A further observation on the rather tired “celebration of the death of OBL” question.
I sometimes pride myself on an unusual ability to happen actually now and then to manage to notice the obvious, but it’s false pride, I know.
I want to look again at what Jeffrey Goldberg’s Torah teacher said.
I earlier pointed out one aspect of a neglected larger context – that OBL, unlike the Egyptians in the Bible story, died through human agency, not by his own bad luck or independent collision with the eternal will. But there is another relevant aspect of the story, a different kind of distinction, this one directly mentioned by the teacher and yet ignored in her subsequent analysis:
The water closed in on these enemies while the Israelites broke out in ecstatic singing following Moses’ recitation of the “Song of the Sea” found in Exodus 15. The angels, the text states, wanted to sing but God turned to them and said “My creatures are drowning in the sea, and you want to sing?”
Note that the human beings, the Israelites, break out in ecstatic singing at the drowning of the Egyptians, and, at least in this recitation, are not criticized for it. It’s the angels who are told to keep their empyreal mouths shut. The teacher continues (my emphasis):
Of course, there’s a desire to sing. There is a need to cry out in joy. But these knee-jerk reactions should be tempered by the larger question of what a human life is worth. Relief is appropriate. Celebration may just cross over a spiritual line.
Contrary to the teacher’s reading, and my earlier one, the Biblical text appears to be acknowledging and in effect affirming the expression of joy. There is a need to cry out in joy.
Needs are needs. There’s no choice about them.
Are human beings supposed to emulate the angels, to become angels? In my Hermann Cohen-influenced reading of the prophetic teachings, I don’t think so. Human beings do not become “more divine” by becoming “less human.” Divine is a different category of existence altogether – human beings at most “draw nearer” to it – while the angels don’t really know what they’re singing about, because they do not also suffer and die.
More after I’ve had a chance to review and reflect on the relevant texts.