The Promise of Heschel

The Promise of Heschel

The Promise of Heschel

The Promise of Heschel

Excerpt

One winter evening I bumped into Abraham Joshua Heschel in a hotel in Jerusalem. That sentence makes me vulnerable to the charge of name-dropping, and I plead guilty. What better name to drop, and what better way to introduce this man than personally? He can't be dealt with abstractly, as a propounder of doctrines or formulator of theories. Rabbi Heschel gave me three of those potent cigars mentioned by Professor Sherman on the pages following. The promise of a pleasant evening was ahead.

Within an hour we were deeply immersed in the question of Israel, a topic close to Heschel's soul. Then came the subject of death; he wanted to try out some ideas he was to present the next week to a medical conference in Italy. A third topic came up when he observed that the twentieth-century theological revival had not been matched by similar creativity in the realm of spiritual writing. Could I think of any theological thinkers who have made contributions to that field? The answer was simple: "You have!"

That hour in Israel and my report on it serve as typical approaches to Heschel's mode, and the mode is part of the message, in his case. His theology is born of personal experience, molded into narrative as an interpretation of a people's history, tinged with a mystical and soul-full sense, never afraid to take on the big questions.

Professor Sherman develops these Heschelian themes in . . .

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