Windows and Doors

Windows and Doors

Elie Wiesel Wouldn’t Cry for Ahmadinejad. Would God?

Nobel Prize laureate Elie Wiesel said today that if Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad were assassinated, he would not shed a tear. I find this response entirely understandable, disturbing that it was said, and contrary to a powerful spiritual teaching from Jewish tradition about the emotions we attach to fighting against that which we think of as evil.
Wiesel’s claim that he would feel no sadness if President Ahmadinejad were assassinated makes sense, especially given Wiesel’s belief that the Iranian leader is perhaps the world most dangerous man. Even if his analysis of the danger Ahmadinejad presents is not entirely correct, the idea that one can not imagine feeling remorse over the death of an enemy is understandable.
What disturbs me is that Wiesel, with all of the moral authority his word carries for so many people, made the claim. Why does he need to brag about his remorselessness? Does he think that his not crying proves how evil Ahmadinejad must be? Does he think that feeling sadness is a mark of moral clarity and strength? If so, then Weisel should think about a powerful midrash which addresses these questions.


According to the Rabbis, the angels were singing when the Egyptians were being drowned in the Red Sea. Like Wiesel, the angels felt no remorse for those who pursued the Jewish people and sought their destruction. Like Wiesel, the angels’ response is entirely understandable. It’s also not acceptable to God.
Hearing the angels sing, God roars “How can you sing when my creations are drowning in the sea?”
Imagine a God who both drowns those deemed to be evil, but refuses the joy of that necessary victory. Sounds like a lesson for Elie Wiesel and all those who cheer expressions of remorselessness as proof of moral consciousness.
Of course, it’s also a lesson for all of us when we imagine that just because doing something would make us uncomfortable, we ought not to do it. The ethical strength of a strong position is not guaranteed by the emotional clarity it provides. In fact, it may be just the opposite.
Jewish tradition does not compel us to love our enemies, but it does, at least in this instance, insist that we not celebrate their demise.
There are things worth fighting for, but it seems to me that part of that fight must also include the ability to cry for the losses of our enemies. Without that ability, we are probably more like them than we would like to admit.

  • European

    An excellent article and great cause to ponder about the concept of mercy and justice, and the different systems in play here. God did not delight in the destruction of the jewish people in WWII. What had survived rose to be the judge and moral authority to those who rejected them, like Elie Wiesel. The middle east feels threatend by the western cultures. Jews of all people should understand this the best, having only barely survived with their culture in tact. The other day I came across a white young dove sitting in lush green grass in a most unlikely place. The sight grabbed me to research on the meaning. From dove, to yoninah, I landed on the story of Jonah. (I am not well versed in scriptures). But that story touched me, as the story tells of Gods concern for all people. So he does look out on Iraniens, on Jews, on Germans, the US and all who haved wronged in destroying his creation, deemed or not. Maybe he is looking out not so much on the group anymore, as he is on the individual now. Not sure. The Rabbi’s story of Elie Wiesel says to me, (when my mother in law died I could not cry either), but I started to think about what had happend in their life and culture to have become so evil and cruel. I ended up learning alot about myself, with the question, if I would have lived their life, would I have been able to make better choices knowing what I know they did “not” know, what we know now. We judge by our understanding of today… the past, but God judges the past, the present and knows the future. So lets accept that Ellie Wiesel is no greater a person, or the belief that Jews are more this or that, then the rest of humanity if given the same choices, means, knowledge and opportunities. Jews should know this the best too. Why don’t you. (perhaps it lost a great virtue, humility for self rightousness) No offense!

  • Joe

    I’m forced to believe in the G-d of Jews based on the senseless hatred of virtually every nation on the planet. If one thing is accomplished by Ahmadijad (and all the other Hamans in the world today), it’s Jewish unity. G-d seems to want Jewish unity and love of each other more than almost anything else in the world. Yes, it doesn’t make sense that all the horrors perpetuated on the Jews over the past 2,000 years are G-d’s way of unifyiing us, but I can’t find any other explanation.
    Look at what happened during the pogrom of Crown Heights back in 1991. Jews of all communities and backgrounds, former haters of Lubavitch, suddenly came to our aid and helped us during this horrible event. And, while Jews were cowering in their homes in fear for their lives, the media made it out like Jews and Blacks were rioting and fighting, when really Jews weren’t fighting, just getting beaten up r”l.
    Such un-normal events convince me that there is no logical explanation for Ahmadinjad’s, Abbas’, or even Obama’s hatred for Israel (“Jewish settlement freezes verboten, Arab settlement expansion ok?!!?!?) and the Jews. it’s from G-d and if Jews band together with love, I’m convinced the haters will go away…

  • Maryann moon

    What if it’s true that the WHOLE WORLD WITHOUT EXCEPTION WERE OUR PROJECTION? I’m glad to
    say that’s true? Each of us is always seeing ourself wherever we go.

