There is Nothing Final About the Death of God

by Richard L. Rubenstein (April 2010)


In November 2005 I received word that my first-born son, age 57, had a malignant brain tumor. I kept in touch with him by visits and telephone. By midwinter 2006-2007 he could no longer speak. Breathing had become difficult although he could understand what was said to him. Nevertheless, he fought to stay alive to be with  his wife Carol, to whom he was devoted, but she knew his time had come, an opinion shared by his doctor. On February 5, 2007, she asked me by phone: “Please tell him it’s all right to die.”  
 
I asked her if the speakerphone was connected. She said that it was. 
 
“Aaron,” I asked, “can you hear me?” Carol told me that he nodded affirmatively.
 
“Aaron,” I continued, “God calls us into life. When our time comes, He calls us back to Himself. It’s all right to go”
 
Aaron died the next day.
 
I had given my son permission to die and he had taken it. In spite of the fact that neither he nor Carol, whose background is Southern Baptist, had ever joined a religious community, such permission could only meaningfully be given in the language of religion. In any other language, I might have seemed harsh and perhaps unfeeling. By telling him that God was calling him back, I was relating his dying to the cosmic order of things. I was also offering an implicit but credible theodicy.
 
Throughout much of my career, I have been regarded as the Jewish death-of-God theologian. By contrast, I see myself as a Holocaust theologian. My own understanding of the “death of God” was essentially my response to the Shoah, the Holocaust. Over time, especially during my Harvard doctoral studies and my crucial encounter with Probst [Dean] Heinrich Grüber in Berlin on August 17, 1961, I became and remain convinced that, at least in Jewish thought, a providential understanding of Divinity could not be maintained in the face of twentieth-century Jewish history. As I have written elsewhere, my meeting with Probst Grüber took place at his home in Berlin-Dahlem during the week the East German republic erected the Berlin Wall. Grüber told me that he saw God’s chastising, providential judgment in both the erection of the Wall and the Shoah. I responded that I would rather be an atheist, which I am not, than believe in such a God.[1] Nevertheless, I am of the opinion that a Christian providential interpretation of history  might retain a measure of plausibility were the evidence of Jewish history its primary source of validation and were the Shoah taken to be God’s response to continuing Jewish “unbelief.” That, apparently, was the view of Karl Barth, arguably the greatest Protestant theologian of the twentieth century and a consistent opponent of both anti-Semitism and National Socialism, when he wrote in his Church Dogmatics:
 
There is no doubt that Israel hears; now less than ever, can it shelter behind the pretext of ignorance and inability to understand. But Israel hears-and does not believe.[2]
 
By coincidence, when the first edition of After Auschwitz[3]was published, I was acquainted with Markus Barth, Karl’s son. At the time, he taught at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. I taught at the University of Pittsburgh. His daughter Rosa and my step-daughter Liora were high school classmates. When the book first appeared, Barth wrote a very long review for a local Pittsburgh weekly. Although there was nothing personal, the essay was the most vehemently hostile review the book received at the time. Barth was, of course, defending what he regarded as an indispensable article of Christian faith, namely, that the vicissitudes of Jewish history were an expression of God’s providential plan for Israel’s fate and destiny.
 
I have always maintained that, whatever we mean by the “death of God,” under no circumstance does it mean the death of religion. Given the transitional nature of human existence, human beings need structures that give their ever-changing horizons a sense of order and continuity. That is especially true of those moments of crisis that sociologist Peter Berger has identified as “marginal situations,” that is, situations that stand outside reality “as commonly defined.”[4] Berger identified the “confrontation with death” as “probably the most important marginal situation.”  
 
Our sense of “reality” is dependent upon “conversations” with others that begin in the very first year of life. Through these conversations, both spoken and non-verbal, we begin to understand our “world” and our place in it. We come to know whom we may trust, whom we might have reason to fear, and what is expected of us. It is through such conversations that we acquire language and a sense of identity. For most of us, the most enduringly significant others are family members. We become socialized and civilized through interaction with them. In the very beginning, it is the mother or, in some societies, the maternal surrogate, who gives us our primal sense of security and stability, what the late psychoanalyst Erik Erikson referred to as “basic trust.”  [5]
 
Inevitably, family relationships change. The family that gives us a sense of stability and structure is itself to a degree unstable. When a significant person in our life, especially a family member, dies, the conversation is disrupted, as it was with Aaron’s passing, and our horizon of reality is radically altered. As Berger comments:
 
Death radically challenges all socially objectivated definitions of reality-of the world, of others, and of self. Death radically puts in question the taken-for-granted, “business-as-usual” attitude in which one exists in everyday life.
 
