54 Insightful Quotes By Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Distinguished Jewish Philosopher
Abraham Joshua Heschel was a Jewish theologian, philosopher and rabbi, who was born in Poland but lived in the United States for the second half of his life. After pursuing an orthodox Jewish education, he studied at the University of Berlin, from where he earned his doctorate degree. However, the persecution of Jews by the Nazis forced him to leave Germany and he arrived in New York in 1940. After arriving in the United States, he became a teacher at the Hebrew Union College and later on joined the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. He tirelessly contributed in the Civil Rights Movement. Heschel was also very well-known for the numerous books that he had written. Some of the noted books written by him include ‘The Earth is the Lord’s: The Inner World of the Jew in Eastern Europe’, ‘Israel: An Echo of Eternity’, ‘The Prophets’, ‘A Passion for Truth’, ‘Who is Man?’, ‘Man’s Quest for God’ and ‘Heavenly Torah: As Refracted Through the Generations’ among others. He became one of the most well-known rabbis in the United States for his writings, thoughts and work. Here are the most notable sayings and quotes by Abraham Joshua Heschel on celebration, attention, song, ineffable, time, deception, wonder, life, appreciation, knowledge, spirituality and reason.
Self-respect is the root of discipline: The sense of dignity grows
with the ability to say no to oneself. When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people. Faith is not the clinging to a shrine but an endless pilgrimage of the heart. Wonder rather than doubt is the root of all knowledge. Never once in my life did I ask God for success or wisdom or power or fame. I asked for wonder, and he gave it to me. Few are guilty, but all are responsible. When I was young, I used to admire intelligent people; as I grow older, I admire kind people. Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy. The beginning of our happiness lies in the understanding that life without wonder is not worth living. The worship of reason is arrogance and betrays a lack of intelligence. The rejection of reason is cowardice and betrays a lack of faith. We can never sneer at the stars, mock the dawn, or scoff at the totality of being. Remember that there is meaning beyond absurdity. Know that every deed counts, that every word is power...Above all, remember that you must build your life as if it were a work of art. Prayer begins at the edge of emptiness. Prayer is our humble answer to the inconceivable surprise of living. The problem to be faced is: how to combine loyalty to one's own tradition with reverence for different traditions. God is either of no importance, or of supreme importance. Prayer begins where our power ends. I have one talent, and that is the capacity to be tremendously surprised, surprised at life, at ideas. This is to me the supreme Hasidic imperative: Don't be old. Don't be stale. A prophet's true greatness is his ability to hold God and man in a single thought. To pray is to dream in league with God, to envision His holy visions. Only those will apprehend religion who can probe its depth, who can combine intuition and love with the rigor of method Racism is man's gravest threat to man - the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason. The true meaning of existence is disclosed in moments of living in the presence of God This is one of the goals of the Jewish way of living: to experience commonplace deeds as spiritual adventures, to feel the hidden love and wisdom in all things. The prophets never taught that God and history are one, or that whatever happens below reflects the will of God above. Their vision is of man defying God, and God seeking man to reconcile with Him. Who is a Jew? A person whose integrity decays when unmoved by the knowledge of wrong done to other people. Wonder or radical amazement is the chief characteristic of the religious man's attitude toward history and nature. In Jewish tradition, dying in one’s sleep is called a kiss of God, and dying on the Sabbath is a gift that is merited by piety. For the pious person, my father once wrote, it is a privilege to die. Short is the way from need to greed. What seems to be a stone is a drama. There is a passion and drive for cruel deeds which only the awe and fear of God can soothe; there is a suffocating selfishness in man which only holiness can ventilate. 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 may not know whether our understanding is correct, or whether our sentiments are noble, but the air of the day surrounds us like spring which spreads over the land without our aid or notice. There is a word that is seldom said, a word for an emotion almost too deep to be expressed: the love of the Sabbath. Wise criticism always begins with self-criticism. Labor is a blessing, toil is the misery of man. The surest way to suppress our ability to understand the meaning of God and the importance of worship is to take things for granted...Indifference to the sublime wonder of living is the root of sin. Man is not a beast of burden, and the Sabbath is not for the purpose of enhancing the efficiency of his work. Only that which is good for all men is good for every man. No one is truly inspired for his own sake. He who is blessed, is a blessing for others. Faced with the mind-surpassing grandeur of the universe, we cannot but admit that there is meaning which is greater than man. This is the status of the Bible in modern life: it is a sublime answer, but we do not know the question any more. Unless we recover the question, there is no hope of understanding the Bible. Happy is he who is aware of the mysteries of his Lord. The principle to be kept in mind is to know what we see rather than to see what we know. The Sabbath is the presence of God in the world, open to the soul of man.” God is not in things of space, but in moments of time. Sanctification is dependent upon human behavior and attitude. The Sabbath is the day on which we learn the art of surpassing civilization.
The Jewish contribution to the idea of love is the conception of love of the Sabbath, the love of a day, of spirit in the form of time.
Just as we are commanded to keep the Sabbath, we are commanded to labor.
The grand premise of religion is that man is able to surpass himself; that man who is part of this world may
Unless one learns how to relish the taste of Sabbath … one will be unable to enjoy the taste of eternity in the world to come.
Replete is the world with a spiritual radiance, replete with sublime and marvelous secrets. But a small hand held against the eye hides it all,” said the Baal Shem.
We may assume it is God we care for, but it may be our own ego we are concerned with. To examine our religious existence is, therefore, a task to be performed constantly. No man is free who is not a master of himself, that the more liberties we enjoy, the more discipline we need.46 Laissez-faire,