David: Good afternoon. It’s Friday afternoon [inaudible 00:00:03] of shabbos, November 18th 2011. We’re here at the 5th Avenue Studios. We’re here with Mrs. Fayge Kleinbart. Fayge made the mistake of reading God and Evil, and her second mistake was sending me an email with commentary and some questions. And her third mistake was agreeing to a live no-holds-barred discussion interview.
But I feel that Fayge represents a certain constituency, and I felt it was a different constituency than represented by the other symposiums or interviews or even some we’ve had today. And first, I’d like to ask Fayge to tell us a little bit about her family and maybe about the family she comes from, etc. Here we go.
Fayge: Actually, my husband and I are both remarried. And we’ve been married for 21 years. We have two daughters together, and we have… My husband has a son and daughter from a previous marriage, and I have a son from a previous marriage. So, together we have five children. And we live in Brooklyn in what is known as the Midwood Region. And we go to Orthodox [inaudible 00:01:25].
David: For instance, which Shuls do you know? What’s the name of them?
Fayge: What’s the name of the [inaudible 00:01:28].
David: Do they have names, yeah?
Fayge: Rabbi Gelder [ph].
Male: [Inaudible 00:01:34] We call it generically, it’s a [inaudible 00:01:38]. People like ourselves. People who by and large are college educated but they want to be shibboleths and perhaps beyond shibboleths too.
Fayge: And the rabbi is Rabbi Gilbreth.
David: Okay. One second. Is it loud enough, Carlos? Okay. Should we get closer? So, anyway…
Fayge: I went to a Yeshiva high school. It was at Lubavitch was a make of [inaudible 00:02:05] was not very rigorous, and I went to seminary after that.
David: Which seminary?
Fayge: Ortho Chabad [inaudible 00:02:10].
David: What school?
Fayge: A school called Beth Rivka.
David: Beth Rivka. And that was where?
Fayge: That was in Crown Heights.
David: This is important. People have to know.
Fayge: And I don’t think that my education was extraordinary, but it was a smattering of basic philosophy and chabad philosophy as well. So there was [inaudible 00:02:28] as well as the regular Jewish mainstream philosophy. And then I went and got a degree in English. But I ended up working in a computer field for about 15 years. And then I became assistant director of a community-based organization. And then I became a case manager of an organization that helped people with traumatic brain injuries. And currently, I’m a nurse.
David: I thought your hours we interesting. Tell us your hours as a nurse.
Fayge: Because I work for a city hospital, they still work on the eight hour shifts. I work from like 3:30 to midnight.
David: How many days a week?
Fayge: Five day a week. Monday–
David: Right. Five days a week. Right. Okay. Very doing. And you want to tell us a little bit about your family heritage?
Fayge: So, my parents were both Polish, and they survived the Holocaust because they ran to Russia. Their parents and cousins all perished in the Holocaust. But the ones that ran to Russia were able to be saved if they were lucky enough to survive the rigorous, physical life there. Because the Russians would send them to Siberia and then to other places. But by and large, they were, both of them, able to come out of the war with several of their siblings still alive. Although some of them had siblings that perished… They each had siblings that perished as well, but two or three of their siblings did survive.
David: So you were born where?
Fayge: In the United States.
David: Which city?
Fayge: In Brooklyn.
David: In Brooklyn, the city of Brooklyn. And you’ve lived in Brooklyn straight since then.
Fayge: I’m going to show you that very similar to many people, my oldest sister was born in Uzbekistan, and my middle sister was born in [inaudible 00:04:18]. My husband was born in [inaudible 00:04:22] in Germany, so that is similar in a lot of ways. When people are survivors and they ended up after the war in [inaudible 00:04:27] in Germany. Or in the west [inaudible 00:04:29].
David: They ended up in the what?
Fayge: After the way, they ended up in a [inaudible 00:04:33] Camp in either Germany, Austria…
David: I see. Quite a saga. Okay. So, one might say you were forged in fire, your family.
Okay, with your permission I want to ask you…say some of the things you liked about God and Evil or what you liked most. And then we’re going to go into some issues or questions we want to discuss together. Fair?
David: Okay. The floor’s yours. What did you like most about the book? Or what are the two things you liked most about the theory of the book?
Fayge: Well, I didn’t know anything about the area called theosophy. So, I very much appreciated the way you laid out the first and second portion of the book because you clearly defined the kinds of issues there are in believing in an omnipresent, omniscient, all-good, powerful God, and then the existence of evil in the world, both moral and natural. So, I liked that layout.
Then I liked to portion where you described all the answers to that that had been given thus far. And really, most of them I had thought through, but they’re not satisfied. So, I think then, of course, I reached to the third part where then you had the two portions of a better world, one might say, where there’s less evil or no evil and the Garden of Eden situation, but that would be more like the robotic type of world, versus a world where there is potential and freedom, which allows a person to grow.
David: How do you react to that?
Fayge: That was exciting.
David: How was it exciting?
Fayge: Because, you feel that evil is not an end all in itself. It leads humankind, or however you want to say it, to a better place, a higher level of potential you might say, where we’ve evolving to hopefully obtain goals that are better for all. And the growth is unlimited.
So, I felt that humankind can feel that we’re not this speck of dust in the cosmos where it’s just a chance thing. We’re here with so much potential and it’s God-potential. In other words, I have that ability to latch onto that.
