Abraham Joshua Heschel

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The great yearning that sweeps eternity is a yearning to praise, a yearning to serve.

Abraham Joshua Heschel l (11 January 190723 December 1972) was a Polish-born American rabbi, considered by many to be one of the most significant Jewish theologians of the 20th century.


The time for the kingdom may be far off, but the task is plain: to retain our share in God in spite of peril and contempt.
Loyal to the presence of the ultimate in the common, we may be able to make it clear that man is more than man, that in doing the finite he may perceive the infinite.
One must forget many clichés in order to behold a single image. Insight is the beginning of perceptions to come rather than the extension of perceptions gone by.
Feeling becomes prayer in the moment in which we forget ourselves and become aware of God.
We are closer to God when we are asking questions than when we think we have the answers.
  • The time for the kingdom may be far off, but the task is plain: to retain our share in God in spite of peril and contempt. There is a war to wage against the vulgar, the glorification of the absurd, a war that is incessant, universal. Loyal to the presence of the ultimate in the common, we may be able to make it clear that man is more than man, that in doing the finite he may perceive the infinite.
    • "The Meaning of Jewish Existence" in The Torch (1950)
  • He who is satisfied has never truly craved, and he who craves for the light of God neglects his ease for ardor, his life for love, knowing that contentment is the shadow not the light. The great yearning that sweeps eternity is a yearning to praise, a yearning to serve. And when the waves of that yearning swell in our souls all the barriers are pushed aside: the crust of callousness, the hysteria of vanity, the orgies of arrogance. For it is not the I that trembles alone, it is not a stir out of my soul but an eternal flutter that sweeps us all. No code, no law, even the law of God, can set a pattern for all of our living. It is not enough to have the right ideas. For the will, not reason, has the executive power in the realm of living. The will is stronger than reason and does not blindly submit to the dictates of rational principles. Reason may force the mind to accept intellectually its conclusions. Yet what is the power that will make me love to do what I ought to do?
    • Man Is Not Alone : A Philosophy Of Religion (1951), Ch. 24 : The Great Yearning; The Yearning for Spiritual Living
  • The greatest problem is not how to continue but how to exalt our existence. The call for a life beyond the grave is presumptuous, if there is no 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.
    • Man Is Not Alone : A Philosophy Of Religion (1951), Ch. 26 : The Pious Man; Our Destiny is to Aid
  • We do not step out of the world when we pray; we merely see the world in a different setting. The self is not the hub but the spoke of the revolving wheel. It is precisely the function of prayer to shift the center of living from self-consciousness to self-surrender.
    • Man's Quest For God : Studies In Prayer And Symbolism (1954), p. 7; Heschel would later use this analogy in several minor variations in other writings.
  • Pagans exalt sacred things, the Prophets extol sacred deeds.
    • The Earth Is The Lord's : And The Sabbath (1963), p. 14
  • We forfeit the right to worship God as long as we continue to humiliate negroes. … The hour calls for moral grandeur and spiritual audacity.
  • The Biblical words about the genesis of heaven and earth are not words of information but words of appreciation. The story of creation is not a description of how the world came into being but a song about the glory of the world's having come into being.
    • The Wisdom of Heschel (1970), p. 150
  • Man's sin is in his failure to live what he is. Being the master of the earth, man forgets that he is the servant of God.
    • As quoted in The World's Religions (1976) by Sir James Norman Dalrymple Anderson, p. 61
  • Worship is a way of seeing the world in the light of God.
    • "The Light of God" in I Asked for Wonder : A Spiritual Anthology (1983) edited by Samuel H. Dresner, p. 20
  • The focus of prayer is not the self. … It is the momentary disregard of our personal concerns, the absence of self-centered thoughts, which constitute the art of prayer. Feeling becomes prayer in the moment in which we forget ourselves and become aware of God. ... Thus, in beseeching Him for bread, there is one instant, at least, in which our mind is directed neither to our hunger nor to food, but to His mercy. This instant is prayer. We start with a personal concern and live to feel the utmost.
    • As quoted in Judaism (1998) by Arthur Hertzberg, p. 300
    • Variant: "It is the momentary disregard of our personal concerns, the absence of self-centered thoughts, which constitute the act of prayer."
  • We are closer to God when we are asking questions than when we think we have the answers.
    • As quoted in SQ : Connecting with Our Spiritual Intelligence (2000) by Danah Zohar and Ian Marshall, p. 15