  • wendy

    To say one would not cry when a despot dies is not to say one would rejoice. Although some might cry because once dead, the tyrant can no longer right his wrongs and make good, and that is unfortunate, his death also means that he can no longer inflict pain and misery on others. Seems like ne balances out the other.

  • http://Shoah Amy Rosenberg

    The reason we need to keep remembering the Shoah is that it has happened to peoples since the beginning and we need to remind the World communities to stop allowing this behavior against the peoples of the entire World as well as against the Jewish people. How soon the evils of ditators are forgotten as “The History of the World is Written by the Victors and the dead are forgotten”. I mourne the death of all men, including the despots. However, I bless the more peaceful World that is produced by that death. I would rather the despot had been a peacemaker, but he chose his path.

  • Loretta

    I get the feeling that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the “loneliest guy in the world”. He certainly is not a poster boy in Iran and when he addressed the U.N. back in 2009, he appeared absolutely forlorn. As far as Elie Wiesel’s remark that he would not cry at this dictator’s demise, I can’t remember the last time I cried for anyone’s passing because I feel that they are going to a much better place. I’m a great believer in turning the other cheek. I’m sick and tired of hearing and reading about war. Time to leave the Middle East permanently and start paying attention to our own porblems here at home.

  • Gail

    So Elie Wiesel said if Mr. Ahmadinejad were assassinated, he would not shed a tear.
    How does this statement evidence Mr. Wiesel’s “need to brag about his remorselessness?”
    Since when is not being able to shed a tear, equivalent to angels singing?
    By what logic does the statement justify claiming Elie Wiesel cheers “expressions of remorselessness as proof of moral consciousness”?
    Does it please G-d, to publicly condemn the good character of a Mr. Wiesel, who has endured horrific suffering, based on distorted interpretation, and gross exaggeration?
    Jewish tradition teaches us to seek justice, not judge.

  • EllieDee

    I believe God allows for us not to feel anything, for those who intentionally seek to harm His children. I dont believe we should ever take joy in anothers suffering, no matter how evil they may be. For thats an evil in itself. I do believe a lack of emotion, can be seen as a valid response, and I think thats what Mr Weisel might have meant, by not shedding a tear.

  • Eytan

    As someone who has suffered more than anyone of us can imagine because the world did nothing to stop hitler (may he burn in hell for ever and ever!)we can understand that Elie Wiesel would not shed a tear if Iranian President mahmoud ahmadinejad were assassinated (may he soon join hitler!).

  • European

    How logical is seeking justice without judgeing!

  • Gil

    The midrash was incorrectly quoted – as some Jews were rejoicing in the drowning army pursuing them – angels [projection of G-d] stated – “Why do you rejoice – They Are My Children Also.” Along with this midrash is a warning from Hashem – “Do Not Make Other People Your Slaves- For You Have Arisen From A Slave Nation.” There is an over-interpretation of Wiesel’s comment which is akin to saying: “Oh the hell with him,” Upon hearing of the death of a cruel dictator. All “holy books” which contain myth and written by man have cruel gods. In Vedic Hindu there is Vishnu the Destroyer, O.T. God who destroyed the world, N.T. Jesus who killed Ananias and his wife for lying to the Good Master that they have given up their “worldly goods,” Koran where Allah instructs the faithful to slay the Kafir or unbeliever. What is important is how 21st century man conducts himself- By Your Deeds Shall Ye Be Known.”

  • Gil

    As to the question “Would God?” How in heaven’s name could anyone answer what would God do? Our understanding of God is as good as your pet goldfish understanding you. It is a philosophical no win. By attempting to answer that enigmatic question you immediately interpose what you would do. It reminds me of the silly commercial stating that Jesus would not drive an SUV to conserve the world’s energy. In my mind with all of his Nazarene Jewish followers he would be driving a school bus. But seriously folks – when jejune questions such as the ending of the Wiesel comment was asked- I retreat into my flight of inanity and regress in the service of my ego.gybr

  • Kauko

    The Rabbi’s quotation is correct, Gil.
    What is the meaning of the verse, And one came not near the other all
    the night? The ministering angels wanted to chant their hymns, but the Holy One, blessed be He, said, “The work of my hands is being drowned in the sea, and shall you chant hymns?” (Talmud Megillah 10b)
    It is the angels that God rebukes for rejoicing.

  • Dr Ron

    I am sure that this probably means that he would not forgive Mengele either

  • virgila hawthorne

    Christ taught us to love our enemies and pray for those who spitefully use us. A very hard thing

  • Geri

    Elie Wiesel remorseless emotion just means that he shares in no guilt if Ahmadinejad dies. He and others like him cried enough when they realized that their neighbor hates them for no valid reason and seeks only their utter destruction. Their tears was not only for their personal loss but also the loss of a brother. If Ahmadinejad dies and no one is sad well that’s on him and him alone.

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