Throughout human history and memory, the transformation into inert, decaying, non-responsive matter of those who have been a vital part of our lives has arguably been our most difficult experience, especially if there is a remainder of unfinished moral or psychological business with the deceased, such as persisting love or guilt. A way must be found to restore the “sense of continuity and sameness” that had united the individual’s “inner and outer world.” In each of the great religious traditions, this is done by “imparting to the individual “the ‘knowledge’ that even the most radical marginal situations have a place within a universe that makes sense.”[vi]
 
This ‘knowledge” is more likely to be imparted by participatory religious rituals than by formulaic recitations of belief. Such rituals have been a part of human experience long before men and women came to believe in an omnipotent, monotheistic personal God, certainly long before the Judeo-Christian God of history. Participatory rituals can be a far more potent agency of nomization, that is, the “continuing social process of meaning creation and maintenance that is essential to keep anomie at bay,” than declarative statements about God that purport to be objective statements of fact.[vii]  
Throughout human history, traditionally prescribed rites of passage, such as circumcision, baptism, puberty rites, initiation rituals, weddings, and funerals, have played a singularly important role in the nomization process. Rites of passage symbolize and bring about a transition in the individual’s status within his or her community. Such rites may differ in detail from one culture to another, but they are essentially universal and meet universal human needs. [viii]

In the case of funeral, internment and mourning rituals, for example, the mandatory disposal of human remains is transformed into a ceremony of leave-taking, honoring the deceased, and consoling the mourners at a time when they are least able to rely on their own emotional resources. It is possible, to create secular rituals of mourning and leave-taking, but few non-believers choose such an option. By virtue of their synthetic or private character, secular rituals lack the accumulated wisdom of the race in facing such crises. Whether we believe in a radically transcendent God or regard God as the Holy Nothingness-Das Heilige Nichts- as does this writer, or are deeply skeptical about the existence of God altogether, there are moments in life for which the rites of our inherited traditions of our respective communities are, for most of us, indispensable.

Nor need we be believers to participate in or even lead the rituals of our religious communities. On a number of occasions, I have served as the Doktorvater (the Ph.D. thesis advisor) of ordained ministers of conservative Protestant denominations. They were eminently suited morally, intellectually, and culturally to pursue their vocations. From time to time some of them would express doubts concerning the credibility of their community’s official religious narrative. Nevertheless, most have gone on to distinguished careers in the ministry.

In my own case, when my first book, After Auschwitz, was published,
[ix] there were people who thought I was attempting to discredit religious belief and practice. In reality, I was attempting to salvage what I believed could be salvageable. In the Preface to the second edition, I wrote about the first edition:
 
…there was a strongly conservative element in the book: unable to defend traditional religious belief, I attempted a functional defense of traditional religious institutions and practices, that is, a defense in terms of the human needs religion met. Men and women need rites de passage …. No two persons will have the same ritual needs at every stage in the timetable of life. Still, the needs are there and have to be met whether or not a person finds traditional belief credible.[x]
 
That has remained my fundamental conviction to this day.
 
In addition to rites of passage, other rituals meet indispensable human needs, for example, those that express and seek to resolve familial intergenerational and sibling conflict. Father Abraham hears a voice commanding the sacrifice of Isaac; Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers are caught up in family strife.  One such ritual is the Jewish ceremony of the “redemption of the first born,” the pidyon ha-ben which is also a rite of passage.  According to Exodus 13: 1-2, God is depicted as commanding Israel:
 
The Lord spoke further unto Moses, saying, “Consecrate unto Me every first-born; man and beast, the first issue of every womb among the Israelites is Mine.[xi]
 
This injunction is followed in verse 13 of the same chapter: “And you must redeem every first-born male among your children.”
 
A similar injunction is repeated elsewhere in Scripture, but the passage in Exodus 22: 28-29 is of special interest:
 
You shall not put off the skimming of the first yield of your vats. You shall give Me the first-born among your sons. 29. You shall do the same with your cattle and your flocks: seven days it shall remain with its mother; on the eighth day you shall give it to Me.  
 
