Friday, October 21, 2011

Gadhafi's Death - One Rabbi's Reaction

The United Nations along Amnesty International and Human Rights watch are calling for an investigation into the circumstances of Moammar Gadhafi's death. The questions persist as to whether Gadhafi was killed in crossfire or was summarily executed as many suspect. Peter Bouckaert, a director for Human Right's Watch was quoted as saying, the killing of Gadhafi is a "blemish on the record of the new Libya."

And yet, if Gadhafi was executed, it is hard not to support the Libyan rebels in their actions. Gadhafi was responsible for the deaths of thousands, and their anger towards their former dictator is palpable to say the least.

We too want to rejoice in his death just like we wanted to rejoice in the death of Osama bin Laden. Yet as the scholar Nahum Amsel wrote in The Jewish Encyclopedia of Moral and Ethical Issues, “One certainly can be happy that an evil person and the evil he or she caused is eradicated from the world … after all, the Jewish community does celebrate the downfall of Haman and the defeat of the Egyptians. Part of Purim and Passover certainly is being happy that the enemy is defeated.”1 But even then, our Torah reminds us not to hate in one’s heart (Leviticus 19:17).

Our tradition then seems to be telling us to be happy when evil is vanquished, but not to rejoice in the destruction of life, no matter how evil it may be.

An enemy of peace, an enemy of the world is dead. Baruch Dayan HaEmet. Blessed be the true Judge. We do not rejoice in Gadhafi’s death. But we do pray that the world will be a little bit safer with him gone. And maybe his death, though not brought about by any means of justice may help us at least move a little bit closer towards the ultimate goal of shalom, peace in this world and in the whole world.

1 (Amsel, Nachum, The Jewish Encyclopedia of Moral and Ethical Issues, Northvale, 1996, pg. 93)

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