“My People Was Burned to Death in Poland”  (Abraham Joshua Heschel)

Heschel poland

A world on fire. And no one cares. Whenever I work through Heschel’s Man is Not Alone, I spend a lot of time on his construction of the ultimate question. It’s not “Is there a God?” It’s not “why is there something and not nothing?” This latter question is posed by Heschel as penultimate. The ultimate question, the one that brings God into the world picture is this one. It’s what the phenomenologists would call an “intentional” one. “To whom do I belong?” That’s the question. In God in Search of Man, Heschel took the same question and placed it in a different frame. The world is compared to a burning palace. To whom does this burning world belong? Moving along online in my grad seminar, we stumbled upon this scrap of paper, which you can find here at the website for the Heschel Archive at Duke University. “My people was burned to death in Poland.” A little scrap of paper, it encapsulates what I think is a world-bitterness that determines the form of pathos in Heschel’s mature work in the 1950s.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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3 Responses to “My People Was Burned to Death in Poland”  (Abraham Joshua Heschel)

  1. dmf says:

    one planet, many worlds

  2. efmooney says:

    Zak, do we know what year this was written? And where Herschel was located when writing it? How old was he at this point? One wants to recreate the life around the note.

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