Man’s Quest for God (book by Heschel)

These are my own gleanings from a wonderful book by Abraham Joshua Heschel, Man’s Quest for God: Studies in Prayer and Symbolism (1954, copyright Susannah Heschel 1996). I hope they encourage you to buy the book. Normally, I paraphrase and summarise much more; however, Heschel has such a powerful command of language, that most of this digest is in the form of direct quotations. By the way, the notes in square brackets are my own thoughts, rather than ideas gleaned from the book itself.

Preface
  • xi “prayer is a forgotten language”
  • xi “Man cannot pour his heart into a vacuum. … [I]f the world moves in a vacuum, of what ultimate worth is all expression?”
  • xii “worship is … a way of seeing the world in the light of God. To worship is … to see the world from the point of view of God.”
  • Xii-xiii “In worship we discover that the ultimate way is not to have a symbol but to be a symbol, to stand for the divine. The ultimate way is to sanctify thoughts, to sanctify time, to consecrate words, to hallow deeds. The study of the word of God is an example of the sanctification of thought; the Seventh Day is an example of the sanctification of time; prayer is an example of the consecration of words; observance is an example of hallowing deeds.”
  • Xiii “God is of no importance unless He is of supreme importance.”
  • Xiii “Hearts are hungry for the voice of God.”
  • Xiii “Others may suffer from degradation by poverty; we are threatened by degradation through power. Power corrupts.”
  • Xiv “[T]he spirit of God is present whenever we are willing to accept it. True, God is hiding his face in our time, but He is hiding because we are evading Him.”
Introduction (Susannah Heschel) [no page numbers in book]
  • “He used to remind us that the Holocaust did not being with the building of crematoria, and Hitler did not come to power with tanks and guns; it all began with uttering evil words, with defamation, with language and propaganda.”
  • AJH letter 26 March 1937: “The assignment is not to learn to read the text but to learn how to pray. The second is more important.”
  • AJH “Racism is … unmitigated evil … You cannot worship God and at the same time look at man as if he were a horse.”
  • AJH “Just as you cannot study philosophy through praying, you cannot study prayer through philosophizing.’
  • “he argued that piety is a phenomenon that must be described on its own terms, as an attitude, a way of thinking in which the pious person feels God to be always close and present.”
  • “For the pious person, destiny means not simply to accomplish, but to contribute. AJH: “In aiding a creature, he is helping the Creator. In succouring the poor, he is taking care of something that concerns God. In admiring the good, he is revering the spirit of God.””
  • AJH “To be is to stand for, and what human beings stand for is the great mystery of being God’s partner. God is in need of human beings.”
  • “he traces conflicting rabbinic understandings of revelation, as experiential and propositional, which bear differing implications for halachic decisions.”
  • AJH, Riverside Church, Manhattan, 1967, Clergy and Laymen Concerned (alongside Martin Luther King): “In a free society, some are guilty and all are responsible. … Remember the blood of the innocent cries forever. Should that blood stop to cry, humanity would cease to be.”
1. The Inner World
  • Story of the cobbler torn between prayer and serving customers’ needs
  • 4 “We do not refuse to pray. We merely feel that our tongues are tied, our minds inert, our vision dim, when we are about to enter the door that leads to prayer. We do not refuse to pray; we abstain from it.”
  • 5 “there is a wider voluntary entrance to prayer than sorrow and despair – the opening of our thoughts to God. We cannot make Him visible to us, but we can make ourselves visible to Him.”
  • 7 “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. In prayer we shift the centre of living from self-consciousness to self-surrender.”
  • 8 “However, prayer is no panacea, no substitute for action. It is, rather, like a beam thrown from a flashlight before us into the darkness. It is in this light that we who grope, stumble, and climb, discover where we stand, what surrounds us, and the course which we should choose. Prayer makes visible the right, and reveals what is hampering and false. In its radiance, we behold the worth of our efforts, the range of our hopes, and the meaning of our deeds. Envy and fear, despair and resentment, anguish and grief, which life heavily upon the heart, are dispelled like shadows by its light.”
  • [Perhaps we abstain from prayer sometimes because we know that it will face us with truth we have been avoiding, or challenge us with our moral inadequacy or hypocrisy if we don’t follow it with particular action. In this sense it is challenging, and not for the faint-hearted.]
  • 9 “… suffering is not the source of prayer. A motive does not bring about an act as a cause produces and effect.”
  • 9-10 “Before the words of prayer come to the lips, the mind must believe in God’s willingness to draw near to us, and in our ability to clear the path for his approach. Such belief is the idea that leads us toward prayer.” [Ps. 4:4 “… the Lord will hear when I call to Him” Adonai yishma b’kari eilav.]
  • 12 “the mediaeval saying: ‘Prayer without kavanah is like a body without a soul.’”
  • 12 “… what is the nature of kavanah or inner participation? Is it paying attention to the content of the fixed texts? Thinking? Prayer is not thinking. To the thinker, God is an object; to the man who prays, He is the subject. Awaking in the presence of God, we strive not to acquire objective knowledge, but to deepen the mutual allegiance of man and God.”
  • 12 “Life is [ie should be] fashioned by prayer, and prayer is the quintessence of life.”
  • 13 “Prayer is a spiritual source in itself. Though not born of an urge to learn, it often endows us with insights not attainable by speculation.”
  • 13 “… prayer is an act which makes the heart audible to God. Who would pour his most precious hopes into an abyss? Essential is the metaphysical rather than the physical dimension of prayer. Prayer is not a thought that rambles alone in the world, but an event that starts in man and ends in God.”
  • 13-14 “Man hands over his time to God in the secrecy of single words.”
  • 14 “To many psychologists, prayer is but a function, a shadow cast by the circumstances of our lives, growing and diminishing in accordance with our various needs and wants. Consequently, to understand the nature of prayer, it is enough [for the psychologist] to become familiar with the various occasions when it is offered.”
  • 14 “The hope of results may be the motive that leads the mind to prayer, but not the content which fills the worshiper’s consciousness in the essential moment of prayer.”
  • 15 “Prayer, too, is primarily kavanah, the yielding of the entire being to one goal, the gathering of the soul into focus.”
