The mystical element in Abraham Joshua Heschel's theological-political thought

Eugene D. Matanky*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this paper I analyze Heschel's activity in the civil rights movement, specifically, his marching in Selma and the famous lines he wrote after, "I felt my legs praying." In order to fully comprehend this statement we must reexamine his thought in relation to Jewish mysticism. Heschel's attitude towards Jewish mysticism has largely been discussed through the understanding of this field by Martin Buber and Gershom Scholem. A deeper phenomenological reading of Heschel's thought is available by utilizing Elliot Wolfson's view of Jewish mysticism. Drawing on Wolfson's research, I elucidate Heschel's view of God, man, and language. Following these topics, I discuss Heschel's understanding of prayer and prophecy and demonstrate that according to Heschel they are two sides of the same phenomenon. Finally, I present Heschel's "hyperpolitical" activity and the mystical element in his protest.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-55
Number of pages23
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2017


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