A book on Hasidism and Heschel's reflection on two teachers: the Baal Shem Tov and the Kotzker.
It is comparatively easy to preach joy and fervor, but to demand Truth is like shaping marble without tools. And so [the Kotzker] went looking for a few surging people and called loudly upon their souls to bend their conceit and see the Truth beneath the soil.
This was not a philosophical inquiry into the nature of Truth but a scrutiny of men's lives in relation to Truth. Religion, the Kotzker maintained, was not simply an act of adopting a system of beliefs and certain modes of conduct; test and trial were needed, and one had to ascertain through introspection whether one's beliefs were genuine or not, and whether one acted out Truth or lived a life of pretense.
Kierkegaard made it his task "to reintroduce Christianity into Christendom." The Kotzker sought to reintroduce authenticity to Jewish life. Kierkegaard's posthumous impact has been powerful. But has the Kotzker affected Jewish self-understanding?
-from A Passion for Truth
A Passion for Truth presents a surprising parallel study of two figures, the Hasidic tzaddik (righteous man, spiritual leader), Reb Menahem Mendl of Kotzk (1787-1859), and the Christian mystic, father of Existentialism, Danish theologian Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) ... Rabbi Heschel is never heavy and all that he presents in this aphoristic, quotable book is cast in terms that touch all our lives.
Wall Street Journal
Probably the best book on Hasidism to appear in the English language.
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