PODCAST: Divine Pathos

Todd Berman Tradition Online | September 26, 2023

TRADITION’s Fall 2022 issue featured a lengthy essay by Todd Berman exploring a 6-decade-old critique launched by R. Eliezer Berkovits on Dr. Abraham J. Heschel’s “Theology of Divine Pathos.” In brief, the debate centered on Heschel’s contention that a prophet reacts to God’s emotions, that the navi is guided by God’s own feelings. For Berkovits, Heschel errs by aligning himself with the wrong side of the anthropomorphism and anthropopathism debate.

Berkovits was a significant figure in mid-century Orthodox Jewish thought, and was an important contributor to the pages of TRADITION. A noteworthy curiosity of Berkovits’ critique of Heschel was its appearance with an editorial note expressing some reservation about this “controversial” offering, which “evoked sharp differences of opinion among members of our editorial board,” on which he served as a member at that time. Plus ça change. Berman’s essay, with its defense of Heschel, similarly evoked sharp differences of opinion among our readers.

Todd Berman joins the TRADITION Podcast to discuss the underpinnings of the original debate between Berkovits and Heschel; how the Orthodox community’s reception of those ideas has evolved in perhaps surprising ways over the decades; and what aroused his interest in this old episode which turns out to be still quite relevant to contemporary Jewish thought.

See Berman’s essay, “Berkovits, Heschel, and the Heresy of Divine Pathos,” with links to Berkovits’ original 1964 article, the array of reactions generated among our readers, and Berman’s response.

Rabbi Todd Berman is the Director of Institutional Advancement and a Ram at Yeshivat Eretz HaTzvi.

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