Today is a modern Jewish holiday. It is known as Yom HaShoah, Day of Destruction. It is not a holiday of celebration. It is one of memory. We remember the six million murdered during the Holocaust.
Today–and many other days–we ponder the question: “Where was God during the Holocaust? Why did not God not stop it?” I do not have a pre-formulated answer. What I can offer, however, are responses. They shape the way I think about this question. They can guide each of us. 1. God asks the same question of us
God did not murder millions of people. God did not start a destructive war. Humans beings did.
Since Cain and Abel, we have known human cruelty. God gave us the gift of free will, and we cannot blame God for the way we use it. The Holocaust challenges humanity more than God.2. God cries alongside us
A rabbi named Kalonymous Shapiro was imprisoned in the Warsaw Ghetto. He wrote a journal in the evenings and buried it shortly before he was murdered.
In one entry he describes his family being taken away. His pain reaches a peak of pain, as he writes of God crying in the heavens, with God’s tears carrying such power that “If one of them were to escape from heaven to earth, it would destroy the world.”3. God needs us
It is hard to escape the connection between the Holocaust and founding of the state of Israel. The war ended in 1945, and Israel was founded in 1948.
For those who survived, Israel became a refuge of hope amidst despair, life amidst death. Israel reminds the world of the Jewish people’s will to live, and its strength declares that genocide can never happen again.4. God beckons to us
After the Holocaust, some survivors felt inconsolable pain. They had lost their families, their hopes, their dreams.
Others, however, felt a stronger imperative to live. The only way to survive what they experienced was to live with greater fervor. In the face of death, they sought to bring the Jewish community back to life.Perhaps they took guidance from a story told by a Hasidic rabbi named Nachman. One piece at a time Rabbi Nachman once saw a man whose house had burnt down. At first the man was crying uncontrollably. Then he stopped. And he began looking through the rubble. He found bits and pieces of wood and metal. He gathered them, and started to rebuild. One by one he began putting the pieces together. Rabbi Nachman said, “See how he is collecting pieces to rebuild. Even when we think there is no hope, we are already collecting pieces to rebuild.” And we are still rebuilding.