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May 2, 2011 1:39 am

How to Respond to Osama Bin Laden’s Death

avatar by Shmuley Boteach

Email a copy of "How to Respond to Osama Bin Laden’s Death" to a friend

Osama Bin Laden. Photo: Al-Jazeera.

A few moments after hearing that the United States military had killed Osama bin Laden, I quickly tweeted congratulations to President Obama, the American military, and the American people for having neutralized this monster. I added a second tweet that quoted the Bible, “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 or parades but rather a time for thanks and gratitude to G-d that evil had been rooted out and that innocents had been protected via the elimination of a cold-blooded killer intent on murdering the defenseless.

Within minutes my close friend Rosie O’Donnell tweeted to her followers, “Do rabbis condone violence – war – murder?”

The exchange between me and Rosie sparked a huge debate over Twitter. It’s an important debate and I want to clarify my position as well as offer the Jewish values take on bin Laden’s death.

Judaism stands alone as a world religion in its commandment to hate evil. 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 G-d 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 most elicit our deepest hatred and contempt.

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On the other hand, the Bible also says that we are not to celebrate our enemy’s demise. We do not dance over the body of a murderer like Osama bin Laden. Indeed, at the Passover Seder we Jews, upon mentioning the Ten Plagues, poor wine out of our glasses ten separate 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 that G-d himself rebuked the Israelites: ‘My creatures are drowning in the sea, yet you have now decided to sing about it?’

We wish there never was evil in the world. It would have been far better for there never to have to been a Pharaoh, a Hitler, or an Osama bin Laden. When Hitler blows his brains out in a Berlin bunker we give thanks to G-d that his unspeakable evil has finally come to an end. But who could possibly rejoice after so many innocents have died?

The same is true of 9/11. Three thousand people died. 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 G-d and show gratitude. But who can celebrate? Their families are still bereft. They are still missing. American soldiers continue to die in Iraq and Afghanistan. We do not gloat over the triumph over evil because its very existence must forever be mourned.

Many readers wrote to me that on Purim Jews celebrate the death of Haman. Incorrect. We celebrate the deliverance of an innocent people from genocide.

But for those who go further and quote to me Jesus’ 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 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 G-d from their countenance 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 G-d and forgive those who take life.

To my 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 to forgive G-d’s enemies. He words are specific. He says to love your enemy. Your enemy is the guy who steals your parking space. G-d’s enemies are those blow up airplanes. Likewise, in advocating turning the other cheek Jesus never meant that if someone kills 3000 American citizens you are to allow him to kill 3000 British as well. Rather, Jesus meant to forgive petty slights rather than monstrous evil.

I do not believe in revenge, something the Bible explicitly prohibits. 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 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 heart 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 hate Osama bin Laden 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 G-d and the brave soldiers of the American military for making the world a safer, more just, and innocent place.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is the author of ‘Judaism for Everyone’ and is founder of ‘This World: The Values Network’, which is now launching ‘The American Institute of Jewish Values’ to promote universal Jewish teachings in American media and culture. For more information write to info@ThisWorld.US

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  • PissedOffAmerican

    “Osama himself plead guilty to every one of his attacks”

    THAT IS A LIE. A CAREFULLY NURTURED MYTH.

    OBAMA DENIED INVOLVEMENT IN 9/11.

    • PissedOffAmerican

      MEANT TO SAY “OSAMA”, OF COURSE

      • PissedOffAmerican

        Bin Laden says he wasn’t behind attacks

        September 16, 2001

        Islamic militant leader Osama bin Laden, the man the United States considers the prime suspect in last week’s terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, denied any role Sunday in the actions believed to have killed thousands.

        In a statement issued to the Arabic satellite channel Al Jazeera, based in Qatar, bin Laden said, “The U.S. government has consistently blamed me for being behind every occasion its enemies attack it.

        “I would like to assure the world that I did not plan the recent attacks, which seems to have been planned by people for personal reasons,” bin Laden’s statement said.

