When he was 15 and a prisoner at Auschwitz, the writer Elie Wiesel watched as three Jewish scholars put God on trial for indifference to the suffering of his people. They charged him with cruelty and betrayal. They found no consolation in the usual answers to the problem of evil and suffering in the midst of this current obscenity. In allowing the Nazis to commit genocide, had God broken His covenant with the Jewish people? Was the Holocaust was an act of purification, like Noah’s flood? Or was the Holocaust evidence, as writer and Holocaust survivor Primo Levi argued, that God does not – indeed cannot – exist? They could find no excuse for God, no extenuating circumstances.
At the end of the trial, they used the word chayav, rather than ‘guilty’ which means ‘He owes us something’. The Rabbi pronounced the verdict. Then he looked up and said that the trial was over: it was time for the evening prayer.
Fr Michael Smith SJ