God may chastise angels for singing at the drowning of the Egyptian army. But God does not chastise Moses and the Children of Israel for singing at the Egyptians’ drowning. People are not angels, and they not expected to be.
Second, it is indeed inappropriate to celebrate the fall of one’s personal enemy; it is quite another not to celebrate the fall of evil individuals. Therefore, the two Proverbs citations are not contradictory. One proverb is about personal enemies, the other is about evil individuals. The vast majority of our personal enemies — from a difficult boss to a betraying friend — are not necessarily evil people. Therefore we should not exult at their downfall. And the vast majority of the truly evil are not our personal enemies. Bin Laden was not my personal enemy; he harmed neither me nor anyone I knew. But he was the enemy of all that is good on earth.
It seems to me that if one does not celebrate the death of a truly evil person, one is not celebrating the triumph of good over evil. I do not see how one can honestly say, “I celebrate that bin Laden can no longer murder men, women, and children, but I do not celebrate his death.”
The British historian Andrew Roberts, whose history of World War II was published last week, has summed up the situation well:
My countrymen’s reactions to the death of Osama bin Laden have made me doubt my pride in being British. The foul outpouring of sneering anti-Americanism, legalistic quibbling, and concern for the supposed human rights of our modern Hitler have left me squirming in embarrassment and apology before my American friends. . . . Britons utterly refuse to obey the natural instincts of the free-born to celebrate the death of a tyrant. . . . When the Mets-Phillies baseball game erupted into cheers on hearing the wonderful news, or the crowds chanted “USA! USA!” outside the White House, they were manifesting the finest emotional responses of a great people.
As I believe there is an afterlife, I believe that those rabbis and others who think it immoral or un-Jewish or un-Christian to celebrate bin Laden’s death may one day have to confront a Jew named Arie Hassenberg, a prisoner at Auschwitz-Birkenau. After one of the Auschwitz sub-camps, Monowitz, was bombed by the Allies, Hassenberg’s reaction (as quoted by Holocaust historian Saul Friedlander) was: “To see a killed German; that was why we enjoyed the bombing.”
Was Hassenberg’s reaction morally wrong or “un-Jewish” — or “un-Christian”? I don’t think so.
Celebrating the death of bin Laden is not only moral. It is a religious and moral imperative.
— Dennis Prager is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host and columnist. He may be contacted through his website,dennisprager.com.