Quotations by Heschel, Abraham


Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy.

Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972) Polish-American rabbi, theologian, philosopher
“No Religion Is an Island,” Union Theological Seminary Quarterly Review (Jan 1966)
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The greatest heresy is despair, despair of men’s power for goodness, men’s power for love.

Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972) Polish-American rabbi, theologian, philosopher
“The Religious Basis of Equality of Opportunity – The Segregation of God,” National Conference for Religion and Race, Chicago (1963)
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When I was young, I used to admire intelligent people; as I grow older, I admire kind people.

Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972) Polish-American rabbi, theologian, philosopher
(Attributed)

Quoted by his student, Harold S. Kushner, in When All You've Ever Wanted Isn't Enough (1986).The following variant is attributed (without citation) to Milton Steinberg and Oscar Wilde: "When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am older, I admire kind people.
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Without reason we would not know how to apply the insights of faith to the concrete issues of living. … The rejection of reason is cowardice and betrays a lack of faith.

Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972) Polish-American rabbi, theologian, philosopher
God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism, ch. 1 (1955)
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All that is left to us is our being horrified at the loss of our sense of horror.

Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972) Polish-American rabbi, theologian, philosopher
God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism, ch. 36 (1955)
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Beyond all mystery is the mercy of God.

Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972) Polish-American rabbi, theologian, philosopher
God in Search of Man, ch. 16 (1955)
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Religion has often suffered from the tendency to become parochial, self-indulgent, self-seeking; as if the task were not to ennoble human nature but to enhance the power and beauty of its institutions or to enlarge the body of doctrines.  It has often done more to canonize prejudices than to wrestle for truth; to petrify the sacred than to sanctify the secular.  Yet the task of religion is to be a challenge to the stabilization of values.  Religion is not for religion’s sake but for God’s sake.

Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972) Polish-American rabbi, theologian, philosopher
God in Search of Man, ch. 42 “The Spirit of Judaism” (1976)

Full text.

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An act is not good because we feel obliged to do it; it is rather that we feel obliged to do it because it is good.

Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972) Polish-American rabbi, theologian, philosopher
Man Is Not Alone, ch. 13 (1951)
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Life is not meaningful … unless it is serving an end beyond itself, unless it is of value to someone else.

Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972) Polish-American rabbi, theologian, philosopher
Man is Not Alone, ch. 19 (1951)
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Self-respect is the fruit of discipline; the sense of dignity grows with the ability to say No to oneself.

Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972) Polish-American rabbi, theologian, philosopher
The Insecurity of Freedom: Essays on Human Existance, ch. 3 (1967)
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We appreciate what we share, we do not appreciate what we receive.  Friendship, affection is not acquired by giving presents.  Friendship, affection comes about by two people sharing a significant moment, by having an experience in common.

Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972) Polish-American rabbi, theologian, philosopher
The Insecurity of Freedom, 5.3 (1967)
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Our tragedy begins with the segregation of God, with the bifurcation of the secular and sacred. We worry more about the purity of dogma than about the integrity of love.

Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972) Polish-American rabbi, theologian, philosopher
The Insecurity of Freedom, ch. 6 “Religion and Race” (3) (1963)

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Added on 22-Nov-10 | Last updated 22-Nov-10
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Sympathy … is not an end in itself. … Not mere feeling, but action, will mitigate the world’s misery, society’s injustice, or the people’s alienation from God.

Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972) Polish-American rabbi, theologian, philosopher
The Prophets, 18 (1962)
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Above all, the prophets remind us of the moral state of a people: Few are guilty, but all are responsible.

Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972) Polish-American rabbi, theologian, philosopher
The Prophets, ch. 1 “What Manner of Man is the Prophet?” (1962)
    (Source)

At a New York City Town Hall speech (1966): "In a free society all are involved in what some are doing. Some are guilty, all are responsible."
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An act of injustice is condemned, not because the law is broken, but because a person has been hurt.

Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972) Polish-American rabbi, theologian, philosopher
The Prophets, ch. 11 (1962)
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Emotion is inseparable from being filled with the spirit, which is above all a state of being moved.

Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972) Polish-American rabbi, theologian, philosopher
The Prophets, ch. 18 (1962)
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There are inalienable obligations as well as inalienable rights.

Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972) Polish-American rabbi, theologian, philosopher
Who Is Man? ch. 6 (1965)
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Failure to understand what is demanded of us is the source of anxiety.

Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972) Polish-American rabbi, theologian, philosopher
Who Is Man?, ch. 6 (1965)
Added on 28-Aug-12 | Last updated 28-Aug-12
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