In his commentary on Exodus, Jeffrey H. Tigay, notes, “Here no provision for redemption is mentioned.”[xii] The verse clearly reflects a time when child sacrifice was not impermissible.[xiii] As Harvard’s Jon Levenson has pointed out, the binding of Isaac (Gen. 22) presupposes that God is within His rights, so to speak, in demanding the sacrifice of Isaac. Ezekiel (20-25) goes so far as to acknowledge that there was a time when YHWH actually demanded such sacrifices:
 
I in turn gave them laws that were not good and rules by which they could not live. When they set aside every first issue of the womb, I defiled them by their very gifts-that I might render them desolate, that they might know that I am the Lord. [xiv]
 
In reflecting on the issue of child sacrifice in Judaism and Christianity, Levenson comments, “…the mythic-ritual complex that I have been calling ‘child sacrifice’ was never eradicated; it was only transformed.”[xv] 
 
The pidyon ha-ben ceremony is an example of that transformation. It plays the same role in rabbinic Judaism as does the ram that serves as a surrogate offering for Isaac in the Aqedah. My experience was typical.[xvi]  On “the thirty-first day” of his birth, Aaron, my first-born, was brought into the room in a cradle of pillows placed on a silver tray. I then handed my son over to a kohen, a hereditary priest who could by family tradition trace his lineage back to the Israelite priesthood of biblical times.  
 
In accordance with the prescribed ritual, I then declared to the kohen:
 
This is my son, first-born of his mother. The Holy One, praised be He, has commanded that he be redeemed, as it is written: “And those that are to be redeemed of them from a month old shall you redeem…for the money of five shekel after the shekel of the Sanctuary….”
 
And it is written, “Consecrate unto Me every first-born, of man and of beast. It is Mine.” (Ex. 13:2)
 
I dutifully took out five silver dollars, the symbolic equivalent of the biblical shekels and placed the coins in front of the kohen. The kohen then asked:
 
Would you rather offer your first-born son, the first-born of his mother, or would you rather redeem him for the five selaim (shekels) which you are bound to give according to the Torah?
 
There was, of course, only one possible response, but there was also a hint of an older darker response.

Of all the festivals of the religious calendar, none has the power to bring about the participation of even the most secularized Jews as does the Passover meal, the Seder. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur have a solemnity that brings Jews to the synagogue in large numbers; the Seder, customarily a home ritual, is the dominant ritual of Passover. At one level, the Seder recalls the story of Israel’s liberation from Egyptian bondage, but there are other levels that look back to archaic Semitic communion sacrifices and anticipate elements of the Christian Eucharist. When, for example, Paul of Tarsus identified Christ as “our Passover” (I Cor. 5:8) which has been “sacrificed,” he was undoubtedly following a tradition in the primitive Christian Church (John 1:29 and 1 Peter 1: 19-20). As the “lamb of God,” Christ was thus identified with the most archaic sacrificial offering in Judaism.
[xvii]The archaic character of the sacrifice is apparent in the account in Exodus:
 
On the tenth day of this month each of them shall take a lamb to a family, a lamb to a household… without blemish, a yearling male….And you shall keep watch over it until the fourteenth day of this month; and all the congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. They shall take some of the blood, and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel in which they are to eat it. They shall eat the flesh that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire, and unleavened bread and with bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw, or cooked in any way with water, but roasted- head, legs, and entrails-- over the fire. You shall not leave any of it over until morning; if any of it is left until morning, You shall burn it. (Exod. 12:3-10).
 
The whole community took collective responsibility for the sacrificial slaughter, and all were required to take part in the consumption of the victim. Even the head and the genitals had to be eaten. Moreover, the prohibition against eating the animal raw or cook hints at a practice that was either a past memory and a present temptation or a current temptation among some of the Hebrews or their neighbors.

Passover also contains traces of a time when the sacrificial killing of the first-born male was practiced in Israel. We have noted that Exodus 13:2 contains the injunction that "whatever opens the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and beast" is to be "consecrated" unto God. In the biblical account of the ten plagues, the final plague visited upon the Egyptians was the slaughter of their first-born sons. As the Seder ritual emphasizes, the Israelite first-born escape because they have obeyed God’s command to smear the blood of the lamb on their doorposts (Exod. 12:13, 12:39). Absent the blood, which serves as evidence that the surrogate lamb had been slaughtered, the biblical account indicates that the Israelite first-born would have met the same fate as the Egyptians. 
 
Paul’s identification of Christ with the paschal lamb completes the circle. When he argued that Christians are "justified" by means of Christ's "blood" (Rom. 5:9), it would appear that he regarded Christ as the perfect paschal lamb (I Cor. 5:8). However, Paul’s paschal lamb is no longer a surrogate. The victim reappears in divine-human form.
 
