Moral Outrage

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The following is a freely-translated excerpt from a letter by the Rebbe to a young woman who wrote to him with several questions regarding faith and religion, and prefaced her letter with the statement, “I do not believe in G-d, having found no convincing proof of His existence.” In his reply, the Rebbe discusses, at some length, the logical and moral necessity for belief in G-d, and addresses her questions, which included the protestation, “Where was G-d during the Holocaust?” He then adds:

I have written all of the above in reply to your letter. In truth, however, not only do I not believe you when you say that you do not believe in G-d (G-d forbid), but it is also clear to me that you do not believe so either.

My proof of this is that on every occasion that you witness injustice in your surroundings, or when you think of the Holocaust perpetrated by Hitler (may his name be blotted out), as you mention in your letter, you are outraged. But if it were the case that the world has no Ruler and Planner, why should it surprise you that there transpire unjust things, and that whoever is bigger and more powerful than his fellow swallows him alive?

This applies not only to events on the scale of the Holocaust, but to the routine flow of our daily lives, in which every time we perceive something that is wrong and unjust, this disturbs our tranquillity, since we are convinced that things should not be this way. But why shouldn’t they? The physical substance of the universe is not moral, and neither are the plants and animals… Obviously, our outrage over the injustice we see derives from something higher than the physical reality – higher, even, than man. This “something” exists within every human heart and is the source of the conviction, shared by every human being, that there is right and wrong, and that the world ought to conform to what is right. Thus, when we witness a wrong, we immediately seek an explanation: Why is it so? What has caused something to be other than what it ought to be?

From a letter by the Rebbe dated Iyar 14, 5723 (May 8, 1963)[8]

Adapted from the teachings of the Rebbe by Yanki Tauber


[8]. Likkutei Sichot, vol. XXXIII, p. 254.

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