        “I have been living in the Islamic emirate of Afghanistan and following its leaders’ rules. The current leader does not allow me to exercise such operations,” bin Laden said.

        continues….

        http://articles.cnn.com/2001-09-16/us/inv.binladen.denial_1_bin-laden-taliban-supreme-leader-mullah-mohammed-omar?_s=PM:US

  • Brad

    Way to religious for my tastes… makes me feel nauseous and queesy.

  • Ronald Pies MD

    I would simply add the following to Rabbi Boteach’s remarks:

    Is it Right to Rejoice over bin Laden’s death?
    Ronald Pies MD
    The recent killing of Osama bin Laden has occasioned a wide variety of emotional reactions in this country and abroad. For many Americans, the response was one of relief, admixed with joy, and perhaps some anticipatory anxiety regarding possible reprisals. But whereas bin Laden’s death may have brought some degree of “closure”
    to many of us who remember that terrible day almost a decade ago, those who lost loved ones on 9/11 will probably never feel such closure–for many, there will always be that aching sense of loss, anger and sorrow.

    But what about those who have loudly celebrated bin Laden’s death, almost with the glee one sees at sporting events? To some degree, this sort of display is understandable and forgivable, after all this country has been through in the past ten years. There is a feeling of deep catharsis and unburdening that few can deny, much less condemn. Even if “justice” in the sense of “due process” was clearly not done in the killing of bin Laden, there is a sense in which a rough, “karmic” kind of justice did prevail. This is expressed in the tale told of Rabbi Hillel, in which he sees the skull of an evil-doer floating upon the water. We read (Pirke Avot, chapter 2, mishnah 7)

    “He [Hillel] further saw a skull floating on the water. He said to it: ‘Because you drowned [others], you were drowned; and in the end those who drowned you will be drowned.'”

    One important element of the Judaic tradition is that we are not commanded to “love” our enemies–only to treat them fairly. On the other hand, the Judaic tradition teaches us that we should not “rejoice” when our enemy falls. This, arguably, would apply to the death even of one such as Osama bin Laden. However, one can argue that it is morally permissible to take satisfaction and even joy in the fact that the world has one less malefactor in it, and that the net amount of evil in the world has thereby been decreased. Indeed, the Judaic tradition does allow us to rejoice when evil and injustice are defeated. In principle, this is different than rejoicing in the death of a fellow human-being, who, after all, was made in the image of God.
    Loudly celebrating the death of a fellow human being–even one who has committed unspeakable crimes–is unseemly, and inconsistent with humane values. But taking visible satisfaction in the undoing of a terrible malefactor is understandable and even morally appropriate, if carried out with restraint and decorum.

    The distinction is subtle, though, and I suspect many Americans have not taken it to heart. Perhaps more important than what we do with the evil of those like bin Laden is what we do with our own capacity for creating good in the world. As Rav Abraham Isaac Kook taught, “The purely righteous do not complain about evil; rather, they add justice…they do not complain about ignorance; rather, they add wisdom.”

  • Jonathan Trent

    I have read a lot on this topic in the past 24 hours. This is the best piece yet – he was the first to come out with it and makes the point about relief but not jubilation while also learning important lessons! It is a must read – I got it off twitter @RabbiYYS

    Bin Laden is Dead – A Time to Rejoice?http://bit.ly/9m6prt

  • Margo Schulter

    As a Jew, I view Judaism as a religion of peace and
    nonviolence. This does not mean impunity for those who
    perpetrate terrorism and mass murder, but it does mean
    seeking the arrest, fair trial, and humane nonlethal
    punishment of these arch-offenders rather than their
    deaths, thus precisely distinguishing our values from
    theirs. Assassinations or “extrajudicial executions,” as
    well as legal executions, are wrong.

    Of course, if we were to learn that the officers did
    everything humanly in their power to capture Osama bin
    Laden alive, but his resistance with lethal force made that
    impossible (at least with the current prevailing weapons
    technologies), then we would have a legally justifiable
    although lamentable homicide — a tragedy that good police
    departments seek to avoid, and mourn rather than celebrate
    when they fail in their mission to restrain evildoers
    without killing them.

