Kenneth Cohen

Rejoicing When Enemies Fall

The seventh day of Pesach celebrates the defeat of the Egyptians, with the splitting of the Red Sea. Then Moshe and all of Israel, erupted in song and thanksgiving. They were now truly free.

This celebration is puzzling on two counts. The first is based on a Midrash that describes the rejoicing in Heaven by the angels, when the Egyptians were defeated. Hashem reprimands them, and reminds the angels that the Egyptians are also His children, and there was no place for such rejoicing. (This is the reason why we only say a full Hallel on the first day of Pesach. Since the seventh day is holy, and we do not say Hallel on that day, it would not be appropriate to give Chol Hamoed more importance, so we do not say a full Hallel on these days, either.)

The second problem comes from a Mishna in Pirkei Avot. It says that we should not be happy when our enemy falls. So, if the angels were reprimanded, and we are not supposed to be happy when our enemies fall, why was the song at the Red Sea, deemed appropriate?

The answer is that we, as Jews, are allowed to give thanks and celebrate when enemies that threaten us, are eliminated. This is what Purim, Chanukah, and Yom Ha’atzmaut, are based upon.

However, the Mishna is speaking of a Jewish adversary, that has been causing us aggravation. If he falls, and is no longer in a position to harm us, we should not celebrate. We should pray that the tormentor should repent, and do Teshuva. There must not be hatred among Jews.

But on a Divine level, all human beings are G-d’s children. He is saddened when they use their free will, to choose to do evil. He is forced to punish them for their wrongdoings. This does not make Him happy.

At the Pesach Seder, we opened the door for Eliyahu and prayed, that Hashem would pour out His wrath on the nations that wish to harm. The ultimate rejoicing will come when our enemies are silenced for all time. This is the time of Mashiach.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at
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