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The Rebbe and the Shoah

There have long been those within ultra-Orthodox Jewry who regarded the Holocaust as divine punishment for what they saw as the sins of the Jews: Zionism, liberalism, irreligiosity, religiosity they disliked, etc. Most recently, former Israeli chief Sephardic rabbi, Mordecai Eliyahu, placed the blame for the Nazi genocide on Reform Judaism.

According to a respected Holocaust scholar, the most famous (and also most controversial) figure produced by 20th-century ultra-Orthodoxy, the Lubavitcher rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, articulated similar views. In an article in the Israeli daily Haaretz, historian Yehuda Bauer writes:

On the subject of the Holocaust, the Rebbe wrote as follows: “It is clear that ‘no evil descends from Above,’ and buried within torment and suffering is a core of exalted spiritual good. Not all human beings are able to perceive it, but it is very much there. So it is not impossible for the physical destruction of the Holocaust to be spiritually beneficial. On the contrary, it is quite possible that physical affliction is good for the spirit” (“Mada Ve’emuna,” Machon Lubavitch, 1980, Kfar Chabad).

Schneerson goes on to compare God to a surgeon who amputates a patient’s limb in order to save his life. The limb “is incurably diseased … The Holy One Blessed Be He, like the professor-surgeon…seeks the good of Israel, and indeed, all He does is done for the good…. In the spiritual sense, no harm was done, because the everlasting spirit of the Jewish people was not destroyed.”

The Rebbe’s stance, therefore, is clear: The Holocaust was a good thing because it lopped off a disease-ravaged limb of the Jewish people — in other words, the millions who perished in the Holocaust — in order to cleanse the Jewish people of its sins.

Read Bauer’s full article here.

UPDATE: Rabbi Eliezer Shemtov of Uruguay’s Beit Chabad wrote this response to Bauer’s article.

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