The centenary of Abraham Joshua Heschel's birth is January 11, 2007. His yohrzeit (18 Tevet, the 34th anniversary of his death) falls on January 7-8.
Both come during the week of reading Parashat Sh'mot, the first portion of Exodus (chapters 1-4), in which midwives resist through nonviolence the murderous commands of Pharaoh; we experience the renaming of God; and our liberation from slavery begins. A perfect week to celebrate Heschel.
Heschel's theology –- e.g his book God in Search of Man –- and his spiritually rooted social action, standing alongside Dr. Martin Luther King not only against racism but also against the Vietnam War, have had a deep effect on Jewish and Christian thought and action. His lustrous book on The Sabbath nourished the emergence of Eco-Judaism.
Both studying his writings and acting in his name for peace, justice, and healing of the earth will be appropriate memorials throughout 2007.
There is a special section of articles on Heschel by many different writers – Or Rose, Art Green, Burt Jacobson, and more
on our Website.
And the amazing collection of his amazing essays, Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity, edited by his daughter, Prof. Susannah Heschel of Dartmouth, bears teaching upon teaching for our own generation.
This summer, from August 6 to 12 at the Elat Chayyim retreat center, I will be teaching a course on “Uniting Spirituality and Social Change: Learning from Heschel on prayer, pyramids, & politics.”
Heschel taught that the Prophets spoke forth God's Own suffering; that prayer is the "song the universe sings to itself," and yet that prayer must be “subversive,” shattering pyramids; that at a great civil-rights march, he felt as if his legs were praying.
We will look at how Rabbi Heschel grounded his political action in the Spirit, the Prophets, and the mystical teachings of the Baal Shem Tov, and insisted that prayer address the God Who suffers when human beings suffer.
Susannah Heschel will join the course as visiting teacher.
For information call Elat Chayyim at (800) 398-2630.
Note: Please read an article written Susanna Heschel in memory her father's yahrzeit in the December 2006 issue of Peacework Magazine.