How do we explain בִּנְפֹל אוֹיִבְךָ אַל תִּשְׂמָח – In the downfall of your enemy you shouldn’t rejoice (Mishlei 24:17)?
בִּנְפֹל אוֹיִבְךָ אַל תִּשְׂמָח – When your enemy falls, do not be happy, וּבִכָּשְׁלוֹ אַל יָגֵל לִבֶּךָ – when he stumbles, your heart should not rejoice, פֶּן יִרְאֶה ה’ וְרַע בְּעֵינָיו – lest Hashem sees and it is evil in His eyes, וְהֵשִׁיב מֵעָלָיו אַפּוֹ – and His wrath will turn away from him (ibid.).
That’s only – your enemy means the man who has a bargain store across the street from you; he’s your competitor. But if the enemy is, let’s say, if a man who has a different color is chasing you with a knife and his intentions are as cruel as could be and as he’s running he trips and falls down. And to make it even better, he falls on the end of the knife, the point of the knife. And so, if you’ll jump up and down and yell for glee, you’re doing nothing more than you’re expected to do. It doesn’t apply there.
The enemy means the yeshiva man sitting across the aisle from you who is banging on the shtender and he’s saying pilpulim and you are a quiet fellow and you can’t make a good show in the beis hamedrash. Your enemy means the fellow who finally married the girl you wanted to marry. Enemy means the man in the shul who is being elected president instead of you.
And so suppose a man is sent to the amud by the gabbai to daven and you wanted to daven. And at the amud he makes a big mistake, don’t rejoice in his error. If your fellow yeshiva man makes a mistake in saying a dvar Torah, don’t rejoice. If your competitor across the street makes a mistake and buys merchandise which he cannot sell, don’t rejoice. Don’t rejoice in your enemy’s discomfiture.
But it doesn’t refer to reshaim gemurim where there’s no question that it’s a mitzvah to rejoice. Not only a mitzvah to rejoice – if you were able not only to rejoice in this man’s downfall, if you were able to knock him down and you yourself could put the dagger through him, it would be a big mitzvah.
You say you shouldn’t rejoice?! You should put the dagger through him yourself. What’s the question about rejoicing there?
You have to know, like you say in Yiddish, vu ein vu ois. You have to know where to apply things. Just to take a blanket injunction and say ‘don’t rejoice’? When Hitler took poison, you shouldn’t rejoice?! When Haman was executed, you shouldn’t rejoice?!
TAPE # 26 (May 1974)