Compare and contrast Mordecai Kaplan’s Judaism as a Civilization and Abraham Joshua Heschel’s the Sabbath

Modern civilization

Mordecai Kaplan and Abraham Joshua Heschel are Jewish theologians who are the authors of several books that have been read and are still read by many people including the Jewish.

Among the books they have written, there are the Mordecai Kaplan’s Judaism as a Civilization and Abraham Joshua Heschel’s The Sabbath. Mordecai Kaplan’s Judaism as a Civilization focuses on the reconstruction of the American-Jewish life that would help the Jewish to change their traditional way of life through incorporations of the modern way of life, philosophy, religion and science as it develops in the U.S.

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On the other hand, Abraham Joshua Heschel’s The Sabbath mainly focuses on the traditional way of life of the Jewish and Judaism and puts more emphasis on the Sabbath. Abraham Joshua views Judaism as a religion of time, which makes him focus on the past rather than the future.

Kaplan in Judaism as a Civilization views Judaism as a religion that is evolved from the traditional world to the modern world. He refers to the Judaism as a religion that has been undergoing cultural differences depending on the times that we are living. He believed in Judaism but felt that it was necessary for the Judaism to unite with other religions to form a common religion that was civilized. On the other hand, Abraham Joshua laid more emphasis on the traditional mode of life for the Jewish.

He claimed that the traditional mode of life in Judaism made the religion more spiritual and right with their God. In addition, he dealt with the traditional problems that were faced by the Judaism that he sought to find solutions. Abraham Joshua in his efforts to find solutions to the problems associated the problems faced by the Judaism with the modern life. This is a clear evidence that Abraham Joshua was against modernization.

Further, Kaplan rejected various traditions that the Jewish practiced. He found that the practices that the Jewish had were outdated. He concentrated more on the issues that would help the Jewish realize their religion and the status of life in which they were living. He further believed that some of the aspects that were inherent in Judaism were wrong and needed to be changed. In his writing, Kaplan disagreed with the Jewish category of Closeness that made them feel more superior to other religions.

In addition, Kaplan called for democracy in the synagogue, highly recommended membership to be voluntary, reconstruction of procedure of electing leaders and the individuals’ religion options respect. Kaplan believed in the time when individuals joined religion depending on their race and ancestral religion’s belief by force. On the contrary, Abraham Joshua having conservatism of the tradition, believed that the Judaism religion and culture was to remain.

He embraced and emphasized on the Jewish to maintain their status quo. Abraham Joshua believed that religion was an answer to human ultimate questions and thus religion had to be fully respected. He found that the alienation of modern man to religion was putting man into more threats. He therefore emphasized that the Jewish should leave modernity and embrace traditions that would make them more religious.

Although they had differences, there were a few similarities. They both encouraged the unity of the Jewish and encouraged them to embrace each other as brothers and sisters. They further encouraged the Jewish to have Judaism as their religion and to have faith in God. In addition, the two emphasized on prayer, as they believed that it connects man to God.

Views on Modern Society

Kaplan’s concept of civilization was optimistic about the modern society. He believed that modern society including the Jewish had a future if only they would embrace civilization. He encouraged the Jewish to be patient and work towards meeting their goals as the Americans used to do.

This gave the Jewish who read his books the ideology of the Americans who believed in hard work. Kaplan believed that with the improvement in science and technology, philosophy and culture, man had a chance to grow depending on the level of civilization he embraces.

On the other hand, Heschel’s views on civilization were pessimistic. He viewed civilization, as a way to alienate modern man from religion that he believed was the answer to all human ultimate questions. He believed civilization of man would make him more venerable to threats that made him to oppose civilization in religion.


Judaism is a religion associated with the Jewish’s who have origin in Israel. Their belief in God is strong and its what makes them more concrete with Him. Judaism as a religion embraces unity and peace but there are splits in relation to modernity.

These kinds of differences have caused splits in other religions. The views between the two theologians negate each other and none can be used to complement the other as they have several differences based on civilization. However, on their reference to God the two views can supplement each other.


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