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Lions Roar : March 2008
SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2008 81 MOST PEOPLE KNOW that six million Jews were killed dur- ing World War II, but most don’t know that nearly all of the Orthodox community perished. Among them were many who had kept alive an ancient tradition of meditation and mysticism reaching back to the Old Testament world of the prophets. “In my youth,” Rabbi Abraham Heschel wrote of his childhood in Warsaw, “there was one thing we did not have to look for, and that was exaltation. Every moment is great, we were taught, every moment is unique.” Heschel was fortunate enough to get out of Warsaw a few months before the war began and escape to the United States, The Thisness of What Is Diane Ackerman on the ancient tradition of meditation and mysticism that sustained two heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto. where he became a charismatic teacher, writer, and social activist, renowned for his unflagging sense of wonder. He was among tens of thousands of Jews, aided by friends on “the Aryan side,” who managed to escape from the Warsaw ghetto. But some famously chose to stay, including Henryk Goldzmit, a pediatrician and au- thor, and Kalonymous Kalman Shapira, the ghetto’s Hasidic rabbi. Where can one find exaltation in a mutilated world? Shapira’s hidden sermons and diary, unearthed after the war, reveal a ti- gerish struggle with faith, a man wedged between his religious teachings and history. How could anyone reconcile the agony of the Holocaust with Hasidism, a dancing religion that teaches The Camp Synagogue, by Felix Nassbuam (died in Auschwitz, 1944). OILONPLYWOOD.COLLECTIONOFTHEYADVASHEMARTMUSEUM,JERUSALEM.GIFTOFPAULANDHILDAFREUND,JERUSALEM. MAR 78-107.indd 81 MAR 78-107.indd 81 12/19/07 2:43:22 PM 12/19/07 2:43:22 PM