Selected Sermon/Article
2002-07-07 Pesach 7th Day 2002 by Rav Ze'ev Smason
Rejoice in the Fall of Our Enemies

Sermon Pesach 7th day 2002 "Rejoice in the Fall of Our Enemies"

It has become a cliche, but the ability to take a lemon in life and make lemonade is the most determining factor in successfully coping with life's most difficult circumstances.

An American serviceman who was stationed deep in the Sahara Desert found himself with a few hours to kill. He put on his swimming trunks and began trudging merrily through the desert sand. One of his buddies asked in astonishment, "Where do you think you're going?"

The carefree solider replied, "Well, I've got a few hours leave and I thought I'd take a dip in the surf."

His buddy laughed at him and said, "Are you crazy? We're 500 miles from the ocean."

His undaunted friend said, "I know -- but isn't this the biggest, most beautiful beach you've ever seen?"

Bnai Yisrael was at the seashore on the 7th day of Pesach, but had no interest in a dip in the surf. The Egyptians had them pinned up against the Yam Soof, with apparently no way out of a terrible predicament. Hashem came through, of course, and split the Yam Soof into 12 paths. And while walked through on dry land, the Sea caved in on the Egyptians, and drowned them, their chariots, and their horses.

We certainly understand that a large part of the simcha of Shevii Shel Pesach is the miraculous salvation of Bnai Yisrael from certain capture or death. A question to consider, however, is the following: how are we to relate to the death and the destruction of the Egyptians? Are we to mourn the loss of life of tens of thousands of people, or is there somehow an element of simcha to be felt in the downfall of our enemy?

A well known gemara tells us that Hashem didn't allow the angels to sing as the Egyptians died at the sea, because it was inappropriate for Celestial rejoicing to take place while the works of G-ds hands were drowning. In a seemingly similar vein, King Solomon wrote in the Book of Proverbs that:

When your enemy falls be not glad, and when he stumbles let your heart not be joyous. Lest Hashem see and it displease Him, and He will turn His wrath from him (to you).

Does all of this mean that taking joy in the destruction of the wicked is inappropriate?

Those who have open eyes are aware that the war in Israel is not just about land. It's also about the hatred of the Jewish people.

For starters, the Palestinian media has called for the killing of all Jews. In October 2000, after two Israeli solders were lynched in Ramallah, a sermon given on official Palestinian Authority television said:

Have no mercy on the Jews no matter where they are, in any country. Fight them, wherever you are. Wherever you meet them, kill them. Wherever you are, kill those Jews and those Americans who are like them -- and those who stand by them...

Earlier this month a Saudi-government sponsored newspaper printed a column about the holiday of Purim

"For this holiday," explained a professor at King Faisal University, "the Jewish people must obtain blood so that their clerics can prepare the holiday pastries...I would like to clarify that the Jews' spilling human blood to prepare pastry for their holidays is a well established fact, historically and legally, all throughout history.

To our dismay, however, anti-Jewish fanaticism exists in many places outside of Muslim fundamentalist terrorism in the Middle East. How can we forget when American Journalist Daniel Pearl was forced to say, before being decapitated by his Pakistani captors:

I am a Jew. My father was a Jew. My mother was a Jew.

France has one of the largest Jewish communities in the world, and is also one of least hospitable to its Jewish residents. We all saw the images of the synagogue that was burned down in France, just this past week. Britain's Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, has said that Jews of his country are suffering from the worst anti-Semitism since the Holocaust.

And lest we become too complacent here in America, America is not exempt, either. In the year 2000, 73 percent of all reported hate crimes on the basis of religion were against Jews, according to FBI figures.

To answer the original question: how are we to relate to the elimination of the wicked and the evil they embody can best be summarized in a verse from the Book of Proverbs: In the destruction of the wicked, there is rejoicing.

While it's true that God didn't rejoice over the drowning of the Egyptians, the Talmud states explicitly that He does want us to rejoice. Rabbi Saadia Gaon refers to the Seventh day of Pesach as 'Yom HaHashmada' -- the Day of Destruction. Not only did the drowning of the Egyptians not take away from the simcha (joy) of the holiday, but quite the contrary -- the very essence of the seventh day of Passover is the joy and gratitude for saving us by drowning the Egyptians.

The entire Yom Tov of the seventh day of Passover is for the drowning of the evil enemy, which is a Kiddush Hashem, as it says in the Mechilta: "When the Almighty punishes the wicked, His name is made Great and Holy."

What are we to do then, with the source we mentioned earlier, that states that "When your enemy falls be not glad"?

Rabbi Avigdor Miller said that this passage refers to an adversary, but not an enemy in the sense of the Egyptians, or the modern day Egyptians who would seek to destroy us. Someone who takes our parking spot or gains an advantage over us in the business world isn't an enemy to be hated, but rather, perhaps, only an adversary.

The 4 cups of wine we drank at the Seder signify, the Meiri says, the punishment that the Nations of the World will have to drink as the Messianic redemption comes closer. When we poured the 4th cup and said "Shefoch Chamascha" -- "Pour out your wrath" -- we prayed that God punish our oppressors, and bring about the ultimate redemption.

Taking joy in the destruction of the wicked, and the elimination of evil from the earth isn't particularly politically correct.

The 7th Day of Pesach celebrates the salvation of the Jewish people. The 7th Day of Pesach also celebrates the punishment of Egypt for profaning God's name for what they did to Bnai Yisrael. On this day, we hope for a day when 'God will be one and His name will be One,' and that evil, and the evildoers will be eliminated from the earth.