The Sabbath (1951)[edit]

  • In our daily lives we attend primarily to that which the senses are spelling out for us: to what the eyes perceive, to what the fingers touch. Reality to us is thinghood, consisting of substances that occupy space; even God is conceived by most of us as a thing. The result of our thinginess is our blindness to all reality that fails to identify itself as a thing, as a matter of fact.
    • Prologue p. 5
  • The higher goal of spiritual living is not to amass a wealth of information, but to face sacred moments
    • Prologue p. 6
  • Spiritual life begins to decay when we fail to sense the grandeur of what is eternal in time.
    • Prologue p. 6
  • Judaism teaches us to be attached to holiness in time, to attached to sacred events, to learn how to consecrate sanctuaries that emerge from the magnificent stream of year. The Sabbaths are our great cathedrals; and our Holy of Holies is a shrine that neither the Romans nor the Germans were able to burn.
    • Prologue p. 8
  • The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time. It is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time, to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation; from the world of creation to the creation of the world.
    • Prologue p. 10

The Prophets (1962)[edit]

  • One must forget many clichés in order to behold a single image. Insight is the beginning of perceptions to come rather than the extension of perceptions gone by. Conventional seeing, operating as it does with patterns and coherences, is a way of seeing the present in the past tense. Insight is an attempt to think in the present. … Insight is knowledge at first sight.
    • Introduction
  • The striking surprise is that prophets of Israel were tolerated at all by their people. To the patriots, they seemed pernicious; to the pious multitude, blasphemous; to the men in authority, seditious.
    • Volume 1, p. 19
  • Why were so few voices raised in the ancient world in protest against the ruthlessness of man? Why are human beings so obsequious, ready to kill and ready to die at the call of kings and chieftains? Perhaps it is because they worship might, venerate those who command might, and are convinced that it is by force that man prevails. The splendor and the pride of kings blind the people.
    • "The idolatry of might," Volume 1, p. 159
  • "The gods are on the side of the stronger," according to Tacitus. The prophets proclaimed that the heart of God is on the side of the weaker. God's special concern is not for the mighty and the successful, but for the lowly and the downtrodden, for the stranger and the poor, for the widow and the orphan.
    • Volume 1, p. 167
  • It is an act of evil to accept the state of evil as either inevitable or final.
    • Volume 1, p. 181
  • The opposite of freedom is not determinism, but hardness of heart. Freedom presupposes openness of heart, of mind, of eye and ear.
    • Volume 1, p. 191
  • Freedom is not a natural disposition, but God's precious gift to man. Those in whom viciousness becomes second-nature, those in whom brutality is linked with haughtiness, forfeit their ability and therefore their right to receive that gift. Hardening of the heart is the suspension of freedom.
    • Volume 1, p. 191

Who Is Man? (1965)[edit]

