Last Sunday we talked about the Rabbi of the Warsaw Ghetto, Kalonymus Kalman Shapira, who under the most difficult of conditions remained not only steadfast in his own faith, but found the presence of God and therefore beauty even amid the horrors of the darkest days of the second World War. He was a light and a comfort to his people and helped them live rich and meaningful lives despite their hardships. He repeatedly refused offers of escape from the Nazi imposed ghetto and concentration camps in order to remain with his people and was eventually shot to death by camp guards.
Kalonymus Kalman Shapira (1889-1943)
When we look at his picture, we see someone who seems so alien to us–at once ancient and culturally incomprehensible. But surface differences aside, he represents the epitome of a spiritual leader, pastor, rabbi, priest: a shepherd who wouldn’t leave his sheep even in the face of personal danger, a follower who continued to see the presence of God regardless of circumstances. For any of us desiring to truly follow our God and help others follow as well, Shapira is not alien at all, but as close as our next breath. There is so much more that connects than separates us when we begin to understand that our circumstances don’t dictate our awareness of God’s presence–our awareness of God’s presence in each moment dictates our perception of circumstances.