Monday, May 2, 2011

On the Fall of Osama Bin Laden

Do not gloat when your enemy falls;

when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice,

or the LORD will see and disapprove

and turn his wrath away from him.

Do not fret because of evil men

or be envious of the wicked,

for the evil man has no future hope,

and the lamp of the wicked will be snuffed out.


(Proverbs 24:17-20)


Of the people who died with Osama Bin Laden there was a woman "who was used as a human shield", according to the official US account.

Perhaps the lives of the commandos were endangered, and there was no other choice but to kill the woman.

Or perhaps some people think it all right to kill innocents in order to get at Bin Laden, even if there was a choice.


Michael W. said...

"Perhaps the lives of the commandos were endangered, and there was no other choice but to kill the woman."

Do you not trust the US military's claim that they don't target civilians?

Nachum said...

Well, the midrash on Esther states that the verse in Mishlei refers to personal, not national enemies (nor enemies of humanity). It fits the context, and I'm pretty comfortable with that take.

Theodore said...


(Coming from an atheist)

i_like_ike52 said...

Jerry-you are aware that every day the Jew in his morning prayers says the "Shirat HaYam" which celebrates the destruction of Pharoah's army in the Red Sea during the Exodus. Thus, Judaism has no problem celebrating the defeat of its enemies.

Seth said...

שִׁירוּ לַיהוָה כִּי-גָאֹה גָּאָה, סוּס וְרֹכְבוֹ רָמָה בַיָּם

Mark said...

Why do you always come down on the side of the terrorists and haters. Is it just your roll in life to shake things up?

Jerry Haber said...

Michael W.

I don't trust the claim of anybody who sends in people who shoot to kill.

Nachum and i like ike52 -- there will always be two types of Jews; those who want to aspire to be like the angels, and those who are content to be like the oylam/amkha.
I didn't say I was sad to see Bin Laden die. I am not going to rejoice about it. I am not going to rejoice about the death of anybody. Even Voldemort.

Jerry Haber said...

Mark, apparently you think the Kadosh Barukh Hu, who chastises the angels for singing shirat ha-yam, "comes down on the side of terrorists and haters." You think God supports Osama bin Laden?

Anonymous said...

makes sense that jerry understands that pasuk the way that christians do...

jerry...the man urged people to kill you...oh thats dont count yourself as one of the have created your own form of that rejoices when one cuts himself off from the klal

and everyone in that compound had no problem harboring a mass murderer...there wasnt one innocent civilian in the bunch

Theodore said...

"I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that" — Martin Luther King Jr.

ADDeRabbi said...

cf. Prov. 11:10.

We indeed celebrate the splitting of the see, but, at least according to some midrashim, we temper our "Hallel" on the latter days of Pesach.
I think that's a fair mediation of the tension - personal expressions of relief tempered by the recognition of the cost. It's also why I take a more subdued attitude toward Yom Ha'atzma'ut.

Mark said...

You have not really answered my question.

ADDeRabbi said...

And incidentaLLY< I didn't notice many Israelis firing their guns in the air and handing out candy.

Anonymous said...

Our bible and volumes of commentary are riddled with contradictions, so you have to ask yourself which passages elevate your soul to a more divine and enlightened place. When you find these dignified utterances, like Jerry has from Proverbs today, you feed them to your spirit.

Do this today and you might come in touch with how base it is to celebrate a death, even the death of a mass murderer.

And, finally, why is it incomprehensible for most people to understand that one can be relieved by the death of a diabolical terrorist without feeling elated and jingoistic about our troops killing him?

Jerry Haber said...


please read this link

in which Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, a modern orthodox rabbi in DC, writes that is wrong to display joy, right to display gratitude.

And guess what pashuk he cites?

Jerry Haber said...


You are I are in total agreement here.

Check our what Rabbi Herzfeld wrote here:

Jerry Haber said...

AddeRabbi, you spoiled a nice comment. Uneducated people go with the gut, whether they are chanting racist slogans at football games, yelling "Death to the Arabs", or celebrating direct hits in Gaza on youtube videos. It's our duty to avoid gut reactions, and that includes moral one-upmanship -- especially when a society is under a long term and brutal occupation.

I hope that "candy" reference, by the way, wasn't referring to a very weird news story that circulated following the Itamar murders.The story was weird because one Palestinian photographer who has worked for Hamas in Gaza followed around one guy handing out Baklava to surprised Palestinians and then did a photo shoot, calling it "Palestinians distribute sweets" and sold it to a foreign website -- whence it was picked up the irresponsible rightwing press (including, who else, Jennifer Rubin). This was real Pallywood, although you can't blame a photographer in Gaza for hustling for some money.

ADDeRabbi said...

Fair enough. It was indeed a gut response to Haniyeh's statements on the matter and a recollection of the scenes after 9/11 (not Itamar; FWIW, I've seen similar scenes first-hand). Nevertheless, I should have formulated it in the positive: there seems to be a lot of guilt about celebrating even amongst those who are celebrating. Several sites have posted articles about the morality of celebrating the death of OBL. In addition to Shmuel Herzfeld, there have been several other tempered rabbinic responses:
(this last one was featured in Jewish Ideas Daily's "daily picks")

R. Herzfeld has also translated a relevant passage from the Meshech CHochma, which I hope to post to Kol Ha-Rav soon.
All in all, I'd say that aside from the first few moments of spontaneous cheering (followed shortly by guilt), the mood has not been one of jubilation.

David Ender said...

Interesting read. Makes quite a bit of sense too.

Theodore said...

I would like to also point out the recent number of events that have shown some of the dark aspects of this renewed "patriotism" in America in the face of Osama's death:
"Osama today, Islam tomorow [sic]".

I Think we always need to be wary of such celebration since it can also bring out some of the darker aspects of ourselves, and make us feel as if we are in a competition with somebody. Considering all that has been lost in this war to find Osama, it is rather vain to celebrate now. Especially after the nearly million Iraqs, dozens of thousand of Afghan, 6000+ Coalition troops dead.

I think this is a time of reflection. We need to reflect on what has transpired and all that has been lost. Also, what we have allowed our government to do and excuse to finally get to this point (as one callous Republican senator reminded me when he said recently "What does Obama think of water-boarding now?".

LeaNder said...

Jerry, it's not really important, but I am slightly uncomfortable with the dualistic use and look at emotions and intellect. Maybe since I often experienced "gut reactions", which I should have followed, although I only realized later. Sometimes I try to express this with wiser and more irrational emotions. Gut versus brain? Why gut?

Isn't the celebration partly a reaction to the century of propaganda good versus evil (satan or the devil)? I think, I can't celebrate or even enjoy this, since although I read everything about Bin Laden, I could get my hands on, the image always remained vague. Neither were the "terrorism experts" of much help that essentially repeat the same tales over and over again.

This might have been the right approach post 911, but what really does it chance now?

My only reaction to it, admittedly, was that Pakistan (...India... Afghanistan) always felt to be a very central part of the story. Surely not Iraq. (Iraq which side was good and which evil?)

fiddler0 said...

LeaNder, you have a point. I've long thought that trying to separate "good" and "evil" in the world was as futile as it was harmful. All of us, without exception, have both good and evil within us, and the fallacy of confusing a person who has done evil with an "evil person" is part and parcel of the Manichaeism that brought us too many atrocities throughout history, including both 9/11 and the never-ending, by definition, "War on Terrorism".
Trying to eradicate all the evil in the world so that only the good remains seems to me like trying to create a monopolar magnet: it can't be done.