Contact Us
Views on the News

Reflections on the Demise of an Archterrorist

Reflections on the Demise of an Archterrorist


For all of us who were old enough on 9/11 to understand the meaning of those terrible towering billows of smoke drifting from lower Manhattan to Brooklyn, visible from as far away as Connecticut, and seen worldwide electronically, the death of Osama bin Laden cannot but strike a chord in that place in our hearts that seeks to see revealed justice in our world.

After all, one of the basic tenets of the Noahide Laws1—the universal law of humanity—is, as G‑d tells Noah upon his exit from the Ark, “Shofech dam ha-adam, ba-adam damo yishafech”—“he who spills the blood of man, by man shall his blood shall be spilled.”

Yet we understand that this is not out of a Divine concession to a desire for revenge; vengeful feelings are unworthy of a human being, as stated in Parshat Kedoshim (Lev. 19:18).

Rather, we grasp that there is no place in the world for a person who does not respect the image of G‑d that is each one of us.

Idol worship is considered one of the most serious sins in Judaism. Yet the idolater doesn’t actually deny the ultimate existence of G‑d; he simply sees Him as too great to be involved with a mundane world, and claims that He appointed “vice presidents” to run its day-to-day affairs, and that these “sub-gods” are what should be worshipped.

By contrast, the murderer, who does not hold human life in awe, rejects the idea that we are created in G‑d’s image, that G‑d assigns value to each one of us. He rejects the reflection of G‑d because he denies G‑d any power other than to be mirror of his own ego. He seeks to replace G‑d; his god, however fervently he worships him, is an image of himself. He worships himself, and therefore seeks to kill, and denies the value of the life, of all who are not in his image.

This is a worse idolatry than any ancient pantheon, because it places a man of flesh and blood in the place of G‑d. Only when his mortality is exposed by his death is his pretension of being G‑d eradicated, and order is restored. The world is distorted by the very presence of those who deny the image of G‑d and the right to life of others.

But there is something about this that must say far more to us. As the Baal Shem Tov taught, in everything we hear or see, we must find a positive lesson in our relationship to G‑d. What is the positive message from all of this?

Let us begin by thinking of all the effort by so many people that went into performing this act of justice, this act of negating evil. How much money, how much technology, how much human ingenuity has been expended to fulfill this task that has been urgent for a decade?

Imagine now if we act upon the understanding that at the root of all this trouble lies a world far too unaware of the universal code, the Noahide Laws, that G‑d gave all humanity—preserving its diversity by the very generality of its laws, yet demanding above all one thing: absolute respect of the right of each individual to live in peace the life G‑d gave them.

That peace exists for it to be used to make the world a place of goodness and kindness, as the Rebbe was wont to say in encouraging the observance of these laws. However, to get there practically, we must consider Maimonides’ statement (Laws of Repentance 9:1): “When a person is occupied in this world with sickness, war and hunger, he cannot involve himself with either wisdom or mitzvot.”

Here, I believe, is the lesson we can learn from the entire effort and operation to get Osama:

Let us try to devote the same massive effort and brainpower that have been used for war, to take away hunger and disease, and to teach and demand (in peaceful ways), that all people accept the Divine image of every other.

Then we will have taken the very evil we have today eradicated, and turned to truly good and harmonious uses the power and ability that the response to this has evoked. We can then move towards that time of which Isaiah (2:4) writes, “Nation shall not lift a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”

And it is, in particular, our—the Jewish people’s—task to evoke this, to be the catalysts that inspire this new focus. We see this from the preceding verse:

“And many peoples shall go, and they shall say, ‘Come, let us go up to the L‑rd's mount, to the house of the God of Jacob, and let Him teach us of His ways, and we will go in His paths,’ for out of Zion shall the Torah come forth, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 2:3)

And as anyone who studied chemistry knows, a little catalyst goes a long way.


The universal law given by G‑d to Noah upon his exit from the Ark, so by their observance, the world never again be so guilty as it was in the antediluvian period

© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with's copyright policy.
Join the Discussion
Sort By:
1000 characters remaining
Steve Chandler, AZ May 5, 2011

Osama I agree with you 100% in the case of Osama and terrorists of his ilk.

It was beautifully written.

The Baal Shem Tov was on an extremely level, as we all know. Not all of us are able to see the lessons in everything that happens around us as coming from G-d. We should always strive to ascertain those lessons with the caveat that we are only human and should not berate ourselves if we don't always see them. Life can be messy sometimes. Mashiach hasn't come yet.

Not all of us are on the Baal Shem Tov's level. Sometimes I'm not sure that is emphasized enough when these great teachings are talked about. Yes, we should strive but also understand that G-d loves us even at our lowest points. Reply

Michael Austin, TX May 3, 2011

correction to previous post: Beautiful Perspective I actually meant to say "I cannot and will not pretend that I have NOT experienced much joy in the knowledge that the world has been set free...." In other words, I am happy he's gone and not able to inflict more damage. Reply

Michael Austin, TX May 3, 2011

Beautiful perspective Thank you so much for offering this view point. I cannot and will not pretend that I have experienced much joy in the knowledge that the world has been set free of the evil intentions of this man (even if others stand ready to fill his shoes). However, the opportunities to engage one another in conscientious peacemaking and healing of our civilization are too great to allow them to slip away. Reply

yael brooklyn, new york May 2, 2011

Terrorist I am glad to be able to feel a little safe in this world as a jew. I dance to Osama death. Reply

Alex Herrmann Evergreen, CO May 2, 2011

Thank you Shlomo Wonderful article. Thank you for helping us keep the right perspective. Reply

What's the latest news? For that information, check your local or national news outlet. In this blog we will discuss the "why?"

Not "why did this event occur?" but "why did I find out about it?" There must be a reason. It must contain a lesson I can use to better myself and my surroundings. Together we will find the lessons...
Shlomo YaffeRabbi Shlomo Yaffe is a frequent contributor of articles and media to, is Dean of the Institute of American and Talmudic Law in New York, N.Y., and Rabbi of Congregation B'nai Torah in Springfield. Mass. Rabbi Yaffe has lectured and led seminars throughout North America, as well as in Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Africa.
Related Topics