Thursday, July 19, 2012

God And The Holocaust.

1. Abstract of an article, The Last Witness,

2. My response:

...I read with aroused interest Rabbi Joseph Polak's The Last Witness in July/August 2012 Commentary. What aroused my interest was Rabbi Polak's imagining briefly the unanswerable question in relation to the Holocaust. As the Rabbi uniquely cries it out:

"'Where is G-d?...Is he out there reciting the names of the camps? Belsen, Treblinka, Majdanek, Sobibor? Is he reading the names of the victims?...Is He weeping?'"

These questions are meant to rebuke two imagined dialectically opposed assertions put to Elijah as to the "great absence while one-and-half million Jewish children were being murdered." The first imagined assertion is Dostoevskian, that there can be no answer to, explanation of, such transcendental injustice, horror and cruelty. God should stay silent. The second opposite assertion is Abrahamiac, that man cannot question God, cannot demand explanations and answers of such awesome divinity.

The rebuke is a raging. How dare anyone remain silent? What self indulgent self luxury allows such silence when Holocaust memory might evanesce? Rabbi Polak's questions "thunder." They admit of no answer. They take a position on the unanswerable question of what kind of a God would allow such transcendental suffering and killing to six million of His flock? Who is this God? Wherefore his "great absence?" What penance does He do? Polak "would pound the tables with both hands." His God must be held to account.

The Rabbi's enraged, thundering questions are his imagined confrontation with his creator, from whom he demands some action of contrition, atonement, remembrance and remedy to signify His great wrong.

I take a different view. I, a non-believer, ask no such questions (of whom, after all?). I am aroused by Rabbi Polak's questions insofar as they reveal to me the absurdity of belief and faith in light of the transcendental evil of the Holocaust, (in which an uncle and a cousin of mine were killed, and during which a cousin of mine, still alive, suffered but survived the depredations of the concentration camp.)

I thunder no such questions or demands to such absurd reification. I get no succor or relief from being able to make my God human and contend ferociously with Him. It is a wasted ferocity. For its presupposition is that there is some divinity worthy of such contention, which concedes reification altogether too much, which in fact accepts reification's very terms. If there ever were an occasion that instructs Jews precisely that "God is not great," that belief and faith in Him are preposterous, that by them we diminish ourselves and the meaning of the Holocaust, for Jews its transcendental horror must be that occasion...

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