Kalonymus Kalman Shapira was born in Grodzisk, a town in central Poland, and was descended from a long line of Rabbis. By the age of twenty, Shapira had been appointed as the Rabbi of Piaseczno, a position which he would hold until 1939.
Rabbi Shapira is remembered both for his approach to teaching the scriptures and for his commitment to in the face of suffering and evil.
As a teacher, Shapira believed that the scriptures should be taught more sensitively. He felt that the harsh teaching methods which were common during the time had only worsened the relationship between young Jewish men and their faith. He felt that children should be taught joyously and with sensitivity to their psychology.
In 1939, Rabbi Shapira, together with thousands of other Polish Jews, was forced into the Warsaw Ghetto. During three years that he lived there, he conducted a secret synagogue and continued teaching regularly. It was also during this time that he wrote his famous work Esh Kodesh,”Holy Fire,” which attempted to address issues of faith in the face of Jewish suffering during the Holocaust.
Finally, Shapira was moved to a work camp, and executed there in 1943. A construction worker found Esh Kodesh buried in a tin canister; the work was published posthumously in 1960.