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Abraham Joshua Heschel--The Prophets

Congratulations to America Magazine for its new website, and for its fascinating article, "Lovingly Observant," by Doris Donnelly and John Pawlikowski. It's an interview with Susannah Heschel, who holds a chair in Jewish Studies at Dartmouth, about her father, the great Jewish rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel.

I first read his book, The Prophets, a couple of years ago-- it's really a wonderful piece of theology, and a fine way into the complex and compelling world of the prophets of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament. It's long --very long in fact--but don't be put off. It's so engagingly written the pages just speed by!

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"Not the individual man nor a single generation by its own power, can erect the bridge that leads to God. Faith is the achievement of many generations, an effort accumulated over centuries. Many of its ideas are as of the light of the star that left its source a long time ago. Many enigmatic songs, unfathomable today, are the resonance of voices of bygone times. There is a collective memory of God in the human spirit, and it is this memory which is the main source oif our faith." --From Heschel's two-part essay "Faith," first published in volume 10 of The Reconstructionist, Nov. 3 & 17, 1944. For his later statement on faith, incorporating some of the original essay, see Heschel, Man Is Not Alone 159-76 (1951).

If I could read only one theologian for the rest of my life, it would be Abraham Joshua Heschel. It was reading Heschel that I first began to realize both the presumptuousness of much Christian theology in relation to Judaism and how poorly much of our theology compares, especially in the artificiality and self-serving nature of many of its problems. Regarding Scripture, the Rabbis (and those who pass them on like Heschel) are masters to whom Christians will forever be students.Regarding Heschel books, in addition to The Prophets, I recommend A Passion for Truth; Between God and Man; and my most recent (and so very unfinished) purchase, Heavenly Torah.

When Heschel died in 1972, America published an entire issue on his life and work. We've just posted an article from that issue by Jewish scholar Jacob Neusner: http://americamagazine.org/content/article.cfm?article_id=10032