What do you think the Jewish theological response to the Holocaust should be?

Jewish Theology and the Holocaust (Topic 3, part 1)

In April 2020, to coincide with Yom HaShoah, the day in the Jewish calendar dedicated to Holocaust remembrance, and the 75th anniversary of the liberation, Rabbi Sacks launched a series of videos offering his perspective on some of the biggest questions asked about the Holocaust.

Speaking personally, the most profound Jewish response to the Holocaust I know is Sefer Eichah, the Book of Lamentations, the book written after the destruction of the First Temple, the poetry of lament, bitter lament unto death. It is one of the most searing pieces of literature ever written. And we said it in memory of the loss of the First and Second Temples, Tisha B’Av, the 9th of Av, on the saddest day of the Jewish year. I know of no more profound theological response. In Judaism the most profound theological response is not an answer. It’s not a theology, it’s a cry.

I heard of a Rabbi who went through the Holocaust, (this is a true story), and lost his wife and all 11 children and was asked afterwards, “Do you have no questions of God?” And he replied, “Of course I have questions of God. My questions of God are so powerful that were I to ask them, God Himself would invite me up to Heaven to give me the answers. And I prefer to be down here on earth with the questions than up there in Heaven with the answers.” Now, that sounds clever, but actually it’s very profound. I have said many times: Faith is not certainty. Faith is the courage to live with uncertainty. After the Holocaust, uncertainty is where we live.

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This series, created in partnership with the Holocaust Educational Trust, has been made possible thanks to the generous support of Richard Harris.