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.