His mother was also a descendant of Avraham Yehoshua Heshel and other Hasidic dynasties. Their father Moshe died of influenza in when Abraham was nine. His mentor in Berlin was David Koigen. He joined a Yiddish poetry group, Jung Vilna, and in , published a volume of Yiddish poems, Der Shem Hamefoyrosh: Mentsch, dedicated to his father.

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Farrar, Straus and Young. This slight volume raises some of the most fundamental problems of Jewish faith. Basic to the. Pagan religions are religions of space; it is in space, in nature, that they find holiness.

The physical world [becomes] divested of any inherent sanctity. It is the dimension of time wherein man meets God. All it ever claims to do is to provide concepts that will prove useful in describing, predicting, and controlling phenomena. The limitations of science are perhaps better appreciated today than ever before, precisely because of the great advances in scientific thinking. Whatever science may or may not be able to do, it is today quite obvious that it cannot reveal to us the order of reality and significance in the universe of being.

That is the task of philosophy, and, more profoundly, of theology. Heschel is therefore on solid ground in his approach as he is in his conclusions. In the framework of this Biblical understanding of space and time, Heschel sets forth his interpretation of the Sabbath.

Judaism, unlike Oriental spirituality, aims at the sanctification of time rather than escape from it. His pages become a distillation of millennia of tradition, almost every line recalling some ancient tale or insight of enduring significance. But he does not let his stories run away with him.

It is therefore a remembrance of Paradise and a preligurement of the fulfillment in the Kingdom of Heaven. The eschatological significance of the Sabbath. All week there is only hope of redemption. But when the Sabbath is entering the world, man is touched by a moment of actual redemption. The longing for the Sabbath all the days of the week.

In this sense. But it is more than memorial or remembrance; it is also reenactment. Such is the Biblical rabbinic conception of time appropriated in contemporancity. For above all things the Sabbath is holy. Its holiness, according to rabbinic teaching, is derived immediately from the holiness of Cod.

Its observance is sanctification, hallowing. Three views on this question have commonly been held. This conception, so familiar to the Oriental mind and not unknown in Jewish and Christian tradition, seems to imply a ritualistic thaumaturgy utterly alien to the spirit of Biblical faith. This approach is obviously subjectivistic in the worst sense of the term and entirely voids observance of its religious substance.

Observance is required, according to Johanan ben Zakkai, because it is an ordinance of God. Obedience to the divine will, accepted and appropriated as such—obedience in joy and spontaneity, to be sure, but obedience nevertheless—is what constitutes the religious-existential meaning of ritual observance in this view, and it is a view, I think, that is very close to the authentic tradition of Jewish faith.

One could wish that Heschel had discussed this problem explicitly at some point in his book. He has not done so, and so we must fall back on conjecture.


The Sabbath [Abraham Giroux]

In a civilization that cherishes production, tangible products carry utmost importance. It is not a place, or an object, but the seventh day. It is this time that God sanctifies, and in the next ten chapters, Heschel makes a compelling argument for the return to observance of the Sabbath as holy time. This is not in opposition to labor or the civilized spaces of this world, but rather that which gives meaning to these other endeavors.


The Sabbath Quotes



The Sabbath: Its Meaning for Modern Man, by Abraham Joshua Heschel



Abraham Joshua Heschel


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