Recently, I was chatting about Israeli politics with my accountant, an assimilated Jew. Our conversation about Israel eventually turned to God and the Holocaust. He declared that he doesn't believe in God because if there were a God, the Holocaust couldn't have happened.
To my accountant, the Holocaust proves that there is no God and that the world is a random place of chance occurrences. His theological beliefs are similar to the Ancient Greek and Roman concepts of fortune, luck, destiny, and fate; that of ever changing phenomena that could land on anyone's doorstep. Life to him resembles a roulette wheel. The Jewish concept is diametrically opposite to that. The world has an owner - God. Nothing is random, we have complete free will, and we are responsible for our actions.
Rabbi Avigdor Miller's A Divine Madness is the concisely written answer to the seemingly unanswerable questions: "Where was God during the Holocaust?" and "Is the world a random place?" There are scores of tomes dealing with the What and How of the Holocaust. This book definitively deals with the Why.
Most people imagine pre-World War II Europe as populated with millions of pious, religious Jews who were slaughtered by a German nation possessed of a congenital compulsion to murder Jews. That is only partly true. While Rabbi Miller never minimizes the personal suffering of individual Jews or their families, he shines a revealing light on the shameful behavior of all too many European Jews as causal factor of the Holocaust. All Jews are responsible for each other; good people and bad people both suffer for the misdeeds of our misguided brothers. Rabbi Miller was an American Torah giant who studied in the great yeshivas of Europe before the war. His thoughts and writings come from his personal observations and his prodigious range of secular and religious knowledge.
Rabbi Miller begins his thesis at the Age of Enlightenment. Starting approximately 250 years ago, the Enlightenment ideal of tolerance offered Jews political, social, and economic equality, but for a spiritual price. It was a price that too many Jews were more than happy to pay - assimilation. Soon many Jews were being baptized and marrying non-Jews, or, if they preferred the slow way of abandoning Judaism, they soothed their consciences by adhering to poisonous pseudo-Judaic ideas that began as small spores in Germany and spread quickly across Europe. Those poisonous spores blossomed into what are now known as the Conservative and Reform movements of Judaism.
I always wondered why Hitler cared about hunting down anyone with even one Jewish great grandparent and shoving them into the gas chambers. I couldn't imagine that there were significant numbers of Jews who had abandoned Judaism that long ago. I thought it was Nazi craziness to believe that there could be a Jew hiding in everyone's family tree. Hitler knew something I didn't. An epidemic of European intermarriage had been raging for some time. By the mid 1930's, over 320,000 out of 600,000 (over 50%) of German Jews were no longer Halachically Jewish or identified as Jews. A similar situation was happening throughout Europe.
The unfortunate reality was that the majority of Europe's Jews had stopped keeping the Sabbath, stopped marrying Jews, stopped studying Torah and respecting our sages, and in many cases had ceased being Jewish all together by converting to Christianity.
As Rabbi Miller says, when you have a contract with the Creator of the Universe and you breach it, there will be consequences. A Divine Madness is Rabbi Miller's true and compelling story of the Jewish nation estranged from its Creator, slipping farther and farther from Torah observance and towards its own annihilation.
A Divine Madness is a 320 page book which includes extensive, enlightening historical notations. The actual text is less than 100 pages, so this is a quick read. It is priced at approximately $22.00, and can be purchased directly from Simchas Hachaim Publishers.
This is a thoroughly engrossing history, philosophy, and Judaism concept book. I consider it a must-have book for anyone studying the Holocaust. It is also frightening because the thoughtful reader can't help but recognize uncomfortable similarities between the outrageous Un-Jewish and Un-Torah behaviors of our assimilated and misguided Jewish brothers today, and those of European Jews just prior to the Holocaust.