Can You Believe Somebody Had to Die For Us to Feel This Good?

By M. Alexander and Jaron Zanerhaft

Headline: Osama Bin Laden killed by US Special Forces in a mansion outside Islamabad, Pakistan

Reaction: Crowds gather outside The White House chanting “USA! USA! USA!”

Headline: Egyptian Special Forces killed when Sea of Reeds abruptly closes

Reaction: Miriam leads women in song of rejoice “Michamocha! Michamocha! Michamocha!”

I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked;

but that the wicked turn from his way and live:

Ezekiel 33:10,11

Celebration outside of the White House

Are we taking pleasure in the death of the wicked, just as Miriam took pleasure in the slaughter of the Egyptians? Many interpretations of The Torah state that Miri am was not allowed into Israel because she celebrated the death of the Egyptians.  They enslaved us, but we should not celebrate their slaughter; instead, we should celebrate our freedom.

Instead of rejoicing at the news of Osama Bin Laden’s death, what should we do?  As Jews, we believe that all men and women are children of God. T’Shuvah, not death, is the instrument we use to defeat evil. Our tradition teaches us that there is good even in the most wicked of us—the loss of a divine spark is always something to be mourned, even when the divine spark has consumed the lives of the many and contributed to the separation of humanity.

His head wasn’t pitted on a stick to be paraded around Washington D.C and New York City—he was cast into the sea
according to an Islamic tradition. His body was treated with respect out at sea by the forces who killed him, but the crowd in front of The White House looked like a soccer mob.

True, this man was not to be respected—he murdered the innocent and spread hate throughout the world. His actions
were atrocious, his words nothing short of evil.

The death of Osama Bin Laden is being celebrated throughout the free world, but we do not want to sink to the level of terrorists.  We need to say kaddish for the lives of the people he killed and remember the families he tore apart.  As Jews, as Americans, and as freedom fighters, we must take action to disenfranchise radical jihad and destroy Al Qaeda– but cheering and chanting when a man dies is not the path to freedom.

Instead, we should be the model for free societies, and for those who desire freedom throughout the world.  We should celebrate life, spread knowledge, and we should Tikkun Olam–repair the world.  Only then will fanatacism die.

How did you react to the news?

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8 thoughts on “Can You Believe Somebody Had to Die For Us to Feel This Good?

  1. Sobering thoughts. Totally correct.

  2. The analogy of Miriam to Osam Bin Laden is offensive. T’shuvah. Really? And will the writer adjudge the families who don’t choose T’Shuvah, as “less than?” Created in G-d’s image? I was under the impression that it was in G-‘ds Divine Image.

    Like thousands, I lost someone in 9/11. A girlfriend. Having arrived a few minutes early for work, she was sitting at her desk, minding her own business @845am EST time in the North Tower. She left behind a husband of 25 years and two sons. Sons that grew up without their mother. A husband who adored her. A husband who was my friend.

    Want to watch pain?

    The despots of this world get no pass from me. Could be I’m not just as spiritually elevated as the writer, and frankly, couldn’t care less about that.

    I would suggest that discernment is required before granting forgiveness.

    My son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter live in the south of Oman where it borders Yemen. Yemen, the training ground for terrorists. Oman borders are always fortified where it meets Yemen. Since last night, more troops have amassed.

    Ding dong, the wicked SOB is dead.

  3. Arlene, I am very sorry for your loss on September 11. By no means did we mean to devalue the pain that was caused to the victims of any of his atrocities. Our comparison to Miriam was not a comparison to Osama Bin Laden, but a comparison to the reaction of Americans to his murder.

    It is the people celebrating his death, waving flags, and yelling about bloodshed that is the noted similarity. Maybe it is natural human instinct to celebrate, but I believe that we can rise above this animalistic inclination– that we can transcend the hate embodied by Osama Bin Laden.

    We should celebrate life, not death. Bin Laden said of his Al-Qaeda movement “We love death. The US loves life. That is the difference between us two.” Let’s show his followers that we do indeed love life.