  • 15 “The focus of prayer is not the self. A man may spend hours meditating about himself, or be stirred by the deepest sympathy for his fellow man, and not prayer will come to pass. Prayer comes to pass in a complete turning of the heart toward God, toward His goodness and power. It is the momentary disregard of our personal concerns, the absence of self-centred thoughts, which constitute the art of prayer. Feeling becomes prayer in the moment in which we forget ourselves and become aware of God. When we analyse the consciousness of a supplicant, we discover that it is not concentrated upon his own interests, but on something beyond the self. The thought of personal need is absent, and the thought of divine grace alone is present in the mind. 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.”
  • 17 “The quality of a speech is not judged by the good intention of the speaker but by the degree to which it succeeds to simplify an idea and to make it relevant to others. In contrast, the goal of prayer is to simplify the self and to make God relevant to oneself.”
  • 17 Only God can know our innermost self. Being known this way stops us from being alone. [It is at once consoling and terrifying.]
  • 18 “The main ends of prayer are to move God, to let Him participate in our lives, and to interest ourselves in Him.”
  • 19 “We begin by letting the thought of Him engage our minds, by realising His name and entering into a reverie which leads through beauty and stillness, from feeling to thought, and from understanding to devotion. For the coins of prayer bear the image of God’s dreams and wishes for fear-haunted man.”
2. The Person and the Word
  • 25 “Words have ceased to be commitments. Our sensitivity to their power is being constantly reduced. … there can be no prayer without a sense for the dignity of words, without a degree of deference to what they stand for.”
  • 25 “Words of prayer are repositories of the spirit. It is only after we kindle a light in the words that we are able to behold the riches they contain. It is only after we arrive within a word that we become aware of the riches our own souls contain.”
  • 26 “Words of prayer do not fade. They remain alive in the holy dimension. Words of prayer are commitments. We stand for what we utter.”
  • 26 “A word is a focus, a point at which meanings meet and from which meanings seem to proceed. In prayer, as in poetry, we turn to the words, not to use them as signs for things, but to see the things in the light of the words.”
  • 27 “The words must not fall off our lips like dead leaves in the autumn. They must rise like birds out of the heart into the vast expanse of eternity.”
  • A) Prayer is an act of expression. It begins with feeling, and takes us to thoughts beyond expression. B) Prayer is an act of empathy. It begins with the word, and draws us into awareness, feeling, insight, and a place beyond words. [Heschel’s use of the word ‘empathy’ seems not so much about feeling, therefore, but imagining and appreciating the qualities, powers, gifts, and mind of God, trying to see the world from God’s-eye-view, rather than expressing how we feel about God.]
  • 29 “how serious an act the utterance of His [God’s] name is”
  • 29 “What we feel is so much less than what we say.” [This is praying from the perspective of ‘empathy’. Yet, we can often feel so much more than we can articulate in words.]
  • 30 “to capture the substance of the word with aroused attention and devotion and offer it with trembling.”
  • 30 “Praying means to take hold of a word, the end, so to speak, of a line that leads to God. … But praying also means that the echo of the word falls like a plummet into the depth of the soul. The purer the readiness, so much the deeper penetrates the word.” [Reminds me of George Herbert’s poem ‘Prayer’: “God’s breath in man returning to his birth, / The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage, / The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth…”]
  • AJH: Expression and empathy (word) are related. We can’t express without some knowledge and skills with words. 32 “Empathy generates expression.”
  • 31 “The supreme goal of prayer is to express God, to discover the self in relation to God. In the light of eternity, it seems childish to maintain that our supreme goal is to express the self. What is the self that we should idolise it? … Our supreme goal is self-attachment to what is greater than the self rather than self-expression.”
  • 32 “Those who plead for the primacy of the prayer of expression over the prayer of empathy ought to remember that the ability to express what is hidden in the heart is a rare gift, and cannot be counted upon by all men. What, as a rule, makes it possible for us to pray is our ability to affiliate our own minds with the pattern of fixed texts, to unlock our hearts to the words, and to surrender to their meanings. The words stand before us as living entities full of spiritual power, of a power which often surpasses the grasp of our minds. The words are often the givers, and we the recipients. They inspire our minds and awaken our hearts.”
  • 32-3 “Most of us do not know the answer to one of the most important questions, namely, What is our ultimate concern? We do not know what to pray for. It is the liturgy that teaches us what to pray for. It is though the words of the liturgy that we discover what moves us unawares, what is urgent in our lives, what in us is related to the ultimate.”
  • 33 “proceeding from the subjective, from one’s own inwardness, it is so hard to find a way out of the narrowness of self.”
  • 33” The time to pray is all the time. There is always an opportunity to disclose the holy, but when we fail to seize it, there are definite moments in the liturgical order of the day, there are words in the liturgical order of our speech to remind us.”
  • 34 “The text must never be more important than kavanah, than inner devotion. The life of prayer depends not so much upon loyalty to custom as upon inner participation; not so much upon the length as upon the depth of the service.”
  • 34 “To be able to pray is to know how to stand still and to dwell upon the word.”
  • 35 “they say the words of prayer but do not pray; they say the words of blessing but do not bless”
  • Tur Orah Chayim Ch61 “Better is a little with kavanah than much without it.”
  • 35 “A pilgrimage through the entire order of the daily morning prayer in its present form is like a journey through a vast collection of precious works of art.”
  • 35 “Judaism is faced with a dilemma, with a conflict between two requirements: the loyalty to the order and the requirement of kavanah.”
  • 35-6 Cautionary tale of a rabbi who teaches a shepherd to replace his spontaneous prayers with the traditional ones, only for the shepherd to then forget how to do either.
  • Sanhedrin 106b “The Merciful One desires the heart.”
  • 36-7 Cautionary tale of the watchmaker (God) can repair only those clocks (people) that were regularly used (prayed) even though they may be inaccurate (imperfect in their practice).
  • 37 “Prayer, as we shall see, is dominated by a polarity of regularity and spontaneity, of the stillness of a fixed text (keva) and of the motivity of inner devotion (kavanah), of empathy and self-expression. The ambivalence of the word is another example of polarity. From the point of view of empathy, of keva, the word stands for more than the mind can absorb; from the point of view of self-expression, of kavanah, the mind bears more than the word can convey. For, as said above, just as there are words that lie beyond our power of empathy, there are thoughts that lie beyond our power of expression.”
  • Psalm 4:5 “Commune with your hearts … and be still.”
