The New York Times Book Review this weekend featured an essay by novelist Cynthia Ozick about her intellectual adventure from romanticism to humanism. Her inspiration? Leo Baeck, the great German Jewish rabbi and theologian whose 50th yahrzeit we commemorated last month.
But I, pursuing passage after passage of Baeck’s reprise of the incantatory romantic — its transports and exultations, its voluptuously nurtured sorrows, its illusory beauty anchored in nothing but vapor — I came to see it all as loathsome, no different from those mindlessly coiling water snakes. What did it lead to? The self. What did it mean? Self-pride. What did it achieve? Self-delusion and delirium. That way lay Dionysus. I chose Rabbi Baeck. (MORE)
Last month, I wrote about Baeck’s influence on my life and thinking, and the unfortunate fact that he is not widely read and discussed today. Ozick’s feelings about Baeck are fascinating and surprising — and another reminder of the man’s depth and significance.