What do you think of when you hear or read the name Abraham Joshua Heschel? I’m guessing that you know him best for his social activism, particularly in support of civil rights and the anti-war protests of the late 1960s. If you look up his page on myjewishlearning.com, two large photos of Dr. Heschel with Martin Luther King accompany the text. He certainly played a prominent, even prophetic, role in the landscape of American religion. But the written text of his biography emphasizes his role as one of the most infulential Jewish philosophers and theologians of the 20th century.
Heschel wasn’t only a prophet in the realm of activism. While cajoling people to march and speak out against the injustices of his time, he also called out for Jews to take seriously a topic he saw suffering from eroding interest: God. “The Bible is an answer to the supreme question: what does God demand of us? Yet the question has gone out of this world” (Heschel, God in Search of Man, p. 168).
This Shabbat, as we read Parshat Yitro, we come upon the engrossing narrative of the moment of revelation, aka The Ten Commandments. Wasn’t that scene in the movie dramatic? I find chapters 19 and 20 of Ecodus to create a spine-tingling excitement. Is it possible to think of revelation and get emotional without the assistance of Cecil B. DeMille? I wonder. Do you wonder?
On Shabbat morning, to honor revelation, we’ll look at the writings of one of today’s great teachers of Heschel, Rabbi Shai Held, and ask ourselves the questions that Heschel wished we would ask.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,