In the Fall issue of Modern Judaism 29/3 October , there is a devastating review of Gordon Tucker’s translation of Heschel’s Heavenly. My Wednesday morning Torah study group is reading Abraham Joshua Heschel’s Torah Min HaShamayim b’Aspeklaria HaDorot / Heavenly. Heavenly Torah by Abraham Joshua Heschel, , available at Book Depository with free delivery worldwide.

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I had to purchase the rest of the volumes on my own, since this book—although rich with erudite discussions on Aggadic literature—was not to be found in the yeshiva’s library. There is more than one way to think and behave as a devoted Jew. There is more than one way for a traditional Jew to relate to the Heschdl or perceive God’s providence, and this was the case even in the time of the Sages.

Project MUSE – Lost In Translation: Abraham Joshua Heschel’s “Heavenly Torah”—A Review Essay

Heschel’s exposition of two conflicting schools of thought in rabbinic Judaism, Heavenlt Akiva’s and Rabbi Yishmael’s, was not always convincing. Sometimes Heschel bent sources to fit his thesis, and sometimes he quoted sources at length with no apparent conclusion.

But his general point was clear: Judaism is pluralistic, heavenlh you have to make your own choices. Heschel seemed to be telling me to pay no heed to what the Orthodox establishment was trying to preach to me or conceal from me.


So the study of Heschel seemed to me a subversive act at the time.


Although I toraj fascinated by Heschel’s poetic Hebrew style and his theological ideas, I wasn’t drawn to his major English works until I started studying Jewish philosophy at the university. In his English [End Page ] writings, Heschel’s style seemed emotional, poetic, and simplistic. Heschel spoke of God in an intimate style, as if He were actually present in his thoughts, and demanding the reader to appreciate nature and do Mitzvot.

I was not convinced that his thought was relevant to the religious issues that we confront in Israel. It was all too American for me.

Heavenly Torah: As Refracted Through the Generations – Abraham Joshua Heschel – Google Books

One could rightfully claim that Heschel did not intend his philosophy for the Israeli audience in the first place. His seminal hevenly were all written in English, and perhaps his primary goals were to fight Jewish assimilation and strengthen modern Jewish identity in America, rather than to appeal to the Israeli public. Was TMS an embodiment of his English theological writings, or a scholarly study of rabbinic literature?

Answering these questions would involve a good amount of comparison between Heschel’s English works and TMSa task which has not yet been fully achieved.

Moreover, perhaps the very act of translation does injustice to Heschel, a writer who clearly preferred to use different languages for different messages aimed at diverse audiences. For the first time, the English reader was offered not only a comprehensive translation, but a detailed and systematic commentary on TMS.

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Tucker is the first scholar to endeavor to seek out Heschel’s theological message word for word, chapter by chapter, enabling Heschel scholars to deepen their knowledge and understanding of Heschel. Reviews of Heavenly Torah acknowledge Tucker’s contribution, yet they all overlook the problem of translating Heschel’s ideas from one language to another. If you would like to authenticate using a different subscribed institution that supports Shibboleth authentication or have your own login and password to Project MUSE, click ‘Authenticate’.

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