Oct 31, 2013

"A Divine Madness" cont.

In his lectures, Rabbi Miller spoke about his experiences in Europe on the eve of the war.  He was an American boy who was one of the few to make the voyage to learn in European yeshivos.  I remember hearing him describe, over twenty-five years ago, how he witnessed the chilul Shabbos in Slabodka. 

R' Miller, being an iconoclast, did not follow the frum party line which focused exclusively on the great yeshivos of Lithuania.  He described the deterioration of religious Jewry.  Although he spoke about this, apparently he did not feel that his manuscript about the Holocaust should be published in his lifetime. 

A very prevalent question asked by the irreligious and religious in the decades following the war was, "Where was G-d in the Holocaust."  This was (maybe still is) a question that kiruv rabbis had to expect.  R' Miller's book is his response to that question as the subtitle is, R' Avigdor Miller's Defense of Hashem in the Matter of the Holocaust." His position can be summarized as: the Holocaust was a fulfillment of what it states explicitly in the Torah, if you abandon Hashem, He will abandon you and you will suffer tremendously. 

"Blame the victim" implies that someone undeserving of pain, suffering, and sorrow is being accused of deserving pain, suffering and sorrow.  The premise of R' Miller's book is that the Torah spells out what we must do and what will happen if we don't do it.  Were we or weren't we faithful to Hashem?

The facts are, European Jewry, to a great extent, was comprised of Zionists, freethinkers, Bundists, Socialists, Communists, and Yiddishists.  Frum families were losing children rapidly to the secular world.  Sarah Schenirer's radical idea of schools for girls in the 1920's and 1930's was an emergency measure because girls were educated in Polish public schools and were dropping out of Yiddishkeit.

Although I can see how R' Miller's approach is true to Torah, it is troubling because of all the fine, frum people we know about who were destroyed and the destruction of frum life, shuls, sifrei Torah, yeshivos, i.e. those who did follow the Torah.  Furthermore, we don't see how destroying European Jewry accomplished anything.  Numerous assimilated Jews escaped or survived and numerous religious Jews who survived dropped their observance.  You had the resilient few who were frum previously and remained frum.  We don't see a mass teshuva movement happening during the war and subsequent to it.  That doesn't happen until decades later.  If the goal was to get European Jews back on track, did the Holocaust accomplish that? No.  And if that was not the goal, was the goal just to punish? Then why did so many assimilated Jews escape and so many pious Jews perish? But then, R' Miller is not talking about a goal; he is saying the Holocaust was a natural consequence of our behavior as spelled out in the Torah.

I'd find it interesting to read a sampling of book reviews written by Holocaust survivors.

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