Sarah Our Rebbe: R. Kalonymus Kalman Shapira’s Feminine Spiritual Leadership in the Warsaw Ghetto
- Nashim: A Journal of Jewish Women's Studies & Gender Issues
- Indiana University Press
- Number 38, Spring 5781/2021
- pp. 7-24
- Additional Information
Theological argument with and protest against God has deep roots in Jewish tradition. Usually the role models for such protests are male biblical figures, such as Abraham, Moses, Jeremiah, Jonah and Job. In this article, I will present an exceptional hasidic interpretation of Sarah’s death as an act of “protest within faith.” According to Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira, a hasidic rebbe in the Warsaw ghetto, Sarah “our matriarch” committed “suicide” for the sake of the people of Israel. Sarah died in order to demonstrate to God that her excessive suffering in the wake of Isaac’s near sacrifice was absolutely unbearable. R. Shapira found himself at a time of utter collapse and extreme personal crisis at the beginning of World War II. I argue that, in his biblical exegesis, R. Shapira took Sarah’s mode of besieged protestation upon himself as a spiritual leader of the Jewish people, a mantle he carried until his tragic death.