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Where was G-d during the Holocaust?

by Rabbi Dovid Dubov


Library » Philosophy » Pain and Suffering » Holocaust | Subscribe | What is RSS?


Belief After the Holocaust

The Holocaust is the most common obstacle for the contemporary Jew strugling with faith. S/he asks: Where was G–d during the Holocaust? How can you believe in G–d after the Holocaust? If G–d is just and righteous how could He allow the Holocaust to happen?

It is important to note that the question itself is not an obstacle to faith. To the contrary, one can only ask these questions if s/he wants to believe, or deep down already does believe, that there is a G-d. If there is no G-d, there is no question.

Without a G–d, the world has no destiny and no purpose. Human beings may decide to act as they wish for there is no accountability. Super races may be formed and only the fittest will survive. In a G–dless world the Holocaust is not a theological question, rather a statement of how low man can stoop. The question becomes rhetorical – not, “where was G–d during the Holocaust?” but rather, “where was man during the Holocaust?”

So faith per se is not challenged by the fact that the believer does not understand, for which mortal being can truly comprehend the ways of the Almighty? Conversely, because s/he believes but can't understand, the mortal human is terribly disturbed and upset, and must therefore question. Some incomplete response must therefore be supplied so that the believer may continue to serve uninterruptedly and undisturbed.

The conflict between tragedy and faith is not new ... Anti-Semitism was nothing new.
Faith versus Tragedy

The conflict between tragedy and faith is not new. Anybody knowledgeable in Jewish history will realize that our people have undergone the most terrible persecutions and genocide at the hands of many oppressors. The believing Jew of 1940 knew about the pogroms, crusades, destruction of the Temples, he read out aloud on the Seder night, “In each generation they rise over us to destroy us,” and yet it did not shake his faith. Anti-Semitism was nothing new.

The same method by which the Jew of 1940 knew about the past and yet kept his faith could be employed after the Holocaust. The philosophical question of “Shall the Judge of the earth not do justice?” applies just as much to the seemingly meaningless suffering of an individual as to that of six million individuals. If it could be dealt with on an individual basis before the Holocaust, it could be dealt with in the same way afterwards. The difference is one of quantity, but the quality of the question remains the same.

Faith in Man or G-d

In truth however, Hitler’s Final Solution was something novel in that few people believed that in the 20th Century, when civilization had reached its intellectual and ethical peak, such genocide was conceivable. Public consensus, supported by the media, reassured us that we could no longer return to the Middle Ages. However, the philosophers and poets of Berlin, with their fine manners and high society, turned into the world’s greatest murderers. The Holocaust was not only perpetrated by monsters, but connived at by an entire nation numbering close to one hundred million people.

The world was silent. One may add, not only silent but on the whole passive, sometimes comfortable with what was taking place, and happy that it was not they, only others, who were carrying out the atrocities.

If anything the story of the Holocaust shows clearly that man may not rely upon his own intellect and his own feelings for righteousness and justice. Those with the highest diplomas and university degrees were often accomplices, if not direct perpetrators, of cold-blooded murder. Man must be accountable. The command, “Thou shalt not murder,” must be premised on “I am the L–rd your G–d.”

Did Great Believers Question

The question, “Shall the Judge of all the earth not do justice?”1 can be authentic and carry weight only when it bursts forth from the pained heart of a deep believer. The first to ask this question was our forefather Abraham, himself a man of great faith and the father of all believers, who when told to offer his beloved son Isaac as a sacrifice, did not question. “And Abraham rose early in the morning,”2 – he rose to do G–d’s Will with alacrity.


  • 1. Genesis 18:25
  • 2. Genesis 22:3


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Holocaust: No excuse for it at all!

Posted by: Marc Z., Brooklyn, NY on Oct 20, 2006

Very nice, we don't undertstand why it happened. My parents are Aushwitz & Shtuthoff (human fat into soap concentration camp)survivors. My Dad had a few cousins left. Mom lost every single family member, including her sister, who died in the snow on that famous women's march; before she died her lips fell off from malnutrition. My points are: 1) The convenant made at sinai was broken at Aushwitz. 2) Nothing & I mean NOTHING! could justify the coming of hitler.

In addition; I am married, but childless, but I am happy about it. Why? Because the world hates us, as usual, & it might happen again. I don't want to see my children murdered by God, nor do I want to carry them into a gas chamber because God is mad at us for a change. My sister who is married but also childless shares the same veiw. Now my mom is slowly dieing, suffering. My Dad, her caretaker, is suffering terribly. God does NOT love us (the Jewish people). He has shown time & time again that he hates us.

G-d does NOT hate you!

Posted by: Anonymous, Sacramento, CA on Nov 19, 2006

I was very sad to read the previous comment. G-d does not hate you, me or the Jews. Hashem loves us so much that we were given the gift of free will. The downside of free will was the ability of humans to make the choice to do very bad, very evil things. But keep in mind that it was not G-d who did these things, but humans. Humans who also hated the insane, the disabled, homosexuals, and political disadents.

And I find the fact that you and your sister have chosen to not have children incrediably sad. There is already so much pain and suffering in the world; why deny yourselves the joy that children can bring to your lives? Why prevent the making of a better future through raising children who can make a difference? And lastly, did your mother and father survive to have the line die with you? Actions such as those can can only serve to end the Jews more effeciently than Hitler.

I respect your pain and I respect your decision. But I think you have the two confused.

Holocaust: No excuse for it at all!

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

Marc Z. how I understand you, being "second generation" myself! There is one thing though I must tell you: I know a lady who as a twelve year old girl went through the horrors of the death march and obviously through the horrors that preceded it. She did not have an easy life after that either. On the occasion of the marriage of one of her grandchildren she made a very short speech, thanking G-d for all the kindness and beauty He gave her in seeing her children and grandchildren grow up. At that moment I understood for the first time why we are the choosen people. After all she went through, what she saw was His goodness to her. Can a human being reach greater heights?


History » Holocaust

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.
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
Prayer recited at the beginning of the Sabbath or Holiday meal--both the evening and afternoon meals. This prayer, acknowledging the sanctity of the day, is recited over a cup of wine or grape juice.
Anti-Semitic tribe descendant from Esau; first to attack the Jews upon leaving Egypt. We are commanded to remember their vile deed and obliterate all memory of them.
[Hebrew pronunciation: Moshe] Greatest prophet to ever live. Led the Jews out of Egyptian bondage amidst awesome miracles; brought down the Tablets from Mount Sinai; and transmitted to us word-for-word the Torah he heard from G-d's mouth. Died in the year 1272 BCE.
Festive meal eaten on the first two nights of the holiday of Passover (In Israel, the Seder is observed only the first night of the holiday). Seder highlights include: reading the story of the Exodus, eating Matzah and bitter herbs, and drinking four cups of wine.
First Jew, and first of our three Patriarchs. Born into a pagan society in Mesepotamia in 1812 BCE, he discovered monethieism on his own. He was told by G-d to journey to the Land of Canaan where he and his wife Sarah would give birth to the Jewish People.
"The Name." Out of respect, we do not explicitly mention G-d's name, unless in the course of prayer. Instead, "Hashem" is substituted.
Second of the three Jewish Patriarchs, son of Abraham and Sarah. Lived in Canaan (Israel); b. 1712 BCE, d. 1532 BCE.
1. Jewish prophet who lived in the 5th century BCE. 2. One of the 24 books of the Bible, containing the prophecies of Jeremiah. The book is replete with prophecies concerning the destruction of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple.
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.