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The Wisdom of Heschel
     

The Wisdom of Heschel

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by Abraham Joshua Heschel, Ruth M. Goodhill (Translator)
 

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"Philosophy may be defined as the art of asking the right questions...Awareness of the problem outlives all solutions. The answers are questions in disguise, every new answer giving rise to new questions." This example of Rabbi Heschel's thought and manner of expression, familiar to the readers of his many books, serves as an epigraph to The Wisdom of Heschel.

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Overview

"Philosophy may be defined as the art of asking the right questions...Awareness of the problem outlives all solutions. The answers are questions in disguise, every new answer giving rise to new questions." This example of Rabbi Heschel's thought and manner of expression, familiar to the readers of his many books, serves as an epigraph to The Wisdom of Heschel.

As Ruth Goodhill says in her foreword, "These selections from the works of the prophetic giant of the twentieth century, Abraham Joshua Heschel, represent my personal response to his writings. This book, conceived during his lifetime, is offered as an introduction to his thought and to his profound understanding of the agonies of modern society."

Most of the selections are taken from God in Search of Man, The Insecurity of Freedom, Man Is Not Alone, The Sabbath, The Prophets, and Who Is Man? Among the categories in which the excerpts have been grouped are "Questions Man Asks, " "Man's Needs, " "Caring for Our Old, " "Teaching Our Young, " "Law, "" The Sabbath, " and "One World."

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780374513733
Publisher:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
10/16/1985
Pages:
388
Sales rank:
1,341,421
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.86(d)

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Read an Excerpt

The Wisdom of Heschel

Questions Man Asks

WHAT IS THE meaning of my being? ... My quest—man's quest—is not for theoretical knowledge about myself ... What I look for is not how to gain a firm hold on myself and on life, but primarily how to live a life that would deserve and evoke an eternal Amen.

IT IS NOT ENOUGH for me to be able to say "I am"; I want to know who I am, and in relation to whom I live. It is not enough for me to ask questions; I want to know how to answer the one question that seems to encompass everything I face: What am I here for?

IT IS NOT ONLY the question of how to justify our own existence but, above all, how to justify bringing human beings into the world. If human existence is absurd and miserable, why give birth to children?

DO WE BUILD cities in order to supply ruins for the archaeologists of a later age? Do we rear children in order to prepare ashes for the outcome of nuclear wars?

THE IMPERATIVE according to the logic of biology may be: "Eat, drink, and be merry!" Yet a life essentially dedicated to the fulfillment of such an imperative results in depriving human being of all the qualities of being human.

WHY BE CONCERNED with meaning? Why not be content with satisfaction of desires and needs? The vital drives of food, sex, and power, as well as the mental functions aimed at satisfying them, are as characteristic of animals as they are of man. Being human is a characteristic of a being who faces the question: After satisfaction, what?

MAN CANNOT RESTRAIN his bitter yearning to know whether life is nothing but a series of momentary physiological and mental processes, actions, and forms of behavior, a flow of vicissitudes, desires, and sensations, running like grains through an hourglass, marking time only once and always vanishing ... Is life nothing but an agglomeration of facts, unrelated to one another—chaos camouflaged by illusion?

MAN CANNOT be understood in his own terms. He can only be understood in terms of a larger context. Our problem, now, is: What is the context of man, in terms of which he can be ultimately understood?

TO BE HUMAN is to be involved, to act and to react, to wonder and to respond. For man, to be is to play a part in a cosmic drama, knowingly or unknowingly ... Man's most important problem is not being but living. To live means to be at the crossroads. There are many forces and drives within the self. What direction to take is a question we face again and again. Who am I? A mere chip from the block of being? Am I not both the chisel and the marble? Being and foreseeing? Being and bringing into being?

Copyright @ 1970, 1972, 1975 by Sylvia Heschel, Executrix of the Estate of Abraham Joshua Heschel

Meet the Author

Abraham Joshua Heschel was internationally known as a scholar, author, activist, and theologian. He was Professor of Ethics and Mysticism at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.

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The Wisdom of Heschel 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I rarely find a book that speaks to my soul and answers questions I hardly knew I was asking. People go to church hoping to receive what this man has generously given. He steps beyond any one religion into a Universal teaching giving knowledge and acceptance of a bigger picture...mostly that of a smiling self portrait. I wish I would have known him and highly recommend this book to every human being as well as the Angels out there.