Shai Held on Abraham Joshua Heschel and the Call of Transcendence

Shai Held on Abraham Joshua Heschel and the Call of Transcendence

ABRAHAM JOSHUA HESCHEL: THE CALL OF TRANSCENDENCE

Order the book from Amazon here

About the Book

Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972) was a prolific scholar, impassioned theologian, and prominent activist who participated in the black civil rights movement and the campaign against the Vietnam War. He has been hailed as a hero, honored as a visionary, and endlessly quoted as a devotional writer.

In this sympathetic, yet critical, examination, Shai Held elicits the overarching themes and unity of Heschel’s incisive and insightful thought. Focusing on the idea of transcendence—or the movement from self-centeredness to God-centeredness—Held puts Heschel into dialogue with contemporary Jewish thinkers, Christian theologians, devotional writers, and philosophers of religion.

About the Author
Shai Held is Dean and Chair of Jewish Thought at Mechon Hadar, an institute for Jewish prayer, personal growth, and Jewish study which he co-founded. He is winner of a 2011 Covenant Award for excellence in Jewish education, and Newsweek has twice named him one of America’s most influential rabbis. You can read and listen to his weekly thoughts on the parashah here.

Praise for Abraham Joshua Heschel: The Call of Transcendence
In this lucid and elegant study, one of the keenest minds in Jewish theology of our time probes the vision of one of the most profound spiritual writers of the twentieth century, uncovering a unity that others have missed and shedding light not only on Heschel but also on the characteristically modern habits of mind that impede the knowledge of God. The book is especially valuable for the connections it draws with other philosophers, theologians, and spriritual writers, Jewish and Christian.
–Jon D. Levenson, Harvard University

Heschel’s work and thought have rarely been subjected to such careful, critical exploration. Shai Held’s book is a watershed in this regard. It is philosophically and theologically sophisticated, leaves no stone unturned in its effort to clarify the main themes and foundational commitments that shaped Heschel’s thinking, and employs a rich array of contextual factors, including attention to developments in Christian theology and philosophical thinking.
–Michael L. Morgan, Indiana University Bloomington

A masterful work of scholarship and careful thought. In Shai Held, Heschel has found the serious and critical reader he so richly deserves. Through Heschel, Held’s work reaches out more broadly to treat us to a profound discussion of the great issues in contemporary Jewish theology.
–Arthur Green, Hebrew College Rabbinical School

Presents a highly compelling theory about the core principles of Heschel’s corpus that demands that his thought be studied anew.
–Robert Erlewine, Illinois Wesleyan University

In this lucid and learned account, Abraham Joshua Heschel emerges as a dialectical thinker who holds together such ‘opposites’ as theology and spirituality, the transcendence and self-transcendence of God, the presence and absence of God, the humanity and divinity of the Bible, and prayer as praise and lament. A powerful challenge to Jewish and Christian readers as well as those who stand outside biblical traditions, including secular readers.
–Merold Westphal, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy. Fordham University

Book Interviews
Watch Shai Held give presentations of Abraham Joshua Heschel: The Call of Transcendence to three organisations: Tikvah Fund, Jewish Theological Seminary and Hebrew College Rabbincial School.

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HESCHEL: Rabbi Shai Held, discusses his new book “Is transcendence the key and core to Heschel’s teaching

Rabbi Shai Held, co-founder of Machon Hadar, discusses his new book on the celebrated Jewish theologian, scholar and activist Abraham Joshua Heschel, on December 5, 2013.

The Book is here – https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0253011264/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Beauty bestowed. It dawned on me. I forgot the words of my morning prayer

In looking East from our lounge the dawn sky was a joy of light between sculptured clouds.

Into the ‘cinema screen’, formed by the space between the flats and church opposite, two swooping gulls. They arose in flight and curving rightwards left the space in which I could see them.

So beautiful was the curve of their flight that I forgot the words of the morning prayer I had learned by heart decades ago. I was left silent and smiling in the resonance of beauty bestowed. It dawned on me.

How important are you?

A juxtaposition of two extracts from spiritual teachings.

Tolle in Chapter 7 of A New Earth says;

…….the ultimate purpose of the world lies not within the world but in transcendence of the world. Just as you would not be conscious of space if there were no objects in space, the world is needed for the Unmanifested to be realized.

You may have heard the Buddhist saying: “If there were no illusion, there would be no enlightenment.” It is through the world and ultimately through you that the Unmanifested knows itself.

You are here to enable the divine purpose of the universe to unfold. That is how important you are!

We find a similar passage in Baha’i Writings;

Ye are the stars of the heaven of understanding, the breeze that stirreth at the break of day, the soft-flowing waters upon which must depend the very life of all men, the letters inscribed upon His sacred scroll. With the utmost unity, and in a spirit of perfect fellowship, exert yourselves, that ye may be enabled to achieve that which beseemeth this Day of God. (from Gleanings)

Transcend but include – Ken Wilber

“Transcending the ego” thus actually means to transcend but include the ego in a deeper and higher embrace, first in the soul or deeper psychic, then with the Witness or primordial Self, then with each previous stage taken up, enfolded, included, and embraced in the radiance of One Taste.

And that means we do not “get rid” of the small ego, but rather, we inhabit it fully, live it with verve, use it as the necessary vehicle through which higher truths are communicated.

Soul and Spirit include body, emotions, and mind; they do not erase them.

Ken Wilber

Source: The Essential Ken Wilber: An Introductory Reader., Pages: 33

I entered into unknowing and there I remained…

I entered into unknowing,
and there I remained unknowing
transcending all knowledge.

1

I entered into unknowing,
yet when I saw myself there,
without knowing where I was,
I understood great things;
I will not say what I felt
for I remained in unknowing
transcending all knowledge.

2

That perfect knowledge
was of peace and holiness
held at no remove
in profound solitude;
it was something so secret
that I was left stammering,
transcending all knowledge.

3

I was so ‘whelmed,
so absorbed and withdrawn,
that my senses were left
deprived of all their sensing,
and my spirit was given
an understanding while not understanding,
transcending all knowledge.

4

He who truly arrives there
cuts free from himself;
all that he knew before
now seems worthless,
and his knowledge so soars
that he is left in unknowing
transcending all knowledge.

5

The higher he ascends
the less he understands,
because the cloud is dark
which lit up the night;
whoever knows this
remains always in unknowing
transcending all knowledge.

6

This knowledge in unknowing
is so overwhelming
that wise men disputing
can never overthrow it,
for their knowledge does not reach
to the understanding of not
understanding,
transcending all knowledge.

7

And this supreme knowledge
is so exalted
that no power of man or learning
can grasp it;
he who masters himself
will, with knowledge in
unknowing,
always be transcending.

8

And if you should want to hear:
this highest knowledge lies
in the loftiest sense
of the essence of God;
this is a work of his mercy,
to leave one without
understanding,
transcending all knowledge.

~Saint John of the Cross (1542–1591)

Contemplation is the highest expression of man’s…

“Contemplation is the highest expression of man’s intellectual and spiritual life. It is that life itself, fully awake, fully active, fully aware that it is alive. It is spiritual wonder. It is spontaneous awe at the sacredness of life, of being. It is gratitude for life, for awareness, and for being. It is a vivid realization of the fact that life and being in us proceed from an invisible, transcendent and infinitely abundant Source. Contemplation is, above all, an awareness of the reality of that Source.”

Thomas Merton
New Seeds of Contemplation