the Allies, Hassenberg’s reaction was: “To see a killed German; that was why we enjoyed the bombing.”
Was Hassenberg’s reaction morally wrong or “un-Jewish” — or “un-Christian,” for that matter? I don’t think so. What distinguishes Hassenberg from those who lament celebrating the death of the truly evil is that Hassenberg encountered the truly evil.
A longer version of this column appeared in the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles.
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