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DO NOT REJOICE IN YOUR ENEMY’S DOWNFALL

January 25th, 2018

The splitting of the Red Sea was undoubtedly the greatest miracle of the Exodus story, and indeed in human history.

An entire nation was miraculously saved from certain death, while their genocidal pursuers all perished.

Upon reaching safety, and with their enemies gone, the Jewish nation immediately and spontaneously began singing God’s praises, and the inspirational song they composed continues to inspire us thousands of years later.

And yet we know that Judaism discourages joyous celebration if a victory involves the destruction of an enemy. An explicit verse in Proverbs 24 warns us not to rejoice at the downfall of our enemies, and we consequently have a tradition to reduce the Hallel (prayer of praise recited on festivals) we recite on Passover in recognition of the fact that our salvation came at the expense of the the Egyptian army.

Rabbi Dunner uses sources from the Talmud and its commentaries to unravel this contradiction, demonstrating how careful one has to be in triumph, and why the Jews who sang at the Red Sea were fully in tune with this when they did so.

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