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University of Creation Spirituality
Doctor of Ministry Degree/Certificate Program

August 2004 Intensive
August 2-6 2004 CA

Seminar: Abraham Joshua Heschel & Hasidic Spirituality - # 60073

Instructor: Tamar Frankiel, Ph.D. 

Faculty Bio:    Tamar Frankiel holds a Ph.D. in History of Religions from the University of Chicago. She has taught comparative religion, American religious history, and modern Jewish thought in many settings during the past 25 years. She currently teaches at the Academy of Jewish Religion, a rabbinic and cantorial seminary in west Los Angeles. Of her many books, the most recent, The Gift of Kabbalah, explains the basics of Jewish mysticism from a Hasidic perspective, including insights from comparative mysticism.

Course Description: A. J. Heschel offers extraordinary and profound interpretations of the Jewish spiritual path, based on his own background—he was heir to the Hasidic mystical traditions of Eastern Europe—and his deep study of philosophy.  For example, where the classic Jewish text Sayings of the Fathers says, “The world stands on three things: Torah, prayer, and acts of kindness,” Heschel penetrated to the depths of this statement, understanding these as three essential ways of relating to God and the world:

1)      Torah is rooted in revelation and prophecy, understood as human participation in the Divine pathos.

2) Torah is rooted in revelation and prophecy, understood as human participation in the Divine pathos.

3)      Acts of kindness are understood as rooted in imitatio Dei, with responsibility for the whole world in thought, feeling, and deed.

This class will explore these three aspects of a spiritual path as presented by Heschel.

Required Reading:

By A. J. Heschel:

God in Search of Man  (Noonday)

The Sabbath (Noonday)

Selections from Man Is Not Alone (Noonday)

Selections from The Prophets (Perennial) 

Additional recommended readings:

A. J. Heschel, A Passion for Truth (Jewish Lights) and Who Is Man? (Stanford)

Learning Objectives:            

Monday:  Heschel and Hasidism--Jewish Mysticism Meets Modern Life

§         To examine how Heschel confronts the tragedy of human life and the “problem” of humanity in the twentieth—and for us, the twenty-first—century.

§         To understand how Heschel mines the traditions of Judaism generally, and Hasidism in particular, as resources to deal with these problems.

Tuesday: Wonder, Amazement, and Mystery--Awakening to the Universe. 

“Wonder is the state of our being asked.”

§         To experience “radical amazement” as a foundational category of existence.

§         To confront the question that arises out of amazement: What will you do with wonder? 

§         To understand the alternatives that, according to Heschel, dominate our culture—fatalism and positivism—and how to respond to them. 


Wednesday: Revelation—The Path of Inquiry

§         To establish Heschel’s ideal of the prophet as a mode of personal revelation.

§         To grasp Heschel’s distinctions between prophecy and “ecstasy” or other forms of religious experience.

§         To understand what transformation is involved in our experiencing the Divine “pathos.”


Thursday:  Action—the Science of Deeds

§         To understand response to God as requiring action: “We shall do and [then] we shall understand” (Exodus).

§         To distinguish experientially between action with and without intention (kavannah)

§         To understand why Heschel insists that the problem of man requires law (halacha) as well as meaning and intention.


Friday: The Still Center—Shabbat

§         To gain an understanding of Shabbat observance and the avoidance of “work”:

compare not-working with not-doing,

compare not-working with doing-without-attachment.

§         To grasp the centrality of Shabbat, in Heschel’s vision, to repair of the world (tikkun olam).

Class will close with a Shabbat ceremony: Preparing for and welcoming the Queen—Shabbat, the Shekhinah.

Pre-Class Writing Assignment:  

Based on your readings before the course, write a five-page paper on one of the following:

1.      Choose one statement from Heschel that resonates deeply with your life’s work. Explain how you understand it and why you feel it is particularly applicable.

2.      Take a crucial issue of our day and reflect on it in light of your reading of Heschel.

3.      Choose one issue or theme which resonates with another thinker you have studied and describe the important similarities.

4.      Choose one issue or theme where Heschel seems to depart from traditional Western religious thinking and describe why you think his departure is important.

Post-Class Writing Assignment:

Will be assigned based on the discussions that develop in the class.

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