  • Rabbi Menahem Lonzano, Derech Chayim, p.84: “A man who has been granted knowledge and understanding will be sensitive to the special wisdom with which God phrased the commandment concerning prayer. He has not just written ‘pray to me’ or ‘beseech me’ or ‘ask of me and I will answer’. When He commanded us to study Torah it was enough to say ‘Thou shalt speak of them’ or ‘Thou shalt teach them unto thy children.’ But when he came to the commandment of prayer, He said something more: ‘to serve Hi with all your heart’ (Deut 11:13). Prayer was a commandment given to the heart and it can be fulfilled only by the heart. Therefore, he who brings God the offering of his heart fulfils the commandment; he who brings Him only words does not.”
  • AJH: Speech became a vehicle for prayer when people were exiled and in danger of losing focus. Words were ‘messengers’ that took truth from the heart safely to God. Just as messengers reported the time for Rosh Hashanah, because the fires (heart’s fervour) for the signal were being lit by enemies to confuse (idols and distracting passions). [Midrash Rosh Hashanah 11, 1]
  • 39 “In no other act does man experience so often the disparity between the desire for expression and the means of expression as in prayer. The inadequacy of the means at our disposal appears so tangible, so tragic, that one feels it a grace to be able to give oneself up to music, to a tone, to a song, to a chant. The wave of song carries the soul to heights which utterable meanings can never reach.”
  • 40 “According to the Midrash [Midrash Tehillim, 5:6, ie midrash on the psalms], David said: “Lord of the world, at a time when I have strength to stand before Thee in prayer, and to bring forth words – give ear! At a time when I have no strength to bring forth words – understand what is in my heart, understand my faltering.”
  • 40 “God hears not only prayer, but the desire to pray.” Rabbi Moses ben Joseph di Trani, Bet Elohim, Venice 1576, p.6b: “The desire and intention of the pure and upright are fulfilled even when not expressed, as it is written: He fulfils the desire of all who fear Him (Ps. 145:19).”
  • 41 “This is the most important guidance: “Commune with your hearts … and be still [Ps 4:5].”
  • [‘Man proposes, God disposes’; ‘Mann macht und Gott lacht’; but we must prepare and act even though the outcome is in God’s hands, not ours.]
  • Ps 65:2 “To Thee silence is praise.”
  • Ps 62:2 Ad el elohim, dumiyah nafshi; mimeinu y’shuati. [Hard to translate … “To the God of Gods, my soul is silent; through Him I am saved / rescued.” Zalman Shachter-Shalomi interprets it as “In silence, I look to God for help.” Common translations use the idea of “I wait silently for God, who is my salvation.” My take on this is: “Through practising deep inner silence, I open myself to experience and receive the Presence of God – wholeness and healing require this.” This inner silence is a necessary condition for moving towards wholeness and God, but it cannot be all that is required; for we must also act in the world, towards the whole-ing and hallowing of our actions, of the lives of others, and of the world in which we live.]
  • 44 “an awed sense of grandeur which resists description and surpasses all expression”
  • 44 “inner silence, the absence of self-concern, stillness”
  • 44 a) awed silence b) [joining the voice of our whole people, across space and time] c) inner silence that transcends self-concern
  • 45 “There is a permanent union between individual worship and community worship, each of which depends for its existence upon the other. To ignore their spiritual symbiosis will prove fatal to both.”
  • 45 “How can we forget that our ability to pray we owe to the community and to tradition? We have learned how to pray by listening to the voice of prayer, by having been part of a community of men standing before God. We are often carried toward prayer by the reader: when we hear how he asks questions, how he implores, cries, humbles himself, sings.”
  • 45 “… the truth is that private prayer will not survive unless it is inspired by public prayer. The way of the recluse, the exclusive concern with personal salvation, piety in isolation from the community is an act of impiety.”
  • 46 “Even the worth of public worship depends on the depth of private worship, of the private worship of those who worship together. We are taught that the fate of all mankind depends on the conduct of one single individual, namely you [Kiddushin 40b – ie one act of ours can add to the collective good or bad of the family of humanity]. This undoubtedly applies to what goes on in the houses of worship.”
3. Spontaneity is the goal
  • 49 “Services are conducted with dignity and precision. The rendition of the liturgy is smooth. Everything is present: decorum, voice, ceremony. But one thing is missing: Life. One knows in advance what will ensue. There will be no surprise, no adventure of the soul; there will be no sudden outburst of devotion. Nothing is going to happen to the soul. Nothing unpredictable must happen to the person who prays. He will attain no insight into the words he reads: he will attain no new perspective for the life he lives. Our motto is monotony. The fire has gone out of our worship. It is cold, stiff, and dead.”
  • 50 “Congregants preserve a respectful distance between the liturgy and themselves. … They say, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart …” in lofty detachment, in complete anonymity as if giving an impartial opinion about an irrelevant question.”
  • 50 “The services are prim, the voice is dry, the temple is clean and tidy, and the soul of prayer lies in agony.”
  • 50 “We have developed the habit of praying by proxy. Many congregants seem to have adopted the principle of vicarious prayer. The rabbi or cantor does the praying for the congregation. Men and women would not raise their voices, unless the rabbi issues the signal. Alas, they have come to regard the rabbi as a mater of ceremonies.”
  • 50-1 “Prayer has become an empty gesture, a figure of speech. Either because of lack of faith or because of religious bashfulness.”
  • 51 “Now, how to our people pray? They recite the prayer book as if it were last week’s newspaper. They ensconce in anonymity – as if prayer were an impersonal exercise – as if worship were an act that came automatically. The words are there but the souls who are to feel their meaning, to absorb their significance, are absent. They utter the shells of syllables, but put nothing of themselves into the shells. In our daiy speech, in uttering a sentence, our words have tonal quality. There is no communication without intonation. It is the intonation that indicates what we mean by what we say, so that we can discern whether we hear a question, an exclamation, or an assertion. / It is the intonation that lends grace to what we say. But when we pray, the words faint from our lips. Our words have no tone, no strength, no personal dimension, as if we did not mean what we said; as if reading paragraphs of Roget’s Thesaurus. It is prayer without grace.”
  • 51-2 “Of course, they are offered plenty of responsive reading, but there is little responsiveness to what they read. No one knows how to shed a tear. No one is ready to invest a sigh.”
  • 52 “Assembled in the synagogue everything is there – the body, the benches, the books. But one thing is absent: soul. It is as if we all suffered from spiritual absenteeism. … in our synagogues, people who are otherwise sensitive, vibrant, arresting, sit there aloof, listless, lazy. ‘The dead praise not the Lord (Ps 115:17).’ Those who are spiritually dull cannot praise God.”
