All people are God’s creatures

May 2, 2011 in Osama bin Laden’s death, Question of the Week by Aaron Rubinstein

How should people of faith respond to Osama bin Laden’s death?

As a person of faith I view bin Laden’s death a vindication of God’s justice. A centrally important text in the Passover Hagaddah reads: “…in every generation there are those who rise up to destroy us.” While the ancient authors referred to tyrants intent upon destroying the Jewish people [sadly, that trend obviously persists], this text certainly speaks to the dramatic killing of bin Laden.  When perpetrators of evil are punished, it is good day. There’s a feeling of Good: 1, Evil: 0. And even if the joy is temporary, it feels like vindication.

At the same time, my tradition tempers my sense of relief that such a perpetrator of mass hatred and violence is dead. Our sages remind us that – tempting as it is – it is not acceptable to gloat even over the death of our hated foes. At the Passover seder table we remove wine from our wineglass as we recite the ten plagues [mentioned in the book of Exodus]. This gesture is about the joy of redemption balanced with the sobering reality of the Egyptian charioteers drowning. A rabbinic text sharpens the point: As the Egyptians drowned in the Sea the angels began chanting praise to God. God silenced them: “How can you sing to Me now, as My  children drown in the Sea?” Even the humans who torment the rest of us with cruelty and evil – are God’s creatures. That doesn’t mitigate the horrors unleashed by bin Laden, but it we are reminded to dial back the triumphalist impulse.