The Shoah and Jewish Faith: Voices from the Midst of Tragedy
Kenneth L. Hanson
Vol. 4, No. 1
Shoah, Holocaust, Theology of Suffering, Theology, Moral Theology, Religious Zionism, Judaism, Jewish Studies, Holocaust Studies
There has understandably been a good deal of emphasis on how Jewish faith has been affected in the wake of the genocidal catastrophe of the Shoah. Much less attention has been devoted, however, to how observant Jews were impacted, with regard to their faith, in the midst of the tragedy. Elie Wiesel, for his part, was said to have put God on trial at Auschwitz. It will also be instructive to consider two Jewish leaders, both ultra-orthodox rabbis, who were victims of the Nazi genocide. Their perspectives (unlike post-Holocaust theology) provide a window on Jewish thought while events were unfolding. The reflections of Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira, who was residing in Warsaw at the outbreak of the war, were published in Israel in 1960 under the title Esh Kodesh. The work elucidates what may be viewed as a normative theology of suffering. Another ultra-orthodox rabbi, Yissachar Teichtal, was living in Budapest during the Nazi era. His theology is even more dramatic, rejecting all exilic philosophies, and developing a religious Zionist philosophy. If there is a to be found a merging of the two approaches, it is in the idea of “reconstruction,” on the one hand of the individual, and on the other, of the Jewish nation – the uniquely Jewish concept of tikkun.