Customer Reviews: God in Search of Man : A Philosophy of Judaism
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on May 10, 2000
Reverence and awe are what come to mind when I discuss Heschel, and this work in particular. He was an incredible scholar, steeped in multiple cultures (Eastern European Hasidism, Early twentieth-century Berlin, post WWII America) and he embodied so much. He was a poet as well, which is why this book, while an explication of Jewish philosophy (which can be complex at times), is also beautifully written. If you want to understand the worldview of the Hebrew Bible, God in Search of Man is a must read. If you want to understand Judaism (and to a certain extent Christianity and Islam) this book will help you. The book is so powerful because Heschel wrote it in such a way as to evoke the very emotions (and lessons) that he felt the Bible was trying to teach.
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on July 20, 2001
Heschel is simply amazing. It was not until his 40's that he learned English. His precision of writting in English (this is not a translation!) is amoung the best in the world.
This book is both a philosophic/logical progression as well as poetic gem.
This book changed my life. My father was Jewish, my mother not. When I got to a quote from Exodus (Sh'mot) "This is my God and I will glorify Him; The God of my father and I will exalt Him." I made up my mind to convert from nothing to Judaism.
The idea of repair of the world, Tikkun Olam,is well and alive: "It is in the employment of his (a Man's) will, not in reflection, that he meets his own self as it is; not as he should like it to be. Heschel marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and inspired many Jews to fight for the rights all all citizens in the USA.
This book is thoughtful, makes one reflect and is filled with poetry from end to end. Examples. "The heart is a often lonely voice in the marketplace of the living." "Halacha (laws) without agada (heart / self transformation) is dead, agada without halacha is wild."
As a practicing Scientist I agree with, "God is not a scientifc problem, and scientific methods are not capable of solving it."
Great book, super inspriring.
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on December 30, 1997
"God in Search of Man" combines scholarship with lucidity, and reverence and compassion as Heschel elucidates the nature of religious thought, how thought becomes faith, and how faith creates responses in the believer. Section one discusses ways to God's Presence, and the legacy of wonder that religion gives; the sense of divine mystery; the illusion of nature worship; man's metaphysical loneliness; God in search of man and the concept of "the chosen people". Section two of this book is concerned with the idea of Revelation, a study of what prophetic inspiration is, and the mysery and paradoxes of revelation. He discusses revelation as a process as opposed to an event, Israel's committment to God, and the principle of revelation. Section three discusses a Jew's real life response to the Jewish Religion, and looks at Judaism as a science of deeds; There is a study and rejection of the idea that mere faith (without law) alone is enough, yet there is also a cautioning against of those rabbis that add too many hedges to the law, who mistakenly act as if all Jewish law was revealed at Mount Sinai. It discusses the need to correlate ritual observance with sprituality and love, the importance of kavanah (religious intention) when performing mitzvot , and a discussion of religious behaviorism - in which people strive for external compliance with the law, yet disregard the importance of inner devotion. A classic work of theology that has been accepted by Conservative, Orthodox and Reform Judaism.
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on August 4, 1997
My room abounds in books that all promise their little secrets and yet there is just one always near me. One book that is exalted in my eyes despite the unassuming cover that adorns it. I am referring to God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism by Abraham Joshua Heschel. I recommend anything by this man whom Martin Luther King Jr. called a prophet but this has to be the deserted island pick. There is simply no book that has calmed me through a sleepless night so reassuringly, that has peeled more scales off my eyes and heart, and has had more to speak to the questions I'd just as soon forget than this work of religious art.
Don't let the title ward you off, by the way. This book is accessible to those who know nothing of philosophy, to Jews and non-Jews alike, to everyone who still feels awe at the great mystery of existence. I recommend it with great pride
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HALL OF FAMEon July 11, 2005
The general assumption of people of the modern era has been that we must look for and search for and wait for God. The image is of Beckett's 'Waiting for Godot'. God has disappeared and is not part of our lives and we have to wait for God to return. Or if we are real searchers we would not wait, but would make the effort ourselves looking in various aspects of our experience to find the ultimate religious meaning.

But Heschel's premise here is the opposite one. God is actually looking for us. God wants us. I remember speaking with one of the most loving teachers of Hasidism of modern times, the late David Herzberg of blessed memory. When I asked him about the meaning of the religious concept 'Avodat Hashem' service of God' His answer surprised me because it was different from anyone else's. He said it was God's service, God's work what God does to help and connect with us. This is very much like what Heschel is saying here. God is calling out to us ,God is Present as the Kotzker Rebbe says 'wherever we let God in'.

Heschel was a great poetic and religious soul , who feels and teaches God's searching for , and connecting with us.

This is a tremendously inspiring and thought- provoking work.

I will only say one more word. That as a ' poetic thinker' Heschel's meaning is something suggested and sublime, something we cannot be sure we understand.

