Abraham Joshua Heschel

Abraham Joshua

Polish Jewish Religious Leader

Author Quotes

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.

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

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

Man… is a messenger who forgot the message.

Routine breeds attention.

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

Nobility is the redeemed quality which rises within the soul when it exchanges the transient for the permanent, the useful for the valuable.

Self-satisfaction is the opiate of fools.

In prayer we shift the center of living from self-consciousness to self-surrender.

Our awareness of God is a syntax of the silence, in which our souls mingle with the divine, in which the ineffable in us communes with the ineffable beyond us.

Social dynamics is no substitute for moral responsibility.

In the midst of our applauding the feats of civilization, the Bible flings itself like a knife slashing our complacency; remind us that God, too, has a voice in history.

Our existence seesaws between animality and divinity, between that which is more and that which is less than humanity.

The beginning of faith is not a feeling for the mystery of living or a sense of awe, wonder, or fear. The root of religion is the question what to do with the feeling for the mystery of living, what to do with awe, wonder, or fear. Religion, the end of isolation, begins with a consciousness that something is asked of us. It is in that tense, eternal asking in which the soul is caught and in which man’s answer is elicited.

In visions of wisdom, in devotion to the good, in submission to beauty, and when overwhelmed by the holy, we awake to behold existence in this relationship. In reverence, suffering, and humility we discover our existence and find the bridge that leads from existence to God. And this is religion.

Possession is loneliness.

The Bible is God’s anthropology rather than man’s theology.

Extreme rationalism may be defined as the failure of reason to understand itself.

Indifference to evil is worse than evil itself.

Prayer in action; it requires complete mobilization of heart, mind, and soul… For the soul, home is where the prayer is... Prayer calls for self-reflection, for contrition and repentance, examining and readjusting deeds and motivations, for recanting the ugly compulsions we follow, the tyranny of acquisitiveness, hatred, envy, resentment.

The conscience is… a brake, not a guide; a fence, not a way. It raises its voice after a wrong deed has been committed, but often fails to give us direction in advance of our actions.

Faith implies no denial of evil, no disregard of danger, no whitewashing of the abominable… Faith is not a mechanical insurance but a dynamic, personal act, flowing between the heart of man and the love of God.

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Abraham Joshua
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Polish Jewish Religious Leader