Both ancient and modern authorities have also noted a parallel be­tween the paschal lamb and the ram that God accepts in place of Isaac (Gen. 22). The late Shalom Spiegel has pointed out that Jewish tradition often treated Isaac as if he had actually been slain by Abraham.[xviii]Some of the traditions cited by Spiegel even claimed that, after having been slain, Isaac was resurrected from the dead.[xix] There are important parallels be­tween Isaac and Jesus in these traditions. In Jewish sources, Isaac's trustful obedience even unto death is often stressed. Moreover, he is frequently treated as a vicarious atonement for Israel's sins. For example, on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, God is implored to forgive rather than slay the house­hold of Israel because of the merits of Isaac's obedience on Mount Moriah.[xx]
 
Spiegel explicitly rejected the notion that Jews took up the theme of Isaac's sacrifice as a vicarious atonement be­cause of Christian influence. On the contrary, he maintained that the theme entered Christianity from Judaism and that Paul of Tar­sus was the mediating link. Although the comparison is not explicit in Paul’s extant writings, his insistence upon Christ as the perfect atonement for the sins of humanity suggests that for Paul as well as for those early fathers of the Church who explicitly take up the com­parison, Isaac's Aqedah is an aborted Golgotha;[xxi] Isaac is depicted as lacking the capacity to redeem mankind because he did not really die on his wooden pyre. By contrast, in Christianity Jesus’ atoning death at the Passover season effects a convergence of redemptive themes: Jesus is the perfect lamb; he is also the perfect Isaac. His sacrifice is alone efficacious. Like the Law, Isaac is said to anticipate redemption but cannot achieve it. Jesus dies for all men's sins, but most especially for the sin of Adam.
 
In his study of child sacrifice in Judaism and Christianity, Jon Levenson stresses the importance of the act as a selfless gift of the most precious thing one can offer God or the gods. Nevertheless, at some level, the “gift” may not be entirely selfless. The Bible reflects an enormous amount of intergenerational ambivalence. The story of Abraham is typical. He yearns for the blessing of an heir, yet when the heir is on the point of manhood, Abraham hears God’s command to offer him “as a burnt offering.” (Gen: 22:2) Could there have been more involved for Abraham than selfless obedience? The story of Jephthah and his daughter reveals a comparable ambivalence with a sorrier outcome. (Jud 11:30-11:40).
 
We would do well not to ignore Oedipus. Oedipus does not want to kill his father and marry his mother. Nevertheless, every step he takes to escape that outcome brings him closer to the fatal encounter at the crossroads. Intergenerational conflict works both ways.
 
Sigmund Freud saw a universal human ambivalence at work in parent-child relations. If I am honest, there have been times when it was present in my relations with Aaron and my other children and their relations with me. Such ambivalence is also present in the biblical image of God. In addition to being the beneficent Progenitor, the Heavenly Father is also a wrathful infanticide. Even the Christian God requires such a sacrifice although it is God in His person as the Son who offers Himself. When one measures the miniscule offense that brought death to Adam and his progeny against the severity of the retaliation, there is no way to ignore the infanticidal aspect of the biblical God, unless somewhere in the recesses of biblical man's psyche there lodged the memory of a crime great enough to cause men to believe they had reason to fear their Heavenly Father’s retaliatory aggression.
 
Freud believed there was such an event which he characterized as the “primal crime.” He argued that the Eucharist as interpreted by Paul was in fact a dramatic reenactment of the moral catastrophe with which human civilization, religion, and morality began.[xxii] Freud's attempt to reconstruct the origins of religion through a myth of primal parricide is enormously enlightening without necessarily being literally true. I stress the word myth because I believe it can help us to understand what is emotionally at stake in certain crucial aspects of Judaism and Christianity. Briefly stated, Freud argued that, before human religious and social institutions developed as we know them, men dwelt in compact hordes consisting of a dominant tyrannical father, his harem consisting of the group’s females, and some younger male offspring. The older male had exclusive sexual possession of the harem and maintained his monopoly by infanticide, castration, and expulsion of his own sons, his potential rivals. Eventually, the sons were driven by sexual need to gain access to their father’s women by banding together and eliminating the father in an act of cannibalistic parricide.
 
