Those of you who have heard me speak or who read my columns and books know that whenever I opine on a subject I try to base what I say or write on our Torah and the teachings of our sages. There are so many things taking place so rapidly in front of our eyes that before we can absorb one event, another one unfolds. This rapid succession is so overwhelming that it allows us no time to think.
Nevertheless, all global and personal events, major or minor, are orchestrated by Hashem. “All that befalls us in the world, the good as well as the bad, are tests…” (Mesilas Yesharim). Consequently, there is always a Jewish way of viewing things. There is a huge difference between seeing events through secular eyes and through Torah eyes.
Consider, for example, the overwhelming jubilation that reigned throughout the United States when the news of Osama bin Laden’s death was announced. Undoubtedly, he was the incarnation of satanic evil, and every freedom-loving person has cause to be grateful he is no longer alive.
There is, however, a vast difference between being grateful he is no longer among us and actively celebrating his death.
Before we proceed, I wish to make it quite clear that not for a moment do I compare the reaction in our country to the vile, obscene frolicking in Muslim cities and villages when Jews are killed – as we saw in the wake of the recent carnage in Itamar where the savage killing by Muslim terrorists of members of the Fogel family was followed by frenzied dancing and carnivals in Arab areas. Children were given candy. The insane rejoicing knew no bounds.
Such a response – celebrating the barbaric murder of a father, mother, children and an infant, making the killers “holy martyrs” – can only emanate from savages, yet no one raises a voice.
Consider what would have happened if the reverse had occurred. If Israelis had perpetrated such a barbaric act, the entire world would have descended on the Jewish state in fury. The UN would have been called into special session. Sanctions would have been enacted. Every Internet site, every newspaper, would have declared their abhorrence.
But when Muslims perpetrate such satanic acts, when they celebrate Jewish blood being spilled, there is hardly a murmur.
The elation we witness in our United States over the death of bin Laden is a far cry from the savage rejoicing in Arab countries when terrorists slaughter innocent men, women and children. Nevertheless, as tempered as our celebration is, it behooves us to ask, Should this be our reaction? Is it right to rejoice in someone’s murder even if he be evil?
We, the Jewish people, who from the genesis of our history have always been targeted for annihilation, have tragically had much experience in dealing with this question. While we have encountered persecution and pogroms and Inquisitions and Holocausts in every generation, we have also seen our killers crumble before our very eyes, but- and this is a big but – we have never danced or rejoiced in reaction to their deaths. Rather, we humbly thanked G-d for having saved us and asked Him to help us continue our mission of kindling the light of Torah in a dark world. I do not speak theoretically. As a survivor of the Holocaust, I witnessed this with my own eyes.
Just recently we celebrated the festival of Pesach, which marks the birth of our nation, our exodus from Egyptian bondage. At the Seder table, when we recall the ten plagues that destroyed that tyrannical nation, do we dance? Do we clap our hands? Do we exult? None of that. Instead, we take a full cup of wine and with the mention of each plague we spill out a drop, for our cup can never be full when we witness the destruction of others -even if those others were our oppressors and killers.
This teaching is reinforced throughout our holy writ. In Psalm 104, King David, the psalmist, the sweet singer of Israel, proclaimed: “Let sin be erased and the wicked will be no more” – meaning, we beseech the Almighty to obliterate evil deeds, not human beings.
When we wish to utter the most horrific curse at those who are totally evil, we do not ask that they be savagely slaughtered. We do not pray for bloody carnage. Rather, we say, “Y’mach shmo” – May his name be obliterated may his evil mission be wiped out.
Perhaps this can be summed up through a powerful story involving Bruriah, the brilliant rebbetzin of Rabbi Meir. We are told they had a miserable neighbor who gave them no end of trouble and grief. One day Bruriah overheard her husband praying, asking G-d to remove the neighbor from this planet.
Upon hearing her husband’s words, Bruriah said, “Rabbi Meir, instead of praying that our neighbor be removed, why don’t you pray that G-d remove his malicious ways. And if you do that, not only will you have peace from him, but we will gain a good neighbor.”
Just think about it and you will realize with awe that it is only G-d who could have taught us that.
Finally, there is yet another consideration of which we, the Jewish people, are keenly aware: “Vayokom melech chodosh” – and a new king arose over Egypt,” which teaches us that there is always a new, malevolent person to replace the one who is gone, and this new one may be even worse than his predecessor. So while bin Ladin is gone, there will, sadly, be others to take his place. And thus it will be until Mashiach comes.
But we must not despair. We must remind ourselves of that which we proclaim on Seder night: “In every generation they arise to annihilate us, but the Holy One, blessed be He, is always there to save us.”
And so it shall be until Messiah comes speedily in our own day.
(To be continued)
Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis