Monday, July 31, 2017

The Holy Fire - confronting evil and finding faith during the Holocaust

Interesting reading for Tisha B'Av, the most sombre day of the Jewish year, returning to read Nehemia Polen's intense and moving work The Holy Fire, about the teachings of the Esh Kodesh, R' Kalonymus Kalman Shapira, the rebbe of the Warsaw Ghetto, author of what was to be the last Hassidic work written in Poland, a text he buried under the ghetto before his murder at the hands of the Nazis when the ghetto was liquidated in 1943.

Miraculously R' Shapira's work survived and was found during the post-war rebuilding of Warsaw and published as Esh Kodesh (Holy Fire).

He does not write a war memoir, but a deeply thoughtful book on understanding evil, of faith at a time of tragedy, of the destiny of the Jewish people and finding good during such a horrific time.

Written during the Holocaust, rather than afterwards, R' Shapira's work is a real time response to this calamity rather than an attempt to come to terms with it in hindsight.

If historian Emmanuel Ringlebaum's Warsaw Ghetto diary and archive devoted themselves to recording the physical and emotional events, R' Shapira's book is a spiritual journal of his Holocaust experience, a Hassidic master's Eikhah for his time. I wonder how Jeremiah would relate to Esh Kodesh.