There was much about the father the sons admired and wished to emulate in spite of their envious hatred. They wanted to be like him, enjoy his sexual prerogatives, and do away with him at the same time. In Freud’s myth, the exiled brothers solved the problem of eliminating and simultaneously becoming like the father by eating him. Since love and hate were intertwined in the original act, their victory was pyrrhic. They were driven by guilt to deny that the father was dead which only made matters worse. The sons could not cancel out their memories of the deed or their fear, however repressed, of the victim's retaliation. Denial left the band of brothers with no way realistically to evaluate the dead father’s power; guilt drove them to ascribe such extraordinary powers to him that he became for them the Father in heaven. Freud's implicit definition of God is both paradoxical and compelling: The heavenly Father is the first object of human criminality. Men willingly obey his "law" because of their fear that he will retaliate against them as deicides.
 
Moreover, while the sons were unable consciously to admit their deed, they were inwardly compelled endlessly to repeat the act as a kind of unknowing confession in dramatic form. The repetition took the form of the archaic totem sacrifice, which Freud regarded as "perhaps man­kind's oldest festival." He maintained that the totem animal was normally regarded as sacrosanct, but on certain festival occasions the entire group was compelled to reenact the deed by slaughtering, consuming, and mourning the very animal regarded as the tribal ancestor. 
 
Freud pointed to many examples of animals that were identified with heroes, ancestors, and gods and argued that the totem animal was in reality a surrogate for the murdered father. In dreams, poetry, religious symbolism, myth, and individual neurosis, a similar process of identification continues to this day. One of the most beautiful examples of this kind of identification in the history of art can be seen in the great van Eyck altarpiece in Ghent, Belgium, "The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb," in which all of the figures are turned reverently toward the central figure, the Mystic Lamb, who is of course Christ, "the lamb of God."
 
The totem sacrifice was thus both a confession and a reenactment of the unconsciously remembered deed. Remorse and self-assertion were commingled in the reenactment, as love and hate had been in the original deed. The totem sacrifice was also an expression of "deferred obedience" to the murdered father. The sons quickly learned that they could not indulge in unrestricted sexual license with the slain father's women without grave conflict among them­selves. Having killed to acquire the women, in order to maintain fraternal solidarity the sons voluntarily im­posed the father's sexual restraints upon themselves. No man could partake of the totem sacrifice, thereby repeating symbolically the original deed, if he were guilty of violating the newly instituted tribal taboo against incest.
 
We cannot enter into the manifold ramifications of Freud’s myth save to note that both the Passover meal and the Eucharist can be seen as containing hints of the archaic  sacrificial meal. Moreover, a crucial element in the myth is the death and resurrection of the God-figure, God after the death of God, just as a crucial element in the Christian narrative is also the death and resurrection of God which in turn is related to the Aqedah and the multiform forms of intergenerational aggression present in early Semitic religion.
 
An indispensable element in the maintenance of civilization has had to be the overcoming of the worst and most dangerous aspects of that aggression. One solution has always been to direct the aggression externally towards those outside a community’s universe of moral obligation through war or through targeting a powerless minority group as scapegoats.
 
Nevertheless, such strategies are seldom adequate.  Other ways must be found to restore whatever internal solidarity and moral cohesion is possible within the family and the larger community. Religious rituals are by no means perfect instruments but, even for the unbelieving, they impart a sense of seriousness and solemnity to the occasions they celebrate or commemorate that are possessed by no other institutions. As noted above, they also enable the individual to transform the ongoing flow of experience into recognition of one’s place in the timetable of life. 
 
Almost three hundred people attended Aaron’s funeral in Nassau. All were Christian, save for the immediate family. As all who attended understood, there was only one appropriate form of leave-taking for Aaron, the Jewish funeral service. When Aaron’s remains were placed in the ground, I could not help but think of the circumcision on his eighth day, the pidyon ha-ben on the thirty-first day, and the hopes I had for him as a young father. Now, it was finished. Yet, religious tradition had structured the rites of leave-taking and mourning so that our family could receive a measure of consolation. In Nassau, tradition had made it possible for me to be comforted by people I had never met before, friends and co-workers who had known and worked with Aaron over the years. Their presence took some of the sting out of a bitter time. In Fairfield, friends offered their consolation at the shiva-Minyan, the traditional home memorial service, and the synagogue service. Without tradition and its rites, some people would undoubtedly have expressed their condolences, but it would have been ad hoc and helter-skelter both in Fairfield and Nassau.
 
There is nothing final about the death of God.
 


