Friday, April 16, 2010
Where was G-d? Why do the wicked prosper? The enormity of the Holocaust was asked by a Harvard professor whose faith was challenged by the seeming triumph of evil. The Avner Institute would like to present an insightful letter from the Rebbe, who answers that the Holocaust was one of many tragic tests in the history of the Jews, with special thanks to the Nissan Mindel Archives.
In honor of the 60th anniversary of the Rebbe’s leadership, the Rebbe Archive would like to present a new series of photos of Lag B’Omer parades with the Rebbe taken over the years, during which thousands of children of all backgrounds would gather on Eastern Parkway, Chabad headquarters, for the highlight: the Rebbe’s special address to the Children. To learn more about this year’s event visit: www.thegreatparade.com. With special thanks to Rabbi Shimmy Weinbaum and Yechi Ezagui.
This e-mail is dedicated by Rabbi Mordechai Palace, in honor of his mother Basya Esther bas Paysach Phaim, who passed away Thursday, 25 Adar 5770. May her neshama have an aliya, and may we merit to see her soon with the coming of Moshiach.
By the Grace of G-d
Greetings and Blessings:
I duly received your letter of __, in which you write that you feel a rage, etc., as a result of the Holocaust.
There is a prevalent misconception about the Holocaust in the belief that it was something new and unprecedented, and therefore, requires an explanation which had never before been thought of. Yet, the only thing that is new about it is that it happened in the 20th century, in a country which was one of the foremost in philosophy and science, with the test of the world looking on with complete indifference. It only points out the glaring bankruptcy of the world’s so-called “civilization.”
The fact is – and in view of your academic background (PhD) you must surely know – that the Jewish people had suffered holocausts before, and, relatively speaking, even worse. There was the destruction of the Beth HaMikdosh at the hands of the Babylonians, and the second destruction by the Romans. In both cases more than one third of our people, men, women, and children, were brutally slain, and most of the remainder uprooted and exiled, or sold into slavery. This, in addition to the loss of the spiritual center in Jerusalem, loss of the country, and independence, etc. There were the Crusades in the Middle Ages, with the loss of countless Jewish communities and Jewish lives, and more. So why single out the recent, and let us hope last, holocaust?
Furthermore, from the viewpoint of the question “Shall the Judge of all the earth not do justice?” (a question incidentally asked by our Patriarch Abraham), in other words, from the viewpoint of Divine Justice, which is clearly the basis of your rage, etc., as you state in your letter – surely there is no difference in principle between the Holocaust and seeing a child afflicted with disease (as you also mention), for the child’s suffering cannot be justified punishment.
Has it not occurred to you – to mention a further point – that throughout the ages there were fruitful and G-d-fearing Jews, among them profound thinkers, who deeply thought about these and other problems, dedicating a lifetime to study and research, whose works have become the Guide for the Perplexed (the actual title of the celebrated classic by Maimonides)? Do you think that all these great minds simply ignored such a problem as the Holocaust?
Finally, and this is perhaps the most essential point, what would you say of a person, even a super human being, who declared that were it not for the Holocaust he would walk humbly before G-d and obey all His commandments, yet because of the Holocaust he is impelled to conclude that G-d is limited in His intellect, like me and you, and indeed more so, for you and I would not tolerate such a thing!
In summary, the question about the Holocaust is as old as the age-old question. Why do the wicked prosper? It has been dealt with at great length and with great profundity by great minds and in great books throughout the ages. We have not only learned to live with it, but it has not shaken the belief of the believer, for the simple reason that the human mind, even the greatest, is woefully limited and inadequate to question the Divine Mind.
The main point I wish to bring out here is that those who say that they cannot obey and fulfill the Divine Mitzvoth because of the Holocaust are only looking for an excuse, and it is a feeble attempt at self-justification in the face of a troubling conscience.
Moreover, to use the memory of the sacred martyrs who lost their lives in the Holocaust for no other reason but that they were Jews does not reflect, in my opinion, an honest concern for them, if their sacred memory is used as an excuse for shirking commitment to our people and our sacred heritage. I trust you will forgive me if I feel impelled to add – because of what is at stake, that the last remark is an understatement.
I note that you wanted to see me personally in regard to the subject matter of your letter, but there is really no need for it, since there is surely no need to add more to what has been said above. Besides, the schedule of appointments is fully booked for a long time ahead. So why wait?
For the Lubavitcher Rebbe
Posted by The Avner Institute / Menachem M Kirschenbaum at 3:01 PM