In This Hour offers the first English translations of selected German writings by Abraham Joshua Heschel from his tumultuous years in Nazi-ruled Germany and months in London exile, before he found refuge in the United States. Moreover, several of the works have never been published in any language. Composed during a time of intense crisis for European Jewry, these writings both argue for and exemplify a powerful vision of spiritually rich Jewish learning and its redemptive role in the past and the future of the Jewish people.
The collection opens with the text of a speech in which Heschel laid out with passion his vision for Jewish education. Then it goes on to present his teachings: a set of essays about the rabbis of the Mishnaic period, whose struggles paralleled those of his own time; the biography of the medieval Jewish scholar and leader Don Yitzhak Abravanel; reflections on the power and meaning of repentance, written for the High Holidays in 1936; and a short story on Jewish exile, written for Hanukkah 1937. The collection closes with a set of four recently discovered meditations—on suffering, prayer, spirituality, and God—in which Heschel grapples with the horrors unfolding around him. Taken together, these essays and story fill a significant void in Heschel’s bibliography: his Nazi Germany and London exile years.
These translations convey the spare elegance of Heschel’s prose, and the introduction and detailed notes make the volume accessible to readers of all knowledge levels.
As Heschel teaches history, his voice is more than that of a historian: the old becomes new, and the struggles of one era shed light on another. Even as Heschel quotes ancient sources, his words address the issues of his own time and speak urgently to ours.
Foreword by Susannah Heschel
1. London: Jewish Learning in Exile
The Idea of Jewish Education
Notes for a Lecture on Jewish Education in the Modern Era
2. Personalities in Jewish History
Rabbi Johanan ben Zakkai
Rabbi Gamliel II
Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel II
Elisha ben Abuyah
Rabbi Judah Hanasi
3. Don Yitzhak Abravanel
A Life Between State and God
On the Origin of the World
The Two Paths to the Imitation of God
On the End of Time
A Legacy of Failed Advocacy
4. For the Jewish Holidays in Berlin
The Power of Repentance (Rosh Hashanah, 1936)
The Meaning of Repentance (Rosh Hashanah, 1936)
Lights Over the Sea (Hanukkah, 1937)
On the Seriousness of Prayer
On Dreaming God’s Dream