The Holocaust Denial of Orthodox Judaism

[Thoughts reposted from 4-15-07. Haven't changed our opinion.]

Orthodoxy claims to be the most authentic form of Judaism. All those fasts and feasts and taboos and rituals - who can surpass the Orthodox? The special clothing, the mannerisms, the cloistered study of Torah - who can deny that they are the real deal?

It's time to look again.

The Tanakh teaches us that our history matters. What happens to the Jews is real and meaningful and G-d is visible to us through our history.

It's up to us to recognize that and to be the active protagonists in the historical role that's been decreed for us.

Denying that is heresy.

And that's what the Orthodox have been doing for years...
Denying the story of the Holocaust has theological meaning and should be part of our faith and ritual.
Denying the State of Israel has theological meaning and should be part of our faith and ritual.
You will point to a few meager prayers and say that I am wrong. I will point to book after book, lecture after lecture, that refuses to acknowledge any theological meaning in the reality of our people's sadness and triumphs over the past century.

By not recognizing the sadness of the Holocaust at the center of our religious life - that is the real crime of Holocaust denial.

By not recognizing the triumphs of the State of Israel every day, three times a day, and in a glorious and central expression of our practice and preaching - that is another crime of gross denial.

And so the most pious looking can also be the most heretical.

That's my koan for today.


Anonymous said...

You can be really sick sometimes.

If anything, the orthodox community were the only ones who sought to preserve and reestablish a world and a lifestyle nearly destroyed by the nazis.

unlike the many who chose to deny their judaism save for traditionalism and jewish "culture"

Drew Kaplan said...

R' Tzvee,
I would suggest a qualification here: it's not all of Orthodoxy, but rather right-wing Orthodoxy. Left-wing Orthodoxy seems to be making attempts at doing just what you suggest.

Anonymous said...

You know the theological meaning of the Holocaust? Please share.

Tzvee Zahavy said...

Drew, I don't see the fruits of those attempts.

Andy, See Devarim, Joshua, Judges, Samuel I and II and Kings I and II for starters. History - good and bad - matters.

Anonymous said...

Yes, but then we had prophets who could interpret the meaning of these events.

Reb Yudel said...

There are Orthodox responses to the Holocaust -- the problem is that the one that is becoming most popular is the one you (and I) least like.

#1) The Holocaust was God's punishment on the German-originated Haskala and Reform movements. This is the de facto Aguda position.

#2) The Holocaust was God's punishment for Zionism. This is the Neturei Karta position.

#3) The Holocaust marked a new era of history, in which the Jewish Covenant is now voluntary and the narrowness of the previous millenium of Jewish history must be replaced with openness. This is Yitz Greenberg's position (poorly articulated, I admit.)

#4) The Holocaust marked a new era of history, and came as punishment for Jewish acceptance of subservience and the resulting hillul Hashem. This is Meir Kahane's approach.

#1 and #2 are in the direct tradition of Sefer Melachim; #3 and #4 are both arguably heretical (in their annunciation of a New Era in Jewish history) though obviously one is considered acceptable by "Centrist Orthodoxy" and mainstream Teaneck Orthodox shuls and the other is not.

Tzvee Zahavy said...

Suffering is not new to Judaism. So I do not see the urgency to respond.

The point is that the Holocaust and rise of the State must be subsumed into the mythic structure of the religion because (1) it is by far the most dramatic chapter of Jewish suffering and redemption and (2) the proximity of the events - the rise of the State of Israel - out of the ashes of Auschwitz - calls out as a story that must be told - in the center of the religious life of Judaism - not on its periphery - hedged and double hedged - philosophized and double philosophized. Just tell it.

Anonymous said...

"By not recognizing the sadness of the Holocaust at the center of our religious life - that is the real crime of Holocaust denial."

You don't know how many people fled Judaism because their Hebrew teachers made the Holocaust the center of their religious life.

Richard said...

The Holocaust was planned, instigated, and executed by Nazi Germans. Orthodox and Reformed Jews had nothing to do whatsoever with the outcome - they were only victims. Hasn't anyone taken a General Semantics course? To suggest some sort of Jewish complicity in the Holocaust is nonsensical.

The founding of the State of Israel was certainly accelerated by the events of the Holocaust, i.e. its victims were emigrating there en-masse after WWII. But the Zionist movement started way before that with such leaders as Hertzl.

As for the religious nature of the State of Israel proper, I would remind the readers that most of the early Zionists were somewhat agnostic and/or socialistic in nature, such as Ben Gurion. The Jews who emigrated to Israel were primarily working class, primarily from Eastern Europe, looking for a better life.