January 2016 Bazman
2420 East Hillcrest Drive Thousand Oaks, CA 91362 (805) 497-7101 www.adatelohim.org
“In These Times”
VOL. 49 NO. 4
Andrew Straus, Rabbi David Shukiar, Cantor
Aliza Goland, Executive Director Marcy Goldberg, Director of Education Donna Becker, ECC Director
Peggy Frank, President, Board of Directors Alan Greenbaum, Rabbi Emeritus
From the Rabbi’s Desk Abraham Joshua Heschel and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Heschel was an activist. Many of us have seen the picture of Heschel and King
Every January we celebrate the birthday of these two great Americans. They were both significant religious leaders. Susannah Heschel has written of her father: “One of the most remarkable friendships in Jewish history was between my father, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. When they met in 1963, they felt an instant bond, despite the enormous differences in their backgrounds: Dr. King was a Baptist minister from the segregated South, trained in Protestant theology at Boston University. My father was a Jewish theologian, trained as a scholar in Germany, raised in an intensely pious, Chassidic milieu in Warsaw; indeed, he was supposed to become a Chassidic rebbe in Poland. What brought them together was a piety that transcended differences, forged by their love of the Bible, especially the prophets.” Heschel and King both played a key role in transforming America. They came from very different backgrounds, but became very close friends. Heschel was a partner with King in the civil rights movement. He often marched with King. Heschel also became a leader in the anti-Vietnam War movement. Heschel was not content just to teach; he was also an activist. Heschel was a Polish immigrant. He was the descendant of the long line of Chassidic Rabbis, but he himself although not a Hassid, was a rabbi and teacher. Heschel came to this country, fleeing the Nazis in 1940 (after spending some time in London). For many years he taught at The Jewish Theological Seminary in NYC, the Conservative Movement’s seminary. He was beloved by his students. He wrote numerous books but his most influential is “The Sabbath: Its Meaning for Modern Man.” If you have not read it, I highly encourage you to do so. Heschel is by far one of the most influential rabbis, teachers, theologians and activists of the 20 th century. “Heschel’s aim is to shock modern man out of his complacency and awaken him to that spiritual dimension fading from the contemporary consciousness.” Heschel taught us to see the world with radical amazement, with a sense of awe and wonder.
locked arm in arm at the beginning of the Civil Rights March in Selma, Alabama. Upon returning from the march in Selma, Heschel famously remarked “I felt my legs were praying.” For Heschel racism was not simply wrong, it was evil. Heschel wrote: “Few of us seem to realize how insidious, how radical, how universal an evil racism is. Few of us realize that racism is man’s gravest threat to man, the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason, the maximum of cruelty for a minimum of thinking.” There are numerous Heschel writings that touch my heart and mind. Among them are: • “Remember that there is meaning beyond absurdity. Know that every deed counts, that every word is power... Above all, remember that you must build your life as if it were a work of art.” • “Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement ... get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.” • “When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people.” In this post-Ferguson period, as our nation is once again confronting its racist past and present, I am inspired by the writings and actions of Abraham Joshua Heschel. He is one of my heroes. As I celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day this year, I will also remember and celebrate the life of Abraham Joshua Heschel, one of my heroes.
l’Shalom, Rabbi Andrew Straus
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