Software Review: Questioning the Shoah

Many responsa have been stored in this unusual CD-ROM.

Auschwitz holocaust 248.88 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
Auschwitz holocaust 248.88 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
Responsa of the Holocaust, a CD-ROM in Hebrew, with operating instructions also in English and French, by the Machon Netivei Hahalacha, POB 39, Alon Shvut, 90433, for PCs, for late teens through adults, NIS 360. Rating: ***** For religious Jews, the one huge unanswerable question about the Holocaust is why God did not stop it - or prevent it from occurring. But there are hundreds and even thousands of halachic questions that have been answered by rabbis here and abroad between 1933 and 1963 - including clergymen murdered in the Holocaust and those who survived. Many responsa have been stored in this unusual CD-ROM, which has been released by the Torah Data Bank voluntary organization in Gush Etzion and based on the databank technology of Bar-Ilan University's ongoing Responsa Project. Some 150 sources including Israel's current and former chief rabbis and even some women discuss 120 different subjects, which range alphabetically from aveida (loss) to the Tisha Be'av fast. Each is clicked to produce explanatory texts in Hebrew. All data are searchable by author, subject and date. Some of the subjects are unthinkable, such as whether pregnant women in concentration and labor camps were allowed - or required - to abort their fetuses because they would die anyway and probably endanger the mothers' lives. Is a hungry concentration camp prisoner allowed to cannibalize the flesh of a dead cellmate so he can himself survive? Another question is whether barrier contraception could have been used in accordance with Jewish law to prevent Jewish women from becoming pregnant in the camps. If one sees a torn Torah scroll in ordinary times, people are supposed to tear their clothing; on seeing a wallet made from a scroll during the Nazi era, should one display such mourning with one rip or two? When survivors learn years or decades later that their first-degree relatives died, should they suddenly sit shiva to mourn them? There was an incident on Rosh Hashana during the Shoah when 1,400 Jewish boys were caught and prepared for their gassing and cremation; they secretly asked for a fellow prisoner to blow the shofar. Should the blower agree, even though it could lead to his speedy death? Can a survivor have the blue prisoner numbers removed from his arm by laser? The responses are all very complicated and cannot be answered in one word. Both the queries and the replies shed additional light on the horrific era and prove that after and even during the worst of catastrophes, the Jewish people wanted to discover God's will.