Rejoicing at Death

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The loss to the world of a wicked person who has committed countless murders and caused immeasurable damage to thousands if not millions of people, is not a cause for sadness. Quite the opposite. Scripture tells us: “In the good of the righteous the city exalts, and at the destruction of the wicked praise” (Proverbs 11:10).

However, before we rejoice we must recognize our current position in the world and in history.

The following is a (loose) translation of the Vilna Gaon’s commentary to the above verse:

In the good of the righteous the city exalts – When God saves his nation, Israel, from their enemies, He redeems them and bestows good upon them first and then extracts their revenge from their enemies. This is what happened in Egypt, when God first redeemed the Jews and then destroyed the Egyptians in the sea. This also happened with Haman. God first bestowed good upon Mordekhai and only afterwards defeated Haman. This is in order that the enemy himself see the great salvation of Israel and that God is the Lord over the entire world.

Thus, when God firsts bestows good upon the righteous, the entire “city” is exalting but still not singing and praising God. However, afterwards, when God defeats the enemies who have risen against us, then they praise God.

Considering the current world situation, the death of one wicked man is not yet “at the destruction of the wicked praise.” Our enemies are still very much alive and powerful.

An additional consideration from R. Avraham Grodzinski, Toras Avraham, p. 319*:

“At the destruction of the wicked praise” – Not everyone is worthy and prepared for this. A person requires great care that he not be considered “glad at calamity” (Proverbs 17:5). A purity of heart is needed for this mitzvah, more than that which is needed for all of the other mitzvos in the Torah. If those who left Egypt recited a song of praise over the fall of Egypt, that was because of the lofty spiritual status that they had at that time. [Hazal tell us:] “A maidservant at the sea saw what Yehezkel ben Buzi did not in his prophecy.” When they reached this level of prophecy, they reached the highest level of purity, the greatest level of love for all creatures. Their hatred for evil-doers was a hatred for evil – a pure and simple hatred that is appropriate for fearers and lovers of God.

Is that really where we are holding today?



* Note that this was published in the journal Knesses Yisrael in Tishrei (Sep.-Oct.) 1939 in Lithuania, as World War II was breaking out.

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America. He also serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

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