Rabbi Hagai Lundin
Rabbi Hagai LundinCourtesy

The question, 'Where was God in the Holocaust?', has been reverberating in our world for eighty years. For the most part, the religious answer to this question suffices with the murmur of the verse: "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so My ways are higher than your ways and My thoughts [are higher] than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:9). In other words, it is impossible to understand how God runs the world (or in another version: 'God is not Santa Claus who promises only good things').

Although the [former] answer is correct on a philosophical level, it does not satisfy the underlying emotional and psychological need behind the question.

The question, 'Where was God in the Holocaust?', is not a question on the intellectual level; it is an emotional cry! There are many questions to which we have no logical answer. For example, we do not have a good answer to the question of where was God when a baby died yesterday. Moreover, objectively speaking, there have been great disasters in humanity – even greater - than the Holocaust. Hundreds of millions of people have perished throughout history in disasters and wars; yet, it is precisely the Holocaust that repeatedly re-ignites the debate of 'Where was God?'.

At its core, the question, 'Where was God in the Holocaust?', is directed to a much deeper dimension. It is a cry of despair that is supposedly justified by the Holocaust. The Holocaust did not grow out of thin air. The Holocaust is an unimaginable catastrophe that came ostensibly at the pinnacle of human advancement. The European culture from which the Holocaust emerged was a culture supposedly full of progress and morality, and precisely it grew the horror.

From the Holocaust through today, the feeling instilled in humanity is - there is no hope! No matter how hard people try; no matter how moral and progressive they want to be, in the end the monster will win. The translation of the question of 'Where was God in the Holocaust?' is – there is no hope; the eternal is only ashes and dust. In any event, there are no values; no dreams; no truth; no God.

This is where the answer also comes: the broad overview sees that reality is different. Despite the disasters that exist in the world; despite the hardships and horrors that each of us sometimes experiences in our lives, the bottom line is that the world is good; life is good; reality is moving forward. It is enough to see the tremendous advancement of humanity in general and the Jewish people in particular, over the past seventy years, on all levels – economic, moral and spiritual – to understand that there is hope. In other words, there is a God!

The world grows from all the crises and is becoming better and better; values and morality ultimately win; the State of Israel is flourishing. God was not silent during the Holocaust; God did not disappear during the Holocaust – He was there all the time and He is with us now. The good hides in the evil and in the end wins; it just takes time to see it.

Eternity is not just dust and ashes. Eternity is Jerusalem. We must never forget that.