MORAL GRANDEUR AND SPIRITUAL AUDACITY: Essays by Abraham Joshua Heschel

MORAL GRANDEUR AND SPIRITUAL AUDACITY: Essays

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Collected essays by Rabbi Heschel (1907-72), 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.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0374524955
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: "Farrar, Straus & Giroux"