Hanukah celebrates the miraculous military victory of the Maccabees over the Assyrian Greeks, inheritors of Alexander the Great, in the second century BCE. But it was the miracle of the lights of the Menorah that the Jews chose to emphasize rather than the necessary slaughter of enemy soldiers in self defense.
Even on Passover, as we recite the Ten Plagues that culminated in the killing of the Egyptian first born, we pour wine out of our glasses so as not to revel in the demise of our enemies.
And while the modern State of Israel has enjoyed electrifying military victories like the 1967 Six Day War, travel the length and breadth of that tiny country and you will not find a single victory arch or a monument to vanquished adversaries but rather only sad memorials to dead Israeli soldiers and civilians. Judaism is a religion of life. We do not celebrate death even of those who made it their trademark.
Killing Osama bin Laden was absolutely necessary in order to establish justice and protect life. But the very necessity of the action betrays the highly imperfect world in which live, one where the innocent are forced to shed blood in order to preserve the blood of the innocent. Tied as we are in Martin Luther King’s ‘single garment of destiny’ where ‘whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly,’ courageous soldiers of the US military are forced to engage in war so that the rest of us might live in peace, to stain their hands so that our future might be clear. We do not gloat over the death of evil since its very existence must be mourned.
The prophet Ezekiel expressed it best. “As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live.”
Written in memory of Machla Dabakarov, the mother of a dear friend of Rabbi Shmuley, who passed away last year.