How does our religion teach us to respond to the death of a hated and evil man like Osama Bin Laden?
When hearing about the downfall of an enemy, the rabbis remind us of the verse from Proverbs: “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles.”
This is in line with the tradition that no matter how wicked our enemies are their destruction is not a cause for celebration. The Talmud tells us that “God does not rejoice with the fall of the wicked.” As the rabbinic teaching goes, as the Children of Israel were crossing the sea and the army of Pharaoh was drowning, God rebuked the angels for showing excessive joy. And to this day, our liturgy reflects that by limiting the psalms of joy that we recite to commemorate that event.
The reason for this muted celebration is twofold.
First there is recognition that even when our enemy falls, this does not signal an end to all our troubles. Just because one enemy or one army or one threat has been removed does not mean we are entirely safe.
Second, we must acknowledge that the destruction of the enemy did not necessarily arise from our own merits. We are perhaps not worthy of the good fortune that we have received and so we do not want to tempt God, as it were, or remind the Angel of Death of our own defects.
So our tradition is clear: Public rejoicing about the death of an enemy is entirely inappropriate.
However, our tradition is also clear that it is appropriate to express deep gratitude when hearing about the death of Osama Bin Laden.
We should express gratitude to the Navy Seals who bravely killed him. We should express gratitude to all those who were involved in removing this horrible being from our world. And we should express gratitude to our Maker for removing a danger from our lives.