Abraham Joshua Heschel

Abraham Joshua Heschel

The Call of Transcendence
Shai Held
Distribution: World
Publication date: 11/04/2013
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 978-0-253-01126-8
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Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972) was a prolific scholar, impassioned theologian, and prominent activist who participated in the black civil rights movement and the campaign against the Vietnam War. He has been hailed as a hero, honored as a visionary, and endlessly quoted as a devotional writer. In this sympathetic, yet critical, examination, Shai Held elicits the overarching themes and unity of Heschel’s incisive and insightful thought. Focusing on the idea of transcendence—or the movement from self-centeredness to God-centeredness—Held puts Heschel into dialogue with contemporary Jewish thinkers, Christian theologians, devotional writers, and philosophers of religion.

Author Bio

Shai Held is Dean and Chair of Jewish Thought at Mechon Hadar, an institute for Jewish prayer, personal growth, and Jewish study which he co-founded. He is winner of a 2011 Covenant Award for excellence in Jewish education, and Newsweek has twice named him one of America's most influential rabbis.


“In this lucid and elegant study, one of the keenest minds in Jewish theology in our time probes the vision of one of the most profound spiritual writers of the twentieth century, uncovering a unity that others have missed and shedding light not only on Heschel but also on the characteristically modern habits of mind that impede the knowledge of God. The book is especially valuable for the connections it draws with other philosophers, theologians, and spiritual writers, Jewish and Christian. Enthusiastically recommended!”
 — Jon D. Levenson, Harvard University

“A masterful work of scholarship and careful thought. In Shai Held, Heschel has found the serious and critical reader he so richly deserves. Through Heschel, Held's work reaches out more broadly to treat us to a profound discussion of the great issues in contemporary Jewish theology.”
 — Arthur Green, Hebrew College Rabbinical School

“Heschel's work and thought have rarely been subjected to careful, critical exploration. Shai Held's book is a watershed in this regard. It is philosophically and theologically sophisticated, leaves no stone unturned in its effort to clarify the main themes and foundational commitments that shaped Heschel's thinking, and employs a rich array of contextual factors, including attention to developments in Christian theology and philosophical thinking.”
 — Michael L. Morgan, Indiana University Bloomington

“In this lucid and learned account, Abraham Joshua Heschel emerges as a dialectical thinker who holds together such "opposites" as theology and spirituality, the transcendence and self-transcendence of God, the presence and absence of God, the humanity and divinity of the Bible, and prayer as praise and lament.  A powerful challenge to Jewish and Christian readers as well as those who stand outside biblical traditions, including secular readers.”
 — Merold Westphal, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Fordham University

“Presents a highly compelling theory about the core principles of Heschel's corpus that demands that his thought be studied anew.”
 — Robert Erlewine, Illinois Wesleyan University

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Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations
1. Wonder, Intuition, and the Path to God
2. Theological Method and Religious Anthropology: Heschel among the Christians
3. Revelation and Co-Revelation
4. The Pathos of the Self-Transcendent God
5. "Awake, Why Sleepest Thou, O Lord?" Divine Silence and Human Protest in Heschel’s Writings
6. The Self that Transcends Itself: Heschel on Prayer
7. Enabling Immanence: Prayer in a Time of Divine Hiddenness