I really was not surprised that more than one person sent me the link to the Jerusalem Post article on Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef's latest statement regarding the Holocaust. (See
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull&cid=1246443718416) I recogninzed that it clearly would bother many people. What I pointed out to these individuals, though, was that Rabbi Yosef's words were, in fact, within the pale of Torah so what was the real problem. Obviously, those outside the pale of Torah would have their problems but within the world of Torah -- especially given eilu v'eilu -- what was the problem. You can disagree but you can't dismiss -- yet there was this attitude of dismissal. What I really was trying to get at was -- what really bothered them.
We define Moshe Rabbeinu's famous question as tzaddik v'ra lo, why do bad things happen to good people? We all know the many answers that are attempted -- with merit -- yet Moshe was still bothered. The issue, I believe, went beyond this classic question. The real question was the whole concept of judgement and punishment. Can we think of anyone deserving of the punishment of the Holocaust? Can we think of any sin deserving of the terrible tortures that many Jews endure throughout the ages? Therein lies the real problem -- we just don't understand the whole system. Especially in our world with its view of 'cruel and unusual punishment', we just cannot understand the realm of Divine punishment. That's what really bothers us with Rabbi Yosef's statement, at least, I believe. True, other issues emerge with his introduction of the theme of reincarnation but, bottom line, whenever the Holocaust is mentioned within the realm of punishment, we become unnerved. Yet this actually is the basic Torah approach to any misfortune that befalls our people. The real problem is that we just don't understand it -- and I believe that started with no one less than Moshe Rabbeinu.
And herein lies what I believe was the essence of what bothered people about Rabbi Yosef's statement. It was really just a basic Torah approach. But sometimes even the most basic Torah idea is still beyond our comprehension -- and I think people just wanted to see in Rabbi Yosef's statement a recognition that, while this idea may even be true, it is still not understood
Rabbi Ben Hecht