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Was the Holocaust a punishment?

by Rabbi Dovid Dubov


Library » History » Holocaust | Subscribe | What is RSS?


There are those who wish to suggest that the Holocaust was a punishment for the sins of that generation.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe rejects this view. He stated:1

The destruction of six million Jews in such a horrific manner that surpassed the cruelty of all previous generations, could not possibly be because of a punishment for sins. Even the Satan himself could not possibly find a sufficient number of sins that would warrant such genocide!

There is absolutely no rationalistic explanation for the Holocaust except for the fact that it was a Divine decree ... why it happened is above human comprehension – but it is definitely not because of punishment for sin.

On the contrary: All those who were murdered in the Holocaust are called “Kedoshim” – holy ones – since they were murdered in sanctification of G–d’s name. G–d will avenge their blood, as we say on Shabbat in the Av Harachamim prayer, “May the All-Merciful... remember with mercy... the holy communities who gave their lives for the sanctification of the Divine Name ... May G-d remember them with favor together with the other righteous of the world, and avenge the spilled blood of His servants, as it is written in the Torah of Moshe ... for he will avenge the blood of his servants...” G–d describes those who were sanctified as His servants, and promises to avenge their blood.

There is absolutely no rationalistic explanation for the Holocaust except for the fact that it was a Divine decree ... why it happened is above human comprehension
So great is the spiritual level of the Kedoshim – even disregarding their standing in Mitzvah performance – that the Rabbis say about them, “no creation can stand in their place.”2 How much more so of those who died in the Holocaust, many of whom, as is well known, were among the finest of Europe’s Torah scholars and observant Jews.

It is inconceivable that the Holocaust be regarded as an example of punishment for sin, in particular when addressing this generation, which as mentioned before is “a firebrand plucked from the fire” of the Holocaust.

In short, one can only apply the words of Isaiah,3 “My thoughts are not your thoughts and My ways are not your ways, says the L–rd.”


  • 1. Sefer HaSichot 5751 Vol.1 p.233
  • 2. Parenthetically, it is mentioned in the book Maggid Meisharim (Parshat Tetzaveh) that Rabbi Yosef Karo, the author of the Code of Jewish Law, was due to merit giving up his life for the sanctification of G–d’s Name but for some reason this was commuted and he did not merit to die thus. He lived on to become the leading Halachic authority of his generation and wrote the great Code of Jewish Law which we still follow today. And yet this amazing achievement is considered secondary to dying in sanctification of G–d’s Name.
  • 3. Isaiah 55:8


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Was the holocaust a punishment

Posted by: Anonymous, Tsfat, Israel on Jun 06, 2007

You might be interested to know that several years ago I heard an interview with Rabbi Lau. He is himself a holocaust survivor. He was all of eight years old when he was found in one of the camps.

When asked how G-d could do this terrible thing his reaction was:

“My thoughts are not your thoughts and My ways are not your ways, says the L–rd.”


Philosophy » Pain and Suffering » Holocaust

(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Av Harachamim
A solemn piece of the Sabbath prayer service. In this prayer we ask G-d to avenge the blood of Jewish martyrs throughout history. This piece is omitted if Sabbath falls out on a festive day.
A Chassidic master. A saintly person who inspires followers to increase their spiritual awareness.
One who follows the teachings of the Chassidic group which was formerly based in the Belarus village of Lubavitch. Today, the movement is based in Brooklyn, New York with branches worldwide. The Lubavitch movement is also widely known as "Chabad."
1. One of the greatest prophets, lived in the 7th century BCE. 2. One of the 24 books of the Bible, containing the prophecies of Isaiah. The book is filled with prophecies concerning the Messianic redemption.
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.