Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972) was a spiritual teacher and moral prophet par excellence. His daughter Susannah Heschel is the editor and writer of the introduction to this volume in the Orbis Books' Modern Spiritual Masters Series. His major concerns, she maintains, were our capacity to create holiness by our prayer, our worship on the Sabbath, and our ethical actions in the workaday world. Hasidic teachings are spread throughout the many books he wrote about the spiritual renewal of Judaism. The presence of God is everywhere and so "if you want to know God, sharpen your sense of the human." That is sage advice which Heschel demonstrated in his life by championing interfaith dialogue, marching with Martin Luther King, Jr., and protesting the Vietnam War.
This substantive collection of excerpts from Heschel's writings is divided into six sections on dealing with humanity, the roles of prophecy, the mystery of God, the realm of the Spirit, the place of prayer, and the supreme importance of God. Susannah Heschel notes:
"My father grounded his understanding of religion not only in Scripture, but also in the complexity of human life; what it is to be a human being and how to create a sense of authenticity. The depth of religious life required a depth of self-exploration and understanding."
Heschel was fascinated with the spiritual practice of wonder and exploring his understanding of this virtue is an especially valuable experience. He sees it as a spur to faith and as an appreciation of the mysteries of life. (Be sure to take a look at his further probes on wonder in the excerpt.) We were also delighted to reacquaint ourselves with this Jewish sage's views on religion and race, awe, faith, prayer, and dissent.