Aspects of Holocaust Theology: The Metaphor of “God as Surgeon” (Part 1)

Now after reading this article and comparing it to the Likuttei Dibburim material, one can easily see that the son-in-law’s theology is completely consistent with that of his father-in-law, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn. An examination of the latter’s Hassidic discourses also bears this out, but we will save this for another discussion.

However, the Rebbe’s position appears to be inconsistent with an earlier position he once made.  Consider the following citation made at the Chabad “Ask Moses” website:

“There are those who wish to suggest that the Holocaust was a punishment for the sins of that generation. The Lubavitcher Rebbe rejects this view. He writes, “‘The destruction of six million Jews in such a horrific manner that surpassed the cruelty of all previous generations, could not possibly be because of a punishment for sins. Even the Satan himself could not possibly find a sufficient number of sins that would warrant such genocide! There is absolutely no rationalistic explanation for the Holocaust except for the fact that it was a Divine decree … why it happened is above human comprehension – but it is definitely not because of punishment for sin.

On the contrary: All those who were murdered in the Holocaust are called “Kedoshim” – holy ones – since they were murdered in sanctification of G–d’s name. G–d will avenge their blood, as we say on Shabbat in the Av Harachamim prayer, “May the All-Merciful… remember with mercy… the holy communities who gave their lives for the sanctification of the Divine Name … May G-d remember them with favor together with the other righteous of the world, and avenge the spilled blood of His servants, as it is written in the Torah of Moshe … for he will avenge the blood of his servants…” G–d describes those who were sanctified as His servants, and promises to avenge their blood.’” [1]

Now, when comparing this statement to the other citation mentioned by Prof. Bauer, it appears that Lubavitcher Headquarters may have felt the embarrassing implications of the Rebbe’s back-peddling on such an important topic. In forthcoming articles on the Likkutei Dibburim material, we will examine why Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn and his son-in-law, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn  refused to participate in the famous Washington D.C. rally when 400 Orthodox rabbis marched to the White House on October 6, 1943 in an attempt to confront the President about opening America’s borders to the Jewish refugees of Europe.

Incidentally, several leading Jewish leaders at that time blasted the rally as an “undignified publicity stunt” and even persuaded President Franklin D. Roosevelt to snub the rabbis. How wrong these leaders were! While a reader might assume that many of the march’s critics were liberal rabbis, this is not completely true! Rabbi Yitzchak Schneersohn and his protege held a disparaging view about those religious leaders who worked through political channels instead relying on God’s supernatural redemptive power. What is more amazing is that Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn considered his father-in-law to be the Moshe Rabbanu–the incarnation of Moses himself–of that generation!


[1] Sefer HaSichot 5751 Vol.1 p.233.