(This is a continuation of the previous post:
https://rabbielimallon.wordpress.com/2013/01/22/1-22-13-song-at-the-sea-i/
Originally, they formed a single piece, but in order to keep it shorter, and to separate the theme of the calligraphic layout from the theme of the associated midrash, I chose to make them separate, related posts with consecutively numbered footnotes
.)

Shirat Ha-Yam why singing

There’s a famous midrash on the “Shirat ha-Yam”:

 “The ministering angels wanted to sing the ‘Shirah’ [along with the B’nai Yisrael].
The Blessed Holy One said:
The works of My hands [“My creatures;” “My children”] are drowning in the sea,
and you’re singing the ‘Shirah’?” [8]

Why do the rabbis teach that G-d reproaches even the angels for singing (i.e. rejoicing) at the death of the Egyptians?

Yechezkiel/Ezekiel ha-Navi (prophet) had taught:
“Do I desire at all that the wicked should die?” says the Lord G-d. “Don’t I prefer that he turn from his

ways and live?”  [9]

Speaking to the exiled Israelites, Yechezkiel was reassuring them that although their own wrongfulness led to their exile and the destruction of the Temple, G-d didn’t hate them or desire that they should disappear forever.

Where the navi’s words might have been directed at Israel per se, the rabbis learned a categorical lesson from them, applicable to all people in all times and places.

Why not rejoice?

The rabbis make it clear: Everyone is G-d’s “creation;” G-d’s “child.” Even those who do us harm. Ignoring that fact tarnishes our own awareness of G-d’s Presence — which is in and around us always. Ignoring it limits our love and hardens our hearts — even towards the living. On some level, it hardens our hearts even towards those whom we love.

Even about nazis, one Catholic teacher said: “They were G-d’s children and they behaved like animals.” He, like the rabbis, was struggling to reconcile the Scriptural — and rabbinic — teaching of respect for all life as G-d’s creation, with disgust at the unbearable harm people seem able to do. If anything, his comment was unfair to animals, who rarely seem to do things purely out of joy at being cruel.

And yet, isn’t there obvious rejoicing in Torah when the Israelites are saved? Isn’t there rejoicing in TaNaCh at other deliverances? Wouldn’t we rejoice ourselves?

“…Am Yisrael [the Jewish People] does not rejoice over the downfall and death of its foes. We celebrate [on Pesach, for example]…because we were saved, not because our enemies perished…” [10]

In our own time, we saw some people rejoicing as Iraq rained “SCUD” missiles down on Israel during the Gulf War — despite Israel not being a combatant in that war at all. In the same Gulf War, we also saw Saddam Hussein’s sons’ bodies proudly displayed for the media — which I found barbaric, especially given the rabbis’ teaching above.

On the other hand, I recently saw the film “Zero Dark Thirty,” which recounted the hunt for and killing of Osama bin Laden. I remembered feeling a kind of relief when I heard that he’d died, although not any kind of joy. I hoped (wrongly, as it turned out) that it signaled the end of the dangerous period through which we’re now living. In the movie, the death itself happens quickly and not at all clearly. Neither the soldiers nor the protagonist rejoice in any way. Nor did the audience; there were no “cheers” at that point in the movie. I thought that most honorable and appropriate.

So this issue — of whether or not to rejoice at the death of those who have harmed us — is still alive, even today.

If G-d sees those who have harmed us as “the work of My hands” or as “My children,” shouldn’t we, too, regard them as G-d’s creations or children?

If the angels themselves are told to honor G-d by refraining from rejoicing at the destruction of any human being, then kal v’homer, we should, too.

In the end, the rabbis desire to make us the best human beings we can be.

To do so, and in the course of doing so, we must go beyond the “purely human” in ourselves, transcend the part that reacts only instinctively, automatically, unthinkingly, and come to know the Divine in us that is always loving in unchanging calmness and peace.

Then, we are most fully human.

That is our truest liberation, and the start of the deliverance of all the world.
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[8] Talmud: Megillah 10b and Sanhedrin 39b
For a good contemporary article on this, see:
http://www.torahleadership.org/categories/beshalach.pdf

[9] Yechezkiel/Ezekiel 18:23

[10] http://www.torahweb.org/torah/2001/moadim/rwil_hallel.html