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Ask the rabbi Torah and Jewish Thought The Jewish Attitude to Evil

praying for death of evil and anti-Semites

Rabbi Ari ShvatShevat 10, 5772
Question
1) Is it permissible to pray for the death of an evil (or just an ordinary anti-semite) person? 2) is it permissible to express joy at the death of an evil person
Answer
Shalom Jonathan, We are taught that those who love good and G-d, should not tolerate evil (Tehilim 97, 10). We are not allowed to ‘turn the other cheek”, but are obligated to add good, pray, and even fight and defeat the wicked (Rambam, M’lachim ch. 4-5), as we see throughout the Bible. Not only is it immoral towards society, it’s unfair towards the immoral person himself for others to suffer and tolerate his evil (it will surely help his family life and interpersonal relationships!). The Talmud (Megilla 16a, Psachim 117a) recounts that it is natural (i.e. G-dly), to rejoice when our enemies are defeated, and we must even sing songs of thanks to G-d when they are overcome. Judaism is not naïve, and we know from 3,300 years of anti-Semitism, that even though we hate fighting, we must be prepared to do so. Morality must be real, not artificial, and it is clearly unnatural not to hate an anti-Semite who hates you. On the other hand, if the bad person is our brother, the Jew, we do not pray that he die, but that he should change his evil ways, and try and convince him, as well. If his actions hurt others, he obviously should be punished and deterred, nevertheless, he is our brother, and as such, receives special patience (Megilla 16a, Brachot 10a). This is the message of those who truly want good in the world. With Love of Israel, Rabbi Ari Shvat
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