Can there be faith after the Holocaust?

February 9, 2013 

There is a famous rabbinic teaching which depicts God as grieving and mourning for all those who perish as a result of evil in this world.

Our ancient sages imagined a God who weeps openly when God's children suffer. Next week, I will begin my annual three-part winter adult education mini-series at Temple Beth El. Together we will study the views of three eminent 20th century Jewish philosophers who attempted to answer the question of where God was in the Nazi death camps.

I will begin Feb. 12 with the views of Reform Rabbi Richard Rubinstein, author of "After Auschwitz." The former Florida State University professor suggests that the Holocaust represented God's "death" and disappearance from human affairs.

On Feb. 19, the writings of Orthodox Rabbi Eliezer Berkovits offer a different perspective. Berkovits emphasizes the doctrine of hester panim, "God's hidden face," wherein God allows human beings to choose and to suffer the consequences of our choices.

Finally, Feb. 26 will feature an in-depth look at the philosophy of Nobel Prize winner and renowned humanitarian Elie Wiesel. In his classic story, "Night," Wiesel begins a lifelong struggle with the Creator of the Universe.

The Holocaust involved mass human suffering more intense and more unbearable than had ever been experienced in the history of the world. Seventy years later, how are we to confront this catastrophe? How is it to be explained theologically? Where was the loving, caring God who established a covenant with the Jewish people promising to make us a great and holy nation? How can the Holocaust be reconciled with a God who is described as compassionate, gracious and loving? Why should the Jews continue to believe in a God who seemed to abandon us to merciless slaughter at the hands of unspeakable evil?

This mini-series will explore a variety of theological responses to these questions. Each Tuesday session begins at 7:30 p.m. in the sanctuary of Temple Beth El, 4200 32nd St. W., Bradenton. All are welcome to attend and there is no cost.

What does it mean to be a person of faith after Auschwitz?

Rabbi Harold F. Caminker, is rabbi of Temple Beth El, 4200 32nd St. W., Bradenton. Shabbat services are held at 7:30 p.m. Fridays. For more information, call 941-755-4900 or visit

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