The Death Of A Mass Murderer
The celebration was an alarming echo of the reaction in various cities in the Middle East a decade ago when the collapse of the World Trade Centers was reported. This was not a celebration of peace (the wars continue). And it does not end the struggle in the US both to be free from attack and simultaneously to preserve the US democracy. If anything, the celebration signals that peace and harmony are far, far away, and that the past decade has entrenched their remoteness.
This morning I received an email from Rabbi Arthur Waskow of the Shalom Center. I pass part of it along:
How might we address the death of a mass murderer?
The Torah describes Moses and Miriam leading the ancient People Israel in a celebratory song after the tyrannical Pharaoh and his Army have been overwhelmed by the waters of the Red Sea. Later, the Rabbis gave a new overtone to the story: “The angels,” they said, “began to dance and sing as well, but God rebuked them: ‘These also are the work of My hands. We must not rejoice at their deaths!’“
Notice the complexity of the teaching: Human beings go unrebuked when they celebrate the downfall and death of a tyrant; but the Rabbis are addressing our higher selves, trying to move us into a higher place. (The legend is certainly not aimed at “angels.”)
Similarly, we are taught that at the Passover Seder, when we recite the plagues that fell upon the Egyptians, we must drip out the wine from our cups as we mention each plague, lest we drink that wine to celebrate these disasters that befell our oppressors.
…What I myself felt was more like "sad necessity" -- and I would have preferred a mournful remembrance of the innocent dead of the Twin Towers and of Iraq and Afghanistan -- a thoughtful reexamination of how easy it is to turn abominable violence against us into a justification for indiscriminate violence by us.
I agree. Mournful remembrance would be a change for the better. Unfortunately, I do not expect it. Or peace anytime soon.
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