(By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5TJT.com)
In the aftermath of the assassination of Bahaa Abu el Atta, a video went viral on social media that was recorded on Rechov Yaffo just before the entrance to Tachana HaMerkazit. In the video, there is a man handing out cookies and requesting people to recite a bracha, while telling them, “Kol HaKavod l’TzaHaL – all honors to TzaHaL.”
The person was celebrating Bahaa Abu el Atta’s assassination – the head of Islamic Jihad who had orchestrated the firing of hundreds of rockets into Israel. [VIDEO IS BELOW]
SHOULD WE CELEBRATE?
The question is: Should we be celebrating the death of an evildoer by handing out cookies on the street? Are we not disgusted when Palestinians celebrate the deaths of Jews by handing out food?
There is no question that the sentiment is understandable. And there is a substantive difference. The man in the video is celebrating the death of a murderer. Palestinians celebrate the death of innocent Jewish victims. The two cases are worlds apart and should not be compared at all. This author has met victims – children in a hospital with severe brain injuries.
THE TWO PSUKIM IN MISHLEI
There is a verse in the 24th chapter of Mishlei written by Shlomo HaMelech. It is pasuk 18 and it states: In the falling (death) of your enemy – do not rejoice.
We must also keep in mind another seemingly contradictory earlier verse. It was also written by Shlomo HaMelech – “In the death of evil-doers – exhuberance! (Mishlei 11:10). How are these two verses to be understood together?
THE RALBAG’S UNDERSTANDING – TOO MUCH IS NO GOOD
The Ralbag in interpreting the pasuk just before pasuk 18 in chapter 24, writes that inappropriate rejoicing over the matter will lead to Hashem removing His Divine Anger against that enemy and placing it upon you. It is clear from this Ralbag that too much rejoicing is wrong and dangerous. But what is too much?
It is interesting to note that the Alshich in Esther (5:3) writes that this is exactly why Esther wished to make Haman rejoice at the party. She did so in order that the Divine Will be turned against the evil Haman on account of his rejoicing at the fall of Israel.
APPROPRIATE REJOICING IS OKAY
We can infer from the Ralbag that although inappropriate rejoicing is wrong – appropriate rejoicing, where one is on the correct spiritual level, is fine. This is the type of rejoicing that is indicated in Chapter eleven.
THE MAHARSHA’S AND RABBEINU YONAH’S VIEWS
But what exactly is the correct spiritual level?
The Maharsha in Megillah 28a understands the verse in Chapter 24 as referring to someone who is rejoicing because of his feeling of hate toward his enemy. Rabbeinu Yonah on Pirkei Avos 4:19 writes that that the high level in which rejoicing is permitted is if one does so in celebration of the Kavod Shamayaim – of the honor due to G-d at the fall of this evil-doer. This may be very much in line with our Ralbag.
The fact that the person handing out the cookies was asking people to make a bracha to Hashem fits with the Rabbeinu Yonah. According to the Maharsha and Rabbeinu Yonah, the YouTube Video is kosher.
THE ALSHICH’S VIEW
The Alshich (Tehillim 5:11) qualifies the verse in Mishlei to refer only to a personal enemy, but one whose evil is so much against G-d – the opposite feeling is in order – one should, in fact, rejoice. Thus the Chapter eleven verse refers to one who is so evil in the eyes of G-d. The Alshich does not distinguish between our own levels, but rather the type of enemy that the pasuk refers to.
THE OTHER VIEW – THE MESHECH CHOCHMA AND GERRER REBBE
The Meshech Chochma (Shmos 12:16) writes that upright individuals do not rejoice at the death of others as do, say, some of the other nations. This seems to be across the board. Thus, on Passover, we celebrate the freedom of the Jewish people and not the fact that G-d punished the Egyptians. Similarly, on Chanukah, we celebrate the miracle of the oil lasting and not the fall of the Syrian Greeks. It would seem that the Meshech Chochma is not in agreement with the aforementioned Alshich in Tehillim.
The Gerrer Rebbe on Sukkos 5658 also expressed this thought. He explained that even though Yom Tov’s must all have Simcha, the word is used only regarding Sukkos and not Pesach. Why? The death of the Egyptians that occurred on Pesach caused the use of the word “Simcha” in regard to Pesach as not appropriate.
The Yalkut Shimoni (Mishlei 960) also points out that we do not recite a full Hallel on Pesach except for the first day because of the notion of not overly rejoicing over the deaths of enemies. Also, the Midrash points out, that Noah refrained from marital intimacy during the time that the evildoers in the world were being destroyed on account of the notion of the verse in chapter 24. Seemingly, this Midrash is not in accordance with the distinctions made by the Alshich and the Ralbag.
PERHAPS NOT ALL AGREED TO
It may also be suggested that the notion was perhaps not necessarily universally adhered to by all of Israel. How so? In Pirkei Avos (4:19) Shmuel HaKatan says almost the exact same thing as King Solomon did in Mishlei. The Rambam and the Bartenura point this out but remark that Shmuel actually utilized and taught this approach. The fact that the Mishna singles Shmuel HaKatan out for this indicates that it may not necessarily have been kept so universally. In fact, it could be that King David himself, the father of King Shlomo may have erred in his reciting of joyful song at the fall of Kush Ben Yemini, as pointed out in Midrash Tehillim (7).
The conclusion? It seems that the words of Rebbeinu Yonah on Pirkei Avos that if one rejoices at the Kavod Shamayim – the honor that finally justice has been accomplished with the knowledge that the honor of Heaven has been further enhanced and uplifted with this man’s death – then one may rejoice, but nonetheless, it should still be tempered.
We do recite Hallel on Pesach, but not a full one. One should make sure that the feeling not come from an improper emotion. One may also take pride in the fact that one was the tool for which the honor of Heaven was uplifted.
It is this author’s view that the request to recite a bracha and not fully mentioning the death of the Rasha is not excessive per se and indicate that the person’s kavanos were on a high level. Also, it seems that the motivation is one that states, “Finally, our citizens are being protected.” This is a proper sentiment.
The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org