Abraham Joshua Heschel

Abraham Joshua

Polish Jewish Religious Leader

Author Quotes

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 is an awareness of divine mutuality and companionship, a form of communion between God and man.

It is dangerous to take human freedom for granted, to regard it as a prerogative rather than as an obligation, as an ultimate fact rather than as an ultimate goal. It is the beginning of wisdom to be amazed at the facts of our being free.

Prayer is an act which makes the heart audible to God.

The darkness of history… conceals alight. Beyond the mystery is meaning. And the meaning is destined to be disclosed.

Faith is intellectual humility, devotion of the mind, a true offering, the finest feat the heart can perform.

It is in the way in which we gratify physical needs that the seed of holiness is planted.

Prayer is an invitation to God to intervene in our lives.

The goal of religion is not primarily to help us to express ourselves but to bring us closer to God.

Faith is not a miniature of thinking but its model, not its shadow but its root. It is a spiritual force in man, not dealing with the given, concrete, limited, but directed upon the transcendent. It is the spring of our creative actions.

It is not enough for me to be able to say `I am’; I want to know who I am and in relation to whom I live. It is not enough for me to ask questions; I want to know how to answer the one question that seems to encompass everything I face: What am I here for?

Prayer is our humble answer to the inconceivable surprise of living.

The grandeur of nature is only the beginning. Beyond the Grandeur is God.

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.

Friendship, affection is not acquired by giving presents. Friendship, affection comes about by two people sharing a significant moment, by having an experience in common.

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.

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Abraham Joshua
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Polish Jewish Religious Leader