We manipulate what is available on the surface of the world; we must also stand in awe before the mystery of the world.
  • Wonder, or radical amazement, is a way of going beyond what is given in thing and thought, refusing to take anything for granted, to regard anything as final. It is our honest response to the grandeur and mystery of reality our confrontation with that which transcends the given.
    • Ch. 4
  • It would be a contradiction in terms to assume that the attainment of transcendent meaning consists in comprehending a notion. Transcendence can never be an object of possession or of comprehension. Yet man can relate himself and be engaged to it. He must know how to court meaning in order to be engaged in it. Love of ultimate meaning is not self-centered but rather a concern to transcend the self.
    • Ch. 4
  • Ultimate meaning is not grasped once and for all in the form of timeless idea, acquired once and for all, securely preserved in conviction. It is not simply given. It comes upon us as an intimation that comes and goes. What is left behind is a memory, and a commitment to that memory. Our words do not describe it, our tools do not wield it. But sometimes it seems as if our very being were its description, its secret tool.
    • Ch. 4
  • The anchor of meaning resides in an abyss, deeper than the reach of despair. Yet the abyss is not not infinite; its bottom may suddenly be discovered within the confines of a human heart or under the debris of might doubts.
    This may be the vocation of man: to say "Amen" to being and to the Author of being; to live in defiance of absurdity, notwithstanding futility and defeat; to attain faith in God even in spite of God.
    • Ch. 4
  • The sense of meaning is not born in ease and sloth. It comes after bitter trials, disappointments in the glitters, foundering, strandings. It is the marrow from the bone. There is no manna in our wilderness.
    Thought is not bred apart from experience or from inner surroundings. Thinking is living, and no thought is bred in an isolated cell in the brain. No thought is an island.
    • Ch. 5
  • Ultimately there is no power to narcissistic, self-indulgent thinking. Authentic thinking originates with an encounter with the world.
    • Ch. 5
  • Human being is both being in the world and living in the world. Living involves responsible understanding of one's role in relation to all other beings. For living is not being in itself, but living of the world, affecting, exploiting, consuming, comprehending, deriving, depriving.
    • Ch. 5
  • There are two primary ways in which mans relates himself to the world that surround him: manipulation and appreciation. In the first way he sees in what surrounds him things to be handled, forces to be managed, objects to be put to use. In the second way he sees in what surrounds him things to be acknowledged, understood, valued or admired.
    • Ch. 5
  • Fellowship depends on appreciation while manipulation is the cause of alienation: objects and I apart, things stand dead, and I am alone. What is more decisive: a life of manipulation distorts the image of the world. Reality is equated with availability: What I can manipulate is, what I cannot manipulate is not. A life of manipulation is the death of transcendence.
    • Ch. 5
  • Acceptance is appreciation, and the high value of appreciation is such that to appreciate appreciation seems to be the fundamental prerequisite for survival. Mankind will not die for lack of information; it may perish for lack of appreciation.
    • Ch. 5
  • As a result of letting the drive for power dominate existence, man is bound to lose his sense for nature's otherness. Nature becomes a utensil, an object to be used. The world ceases to be that which is and becomes that which is available.
    It is a submissive world that modern man is in the habit of sensing, and he seems content with the riches of thinghood.
    Space is the limit of his ambitions, and there is little he desires besides it. Correspondingly, man’s consciousness recedes more and more in the process of reducing his status to that of a consumer and manipulator. He has enclosed himself in the availability of things, with the shutters down and no sight of what is beyond availability.
    • Ch. 5
  • Exclusive manipulation results in the dissolution of awareness of all transcendence. Promise becomes a pretext, God becomes a symbol, truth a fiction, loyalty tentative, the holy a mere convention. Man’s very existence devours all transcendence. Instead of facing the grandeur of the cosmos, he explains it away; instead of beholding, he takes a picture; instead of hearing a voice, he tapes it. He does not see what he is able to face. There is a suspension of man’s sense of the holy. His mind is becoming a wall instead of being a door open to what is larger than the scope of his comprehension. He locks himself out of the world by reducing all reality to mere things and all relationship to mere manipulation. Transcendence is not an article of faith. It is what we come upon immediately when standing face to face with reality.
