Abra­ham Joshua Hes­chel: The Call of Transcendence

  • Review
By – September 1, 2015

Shai Held’s study of Abra­ham Joshua Hes­chel is a jour­ney into the depths of the soul of the great the­olo­gian’s essen­tial writ­ings. Painstak­ing­ly researched and delib­er­ate in its use of lan­guage, Abra­ham Joshua Hes­chel: The Call of Tran­scen­dence, is a mas­ter­ful explo­ration of Hes­chel’s work.

Best suit­ed to the read­er who is already famil­iar with Hes­chel’s writ­ing and ter­mi­nol­o­gy, one can eas­i­ly imag­ine such a per­son eager­ly div­ing into Held’s pre­sen­ta­tion, mak­ing use of the exten­sive notes and ref­er­ences to the pri­ma­ry sources. Indeed, these notes and ref­er­ences — not only to Hes­chel’s writ­ings but to those of oth­er lead­ing schol­ars and the­olo­gians in con­ver­sa­tion with Held’s study — are the crown jew­els of this work, plac­ing Held’s book at the cen­ter of any seri­ous engage­ment with Hes­chel’s writ­ings. It is unlike­ly, how­ev­er, that a novice stu­dent with lim­it­ed famil­iar­i­ty with Hes­chel’s orig­i­nal thought will find Held’s study to be help­ful in untan­gling Hes­chel’s volup­tuous and enig­mat­ic language.

Held’s study is a book to be savored: it is too rich­ly detailed to be absorbed in any­thing but short sit­tings. For the read­er with the patience and the nec­es­sary philo­soph­i­cal and the­o­log­i­cal back­grounds, read­ing Held’s work is a deca­dent and enor­mous­ly reward­ing process to be treasured.

Relat­ed Content:

Deb­o­rah Miller received rab­bini­cal ordi­na­tion at the Jew­ish The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary. She lives in New Jer­sey with her hus­band and daugh­ter, where she serves as a hos­pice chap­lain and teacher.

Discussion Questions