Emor: Lessons From Bin Laden



The world froze momentarily when hearing about the killing of the world’s most famous terrorist, Osama bin Laden.

Debates were raging whether celebrating Bin Laden’s death is in order. Others were asking whether this event has any true significance beyond the symbolic. And what comes next?

But beyond the understandable emotions, what is the bigger story here? What lessons can we derive from the end of this chapter?

A phenomenon of this magnitude – that has captured the attention of billions – must contain important messages for us. What does the Torah teach us about such an event?

This sermon offers four critically relevant lessons for our times, which stand alone and are easily adaptable to various sermon/class formats:

1) do we have the right to celebrate the death of our enemy

2) how to add passion to our faith and to our lives

3) what are the virtues/vices of sacrifice in the name of God; the difference between mesirat nefesh and Al Qaeda style martyrdom

4) how to see the bigger picture unfolding

Finally, these lessons are linked to this week’s Torah reading, Emor, which includes the mitzvah of mesirat nefesh (sacrificing your life for God), and negates Bin Laden’s approach to religious conviction. Emor teaches us how to forcefully deal with adversity while becoming more dignified people in the process. It shows us how to balance these two poles: fighting intense hatred, while abiding by our higher values. Celebrating life while others celebrate death. How can we hold onto hope and maintain a vision of a better life when we have to wage war with those that are causing the world so much suffering.

Note: Because of the compelling nature of Bin Laden’s killing, this sermon has a lot more material than you will probably use. It is specifically constructed in a way that different sections stand-alone, so you can easily pick and choose the pieces that you see fit.


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