    • Ch. 5
  • The perceptibility of things is not the end of their being. Their surface is available to our tools, their depth is immune to our inquisitiveness.
    Things are both available and immune. We penetrate their physical givenness, we cannot intuit their secret. We measure what they exhibit, we know how they function, but we also know that we do not know what they are, what they stand for, what they imply.
    • Ch. 5
  • Man is naturally self-centered and he is inclined to regard expediency as the supreme standard for what is right and wrong. However, we must not convert an inclination into an axiom that just as man's perceptions cannot operate outside time and space, so his motivations cannot operate outside expediency; that man can never transcend his own self. The most fatal trap into which thinking may fall is the equation of existence and expediency.
    • Ch. 5
  • The supremacy of expediency is being refuted by time and truth. Time is an essential dimension of existence defiant of man's power, and truth reigns in supreme majesty, unrivaled, inimitable, and can never be defeated.
    • Ch. 5
  • Authentic existence involves exaltation, sensitivity to the holy, awareness of indebtedness.
    Existence without transcendence is a way of living where things become idols and idols become monsters.
    Denial of transcendence contradicts the essential truth of being human. Its roots can be traced either to stolidity of self-contentment or to superciliousness of contempt, to moods rather than to comprehensive awareness of the totality and mystery of being.
    Denial of transcendence which claims to unveil the truth of being is an inner contradiction, since the truth of being is not within being or within our consciousness of being but rather a truth that transcends our being.
    • Ch. 5
  • Essential to education for being human is to cultivate a sense for the inexpedient, to disclose the fallacy of absolute expediency. God's voice may sound feeble to our conscience. Yet there is a divine cunning in history which seems to prove that the wages of absolute expediency is disaster.
    Happiness is not a synonym for self-satisfaction, complacency, or smugness. Self-satisfaction breeds futility and despair. Self-satisfaction is the opiate of fools.
    • Ch. 5
  • New insight begins when satisfaction comes to an end, when all that has been seen, said, or done looks like a distortion. … Man's true fulfillment depends on communion with that which transcends him.
    • Ch. 5
  • In our reflection we must go back to where we stand in awe before sheer being, faced with the marvel of the moment. The world is not just here. It shocks us into amazement.
    Of being itself all we can positively say is: being is ineffable. The heart of being confronts me as enigmatic, incompatible with my categories, sheer mystery. My power of probing is easily exhausted, my words fade, but what I sense is not emptiness but inexhaustible abundance, ineffable abundance. What I face I cannot utter or phrase in language. But the richness of my facing the abundance of being endows me with marvelous reward: a sense of the ineffable.
    • Ch. 5
  • Being as we know it, the world as we come upon it, stands before us as otherness, remoteness. For all our efforts to exploit or comprehend it, it remains evasive, mysteriously immune. Being is unbelievable.
    • Ch. 5
  • Our concern with environment cannot be reduced to what can be used, to what can be grasped. Environment includes not only the inkstand and the blotting paper, but also the impenetrable stillness in the air, the stars, the clouds, the quiet passing of time, the wonder of my own being. I am an end as well as a means, and so is the world: an end as well as a means. My view of the world and my understanding of the self determine each other. The complete manipulation of the world results in the complete instrumentalization of the self.
    • Ch. 5
  • The world presents itself in two ways to me. The world as a thing I own, the world as a mystery I face. What I own is a trifle, what I face is sublime. I am careful not to waste what I own; I must learn not to miss what I face.
    We manipulate what is available on the surface of the world; we must also stand in awe before the mystery of the world. We objectify Being but we also are present at Being in wonder, in radical amazement.