  • 52 Don’t put on celebrity speakers, themed Shabbats etc “Spiritual problems cannot be solved with administrative techniques.”
  • 52 “The problem is not one of synagogue attendance but one of spiritual attendance. The problem is not how to attract bodies to enter the space of a temple but how to inspire souls to enter an hour of spiritual concentration in the presence of God. The problem is time, not space.”
  • Four erroneous approaches to prayer, or communal prayer: i) the doctrine of agnosticism ii) the doctrine of religious behaviourism iii) the doctrine of prayer as social act iv) the doctrine of religious solipsism
  • 53 “Our soul withers without prayer.”
  • 53 “To pray with kavanah (inner devotion) may be difficult; to pray without it is ludicrous.”
  • [Shabbat 31b “Every man who possesses learning without the fear of Heaven is like a treasurer who is entrusted with the inner keys but not with the outer: how is he to enter?”]
  • 54 “As a personal attitude religious behaviourism usually reflects a widely held theology in which the supreme article of faith is respect for tradition. People are urged to observe the rituals or attend the services out of deference to what has come down to us from our ancestors. The theology of respect pleads for the maintenance of the inherited and transmitted customs and institutions and is characterised by a spirit of conformity, excessive moderation and disrespect of spontaneity.”
  • 54 “Wise, important, essential and pedagogically useful” [respect for tradition]
  • 54 “Religious behaviourism is a doctrine that dominates many minds, and is to a large measure responsible for the crisis of prayer.”
  • 55 We shouldn’t identify with the people, so much as with the people’s ideals which are ethics and God-consciousness.
  • 55 “It is true that a Jew never worships as an isolated individual but as a part of the Community of Israel. Yet it is within the heart of every individual that prayer takes place. It is a personal duty, and an intimate act which cannot be delegated to either the cantor or to the whole community.”
  • The personal dimension of prayer in Ps 63:2-5: “Oh God, Thou art my God, earnestly will I seek Thee; my soul thirsts for Thee, my flesh faints for Thee, In a dry and weary land, where no water is. So have I looked for Thee in the sanctuary, To see Thy power and Thy glory. For Thy lovingkindness is better than life; My lips shall praise Thee. So will I bless Thee as long as I live; I will lift up my hands and call upon Thy name.”
  • 56-7 “As a recent writer put it: We address ‘prayers to the good within ourselves.’ … It is precisely the function of prayer to overcome that predicament, to 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 centre of living from self-consciousness to self-surrender.”
  • 57 “Religious solipsism claims that we must continue to recite our prayers, for prayer is a useful activity. The ideas may be false; it is absurd to believe that God ‘hearkens to prayers and supplications’, but we should say all this because it is good for one’s health. Is it really good for one’s health? How could intellectual dishonesty be good for the soul?”
  • 58 “Now, if the Torah is nothing but the national literature of the Jewish people; if the mystery of revelation is discarded as superstition, then prayer is hardly more than a soliloquy. If God does not have power to speak to us, how should we possess the power to speak to Him?”
  • 58 “There is something which is far greater than my desire to pray, namely, God’s desire that I pray. There is something which is far greater than my will to believe, namely, God’s will that I believe.”
  • [1) God exists. 2) God is Other. 3) God is to be loved and lived. I live in a better way even when I act as if these things were true. My rebbe Rabbi Zalman Shachter-Shalomi talked about ‘be-living’ in God, explaining that God desires that I be and live in God; be and live in God-consciousness, following God’s principles of being and living.]
  • Berachot 28b “Know before whom you stand.”
  • 59 “No one is able to think of Him unless he has learned how to pray to Him. For this is the way man learns to think of the true God … He is first aware of His presence long before he thinks of His essence. And to pray is to sense His presence.”
  • 60 “There are people who maintain that prayer is a matter of emotion. In their desire to ‘revitalise prayer, they would proclaim: Let there be emotion! This is, of course, based on a fallacy. Emotion is an important component; it is not the source of prayer.”
  • 60 “worship comes out of insight”
  • 60 “What is more, prayer has the power to generate insight; it often endows us with an understanding not attainable by speculation. Some of our deepest insights, decisions and attitudes are born in moments of prayer. Often where reflection fails, prayer succeeds.”
  • 61 The spirit of prayer is to pray to a who, not a what. [Compare Zalman Schachter-Shalomi’s article, ‘Why theologians have trouble with prayer’ at http://www.jewishrenewalhasidus.org/wordpress/why-theologians-have-trouble-with-prayer. A what is infinite and an intellectual concept, and too vast and abstract to relate to personally. I must relate not to an it, but to a you. This chimes with Buber’s I-you, and Zalman saying we accept the construct of the personification of God because it is useful in order to engage in relationship, and to commit. He talks about kabbalah teachings of God putting on a partzuf, a face / mask, in order for us to be able to relate to the ‘person’ of God. The Yiddish word comes from the Greek per-se-phone (Latin; per-sona ‘through sound’) which was the mask that the actor spoke into for resonance when playing a role / character.]
  • 62 “To pray, then, means to bring God back into the world.”
  • 62 “Great is the power of prayer. For to worship is to expand the presence of God in the world. God is transcendent, but our worship makes Him immanent. This is implied in the idea that God is in need of man: His being immanent depnds on us. When we say Blessed be He, we extend His glory, we bestow His spirit upon the world. Yitgadal v’yitk’dash; magnified and sanctified be God’s great name throughout the world … May there be more of God in this world.”
  • 62 Conviction, insight, a sense of the ineffable and mystery of being enable us to pray.
  • [Perhaps we could do an Appreciation Exercise in prayer ie appreciate something in ourseloves first, then, feeling abundant, appreciate / praise God for something.]
  • 64 “Our worship is humble; our superlatives are understatements.” [I find when I use the praise statements of the liturgy, I feel inadequate and uncomfortable at the end, because the words have not done just to the reality that they point towards, and towards which I am reaching. And perhaps that is why it is worth saying them; because they place me in right relationship of humbleness and awe before God.]
  • 64-5 “Jewish prayer is guided by two opposite principles: order and outburst, regularity and spontaneity, [65] uniformity and individuality, law and freedom, a duty and a prerogative, empathy and self-expression, insight and sensitivity, creed and faith, the word and that which is beyond words. … Since each of the two moves in the opposite direction, equilibrium can only be maintained if both are of equal force. However, the pole of regularity usually proves stronger than the pole of spontaneity, and, as a result, there is a perpetual danger of prayer becoming a mere habit, a mechanical performance, an exercise in repetitiousness. The fixed pattern and regularity of services tends to stifle the spontaneity of devotion. Our great problem, therefore, is how not to let the principle of regularity impair the power of spontaneity (kavanah).”
