How Could a Loving God Have Allowed the Holocaust?

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However, the days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when it will no longer be said, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, who brought the Israelites up out of Egypt,’ but it will be said, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, who brought the Israelites up out of the land of the north and out of all the countries where he had banished them.’ For I will restore them to the land I gave their ancestors. But now I will send for many fishermen,” declares the LORD, “and they will fish for them. After that I will send for many hunters, and they will hunt them down on every mountain and hill and from the crevices of the rocks”- Jeremiah 16:16.

This is a hauntingly large question, to be approached with much care. I know it is too big and complex to simplify.  However, if I had warned someone it’s time to get out because there is a major flood rising and they didn’t heed, I would think it rather unfair to blame the deluge on me.  Theodore Herzl saw the storm coming after the Dreyfus Affair when he wrote Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State) and began the Zionist movement in 1898, saying that state “will certainly come into being in fifty years”- and Israel became a nation in 1948- after the Holocaust.  Some rabbis in Europe, to protect them from secularization, forbade their congregants from emigrating to Palestine where they could have defended themselves against their enemies, and instead wound up leading them into the gas chambers. Having lost part of my own family in that devastation, I’ve thought about this long and hard, and searched the Scriptures in some depth on the subject, and recognize the tragic plot as foreseen, unfortunately.  And it is a historical fact that many fishers, including Herzl, spoke to European Jewry before the 1930’s and were mostly skunked, but later when the hunters showed up, that horrid harvest brought forth the birth of the nation of Israel three years later.  We are a people with much gifting and much responsibility, even if we choose to ignore or not recognize that.  But, then again, I am only a fisherman, who presents his offering, leaving the final choice to my quarry, whereas the hunter leaves no such choice.

First, we must take note of the conundrum that Cain- the bad guy- was told by God that he can overcome his jealousy and rage for his bother Abel- the good guy- but God did not overpower free will, and Cain was left to slay his bother Abel.  Free will seems to be the link that is expressed both in man and nature, except at the times when the Creator intercedes for His own purposes, including delivering His people betimes, and leaving always a remnant to return to the Land of Israel (from which we were driven twice, the reasons for which being well defined in the scriptural Prophets).

The biblical accounts always include messengers bringing warnings prior to God’s judgment- to be heeded or ignored (often to the 4th generation- 400 years), as encoded in the Ten Commandments.  The blessing and the curse are our choice.  When the messengers were ignored or killed, the floods came, and we were turned over to the hands of our enemies. At one point we were told, “All day long I  have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people… just as when I cried out and they would not listen, so also they will cry out, and I will not listen,’ says the LORD,’”…“Therefore do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer on their behalf, for I will not listen when they call to me in the time of their trouble”…“Then they will cry out to the LORD, but He will not answer them. He will hide His face from them at that time because of the crimes they have committed”- (cited from Micah, Jeremiah, Zechariah).

The very first time I read these words of Ezekiel, I was horrified: “Parents will be so desperate for food that they will eat their own children, and children will eat their parents. Those who survive this horror will be scattered in every direction.”  That night I asked G-d, “Is this figurative or is it literal?”  The next day we went to visit my father in the hospital.  There a number of people had come to visit him, and among them was an older  French woman who I was drawn to. In French she told me she and her father, a rabbi, were in Auschwitz. I asked her to tell me what it was like.  She described the terrible place, and then told me, “we had nothing to eat.  Sometimes a local farmer would bring us some bread or soup, but we were starving.  People do not know it, but we at times ate the flesh of those who had died in the barracks.” I gasped.

Now, 72 years later, with the dark spectre of anti-Semitism rising once again worldwide, the Jewish people have a strong but tiny nation on the land promised to our fathers. By divine Providence we have not only survived here against continuing hostilities of overwhelming odds, but have prospered into a modern and advanced nation with a powerful and motivated military. It is our fervent prayer that divine favor will continue as we face the challenges and threats of this region- for His Name’s sake (Ezekiel chapter 36).

One must conclude in agreement with the words of Isaiah 55:8-13: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

I as a Jew have had the good fortune of encountering thus far the great blessing in place of the curse, and chose well that bountiful grace offered me in the Messiah.  In my humble opinion, true is the saying, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.”

 

PS:  Moses, long before these cited Prophets, left us this sobering advisory (Deuteronomy 28):

Blessings for Obedience

“Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse; life and death, therefore choose life.”

1 If you fully obey the LORD your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations on earth.

2 All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the LORD your God:

3 You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country.

4 The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks.

5 Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed.

6 You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out.

7 The LORD will grant that the enemies who rise up against you will be defeated before you. They will come at you from one direction but flee from you in seven.

8 The LORD will send a blessing on your barns and on everything you put your hand to. The LORD your God will bless you in the land he is giving you.

9 The LORD will establish you as his holy people, as he promised you on oath, if you keep the commands of the LORD your God and walk in obedience to him.

10 Then all the peoples on earth will see that you are called by the name of the LORD, and they will fear you.

11 The LORD will grant you abundant prosperity—in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your ground—in the land he swore to your ancestors to give you.

12 The LORD will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none.

13 The LORD will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the LORD your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom.

14 Do not turn aside from any of the commands I give you today, to the right or to the left, following other gods and serving them.

Curses for Disobedience

15 However, if you do not obey the LORD your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come on you and overtake you:

16 You will be cursed in the city and cursed in the country.

17 Your basket and your kneading trough will be cursed.

18 The fruit of your womb will be cursed, and the crops of your land, and the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks.

