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?
Passion for Truth
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.”
Fuller, Wall Street Journal
“Probably the best book on Hasidism
to appear in the English language.”