  • 65 “… we must neither disparage the body nor sacrifice the spirit. The body is the discipline, the pattern, the law; the spirit is the inner devotion, spontaneity, freedom. The body without the spirit is a corpse; the spirit without the body is a ghost.”
  • Avot 2:18 “When you pray, do not make your prayer a fixed thing [keva].”
  • Berachot 4:4 “He who makes prayer a fixed thing [keva], his prayer is not an act of grace.”
  • Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Tefillah 4:6 “Prayer without kavanah is no prayer at all. He who has prayed without kavanah ought to pray once more. He whose thoughts are wandering or occupied with other things need not pray until he has recovered his mental composure.”
  • 67 “Nachmanides … insists that prayer is not a duty, but a prerogative”
  • 68 “It is through halacha that we belong to God not occasionally, intermittently, but essentially, continually. Regularity of prayer is an expression of my belonging to an order, to the covenant between God and Israel.”
  • 68 “I am not always in a mood to pray. I do not always have the vision and the strength to say a word in the presence of God. But when I am weak, it is the law that gives me strength; when my vision is dim, it is duty that gives me insight.”
  • 69 “What is a mitzvah, a sacred act? A Prayer in the form of a deed.”
  • 70 “Prayer is of no importance unless it is of supreme importance.”
  • Rabbi Jehuda Halevi, Kuzari V:5 – “Prayer is to the soul what nourishment is to the body, and the blessing one derives from prayer lasts until it is time to pray again, just as the strength derived from the midday meal lasts till the evening meal.”
  • 71 “Prayer is not a substitute for sacrifice. Prayer is sacrifice. What has changed is the substance of the sacrifice: the self took the place of the thing. The spirit is the same.”
  • 71 “In moments of prayer we try to surrender our vanities, to burn our insolence, to abandon bias, cant, envy. We lay all our forces before Him. … We do not sacrifice. We are the sacrifice.”
  • 71 “The saints, prayer is a hazard, a venture full of peril.”
  • 73 “Things appear to us to be existing by themselves, only as long as we are unable to perceive the Divine.”
  • 77 “let us try to regain a sense of separation (havdalah), or spiritual delicacy. Let us recapture the meaning of separation (le-havdil). There is no sense of sanctity without separation.”
  • 78 “The dignity of man consists … primarily in his being endowed with the gift of addressing God. It is this gift which should be a part of the definition of man.”
  • 78 “We must learn how to study the inner life of the words that fill the world of our prayer book. … It is not enough to know how to translate Hebrew into English … A word has a soul, and we must learn how to attain insight into its life.”
  • 79 “in prayer, words are commitments, not the subject matter for aesthetic reflection, … prayer is meaningless unless we stand for what we utter, unless we feel what we accept. A word of prayer is a word of honour given to God.”
  • 79 “The prominence given to the sermon as if the sermon were the core and the prayer the shell is … a serious deviation from the spirit of our tradition.”
  • 79-80 “Preaching is either an organic part of the act of prayer or out of place.”
  • 80 “Preach in order to pray. Preach in order to inspire others to pray. The test of a true sermon is that it can be converted to prayer.”
  • 81 “Almost any word, any passage, has untold resources of meaning, paradoxical beauty and depth.”
  • 82 “what reason fails to conceive, our prayer makes clear to our souls”
  • 83 “To Kabbalah and Hasidism the primary problem was how to pray; to the modern movements, the primary problem was what to say. What has Hasidism accomplished? It has inspired worship in a vast number of Jews. What have the moderns accomplished? They have inspired the publication of a vast number of prayer books. It is important for the rabbis to clarify their goal. Is it to make a contribution to bibliography or to endow our people with a sense of kavanah? There have been numerous Prayer Book Commissions. Why is there no Prayer Commission?
  • 84 “Kavanah … is more than paying attention to the literal meaning of a text. It is the attentiveness to God, an act of appreciation of being able to stand in the presence of God.
  • 84 “To sense the preciousness of being able to pray, to be perceptive of the supreme significance of worshiping God is the beginning of higher kavanah.”
  • 85 “… it is better to have prayer without a synagogue than a synagogue without prayer. And yet we always speak of synagogue attendance rather than of prayer.”
  • 85 “the duty [of every Jew] is to pray rather than be a part of an audience.”
  • 86 “What I plead for is the creation of a prayer atmosphere. Such an atmosphere is not created by ceremonies, gimmicks, or speeches, but by the example of prayer, by a person who prays. You create that atmosphere not around you but within you. I am a congregant and I know from personal experience how different the situation is when the rabbi is concerned with prayer instead of how many people attend the service …”
  • 86 “A cantor who faces the holiness in the Ark rather than the curiosity of man will realise that his audience is God. He will learn to realise that his task is not to entertain but to represent the people of Israel. He will be carried away into moments in which he will forget the world, ignore the congregation and be overcome by the awareness of Him in Whose presence he stands. The congregation then will hear and sense that the cantor is not giving a recital but worshiping God, that to pray does not mean to listen to a singer but to identify oneself with what is being proclaimed in their name.”
  • 86-7 “Kavanah requires preparation. Miracles may happen, but one must not rely on miracles. The spirit of prayer is frequently decided during the hour which precedes the time of prayer.”
  • Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Tefillah 4:16 – “One must free his heart from all other thoughts and regard himself as standing in the presence of the Shekhinah. Therefore, before engaging in prayer, the worshiper ought to go aside a little in order to bring himself into a devotional frame of mind, and then he must pray quietly and with feeling, not like one who carries a weight and throws it away and goes farther.”
  • [The Jewish God is God of a peoploe, of our lived history, and lineage of people, events, practices and ethics that we continue.]
  • 88 “There are no concepts which we could appoint to designate the greatness of God or represent Him to our minds. He is not a being whose existence can be proved by our syllogisms. He is a reality, in the face of which, when becoming alive to it, all concepts become clichés. Genuine prayer does not flow out of concepts. It comes out of the awareness of the mystery of God rather than out of information about Him.”
  • 89 “unless God is at least as real as my own self, unless I am sure that God has at least as much life as I do, how could I pray? … If God is unable to listen to me, then I am insane talking to Him.”