David: Right. That’s precisely the point of the hypothesis. That’s precisely the point of the book. So, you who narrowly escaped annihilation are now pointing to something into the unlimited potential. Not so bad, right?
Fayge: But that was luck. So, you would think… And what is luck if it’s not God-divine intervention? See, there, but for the grace of God, I could have been one of the cousins that perished. So, you know what I’m saying? That part I’m still working on.
I don’t like to feel the precariousness. Is it whim that makes me be picked and somebody else not be picked? And if tomorrow, that whim changes, then I’m down in the dregs. But I still believe, even if I’m down in the dregs, I’m gaining. There’s something in that horrible experience, in a lifelong perspective, that allows one to be in a better place.
And say this because when I was not married, and I was in a bad situation, I was telling somebody yesterday that if you had given me a choice, saying, “Do this, and you will have your wonderful son.” Or, “Don’t do this, and you will avoid all the pain, but you won’t have the son,” I would have said, “Oh, I’ll avoid the pain.” Easily. I would have done it in a flash at the moment when I was suffering.
But perspective and 20 years of feelings, I would say that’s craziest thing in the world to do. Why would you ask me that question at that moment, because I wasn’t capable of making the right choice. Now, I think that there wouldn’t be by amount of suffering that wasn’t worth coming up with my son and my grandchildren.
David: With themselves, unlimited potential.
Fayge: But that’s only because I’m standing in a different spot. So, as you said, the people who have gone through the Holocaust and suffered and lost, or if somebody wrote a book and she said, “A person who went through the Holocaust and was [inaudible 00:09:49] afterward and other things.” And then she came to New York and [inaudible 00:09:53] her soul, she didn’t have the money for a [inaudible 00:09:58].
So, here she sacrificed…I mean, she was actually put in a line to forget, because of her affiliation with Judaism, you know, being a Jew, the now those same people wouldn’t get her, let her get into a…
David: Well, that’s a little extreme situation.
Fayge: Yeah, that was extreme, but I’m just saying that only a person that’s in the place of comfort can say what I said. A person who’s still suffering…
David: When you’re in the crucible of suffering, you look at things one way, and when you’re at a distance from it, you look at it another way.
Fayge: Yeah. So, that’s unfair, you know. In a way, it’s not clear. It’s not a reality that stays. And one would like to think that there’s a clear reality, that is always a constant.
David: I think as we get older, we see that there are so many different levels to reality perspective, we see the world through so many different directions. And even depending on who you’re with in the room affects how you see reality. And we are all complex entities. We have personas on television. We have personas in an auditorium. We have personas in the living room, personas in the bedroom. These all have different layers to the same persona, that’s part of the element of how profound we are.
I can joke around that humans are not so human. We’re more than we think we are. Now, in my brief encounters with Fayge, I find that she is concerned—I would say overly concerned—the concept of hashkafa practice. Does God control our every action?
So, we might as well not avoid the issue. We might as well deal with the issue with Fayge. Fair enough?
Fayge: Fair enough.
David: Alright. So, I think we’ll take a two minute just to take a deep breath, and then we’ll come back in two minutes and we’ll start in with that subject. Okay?
So, this segment, we’re going to talk hashkafa practice, divine providence sometimes called. And maybe, if you have the energy, we’ll have a third segment just to wrap up, finale, after this. Maybe we’ll have about a 20-minute segment hashkafa practice, only because Fayge Kleinbart is by focused on. Let me set the context.
This concept in us, in Kohaku Judaism, one stream of thought says a divine is watching or controlling our every move to a great extent. Hashkafa practice, providence individuals. But it’s only one stain in Jewish thought which buys into it. Not necessarily all strains of Jewish thought. Some strains of Jewish thought are that God sets the stage and man plays out his life according to his will, according to his own power, his own autonomy.
But, again, Fayge and my perspective represents a constituency, and we have to deal with this constituency, which she represents. Whether she’s wants to or not, she buys into divine providence.
Now, first I want to put Fayge on the spot with the following question. Is the following true? The more we say there’s divine providence, the bigger problem we have with Holocaust. Is that sort of true? The more we say there’s divine providence, the bigger theological problem we have with the Holocaust. Would you say that’s sort of true?
David: Okay. So therefore, you’re causing the problem. Not me. I’m saying, there’s less divine providence, and therefore there’s less of… The Holocaust is a little bit less of a theological problem. It’s a major theological problem, no matter what.
The more you insist on divine providence, the bigger problem you have with the Holocaust. Okay. But that’s to set the intellectual stage here. Meaning, you’re causing the problem by insisting on…to [inaudible 00:14:20] insist on it, causes a greater theological problem. If it’s divine providence, then why did an innocent seven year old girl, by which you torture to death, torture and murder to death, after she watches her mother being tortured and murdered to death? These are very serious issues here, theological problem.
I mean, unless you push on that accelerator, you have a more muted issue, although it’s still a very severe issue. Because if there’s a God at all, any shape, manner, or form somewhere out there, watching or not watching in the here and now, why was a seven-year old girl tortured and murdered to death after watching her mother, parents tortured and murdered to death?
Even if you remove the whole issue of divine providence, if you remove hashkafa practice, you still have a major issue.