Abraham Joshua Heschel

Abraham Joshua

Polish Jewish Religious Leader

Author Quotes

Life is a drama, and religion has become routine. The soul calls for exaltation, and religion offers repetition. Honesty, veracity, does not come about by itself. Freshness, depth has to be acquired. One must work on them constantly.

Recollection is a holy act; we sanctify the present by remembering the past… The essence of faith is memory.

The greatest problem is not how to continue but how to exalt our existence. The cry for a life beyond the grave is presumptuous, if there is not cry for eternal life prior to our descending to the grave. Eternity is not perpetual future but perpetual presence. He has planted in us the seed of eternal life. The world to come is not only a hereafter but also a here-now.

God’ absence is an illusion.

Life is not meaningful… unless it is serving an end beyond itself; unless it is of value to someone else.

Religion declined not because it was refuted but because it became irrelevant, dull, oppressive, insipid. When faith is completely replaced by creed, worship by discipline, love by habit; when the crisis of today is ignored because of the splendor of the past; when faith becomes an heirloom rather than a living fountain; when religion speaks only in the name of authority rather than with the voice of compassion – its message becomes meaningless.

The higher goal of spiritual living is not to amass a wealth of information, but to face sacred moments... Spiritual life begins to decay when we fail to sense the grandeur of what is eternal in time... Judaism is a religion of time aiming at the sanctification of time.

God is greater than religion… Faith is greater than dogma.

Life without commitment is not worth living.

Religion has become an impersonal affair, an institutional loyalty. It survives on the level of activities rather than in the stillness of commitment.

The island of existence is washed by the two oceans of eternity and nothingness, eroding it into what is less and elevating it into what is more than existence, into nothingness and into a higher reality, namely, the identity of event and value, the unity of being and meaning.

Human faith is never final, never an arrival, but rather an endless pilgrimage, a being on the way.

Madness is man’s desperate attempt to reach transcendence, to rise beyond himself.

Religion is a means, not an end. It becomes idolatrous when regarded as an end in itself.

The issue we should all ponder is moral, not legal; responsibility, rather than guilt; prevention rather than punishment.

I believe the ultimate meaning of existence is to be a religious witness.

Man is a fountain of immense meaning, not merely a drop in the ocean of being.

Responsibility implies freedom, and man, who is in bondage to environment, to social ties, to inner disposition, may yet enjoy freedom before God.

The predicament of contemporary man is grave. We seem to be destined either for a new mutation or for destruction.

In biblical days prophets were astir while the world was asleep; today the world is astir while church and synagogue are busy with trivialities.

Man’s responsibility to God is the scaffold on which he stands as daily he goes on building life. His every deed, every incident of mind, takes place on this scaffold, so that unremittingly man is at work either building up or tearing down his life, his home, his hope of God.

Reverence for God is shown in our reverence for man. The fear you must feel for offending or hurting a human being must be as ultimate as your fear of God. An act of violence is an act of desecration. To be arrogant toward man is to be blasphemous toward God.

In prayer we seek not to make God visible but to make ourselves visible to God.

Man… is a messenger who forgot the message.

Routine breeds attention.

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Abraham Joshua
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Polish Jewish Religious Leader