  • 89 “A learned man lost all his sources of income and was looking for a way to earn a living. The members of his community, ho admired him for his learning and piety, suggested to him to serve as their cantor on the Days of Awe. But he considered himself unworthy of serving as the messenger of the community, as the one who should bring the prayers of his fellow-men to the Almighty. He went to his master the Rabbi of Husiatin and told him of his sad plight, of the invitation to serve as a cantor on the Days of Awe, and of his being afraid to accept it and to pray for his congregation. ‘Be afraid, and pray,’ was the answer of the rabbi.”
4. Continuity is the way
  • 93 “Unfree men are horrified by the suggestion of accepting a daily discipline. Confusing inner control with external tyranny, they prefer caprice to self-restraint. They would rather have ideals than norms, hopes than directions, faith than forms. But the goal and the way cannot long endure in separation.”
  • 94 “Faith knows no boundaries between the will of God and all of life. Therefore, we have been taught to care for the meaning that is found in deeds, to sense the holy that is available in the everyday, to be devoted to the daily as much as to the extraordinary, to be concerned for the cycle as much as for the special event.”
  • 94 “Our problem is how to live what we pray, how to make our lives a daily commentary on our prayer book, how to live in consonance with what we promise, how to keep faith with the vision we pronounce.”
  • 95 “man’s dignity consists in his having been created in the likeness of God.”
  • 95 “Torah which is a vision of man from the point of view of God”
  • 95 “There is much that philosophy could learn from Jewish life. To the philosophers: the idea of the good was the most exalted idea, the ultimate idea. To Judaism the idea of the good is the pen-ultimate. It cannot exist without the holy. The good is the base, the holy is the summit. Man cannot be good unless he strives to be holy. To have an idea of the good is not the same as living by the insight, Blessed is the man who does not forget Thee.”
  • 97 “How grateful I am to God that there is a duty to worship, a law to remind my distraught mind that it is time to think of God, time to disregard my ego for at least a moment!”
  • 97 “there is something far greater than my desire to pray, namely, God’s desire that I pray. There is something which is far greater than my will to believe, namely, God’s will that I believe.”
  • 100 “just as you cannot study philosophy through praying, you cannot study prayer through philosophizing”
  • 100 “the order of Jewish living is meant to be … not so much the performance of single acts, the taking of a step now and then, as the pursuit of a way, being on the way; not so much the acts of fulfilling as the state of being committed to the task, the belonging to an order in which single deeds, aggregates of religious feeling, sporadic sentiments, moral episodes become part of a complete pattern.”
  • 101 “Where is our anxiety about the barrenness of our praying …”
  • 101 “The problem, then, that cries for a solution is not everything or nothing, total disregard or obedience to the law; the problem is authentic or forged, genuine or artificial observance.”
  • [Whether to follow the law, or make new laws, depends on what is the best way to follow the will of God in our time.]
  • 102 “it is that paradox, namely, that the infinite God is intimately concerned with finite man and his finite deeds; that nothing is trite of irrelevant in the eyes of God, which is the very essence of the prophetic faith.”
  • 104 “The problem of how to live as a Jew cannot be solved in terms of common sense and common experience. The order of Jewish living is a spiritual one; it has a spiritual logic of its own which cannot be apprehended unless its basic terms are lived and appreciated.” [ie Don’t reduce God or Judaism to logic, humanism, psychology or common sense. Otherwise, God or Judaism become redundant and irrelevant.]
  • 104 “The problem of ethics is: what is the ideal or principle of conduct that is rationally justifiable? While to religion the problem of living is: what is the ideal of living that is spiritually justifiable? The legitimate question concerning the forms of Jewish observance is, therefore, the question: Are they spiritually meaningful? We should, consequently, not evaluate the mitzvoth (commandments and religious acts) by the amount of rational meaning we may discover at their basis. Religion is not within but beyond the limits of mere reason. Its task is not to compete with reason, to be a source of speculative ideas, but to aid us where reason gives us only partial aid. Its meaning must be understood in terms compatible with the sense of the ineffable. Frequently where concepts fail, where rational understanding ends, the meaning [p.105] of observance begins. Its purpose is not essentially to serve hygiene, happiness or the vitality of man; its purpose is to add holiness to hygiene, grandeur to happiness, spirit to vitality.”
  • 105 “Sensitivity to spiritual meaning is not easily won; it is the fruit of hard, constant devotion, or insistence upon remaining true to a vision. … God’s grace resounds in our lives like a staccato. Only by retaining the seemingly disconnected notes comes the ability to grasp the theme.”
  • 106 “Our understanding comes by the way of mitzvah (religious act). By living as Jews we attain our faith as Jews. We do not have faith in deeds; we attain faith through deeds. When Moses recounted to the people the laws of the covenant with God, the people responded: ‘We will do and we will hear.’ This statement was interpreted to mean: In doing we perceive. A Jew is asked to take a leap of action, rather than a leap of thought: to surpass his needs, to do more than he understands in order to understand more than he does. In carrying out the word of the Torah he is ushered into the presence of spiritual meaning. Through the ecstasy of deeds he learns to be certain of the presence of God.”
  • 107 “Should I resolve: unless the spirit comes, I shall abstain from praying? The deeper truth is that routine breeds attention, calling forth a response where the soul would otherwise remain dormant.”
  • 107 “the spirit is not something we can acquire once and for all byt something we must constantly live with and pray for. For this reason the Jewish way of life is to reiterate the ritual, to meet the spirit again and again, the spirit in oneself and the spirit that hovers over all beings.”
  • 108 “to Judaism, religion is not a feeling for something that is, but an answer to Him who is asking us to live in a certain way. It is in its very origin a consciousness of duty, of being committed to higher ends.”
  • 109 “Judaism stands and falls with the idea of the absolute relevance of human deeds.”
  • 110 “Faith comes over us like a force urging us to action.”
  • 110 “The innermost chamber must be guarded at the uttermost outposts. Religion is not the same as spiritualism; what man does in his concrete physical existence is directly relevant to the divine. Spirituality is the goal, not the way of man. In this world music is played on physical instruments, and to the Jew the mitzvoth are the instruments by which the holy is performed. If man were only mind, worship in thought would be the form in which to commune with God. But man is body and soul, and his goal is to live so that both ‘his heart and flesh should sing to the living God’.”