19 You will be cursed when you come in and cursed when you go out.

20 The LORD will send on you curses, confusion and rebuke in everything you put your hand to, until you are destroyed and come to sudden ruin because of the evil you have done in forsaking him.

21 The LORD will plague you with diseases until he has destroyed you from the land you are entering to possess.

22 The LORD will strike you with wasting disease, with fever and inflammation, with scorching heat and drought, with blight and mildew, which will plague you until you perish.

23 The sky over your head will be bronze, the ground beneath you iron.

24 The LORD will turn the rain of your country into dust and powder; it will come down from the skies until you are destroyed.

25 The LORD will cause you to be defeated before your enemies. You will come at them from one direction but flee from them in seven, and you will become a thing of horror to all the kingdoms on earth.

26 Your carcasses will be food for all the birds and the wild animals, and there will be no one to frighten them away.

27 The LORD will afflict you with the boils of Egypt and with tumors, festering sores and the itch, from which you cannot be cured.

28 The LORD will afflict you with madness, blindness and confusion of mind.

29 At midday you will grope about like a blind person in the dark. You will be unsuccessful in everything you do; day after day you will be oppressed and robbed, with no one to rescue you.

30 You will be pledged to be married to a woman, but another will take her and rape her. You will build a house, but you will not live in it. You will plant a vineyard, but you will not even begin to enjoy its fruit.

31 Your ox will be slaughtered before your eyes, but you will eat none of it. Your donkey will be forcibly taken from you and will not be returned. Your sheep will be given to your enemies, and no one will rescue them.

32 Your sons and daughters will be given to another nation, and you will wear out your eyes watching for them day after day, powerless to lift a hand.

33 A people that you do not know will eat what your land and labor produce, and you will have nothing but cruel oppression all your days.

34 The sights you see will drive you mad.

35 The LORD will afflict your knees and legs with painful boils that cannot be cured, spreading from the soles of your feet to the top of your head.

36 The LORD will drive you and the king you set over you to a nation unknown to you or your ancestors. There you will worship other gods, gods of wood and stone.

37 You will become a thing of horror, a byword and an object of ridicule among all the peoples where the LORD will drive you.

38 You will sow much seed in the field but you will harvest little, because locusts will devour it.

39 You will plant vineyards and cultivate them but you will not drink the wine or gather the grapes, because worms will eat them.

40 You will have olive trees throughout your country but you will not use the oil, because the olives will drop off.

41 You will have sons and daughters but you will not keep them, because they will go into captivity.

42 Swarms of locusts will take over all your trees and the crops of your land.

43 The foreigners who reside among you will rise above you higher and higher, but you will sink lower and lower.

44 They will lend to you, but you will not lend to them. They will be the head, but you will be the tail.

45 All these curses will come on you. They will pursue you and overtake you until you are destroyed, because you did not obey the LORD your God and observe the commands and decrees he gave you.

46 They will be a sign and a wonder to you and your descendants forever.

47 Because you did not serve the LORD your God joyfully and gladly in the time of prosperity,

48 therefore in hunger and thirst, in nakedness and dire poverty, you will serve the enemies the LORD sends against you. He will put an iron yoke on your neck until he has destroyed you.

49 The LORD will bring a nation against you from far away, from the ends of the earth, like an eagle swooping down, a nation whose language you will not understand,

50 a fierce-looking nation without respect for the old or pity for the young.

51 They will devour the young of your livestock and the crops of your land until you are destroyed. They will leave you no grain, new wine or olive oil, nor any calves of your herds or lambs of your flocks until you are ruined.

52 They will lay siege to all the cities throughout your land until the high fortified walls in which you trust fall down. They will besiege all the cities throughout the land the LORD your God is giving you.

53 Because of the suffering your enemy will inflict on you during the siege, you will eat the fruit of the womb, the flesh of the sons and daughters the LORD your God has given you.

54 Even the most gentle and sensitive man among you will have no compassion on his own brother or the wife he loves or his surviving children,

55 and he will not give to one of them any of the flesh of his children that he is eating. It will be all he has left because of the suffering your enemy will inflict on you during the siege of all your cities.

56 The most gentle and sensitive woman among you—so sensitive and gentle that she would not venture to touch the ground with the sole of her foot—will begrudge the husband she loves and her own son or daughter

57 the afterbirth from her womb and the children she bears. For in her dire need she intends to eat them secretly because of the suffering your enemy will inflict on you during the siege of your cities.

58 If you do not carefully follow all the words of this law, which are written in this book, and do not revere this glorious and awesome name—the LORD your God—

59 the LORD will send fearful plagues on you and your descendants, harsh and prolonged disasters, and severe and lingering illnesses.

60 He will bring on you all the diseases of Egypt that you dreaded, and they will cling to you.

61 The LORD will also bring on you every kind of sickness and disaster not recorded in this Book of the Law, until you are destroyed.

62 You who were as numerous as the stars in the sky will be left but few in number, because you did not obey the LORD your God.

63 Just as it pleased the LORD to make you prosper and increase in number, so it will please him to ruin and destroy you. You will be uprooted from the land you are entering to possess.

64 Then the LORD will scatter you among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other. There

you will worship other gods—gods of wood and stone, which neither you nor your ancestors have known.

65 Among those nations you will find no repose, no resting place for the sole of your foot. There the LORD will give you an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart.

66 You will live in constant suspense, filled with dread both night and day, never sure of your life.

67 In the morning you will say, “If only it were evening!” and in the evening, “If only it were morning!”—because of the terror that will fill your hearts and the sights that your eyes will see.

68 The LORD will send you back in ships to Egypt on a journey I said you should never make again. There you will offer yourselves for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but no one will buy you.