If that’s your reaction, it’s quite understandable.
I simply feel obliged not to ignore the subject on this, of all days. You see, in Israel this is Holocaust Remembrance Day. Last evening and today, there were ceremonies of remembrance taking place all over the country and, especially, in our capital, Jerusalem, where the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum is located. A representative group from the dwindling numbers of survivors lit candles and made short speeches.
The politicians make whatever political capital they can out of the situation (after all, they ARE politicians). And when the sirens sound, the country comes to a completes standstill for two minutes. Traffic halts and people get out of their vehicles and stand with heads bowed. Thinking what? I don’t know, but I’m certain it depends on each person’s family history
Places of entertainment are closed, there is solemn or traditional music on every radio station, and the TV channels screen and re-screen almost every film that was ever made about the Holocaust in a never ending loop.
The Holocaust has truly been done to death – if you’ll forgive the pun!
But an entire industry has evolved from it. Millions have been spent in constructing museums and memorials. Thousands of people make a living out of the ongoing fascination with this unique historical event Directly, by working in, or for, these establishments, or indirectly, through articles, books, films and plays having some connection to it.
Even Auschwitz is a sort of morbid tourist attraction.
OK, I understand the argument that the world must not be allowed to forget this classic example of man’s inhumanity to man. But, given the way that Israel is now perceived by many people, I now sense a backlash; a growing reaction that tries to dismiss the Holocaust as an aberration, whilst, at the same time, accusing Israel of acting towards the Arabs in the same way that the Germans – and others – acted towards the Jews.
To quote psychiatrist Zvi Rex: “Europe will never forgive the Jews for Auschwitz. Europe doesn’t want to live under the psychological burden of Auschwitz forever. The Jews are living reminders of the moral failure of Europe. This leads to the projection of guilt on Israel and the remaining European Jews”.
And what do our learned rabbis have to say about this seminal event in Jewish history?
Well, they say quite a lot, but nothing that makes sense to any rational individual. Their efforts to explain the inexplicable would be laughable if the subject matter were not so serious.
Listen, for example to the explanation of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, regarded by his followers as one of the leaders of Halachic thought and interpretation:
the “six million who were killed in the Holocaust were reincarnations of people who had sinned in a previous life”.
And this gem:
during his talk in the “Yechva Da’at” Beith Midrash (study center) in Har Nof, Jerusalem, he addressed the subject of the Holocaust again. This time he provided an even more controversial explanation, one that is anchored in both his tradition and that of his listeners. He placed the blame for the Holocaust on secular Jews and assimilation. He explained that when the Jewish people observe the Torah and its commandments it cannot be touched. “So what happened during the Holocaust?” he asked. “There were entire communities that were completely destroyed, without Torah and without commandments. They mixed with the gentiles, learned their languages. They thought that if there were close them, it would be good. However, it became their stumbling block… Because of their many sins, the Holy One’s fury was brought down upon them. That was the cause of everything that happened to us, all of the tribulations that we brought upon us.”
Did you get that?
“The Holy One’s Fury” because they spoke German or Polish and tried to integrate into their communities. Some God!
Rabbis have been leaning over backwards, tying themselves in knots, jumping through hoops and any other suitable metaphor you can think of to try to explain what happened, and thus maintain their jobs as God’s messengers’
A few more attempts:
- “God is dead“. If there were a God, He would surely have prevented the Holocaust. Since God did not prevent it, then God has for some reason turned away from the world, and left us to ourselves forever more. God is therefore no longer relevant to humanity.
- Terrible events such as the Holocaust are the price we have to pay for having free will. In this view, God will not and cannot interfere with history, otherwise our free will would effectively cease to exist. The Holocaust only reflects poorly on humanity, not God.
- The Holocaust is a mystery beyond our comprehension. God has reason for what He does, but human understanding can’t begin to understand His reason.
- God does exist, but God is not omnipotent. This view is similar to process theology. All of the above arguments are based on the assumption that God is omnipotent and, consequently, could have interfered to stop the Holocaust. What if this is not so? In this view, the Holocaust only reflects poorly on humanity, not on God. This is a view promoted by many liberal theologians, including Rabbi Harold Kushner.
- God or any other supernatural deity might not exist. Some arguments are that there is a blind spot in the Human Eye; an all powerful being would not make this mistake.
- Classical Rabbinical literature teaches that before something magnificent or great occurs, there must be a great tragedy. In this case, the Holocaust had to occur in order for the State of Israel to be founded. This theory supports the actual events, as many historians believe that without the Holocaust, Israel would never have existed
The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, said:
“What greater conceit and what greater heartlessness, can there be than to give a ‘reason’ for the death and torture of millions of innocent men, women and children? Can we presume to assume that an explanation small enough to fit inside the finite bounds of human reason can explain a horror of such magnitude? We can only concede that there are things that lie beyond the finite ken of the human mind. It is not my task to justify God on this. Only God Himself can answer for what He allowed to happen
It was the German people who epitomized culture, scientific advance and philosophic morality. And these very same people perpetrated the most vile atrocities known to human history! If nothing else, the Holocaust has taught us that a moral and civilized existence is possible only through the belief in and the acceptance of the Divine authority
Personally, I think that this statement from Professor Richard Rubenstein is that only way to view what happened . In a piece entitled “After Auschwitz” he said:
“the only intellectually honest response to the Holocaust is the rejection of God, and the recognition that all existence is ultimately meaningless. There is no divine plan or purpose, no God that reveals His will to mankind, and God does not care about the world. Man must assert and create his own value in life.”
I know that this might be hard to take on this special day – but nothing else comes even remotely close to explaining that bad things happen to good people – and that’s all there is to it!
Andyboy – Telling it as it is!
- Yom HaShoah: Holocaust Remembrance Day (atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com)
- PM: ‘Warning of Iranian threat is best way to honor Holocaust victims’ (timesofisrael.com)