The Human and the Holy: The Spirituality of Abraham Joshua Heschel

The Human and the Holy: The Spirituality of Abraham Joshua Heschel

The Human and the Holy: The Spirituality of Abraham Joshua Heschel

The Human and the Holy: The Spirituality of Abraham Joshua Heschel

Excerpt

Few Jews of this or any age have so profoundly influenced relations between Christians and Jews, and more specifically between Catholics and Jews, than Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. In the view of a former student and colleague of his, one need only record, not embellish, the accomplishments of Heschel's life because his "contributions and achievements--intellectual, theological, and, above all, the impact of his person--were so singular, profound, varied and lasting. . . ." The facts alone present a "monumental statement."

Less than three months after his death on December 23, 1972, America, the Jesuit weekly and one of the leading Catholic journals in the United States, devoted an entire issue (March 10, 1973) to an assessment of Heschel's life, thought, and influence upon Christians and Jews in this country and throughout the world. Donald Campion, editor of America at the time, noted that this was probably the first time that a Christian journal had devoted an entire issue to a contemporary Jewish religious figure. Heschel merited such a testimony because he was an enormously energetic person "both intellectually and spiritually." Just as we Christians often point to the life of an authentic Christian as the best way of learning about Christianity, so we may point to the life and example of a Jew like Heschel as the best mode of instruction concerning "the continuing vitality and richness of the Judaic tradition in which we providentially share." To encounter Abraham Heschel is to encounter "the living tradition of Judaism in all its energy, holiness and compassion."

Much has also been made of Pope Paul VI's remark on January 31, 1973, when he told his listeners in a general audience: "Even before we have moved in search of God, God has come in search of us." These words are a clear reference to one of the great central themes in Heschel's writings and are actually taken from the French translation of Heschel's masterpiece, God in Search of Man. Rarely had any pope ever made public reference to the writ-

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