Page 74 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 32

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
Maimonides in a flowing German prose. In 1937 he wrote a
slender volume on Don Isaac Abravanel. This monograph about
the Jewish scholar-statesman who attained high honors at the
Portuguese court and enriched the culture of his native country,
but who was expelled with his people from Iberia in 1492, must
have touched the hearts of German Jews fleeing from Hitler’s
hordes.
In Germany Heschel began to produce students as well as
books. In 1932 he was appointed an instructor in Talmud, an­
other field of his wide expertise, at the prestigious
Hochschule
filr die Wissenschaft des Judentums
(Academy for Jewish Stud­
ies) , of which he was an alumnus. When Martin Buber left
Germany for Palestine in 1936, he chose Heschel as his successor
at the prominent
Judisches Lehrhaus
in Frankfurt. In 1938,
together with all Jews holding Polish passports, Heschel was
arrested and deported from Germany, leaving behind many
manuscripts, friends and hopes. He returned to Warsaw where
he taught briefly. Six weeks before the
blitzkreig,
Heschel de­
parted for London where he founded the Institute for Adult
Jewish Studies. In 1940 he was called to America by the Hebrew
Union College. Though he arrived in the United States knowing
no English, within a few years he developed a flowing, flawless
English style. Heschel continued his studies in medieval philoso­
phy, publishing a masterful work in 1942 on the philosophy of
Saadia Gaon, to commemorate the thousandth anniversary of the
latter's death. In 1945 he expanded his earlier work on Maimoni­
des by publishing a Hebrew essay on Maimonides’ secret quest
for prophecy. By this time Heschel had accepted a position at
The Jewish Theological Seminary of America, a post he retained
until his death twenty-seven years later.
Heschel’s continuing effort to emphasize the meaningfulness
of Judaism’s message for modern man is demonstrated by his
masterful interpretation of the Jewish Sabbath,
The Sabbath,
published in 1950 and by his challenging study on Jewish prayer,
Man’s Quest for God,
published in 1954.
The Earth is the Lord’s,
based upon a Yiddish address delivered in 1946, is Heschel’s
moving eulogy to the destroyed Jewish communities of Eastern
Europe. The Rabbi of Kotsk, the subject of Heschel’s final work,
had said: “There are three ways to assuage sorrow: one is to cry,
one is to be silent, and one is to turn sorrow into song.” Heschel’s