Ding Dong the Witch is Dead
We are now in the final days of Pesach. The 7th day of Pesach, as illustrated by the Torah reading for this day, commemorates the dramatic Splitting of the Red Sea.
Exactly one week after the Israelites left Egypt, they did not get very far before Pharaoh and his army followed them in hot pursuit. The Torah narrates how “It was told to the King of Egypt that the nation had fled. And they said, ‘What have we done that we sent Israel from serving us as slaves?’” Pharaoh mounts his chariot, and along with 600 of his top army men, recklessly give chase. Apparently 10 plagues were not enough for this masochistic bunch and they follow headlong into the splitting sea that ultimately comes crashing down on their heads, drowning the whole lot. A sad day for Yul Brynner indeed.
At issue is what exactly did this accomplish? The Israelites seemed to have successfully been redeemed already and it appears that God was merely playing with Pharaoh at this point. This is supported by the fact that the Torah narrates how God hardened Pharaoh’s heart to pursue the Israelites. Were the 10 plagues, culminating with the death of the first born, not enough to get the point across that God runs the show? The Jewish people were home free, why drag this out any longer?
Perhaps the key to understanding this is by noting the reaction of the people when they saw the dead Egyptians washed up on the seashore. What do they do? Why, they break out in spontaneous song. Yes, they suddenly all start singing like one big Broadway cast! They all come out from their positions of cowering fear, out of the bushes of Munchkinland, and begin to sing, “Ding Dong…”
I will sing to God because He is exalted above the arrogant
Horse and rider He has hurled into the sea. …
God is a Man of war, God is His name. …
Your right hand is glorified in strength,
Your right hand smashes the enemy.
In Your abundant greatness You shatter Your opponents
You send forth Your wrath and it annihilates them like straw.
There is a famous Midrash that says that God hushed the angels when they sang praises to Him upon the death of the Egyptians at this time. “My creations lay dying and you wish to sing praises to Me?” People often cite this Midrash to note that one should not be happy with the downfall of an enemy.
But this is not entirely true, because whereas the Midrash cites God’s disapproval with the angels, no such reaction is mentioned in the Torah when the Israelites happily sing upon witnessing the Egyptian corpses washed up on the shore. If fact this song is so special that it is incorporated into our daily prayers. We sing the same song every day!
In the book of Psalms, King David writes, “those who love God hate evil”. Yes, hate evil. Not indifferent, not kumbaya “Let’s all get along.” Hate. We are meant to have the highest negative emotion against evil. You see, angels don’t live in a world of free choice; they can only do what God commands of them. Indeed the Hebrew word for angel, malach means messenger and messengers don’t have freewill. They can only do what they are told – no more and no less. As such, angels don’t need to develop a sense of justice, of right versus wrong and good versus evil. It is not part of their world.
On the other hand, we humans who live in a world of good and bad and with free choice, must constantly choose to do what is just and good instead of what is unjust and evil. We need to develop a sense of good versus evil and recognize the corresponding consequences. Hence it is appropriate, necessary and even praiseworthy to denote when justice is done, and to rejoice in it. Granted, we wish that nobody would choose to do evil, but given that there will be those who indeed make destructive and bad choices, we must then appreciate when those efforts are thwarted – even to the point that we sing about it.
It has been reported recently that the sanctions the President Trump has taken against Iran are taking their toll on Israel’s enemies. Hezbollah no longer gets the same cash infusions from Iran. Their fighters are starting to go without, making it more difficult in their goal of destroying Israel. That should make us happy. That should make us want to sing. It is wonderful and joyful when those who wish our demise cannot carry out their plans.
Once again, it is our fervent wish and hope that nobody would be wiped out like Pharaoh and his ilk and indeed we remove some wine from our Seder cups at each plague to denote this. But at the same time, we still lift our glasses in celebration when our enemies are vanquished.
It is always unfortunate when any life is lost, but it is far worse if those, whose goals are evil and destructive, are allowed to flourish and continue. When they are stopped in their tracks it is always a reason for celebration.
Once there was a wicked witch in the lovely land of OZ
And a wickeder, wickeder, wickeder witch that never, ever was
She filled the folks in Munchkin Land with terror and with dread
Till one fine day from Kansas
A house fell on her head
And the coroner pronounced her, dead
And through the town the joyous news went running
The joyous news that the wicked old witch was finally done in
Ding Dong, the witch is dead
Which old witch?
The wicked witch
Ding Dong, the wicked witch is dead
-Wizard of Oz/Glee