[1] A description of the encounter is to be found in the chapter entitled “The Dean and the Chosen People” in Richard L. Rubenstein, After Auschwitz: History, Theology, and Contemporary Judaism, 2nd ed. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992), pp. 3-13.
[2] Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, trans. G. Bromiley et al. (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1957), II, 2, p. 235. 
[3] Richard L. Rubenstein, After Auschwitz: Radical Theology and Contemporary Judaism, 1st ed. (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1966)
[4] Peter Berger, The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion (Garden City, N Y: Anchor Books, 1967),  pp. 43-45.
[5] See"Erik H. Erikson, Identity, Youth, and Crisis ( New York: W. W. Norton), p. 82 and Erikson, Childhood and Society (New York: W.W. Norton, 1993), p. 247.
[vi] Berger, op. cit., p.44.
[vii] The definition of nomization is to be found in Tim Jackson, “Consuming Paradise? - Unsustainable consumption in cultural and social-psychological context,” Centre for Environmental Strategy, University of Surrey (UK), http://72.14.209.104/search?q=cache:C1cTRXRHlksJ:homepages.see.leeds.ac.uk/~leckh/leeds04/1.2Consuming%2520Paradise.pdf+nomization&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=7&gl=us.
[viii] See Arnold van Gennep, The Rites of Passage (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960).
[ix] Richard L. Rubenstein, After Auschwitz: Radical Theology and Contemporary Judaism, 1st ed. (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1966).
[x] Richard L. Rubenstein, After Auschwitz: History, Theology and Contemporary Judaism (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992), pp. xii-xiii.
[xi] Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Breitler, The Jewish Study Bible (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), p.131. Unless otherwise noted, all English translations of Scripture in this essay are from this volume.
[xii] The Jewish Study Bible: Tanakh Translation (New York: Oxford, 1985),p.157.
[xiii] This subject is elegantly and authoritatively covered by Jon Levenson, The Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993).
[xiv] Levenson, op. cit. p. 5..
[xv] Levenson, op. cit., p. 45 (emphasis by author).
[xvi] I describe the pidyon ha-ben ceremony in detail in Richard L Rubenstein, Power Struggle: An Autobiographical Confession (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1974), pp. 112-113.
[xvii] See W.O.E. Oesterley, Sacrifices in Ancient Israel, Their Origin, Purposes and Development (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1937), pp. 99 ff. The Passover may originally have been a night, spring, and full moon festival of desert nomads. Other scholars distinguish between an original Canaanite agrarian feast of unleavened bread and the sacrifice of the paschal lamb, which was probably an offering of desert herdsmen.
[xviii] Shalom Spiegel, The Last Trial, trans. Judah Golden (New York: Schocken, 1970).
[xix] Spiegel, op. cit., pp. 33f. Spiegel cites Midrash Shibbole ha-Leket, Inyan Tefillah, 18, ed. S. Buber , 9a.
[xx] See, for example, “May the binding (Akedah) which our father Abraham bound his son Isaac on the altar before Thee and as he (Abraham) subdued his feelings of mercy to do Thy will with a whole heart, so may Thy feelings of mercy remove Thine anger from upon us.” High Holiday Prayer Book, ed. Morris Silverman (Hartford: Prayer Book Press, 1951), p. 165.
[xxi] Spiegel, op. cit., p. 84. See Hans`Joachim Schoeps, Paul: The Theology of the Apostle in the Light of Jewish History trans. Harold J. Knight (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1961), pp. 141-149).
[xxii] Sigmund Freud, Totem and Taboo, trans. James Strachey (New York: W. W. Norton, 1962).


This essay was originally published as “Der Todt Gottes ist keineswegs endüldig” in Tobias Daniel Wabbel, ed., Das Heilige Nichts: Gott nach dem Holocaust, (Düsseldorf: Patmos Verlag, 2007). It was then published in French as “La Morte de Dieu N’a Rien de Définitif,” in Les Provinciales, No. 62, March 2009.

Richard L. Rubenstein is President Emeritus and Distinguished Professor of Religion at the University of Bridgeport and Lawton Distinguished Professor of Religion Emeritus at Florida State University. He is the author of numerous books and articles on Jewish theology, the Holocaust and other issues including After Auschwitz: Radical Theology and Contemporary Judaism, The Cunning of History, My Brother Paul and Dissolving Alliance: The United States and the Future of Europe. His most recent book is Jihad and Genocide (Rowman and Littlefield, 2010)


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