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Abraham Joshua Heschel

The Call of Transcendence

Shai Held

Publication Year: 2013

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.

Published by: Indiana University Press


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pp. 1-3


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pp. 5-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

I have accumulated a great many debts in the long and drawn-out process of producing this book. I wish to offer especial thanks to the following teachers, colleagues, students, and friends. ...

Abbreviations: Works by Abraham Joshua Heschel

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pp. xiii-xiv

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pp. 1-27

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; ...

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1. Wonder, Intuition, and the Path to God

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pp. 28-71

Abraham Joshua Heschel begins his discussion of wonder in God in Search of Man by declaring that “among the many things that religious tradition holds in store for us is a legacy of wonder.”1 This opening sentence ends with something of a surprise: one might have expected Heschel to invoke a legacy of “fidelity,” “commitment,” or “piety.” ...

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2. Theological Method and Religious Anthropology: Heschel among the Christians

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pp. 72-93

What kind of theologian was Heschel? Since, like many Jewish thinkers, Heschel talks very little about theological method, it falls to us to piece together what he is doing. With his strong theocentric thrust, Heschel can at moments sound very much like his contemporary, the neo-Orthodox Protestant theologian Karl Barth (1886–1968). ...

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3. Revelation and Co-Revelation

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pp. 94-134

If wonder leads to a sense that “something is asked of us,” revelation seeks to address the obvious next question: what, precisely, is asked of us? “The Bible,” Heschel writes, “is an answer to the supreme question: what does God demand of us? Yet the question has gone out of the world.”1 ...

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4. The Pathos of the Self-Transcendent God

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pp. 135-173

In talking to a group of Jewish educators in 1968, Heschel warned of an “insidious danger” that constituted nothing less than a “block to Jewish theology”; “I refer,” he said, “to the Hellenization of Jewish theology.”1 This process, which began as early as Philo (20 BCE–50 CE), was based on the dangerously misleading assumption that, at bottom, “Plato and Moses”— ...

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5. "Awake, Why Sleepest Thou, O Lord?": Divine Silence and Human Protest in Heschel's Writings

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pp. 174-197

In his posthumously published A Passion for Truth, Heschel speaks of the Kotzker Rebbe’s anger at God. Enraged by hypocrisy and deceit, Menahem Mendl railed at humanity. But the Kotzker’s anger extended further, beyond human beings and toward their Creator. ...

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6. The Self That Transcends Itself: Heschel on Prayer

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pp. 198-217

Heschel’s final work, A Passion for Truth (1973), is a vivid portrayal of the Hasidic master Reb Menahem Mendl of Kotzk (1787–1859), known above all for his zealous pursuit of truth and integrity in the religious life. One of the central preoccupations of both the Kotzker and his biographer is their insistence that falsehood and self-centeredness are inextricably linked, ...

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7. Enabling Immanence: Prayer in a Time of Divine Hiddenness

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pp. 218-228

In his essay “On Prayer,” published in 1970, Heschel speaks again of the centrality of self-transcendence to the act of prayer. He writes that in prayer, “I leave the world behind as well as all interests of the self. Divested of all concerns, I am overwhelmed by only one desire: to place my heart upon the altar of God.”1 ...

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pp. 229-234

In what ways does our investigation advance our understanding of the unity and direction of Abraham Joshua Heschel’s overall project? How have we uncovered the animating core of his ostensibly diverse and even contradictory claims? We can begin to answer this by noting a dimension of his thought that is too often overlooked: ...


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pp. 235-312


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pp. 313-326


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pp. 327-334

E-ISBN-13: 9780253011305
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253011268

Page Count: 352
Publication Year: 2013