    The humility of the great King David about his own
    homicidal acts, both licit and illicit by the standards of
    those times, might be a good model for us today — together
    with the humanity of the Rabbi Akiva, who declared that had
    he been on the Sanhedrin or High Court, no one would ever
    had been executed.

  • Marc Massery

    Judaism isn’t the only world religion that hates evil.

    “the Catholic Church holds it better for the sun and moon to drop from heaven, for the earth to fail, and for all the many millions on it to die of starvation in extremest agony, as far as temporal affliction goes, than that one soul, I will not say, should be lost, but should commit one single venial sin, should tell one willful untruth, or should steal one poor farthing without excuse.” John Henry Cardinal Newman

  • I think that injunction not to dance on anyone’s grave is appropriate, and I value your lesson from the scriptures.

    I think it is a mistake to confuse loving ones enemy with forgiveness. For me, loving others does not mean one cannot condemn the actions of a person and the consequences of those actions and we can certainly despise whatever it is by which a person allows themselves to commit such crimes. And we claim the right to defend and protect ourselves from such criminals by violent and irreversible means.

    The prominence of bin Laden and the event of his death is an occasion for sorrow, certainly for all of those harmed and killed through his actions and the anguish of their survivors, and out of compassion that a human being did those awful things. In its ending, there arises in me a cloud of sadness. I have no explanation.

  • Shmuley is simply saying this: Osama is dead it is a good thing he was an evil man that god created and we are satisfied that he has finally been taken out we do not rejoice because there is no reason to its after the fact ppl are already dead (and to all you scholars: haman hadnt killed anyone yet his plot was FOILED good reason to rejoice wouldnt you say. also jews sang at sea because god had just saved their lives i dont think the death of bin laden has really saved american lives!) but for jesus to have meant for us to love this man how ever you wish to interpret ‘love’ is quiet ridiculous to “love evil” is to make a complete mockery of all that is good and just in this world when you offer love/respect to a criminal you automatically justify his actions and praying for him WHAT? to which god?

  • Judaism stands alone as a world religion in its commandment to hate evil. Exhortations to hate all manner of evil abound in the Bible and God declares His detestation of those who visit cruelty on His children

    I would say there is, or ought to be, a distinction between evil and the people who do evil, that one can love the one who does evil and still hate the evil. I do suppose that at one point someone has done so much evil and is presumably beyond redemption that he or she becomes the evil. But I don’t believe it is up to us mortals to decide when that happens. We cannot see all things.

    And concerning the wicked King David declares unequivocally, “I have hated them with a perfect hatred. They are become enemies to me.” (Psalm 139)

    Just because David hates the wicked does not mean that it is the right thing to do. David did a lot of horrible things; they weren’t all condoned or to be condoned.

    Hatred is a valid emotion, the appropriate moral response, to the human encounter with inhuman cruelty. Mass murderers most elicit our deepest hatred and contempt.

    Hatred can be an emotion. But continuing to hate is a decision.

    They deserve not amnesty but abhorrence, not clemency but contempt. And since humans cannot bestow life, neither can they act in the place of G-d and forgive those who take life.

    I would go further and say that “since humans cannot bestow life, neither can they act in the place of G-d and condemn those who take life.”

    One Final (and, I hope, humble) note: I realize all of the above is rather easy for me to write. I also realize that I have not been a victim of violent crime, and my ancestors have not suffered anything like the systematic persecution that others have suffered. Finally, I am ignorant of Jewish thought/theology, and I am approaching what was written in this article from a different tradition.

    But much of what the author concludes does not seem to follow, or at least not follow necessarily, from his premises or from the authorities he cites. And of the latter, what he says about Jesus, for example, admits of at least more than one interpretation.

  • Blondie

    Here’s a better question for Rosie: Do you FINALLY admit that 9/11 wasn’t some ridiculous government conspiracy?! And if not, then I guess you’ll not be voting for Obama in the next election, right? Because wouldn’t it mean that he’s in on what you claim to be the biggest hoax in American history? Rosie is the equivalent of the people that deny that Holocaust ever happened/deny that the Germans committed unforgivable genocide. At what point does she not understand that she’s essentially standing up for people that hate Americans, hate homosexuals, hate women’s rights and hate free speech? All the things that she is, they hate. Osama would have killed her for a klondike bar.

