It is written in some midrashic conversation among the early rabbis that when the Children of Israel, under the leadership of Moses, had left from 430 years of hard labor in Egypt and had successfully crossed the Sea of Reeds (mistranslated in the English edition of the Bible as the Red Sea which it was not), Pharaoh’s legions, their horses and chariots, all drowned in the rushing waters which God had opened for His chosen people to safely cross.
When the free Israelites saw their tormentors drowning in the sea, they clapped hands, shouted for joy, as they saw the Egyptian enemies sinking in the depth of the waters of the sea to their death.
In that above-mentioned midrashic tale, we are told that God wept. God was the Creator of all mankind and now His children, masters of the greatest empire in its time, were dying. And thus, God wept.
God chastised the Israelites and commanded them “do not rejoice in the fall of your enemy”.
There are two problems here. The first is one of logic. If God was all-powerful He could have prevented the deaths of Pharaoh’s mighty army. Once the waters had parted for the Hebrews to safely cross, all that remained was the thick and heavy mud. The wheels of the chariots could not proceed. They were stuck in the deep mud.
Moses and his people had sufficient time to begin their journey to freedom without requiring the deaths of the Egyptians. Jewish rabbinic history informs us that the drowning of the Egyptians was a sign to the Hebrews of God’s great powers. They could witness the deaths of the enemies who had enslaved them.
I once heard a rabbi telling a group of young children that it was the Hebrews (he called them Jews) who built the great pyramids of Egypt so many thousands of years ago. He was incorrect. The Hebrews lived in the area of Goshen, far removed from the desert area whereon the pyramids were built.
The Hagaddah of Pesach clearly informs us that our ancestors were forced to do hard labor in the building of two royal cities, Pithom and Rameses, but the building of the pyramids was the work of talented Egyptian architects and laborers. No pyramid was built by Hebrews in Egypt.
The second problem is also a matter of logic. How can we not condemn and despise those who have sought and still seek to destroy us?
Should we demonstrate love for the Nazis who gassed and burned six million Jews? Should we not rejoice in the deaths of the Arab terrorist murderers?
One rabbi’s reply was that we should not compare ourselves to the Muslim Arabs who climb on the rooftops to rejoice in the slaughter of young Jewish children in a school-yard or the tragic murder of a mother killed by a massive stone which struck the windshield of the car her husband was driving, an act committed by a young Palestinian terrorist who told police “I wanted to kill Jews”.
Muslims rejoice in death. Jews rejoice in life. We do not rejoice in the killings of innocent people. We may be happy that those who seek to do us harm are instead themselves the product of those harms, but we do not dance, send fireworks into the skies to demonstrate joy. We do not mourn for our enemies. But somehow the Jewish heart has compassion for young Arab children now bereft of a father or brother.
With all due respect to the wise rabbis who preach God’s command to us not to rejoice in the fall of our neighbors or enemies, I have no intention to obey that command.
I see no logic whatsoever to that command.
And, unholy as I may appear to be, I will continue to take pleasure in the deaths of my enemies. My feet have never touched the soil of Germany and never will. I do not forgive the former generation and yet I do not blame the present German generation for the crimes of their fathers.
Logic tells me that they are clean from the sin of genocide since it occurred before most of them were born.
But I do have a severe problem and conflict with logic. If God is all-powerful and could drown the Egyptians in the Reed Sea, why could He not have rescued His chosen people from the gas chambers, ovens and camps of torture? Why did God remain silent and inactive?
The enslaved Jews cried out in prayer and in desperation, “Shaddai yishmerainu u’matzilainu mi kol ra”.
Almighty God, protect us and save us from all evil.
But God did not hear their cries. And that is where my conflict with logic begins.