I remember a few years ago reading a compilation about the holocaust, including many articles about Agunas and such Halachic questions that were caused by the holocaust. It included a Hashkafa section where it quoted R' Desler posing a reason for the holocaust, and although it was quoted to be in Michtav M'Eliyahu V.3, I have never been able to locate it. Does anyone know of a source where he discusses the topic? Thanks!

1 Answer 1


Perhaps you mean vol IV, pg 124:

We are struck dumb at the terrible destruction that has been visited upon us in our generation, and we ask ourselves: For what reason has God done this to us… What is this great wrath? Let us examine this.

The entire period that preceded the destruction was a time when the burden of the exile was lightened upon the shoulders of the Jewish people…

Clearly, the period of the Emancipation was ordained by God to serve as a preparation for us for the coming of the Messiah, and it was for this purpose that the burden of exile was lightened upon us… Since we have turned the purpose upside down, and instead of understanding the hint from Above to prepare ourselves for redemption out of joy and expanding our consciousness, we used the new situation to assimilate. Therefore there awaited us the well-known danger of preparation for holiness that is not realized – as explained above. (And the fact that the destruction came only now, even though the process of assimilation was one that had developed gradually for a long time, is because God is long-suffering and does not bring punishment until the measure of sin is full, and there is no longer any hope of [a positive] influence bringing about a repair.

He seems to be saying it was because we had gone irrevocably down the road of assimilation. Hashem gave us the Emancipation for the sake of our having more tools to bring His redemption to the world, and instead we took it the opposite direction. And that had Hashem continued waiting for us to reverse course, we would have been irrevocably lost.

These words could be taken as an attack on the non-Orthodox, as David Landau did in "Piety & Power: The World of Jewish Fundamentalism." However, given historical context, it is more likely he is talking about assimilation's inroads in the Orthodox community; that even in the yeshivos boys were leaving left and right to secular nationalism (non-religious Zionism) and Communism.

There is even a hint of condemnation of chareidi life for becoming too insular and not taking advantage of the opportunity G-d gave us. Calling the Emancipation "a preparation for us for the coming of the Messiah" sounds more like Rav SR Hirsch or Neo-Orthodoxy in general than the stereotypical Lithuanian Jewish positions. (But then again, his own roots in Kelm were not stereotypical Lithuania; Kelm ran a gymnasia for a while.)

  • Kelm ran a gymnasia for a while it was not a deliberate choice
    – kouty
    Commented Oct 10, 2016 at 10:42
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    Um, Rav Dov Katz disagrees. The battle was wherher it could be maintained as desired without the Alter's supervision. They shut it down when the Alter was niftar at R Yisrael Salanter's request. It was all volitional. You know the story abput REED's fthaer maknmg him read Uncle Tom's Cabin? Commented Oct 10, 2016 at 10:48
  • Very interesting. I failed to understand the last statement because of my poor English knowledge. Effectively, writing historic facts is generally the fact of people who are engaged in actual conflicts and everyone use history as an argument. Very good. In a recent post someone asked (not recent but ruminated by the community website system) about RE Benhamozegh and orthodox world, orthodoxy in non-lituanian world was present and was different and has ceased to exist. So today it seems not orthodox
    – kouty
    Commented Oct 10, 2016 at 12:17
  • @kouty: Uncle Tom's Cabin is an anti-slavery novel by American author Harriet Beecher Stowe, published in 1852. R' Reuvein Dov Dessler home-schooled Elya-Lazer, the future R' EE Dessler, until he was old enough to enter Kelm. The older R' Dessler was Rosh Yeshiva of Kelm at the time. Part of the elder R' Dessler's curriculum for his son was Uncle Tom's Cabin in Russian translation. I got this from Yated Neeman (English Edition) 24 Teves 5754, in a subsection that was actually titled "Torah Im Derech Eretz—Kelm Style". (I got a copy of that Yated article after it was cited by R' JJ Schachter.) Commented Oct 11, 2016 at 8:53
  • @ interesting I read Uncle Tom's Cabin in my childhood. I can imagine that it has revolutionary taste in Russia to read this at revolutionary times
    – kouty
    Commented Oct 11, 2016 at 8:59

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