Monday, 10 August 2009

Using Spirituality to Explain the Horror of the Holocaust

It's really tough to fathom the depth and breadth of sueffering incurred during the Sho'ah

It's even tougher as a rabbi to deal with it; to confront survivors who lost so much. What can one say?

Lulei demistefina! While we cannot describe or ascribe the fundamentals of the dynamics - nevetheless Lessons CAN be learned and MUST be learned! It is our job as thinking analytical creatures to contemplate and reflect upon these grand events - whether they be the Triumph of the Exodus - which requires a night of reflection. Or the catastrophe of the Holocaust which make take us 2-3 generations to process.

One spirtual insight helps us put some distance from the suffering. This is reflected in most Spiritual Traditions, and in Judaism mostly via Qabbalah.

And that is - "We are NOT our bodies!" Thus take the Jewish martyr Rabbi Aqiva - his body was destroyed but not the soul, not the persona. R Aqiva himself, what makes him R. Aqiva is invulnerable to any harm from any human.

The body of R. Aqiva and his fellow martyrs are like the parchment, but that saming burning parchment releases its letters into the ether. A Mashal to body and spirit!

Another mashal is that our bodies are like a robe or an overcoat. What is destroyed during martyrdom is finite and mortal

Nevertheless, bodies have feelings and senses. So the analogy is by no means exact, perfect. The Jews who died suffered! It was not like they died peacefully under anasthesia.

Perhaps a better mashal: like bandages being ripped of one's skin in a most painful manner. The bandages are NOT the body, nevertheless their removal is painful

Similarly one's body is not one's essence, but as martyrs its removal was most painful.

Nevertheless nothing of "consequence" died - except perhaps the communities and institutions that furthered a vibrant Jewish life in pre-war Europe. They were victims of this Hurban - just as our Beis Hamiqdash was

May HKBH yemalei chesroneinu

Bmeheira beyameinu!



1 comment:

Mighty Garnel Ironheart said...

Inevitably every great rabbi gets sucked into "explaining the Holocaust". Inevitably we get a simplistic answer like it happened because not enough people wore black hats or the tzimmes wasn't prepared with the right kavannah.

Don't go there.