What we can understand is the underlying tone of holiness throughout this work.
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on May 27, 2009
This book should be read in conjunction with Man is not alone. Both are remarkably rewarding books. I am an evangelical Christian, yet what I learned from Heschel, and yes I DID learn many things, was powerful. His insights to the Hebrew Scriptures, the Old Testament, shaped and increased my understanding of the New. Much can be learned from this unique man. I heartily recommend you to embark on the Journey with him.
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on September 2, 2012
I love Heschel. My first foray into his works was "The Sabbath" which I immediately fell in love with. His bigger works were a little bit more daunting, but I read Man is Not Alone (which was awesome) and this one, which is known to be some kind of companion volume to Man is Not Alone. I loved them both.

Heschel has a kind of writing that is very apparently typical of continental philosophers of his time. My friend, an analytic philosopher, didn't take too well to it, but his style resounded in my soul. the language is reflective, thoughtful, and pensive. It's as though you are sitting at the feet of a mystic and he is expounding his knowledge to you: not systematically, not analytically, not dogmatically, but kindly, lovingly, and experientially.

I liked Man is Not Alone a little better, since it can relate to a broader audience, but there is something about Judaism that as a Christian, I am fascinated by. Knowing more about the roots of Christianity, what the people in the time of Jesus (and Jesus himself) might have believed is a big draw for me. As a Christian, I was blessed by this book and would recommend it to others. It however is not light reading, fairly thick, and definitely requires commitment. It pays off, though!
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on January 31, 2007
Plato wrote that virtue is knowledge and knowledge is virtue. If Plato's Republic was to succeed, society needed all of its citizens to be like Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. This, of course, was not the case in Plato's time - and most definitely not the case today. The wisdom of Heschel, as he so eloquently expresses in this timeless book, is needed now more than ever.

Heschel did not wait for God to give him grace, because he knew that his actions were more important than words. Heschel felt compelled to act upon his commitment as a citizen and as a Jew. The result being that Heschel's spiritual life set an example for his generation and generations to come.

In Heschel's own words: "Religion becomes sinful when it begins to advocate the segregation of God, to forget that the true sanctuary has no walls. Religion has always suffered from the tendency to become an end in itself, to seclude the holy, to become parochial, self-indulgent, self-seeking... ."

Each page and every word in this great work gives us important wisdom. Heschel challenges us to strive for the ideal but insists that we never forget the realities and injustices that surround us. (Jerry Marcus is the author of three novels: "Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Zev," "The Salvation Peddler," and "The Last Pope.")
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on July 26, 2014
This was my first experience with Heschel and Jewish philosophy...kind of like diving into the deep end before learning to swim...but I thoroughly enjoyed his insights and greatly appreciated his facility to condense profound ideas into understandable, pithy sound bites. As a Christ follower, I think I came away with a deeper respect for the Jewish way of looking at God's word, life and history. Perhaps more importantly, I have a more informed empathy for their complex spiritual journey.

Completing God in Search of Man will take endurance. It is not only lengthy but thought-provoking. Don't rush through it but savor it's wisdom and allow it to enrich your personal perspective.
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VINE VOICEon August 11, 2015
Dr. Marvin Wilson of Gordon College, the author of Our Father Abraham, recommended that I read Heschel, and particularly this book. He warned me that it was a “heavy” read, and not merely because of its length. This is a rich, profound, deep book--one that causes the reader often set it down and ponder what has been said. And it is a poetic book. Heschel had a way with words, and his writing style is something to marvel at. There are many well-turned phrases, proverbs, and excellent quotes to glean and remember.

This is a Jewish book (the subtitle is “A Philosophy of Judaism”), yet I could help but think that Heschel knew that non-Jews, particularly Christians, would read it, and I found myself thinking that this is a book for all people of faith. I found myself disagreeing with very little. I was challenged and inspired by what I read. While Heschel rarely refers to the New Testament, in one chapter he disagrees with the Apostle Paul...but as I read, it became clear that Heschel was merely disagreeing with a misguided view of Paul.

So what is covered? In 42 chapters--a lot, to include the nature of God and revelation, faith and works, mystery and wonder, sin and the problem of evil, the Law of God, and our response.

An excerpt...

“A Rabbi offered a parable. 'The Emperor extended his reign over a new province. Said his attendants to him: Issue some decrees upon the people. But the Emperor replied: Only after they have accepted my kingship, will I issue decrees. For if they do not accept my kingship, how will they carry out my decrees?' Likewise, God said to Israel, 'I am the Lord thy God.' And when they said to Him: 'Yes, yes,' He continued, 'Thou shalt have no other gods besides me. Asserting 'I believe...' will not make a person a Jew, just as asserting 'I believe in the United States' will make a person an American. Our relation to God is expressed in the accepting of an order that determines all of life.”
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