Abra­ham Joshua Hes­chel: Essen­tial Writings

Abra­ham Joshua Hes­chel; Susan­nah Hes­chel, ed.
  • Review
By – November 1, 2011
This lat­est col­lec­tion of Abra­ham Joshua Heschel’s work serves as a won­der­ful intro­duc­tion to the man wide­ly regard­ed as one of the most impor­tant reli­gious voic­es of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry. Though many of the select­ed writ­ings in this col­lec­tion come from pre­vi­ous­ly pub­lished work, Essen­tial Writ­ings also includes some hith­er­to unpub­lished mate­r­i­al — a treat for all those who cher­ish the writ­ings of the spir­i­tu­al giant. 

Hes­chel long com­ment­ed on the pow­er of lan­guage to affect change in this world, so per­haps it should come as no sur­prise that his own lan­guage is intense and often­times thun­der­ous. At its best, Heschel’s writ­ing can leave a read­er in awe at the majesty of his lan­guage and the pro­fun­di­ty of his ideas. But pre­cise­ly because his lan­guage is often so loaded, Hes­chel can, at times, become dif­fi­cult to swal­low — as if his thoughts and exhor­ta­tions sim­ply become too much to digest in one sit­ting. The beau­ty of this vol­ume is that it large­ly avoids that pit­fall. By orga­niz­ing Essen­tial Writ­ings into six sec­tions and select­ing rel­e­vant and telling writ­ings, Susan­nah Hes­chel— the book’s edi­tor and Abra­ham Joshua Heschel’s daugh­ter — suc­ceeds in pro­vid­ing a palat­able and deeply enjoy­able intro­duc­tion to her father’s work.

Nathaniel Rosen is a junior at Cor­nell Uni­ver­si­ty, where he majors in Eng­lish and writes a bi-week­ly col­umn for the Cor­nell Dai­ly Sun.

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