Beware of Castrated Multiple Choice Questions

It’s a typical technique by people trying to box you into going their way to present a phony set of castrated multiple choice questions.

The most infamous one is used by Christians who claim that Jesus had to be

A. Lord

B. Liar

C. Lunatic

When someone hands you a list like that, you can be sure they’re lying their asses off. But playing that game with us Perushim is a bad idea, cause we’re always way too good at finding more options to put on the table.

The Trillema of Lord, Liar or Lunatic makes it almost too easy once you examine the premises. The most basic premise is that Jesus made the statements that are attributed to him. No that’s wrong, actually the most basic premise is that Jesus even existed. Knock that out and you suddenly have a lot more options

So instead of a Trilemma you wind up with something like this

A. Liar

B. Lunatic

C. Never said anything of the kind

D. Was misinterpreted

E. Never existed

F. Diety

G. Liar and lunatic

H. Was misinterpreted but was a lunatic. He was actually talking about an alien invasion.

I. Sincerely meant what he said and was sane, but was still completely wrong

And we can keep going here because when you get right down to it, C.S. Lewis is no match for anyone’s read some Gemara.

Over on his site Rabbi Daniel Lapin comes up with an equally howly howler.

Anyone who believes in the God of Abraham, has only two choices when contemplating the Holocaust: (1) God was powerless to stop evil men from perpetrating the Holocaust and therefore allowed this unspeakable calamity to occur; or (2) He made it happen.

And no.

There’s actually a lot more choices than that.

A. God was powerless

B. God made it happen

C. God could have prevented it but chose not to

D. God prevented the full impact of the calamity while enabling some of it to happen and not intervening in some of what did happen.

There are more possible answers but D is the one that best fits the facts. But the bottom line is we don’t have the answer and the facetious logic of leading multiple choice questions doesn’t begin to clarify the mind of God.

We are all uneasy with implicating the victim in his own misfortune. Yet this does sometimes happen. Not every victim is virtuous. Traditional Judaism in its analysis of the brothers Jacob and Esau, informs us that when Jews abandon God’s Torah and try to assimilate, cosmic calamity invariably follows. Ancient Jewish wisdom offers the uncomfortable truth that anti-Semitism is often the warning sign that we Jews are out of line. In other words, anti-Semitism does not only highlight the evils of our tormentors, but it also shines a disturbing light upon our own flaws as a community.

Lapin is being a bit fuzzy about “Ancient Jewish Wisdom” here. The very first Holocaust of the Jews happened in Egypt. Yet we’re told that the Jews never changed their names or their clothes. Even before that we’re told Lavan tried to wipe out the Jewish people, even though Yaakov proclaimed that he lived among Lavan and remained pure.

Meanwhile when Yaakov returned to meet Esav, he tried to play up to Esav and succeeded and we use that as a model into the present day.

Antisemitism can happen when Jews don’t assimilate or when they do. Which kinda suggests there’s no such thing as antisemitic logic. Antisemitism is hatred of Jews. It really doesn’t matter what Jews do, we’ll still be hated. Pegging Antisemitism as a punishment or warning sign is oversimplifying it.

The definition of an antisemite is someone who hates Jews. Not some Jews, all Jews.

God does not tell antisemites to hate Jews. He might use them as tools, but neither does he interfere with their free will. Pharaoh didn’t decide to enslave the Jews because God told him to. God simply arranged for the Jews to be in a place where they would run into someone like Pharaoh. Esav didn’t hate Yaakov because God forced Esav to. Esav hated Yaakov because they represented diametrical opposites.

he very fact that it occurred in Germany is astounding. German Jews had served in the Kaiser’s army with distinction during World War I. German Jews had risen to cultural and economic prominence in Weimar Germany; even the country’s most influential daily newspaper (the equivalent of the New York Times) was owned by Jews.

Poland was a far more likely nation to have spawned the Holocaust. It was there that millions of Jews stood out with their distinctive costume, looking like the cast of Fiddler on the Roof. It was in Poland that generations of anti-Semitism had bred a fanatical distrust and hatred for Jews. Polish Jews had acquired very little prominence and power. Had the Holocaust been launched by Poland, I would have considered it an almost natural event—something to be expected from the historic and current social condition of Polish Jews.

The Holocaust mostly did occur in Poland. The bulk of the concentration camps were in Poland. The worst massacres happened in Poland. A lot more Polish Jews died in the Holocaust than German Jews, in number and percentage wise.

But Poland was in no shape to conquer half of Europe. Germany Was. And now you know the end of the story.

The sheer incomprehensibility of Germany unleashing its fury on Jews makes it a shocking testament to God’s involvement in World War II.

What’s incomprehensible about it? German Anti-semitism was always high. Germany had a long history of hating Jews and killing Jews. Hitler didn’t come and suddenly make Germans hate Jews. He just exploited what was already there.

Let us avoid the Holocaust becoming an icon of communal atheism. For many, remembering the Holocaust has become a secular Jewish observance. Their cry is “Where was God?”

If they’re asking where was God, that’s neither a secular nor atheistic question. It’s actually a reasonable religious question that can begin a serious discussion. Granted there’s no answer, not the atheistic God doesn’t exist or Lapin’s, God killed everyone because he hated Jews dressing like Europeans (I mean the modern 19th century Europeans, not the 18th Polish Europeans).

The answer is there is no answer. God didn’t send a prophet to tell us the Holocaust was coming. All that we know is that it happened. We don’t have any more answers than that and anyone who insists on giving us glib answers should be distrusted, punched in the face and given a job entertaining senile tourists in the Catskills.