No Holds Barred: Hate the ISIS leader, but don’t rejoice at his death

There should be no spontaneous celebrations outside the White House as there were when president Barack Obama announced the death of arch-butcher Osama bin Laden.

A man purported to be the reclusive leader of the militant Islamic State Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has made what would be his first public appearance at a mosque in the centre of Iraq's second city, Mosul, according to a video recording posted on the Internet on July 5, 2014, in this still image taken fr (photo credit: REUTERS FILE PHOTOS)
A man purported to be the reclusive leader of the militant Islamic State Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has made what would be his first public appearance at a mosque in the centre of Iraq's second city, Mosul, according to a video recording posted on the Internet on July 5, 2014, in this still image taken fr
(photo credit: REUTERS FILE PHOTOS)
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is dead. He was a monster. The world is a much better place without him. He was one of those who was created in the image of God but chose to erase the Creator’s countenance from his visage by murdering, raping, plundering, and beheading.
US President Donald Trump was right to ridicule his cowardly death where he met his demise “like a dog.” Beasts like Baghdadi rejoice in seeing their helpless victims cower before them. They dress them up in orange jumpsuits and then saw off their heads with glee. But when confronted with their own deaths, they blow themselves up along with their innocent children to escape their captors. Death by cowardly suicide – think of Hitler, Goebbels, and Goering – is always the escape of cowardly murderers.
Still, we should not rejoice in Baghdadi’s death. There should be no spontaneous celebrations outside the White House as there were when president Barack Obama announced the death of arch-butcher Osama bin Laden. It would have been better if Baghdadi had never been born. It is not a cause for celebration when evil is defeated. Rather, we bow our heads in silent resignation amid the ferocious determination to eradicate evil wherever it is found.
To be sure, we should thank Trump, the heroic American military and the American people for having neutralized a monster. But we should heed the words of the Bible: “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles” (Proverbs 24:17). This is not a time for celebration or parades but, rather, a time for thanks and humble gratitude to God Almighty that evil was rooted out and that innocents have been protected through the elimination of a vile, bloodthirsty killer who took such pleasure at brutalizing the defenseless.
That we do not rejoice at the fall of our enemies does not mean that we should not hate evil. To the contrary, we must. Judaism stands alone as a world religion in its commandment to excoriate wickedness.
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 evil.” Proverbs 8 declares, “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil.” Amos 5 demands, “Hate the evil and love the good.” And Isaiah 5 warns, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil.” And, 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, the appropriate moral response to the human encounter with inhuman cruelty. Mass murderers must be reviled with our contempt.
But hating evil does not mean that we dance over the charred fragments of the putrid remains of Baghdadi or the bodies of his innocent children whom he murdered with his suicide vest.
At the Passover Seder we Jews, upon recalling the Ten Plagues, pour wine out of our glasses 10 separate times to demonstrate that we will not raise a glass to the suffering of the Egyptians, even as they were engaged in genocide. We wanted their evil destroyed. But that evil exists at all is a flaw in creation that must be corrected without celebration.
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 that God himself rebuked the Israelites: “My creatures are drowning in the sea, yet you have now decided to sing about it?”
We wish there had never been evil in the world. It would have been far better for there never to have to been a Pharaoh, a Hitler or a Baghdadi. When Hitler escaped Allied justice by blowing his brains out in a Berlin bunker, we gave thanks to God that his unspeakable evil had finally come to an end. But who could have possibly rejoiced after so many innocents had been annihilated?
The same is true of the death of the ISIS leader. Who can dance when we remember the helpless men and women paraded on video, in their orange jumpsuits, as their heads were severed from their bodies by the monsters of ISIS in displays of brutality that beggar the imagination?
No. This is a time to give thanks to God and show gratitude to the brave men of America’s special forces. But who can celebrate? The victims’ families are still bereft their loved ones are still gone. We do not gloat over the triumph over evil, because its very existence must forever be mourned.
Many readers will no doubt point out to me that on Purim Jews celebrate the death of Haman. But this is incorrect. We celebrate the deliverance of an innocent people from genocide.

BUT FOR my Christian brothers who would go further and quote to me Jesus’s injunction that we are to love our enemies, I respond that to love murderers is to practice contempt against their victims. Those who do not hate Baghdadi have been morally compromised. A man who rapes a woman and then decapitates her has cast off the image of God from his countenance and is no longer our human brother. Such a man deserves not amnesty but abhorrence, not clemency but contempt, not mercy but destruction. And since humans cannot bestow life, neither can they act in the place of God and forgive those who take life.
As a Jew who is the author of Kosher Jesus, which is thoroughly sourced in the New Testament, I state emphatically that Jesus never meant to forgive God’s enemies. His words are specific. He says to love your enemy. Your enemy is the guy who steals your parking space. God’s enemies are those who stone women to death. Jesus meant to forgive petty slights rather than monstrous evil.
I do not believe in revenge, something the Bible explicitly prohibits. The Jewish understanding of the biblical injunction of “an eye for an eye” has always been 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 forgiving murder or loving a terrorist makes a mockery of human love and a shambles of human justice. The human capacity for love is limited enough without us making the reprehensible mistake of directing even a sliver of our hearts away from the victims and toward their culprits.
Ecclesiastes expressed it best. There is not just a time to love but also a time to hate. I hated Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, but I will not rejoice in his death. It would have been better for the world had he never been born. But once he was, and once he directed 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 for making the world a safer, more just and innocent place.
The writer is the author of Judaism for Everyone and is founder of The World Values Network. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @RabbiShmuley.