Rabbi Simkha Weintraub

It was my own encounter with Heschel’s writings as an adolescent and young adult that challenged me.

I do not know how/if I would be a committed and searching Jew, let alone a healing-oriented rabbi, without Dr. Heschel. Though I was raised in a loving, observant home, and my parents (a Conservative rabbi and rebbetzin) were true “disciples” of Heschel (my mother kept The Sabbath and other Heschel books in her night table for decades), it was my own encounter with Heschel’s writings as an adolescent and young adult that challenged me to pray with self-evaluation, searching, praise, and wonder; to both uplift and spiritually ground my Shabbat; and to merge my Jewish particular practice of Rites with my also Jewish universalist pursuit of Rights. In many of Dr. Heschel’s precious words come to mind; let me cite just three quotes related, I feel, to these areas of Prayer, Shabbat, and Social Justice:

 When faith is completely replaced by creed, worship by discipline, love by habit; when the crisis of today is ignored because of the splendor of the past; when faith becomes an heirloom rather than a living fountain; when religion speaks only in the name of authority rather than with the voice of compassion—its message becomes meaningless.

God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism

Six days a week we wrestle with the world, wringing profit from the earth; on the Sabbath we especially care for the seed of eternity planted in the soul. The world has our hands, but our soul belongs to Someone Else. Six days a week we seek to dominate the world, on the seventh day we try to dominate the self.

The Sabbath

Morally speaking, there is no limit to the concern one must feel for the suffering of human beings, that indifference to evil is worse than evil itself, that in a free society, some are guilty, but all are responsible.

Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity

Fifty years after Rabbi Heschel’s death, finding ourselves in a violently self-destructive, hate-saturated, and dangerously fragmented society and world, I think of these prescient words:

Modern man may be characterized as a being who is callous to catastrophes. A victim of enforced brutalization, his sensibility is being increasingly reduced; his sense of honor is on the wane. The distinction between right and wrong is becoming blurred. All that is left to us is our being horrified at the loss of our sense of honor.

God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism

Related Content

He was my spiritual father. Dr. Reuven Kimelman Every Word Has Power: The Poetry of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel Rabbi Heschel inspired me to start an online community and podcast. Emelda DeCoteau