Friday, May 02, 2008

Yom haShoah - "Breaking the Tablets" by David haLivni

I have read the argument that the Shoah is sui generis, incomparable to other tragedies in Jewish history, but have never quite been fully convinced. I say that fully aware that living at least a generation or two removed from the immediate historical context of the Shoah perhaps dulls one’s sensitivity to the events that occurred, but by the same token, those who experienced the Shoah live many generations removed from events like the Churban, the Spanish Inquisition, the Crusades, etc. Must we rank tragedies in order to fully appreciate the horror and significance of what occurred? Is there any historical or theological value to such rankings?

My reservations aside, I recently read and would recommend R’ David HaLivni’s Breaking the Tablets: Jewish Theology After the Shoah for a scholarly yet heartfelt articulation of the sui generis argument. Aside from making a historical argument, HaLivni also argues based on sources in Tanach and elsewhere that destruction on the scale of the Shoah cannot be attributed to our sins alone (an approach discussed here once before). The theological approach to the Shoah which he develops as well as some of the other issues he brings up deserve a full discussion best left for another time. I don't pretend to agree with everything he writes, but do find his essays well thought out and intriguing (life would be pretty boring if you only read books which you agree with). Just as an aside as it relates to the book, the content would I think have been better served as a long essay published in non-book format (as I believe it originally was) without the added introductory pieces written by Professor Ochs which in my opinion added little to the work.

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