Suffering and Evil: Jewish Solutions

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The problem of suffering and evil took on an unprecedented role in Jewish thought after the Holocaust--the greatest event of individual and communal suffering in Jewish history. Many traditional rabbinic authorities viewed the Holocaust as just another example of Jewish suffering and interpreted the event using the covenantal model. Given the magnitude of Jewish suffering, however, many Jewish thinkers found this approach unfulfilling at best and perverse at worst.

In the words of Irving Greenberg: "To account for the Holocaust as God's punishment of Israel for its sins, is to betray and mock the agony of the victims. Now that they have been cruelly tortured and killed, boiled into soap, their hair made into pillows, and their bones into fertilizer, their unknown graves and the very fact of their death denied to them, the theologian would inflict on them the only indignity left: that is, insistence that it was done because of their sins."

Thus many post-Holocaust theologians consider the Holocaust to be an event that is theologically unique. The suffering and evil associated with it was so great that it cannot be subsumed into the general problem of suffering and evil. The Holocaust demands a reconsideration of the problem and, thus, drastically new solutions.

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