    • itsoverforosamabinladen

      When people say that 9/11 was a ridiculous government conspiracy they are talking about Bush going after Saddam Hussein instead of the real culprit Osama Bin Laden. The Bush theory was ridiculous and will forever be ridiculous. President Barack Obama fulfilled his promise that his government would get Bin Laden and they did. Everyone feels better today. I will rejoice and I am celebrating.

    • absolutely correct could not have possibly said it any better than that this is the epitome of how the liberal mind thinks and how selfish confused and IMMORAL it is and i believe the underlining root cause for this extremely unconventional alliance between these two natural enemies is a fierce rabid anti semetism that will look for any political excuse it can find to bring destruction on their real target i.e. Israel (think “peace activists” aboard the Rachel Corri)

  • Ari

    Time to bust out with the, “Song of the Sea”, as the Jews of the time of Moshe did after the Egyptians were vanquished by HaShem.

    Rosie O’Donell is a 9/11 “troofer” conspiracy theorist. It’s humorous to dialogue with her on the 9/11 subject. — Verily, she may be choked up about Bin Laden’s death, blaming the US gov’t for 9/11 instead.

  • I wrote a bit of a response to the good Rabbi: http://declassification.wordpress.com/2011/05/02/do-not-rejoice/

    Jesus did want us to love and not hate, to forgive over seeking revenge. But this does not mean discarding justice.

    “Rabbi Shmuley Boteach wrote this morning that Jesus never intended us to love God’s enemies, only our own- ‘the guy who steals your parking space.’ But if that is the morality of Jesus, what is so special about it? If all the love of Jesus is good for is reconciliation between neighbors who slight each other, what kind of a world do we accomplish? ‘”You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.” But I tell you to love your enemy, pray for those who persecute you.’ Rabbi Shmuley says that he has just finished a book on Jesus, and that it told him Jesus never meant we were to forgive our real, evil, awful enemies. But then why were the disciples so shocked at His words? Why did they find Him so hard to follow? Rabbi Shmuley finished a book on Jesus, and that is better than finishing none. But Christians have twenty-seven books on Jesus which are two thousand years older than Rabbi Shmuley’s one. They are two thousand years closer and wiser. And they tell us that Jesus said to love our enemies, and to forgive those who harm us.”

    • Jesse

      Who are we to judge people’s hearts and what motivates them to celebrate. As far as I’m concerned most of them were celebrating because Osama’s death is a major blow to al-Qaeda who is an enemy to all of us. That includes Christians, Muslims, Jews, etc. When I found out I was like “Cool”. I had a sense of joy in my heart. I know for a fact that it was a righteous joy and I am not ashamed at all. I do not believe Jesus meant that loving our enemies means that we just let them go around murdering people. If that is what you believe then that’s your business but you might want to go get your head examined. There is a difference between sinners like us and sinners like sociopaths like him.

  • And for crying out loud, the prohibition against revenge is “Do not take revenge or hold a grudge *against the children of your people*.” Taking things out of context is thoroughly dishonest.

  • R’ AHRON OF CORAL SPRING

    SHAME ON THE ALGEMEINER FOR PRINTING THAT RUBBISH!
    SEE TALMUD “M’GILAH” DAF 16 RE. THE DOWNFALL OF “HAMAN”

    • Joe

      Thank you for clearing that up for me and all my friends who seek true daas Torah.

  • goburton

    I don’t believe that when Jesus said to forgive your enemies that he said to forgive people who take your parking spot and not those who are mass murders–that would be your personal interpretation. It’s hard not to have hate for someone who is so evil, and I, for one, am joyful that he is no longer on the earth to spread his evil. The focus must now be on those who follow him and plan to carry out more evil and destruction. Also, can you please explain why you put “G-d” instead of “God” in your article? God be with our troops!!

    • The hyphen is there in keeping with the Biblical commandment not to take his name in vain.

