Why Celebrating Your Enemy’s Death is Forbidden in Judaism

5 min read

In Jewish tradition, life is held in the highest regard, and the Torah instructs us to value every human being as a creation of HaShem. The Torah and Talmud provide extensive guidance on how to respond to the downfall or death of an enemy, emphasizing compassion, humility, and the sanctity of life.

Torah and Talmudic Teachings

1. Proverbs 24:17-18:
“Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles, lest HaShem see it and be displeased, and turn away His anger from him.”
This passage teaches that rejoicing in the downfall of an enemy is morally wrong and can have spiritual repercussions.

2. Mishnah Avot 4:19:
“Shmuel HaKatan said: ‘When your enemy falls, do not rejoice, and when he stumbles, let your heart not be glad.’”
Shmuel HaKatan reinforces that taking pleasure in the misfortune of others, even enemies, is against Jewish values.

3. Talmud Megillah 16a:
When Mordechai was led through the streets of Shushan on the king’s horse by Haman, he did not rejoice in Haman’s downfall. This demonstrates the dignity and restraint expected even when an adversary is humiliated.

4. Talmud Sanhedrin 39b:
The Talmud discusses the drowning of the Egyptians in the Red Sea. When the angels wanted to sing praises as the Egyptians were drowning, HaShem rebuked them, saying, “My creations are drowning in the sea, and you want to sing?” This teaches that even the downfall of the wicked should not be a cause for joy.

The Pesach Seder

During the Pesach Seder, we pour out a little wine from our cups when recounting the Ten Plagues, symbolizing a diminished sense of joy in our celebration because of the suffering of the Egyptians. This act signifies that our joy is tempered by the recognition of human suffering, even of our enemies.

Kabbalistic Perspectives

Kabbalah teaches that every soul has a spark of divine essence, and therefore, the loss of any life is a diminution of the divine presence in the world. Celebrating the death of an enemy can lead to spiritual corruption and distance oneself from the divine attributes of mercy and compassion.

Stories from Jewish Tradition

1. King David and Shaul:
When King Saul, who had pursued David relentlessly, died in battle, David did not celebrate. Instead, he composed a lamentation (2 Samuel 1:17-27), mourning Saul and his son Jonathan, showing deep respect for the sanctity of life and the sorrow of loss, even when it involved an adversary.

2. Rabbi Meir and his Wife Beruriah:
The Talmud (Berakhot 10a) tells the story of Rabbi Meir, who prayed for the death of some troublesome neighbors. His wife, Beruriah, advised him instead to pray for their repentance. Rabbi Meir followed her advice, and the neighbors repented, transforming the situation from one of enmity to peace.

Additional Torah and Talmudic Sources

1. Midrash Tanchuma, Mishpatim 18:
The Midrash tells a story about Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, who explained that looking back and rejoicing in the Egyptians’ destruction during the Exodus would have been inappropriate, emphasizing compassion and respect for all of HaShem’s creations.

2. Talmud Bavli, Sanhedrin 52b:
The Talmud discusses how justice, even when it involves the execution of a criminal, is carried out with sorrow and not joy.

3. Talmud Yerushalmi, Sotah 8:10:
This passage reflects on the punishment of the Egyptians during the Exodus, emphasizing that HaShem did not take pleasure in their suffering.

4. Pirkei Avot 4:24:
Ben Azzai taught: “Do not be disdainful of any person, and do not be dismissive of anything, for there is no person who does not have his hour, and there is no thing that does not have its place.”

Rabbinic Commentary

1. Rambam (Maimonides), Mishneh Torah, Hilchot De’ot 6:5:
Maimonides writes that one should not hate another Jew in their heart. If one person wrongs another, they should speak directly to resolve the issue.

2. Ramban (Nachmanides) on Vayikra 19:17-18:
Nachmanides explains that the mitzvah to “love your neighbor as yourself” includes not bearing a grudge or seeking revenge, and certainly not rejoicing in their downfall.

3. Chofetz Chaim, Shmirat Halashon, Part 1, Chapter 10:
The Chofetz Chaim teaches about the power of speech and the importance of guarding one’s tongue, emphasizing that speaking ill of an enemy can lead to harmful spiritual consequences.

Kabbalistic Insights

1. Sefer HaTanya, Iggeret HaKodesh, Epistle 25:
The Tanya teaches about the unity of all souls, and that rejoicing in the downfall of another Jew is akin to causing harm to oneself.

2. Zohar, Parashat Bereishit, 25b:
The Zohar discusses divine judgment and mercy, emphasizing that true joy comes from the rectification and elevation of souls, not their destruction.

Stories and Examples

1. Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, Likutei Moharan I:282:
Rabbi Nachman teaches that one should strive to find the good points even in those opposed to them, focusing on potential redemption and positive transformation.

2. Chafetz Chaim, Ahavat Chesed Part II, Chapter 5:
The Chafetz Chaim recounts the story of Rabbi Akiva, who prayed for the betterment of his detractors rather than rejoicing in their punishment.


The extensive teachings in Jewish tradition emphasize the value of life and the importance of compassion, even towards enemies. Celebrating the failure or death of an enemy is not aligned with Jewish values, which prioritize peace, reconciliation, and recognizing the inherent worth of every individual as a creation of HaShem. Through these teachings, we are reminded to strive for a world where we overcome enmity and embrace the divine spark within every person.

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