    All we have is a sense of awe and radical amazement in the face of a mystery that staggers our ability to sense it.
    • Ch. 5
  • Awe is more than an emotion; it is a way of understanding, insight into a meaning greater than ourselves. The beginning of awe is wonder, and the beginning of wisdom is awe.
    Awe is an intuition for the dignity of all things, a realization that things not only are what they are but also stand, however remotely, for something supreme. Awe is a sense for transcendence, for the reference everywhere to mystery beyond all things. It enables us to perceive in the world intimations of the divine, to sense in small things the beginning of infinite significance, to sense the ultimate in the common and the simple: to feel in the rush of the passing the stillness of the eternal. What we cannot comprehend by analysis, we become aware of in awe.
    • Ch. 5
  • Faith is not belief, an assent to a proposition, faith is attachment to the meaning beyond the mystery.
    Knowledge is fostered by curiosity; wisdom is fostered by awe. Awe precedes faith; it is the root of faith. We must be guided by awe to be worthy of faith.
    Forfeit your sense of awe, let your conceit diminish your ability to revere, and the world becomes a market place for you.
    The loss of awe is the avoidance of insight. A return to reverence is the first prerequisite for a revival of wisdom, for the discovery of the world as an allusion to God.
    • Ch. 5
  • In his great vision Isaiah perceives the voice of the seraphim even before he hears the voice of the Lord. What is it that the seraphim reveal? "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory."
    Holy, holy, holy — indicate the transcendence and distance of God. The whole earth is full of His glory — the immanence or presence of God. The outwardness of the world communicates something of the indwelling greatness of God.
    The glory is neither an aesthetic nor physical quality. It is sensed in grandeur, but it is more than grandeur. It is a presence or the effulgence of a presence.
    The whole earth is full of His glory, but we do not perceive it; it is within our reach but beyond our grasp. And still it is not entirely unknown to us.
    • Ch. 5
  • In English the phrase that a person has "a presence" is hard to define. There are people whose being here and now is felt, even though they do not display themselves in action and speech. They have a "presence." … Of a person whose outwardness communicates something of his indwelling power or greatness, whose soul is radiant and conveys itself without words, we say he has presence.
    Standing face to face with the world, we often sense a presence which surpasses our ability to comprehend. The world is too much with us. It is crammed with marvel. There is a glory, an aura, that lies about all beings, a spiritual setting of reality.
    To the religious man it is as if things stood with their backs to him, their faces turned to God, as if the glory of things consisted in their being an object of divine care.
    • Ch. 5
  • Being is both presence and absence. God had to conceal His presence in order to bring the world into being. He had to make His absence possible in order to make room for the world's presence. Coming into being brought along denial and defiance, absence, oblivion and resistance.
    • Ch. 5
  • Being points beyond itself.
    Accustomed to think in terms of space, the expression "being points beyond itself" may be taken to denote a higher point in space. What is meant, however, is a higher category than being: the power of maintaining being.
    • Ch. 5
  • Being is either open to, or dependent on, what is more than being, namely, the care for being, or it is a cul-de-sac, to be explained in terms of self-sufficiency. The weakness of the first possibility is in its reference to a mystery; the weakness of the second possibility is in its pretension to offer a rational explanation.
    Nature, the sum of its laws, may be sufficient to explain in its own terms how facts behave within nature; it does not explain why they behave at all. Some tacit assumptions of the theory of insufficiency remain problematic.
    • Ch. 5
  • The idea of dependence is an explanation, whereas self-sufficiency is an unprecedented, nonanalogous concept in terms of what we know about life within nature. Is not self-sufficiency itself insufficient to explain self-sufficiency?
    • Ch. 5
  • Being is transcended by a concern for being.
    Our perplexity will not be solved by relating human existence to a timeless, subpersonal abstraction which we call essence. We can do justice to human being only by relating it to the transcendent care for being.
    • Ch. 5

Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays (1997)[edit]

Faith is something that comes out of the soul. It is not an information that is absorbed but an attitude, existing prior to the formulation of any creed.
There are many creeds but only one faith. Creeds may change, develop, and grow flat, while the substance of faith remains the same in all ages. … The proper relation is a minimum of creed and a maximum of faith.
Those who trust develop a finer sense for the good, even at the hight cost of blighted hopes. Charmed by the spell of love, faith is, as it were, imposed upon their heart.
Faith opens our hearts for the entrance of the holy.
  • The Torah has not imposed upon Israel a tyranny of the spirit. It does not violate human nature. On the contrary, the road to the sacred leads through the secular. The spiritual rests upon the carnal, like "the Spirit that hovers over the face of the water. " Jewish living means living according to a system of checks and balances. We are not asked anything that cannot be responded to. We are not told: Love thy enemy, but Do not hate him, and positively: "If thou meet thine enemy's ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again." (Exodus 23:4).
    • "No TIme for Neutrality", p. 77
  • The issue of prayer is not prayer; the issue of prayer is God. One cannot pray unless he has faith in his own ability to accost the infinite, merciful, eternal God.
    • "No TIme for Neutrality", p. 107
  • Society today is no longer in revolt against particular laws which it finds alien, unjust, and imposed, but against law as such, against the principle of law. And yet we must not regard this revolt as entirely negative. The energy that rejects many obsolete laws is an entirely positive impulse for renewal of life and law.
    • "No Religion is an Island", p. 264
  • Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy. And yet being alive is no answer to the problems of living. To be or not to be is not the question. The vital question is: how to be and how not to be?
    The tendency to forget this vital question is the tragic disease of contemporary man, a disease that may prove fatal, that may end in disaster.
    To pray is to recollect passionately the perpetual urgency of this vital question.
    • "No Religion is an Island", p. 264
  • One of the results of the rapid depersonalization of our age is a crisis of speech, profanation of language. We have trifled with the name of God,we have taken the name and the word of the Holy in vain. Language has been reduced to labels, talk has become double-talk. We are in the process of losing faith in the reality of words.
    Yet prayer can happen only when words reverberate with power and inner life, when uttered as an earnest, as a promise. On the other hand, there is a high degree of obsolescence in the traditional language of the theology of prayer. Renewal of prayer calls for a renewal of language, of cleansing the words, of revival of meanings.
    The strength of faith is in silence, and in words that hibernate and wait.
    Uttered faith must come out as a surplus of silence, as the fruit of lived faith, of enduring intimacy.
    Theological education must deepen privacy, strive for daily renewal of innerness, cultivate ingredients of religious existence, reverence and responsibility.
    • "No Religion is an Island", p. 264
  • Religion is critique of all satisfaction. Its end is joy, but its beginning is discontent, detesting boasts, smashing idols. It began in Ur Kasdim, in the seat of a magnificent civilization. Yet Abraham said, "No," breaking the idols, breaking away. And so every one of us must begin by saying no to all visible, definable entities pretending to be triumphant, ultimate. The ultimate is a challenge, not an assertion. Dogmas are allusions, not descriptions.
    • "No Religion is an Island", p. 264
  • This is the predicament of man. All souls descend a ladder form heaven to the world. Then the ladders are taken away. Once they are in this world, they are called upon from heaven to rise, to come back. It is a call that goes out again and again. Each soul seeks the ladder in order to ascend above; but the ladder cannot be found. Most people make no effort to ascend, claiming, how can one rise to heaven without a ladder? However, there are souls which resolve to leap upwards without a ladder. So they jump and fall down. They jump and fall down, until they stop. Wise people think that since no ladder exists, there must be another way. We must face the challenge and act. Be what it may, one must leap until God, in His mercy, makes exultation come about.
    • "No Religion is an Island", p. 266
  • It seems as though we have arrived at a point in history, closest to the instincts and remotest from ideals, where the self stands like a wall between God and man. It is the period of a divine eclipse. We sail the seas, we count the stars, we split the atom, but never ask: Is there nothing but a dead universe and our reckless curiosity?
