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Looking For A Jewish Charlatan? One Clue: He'll Be Quoting Heschel

If you suspect you see a charlatan in a Jew wait for him to utter the words, "tikun olam."  "Repair of the world."  Big idea, revolutionary, utopian, progressive. In the mishna torah where the phrase first appears it really means tweaking, at best, adjustment. Imagine how many silly sermons and speeches have been given with this deliberately falsified phrase as their text.

Abraham Joshua Heschel was one of the most serious and learned theologians of the twentieth century, and not just among Jewish theologians. He was also a social activist. Well, every Jewish liberal needs his answer to Reinhold Niebuhr. So, since Heschel marched with Dr. King, he is that answer. But, believe me, he had his standards, and he wouldn't have marched with the two-bit Jewish leaders who are still excited to utter Arafat's name. (In 1993, they were so were so excited to see him at the White House that they almost pissed in their pants...and in their panties.)

Now, JStreet will soon be into the business of quoting Heschel. For years, of course, many of its Jews have also been spinning tikun olam. In fact, Ezra Klein over at "The American Prospect" has already enlisted the great rav in the tacky publicity campaign of this pressure group. One sign of its tackiness is that it has subscribed to Jimmy Carter's platform for Israel. In any case, back to its appropriation of Heschel. Or, rather, Klein's.

In a 400 page book called Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity, Heschel has a small five page essay, "No Time for Neutrality," which is also the title of Klein's really tiny posting on the Prospect. Now Klein quotes not from "No Time for Neutrality" but from another essay in the same book, "God, Torah, and Israel." Heschel means the spiritual Israel. But for Klein any Israel will do. Having scavenged, he found.

But he did not find any words of Heschel's that actually dealt with the real predicaments of the Israel in which six million Jews live, an ironic echo of that same number in another context. It isn't as if Heschel hadn't written of the Israel that is a Jewish sovereign state and which sovereignty, it is my guess, that truly troubles Klein...and Matthew Yglesias and many of the other cold Jews or almost Jews or non-Jews who cannot stomach Zionism because it is of this world.

The fact is that Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote much about Israel and in one book specifically, Israel: An Echo of Eternity. This is an Israel, engaged with the land, that it is endangered by enemies. Still, Israel has singularity. Of course, "the return to Zion is a source of embarrassment to so many of us..."  Because living Israel is not made up of saints and sufferers, the old Jewish paradigm, which was created to refute.

Having wrestled Heschel's idea of neutrality out of context, Klein wants his Jews and others not to be neutral towards Israel. Klein wants them to feel anger towards Israel, while Heschel wanted them to love the land as the people, the miracle as the commonplace, "an accord of a divine promise and a human achievement," Zionism itself.