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Celebrating in the Downfall of Your Enemies

When Cincinnati Reds outfielder Jonny Gomes, was informed that St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright needed season ending surgery, he began to sing and dance. A Dayton Daily News article said that Gomes walked into the clubhouse and “joyously” sang “Wainwright’s gone” upon learning the news of the St. Louis starter’s injury. Gomes denied that the incident occurred and, subsequently, the newspaper removed the controversial opening paragraph.

Even if the story with Gomes turns out to be true, I don’t believe he acted inappropriately. He wasn’t rejoicing because Wainwright needed reconstructive surgery. He wasn’t celebrating that one of the best pitchers in the game was out for the season because of an injury. He was simply expressing a sense of relief that he will not have to face Wainwright this season. He’s a great pitcher that gives opposing hitters fits. Who wouldn’t be happy not to hit against him? I’m sure that Gomes would’ve preferred that Wainwright be traded to the American League or that he take a sabbatical, and not have to suffer a terrible injury.

Although this story has been blown out of proportion by the media, it is worthwhile to mention that Jewish tradition frowns upon those who celebrate in the downfall of their enemies. In fact, one of the more well known rabbinic traditions is that God got angry at the heavenly Angels for rejoicing as the Egyptian army drowned in the sea while chasing after the Israelites. Indeed, in the book of Proverbs we are warned, “Do not rejoice in the downfall of your enemies.”

I will admit that while this is the general rule, there is a controversial Talmudic teaching that clouds this discussion; and it revolves around the story of Purim: As a reward for saving the king’s life, Mordechai was to be escorted by horse around the city and lauded for his actions. When Mordechai declared himself incapable of mounting the horse due to the weakness caused by his three-day fast, Haman bent down for Mordechai to climb on, and in the process of climbing, he gave him a kick. Haman complained that Mordechai had contravened the verse that prohibits one from rejoicing at the hands of his enemies; to which Mordechai replied that the verse refers specifically to a Jewish enemy. Many commentaries note this difficulty and attempt to reconcile the teaching by explaining that Mordechai’s response is the exception and not the rule.

Nonetheless, Gomes should know that the media is relentless and always desperate for a good story. It would behoove him to be more careful in the future. Let’s hope he doesn’t get plunked by Chris Carpenter.

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  1. Tweets that mention Sports & Religion: Celebrating in the Downfall of Your Enemies -- linked to this post on February 24, 2011

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Rabbi Joshua Hess, Rabbi Joshua Hess. Rabbi Joshua Hess said: The Jewish perspective on Jonny Gomes celebrating Adam Wainwright's injury: #Reds #Cardinals […]

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