During a lecture addressing the Torah perspective on the Holocaust, a Rosh Yeshiva mentioned a letter which Rav Aharon Kotler z"tl wrote telling someone to remain in Europe because the war would blow over. This Rosh Yeshiva said that there are times when our actions as a nation may cause Hashem to remove certain foresight from Gedolei Yisroel.

Where is this concept mentioned?

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    This is mentioned explicitly in Sefer Avkat Rochel in relation to the ‘days of Moshiach’ and the first of the ten signs related to the coming of Moshiach. Commented Jul 5, 2019 at 1:53
  • Avkas Rochel - Rav Yosef Karo?
    – sam
    Commented Jul 5, 2019 at 1:57
  • The answer below is possibly where this notion originated from, though in the specific context of the Holocaust I’ve heard it in the name of the Belzer Rebbe, R. Aharon who explained the verse that God hid his face (divine knowledge) even from the righteous leaders. (I heard this from an elderly Belzer chassid who, if I’m not mistaken, heard it from R. Aharon when he himself misguided (?) some followers.)
    – Oliver
    Commented Jul 5, 2019 at 3:24

1 Answer 1


Gittin 56b seems the clearest example, and I have heard this quoted in regards to the Holocaust. Raban Yochanan ben Zakai, effectively chief rabbi of the Jews, is negotiating with the Roman Emperor Vespasian just outside of Jerusalem, shortly before the Romans attack the city (c. 70 CE):

בעי מינאי מידי דאתן לך אמר ליה תן לי יבנה וחכמיה ושושילתא דרבן גמליאל ואסוותא דמסיין ליה לרבי צדוק קרי עליה רב יוסף ואיתימא רבי עקיבא (ישעיהו מד) משיב חכמים אחור ודעתם יסכל איבעי למימר ליה לשבקינהו הדא זימנא והוא סבר דלמא כולי האי לא עביד והצלה פורתא נמי לא הוי

Vespasian told the rabbi -- ask of me something I can give you. He replied: give me [the Northern city of] Yavneh and is scholars; the lineage of Raban Gamliel; and doctors to heal Rabbi Tzadok.

[Decades later], Rav Yosef -- or some say Rabbi Akiva, commented on this encounter by quoting the verse (Isaiah 44): He pushes the wise aside, and their minds go foolish. He should have asked to leave [Jerusalem] alone that time! [What was RYBZ doing planning a post-Temple Judaism when the Roman leader could have called off the Jerusalem campaign entirely!] RYBZ himself thought that if the Roman was asked for all of that, he would refuse and not even minor relief would occur.

So the Gemara is saying G-d kept Raban Yochanan ben Zakai from logic that could have prevented the Second Temple's destruction; it's not a difficult jump from that to many rabbis' suggestions to stay in Eastern Europe. (I don't see anything about this per se being the nation's fault; once the nation no longer deserved a Temple, the Talmud here is saying G-d allowed the pieces to fall into place.)

  • Not Jewish, but are you really implying that the Holocaust was the fault of the Jewish people?
    – nick012000
    Commented Jul 5, 2019 at 12:20
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    @nick012000 most religious Jews believe that, yes. It doesn't absolve the perpetrators from guilt of course.
    – user15253
    Commented Jul 5, 2019 at 12:30
  • @nick012000 consider judaism.stackexchange.com/q/8855/759
    – Double AA
    Commented Jul 5, 2019 at 14:31
  • From memory Another explanation I saw as to why he didn’t ask to have Yerushalayim saved, was that Raban Yochanan didn’t want to ask to much in case he got nothing at all. Will follow up on this. Commented Jul 5, 2019 at 16:27
  • While the answer is great in general it appears that the examples are different, in the question, "G-d gave" (seemingly) totally wrong advice, overriding לא תעמוד על דם רעך and לפני עוור. Think about a simpler case - one throws a coin and prays to G-d to guide his decision - to flee or stay in Nazi Europe. The coin says to stay - how G-d can be judged?
    – Al Berko
    Commented Jul 6, 2019 at 19:49

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