I mentioned yesterday that I am going to start posting journal entries that I wrote in Poland and start discussing Israel. Right now, I am going to post the last thing I wrote in Poland; a theological reflection on the cumulative emotions of the entire trip, which culminated with a very strenuous day at Auschwitz-Birkenau. I still believe some of this. Other parts I don’t. (If there are typos, awkward grammatical mistakes, or rocky language, please note that I have not edited it and wrote it somewhat hurriedly in a Warsaw hotel room.):

I can think of no single theological reason or explanation for this. It is 100% incomprehensible. A God could not have been there. Marta Wise (the Holocaust survivor who accompanied us to Auschwitz-Birkenau and told her story) said that when there was rain– and it saved her life– it was מן השמים, from God. But she didn’t believe that God had any role in the mass murder.

No. That is unacceptable to me. It cannot be that simple. You can’t just flip God on and off at ideal moments. There is no divine light-switch.

If anything, this trip has strengthened my sense of Jewish Nationalism (perhaps Zionism), and pushed me further in the direction of Atheism. It’s not that I don’t believe that there is a God, but rather that I don’t understand the scale of effect which God has on daily or cosmic life. After walking the surfaces of Treblinka, Majdanek, and Auschwitz, the mass graves, and Poland as a whole, I am left with more questions– perhaps never to be answered– and a much more coherent, yet still murky image of what happened.

I think, however, that before this trip, the question, “Do you believe in God?” was not something that I really saw as a grey area. But now I do. Alan (our educator) said something that resonated with me, though.

ישראל– the pride and namesake of ourselves and our homeland– means “struggle with God.” That comforts me. Does God exist? Who knows. Did God have a role in the Holocaust? I don’t think so. Therefore, maybe God doesn’t exist. But I’ve learned on this journey that being Jewish does not mean adhering to the set of standards for belief or disbelief in God. It means struggling with the existential and theological implications of day-to-day life.

If you’re going to take the time to assess the Holocaust, I don’t believe that God should be in the equation. If you’re looking for answers, at least, then adding God will further confuse you.

Confusion yields frustration with “God” and with the Nazis. It is for that exact reason that I took a brick from the rubble of a crematorium and threw it at the ground. What is there to get? Do we even want to understand?

Where was God? I don’t think it matters. It’s up to us to make sure doesn’t ever happen again.


3 thoughts on “God?

  1. intense and provocative.

    i happen to agree with you in general on this topic. not that god has nothing to do with our lives — but rather, i cannot believe that god plays a direct, intervening role in day to day life, except only as a force for goodness and love and healing and growth. also, you are writing about theodicy — that is, god’s role in evil/bad things — and i agree with you that god had no role in the evil of the nazis or the survival of any individual victim.
    god’s presence and intervention, to my limited vision, is real and palpable in love, hope and possibility for goodness.

    • Beautiful an compellng post. Thank you.

      I don’t think Marta’s theology is as problematic as you state. God didn’t cause the Holocaust; people did. But when it rains — that’s God. Whether God is so intimately involved in human affairs that he knew Marta needed the rain just at that moment — that’s the great unknown.

  2. The question is, did God allowed the holocaust to happen?
    The answer is Y E S!
    Why?……It is some sort of a wake up call for the Jews. And another thing, He allowed the freewill of Hitler to be at work. Because He gave everyman a freewill to do his own thing, just as He gave those Jews freedom to choose to leave Israel.

    I will expound this, next time.

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