Thinking about the twin tragedies of Buffalo, New York and Uvalde in Texas, I did something common in introverts: I introspected, possibly focusing more on my reaction to the terrible situation I recorded some thoughts on earlier than on the situation. I know being this way convinced people I was a narcissist in High School, but I hope the reader will forgive me. Maybe my thoughts can help them if they grant me the luxury of focusing less on the tragedy than on another tragedy I wrote about in a book: The Bible According to Eve: Ketuvim: The Writings: Eve Struggles with God and Man and Prevails. It is Book IV of The Bible According to Eve, poems about the women of the Hebrew Bible. Compiled into the complete The Bible According to Eve were all the Hebrew Bible excepting two of the twelve minor prophets and the two books in the Ketuvim (Writings) which I will write about here. The Prophetic books I didn’t write about had no mention of women in those two books. However, the Ketuvim included two books which I wanted to write about here: Lamentations and Job.
Lamentations was the one I transformed from a book describing the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem by the Babylonians into an accusatory book about the children who died in the Holocaust. Who is accused? God. God is called on to reply why these 1.5 million children died in the concentration camps. I wrote about I Never Saw Another Butterfly; The Diary of Anne Frank; and Janusz Korczak having read both King of the Children and King Matt the First. Since I have wished I could go back in time to include the diarist Renia Spiegel. However, that is not to be.
I Never Saw Another Butterfly comes out of Theresienstadt, the “model concentration camp” created as window dressing for the world. The conditions there were, on the surface, better than Auschwitz and Buchenwald. Educated Jews went to these camps and kept up the false cheer of believing nothing worse than the camp itself was waiting for them or their children. Most of both the adults and the children would die in the real camps later on. While there, the children were encouraged by adult Jews to draw, paint, and write their troubles away. Eventually these children’s art would be collected in I Never Saw Another Butterfly. I personally have other books and even CDs (there were Jewish composers who produced music in the camp, which was not destroyed) but for my book I focused on the children, with the theory that perhaps in this world the only innocence is childhood.
Anne Frank was one I was told to avoid because “everyone knows who Anne Frank was.” But I could not abide by this. I felt that her diary was too moving and the author to full of promise cut down all too young, for me not to include her book in mine. I have since come across books similar–Zlata’s Diary and Renia Spiegel’s–but I am ashamed to admit I have not read them yet. Of course Elie Wiesel’s Night exists–and I have read it–but somehow the most intense pain, to my mind, is felt by children.
Janusz Korczak is the only adult mentioned. Why? Because he was a mentally ill Jew whose unusual life involved running two orphanages, one for Polish children and one for Jewish orphans. He is well known in Poland for writing the delightful King Matt the First and Kaytek the Wizard for children. But he was no mere Lewis Carroll or C.S. Lewis. No, he proved his love for children because when Nazis came he refused to leave his Jewish children. He received offers to escape, but he would not leave his children to die alone. Both he and they died at Treblinka, one of the deadliest camps.
I named this part of the book (Lamentations) J’ Accuse because Alfred Dreyfuss was a French Jew who was framed for treason. The only reason anyone believed it was he and not Esterhazy who committed the crime was because Dreyfuss was a Jew. Then Emile Zola wrote an article J’ Accuse taking on the military authorities wrongly convicting Dreyfuss. Emile Zola was not a Jew but had a fiery sense of justice. Well, that leads to the question: where and from whom do we get justice for the Jewish children who died in the Holocaust. The Nazis? But the Nazis have no sense of right or wrong or justice. The Allies? They may have been on the side of justice but they did not do enough. Yet there is one acter that Ellie Wiesel writes about as needing to answer: God.
I believe that God cries in the ashes of the Holocaust–and is equally devastated by the acts of lawlessness at New York and Texas, among others. Yet human beings need to purge their grief. True restoration of faith cannot be gained by pretending everything is fine. Without always understanding, I am reminded of Paul Tillich’s claim that humankind needs “a God after God.” When all of the idols are smashed, there is God. Writing The Bible According to Eve, I looked to try to smash the idol of male chauvinism to find the true heart of God in the book I could not discard.
As for the other book in which there was scant mention of woman–I wrote a version of Job, and I will give no spoilers except to say that Job also strikes out against God in an attempt to find justice. His plight is the plight of Elie Wiesel in Messengers of God, a book about some key Hebrew prophets. Job was the last book in Messengers of God.
Like Paul Tillich I prefer to believe that if we look into the blinding light of Truth, we will find God. Ultimately, we can find our way out of the abyss humankind seems to have fallen into… Why is that? Because if we see the truth, the people who died at Buffalo, New York or the teachers and children at Uvalde in Texas, are not really dead. They are with us, and we shall meet them again in the World-to-Come.