Heschel Transcendent

Abraham Joshua Heschel: The Call of Transcendence by Shai Held Indiana University Press, 352 pp., $45

In the fall of 1942 Mordecai Kaplan was reading The Review of Religion when he ran across a philosophical account, from the inside as it were, of religious piety. Kaplan was so struck with it that, his biographer Mel Scult tells us, he wrote a kind of free verse prayer-précis called “The Pious Man” in his journal:


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About the Author

Abraham Socher teaches at Oberlin College and is the editor of the Jewish Review of Books.


gwhepner on July 1, 2014 at 12:16 am
This comment is inspired not only by Abraham's Socher's article on Abraham Joshua Heschel by but by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks's review of Terry Eagleton's Culture and the Death of God:


Nostalgia for the numinous,
like chewing cud in rumen is,
for Jews a signal that they wish
to be a kosher fleshy dish,
appropriate for the consumption
of other Jewish people whose presumption
is that for others of their ilk
nostalgia is like mother’s milk,
chewing over just like cud
the numinous that’s in their blood.
Cows, of course, have few defendants
among those who are craving beef,
and a yearning for transcendence
may belie banal belief.

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charles.hoffman on July 31, 2014 at 8:49 am
Abraham Joshua Heschel z"l was a Chassidic Rebbe with a two-piece suit; his popular material should be read in light of the message of chassidus - achieving a relationship with God at the personal level. When viewing "Man in Search" from afar, its message seems a bit obscure; however, when experiencing it and his other "popular" books up close, one gets the sense of an old chassidic rebbe sitting with his group of followers in the quiet of late afternoon Shabbat and sharing with them a few thoughts for their further reflection.

And then, with a finely-honed sabre and a blockbuster encyclopedic barrage, he overwhelms the reader with "Torah min Hashamayim" - later translated as "Heavenly Torah". The same quiet little voice - that kol d'mmama daka - could shout from the rooftops on the eternal truth of the revelation at Sinai.

may his memory be a blessing for all
chaim01 on September 3, 2014 at 9:57 am
I would like some clarification. For AJH was all formal prayer essentially the same enabling the closeness with God, or is there is difference between the particular words of specific prayers? Are pesuka dezimra a greater catalyst to bringing one closer to God than shmonah esreh or is the content irrelevant? In other words do the specific words work in different ways to bond with God, or is it the prayer experience itself that does it?

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