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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 4/9/19

Rabbi Heschel Writes With Moral Clarity That Pope Francis Lacks

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Abraham Joshua Heschel speaking at UCLA 5/25/1963 From the archives of the UCLA Communications Studies Department. Digitized 2013. The views and ideas expressed in these videos are not necessarily shared ...
Abraham Joshua Heschel speaking at UCLA 5/25/1963 From the archives of the UCLA Communications Studies Department. Digitized 2013. The views and ideas expressed in these videos are not necessarily shared ...
(Image by YouTube, Channel: UCLACommStudies)
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Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) April 9, 2019: On March 28, 2019, columnist David Brooks (born in 1961) skillfully highlighted Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel's 1951 book The Sabbath in a column in the New York Times.

On March 31, 2019, I published my OEN article "David Brooks Highlights Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel's Book on The Sabbath":

Subsequently, I ordered a copy of the 2005 paperback edition of his book that includes an introduction by Susannah Heschel (born in 1956), Rabbi Heschel's daughter (pages vii-xvi), herself a distinguished professor of Jewish studies at Dartmouth College. It is an extraordinary book so extraordinary that it might be sui generis, just as St. Augustine's extraordinary book Confessions is sui generis because of its culminating reflections on time.

I'd like to tell you about certain things that Rabbi Heschel (1907-1972; Ph.D. on the Hebrew prophets, Humboldt University of Berlin, 1933) says in his short book about the time/space contrast that I found fascinating. In my estimate, Rabbi Heschel's discussion of the time/space contrast is comprehensive and complete as it stands for his purposes in his extraordinary book.


Rabbi Heschel writes with moral clarity about the time/space contrast that Pope Francis (born in 1936) lacks. Granted, the pope is photogenic, telegenic, and charismatic. Granted, in spontaneous conversation, he has occasionally says something succinct that is quotable. However, in the various written documents that he has issued, he tends to be garrulous which may be characteristic of all papal documents. But Pope Francis also tends to write sharp critiques of the modern world which Rabbi Heschel also critiques in his short 1951 book.

In my estimate, Rabbi Heschel uses the time/space contrast to write his sharp critique of the modern world with moral clarity that Pope Francis' various sharp critiques of the modern world lack. In addition to critiquing the modern world, Rabbi Heschel critiques the pre-modern world in circumstantial detail something that Pope Francis does not do.

See my OEN article "Why Progressives and Liberals Should Be Wary of Pope Francis' Encyclical About the Environment" (dated June 14, 2015). Briefly, Pope Francis' critique of modern culture is totally consistent with the church's critique of modern culture before the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) which of course is when young Jorge Mario Bergoglio was being educated as part of his Jesuit training.

But also see my recent OEN article "Pope Francis on Evil and Satan" (dated March 24, 2019). Briefly, in the spirit of giving credit where credit is due, I give Pope Francis credit for recognizing that priest sex abuse and the cover-up of that abuse are evil.

For an intellectual biography of Pope Francis, see Massimo Borghesi's book The Mind of Pope Francis: Jorge Mario Bergoglio's Intellectual Journey, translated by Barry Hudock (Liturgical Press, 2018; orig. Italian ed., 2017). Borghesi wrote his book with Pope Francis' cooperation and input.


Now, in the introduction to the 2005 edition of her father's short book, Susannah Heschel reports that "early readers of the book couldn't imagine my father was the author they thought my mother had ghostwritten it!" (page xii). The style of the book is evocative.

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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