Baghdad born, 80 year old, Harav Ovadiah Yossef has made a great name for himself as the highest authority on Halacha and the sources. He has become the rallying point of the Sephardi majority of Israel which gave his Shas party no less than 17 seats in the Knesseth which may become one day the largest party in the Israeli Parliament.
In his regular Saturday night radio programme, he recently had to answer the question - "Where was G-d during the Holocaust?" By taking a narrow view of this controversy Rav Ovadiah had only two options: Either that the Holocaust was an act of G-d, or that G-d does not take any interest in human affairs.
Rav Ovadiah was obliged to opt for the first option stating that the Holocaust was an act of G-d and was a punishment for the sins by these people in previous lives. This immediately caused a huge furore everywhere which obliged the learned Rabbi to retract his regrettable statement which still left an unpleasant impression all over. Some people saw in it an attack on Ashkenazim who were the main victims of the Holocaust. Others thought it would promote atheism. By claiming that the Holocaust was an act of G-d, he made Hitler and his Nazi criminals the agents of G-d.
Chief Rabbi Dr Jonathan Sacks expressed the view that the Holocaust must remain a mystery. But how can the Chief Rabbi follow a mysterious religion which he cannot explain or understand? On the other hand, when the late former Chief Rabbi Lord Jacobovitz was asked where was G-d at the Holocaust, the answer he gave was where was man at the Holocaust? This may appear to be an evasive reply but what Lord Jacobovitz was saying is that the Holocaust was not the act of G-d but the act of man which may mean if you like that since G-d gave man freewill, he takes no direct interest in the day-to-day events of history.
This fact can only be ignored at our peril.
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