Lubavitcher Rebbe Rejects Assertion That Holocaust Was Divine Punishment

An Israeli Orthodox sage who infuriated Holocaust survivors and other Jews by claiming the Shoah was God’s punishment for their abandonment of the Torah, has received an indirect rebuke from the Lubavitcher rebbe.

“All who perished in the Holocaust — man, woman and child — were holy and pure. They died solely because they were Jews. Each and every one was a righteous martyr,” declared the rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Schneerson.

He spoke to about 3,000 disciples at Lubavitch world headquarters in Brooklyn on the Tenth of Tevet, a day of fasting and mourning when Jewish suffering, during both the Temple period and modern times, is remembered.

His message, broadcast around the world, seemed intended as a response to the sermon delivered last week to yeshiva students in the Israeli township of Bnei Brak by Rabbi Eliezer Schach, dean of the Ponovezh Yeshiva and spiritual mentor of the Orthodox Degel HaTorah party.

Schach, 94, advanced the idea that the Holocaust was a result of cumulative divine wrath over the Jewish people’s wholesale abandonment of Orthodoxy under the influence of the enlightenment, socialism and Zionism. He denounced secular Jews for eating pork and failing to observe the Sabbath and religious festivals.

Schach is a theological foe and longtime critic of the Lubavitcher rebbe, the Hasidic leader whose Chabad movement tries to draw secular Jews back to religion.

Schneerson was especially vociferous in his attack on the notion, expounded by Schach, that further retributive suffering might befall the Jewish people if they fail to abide by Jewish law.

“This suggestion is unconscionable,” the rebbe declared, without mentioning who had made it. “The future bodes only well for the Jewish people. There will never be another Holocaust. There will be redemption and joy.”

Schach maintained that “God is long-suffering but eventually, when a point of saturation is reached, he wreaks his punishment.”

According to the rebbe, however, “the tragedy of the Holocaust is an unanswerable question. There is no human rationale whatsoever that can explain such indescribable suffering.

“Indeed, God’s words to his prophet that, ‘My thoughts are not as your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways’ (Isaiah 55:8), is all that can be said.”

The rebbe added, “Any attempt to cast blame, for whatever reason, upon those who perished is shocking.”

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