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Six Million Tragedy

by Rachmiel Frydland

MORE THAN [SIXTY] years have passed since the perversity of men contrived to kill, murder, and exterminate God's chosen people, the Jews. Hitler and his associates, like Haman of old, devised a way "to destroy, to kill, and to cause to perish, all Jews, both young and old, little children and women" (Esther 3:13).

Haman's design failed completely. Haman and his ten sons were hanged on the very day when all the Jews were to have been exterminated.

Hitler had a similar end to that of Haman, except that he committed suicide along with the cohorts who were close to him. Jewish people could have established a festival in memory of the victory over Hitler. They would only have to decide what delicacy to eat. Potato latkes are eaten on Hanukah in memory of the victory over Antiochus Epiphanes, and hamentashen on Purim in memory of Haman's downfall. Yet, there are no joyful celebrations over Hitler's defeat. On the eve of Israel's independence celebrations, there is a memorial service commemorating the six million Jews who were exterminated under the Hitler regime. There are no joyous celebrations over Hitler's defeat because about one third of the Jewish population was wiped out in the course of World War II!

The Greatness of the Tragedy

There is a Jewish saying based on the Talmud: "Whosoever destroys one life in Israel is as he would destroy the whole world, and whosoever preserves one life in Israel is as he would preserve the whole world" (Talmud, Sanhedrin 38a). Since Jewish people consider tradition and Talmud to be inspired, the next step is to blame God Himself for this tragedy. This feeling is expressed in strong words by Richard L. Rubinstein in his book entitled, After Auschwitz:

How can Jews believe in an omnipotent, beneficent God after Auschwitz?

Traditional Jewish theology maintains that God is the ultimate; omnipotent actor in the historical drama. It has interpreted every major catastrophe in Jewish history as God's punishment of a sinful Israel. I fail to see how this position can be maintained without regarding Hitler and the SS as instruments of God's will. The agony of European Jewry cannot be likened to the testing of Job. To see any purpose in the death camps, the traditional believer is forced to regard the most demonic, anti-human explosion in all history as a meaningful expression, of God's purposes. The idea is simply too obscene to me to accept.

The Double Tragedy

Thus the tragedy is double. First, there is the physical and mental damage that was done to those who perished and those who survived the horrible death camps. Then, there is the mental and spiritual pain of those who identify themselves with the perishing Jews of World War II.

Many of our people have failed to look into God's Word to find out what God wants to say through these fearful events. From the Hebrew Scriptures we present some of the things God says:

1. The Deceitful Heart

Here is the first thing we could learn from this tragedy. The prophet Jeremiah records in God's Word: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9). Similar words are found in the Brit Hadasha (New Testament): "From whence come wars and fighting's among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?" (James 4:1)

The liberal world, of which our people are prominent spokesmen, maintained that the world is getting better and better and soon liberal men would be able to bring about a happy world. But, they ignored God's Word which states that man's heart is wicked, deceitful, and capable of every crime and cruelty. Have we learned our lesson?

2. The Neglect of God's Word

We know that great honor belongs to the Jewish people. From them God raised lawgivers, wise men, psalmists, and prophets who presented God's Word to the world by the inspiration and power of the Holy Spirit. The Brit Hadasha (New Testament) expresses it so beautifully: "What advantage then hath the Jew? ... Much every way; chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God" (Romans 3:1-2).

While due honor is given to the Jewish people, the prophets also place upon them special responsibility as recorded in God's words through the prophet Amos: "You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities" (Amos 3:2). Instead of heeding God's Word to instruct our sons and daughters in the living Word of God, the very Book which justifies our existence as a people and a nation, we sent them to colleges and universities to instruct them in secular topics. Our religious Jewish people send their children to the Yeshivot. There, too, they are taught the words of men, the Talmud, because it is maintained that the study of the Talmud is more important than the study of the Tenach (Old Covenant Scriptures). As a result Christians have been translating the Hebrew Bible into hundreds of languages, while we who gave the Bible to the world are standing on the sidelines.

3. The Rejected Redeemer

In this respect also great glory belongs to the Jewish people. The following is a quotation from the writing of the great Jew, the Apostle Saul of Tarsus, later called Paul, in which he says of the Jewish people:

I say the truth in Messiah, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Messiah for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: Who are Israelites: to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Messiah came, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen (Romans 9:1-5).

Jesus the Messiah and Redeemer is ours; He is of our flesh and blood. We should join the Apostle in celebrating not only a simhat-torah (rejoicing of the Law) but also a continuous celebration of simhat-moshiach, as he admonishes believers in the city of Philippi: "Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I say, rejoice" (Philippians 4:4). Instead we are still looking for someone else. Many times we thought that "someone else" had come and we were ready to follow him, but we paid dearly for our mistakes. From the time of the false messiah Bar Kosiba, killed in 135 A.D., to Sabbatai Zvi (died 1676) and his followers, large crowds of Jewish people, sometimes even the majority, would commit their lives to encourage these so-called "messiah-heroes" who brought woe and destruction to our people. Jesus Himself foreseeing that this would happen, expressed these words:

I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not; if another shall come in his own name, him you will receive (John 5:43).

The rabbis, writing in the Talmud, knew that Messiah was to be rejected, would suffer, and die. However, instead of applying these prophecies to Jesus, they posited two Messiahs: Messiah ben Joseph to suffer, be rejected and be pierced through in accordance with the prophecies of Isaiah 53 and Zechariah 12:10, and, Messiah ben David to fight God's wars, defeat the pagans, and restore Israel. But God's Word speaks of one Messiah to be despised and rejected and then exalted.

Other Jewish people, after disappointments with false messiahs, put forth a hypothesis that Messiah is not to be a person but an ideal. For many years our people hoped that social changes in the East and the promise of full quality was the redemption of which the prophets spoke. What a great disappointment! God's Word speaks of the only person Who can claim messiahship - a man of the household of David, born in Bethlehem in a supernatural way.

The Answer to Mens' Tragedy

If the Jewish people had a prophet today or if we would heed the words of God's prophets of old, we would cry out as did Hosea: "Come, and let us return unto the Lord; for he hath torn and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up" (Hosea 6:1).

God has already started to heal us. He is beginning to bind up our wounds. With these acts of mercy and restoration, God wants to woo us again to Himself. At the same time God's Word extends to us a warning in the words of the Apostle Paul:

Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and
long-suffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? (Romans 2:4).

Here is the answer for us as a special people of God and for you and me as individuals. What has happened cannot be changed. God's Word says that we have failed - not God. Herein are s