Polish Jewish Religious Leader
Abraham Joshua Heschel
Polish Jewish Religious Leader
We dwell on the preciousness of every moment. Things of space vanish. Moments of time never pass away. Time is the clue to the meaning of life and death. Time lived with meaning is a disclosure of the eternal.
The problem is the spirit of our age: denial of transcendence, the vapidity of values, emptiness in the heart, the decreased sensitivity to the imponderable quality of the spirit, the collapse of communication between the realm of tradition and the inner world of the individual.
We have surrendered our responsibility to shape the inner life of our children to others.
The prophet perceives the whole world in terms of justice or injustice.
We live in an age of self-dissipation, of depersonalization. Should we adjust our vision of existence to make our paucity, make a virtue of obtuseness, glorify evasion?
We live not only in time and space but also in the knowledge of God. The events in the world reflect in him, and all existence is coexistence with God. Time and space are not the limits of the world. Our life occurs here and in the knowledge of God.
The solution of mankind’s most vexing problem will not be found in renouncing technical civilization, but in attaining some degree of independence of it.
We must distinguish between being human and human being. We are born human beings. What we must acquire is being human. Being human is the essential – the decisive – achievement of a human being.
The spirituality that flows from our actions is not fleeting, transient, or solitary in a silent cosmos. The music of refined actions, the melody of a noble soul, is woven into the tapestry of eternal music which God Himself composed.
What looks absurd within the limits of time may be luminous within the scope of eternity.
The tyranny of conformity tends to deprive man of his inner identity, of his ability to stand still in the midst of flux, to remain a person in the midst of a crowd.
What the world needs is a sense of ultimate embarrassment. Modern man has the power and the wealth to overcome poverty and disease, but he has no wisdom to overcome suspicion. We are guilty of misunderstanding the meaning of existence; we are guilty of distorting our goals and misrepresenting our souls. We are better than our assertions, more intricate, more profound than our theories maintain.
There is a built-in sense of indebtedness in the consciousness of man, an awareness of owing gratitude, of being called upon at certain moments to reciprocate, to answer, to live in a way which is compatible with the grandeur and mystery of living.
Worship is a way of living, a way of seeing the world in the light of God. To worship is to rise to a higher level of existence, to see the world from the point of view of God.
Things not only are what they are but also stand, however remotely, for something supreme. Awe is a sense for the transcendence, for the reference everywhere to mystery beyond all things. It enables us to perceive in the world intimations of the divine, to sense in small things the beginning of infinite significance, to sense the ultimate in the common and the simple; to feel in the rush of the passing the stillness of the eternal.
This is the difference between religion and philosophy. Religion begins with the sense of the ineffable; philosophy ends with the sense of the ineffable. Religion begins where philosophy ends.
Faith is sensitiveness to what transcends nature, knowledge and will, awareness of the ultimate, alertness to the holy dimension of all reality. Faith is a force in man, lying deeper than the stratum of reason and its nature cannot be defined in abstract, static terms. To have faith is not to infer the beyond from the wretched here, but to perceive the wonder that is here and to be stirred by the desire to integrate the self into the holy order of living. It is not a deduction but an intuition, not a form of knowledge, of being convinced without proof, but the attitude of mind toward ideas whose scope is wider than its own capacity to grasp.
It is the dimension of time wherein man meets God, wherein man becomes aware that every instant is an act of creation, a Beginning, opening up new roads for ultimate realizations. Time is the presence of God in the world of space, and it is within time that we are able to sense the unity of all beings.
Proximity to the crowd, to the majority view, spells the death of creativity. For a soul can create only when alone, and some are chosen for the flowering that takes place in the dark avenues of the night.
The greatest heresy is despair.