So it would seem, as many an author has already provided online, that Judaism absolutely condemns the celebration of the death of others, even of wicked enemies. But, as always, it’s not that simple because the Bible also says, “When the righteous prosper the city exults; when the wicked perish there are shouts of joy” (Proverbs 11:10). Our quotation about the ministering angels from above is challenged by some Rabbis in Talmud – Megillah 10b has Rabbi Elazar saying that “God does not rejoice but causes others to rejoice” while Sanhedrin 39b puts these words in the mouth of Rabbi Yose bar Chanina. In fact, the Biblical quotation that accompanies this statement is quite convincing, so it could be said that while God does not rejoice, we do have permission to do so.
How do we hold together all these texts? How can we reconcile us being told not to rejoice when our enemy stumbles (Proverbs 24) with it being pointed out that when the wicked perish there are shouts of joy (Proverbs 11)? How do we hold texts in which God rebukes the angels for celebrating the death of the wicked with texts that says that while God does not rejoice, God can cause others to rejoice (Talmud: Megillah and Sanhedrin)? My answer is that Proverbs 11 is talking about what comes naturally to us. When a very close friend of mine was murdered nearly a decade ago, the most helpful question someone asked me at the time was when I was in
text. We hold these together by understanding that they’re talking about the same situation and comparing the normative and the ideal response.
|Just in case we forget that he was once like all of us before turning to evil.|