Jewish Philosopher, God, and the Holocaust

Yesterday, I referred briefly to Jewish Philosopher’s (aka Jacob Stein’s) belief in God’s incorporeality. Today, I will enter more sensitive, controversial territory and address his views on the Holocaust. In The Holocaust–A Painful Miracle, Stein states the following:

“The Jewish Enlightenment began in Berlin in 1783 with the publication of a translation of the Pentateuch into German by Moses Mendelssohn. From there it spread across Europe, particularly Eastern Europe, causing the most flagrant, voluntary abandonment of Jewish observance in history. Millions of Jews embraced secular Zionism, Communism and Socialism. As the Torah predicts, devastation followed. Beginning in Berlin, spreading across Europe but primarily eastward, the war against the Jews spread, just as the Jews’ war against God had spread. One rabbi, who was later murdered, commented ‘Because people no longer believe in hell, God brought hell to this world.'”

As one would expect, most of the responses to Jewish Philosopher’s post were not too favorable. I didn’t read all of them, but there were comments that Stein is a sicko.

But Stein’s critics should address his argument rather than resorting to emotionalism. Stein’s viewpoint exists for a reason, namely, that the Torah curses Israel if she disobeys the Torah. The Holocaust was indeed a horrible event, but the Bible presents God as capable of causing horrible events. Just read Leviticus 26, Deuteronomy 28, and the Book of Lamentations.

But I find myself in disagreement with Stein’s thesis. The reason is that Jewish liberalism still exists, even after the Holocaust. If God sent the Holocaust to stop Jewish liberalism, then he failed miserably. Israel, after all, is a secular state, and many Jews do not follow the Torah in a strict, orthodox manner. In Deuteronomy 30, God says that he will reverse his curses on the Israelites if they repent, but God has blessed the state of Israel despite the failure of many Jews to repent of their liberalism. So I’m not sure if one can interpret the history of the Jewish people in light of Deuteronomy 28-30.

And what I said applies to certain Christian interpretations of the Holocaust as well. Once or twice, I’ve heard Christians say that the Holocaust was God’s punishment on the Jews for rejecting Jesus. But the Holocaust happened, and most Jews still do not believe Jesus is the Messiah. Again, if God was using the Holocaust to convert Jews to Christianity, then he failed. Also, if the extreme Christian interpretation is correct, then why aren’t the Jews still cursed? They haven’t repented of their unbelief.

Where was God during the Holocaust? I don’t know. I’m not even sure if anyone can conjure up an answer that is truly satisfactory. I think that Germany’s defeat in World War II demonstrates that good ultimately triumphs over evil, as the Bible affirms on numerous occasions. I also like Jewish Philosopher’s post, Where Was God During the Holocaust? , which points out that the Holocaust actually prevented the Germans from winning the war, demonstrating that evil has a self-destructive tendency. But can anything truly justify the suffering and death of millions of people?

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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