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Spiritual RadicalAbraham Joshua Heschel in America, 1940-1972$
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Edward K. Kaplan

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780300115406

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: October 2013

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300115406.001.0001

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Books of Spiritual Rescue (1948–1951)

Books of Spiritual Rescue (1948–1951)

(p.97) 6 Books of Spiritual Rescue (1948–1951)
Spiritual Radical

Edward K. Kaplan

Yale University Press

This chapter discusses Heschel's new mission—to educate American Jews on two levels: theological and cultural. The foundation of both was what the author refers to as a sacred humanism, already embedded in his essay “The Mystical Element in Judaism,” which was completed in 1945 but not published until 1949. Unlike Martin Buber, whose brief, memorable, and essentially secular notion of “I-Thou dialogue” could be grasped by a wide readership, Heschel sought to inculcate a more complex ethos that combined reverence for the living God, traditional observance, and universal ethics. For Heschel, Jewish mysticism sanctified human life and was intrinsically this-worldly. His interpretation of the Zohar, mysticism's basic text, emphasized the “exaltation of man” based on a reciprocal relationship or covenant with the divine.

Keywords:   sacred humanism, American Jews, Martin Buber, Jewish mysticism, exaltation of man

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