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How can you say Zionism caused the Holocaust?

Oct. 4 2008

Are You hashem? How can you possibly attempt to give a reason why the holocaust happended?? We have NO idea why things happen to different people at different times. I would love an explanation as to what gives you the right to make decisions as to why bad things happended to good people.

Thanks for your letter. Regarding your second question on the Satmar Rebbe ztl who wrote in the Hakdama to Vayoel Moshe that the sin of Zionism caused the Holocaust: you are right that we cannot claim to explain why bad things happen to INDIVIDUAL people. Only Hashem knows why a given person was supposed to be in a given place at a given time so that something should happen to him. But when a great large-scale calamity happens, we are expected to learn from it. Hashem is sending us a message that a certain sin or sins must be corrected. It doesnt necessarily mean that every person or even most of the people who perished committed that sin.

Let me quote from Rabbi Avigdor Miller in his as-yet unpublished manuscript on the Holocaust.

It would be proper, when considering the misfortunes of individuals or of some community, to declare that we are incapable of understanding Hashems ways. But when viewing a phenomenon of history as colossal and as shattering as the European Destruction, which has affected directly one half of Hashems chosen people and which uprooted and wiped out a vast number of old communities, then it is reckless to dismiss the matter with a shrug and to fall back on the indolent and unthinking pretence of pious trust in Hashems ways. On the contrary: belief in Hashems conduct of history demands of us to study His deeds and to attempt to fathom their causes and purposes. He who chastises nations, is He not (thereby) correcting (or: rebuking)? Is He not teaching men knowledge? (Tehillim 94:10) Especially when almost half of His people were destroyed, could a believer deceive himself into thinking that Hashem would act without obvious reason? But actually the facts are so clearly apparent, and the reason is so conspicuously obvious, that only those who are totally ignorant of the pre-war state of affairs, or those who have assumed a materialistic view of life in general, are capable of shrouding the Destruction in a cloak of mysticism and feigned piety.

Rabbi Miller had a slightly different view from the Satmar Rebbe as to what sins caused the Destruction. However, I think your main problem was not with the sin itself, but with the seeming arrogance of anyone who claims to know what sin caused so many terrible losses.

Thank you for your response. With respect to attributing the holocaust to one particular reason or cause, I believe the Satmar Rebbi stands alone in his opinion, and I believe I am entitled to disagree based on other Rabbanim who disagreed with him. With respect to Rabbi Miller's words, I also disagree. I believe that we should certainly look inwards and try and do teshuvah when bad things happen, but to attempt to figure out why is just plain wrong and beyond our capabilities. Again, trying to pinpoint why Hashem takes action leads many with no "sechel" to begin interpreting things in their own warped way. For instance, a girl was killed crossing the road in the city where I lived a few years ago. My chavrusah tried to convince me that she was killed because there is talking in the shul where she davened!

We all have the right to express our opinions and beliefs. The key, though, is to express ourselves in a way that avoids conflict. One thing we do know from mesorah is that sinas chinum caused the destruction of the second beis hamikdash, and we should all be working towards promoting "achdus" rather than our own particular agendas that further serve to splinter us.

All the best,