Arguing that the world of rabbinic thought can be divided into two schools of Rabbi Akiba and Rabbi Ishmael, this title also contends that the historic disputes between them are based on a fundamental disagreement over the nature of religion...
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Arguing that the world of rabbinic thought can be divided into two schools of Rabbi Akiba and Rabbi Ishmael, this title also contends that the historic disputes between them are based on a fundamental disagreement over the nature of religion and revelation.
Known most widely for his role in the civil rights and peace movements of the 1960s, Abraham Joshua Heschel made major scholarly contributions to the fields of biblical studies, rabbinics, medieval Jewish philosophy, Hasidism, and mysticism. Yet his most ambitious scholarly achievement, his three-volume study of Rabbinic Judaism, is only now appearing in English. Heschel's great insight is that the world of rabbinic thought can be divided into two types or schools, those of Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Ishmael, and that the historic disputes between the two are based on fundamental differences over the nature of revelation and religion. Furthermore, this disagreement constitutes a basic and necessary ongoing polarity within Judaism between immanence and transcendence, mysticism and rationalism, neo-Platonism and Aristotelianism. Heschel then goes on to show how these two fundamental theologies of revelation may be used to interpret a great number of topics central to Judaism.
Heschel received his doctorate at the Hochschule fur die Wissenschaft des Judentums in Berlin but was deported to Poland by the Nazis in 1938. He went to London in 1940 and after the war accepted a professorship in ethics and mysticism at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. Heschel articulated a depth theology, arguing that the divine-human encounter takes place at a deeper level than is attainable by the rational mind. Reaching out to skeptical Jews and seeking to make Judaism accessible and meaningful in the modern world, Heschel stressed the interdependence of God and humanity, and maintained that God recognizes and supports ethical human action and that humans express their faith through their actions. Heschel lived according to his word and played an active role in social change, including the civil rights movement.