Heavenly Torah: As Refracted Through the Generations Paperback – 2 Dec 2007
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Like Copernicus Heschel has set the world on its head Without actually examining the evidence, one can hardly be aware of how intrinsically valid is Heschel s hermeneutic principle. Without seeing how thorough and well-disciplined has been his study of Talmudic literature, one cannot fully appreciate his achievement in bringing some order and sense to it This is clearly a work of gigantic proportions. Jacob Neusner--Jacob Neusner
Heschel s most important, ambitious, and monumental work. this translation will best serve academics who do not have complete or even partial control of Hebrew, it is accessible enough for any lay reader interested in Jewish theology. A tour de force of gigantic proportions; recommended for all libraries. Library Journal, 1/28/05
This is an ambitious work of tremendous significance, and indispensable guide to understanding the Torah and- consequently- the Jewish religion. Not simply for large religious collections, but for any with active borrowers. Booklist, November 15, 2004
one of the most important books in Jewish Studies. Jewish Herald-Voice, November 25, 2004
brilliantly translated a superb job of assembling, abridging, and translating a huge, not-quite-finished manuscript the introduction to each chapter, the explanatory notes on almost every page are wonderful aids in working through this massive work. Current Theological Writing--Current Theological Writing
'This is a work of tremendous significance for understanding Judaism.'--Booklist Top Ten Books of the Year in Religion
Gordon Tucker (and Leonard Levin) have done a superb job of assembling, editing, abridging and translating a huge, not-quite-finished manuscript. Others literally died trying to translate this sprawling masterpiece. on the whole, the introductions to each chapter, the explanatory notes on almost every page (including identifying Heschel s often obscure sources) are wonderful aids in working through this massive work. Here, now, the greatest Jewish thinker in American history, the true inheritor of Polish Hasidism and German Jewish scholarship, the friend of Martin Luther King and the Pope, our master and teacher, Abraham Joshua Heschel, becomes at last, the major interpreter of classical Judaism. May God, who makes all things possible, be blessed. Judaism, forthcoming in 2005
it reveals Heschel s rarely equaled mastery of the entire body of rabbinic, philosophical and mystical literature, both the original sources and the secondary literature. In his tragically brief lifetime, Heschel represented many role models. He was the hero of modern Jewish theologians, the father of the new Jewish spirituality and the eloquent spokesperson for all who were devoted to repairing our seriously flawed world. These two new books speak to his enduring contributions in all of these areas. The Jewish Week, 12/24/04
The publication of this book, the fruit of over a decade of work, and coinciding with the 100th anniversary of Heschel s birth (1905), and his 32nd yahrzeit, is an event! far more than a simple translation. Only on the inside title page do we discover the names of the editors and translators. This act of generosity on the part of Rabbis Tucker and Levin must be acknowledged. But of course, this is entirely Heschel s book, and that is cause enough for radical amazement. Sh ma, January 2005
"In order tounderstand the outsized public personality of Heschel, it is essential toappreciate the underlying source of his passions; that is, the Jewish traditionas it developed from its scriptures. And no where are these sources betterrevealed than in "Heavenly Torah. "Itis precisely because he was anchored in a received tradition, with all of itsparticularities, that he can be a figure of universal importance."- MatthewLaGrone, "Touchstone, "January 2007Vol. 25 No. 1--,
Citing patterns that underlay the rabbinical passages, the text of Heavenly Torah uncovers the intellectual and spiritual riches of the Talmudic tradition and applies those teachings to the concerns of the modern age. Heavenly Torah is thus a major addition to the library of Religious Humanism in our time. Masterfully brought to the marketplace in a beautiful edition by Continuum Books, who were also responsible for publishing Jonathan Sacks masterpiece The Dignity of Difference, and translated by Gordon Tucker with precision and tremendous knowledge and skill, Heavenly Torah is a seminal addition to our library of Jewish studies. The English version of the book makes completely transparent the intent and intellectual context of the original-a matter that has been simplified not merely by the clear translation of the texts, citations and footnotes, but by the addition layer of Tucker s own footnotes and illuminating chapter introductions that make Heschel s aims wholly clear to the reader-a matter that is sometimes hard to fully grasp with the dense opacity of the Hebrew original. the English version of the book functions not merely as a brilliantly articulated interweaving of rabbinical texts and ideas, but serves as a general introduction-presented with great clarity and crystalline intelligibility-for the reader who is beginning to learn rabbinical texts. Center for Sephardic Heritage, 4/6/05
"I think of Torah MinHashamayim, Abraham Joshua Heschel's work on Rabbinic Theology, as anunfinished symphony. This work is like a symphony with many movements.Heschel's book is never explicitly polemical, but it nevertheless remains apassionate protest against both rigid literalists of Torah and those on theother side who dismiss the Torah as if it were only poetry. Torah MinHashamayim is many things: a dazzling work of scholarship in RabbinicLiterature, a portrait of the tension between two differing world views, andmore. Gordon Tucker is to be appreciated for having undertaken this incrediblydifficult work of translation and for having done it as well as it can bedone." - "San Diego Jewish Journal", December 2005