  • 111 “The synagogue is not a retreat, and that which is decisive is not the performance of rituals at distinguished occasions, but how they affect the climate of the entire life.”
  • 111 “the highest peak lies wherever we are and may be ascended in a common deed. There can be as sublime a holiness in fulfilling friendship … as in uttering a prayer on the Day of Atonement.”
  • 111 “It is man’s intimate rather than public life, in the way he fulfils his physiological functions that character is formed. It is immensely significant that, according to the Book of Genesis, the first prohibition given to mane concerned the enjoyment of the forbidden fruit.”
  • 112 “Everyone of us should be asked to make one major sacrifice: to sacrifice his prejudice against our heritage. … Without solidarity with our forebears, the solidarity with our brothers will remain feeble. The vertical unity of Israel is essential to the horizontal unity of klal Israel.”
  • 112 “to be creative, to expand, not to imitate or repeat”
  • 112 “what are we doing for the purpose of securing holiness in the world?”
  • 113 “According to Rabbenu Tam, the consonants of the Hebrew word for custom, minhag, when read backwards, mean hell, gehinom.”
  • 114 “Let us be frank. Too often ceremony is the homage which disbelief pays to faith. Do we want such homage? … Ceremonies whether in the form of things or in the form of actions are required by custom and convention; mitzvoth are required by Torah. Ceremonies are relevant to man; mitzvoth are relevant to God. Ceremonies are folkways; mitzvoth are ways to God.”
5. Symbolism
  • 122 “Things may be intstruments, never objects of workship.”
  • 123 “The synagogue is not an abode of the deity but a house of prayer, a gathering place for the people.”
  • 123 “The purpose of ritual art objects in Judaism is not to inspire love of God, but to enhance our love of doing a mitzvah (religious act); to add pleasure to obedience, delight to fulfilment. Thus, the purpose is achieved not in direct contemplation but in combining it with a ritual act; the art objects have a religious function but no religious substance.”
  • 124 “The symbol of God is man, every man. God created man in his image (tzelem), in his likeness (demut). How significant is the fact that the term tzelem which is frequently used in a damnatory sense for a man-made image of God, as well as the term demut, of which Isaiah claims (40:18), no demut or likeness can be applied to God are employed in denoting man as an image and likeness of God.”
  • 124 “Man must, therefore, be treated with the honour due to a likeness representing the King of kings.’
  • 124 “The Divine in man is not by virtue of what he does but by virtue of what he is. … Biblical tradition insists that not only man’s soul but also his body is symbolic of God. This is why even the body of a criminal condemned to death must be treated with reverence, according to the book Deuteronomy (21:23). He who sheds the blood of a human being, ‘it is accounted to him as though he diminished or destroyed the Divine image.’
  • 125 “Reverence for God is shown in our reverence for man. The fear you must feel of 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. ‘He who oppresses the poor blasphemes his Maker, he who is gracious to the needy honours Him.’ [Prov. 14:31] ‘You must not say, since I have been put to shame, let my neighbour be put to shame … If you do so, know whom you put to shame, for in the likeness of God made He him.’ [Genesis Rabbah 24:8]”
  • 126 “Biblical piety may be expressed in the form of a supreme imperative: Treat yourself as a symbol of God. In the light of this imperative we can understand the meaning of that astounding commandment: ‘You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy, (Lev. 19:2).”
  • 126 “God is indeed very much above man, but at the same time man is very much a reflection of God. The craving to keep that reflection pure, to guard God’s likeness on earth, is then the motivating force of Jewish piety.”
  • 126 “To imitate God, to act as He acts in mercy and love, is the way of enhancing our likeness.”
  • 126 (footnote) ‘Judaism … insisted upon its worship being independent of art. It is life itself that must represent the God of Israel.”
  • “R. Levi b. Hama said: If one worships idols he becomes like unto them, as it is said, They that make them shall be like unto them, etc. (Ps. CXV, 8); should then not one who worships God all the more become like unto Him? And whence do we know that it is so? Because it is written, Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord and whose trust the Lord is (Jer. XVII, 7). [interpretation: ‘and whose trust (i.e. confidence) arises from the fact that he is like the Lord’] [Deut Rabbah 1:12. NB Heschel incorrectly cites the reference as 1:10.]
  • 128 “Religion is … no longer a relationship of man to God but a relationship of man to the symbol of his highest ideals: there is no God, but we must go on worshipping His symbol.” (NB This is Heschel’s complaint, not his creed!]
  • 129 “in modern times religion is regarded as a form of symbolic thinking.”
  • 129 “just as he who loves a person does not love a symbol or his own idea of the person himself, so he who loves and fears God is not satisfied with worshiping a symbol or worshipping symbolically.”
  • 130 Paraphrase: God can’t be symbolised, because we can’t know God. If we can’t know God, we cannot know what symbol is even remotely apt. And if we could know God directly, why would we ever give any attention to mere symbols of God?
  • 131 “No one eats figuratively, no one sleeps symbolically; so why should the pious man be content to worship God symbolically?”
  • 131 “the will of God is neither a metaphor nor a euphemism but more powerful and more real than our own experience”
  • 132 “The service of God is an extremely concrete, an extremely real, literal, and factual affair. … We worship Him not by employing figures of speech but by shaping our actual lives according to His pattern.”
  • 133 “Do we pray symbolically? Do we implore Hi for symbolic aid?”
  • 134 “The Rabbis were careful to distinguish between law and custom. Customs are born of the mind of man; mitzvoth are expressions and interpretations of the will of God.”
  • 134 “The only ceremony still observed in the synagogue is the blessing of the priests …” [This is a strange claim, and, I believe, highly inaccurate. There is huge amount of choreography and ceremony in: the Torah service, shaking the lulav, dancing with the Torah, blowing the shofar, the priest prostrating at High Holy Days, lighting Shabbat candles, smelling havdalah spices, brit milah, mikveh, and so on.]
  • 135 “Ceremonies are performed for the sake of onlookers; mitzvoth are done for the sake of God.”
  • 135 “The goal of religion is not primarily to help us express ourselves, but to bring us closer to God. Empathy rather than expression is the way of piety. The purpose of mitzvoth is not to express ourselves, but to express the will of God. The most important fact is that God speaks. And he who knows that God speaks cannot regard his own need for speaking and self-expression as being of supreme concern.”
  • 135-6 “religion is more than an aid in development of the merely human; its goal is to raise the human to the level of the holy.”