  4. Hi Michael ~ First, allow me to apologize for the tone of my first post and say that, while I maintain my celebratory stance, I could have done better when couching it.

    While I certainly cannot speak to the rationale of the celebratory nature by other Americans, I can pin-point mine; there are two.

    Yes, clearly a response to the personal nature of 9/11. One of those moments when, like with JFK, RFK & MLK, one can remember exactly where they were they were and the images swirling around.

    I’m a New Yorker. On 9/11, my husband’s office was located at 72 Wall Street. People in that building “ran for their lives over the Brooklyn Bridge…not able to see or breathe.” The building was one of many that had to be demolished due to the wreckage & debris caused at The Towers.

    On that morning, Bin Laden changed the entire way we, as Americans go about our daily lives.

    Both governmental and individual responses became fear-based. We travel differently, the invention of Homeland Security and other invasive/constrictive policies, buildings constructed differently, bigotry grew when looking at others who might be a “terrorist.” As a nation, we became somewhat paranoid. Hyper-vigilant.

    Bin Laden, like a thief in the night, stole our freedom that day. Feeling vulnerable, we took measures and the infrastructure was reframed by fear. As a country, we knee-jerked. Unfortunately, those knee-jerk responses don’t disappear because Bin Laden is dead. For me, there is a tremendous amount of satisfaction in his death. The man was a living manifestation of evil.

    Michael, you said something interesting, “Let’s show his followers that we do indeed love life.” True and it’s also true that our celebration of life will in no way change his follower’s feelings about us. They are on a mission that for them, is divinely inspired. When we attend funerals, the Rabbi’s remind us not to ask how someone died, but instead ask how they lived. To celebrate that. There was nothing the least bit reedemable in this man’s life to celebrate. Through his death, we celebrated the Special Forces/Navy Seals and send a strong message; we love life and the freedom from fear. Chants of USA and waving of the flag, in my opinion, were absolutely appropriate.

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  6. The writer is morally confused. OBL was not murdered, he was KILLED! By our brave military boys in a risky mission that THANK GOD ended successfully! OBL was a murderer and a monster. He should rot in the deepest depths of Hell forever. To say he was “murdered” is just plain wrong and naive.
    I am heartened by the joyous reaction of people, especially younger ones that were seen dancing in the streets at the this battle over evil won. What it shows is that the bad guy gets it, and the very bad guy gets it VERY BAD! (having his head almost blown off.) When I was young, I was always happy to see the Lone Ranger shoot the bad guys. Justice was served.
    This is good for children to know. That we beleive those who do great harm to innocents will hunted down like rabid dogs and killed.
    To do anything less, is not the hallmark of a civilized society.
    Scott Miles

  7. Perhaps this will give some deeper perspective…

    Rabbi Steinsaltz’s View
    In the Bible, we have two almost opposite reactions to the fall of an enemy. On the on hand, we have the famous verse that says, “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles.” (Proverbs 24, 17) On the other hand, we have, among many others, the verse, “When the wicked perish, there is joy.” (Ibid., 11, 10)
    In fact, there is no contradiction between those two verses. The first one refers to a situation in which there is animosity or a quarrel between two people. In such a case, a person may have an enemy, but his downfall shouldn’t be any reason for rejoicing. Whatever the quarrel – commercial, political or any other kind – the enemy is just a person in opposition. Such people may cause discomfort to the other side, but essentially, both parties are equal to each other. Therefore, one should not rejoice when one’s enemy has fallen.
    The other verse does not deal with personal or national disagreement, but with an objective fact: there indeed are in the world wicked people. And when the wicked are destroyed, others should express their approval and their joy that some vicious object or person has disappeared from the world. Osama bin Laden created for himself a very clear position as one of the wicked, and therefore the world should be happy when at least one element of evil is no longer functioning.

  8. “He who is kind to the cruel is cruel to the kind”–Midrash

    This from Judge Alex Kozinski, a son of a Holocaust survivor as pertains to the Sanhedrin. No doubt this statement is far more complicated than I’m able to understand, although on the face of it, it appears to segue into the killing (not murder) of OBL. I believe Scott’s comments to be excellent.

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