"Torah from Heaven," a curious translation of Heschel's original three volumes "Torah Min Hashamayim" or in his alternate English, "The Theology of Ancient Judaism," is, perhaps, his masterpiece. Published over many years in Hebrew, it has now been made available in clear, idiomatic English (Continuum, 2005). Heschel once told me, with his uniquely accurate and typical exaggeration, that every word he wrote was a quotation form classical Jewish literature. This book comes close to being exactly that. It is an anthology of viewpoints clustered in two posing constellations... In the 42 years since the first volume of the Hebrew original of Torah Min Hashamayim appeared we have had time to consider the meaning of Rabbi Heschel's monumental study of rabbinic dualism. Can the school of Akiba and that of Ishma'el be ultimately reconciled? Can a Hegelian synthesis be accomplished? Does Heschel himself prefer one of the schools to the other? We might have expected that he would incline to the mystical-transcendent pole, but that does not seem to be the case. Indeed, he is most eloquent expounding the human aspect of Torah... Gordon Tucker (and Leonard Levin) have done a superb job of assembling, editing, abridging, and translating a huge, not quite-finished manuscript. Others literally died trying to translate this sprawling masterpiece. There may be some dissent from the inevitable emissions, some few typos, some doubts about Tucker's interpretations. But on the whole, the introductions to each chapter, the explanatory notes on almost every page (including identifying Heschel's often obscure sources) are wonderful aids in working through this massive work. Here, now, the greatest Jewish thinker in American history, the true inheritor of Polish now, the greatest Jewish thinker in American history, the true inheritor of Polish Hasidism and German Jewish scholarship, the friend of Martin Luther King and the Pope, our master and teacher, Abraham Joshua Heschel, becomes at last
"In order to understand the outsized public personality of Heschel, it is essential to appreciate the underlying source of his passions; that is, the Jewish tradition as it developed from its scriptures. And no where are these sources better revealed than in "Heavenly Torah. "It is precisely because he was anchored in a received tradition, with all of its particularities, that he can be a figure of universal importance."- Matthew LaGrone, "Touchstone, "January 2007 Vol. 25 No. 1--Sanford Lakoff
"I think of Torah Min Hashamayim, Abraham Joshua Heschel's work on Rabbinic Theology, as an unfinished symphony. This work is like a symphony with many movements. Heschel's book is never explicitly polemical, but it nevertheless remains a passionate protest against both rigid literalists of Torah and those on the other side who dismiss the Torah as if it were only poetry. Torah Min Hashamayim is many things: a dazzling work of scholarship in Rabbinic Literature, a portrait of the tension between two differing world views, and more. Gordon Tucker is to be appreciated for having undertaken this incredibly difficult work of translation and for having done it as well as it can be done." - "San Diego Jewish Journal", December 2005
"This is a splendid translation of a pivotal work. Tucker and Levin make the intricacies of Heschel's thoughts understandable to the reader." -"Shamash Book of the Month, "July 2006""
About the Author
Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972) was a preeminent scholar, acclaimed spiritual writer, and prophetic activist. He was a professor of ethics and mysticism at Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City.'
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Top Customer Reviews
Heschel's poetic Hebrew style and his theological ideas are well "refracted" on to the English translation; the pity is that he himself couldn't revise the text, in order to add a final touch of inspiration: he could speak many languages (he wrote in five), and all of them in an incredibly lyrical manner. His work in English is simply beautiful and an eloquent voice of spiritual renewal.
The book concentrates on the teachings and legal reasoning of two rabbis from the 2nd Century C.E., showing the relationship of their narratives and Halakhic (cf. Heschel, Hasidism and Halakha) opinions. The stories and legal decisions of the two rabbis, Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Ishmael, as described by Dr Heschel confront the themes and images of each rabbi to show how these permeate their legal rulings. Heavenly Torah also reflects Heschel's own narrative, his attempts to make meaning after the Shoah (cf. Shoah) and in the midst of 1960s America.Read more ›
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Heschel sees the ideas of second century sages Rabbis Akiva and Ishmael as paradigms for the two dominant worldviews in Jewish theology. According to professor Or N. Rose, "Akiva is characterized as an esoteric thinker, who believes that every marking in the text of the Torah...is fraught with meaning. Through his imaginative and poetic readings of the Bible, Akiva develops a theology of immanence, believing that God is actively involved in creation and that He longs to be in relationship with human beings, identifying so closely with them that He actually participates in their joy and sorrow (God in Search of Man is the title of Heschel's major work of constructive theology). In contrast, Ishmael is depicted as a more austere rational thinker, who believes that the Torah was written in the "language of human beings," and that one need not engage in fanciful exegetical play to understand its teachings. Theologically, Ishmael speaks of a God of transcendence: a divine being who reigns from above and who requires nothing of His creations. For Ishmael, the notion that God is affected by human action violates his understanding of divine perfection. In his view, Torah is a heavenly gift given to humanity so that they might learn something of God's mysterious ways."
Prof. Rose also writes that "Not only is this English version a lucid and thoughtful reworking of the original text, but Tucker and Levin even manage to introduce into their translation a measure of the poeticism readers have come to expect of Heschel. The various introductions, notes, and other scholarly apparatus are also very helpful in unpacking and contextualizing Heschel's arguments and the many rabbinic sources that serve as the basis for his presentation."
Heavenly Torah is very long, and at times repetitive, but it is packed with profound insights. Heschel compared two 2nd century schools of thought, the school of Rabbi Akiva and the school of Rabbi Ishmael. So far, the Akivan school has had a larger impact, but Heschel makes the point that the Ishmaelian school has a very important message for the modern world.
Indeed, the two schools of thought are different, but Heschel's main point is that they don't have to fall into a rivalry. They have enough beauty in common that the two schools can build off of each other, challenge each other, and live in harmony with each other. This is a teaching from Heaven that we all need to hear.
The principle of debate and argument is the moving spirit of the work.
The book is richly annotated .It is filled with telling citations from Gemara and Midrash.
This is a book which all who care for Jewish learning will wish to have in their libraries.