  • 136 “Jewish festivals do not contain any attempt to recreate symbolically the events they commemorate. … We neither repeat nor imitate sacred events. Whatever is done in religious observance is an original act. The Seder ritual, for example, recalls; it does not rehearse the past.” [This is a subtle point, but, an important distinction. We do not pretend that we can accurately imagine or replicate the events, or the thoughts and feelings of people in the past. But by reaching back into the narrative of our people, we make new meaning, relevant to now.]
  • 136 “Jewish tradition insists that no performance is complete without the participation of the heart. It asks for the kavanah, for inner participation, not only for external action.”
  • 137 “Kavanah is awareness of the will of God rather than awareness of the reason of a mitzvah…. It is kavanah rather than symbolic understanding what evokes in us ultimate joy at the moment of doing a mitzvah.”
  • 137 “what is characteristic of Jewish piety is … to forget all reasons and to make place in the mind for the awareness of God.”
  • 137 “What reason could compete with the claim: This is the will of God?”
  • 137 “The ideal of Judaism is to serve for the sake of God, not for the sake of symbols.”
  • 137 “in Judaism, the knowledge of what commandments symbolise was not considered essential. Halachah has never regarded the understanding of symbolic meaning as a requirement for the proper fulfilment of a mitzvah.”
  • 137 “religious observance … may assume symbolic meaning, it is also a symbol, yet its essence is in its being a mitzvah.
  • 137 “The teeming multiplicity of symbolic interpretations of Jewish rituals advanced in the course of the last two thousand years testifies to the fact that symbolic meaning is merely an afterthought.” [No – it could just point to the fact that we don’t know what symbolic meaning was given to the ritual by its original creator(s).] 137 “If Judaism is a system of symbolism, then it must be regarded as a forgotten system.” [This is a fairer conclusion. But it does not mean that therefore we must disregard symbolic meaning now. It could lead to the conclusion that we still need ritual to have symbolic meaning, but that we must make this anew, for ourselves, albeit referring as much as we can to Jewish narrative.]
  • 139 “Essential to human thought is not only the technique of symbolisation but also the awareness of the ineffable. In every mind there is an enormous store of not-knowing, of being puzzled, of wonder, of radical amazement. … What characterises man is not only his ability to develop words and symbols, but also his being compelled to draw a distinction between the utterable and unutterable, to be stunned by that which cannot be put into words.”
  • 141 “Religion begins with the sense of the ineffable; philosophy ends with the sense of the ineffable. Religion begins where philosophy ends.”
  • 142-3 “Symbolism is so alluring because it promises to rehabilitate beliefs and rituals that have become meaningless to the mind. Yet, what it accomplishes is to reduce belief to make-believe, observance to ceremony, prophecy to literature, theology to esthetics.”
  • 143 “The quest for symbols is a trap for those who seek the truth. Symbols may either distort what is literally true or profane what is ineffably real.”
  • 143 “When their meaning becomes stale, symbols die. But what is worse, the heart of faith dies in an overdose of symbolism. It is better that symbols die and faith should live.”
  • 144 “Our problem is: Do we believe what we confess? Do we mean what we say?”
6. The meaning of this hour
  • 148 “all may be guided by the words of the Baal Shem: If a man has beheld evil, he may know that it was shown him in order that he learn his own guilt and repent; for what is shown to him is also within him.”
  • 148 “Let modern dictatorship not serve as an alibi for our conscience. We have failed to fight for right, for justice, for goodness; as a result we must fight against wrong, against injustice, against evil.”
  • 148-9 “A tale is told of a band of inexperienced mountain climbers. Without guides, they struck recklessly into the wilderness. Suddenly a rocky ledge gave way beneath their feet and they tumbled headlong into a dismal pit. In the darkness of the pit they recovered from their shock only to find themselves set upon by a swarm of angry snakes. Every crevice became alive with fanged, hissing things. For each snake the desperate men slew, ten more seemed to lash out in its place. Strangely enough, one man seemed to stand aside from the fight. When indignant voices of his struggling companions reproached him for not fighting, he called back: If we remain here, we shall be dead before the snakes. I am searching for a way of escape from the pit for all of us.”
  • 149 “The outbreak of war was no surprise. It came as a long expected sequel to a spiritual disaster.”
  • 149-50 “Mistaking the abortions of their conscience for intellectual heroism, many thinkers employ clever pens to scold and to scorn the reverence for life, the awe for truth, the loyalty to justice. Man, about to hang himself, discovers it is easier to hang others.”
  • 150 “The greatest task of our time is to take the souls of men out of the pit. The world has experienced that God is involved. Let us forever remember that the sense for the sacred is as vital to us as the light of the sun. There can be no nature without spirit, no world without the Torah, no brotherhood without a father, no humanity without attachment to God.”
  • 150 “God will return to us when we shall be willing to let Him in.”
  • 150-1 “For God is everywhere or nowhere, the Father of all men or no man, concerned about everything or nothing. Only in His presence shall we learn that the glory of man is not in his will to power, but in his power of compassion. Man reflects either the image of His presence or that of a beast.”
  • 151 “the world is not a vacuum. Either we make it an altar for God or it is invaded by demons. There can be no neutrality. Either we are ministers of the sacred or slaves of evil. Let the blasphemy of our time not become an eternal scandal. Let future generations not loathe us for having failed to preserve what prophets and saints, martyrs and scholars have created in thousands of years. The apostles of force have shown that they are great in evil. Let us reveal that we can be as great in goodness. We will survive if we shall be as fine and sacrificial in our homes and offices, in our Congress and clubs as our soldiers are on the fields of battle. // There is a divine dream which the prophets and rabbis have cherished and which fills our prayers, and permeates the acts of true piety. It is the dream of a world, rid of evil by the grace of God as well as by the efforts of man, by his dedication to the task of establishing the kingship of God in the world. God is waiting for us to redeem the world. We should not spend our life hunting for trivial satisfactions while God is waiting constantly and keenly for our effort and devotion. // The Almighty has not created the universe that we may have opportunities to satisfy our greed, envy and ambition. We have not survived that we may waste our years in vulgar vanity. The martyrdom of millions demands that we consecrate ourselves to the fulfilment of God’s dream of salvation. Israel did not accept the Torah of their own free will. When Israel approached Sinai, God lifted up the mountain and held it over their heads, saying: ‘Either you accept the Torah or be crushed beneath the mountain.’ // The mountain of history is over our heads again. Shall we renew the covenant with God?”

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