    Primitive man's humble ear was alert to the inwardness of the world, while the modern man is presumptuous enough to claim that he has the sole monopoly over soul and spirit, that he is the only thing alive in the universe. … But there is a dawn of wonder and surprise in our souls, when the things that surround us suddenly slip off the triteness with which we have endowed them, and their strangeness opens like a gap between them and our mind, a gap that no words can fill. … What is the incense of self-esteem to him who tastes in all things the flavor of the utterly unknown, the fragrance of what is beyond our senses? There are neither skies nor oceans, neither birds nor trees — there are only signs of what can never be perceived. And all power and beauty are mere straws in the fire of a pure man's vision.
    • "The Holy Dimension", p. 329
  • He who has ever been confronted with the ultimate and has realized that sun and stars and souls do not ramble in a vacuum will keep his heart in readiness for the hour when the world is entranced, awaits a soul to breathe in the mystery that all things exhale in their craving for salvation. For things are not mute. The stillness is full of demands. Out of the world comes a behest to instill into the air a rapturous song for God, to incarnate in the stones a message of humble beauty, and to instill a prayer for goodness in the hearts of all children.
    • "The Holy Dimension", p. 330
  • 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.
    Such alertness grows from the sense for the meaningful, for the marvel of matter, for the core of thoughts. It is begotten in passionate love for the significance of all reality, in devotion to the ultimate meaning which is only God. By our very existence we are in dire need of meaning, and anything that calls for meaning is always an allusion to Him. We live by the certainty that we are not dust in the wind, that our life is related to the ultimate, the meaning of all meanings. And the system of meanings that permeates the universe is like an endless flight of stairs. Even when the upper stairs are beyond our sight, we constantly rise toward the distant goal.
    • "The Holy Dimension", p. 330
  • Instead of indulging in jealousy, greed, in relishing themselves, there are men who keep their hearts alert to the stillness in which time rolls on and leaves us behind. … those who are open to the wonder will not miss it. Faith is found in solicitude for faith, in an inner care for the wonder that is everywhere.
    • "The Holy Dimension", p. 331
  • Only straight discovering in the nearest stone or tree, sound or thought, the shelter of His often desecrated goodness, the treasury of His waiting form man's heart to affiliate with His will — this is the rapture of faith. It is an echo to a pleading voice, a reply to the inconceivable in all beauty.
    • "The Holy Dimension", p. 331
  • Faith is an awareness of divine mutuality and companionship, a form of communion between God and man. It is not a psychical quality, something that exists in the mind only, but a force from the beyond.
    • "The Holy Dimension", p. 331
  • Faith is not the clinging to a shrine but the endless, tameless pilgrimage of hearts.
    • "The Holy Dimension", p. 332
  • Those of faith who plant sacred thoughts in the uplands of time, the secret gardeners of the Lord in mankind's desolate hopes, may slacken and tarry but rarely betray their vocation.
    • "The Holy Dimension", p. 332
  • He whose soul is charged with awareness of God earns his inner livelihood by a passionate desire to pour his life into the eternal wells of love. … We do not live for our own sake. Life would be preposterous if not for the love it confers.
    Faith implies no denial of evil, no disregard of danger, no whitewashing of the abominable. He whose heart is given to faith is mindful of the obstructive and awry, of the sinister and pernicious. It is God's strange dominion over both good and evil on which he relies. … Faith is not a mechanical insurance but a dynamic, personal act, flowing between the heart of man and the love of God.
    • "The Holy Dimension", p. 333
  • Not the individual man nor a single generation by its own power can erect the bridge that leads to God. Faith is the achievement of many generations, and effort accumulated over many centuries. … There is a collective memory of God in the human spirit, and it is this memory which is the main source of our faith.
    • "The Holy Dimension", p. 333
  • Faith is not a thing that comes into being out of nothing. It originates in an event. In the spiritual vacancy of life something may suddenly occur that is like the lifting of a veil at the horizon of knowledge. A simple episode may open sight of the eternal. A shift of conceptions, boisterous like a tempest of soft as a breeze may swerve a mind for an instant or forever. For God is not wholly silent and man is not always deaf. God's willingness to call men to His service and man's responsiveness to the divine indications in things and events are for faith what sun and soil are for the plant.
    • "The Holy Dimension", p. 333
  • The riches of the soul are stored up in its memory. this is the test of character, not whether a man follows the daily fashion, but whether the past is alive in his present.
    • "The Holy Dimension", p. 333
  • Only those who are spiritually imitators, only people who are afraid to be grateful and too weak to be loyal, have nothing but the present moment. The mark of nobility is inherited possession. To a noble person it is a holy joy to remember, an overwhelming thrill to be grateful, while to a person whose character is neither rich nor strong, gratitude is a most painful sensation. The secret of wisdom is never to get lost in a momentary mood or passion, never to forget a friendship over a momentary grievance, never to lose sight of the lasting values over a transitory episode.
