There is a controversial analogy attributed to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, in which the Shoah is looked upon as a surgical procedure, with God being likened to a surgeon who removes a limb in the best interests of his patient. I refer to it as "controversial" only because it has inspired argument and debate, and not as a value judgment. I would like to see it, however, in print.

My research into this question has so far yielded the following results:

  1. The initial publication, either by the Rebbe or quoting the Rebbe, was in an issue of Mada' veEmunah (Kfar Chabad: Makhon Lubavitch, 1980).
  2. MK Haika Grossman (who took part in the Białystok Ghetto Uprising of 1943) was offended by the Rebbe's analogy and published a response on August 22nd the same year in a left-wing paper called Al haMishmar.
  3. The Rebbe saw Mrs Grossman's response to him and replied, both defending his analogy and attempting to explain it, on August 28th (16th Elul). His response has been published in Liqqutei Sikhot XXI (פרשת יתרו - הוספות), pp397-400.

My sources for the foregoing include a very strongly-worded article by Prof. Yehuda Bauer (here), Prof. Bauer's subsequent article in Haaretz (translated here), and two responses to that article: one by R' Eliezer Shemtov (translated here) and the other published at chabad.info.

Let me be very clear what I am asking for and what I am not asking for.

I want to see the original article, which was published in Mada' veEmunah, to which Mrs Grossman responded in August of that year and to which the Rebbe subsequently made reference one week later.

I am not asking for people's opinions on the validity or the cogency of this analogy, on the Lubavitcher Rebbe or on Prof. Yehuda Bauer.

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    The newspaper Maariv seems to have an article (from 4/19/2004) that quotes portions of the original article. One scanned page of the Maariv article can be found here. If you have access to Maariv archives, perhaps you can check the rest of the article to see if they provide a citation to an alternate publication containing the original article. Additionally, see here (fn. 18), which provides slightly different citations from the ones in your question.
    – Fred
    Commented May 30, 2014 at 3:22
  • Very interesting - thank you! Unless "1972" is a typo, perhaps it was republished eight years later? It's hard to imagine that Prof Bauer could have made so glaring a mistake in two separate articles and not have been corrected by any of his respondents.
    – Shimon bM
    Commented May 30, 2014 at 4:34
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    This question amounts to "Here's a citation of, and some additional info about, an article. Can anyone locate a copy for me?". I can't think of a closure reason, but it seems like a very un-Stack-Exchange-y question.
    – msh210
    Commented May 30, 2014 at 8:25
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    @Fred, I suggest that you re-post your comment as an answer. It's not all of what Shimon is asking for, but it gets partway there, both in terms of finding part of the requested article and exposing part of a trail that might lead to the whole thing.
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented May 30, 2014 at 14:15
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    @msh210, I disagree. This is the sort of long-tail question that SE is great for. It does feel strange that the question is much more detailed than the desired answer would likely be, but I can't think of a reason why that's bad, in this case. Although the answer could be a one-liner, it'd be information that only the right kind of expert is likely to have, which would be meritorious of us to facilitate.
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented May 30, 2014 at 14:19

1 Answer 1


B"H, the photos of the original follow. It was published at Kfar Chabad in 1977 based upon two talks of the Rebbe. One from Simchat Torah 1970 and the other from 11 Nisan, 1973.

This is the link to the Rebbe's sicha in Yiddish from the 11th of Nisan 1973. The relevant section begins in the 3rd paragraph on page folio 22 and goes to page 25. Sichot Kodesh 5733 Vol 1

It is worth noting that the original talks by the Rebbe do not have the language about a surgeon removing limbs. And it begs the question where this idea came from in the edited booklet printed in Kefar Chabad in 1977.

A little further investigation gives some insight into who may have written the booklet and how this idea got inserted into the discussion.

The exact language appears in a private letter from the winter of 1954 (5714) that the Rebbe wrote to Rabbi Bentzion Shemtov, the father of Rabbi Avraham Shemtov. Rabbi Bentzion Shemtov was a Shaliach to England for many years and the letter was in answer to specific questions that Rabbi Shemtov had concerning the subject of Divine Providence and how to relate this to the Holocaust. This letter was reprinted in Igrot Kodesh, Vol. 8, pp. 180-182. It appears that the question from Rabbi Shemtov related somehow to people who had walked away from observance after the Holocaust.

It is of interest to note that Rabbi Bentzion Shemtov went to Kefar Chabad to establish a printing and bookbinding cooperative for Russian-Jewish immigrants to Israel following Shavuot of 5735 (1975), which he spent with the Rebbe in Crown Heights in New York. On the 5th of Tammuz, only 28 days later, he was struck by a car and killed. He was buried in Jerusalem. The booklet, Emunah v'Mada, may have been something he was working on himself or was printed by the cooperative he established as a tribute for his second yartzeit.

Copies of those pages appear below after those from the booklet 'Emunah v'Mada' for comparison.

An interesting and relevant link giving some background on Rabbi Shemtov is found here.Rabbi Bentzion Shemtov bio

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This is the letter from Igrot Kodesh, Volume 8

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    +1. By the way, Simchas Torah of 5731 was 1970, not 1971. | Also, if you're interested, there are clearer images of some of the relevant portions in my comment here.
    – Fred
    Commented Aug 22, 2016 at 23:43
  • @Fred Good catch on the date. I was rushing to get the images uploaded and just figured the date in my head. These are hand held photos from my paper copy. Is it legible to you? Commented Aug 22, 2016 at 23:59
  • I hit your link and it flagged your comment. Not intended. Commented Aug 23, 2016 at 0:05
  • If I get enough requests, I'll take it to be scanned and maybe put together a single PDF. Can we upload PDFs to this site? Commented Aug 23, 2016 at 0:09
  • Thank you very much! This is perfect, and I appreciate the effort that you went to in providing the scans.
    – Shimon bM
    Commented Sep 14, 2016 at 5:54

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