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Faith Facing The Holocaust - Lecture #29: Summary of the Faith in the Holocaust series

By: Rav Tamir Granot

In the introduction to this series, I wrote that, in my mind, this is not just another series ofshiurim or lectures on Jewish philosophy.  I view it as a long journey, with some very personal elements as well as some national ones, a journey that touches on the roots of faith, on fundamental questions of one’s world-view, and issues of existential significance.  Over the course of this journey, we discussed some of these issues with foremost rabbis and philosophers.  We encountered some of the figures who have molded the Charedi world, including Rabbi Wasserman Hy"d, Rabbi Dessler, and the Satmar Rebbe.  We encountered the world-view and faith experience of some of the Chassidic leaders of the previous generation, including Rabbi Shapiro of Piaseczno Hy"d, the Rebbe of Sanz-Klausenberg, the Slonimer Rebbe (author of Netivot Shalom), and Rabbi Rabinowitz of Munkacz.  We also examined the Holocaust from the perspective of Religious Zionism and Modern Orthodoxy through the writings of Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook, Rabbi Teichtal, Rabbi Soloveitchik, Rabbi Prof. Berkovits, and the philosopher Emmanuel Levinas.


Our encounters with these figures gave rise to some fundamental questions concerning the philosophy of faith and religious life, as well as Jewish philosophy in our age.  Among other things, we addressed such subjects as prayer, Divine Providence and justice, "hester panim" and "gilui panim," human freedom, sanctification of God’s Name, and the connection between the Holocaust and redemption and the State of Israel.


As I set down this list of personalities and subjects in writing, I experience contradictory emotions.  On the one hand, we have covered much ground.  On the other hand, some issues have been addressed only briefly, without plumbing their depths.  Other issues of great significance which arise from the Holocaust have not been dealt with at all.  There are some important Holocaust writings that have not been given the proper attention due to them within this framework.


In a follow-up series I wrote in Hebrew (available at, I tried to continue this spiritual and philosophical journey and strove to reach both higher and deeper.  As we learned from Levinas in a previous lecture, and as I learned from my rabbi and teacher, Rav Amital, it is our religious obligation to nurture faith via a genuine encounter with individual and historical experiences; we cannot address the Holocaust with the stock faith responses that have been useful thus far.  I hope that this series has succeeded in opening up some directions for significant philosophical and existential grappling with the Holocaust, beyond the opportunity – important in its own right – to become familiar with the approaches of the figures we have discussed.


            I wish to thank the dedicated and talented translator of this course, Kaeren Fish; the English editors, Naftali Balanson and Meira Mintz; the Hebrew editor, Boaz Kallush; and the entire staff and administration of the Virtual Beit Midrash.


A request in conclusion: I repeat and emphasize my appeal from the beginning of the series that readers send comments on these lectures.  In addition, any readers who have significant material in their possession (such as information or relevant traditions) relating to the subject of faith in the Holocaust, or who are able to refer me to such material, are requested to contact me.  Please e-mail me at the following address: tamirgranot at gmail dot com.  Please do not add me to e-mail lists, etc.; the address is supplied for the above purpose alone.


With thanks,


Tamir Granot