WORDS TO PONDER

[Please note:  Material by Abraham Joshua Heschel is under copyright by Professor Susannah Heschel, Executor, and is reprinted here with permission. For permission to reprint any of this material, please contact Dr. Heschel at Dartmouth College.]

ON WONDER

“… just as man is endowed with the ability to know certain aspects of reality, he is endowed with the ability to know that there is more than what he knows.”

“Awareness of the divine begins with wonder.  It is the result of what man does with his higher incomprehension.”

ON THE INEFFABLE

 “… how would we know of the mystery of being if not through our sense of the ineffable?”

 “We do not create the ineffable, we encounter it…”

 “The ineffable is conceivable in spite of its being unknowable.”

ON FAITH

 “We must first peer into the darkness, feel strangled and entombed in the hopelessness of living without God, before we are ready to feel the presence of His living light.”

“We do not have faith in deeds, we attain faith through deeds – Deeds, not just thoughts or intentions.”

 “Faith is the beginning of the end of egocentricity.”

ON GOD

“God is the center toward which all forces tend.”

“… whatever I do to man, I do to God.  When I hurt a human being, I injure God.”

ON MAN

Some of us may find it difficult to believe that God created the world, yet most of us find it even more difficult to act as if man had not created the world.”

 

ON BEING HUMAN

“… to be human consists of a number of qualities or sensibilities. One of the central sensibilities is a sense of mystery of my own existence.  Without it, I cease to be human.  I may be a human being, but I’m not being human.”

ON RELIGION

 “... Man has often made a god out of a dogma, a graven image which he worshipped … He would rather believe in the dogma than in God ... he may be ready to take other people’s lives, if they refuse to share his tenets …”

“We must choose between interfaith or internihilism … no religion is an island …”

“…creed is, like music, a translation of the unutterable into a form of expression.  The original is known to God alone.”

ON PRAYER

“Unless God is at least as real as my own self, unless I am sure that God has at least as much life as I do, how could I pray?… If God is unable to listen to me, then I am insane in talking to Him.”

“Prayer is meaningless unless it is subversive, unless it seeks to overthrow and to ruin the pyramids of callousness, hatred, opportunism, falsehoods …”

ON RACISM

 “God is either the father of all men or of no man.  And the idea of judging a person in terms of black or brown or white is an eye disease.”

“Racism is worse than idolatry.  Racism is Satanism, unmitigated evil …”

ON BEING JEWISH

“We are the most challenged people under the sun.  Our existence is either superfluous or indispensable to the world; it is either tragic or holy to be a Jew …” 

ON CHRISTIANITY

“The vital challenge for the Church is to decide whether Christianity came to overcome, to abolish, or to continue the Jewish way by bringing the God of Abraham and His will to the Gentiles.”

ON THE TASK

“The task is to humanize the sacred and to sanctify the secular.”

ON THE PROBLEM OF EVIL

“The cardinal issue, why does the God of justice and compassion permit evil to persist? is bound up with the problem of how man should aid God so that His justice and compassion prevail.”

“Our greatest threat is not the atomic bomb.  Our greatest threat is the callousness to the suffering of man.”

SOURCES

Sources for the passages above are as follows: (See KEY below)

ON WONDER
MINA:  page 20;  GISOM: page 46

ON THE INEFFABLE
MINA: pages 32, 20, 32

ON FAITH
GISOM: page 140;  “Toward an Understanding of Halacha” in MGSA: page 137;  PFT: page 189

ON GOD
“Prayer,” in MGSA: page 343Eternal Light  interview, 12/72, in MGSA: page 399

ON MAN
“Children and Youth” in IOF: page 49

ON BEING HUMAN
Eternal Light  interview, 12/72, in MGSA, page 404

ON RELIGION
“Depth Theology” in IOF: page 12;  “No Religion is An Island” in MGSA: page 23; MINA:  page 167

ON PRAYER
MQFG: page 89On Prayer” in MGSA: page 262

ON RACISM
Eternal Light interview, 12/72, in MGSA page 398;  “Religion and Race” in IOF: page 86

ON BEING JEWISH
“The Spirit of Jewish Prayer” in MGSA: page 122;  and in GISOM: page 421

ON CHRISTIANITY
“The God of Israel and Christian Renewal” in MGSA:  page 272

ON THE TASK
ECHO: page 159

ON THE PROBLEM OF EVIL
PFT: page 298;  “Children and Youth” in IOF: page 51

KEY

ECHO            Israel: An Echo of Eternity
                       New York: Farrar Straus Giroux

GISOM          God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism
                       New York: Farrar Straus Giroux

IOF                 The Insecurity of Freedom: Essays on Human Existence
                       New York: Farrar Straus Giroux

MGSA            Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays by Abraham
                       Joshua Heschel

                       New York: Farrar Straus Giroux

MINA             Man is Not Alone: A Philosophy of Religion
                       New York: Farrar Straus Giroux

MQFG           Man’s Quest For God: Studies in Prayer and Symbolism
                       Santa Fe: Aurora Press

PFT               A Passion For Truth
                      New York: Farrar Straus Giroux

[Please note:  Material by Abraham Joshua Heschel is under copyright by Professor Susannah Heschel, Executor, and is reprinted here with permission. For permission to reprint any of this material, please contact Dr. Heschel at Dartmouth College.]

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Praying With My Legs  

Praying With My Legs

Abraham Joshua Heschel and the Search
for a Meaningful Existence

A FILM BY STEVE BRAND