Last night I went with my granddaughter Miriam to see the play Anne Frank. I thought it was marvelously well done, from every standpoint, but it left me extremely depressed. It embittered me against mankind for having made it possible for such a cold-blooded, calculating demonic crime to be perpetrated against millions of innocent men, women, and children to be enacted, and what is worse, to be erased from the conscience—if that crime made the least impression on it.
Because one good and virtuous man like Job was struck by misfortune, a fine poet poured out the vials of his wrath against God. Would such a poet have found words adequate to express his wrath over the myriads of Jobs who were subjected to unspeakable torments of body and mind before their lives were snuffed out in the gas chambers?
Every time I go through such experience, and that happens quite often, I become despondent and feel like—I'd rather not say it. Certainly, all desire to teach and write in the hope of making some dent, or working some improvement in human character, my own included, oozes out of me completely. I am left altogether limp mentally and physically. Such were the thoughts with which I fell asleep last night.
When I woke up this morning, however, the first idea that came to my mind was the statement in Anne Frank's diary to the effect that she had faith in the intrinsic goodness of human beings. That helped me to lift me out of my depressed state of mind. It occurred to me that the reason for Anne’s faith in human goodness was probably the fact of the Dutch couple’s daring to hide the Jews in the attic of their house and obtaining food for them at the risk of their own lives.
That despite all the cruelty which exists in the world there are human beings like that Dutch couple is, or should be, a source of hope and faith. The existence of such goodness is not merely a proof of the existence of God but a veritable manifestation or revelation of God. That is the only plausible basis for the will to make the most out of life and to keep on working and fighting for reason, justice and peace against the most discouraging odds.
Many wonder about Kaplan and the problem of evil. He seems to have no adequate theory about the origins and nature of suffering in the world. The issue of the problem of evil is of course central to any theology and it is complicated. Part of the problem with Kaplan is his innate optimism and the centrality of hope to his ideology. The way his mind worked he was moved to focus on the good in any situation and not on the evil. His first reaction to suffering is to think what can be done to alleviate it.
In our obsession with the Holocaust we continue to look for explanations and understanding. Perhaps at the end of the day, because the suffering is so monumental we will never find an adequate explanation.
In any case, we should understand the way Kaplan‘s mind worked. The selection below illustrates his propensity to look for the good in any situation. He went to see the play The Diary of Ann Frank with his grand daughter and here he muses on Ann Frank’s final optimism with which he identifies. Of particular interest here is the fact that Kaplan keenly feels the pain and suffering of those who perished. His innate optimism which comes out at the end of the selection is bound together with a strong sense of horror at the suffering. For Kaplan hope is of the essence of the divine.