The assassination of Osama bin Laden was a mix of emotions for me. I am glad he is no longer in this world. He was a terrible person and responsible for many deaths before and after 9/11. I am proud of our leadership -- from the commander in chief to the generals and the Navy SEALs -- for proceeding with the plan. I am proud of President Obama for completing the task begun by President Bush.
And yet, even with all those feelings of relief and gratitude, I cannot celebrate a death. It is not right. It is not Jewish.
As I watched the networks cover the celebrations that broke out in front of the White House, in Times Square, at Ground Zero, and on many college campuses, I could not help but recall the reactions to the 9/11 attacks in certain parts of the world.
Do you remember how painful it was to see some people in other countries taking to the streets in jubilation over the destruction of the Twin Towers, the attack on the Pentagon, and the deaths of thousands of Americans?
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There is a well-known story from the ancient rabbis that teaches about the children of Israel crossing the Red Sea. When they successfully make it through and the Egyptians are drowning in the crashing waves, the Israelites begin to dance and sing hymns of praise. The Israelites ask God to join them in their jubilant dance.
But God snaps back at the celebrants: “How can I dance with you when my children are drowning?” Obviously, God was responsible for the deaths of the Egyptians who had enslaved the Israelite people for centuries. And yet, God would not endorse celebrating.
Fast forward to our own time. Many will remember the capture and trial of Adolph Eichmann, one of the organizers of the Holocaust.
The Jewish people took great comfort in this remarkable achievement. But there are no accounts of Jews or non-Jews, in Israel or abroad, dancing in the streets or handing out candies when he was hanged on that fateful day in May of 1962. Most Jews and Israelis were quite satisfied with the court’s verdict, but they did not rejoice or drape themselves in flags and parade through the streets of Tel Aviv.
Judaism is quite clear; sometimes people need to be punished for their crimes. The Torah and Talmud explicitly state that one is justified in taking a life when defending their own or another’s life. However, nowhere are we obligated, encouraged or even allowed to celebrate such a death.
Rabbi Harold F. Caminker, is rabbi of Temple Beth El, 4200 32nd Street West, Bradenton. Shabbat services are held at 7:30 p.m. Fridays. For more information, call (941) 755-4900 or visit www.templebethelbradenton.com.