• Mordecai M. Kaplan (1881-1983) was one of the most influential Jewish thinkers of the 20th century.  We believe that his thought may be even more important in the 21st century.

Mel Scult's blog

Kaplan and Heschel

Thu, 07/28/2016 - 6:54pm -- Mel Scult

Two books dealing with fundamental theological issues appeared in the fall of 2013, both published by Indiana University Press, my The Radical American Judaism of Mordecai M. Kaplan and Shai Held’s   Abraham Joshua Heschel: The Call of Transcendence.  The journalist and writer Shmuel Rosner interviewed us both by e-mail.  Our responses to his provocative and challenging questions were published on JewishJournal.com.  They can be viewed by clicking the links below.

Many thanks to Shmuel Rosner for conducting these interviews. 

Sinai and Hatred

Tue, 01/19/2016 - 9:19pm -- Mel Scult

In the Book of Shemot [Exodus], Sinai is central.  In the story of Burning Bush, where Moses experiences his first revelation, the mountain is called har horev.  The Midrash tells us that this mountain had many names.  In the words of the Midrash it was also appropriately called “the mountain of God” because there “the people of Israel received the Godliness of the Holy One ….”

A Rosh Hashannah Thought

Wed, 09/09/2015 - 6:24pm -- Mel Scult

Let us begin by remembering that the spiritual always points toward the unity of things, not their division. Judaism helps us to work from a higher perspective. To celebrate the creation of the world, as we do on Rosh Hashannah, is to see ourselves as an integral part of all that is and not to see ourselves as the measure of all things. The egotistical, self-centered part of our mind, the evil urge if you will, always leads us to experience our separateness from the natural world.

A Heschel Letter

Thu, 08/13/2015 - 3:47pm -- Mel Scult

Heschel’s stock has just gone up if indeed there is still room for such movement in that direction.
I have just relocated to the West Side of Manhattan and of course moving is a very difficult and complicated process. It also might be described as “ loosing and finding.”  I have lost or can’t locate much but I just found an amazing letter from Heschel to Kaplan  which I copied years ago from the Kaplan papers at JTS.

Today. Ha-Yom.

Tue, 10/14/2014 - 11:14pm -- Mel Scult

The medieval poem [piyyut] “Today“ ["Ha-Yom"], which we sing on the High Holidays, is one of my favorites. I especially like the traditional tune, although truth to tell our cantor uses a new tune that I find uncomfortable. The familiar is always so enjoyable. The poem focuses on “ today,” “ this day,” which of course is referring to the gravity and holiness of the Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur.

Personality and the Whole Self

Wed, 07/02/2014 - 8:50pm -- Mel Scult

The concept of personality stands as one of the fundamentals of Kaplan’s philosophy and as the primary underpinning of his concept of salvation. Personality, for Kaplan, refers to the total self, the spiritual self, the moral self and the soul, all of which are sacred. Personality does not refer to our ability to attract the other. It is a spiritual term for Kaplan, referring to the whole person. Kaplan speaks of “spiritual health” as the goal of personality.

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