  • I think it’s appalling that Shmueley Boteach would display this degree of ignorance in public. It’s shameful. In the first place, the Sages say that “Do not rejoice in the fall of your enemy” refers to your Jewish enemy. And in fact, they tell a story about Haman and Mordechai to illustrate it.

    Secondly, the claim that God rebuked us for singing praises to him and rejoicing over the deaths of the Israelites in the Red Sea is pure fiction. The Talmud says that when the Egyptians drowned, the *angels* began singing praises, and that God silenced *them*. That’s in Tractate Megillah 10b, in case the learned Shmueley Boteach would care to go and learn.

  • Moishe Sachs

    This is an excellent article with an infuriating title. Although you prove well your point, I’d like to see you change it to “How to React To Bin Ladin’s Death.”

    • Steven Stein

      What’s the difference between “react” and “respond”? Why is that “infuriating”? I actually think responding takes much more thinking than reacting.

  • hsdfgsdfgsfgsdfg

    rejoice not for his death but for the suffering that it ends

  • LG

    Haha- funny how Bible quotes can be so misconstrued!

  • בְּטוּב צַדִּיקִים, תַּעֲלֹץ קִרְיָה; וּבַאֲבֹד רְשָׁעִים רִנָּה.

    The full quote: When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices; and when the wicked perish, there is joy.

    Proverbs 11:10

  • bz

    “Rejoice in the death of evildoers—Proverbs 11:10.”

    • peter

      As far as im concerned hes not an evildoer, he faced no trial and I do not take the word of a politician or military leaders. This only tells me one thing, the US goverment condones senseless murder. Even if he is the “evildoer” people make out he is, he will just be replaced with someone else.

      • Susan

        Gee, peter, his own confessions mean nothing to you? He admitted – BRAGGED – about 9/11. If you want to pretend that execution is murder, fine – just don’t be surprised when most people laugh at, or scorn & ridicule you.

        But kudos to Lisa, Heshy, at al, who point out Boteach’s astonishing & embarrassing errors.

        • PissedOffAmerican

          “Gee, peter, his own confessions mean nothing to you? He admitted – BRAGGED – about 9/11.”

          You’re either an brainwashed idiot, Susan, or a liar.

          Bin Laden says he wasn’t behind attacks

          September 16, 2001

          Islamic militant leader Osama bin Laden, the man the United States considers the prime suspect in last week’s terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, denied any role Sunday in the actions believed to have killed thousands.

          In a statement issued to the Arabic satellite channel Al Jazeera, based in Qatar, bin Laden said, “The U.S. government has consistently blamed me for being behind every occasion its enemies attack it.

          “I would like to assure the world that I did not plan the recent attacks, which seems to have been planned by people for personal reasons,” bin Laden’s statement said.

          “I have been living in the Islamic emirate of Afghanistan and following its leaders’ rules. The current leader does not allow me to exercise such operations,” bin Laden said.

          continues….

          http://articles.cnn.com/2001-09-16/us/inv.binladen.denial_1_bin-laden-taliban-supreme-leader-mullah-mohammed-omar?_s=PM:US

          • Both Bush and Cheney on public broadcast admitted they had absolutely NO evidence Bin Laden had ANYTHING to do with 911.

      • Jesse

        You don’t make any sense. In order for someone to be considered evil they have to be tried? How does that make any sense? Osama himself plead guilty to every one of his attacks. There you go bro, guilty! And in case you didn’t know we are at war in which case people die. It’s not senseless it’s just war. Whoever replaces Osama will be killed and whoever replaces that guy will be killed. So long as there is jihad there will be senseless death. Better get used to it.

        • Both Bush and Cheney on public broadcast admitted they had absolutely NO evidence Bin Laden had ANYTHING to do with 911.

          You brainwashed MORON.

      • Kevin

        Maybe this whole discussioni is a little off base. I think the feeling most Americans felt was more like a relief, that a 10 year root canal is over. It was not rejoicing. Europeans don’t get how we feel because 9/11 didnt happen there it happened here. And they don’t have a Thanksgiving Holiday. Many of us having been giving thanks to the Lord that He blessed the arms of the United States and allowed this to happen. What’s wrong with that?

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