Holy Fire / Edition 1

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Overview

The Holy Fire: The Teachings of Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira, the Rebbe of the Warsaw Ghetto is a journey into the mind and spirit of a sublime hasidic master in his moments of joy and tranquillity, and later, in his time of personal and communal catastrophe. The reader takes a voyage into the rich and variegated world of twentieth-century Hasidism in Poland, a world destroyed by the Holocaust. This is a volume inspired by a deeply sensitive and poetic individual of faith who is grappling with an unfolding disaster. While the Holocaust has engendered a voluminous body of religious and philosophical writings attempting to probe the issues this unfathomable period raises in all their enormity, virtually all were written after the war, when a modicum of distance and reflection is possible. Contemporaneous diaries and chronicles written as the events were happening concentrate on the descriptive accounts of the horrors. The Holy Fire, however, engages a sustained theological reflection and stands alone as an extended religious response from within the heart of darkness itself while the catastrophe takes place, and is, for this reason, an extraordinary document and an astonishing personal achievement.
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Editorial Reviews

Tikkun
This is not a book about the Holocaust or hasidism. Contrary to the subtitle, it is not even a book about the final writings of one of the gedolim, or great ones of our generation. The Holy Fire is primarily a manual on comprehending evil from within God. And that makes it an invaluable took for anyone interested in Jewish spiritual renewal.
— Lawrence Kushner
Steven T. Katz
Nehemia Polen has written a book of major importance. The first detailed study of the teachings of Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira, the Rebbe of the Warsaw Ghetto, this work illuminates as few others have done the real issues of faith and doubt during the Shoah. Unlike most of the ruminations about the meaning of the Holocaust for Jewish belief that have been written after the event by those who were not there, the teachings of Rabbi Shapira emerged from, and were shaped by, the daily reality of ghetto life. Their power and authenticity are overwhelming. Polen has done a wonderful job of deciphering them and making them available to a contemporary audience. Everyone interested in Jewish thought during and after the Holocaust should read this book.
Tikkun - Lawrence Kushner
This is not a book about the Holocaust or hasidism. Contrary to the subtitle, it is not even a book about the final writings of one of the gedolim, or great ones of our generation. The Holy Fire is primarily a manual on comprehending evil from within God. And that makes it an invaluable took for anyone interested in Jewish spiritual renewal.
Elie Wiesel
Written with fear and in anguish by an exceptionally promising young scholar, Rabbi Nehemia Polen's volume about one of the most inspired hasidic masters during the Holocaust deserves to be studies and shared by theologians and secular readers alike.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780765760265
  • Publisher: Aronson, Jason Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/28/1998
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 232
  • Sales rank: 1,009,865
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 9.18 (h) x 0.52 (d)

Meet the Author

Dr. Nehemia Polen is associate professor of Jewish Thought at Boston's Hebrew College.
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Table of Contents

Preface
A Note to the Reader
Introduction
1 Rabbi Shapira's Origins, Life, and Work 1
The War's Outbreak 6
Activities During the War 12
2 General Characteristics of Esh Kodesh 15
Absence of Politico-Historical References 17
Teaching as Defiance: Noncontextual Derashot 20
Interpretive Approach 21
3 Writing in the Darkness 23
Derashot on the Creative Process 24
4 The Transformation of Suffering 36
Transforming Fear into Awe 37
Psychic Disintegration 38
Encouragement to Service 42
The Greatness of Israel 44
Mutuality and Relationship 49
Maintaining Joy 53
Overcoming Survivor's Guilt 58
Balancing Humility and Pride 59
Self-Control in the Face of Din 61
Suffering as Sacrificial Offering 62
Preparing for Martyrdom: The World of Pure Thought 67
5 Faith Secure, Faith Transfigured 70
Faith in Deliverance 71
Protest within Faith 94
6 The Mystical Vision of Divine Weeping 106
Sin and Chastisement 106
Divine Suffering 115
7 Transmuting Evil 122
Jacob and the Struggle with Esau's Angel 124
Amalek 126
The Serpent 127
Sublimating Evil into Good 130
Confronting and Transcending the Enemy 133
8 Conclusions 136
The Triumph of the Good 139
The Mutual Compassion of God and Israel 141
Epilogue 147
The Last Months 152
Notes 157
Bibliography 189
Index of Esh Kodesh Passages 199
General Index 203
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