The Female Face of God in Auschwitz: A Jewish Feminist Theology of the Holocaust

By Melissa Raphael | Go to book overview

2

The hiding of God’s face in Auschwitz

Announce to the cities of Judah: ‘Behold your God!’

(Is. 40:9)

Although properly hesitant to explain God’s looking away from Auschwitz, a number of Jewish philosophers and theologians have, in effect, justified God’s silence, inaction or absence by weighing the necessity of human moral freedom against the suffering it can cause. If humanity is to be truly human, that is, free, God must be, in some senses, less than God. God must give way to human (normatively masculine) freedom and becoming by withholding his omnipotent power to override human choice. The good would not be the good, and therefore pleasing to God, had it not been willed and chosen. Human morality therefore entails the strong possibility of its failure. Auschwitz is the price of human becoming and, indeed, human morality itself. At the same time, God’s freedom is secured by his being mysteriously unknowable in his ways and, according to some philosophical traditions, a God who is ultimately apathetic or unmoved by the conditions of finitude. All of these operations can be indicated in the trope of divine hiddenness. As we shall see, the most authoritative exponent of the post-Holocaust free will defence of God’s holocaustal non-intervention has been Eliezer Berkovits. In Faith After the Holocaust he argues that had God exercised his power in preventing the Holocaust he would have impeded ‘man’s’ becoming: the project to which even divine justice and happiness must be subordinated. God’s love for our freedom effectively exceeds his love for those who suffer its consequences. 1

But as I have argued elsewhere, God no longer has to stay his hand or remain hidden if autonomy is acknowledged to be an elitist masculine project that is not the first or only prerequisite of human dignity and becoming. 2 And if the divine attribute of omnipotence is acknowledged to have a contingent political as much as a redemptive function as the projection of patriarchy’s own aspiration, then neither is divine power necessarily required to give way to human freedom and becoming. Subsequent chapters of this study will seek to demonstrate that, during the Holocaust, and to the point of death, freedom was not necessarily the

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The Female Face of God in Auschwitz: A Jewish Feminist Theology of the Holocaust
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Series Editors’ Preface vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Reading Post-Holocaust Theology from a Feminist Perspective 19
  • 2 - The Hiding of God’s Face in Auschwitz 43
  • 3 - Feminist Intimations of the Holy in Auschwitz 59
  • 4 - Face to Face (With God) in Auschwitz 86
  • 5 - A Mother/God in Auschwitz 107
  • 6 - The Redemption of God in Auschwitz 128
  • The Princess and the City of Death 161
  • Notes 166
  • Select Glossary of Hebrew and Yiddish Terms 205
  • Bibliography 207
  • Index 221
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