MY TORAH, MY HESCHEL, MY LIFE
I See Things
My family and I have gone through a spectacular journey to and through Judaism. Prior to my children being born, we were 3 day a year Jews with a Kosher Home and kept to the traditions of the Holidays.
We went from that to enrolling our kids in Solomon Schecther to now, leading a fully Observant life in the Five Towns of Long Island, recognized as vibrant and one of the largest “Orthodox” communities in the country .
My friends from my childhood don’t know what to say, some of our friends from our Schechter days feel I’m “Ultra Orthodox”, my new “Modern Orthodox” (whatever that means) may think I’m not so Modern (Modern has come to denote someone that is quite lenient in their observance), my new “Ultra Orthodox” friends think I’m a lefty. I think I’m where I should be, striving to learn, grow and share the magnificence of a truly Shomer Shabbat life every moment of everyday. A life where everything to me radiates a connection to my Jewish Soul in search of G-d’s ways. I don’t know what title you would give that, perhaps a Jew.
The Rabbis tell us that a Baal Teshuva stands higher than even the most Frum Jew. At that height I am allowed to see things. Fact is I always saw things. I am also an entrepreneur that owns with my wife Nan a successful Video Programming company that has allowed me to interact with other entrepreneurs, many of whom are world famous. Entrepreneurs always sees things, often things that are not there and finds a way to satisfy that opportunity.
That opportunity relevant to this work is sharing Heschel in a unique way to all and especially to my new community. It is nothing less than a stunning depravation that so many just don’t know, nor heard of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. Given the giant of Heschel’s work and life in so many ways, it is equally mingboggling that we simply don’t hear mention of him in drashas, shiurim leaving so much less of an opportunity to connect, grow and appreciate our texts, heritage, way of life and G-d in a deep and special way.
For over twenty years now I have commited to learn everyday. It is safe to say that few if any commentaters on our texts brings the vision or nearness of Hashem as the pen and work of Rabbi Heschel. I get it, I have an understanding why this master is shunned (see my essay on “A Haunting Heschel”) but please, this is a loss. I see it, there is a fabulous need and desire (all my Frum friends don’t know that yet) to be exposed to Heschel.
As a lifelong Entrepreneur I tend to thrive also on being different, some would say being somewhat of a Rebel. It gives me something of a thrill when I leave a Heschel book on the seat next to me on Shabbat and people may say “who is that,” or “wasn’t he Conservative?,” “why do you have that here?” or actually pick it up and “Wow, how come I haven’t heard of this guy’s work before,” or from an Orthodox Rabbi who sat next to me and then actually read one of Heschel’s books and said “Now I can’t read anything else, beautiful, what scholarship and insight.”
So being the rebel that I am I look for all moments to speak so I can consistently drill a Heschel thought into my Drasha. At a Shabbat Mincha, a Rebbe from one of the Yeshivas said, “give me a Heschel idea on the Parasha.” I did and received a big “psshhh.” “Harold you should write a weekly piece and just distribute it to a group on a Heschel take on the Parasha.” Well, I did and did it my way. I shared my thoughts with a list consisting of a constituency of Orthodox, Chassids, Rabbis, Conservative, Tradional, Reform and Gentile individuals. The responses and encouragement has made this undertaking worthwhile. It showed me I’m on the right track about things here. There is no Heschel commentary per se on the weekly portion, so here is my chance. For that matter, there is no Heschel in the “Orthodox” community. I feel it is my mission to bring the sensation of Rabbi Heschel’s work to the Frum crowd for their benefit and the sake of his legacy.
A quick true tale; My friend (who discovered Heschel through my persistance) and I arranged to have Rabbi Professor Kimelman from Brandeis give a Shiur on his paper “Rabbis Joseph Solevechik and Abraham Joshua Heschel on Jewish-Christian Relations.” We started to publicize it, mail some postcards and ask some with lists to email the event out. Well, something of furor occurred; a Rabbi took me to the side, “Harold, you can’t mention Heschel and Rabbi Solevechik in the same sentence…” another Rabbi blasted one who had an email list not to send anything like that out. Close to 80 people showed up, were enlightened, a general feeling from an educated crowd was “I never knew,” “please, let me help you coordinate the next one,” “ I’m yours, what do I do to help.”
Given the negative feedback and the positve, I knew I was onto something. See “Ross Perot, Abraham and Me” for a full appreciation on the power and possibility of negative responses.
I am different, Heschel is different, Judaism is different, we are different, maybe this work will make a difference.
If you google Heschel you will find many a destination with incredible quotes from him. I sought out to dig deep into his work and provide for the most part, his passages not typically cited.
With a blending of real life experiences, integration at times with practical connecting business scenarios (in Burning Potential I share my view on how creating a company is as close to the most powerful attribute of G-ds’ ability that we can achieve here), positioning some classical with many eclectic commentators and my own Chiddushim (takes—remember I see things) with a Heschellian point of view delivered with what I believe is the awe he applied to each second of his existence, I pray that “My Torah, My Heschel, My Life” serves as a conduit no matter what your affiliation or religion to a closer relationship with G-d, his ways and his wonders. It is a ride of Exaltation.