Fritz A. Rothschild

Fritz A.

Author, Professor Emeritus of Jewish Philosophy, Graduate of Rabbinical School, known for his Anthology of Writings from Abraham Joshua Heschel

Author Quotes

Speculation does not precede faith. The antecedents of faith are the premise of wonder and the premise of praise.

To the spiritual eye space is frozen time, and all things are petrified events.

Temporality and uninterruptedness express the relation of existence to time, a passive relation. What distinguishes organic from inorganic existence is the fact that the plant or the animal stands in an active and defensive relation to temporality… Life, we know from biology, is not a passive state of indifference, and inertia. The essence of life is intense care and concern.

True insight is a moment of perceiving a situation before it freezes into similarity with something else.

The Bible is an answer to the question: how to sanctify life.

We do not create the ineffable, we encounter it.

The Bible is primarily not man’s vision of God but God’s vision of man. The Bible is not man’s theology but God’s anthropology, dealing with man and what He asks of him rather than with the nature of God. God did not reveal to the prophets eternal mysteries but His knowledge and love of man. It was not the aspiration of Israel to know the Absolute but to ascertain what He asks of man; to commune with His will rather than with His essence.

What cannot be grasped in reflection, we comprehend in deeds… The true goal for man is to be what he does… Man is more than what he does. What he does is spiritually a minimum of what he is. Deeds are outpourings, not the essence of the self.

Deity cannot be understood through a knowledge of timeless qualities of goodness and perfection, but only by sensing the living acts of God’s concern and his dynamic attentiveness in relation to man, who is the passionate object of his interest.

The deeper we search, the nearer we arrive at knowing that we do not know.

Eternity is another word for unity. In it, past and future are not apart; here is everywhere, and now goes on forever. The opposite of eternity is diffusion not time. Eternity does not begin when time is at its end. Time is eternity broken into space, like a ray of light refracted in the water… unity is a task, not a condition. The world lies in strife, in discord, in divergence. Unity is beyond not within reality.

The divine expresses itself in three different ways, as creation, revelation, and redemption.

Everything holds the great secret. For it is the inescapable situation of all being to be involved in the infinite mystery. We may continue to disregard the mystery, but we can neither deny nor escape it. The world is something we apprehend but cannot comprehend.

The grand premise of religion is that man is able to surpass himself; that man who is apart of this world may enter into a relationship with Him who is greater than the world.

Fear is the anticipation and expectation of evil or pain, as contrasted with hope which is the anticipation of good. Awe, on the other hand, is the sense of wonder and humility inspired by the sublime or felt in the presence of mystery. Fear is “a surrender of the succors which reason offers,” awe is the acquisition of insights which the world holds in store for us. Awe, unlike fear, does not make us shrink from the awe-inspiring object, but, on the contrary, draws us near to it. That is why awe is compatible with both love and joy.

The idea of creation expresses the conviction that neither blind chance nor an impersonal mechanical order is behind the existence of the universe. Behind the orderly processes of nature stands the primordial act of God’s concern. There are processes because there was an event of creation.

God is within the world, present and concealed in the essence of things. If not for His presence, there would be no essence; if not for His concealment, there would be no appearance.

The power we attain in the world of space terminates abruptly at the borderline of time. But time is the heart of existence… We cannot conquer time through space. We can only master time in time… We pass through time, we occupy space.

Human happiness does not consist in satisfying one’s personal wishes but in the certainty of being needed, in having the visions of goals still unattained.

The present is always unique, never a mere exemplification of general formulas. It carries an irreducible preciousness, a freight of meaning greater than the general essence which later on knowledge can abstract from it.

It is customary to blame secular science and anti-religious philosophy for the eclipse of religion in modern society. It would be more honest to blame religion for its own defeats. 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 relation of existence to time is characterized by two polar elements: temporality and uninterruptedness. Existence is evanescent and always faces the prospect of annihilation, of being thrown out of the stream of time, yet it also exhibits some degree of permanence as the continuous duration in time. Without an element of constancy there could be no permanence within temporality and no knowledge of reality, since our categories of reason are “mirrors, in which the things are reflected in the light of their constancy… Things perish within time, while time itself is everlasting… The present moment is not a terminal but a signal of beginning, an act of creation.

It is in deeds that man becomes aware of what his life really is, of his power to harm and to hurt, to wreck and to ruin; of his ability to derive joy and to bestow it upon others; to relieve and to increase his own and other people’s tensions. It is in the employment of his will, not in reflection, that he meets his own self as it is; not as he should like it to be.

The roots of ultimate insights are found not on the level of discursive thinking, but on the level of wonder and radical amazement, in the depth of awe, in our sensitivity to the mystery, in our awareness of the ineffable. It is the level on which the great things happen to the soul, where the unique insights of art, religion, and philosophy come into being.

It is only the idea of a divine presence hidden within the rational order of nature which is compatible with our scientific view of nature and in accord with our sense of the ineffable.

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Fritz A.
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Author, Professor Emeritus of Jewish Philosophy, Graduate of Rabbinical School, known for his Anthology of Writings from Abraham Joshua Heschel