Abraham Joshua Heschel: The Call of Transcendence

Abraham Joshua Heschel: The Call of Transcendence

Abraham Joshua Heschel: The Call of Transcendence

Abraham Joshua Heschel: The Call of Transcendence

Synopsis

Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972) was a prolific scholar, impassioned theologian, and prominent activist who participated in the black civil rights movement and the campaign against the Vietnam War. He has been hailed as a hero, honored as a visionary, and endlessly quoted as a devotional writer. In this sympathetic, yet critical, examination, Shai Held elicits the overarching themes and unity of Heschel's incisive and insightful thought. Focusing on the idea of transcendence--or the movement from self-centeredness to God-centeredness--Held puts Heschel into dialogue with contemporary Jewish thinkers, Christian theologians, devotional writers, and philosophers of religion.

Excerpt

Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907–1972) was one of the most influential religious figures of the twentieth century. a prolific scholar, he wrote important works on the whole history of Jewish thought; an eloquent and impassioned theologian, he penned several classics of modern Jewish theology and spirituality; a prominent activist, he spoke out in theological terms on behalf of the civil rights movement and against American involvement in the vietnam War. Heschel has been hailed as a hero, honored as a visionary, and endlessly quoted as a devotional writer. His work has generated a large and growing corpus of secondary literature, some of it both incisive and insightful. But unfortunately, many scholarly treatments have tended toward either uncritical adoration or overly facile dismissal. Thus, for the most part, Heschel’s work has not received what it so clearly warrants: scholarly investigation that is at once genuinely sympathetic and unapologetically critical. This work is an attempt to provide just that, and thus to fill a significant lacuna in the scholarship on modern Jewish thought.

All interpreters of Heschel’s work are indebted to Fritz Rothschild and John Merkle, who blazed the trail for Heschel scholarship by drawing out the philosophical and theological assumptions underlying his work, organizing his often meanderingly presented ideas into an orderly whole, and refusing to treat him as a mere fountain of devotional aphorisms and lapidary formulations. Yet for all the insight Rothschild and Merkle offer into Heschel’s theological world, a reader would search their works in vain for any critical perspective on Heschel’s work. Both writers seek to present Heschel’s thought in the best possible light and simply . . .

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