Abraham Joshua Heschel

Abraham Joshua Heschel

Mind, Heart, Soul

Edward K. Kaplan
Adapted from Abraham Joshua Heschel: Prophetic Witness by Edward K. Kaplan and Samuel H. Dresner (Yale University Press, 1998)
and Spiritual Radical: Abraham Joshua Heschel in America, 1940-1972 by Edward K. Kaplan (Yale University Press, 2007)

488 pages
13 photographs, index

Hardcover

November 2019

978-0-8276-1474-1

$34.95 Pre-order

About the Book

In this first one-volume English-language full biography of Abraham Joshua Heschel, Edward K. Kaplan tells the engrossing, behind-the-scenes story of the life, philosophy, struggles, yearnings, writings, and activism of one of the twentieth century’s most outstanding Jewish thinkers.

Kaplan takes readers on a soulful journey through the rollercoaster challenges and successes of Heschel’s emotional life. As a child he was enveloped in a Hasidic community of Warsaw, then he went on to explore secular Jewish Vilna and cosmopolitan Berlin. He improvised solutions to procure his doctorate in Nazi-dominated Berlin, escaped the Nazis, and secured a rare visa to the United States. He articulated strikingly original interpretations of Jewish ideas. His relationships spanned not only the Jewish denominational spectrum but also Catholic and Protestant faith communities. A militant voice for nonviolent social action, he marched with Martin Luther King Jr. (who became a close friend), expressed strong opposition to the Vietnam War (while the FBI compiled a file on him), and helped reverse long-standing antisemitic Catholic Church doctrine on Jews (participating in a secret meeting with Pope Paul VI during Vatican II).

From such prodigiously documented stories Heschel himself emerges—mind, heart, and soul. Kaplan elucidates how Heschel remained forever torn between faith and anguish; between love of God and abhorrence of human apathy, moral weakness, and deliberate evil; between the compassion of the Baal Shem Tov of Medzibozh and the Kotzker rebbe’s cruel demands for truth. “My heart,” Heschel acknowledged, is “in Medzibozh, my mind in Kotzk.”

Author Bio

Edward K. Kaplan is Kevy and Hortense Kaiserman Professor in the Humanities Emeritus at Brandeis University. He is the author of numerous books, including Spiritual Radical: Abraham Joshua Heschel in America, 1940–1972; winner of the National Jewish Book Award; and coauthor, with Samuel H. Dresner, of Abraham Joshua Heschel: Prophetic Witness.
 

Praise

“Edward K. Kaplan’s magisterial biography of the greatest Jewish prophetic figure of the barbaric twentieth century is a masterpiece! It is also incredibly timely. We need the wisdom, courage, and compassion of the inimitable Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. The very future of our world depends, in part, on the legacy of Heschel’s prophetic witness.”—Cornel West, Professor of the Practice of Public Philosophy, Harvard University
 

“I loved this book. Kaplan’s engaging, incisive biography brings alive Heschel’s extraordinary personality, theology, prophetic voice, and monumental contributions to Jewish thought, interfaith understanding, and the moral soul of America. Abraham Joshua Heschel: Mind, Heart, Soul evokes a much richer and deeper understanding of this spiritual giant as it simultaneously rekindles the reader’s passion for the work of Jewish social justice.”—Rabbi David Saperstein, director emeritus, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
 

“In this wonderful distillation of many years of painstaking research, Ed Kaplan presents us with Heschel the man. Kaplan’s love for his subject is so clear, I anticipate readers will find the love contagious.”—Rabbi Shai Held, author of The Heart of Torah: Essays on the Weekly Torah Portion
 

“Edward Kaplan’s lucid biography of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel illuminates the profound contributions of one of the most outstanding religious figures of the twentieth century. . . . Heschel’s commitment to civil rights, opposition to the Vietnam War, and interreligious relations show us what inspired religious leadership looks like—leadership our world today desperately needs.”—Mary C. Boys, Dean Skinner and McAlpin Professor of Practical Theology, Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York
 

“Kaplan offers a close reading into the complex emotional, intellectual, and cultural experiences that shaped Heschel’s depth theology, radical mysticism, and social activism and catapulted him into becoming a fearless champion of human rights. Scholars and concerned citizens everywhere will benefit from the needed reminder that indeed ‘the earth is the Lord’s.’”—Walter Earl Fluker, Martin Luther King Jr. Professor of Ethical Leadership, Boston University School of Theology
 

“Kaplan’s biography masterfully depicts the life of Abraham Joshua Heschel, showing us how Heschel became the great moral and spiritual genius of the mid-twentieth century. We are all in Kaplan’s debt.”—Reuven Kimelman, professor of classical Judaica, Brandeis University

 

“As one blessed to have sat at the feet of Abraham Joshua Heschel, I enthusiastically endorse my fellow student Edward Kaplan’s biography of our teacher and master. Kaplan’s intimate understanding of Heschel’s great life, work, and thought enables a new generation to at least meet in print what we encountered in person.”—David Novak, professor of Jewish studies and philosophy, University of Toronto and author of Jewish Justice 

Table of Contents

List of Photographs
Preface
Acknowledgments
Notes on This Volume
Part I. From Hasidism to Modernity
1. Hasidic Warsaw, 1907–1925
2. Vilna and Berlin, 1925–1931
3. Prophetic Inspiration and Hitler’s Rise, 1929–1935
4. Symbolic or Sacred Religion, 1935–1939
5. Struggling to Escape, 1938–1940
Part II. Theological Foundations in America
6. Becoming an American, 1940–1945
7. Rescuing the American Soul, 1945–1951
8. Theological Revolution, 1952–1956
Part III. Spiritual Activism
9. Biblical Prophecy and Current Events, 1956–1963
10. A Sacred Humanism, 1963–1966
11. Apostle to the Gentiles, 1961–1966
12. Civil Rights, Vietnam, and Israel, 1965–1969
13. Summation of a Life, 1970–1972
Epilogue
Notes
Note on Sources
Selected Bibliography
Index of Names
 

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