    • "The Holy Dimension", p. 334
  • Much of what the Bible demands can be comprised in one imperative: Remember!
    • "The Holy Dimension", p. 334
  • There are many creeds but only one faith. Creeds may change, develop, and grow flat, while the substance of faith remains the same in all ages. The overgrowth of creed may bring about the disintegration of that substance. The proper relation is a minimum of creed and a maximum of faith.
    • "The Holy Dimension", p. 335 - 336
  • In the realm of faith, God is not a hypothesis derived from logical assumptions, but an immediate insight, self-evident as light. To rationalists He is something after which they seek in the darkness with the light of their reason. To men of faith He is the light.
    • "The Holy Dimension", p. 337.
    • Heschel made similar statements in earlier writings: The great insight is not attained when we ponder or infer the beyond from the here. In the realm of the ineffable, God is not a hypothesis derived from logical assumptions, but an immediate insight, self-evident as light. He is not something to be sought in the darkness with the light of reason. He is the light.
    • Man Is Not Alone : A Philosophy of Religion (1951)
  • Faith is something that comes out of the soul. It is not an information that is absorbed but an attitude, existing prior to the formulation of any creed.
    • "The Holy Dimension", p. 337
  • Reason is not the measure of all things, not the all-inclusive power in the inner life of man. The powers of will and emotion, the realm of the subconscious lie beyond the scope of knowledge. The rush of reason is an effort of limited strength.
    Faith is not the 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.
    • "The Holy Dimension", p. 337
  • All action is vicarious faith.
    • "The Holy Dimension", p. 338
  • Reality is not exhausted by knowledge. Inaccessible to research are the ultimate facts. All scientific conclusions are based on axioms, all reasoning depends ultimately upon faith. Faith is virgin thinking, preceding all transcendent knowledge. To believe is to abide at the extremities of spirit.
    • "The Holy Dimension", p. 338
  • There is neither advance nor service without faith. Nobody can rationally explain why he should sacrifice his life and his happiness for the sake of the good. The conviction that I must obey the ethical imperatives is not derived from logical argument but originates from an intuitive certitude, in a certitude of faith.
    There is no conspiracy against reason, no random obstinacy, no sluggish inertia of mind or smug self-assurance entrenched behind the walls of believing. Faith does not detach a man from thinking, it does not suspend reason. It is opposed not to knowledge but to backwardness and dullness, to indifferent aloofness to the essence of living. … It is a distortion to regard reason and faith as alternatives. Reason is a necessary coefficient of faith. Faith without explication by reason is mute, reason without faith is deaf. There can be a true symbiosis of reason and faith.
    • "The Holy Dimension", p. 338
  • The account of our experiences, the record of debit and credit, is reflected in the amount of trust or distrust we display towards life and humanity. There are those who maintain that the good is within our reach everywhere; you have but to stretch out your arms and you will grasp it. But there are others who, intimidated by fraud and ugliness, sense scorn and ambushes everywhere and misgive all things to come. Those who trust develop a finer sense for the good, even at the hight cost of blighted hopes. Charmed by the spell of love, faith is, as it were, imposed upon their heart.
    • "The Holy Dimension", p. 338
  • Trust is the core of human relationships, of gregariousness among men. Friendship, a puzzle to the syllogistic and critical mentality, is not based on experiments or tests of another person's qualities but on trust. It is not critical knowledge but a risk of the heart which initiates affection and preserves loyalty in our fellow men.
    • "The Holy Dimension", p. 339
  • Faith opens our hearts for the entrance of the holy. It is almost as though God were thinking for us.
    • "The Holy Dimension", p. 339
  • To pray is to take notice of the wonder, to regain the sense of the mystery that animates all beings, the divine margin in all attainments. Prayer is our humble answer to the inconceivable surprise of living. It is all we can offer in return for the mystery by which we live. Who is worthy to be present at the constant unfolding of time?
    • "The Holy Dimension", p. 341

The Zookeeper's Wife (2008)[edit]

Quotes of Heschel from The Zookeeper's Wife : A War Story (2008) by Diane Ackerman
  • The search of reason ends at the shore of the known.
  • The stone is broken, but the words are alive.
  • To be human is a problem, and the problem expresses itself in anguish.
  • 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.
  • In my youth, growing up in a Jewish milieu, there was one thing we did not have to look for and that was exaltation. Every moment is great, we were taught, every moment is unique.

Quotes about Heschel[edit]

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