Bin Laden 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A few moments after hearing that US troops had killed Osama bin Laden, I
congratulated President Barack Obama and the American people on Twitter for
having neutralized this monster. I added a second tweet: “Do not rejoice when
your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles.” (Proverbs
24:17) I mentioned that bin Laden’s death was not a cause for celebration, but
rather a time for gratitude to God that innocents had been protected via the
elimination of a cold-blooded killer intent on murdering the
Within minutes, my close friend Rosie O’Donnell tweeted to
her followers, “Do rabbis condone violence – war – murder?” The exchange between
O’Donnell and myself sparked a huge debate. It’s an important debate, and I want
to clarify my position as well as offer the Jewish-values take on bin Laden’s
IN JUDAISM, exhortations to hate all manner of evil abound in the
Bible, and God declares His detestation of those who visit cruelty on His
children. Psalm 97 is emphatic: “You who love God must hate
Proverbs 8 declares, “The fear of the Lord is to hate
Amos 5 demands, “Hate the evil and love the good.”
Isaiah 5 warns, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good
Concerning the wicked, King David declares unequivocally: “I have
hated them with a perfect hatred. They are become enemies to me.” (Psalm 139)
Hatred is a valid emotion, and the appropriate moral response to inhuman
cruelty. Mass murderers must elicit our deepest hatred and contempt.
the other hand, the Bible also says we do not dance over the body of a murderer
like bin Laden. Indeed, at the Pessah Seder we Jews, on mentioning the 10
Plagues, remove wine from our glasses 10 times to demonstrate that we will not
raise a glass to the suffering of the Egyptians, even though they were engaged
in genocide. Likewise, after the Red Sea split and drowned the Egyptians, Moses
and the Jewish people sang “The Song of the Sea.”
Yet, the Talmud says
God Himself rebuked the Israelites: “My creatures are drowning in the sea, yet
you have now decided to sing about it?” We wish there were no evil in the world.
It would have been better for there never to have to been a Pharaoh, a Hitler,
or an Osama bin Laden.
Over 3,000 people died on 9/11. Are we now going
to jump for joy that their killer has been brought to justice? No. This is a
time to give thanks to God. Who can celebrate? Their families are still bereft.
American soldiers continue to die in Iraq and Afghanistan. We do not gloat at
the triumph over evil; its very existence must be mourned.
wrote to me noting that on Purim, Jews celebrate the death of Haman. Incorrect.
We celebrate the deliverance of an innocent people from genocide.
those who go further and quote to me Jesus’s injunction that we are to love our
enemies, I respond that to love murderers is to display contempt for their
Those who do not hate bin Laden have been morally compromised. A
member of the Taliban who cuts off a woman’s nose and ears, or an al-Qaida
terrorist who flies a plane into a building has cast off the image of God and is
no longer our human brother. They deserve not amnesty but abhorrence, not
clemency but contempt.
And since humans cannot bestow life, neither can
they act in the place of God and forgive those who take life.
Christian brothers and sisters I say, as a Jew who has just completed a book
about Jesus that is thoroughly sourced in the New Testament, that Jesus never
meant us to forgive God’s enemies. His words are specific. He says to love your
enemy. Your enemy is the guy who steals your job or your parking space. God’s
enemies are those who blow up airplanes and would destroy worlds. Likewise, in
advocating turning the other cheek, Jesus never meant that if someone kills
3,000 American citizens you are to also let him kill 3,000 British citizens.
Rather, Jesus meant to forgive personal, human slights rather than monstrous,
I do not believe in revenge. The ancient Jewish
understanding of the biblical injunction of “an eye for an eye” was always
financial restitution for the lost productivity of an eye rather than the
barbaric taking of an organ itself. But I do believe in justice, and loving a
terrorist makes a mockery of human love and a shambles of human
Ecclesiastes expressed it best. There is not just a time to
love, but also a time to hate. I hated Osama bin Laden, but I will not rejoice
at his death. It would have been better had he never been born, but once he was,
and once he dedicated his life to unspeakable cruelty, it was necessary for him
to be stopped and killed. And for that I give thanks to God and the brave
soldiers of the American military.The writer is the author of Judaism
for Everyone and founder of This World: The Values Network, which is now
launching The American Institute of Jewish Values to promote universal Jewish
teachings in American culture. For more information, write to info@ThisWorld.US.
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