20.02 Holocaust (pps.11-13)

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Whether or not the Holocaust represented a new level or intensity of evil, we are challenged, as were previous post- catastrophe Jewish communities, to reexamine our assumptions and perspectives in light of the realities our generation has witnessed.36 We must ask the quintessential question afresh: Can some semblance of rationality be applied to our religious commitment in light of the horrors we have seen?37

We have come to know things so unheard of and so staggering that the question of whether such things are in any way reconcilable with the idea of a good God has become burningly topical. It is no longer a problem for experts in theological seminars, but a universal religious nightmare.

Jobian boils have reappeared in our times more massively spread than before. It is now the comforters, not Job, who feel constrained to place their hands upon their mouths in disbelief.

Buber writes:

How is a life with God still possible in a time in which there is an Auschwitz? The estrangement has become too cruel, the hiddenness too deep. One can still “believe” in a God who allowed those things to happen, but how can one still speak to Him? Can one still hear His word? . . . Dare we recommend to the survivors of Auschwitz, the Job of the gas chambers: “Call on him, for He is kind, for His mercy endureth forever”?40

Authentic tales of glorious and heroic Jewish resistance, and saintly, superhuman action and sacrifice in the face of the Nazi monster, do not constitute a theodicy. To posit God’s here-and-now presence at Auschwitz simply aggravates the philosophical problem further.41

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36See Waskow, “The Choice: Romanticism or True Messianism?” in Fleischner. Auschwitz, p. 307. “It is not new for Jews to contemplate a Holocaust, not only to seek in agony to incorporate Holocaust within the tradition, but also to seek in anger to make the tradition transform itself in the dark light of Holocaust.”

37 See Fackenheim, God’s Presence in History, p. 74. “Auschwitz was the supreme, most diabolical attempt ever made to murder martyrdom itself and, failing that, to deprive all death, martyrdom included, of its dignity.”

38 Jung, Psychology and Religion, in Collected Works, vol. 2 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1958), cited in Schulweis, Evil and the Morality of God, p. 1.

39 Schulweis, Evil and the Morality of God, p. 1. “The implosion sparked by the holocaustal events of our century has exposed serious cracks within the monotheistic faith system itself. Not that the outcry of innocence in the face of genuine evil is new. But the cultural environment in which it is heard is new. In a traditional society the murmurings of Job could be smothered by theodicies attributing hidden sins to man and inscrutable ways to God. In a society open to other alternatives besides acquiescence to the mystery of God’s ways and promises of a happy epilogue, repressed resentments against traditional theodicies burst out afresh.”
Cf. Greenberg, “Cloud of Smoke, Pillar of Fire,” p. 8.
Cf. ibid., p. 11.
Cf. ibid., p. 20. “For both Judaism and Christianity (and other religions of salvation-both secular and sacred) there is no choice but to confront the Holocaust. because it happened. . . . So evil is the Holocaust, and so powerful a challenge to all other norms, that it forces a response.”
Cf. Fackenheim, To Mend the World, p. 198. “Theodore Arno once re-mark[ed] …that after Auschwitz a poem is impossible.”

40 Buber, “The Dialogue between Heaven and Earth,” as cited in Facken- heim, To Mend the World, p. 196.
Cf. Borowitz, Choices in Modern Jewish Thought, p. 19 1. 41.

41 Cf. Schulweis, Evil and the Morality of God, p. 100. “The silence (of a watching God) is more appalling than the apostasy which announces His demise.”


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