The Torah portion this week, Beshallach, recounts the Israelites crossing the Sea of Reeds on dry land ahead of Pharaoh’s pursuing army. As soon as the last Israelite touched the farther shore of the Sea of Reeds, God made the waters return to their original place, drowning the Egyptian army. The Talmud, Tractate Megillah 10b, relates that the angels started to sing a song of triumph, but God scolded them: “The work of My hands, the Egyptians, are drowning at sea, and you wish to say songs?” The Gemara continues, “This indicates that God does not rejoice over the downfall of the wicked.”
The Gemara continues: “Rabbi Elazar said that this is how the matter is to be understood: Indeed, God Himself does not rejoice over the downfall of the wicked, but He causes others to rejoice. . . . Consequently, these words are understood to mean that God will cause others to rejoice. The Gemara concludes: Indeed, learn from it that this is the case.”
God causes others to rejoice over the downfall of the wicked? Rejoicing whenever the wicked fall down is a human trait. Rejoicing whenever the team, politician, country, or whatever stumbles is a human trait, and it doesn’t need the team, politician, country, or whatever to be wicked. I had season tickets for Rutgers basketball for ten years, and I exulted every time Rutgers won. Every time a politician expresses a diametrically contrary thought to mine, I exult when he is defeated or his notion is defeated. I prefer God’s scolding the angels than God’s causing others to rejoice.
It takes a great deal of restraint from rejoicing over the downfall of wicked persons. As Clarence Darrow said it best, “I have never killed any one, but I have read some obituary notices with great satisfaction.”