(God) after Auschwitz: Tradition and Change in Post-Holocaust Jewish Thought

(God) after Auschwitz: Tradition and Change in Post-Holocaust Jewish Thought

(God) after Auschwitz: Tradition and Change in Post-Holocaust Jewish Thought

(God) after Auschwitz: Tradition and Change in Post-Holocaust Jewish Thought

Synopsis

The impact of technology-enhanced mass death in the twentieth century, argues Zachary Braiterman, has profoundly affected the future shape of religious thought. In his provocative book, the author shows how key Jewish theologians faced the memory of Auschwitz by rejecting traditional theodicy, abandoning any attempt to justify and vindicate the relationship between God and catastrophic suffering. The author terms this rejection "Antitheodicy," the refusal to accept that relationship. It finds voice in the writings of three particular theologians: Richard Rubenstein, Eliezer Berkovits, and Emil Fackenheim.This book is the first to bring postmodern philosophical and literary approaches into conversation with post-Holocaust Jewish thought. Drawing on the work of Mieke Bal, Harold Bloom, Jacques Derrida, Umberto Eco, Michel Foucault, and others, Braiterman assesses how Jewish intellectuals reinterpret Bible and Midrash to re-create religious thought for the age after Auschwitz.In this process, he provides a model for reconstructing Jewish life and philosophy in the wake of the Holocaust. His work contributes to the postmodern turn in contemporary Jewish studies and today's creative theology.

Excerpt

Atechnical term, theodicy means the “justification of God.” It will be recalled that Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, who coined the term theodicy, wrote his defense of God after an earthquake devastated Lisbon in 1755. With this same event in mind, Voltaire savagely ridiculed Leibniz in his satirical novel Candide. Voltaire drew the comic but ill—fated figure of Dr. Pangloss in order to lampoon Leibniz's insistence that this world represents “the best of all possible worlds.’ I expand Leibniz's term to include any utterance whose source attempts to “justify,’ “explain,’ or “accept’ as ultimately meaningful the relationship between God and evil. While theodicy constitutes a relatively recent term in the history of Western philosophy, the problems it touches upon are perennial. Like all good philosophical or theological categories, theodicy proves its worth insofar as it enables its users to identify, articulate, and schematize conceptual dilemmas and the different forms by which people address them. in our view, however, Leibniz and Voltaire saw but part of the crisis that all social actors (religious and secular) confront in the face of radical suffering and genuine evil.

In this chapter I show how the so—called “problem’ of evil represents a cluster of interrelated problems that a one—dimensional analysis of theodicy tends to obscure. of course, suffering undermines theological ideas surrounding God, divine attributes, and providence. But it also generates severe sociological and textual dilemmas. Religious actors defend the God whom they serve, the societies in which they live, and the constitutional documents they hold sacred. By theodicy, I will therefore mean only arguments used to justify God and theological belief. Although the term has enjoyed a wide currency, not every religious response to suffering constitutes a theodicy. Instead, the act of theodicy operates in tandem with what Peter Berger calls world maintenance and what has been called textual apologetics. By world maintenance, I mean the maintenance of communities and the defense of its members in the face of suffering. By apologetics, I mean upholding the relevance and value of textual canons. Acts of world maintenance and apologetics parallel the operation of theodicy insofar as they too are determined by verbs like . . .

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