Moral Grandeur And Spiritual Audacity Essays

 Collected essays by Rabbi Heschel (190772), one of our century's most eloquent and challenging theologians. The introduction by daughter Susannah Heschel, herself a Jewish scholar at Case Western Reserve University, runs to the sappy, but the solid biographical nuggets remind us how this significant spiritual influence on Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant theologians (including Pope Paul VI and Dr. Martin Luther King) was a miraculous ``brand plucked from the fire of Europe.'' Essays on historical events and moral issues of the day, from WW II to Vietnam and the civil rights movement, make up two of the five clusters of essays and addresses here. The other three divisions and a coda of two interviews are more purely theological--though every topic is ultimately theological for Heschel. To this scion of Hasidic masters with a doctorate from the University of Berlin, ``God in search of man'' remains his primary thesis as well as the title of one of his 13 books. To Heschel, WW II underscored an ongoing human failure that allows people to ``suspect that science is a device for exploitation, parliaments pulpits for hypocrisy, and religion a pretext for a bad conscience.'' Never sparing academia or theology, Heschel rails that we ``have bartered holiness for convenience, . . . wisdom for diplomas and information.'' Despite his professional involvement with Reform Jewish and Christian seminaries, Heschel was a daring critic of both, the former for valuing human will over revelation, the latter for preferring Faith over Works. To Heschel, doctrine was unimportant compared to religious wonder, gratitude, and acts of kindness, as ``God is waiting for us to redeem the world.'' This essential collection captures the best of a leading thinker and doer who influenced many contemporaries with an ancient prophetic tradition that he made new.

Dr. Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-72), one of the foremost Jewish savants of our time, was internationally known as scholar, author, activist, and theologian. In his lifetime Heschel spoke and published widely. Arriving in the United States in flight from the brutalities of Nazi Germany, he never forgot that the search for the divine and for human spirituality is inseparable from the search for a just society. As a revered and beloved teacher, he impressed on his students, first at the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati and then during his many years as Professor of Ethics and Mysticism at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, the spiritual imperatives of prayer, of ecumenism, of social decency. This first collection of Dr. Heschel's essays is arranged in five groups: "Existence and Celebration", "No Time for Neutrality", "Toward a Just Society", "No Religion Is an Island" (on ecumenism), and "The Holy Dimension". The essays include a tribute to Reinhold Niebuhr and a discussion of Father Bernard Haring, the moral theologian. The appendix contains Carl Stern's famous television interview with Dr. Heschel, recorded shortly before his death. The book also includes an introduction to Dr. Heschel's life and thought by the editor, his daughter, Susannah Heschel, who holds the Abba Hillel Silver chair in Jewish Studies at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. She is also the editor of the landmark collection On Being a Jewish Feminist.

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