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Yom Hashoah: Divine Concealment or the Worst Expression of Free Will?

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It is very difficult for some of us to fully embrace the day of Yom Hashoah from a theological perspective. Is this tragedy that we commemorate on Yom Hashoah the worst example of mankind’s behavior or does this event shake our faith in God and if it doesn’t shake our faith in God, then should it? Should we put God on trial for the horrors of the Holocaust on this day? Now that’s a blasphemous statement, but let us consider the following Gemara.

The Gemara in Masechet Chullin 60b comments on the fact that on each holiday we are commanded to bring a sin-offering as a sacrifice just as we bring a sin-offering on Rosh Chodesh, the first day of the month. However, the sin-offering brought on Rosh Chodesh is described not merely as a “chatat,” a sin-offering, but as a “chatat laHashem,” a sin offering for God. The Gemara provides a remarkable explanation for this distinction. God asks that a sin offering be brought each month to atone for God’s sin, the sin of diminishing the moon. At this time of the month, when there is only darkness at night and no light, we experience “hester panim.” We can experience terrible bouts of existential loneliness and this is the will of God for some reason. There will be times that we don’t understand and God’s response is “Pray for Me. Bring a sin-offering for Me.” This Gemara introduces the possibility that at times it seems as if God is on trial and He has no excuse that is understandable to mankind. There is no plausible human rationale to justify the Holocaust. At best, God tells us to pray or bring a sacrifice for Him.

While the import of this Gemara is astounding and may resonate with many of us on Yom Hashoah, others have taken a different path in relating to this day. In 1979, Dr. Yaffa Eliach, one of the preeminent Holocaust historians, was in the Rema’s synagogue in Cracow on Erev Tisha B’Av with a group of Holocaust historians. They had just come from visiting Auschwitz. One of the members of the group walked up to the bimah and demanded that God be summoned to a din Torah, to a Jewish court, for the atrocities........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)

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