Audio: The Spiritual Audacity of Abraham Joshua Heschel

Earlier this week a great podcast showed up in my feed reader. It was for a recent episode of NPR’s Speaking of Faith. The episode was all about the one and only, Abraham Joshua Heschel. It’s a mix of live recoding’s of Heschel taken from various lectures he gave, along with an in depth interview with JTS Chancellor Arnold Eisen, who is quite impressive himself.  The Chancellor shares stories and anecdotes about Heschel and talks about how Heschel’s message is still relevant today. I highly recommend checking this one out as I think its got something to offer to any Jew who is serious about being a Jew and wants to live in the modern world.

Speaking for myself, I have a real interest in Heschel and own several of his books. However in all honesty I find it next to impossible to read his work. When referring to Heschel I often say “ Yah he’s a guy that I love to hear people talk about but me trying to read him, is like trying to swim in molasses reading. I just don’t get anywhere.  I am sure the problem is on my end and not his but thank goodness for programs like this because it makes the man and his teachings much more accessible to someone like me.

Anyhow it’s getting close to Shabbat so I better wrap things up here. Like I said its a really great interview and if you have the time, do check it out. Heschel’s message is definitely Trans-Denominational and is even IMO relevant beyond the boundaries of Judaism.

Oh, also available for download is the full unedited interview with Chancellor Eisen, which is in some was actually better (more complete) than the aired version of the program, so I recommend giving that one a listen as well.

You can directly download the one hour version which aired on NPR here and the full unedited interview with Chancellor Eisen, which runs 78 minutes here.

Also available online is an episode page with additional information and resources about Heschel and a detailed breakdown of the program, which they call “Program Particulars.”

Lastly below is an Episode synopsis from the Speaking of Faith site:

The Spiritual Audacity of Abraham Joshua Heschel (June 5, 2008)

Heschel was a mystic who wrote transcendent, poetic words about God. At the very same time, he marched alongside Martin Luther King Jr. and organized religious leadership against the war in Vietnam, embodying the extreme social activism of the biblical prophets he studied. We explore his teachings and his legacy for people in our day.

Enjoy and as always if you listen to the program and/or additional interview please feel free to let the rest of us know what you thought.

Shabbat Shalom

About the Author

Avi aka TG

Avi is a Jew by choice who converted to Judaism in the spring of 2006 after two years of study and participation in Ottawa’s Jewish community. Although he began his Jewish journey as part of a Reform congregation, he now calls the Conservative movement home. Read More

One Response to “ Audio: The Spiritual Audacity of Abraham Joshua Heschel ”

  1. Avi, thanks for the nice write-up about the program. We had quite a difficult time cutting Eisen’s interview to fit into an hour of radio, so much so that we even contemplated making it a two-part series.
    As to your point about reading Heschel, I’ve found The Insecurity of Freedom, his book of essays, to be a wonderful introduction to his thought and poetic approach to life and faith. In particular, read his 1961 essay “To Grow in Wisdom,” which was initially delivered at the 1961 White House Conference on Aging. It knocked me out in the first several paragraphs talking about the idolatry of youth and the disregard for the elderly. His words couldn’t have been more prescient:

    I see the sick and the despised, the defeated and the bitter, the rejected and the lonely. I see them clustered together and alone, clinging to a hope for somebody’s affection that does not come to pass. I hear them pray for the release that comes with death. I see them deprived and forgotten, masters yesterday, outcasts today.
    What we owe the old is reverence, but all they ask for is consideration, attention, not to be discarded and forgotten. What they deserve is preference, yet we do not even grant them equality. One father finds it possible to sustain a dozen children, yet a dozen children find it impossible to sustain one father.
    Perhaps this is the most distressing aspect of the situation. The care for the old is regarded as an act of charity rather than as a supreme privilege. In the never dying utterance of the Ten Commandments, the God of Israel did not proclaim: Honor Me, Revere Me. He proclaimed instead: Revere your father and your mother. There is no reverence for God without reverence for father and mother.
    In Jewish tradition the honor for father and mother is a commandment, the perfect fulfillment of which surpasses the power of man. There is no limit to what one ought to do in carrying out this privilege of devotion. God is invisible, but my mother is His presence….

    All the best.

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