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God in Search of Man : A Philosophy of Judaism Paperback – June 1, 1976
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When faith is replaced by creed, worship by discipline, love by habit; when faith becomes an heirloom rather than a living fountain - its message becomes meaningless.... Religion is little more than a desiccated remnant when reduced to definitions, codes, and catechisms
Hypocrisy rather than heresy is the cause of spiritual decay.
Theology starts with dogmas. Philosophy sees the problem first; theology has the answer in advance. Philosophy is a kind of thinking that has a beginning but no end; the problems outlive all solutions.
The philosopher seeks "the good", the prophet seeks "the holy".
The way to truth is an act of reason; the love of truth is an act of spirit. Reason withers without spirit....We need spirit in order to know what to do with science....Science seeks the truth about the universe; the spirit seeks a truth that is greater than the universe.
God is waiting for man to seek Him. The grand premise of religion is that man is able to surpass himself.
There are 3 ways to relate to the world. The Greeks learned in order to comprehend. The Hebrews learned in order to revere. Modern man learns in order to use - as if the sole purpose of the universe were to satisfy his needs. Knowledge is power; its purpose to help us exploit the world and others more efficiently. Such thinking abhors mystery and replaces God with man as its object of adoration. We are not only masters of the earth; our needs determine right and wrong.
We teach children how to measure and weigh, but fail to teach them how to revere, how to sense wonder and awe. Modern man fell into the trap of believing all enigmas can be solved and wonder is a form of ignorance. Mankind will not perish for want of information, but for want of appreciation.
What is, is more than what you see; we are unable to attain insight into the ultimate meaning and purpose of things. We live on the fringe of reality and hardly know how to reach the core. Inaccessible to us are the insights into the nature of ultimate reality. Even what is revealed is incomplete and in disguise.
The extreme hidden-ness of God is a fact of constant awareness. The foundations of the world are not of this world. It is not our task to break the barriers, to penetrate the mysteries.
Awe is an act of insight into a meaning greater than ourselves. Knowledge is fostered by curiosity; wisdom is fostered by awe. Awe is the awareness of transcendent meaning; loss of awe is a great blockage to insight.
Religion is the result of what man does with his ultimate wonder, with the moments of awe, with the sense of mystery. Worship is man's act of relating himself to an ultimate meaning which can never be adequately expressed. Maimonides writes: "When our tongues desire to declare His greatness, all eloquence becomes impotence and imbecility."
We are alone in the wilderness of the self, strangers in this silent universe in search of the voice of God.
God is not the only problem which is inaccessible to science; the origin of reality remains illusive. The unknown God is but another name for the cosmic darkness.
"The ineffable" is a synonym for hidden meaning rather than for absence of meaning, a dimension so real and sublime that it stuns our ability to adore it. All creative thinking comes out of an encounter with the unknown. It is a fact of profound significance that we can sense more than we can say.
The greatness of man does not lie in his ability to serve his ego and satisfy his needs, but to sacrifice his wants for the sake of the holy. Only saints are ultimately concerned with God. What concerns most of us is our ego.
Only he who sanctifies himself a little is endowed with greater sanctity from above. All men are blind until God opens their eyes.
Our quest for God is a return to God; we remember what we have forgotten.
The Holy One makes Himself known to every one according to the heart's insight and capacity to receive divine wisdom.
How do we know that He takes notice of our adoration? What gives us certainty that our insight is not a projection of our own soul? Faith is not easy. No decision of the will or desire to believe can secure it. Self-contentment, pride, callousness to the mystery stand in our way.
Transcendence is the test of religious truth; genuine insight opens the heart and enables man to rise above himself.
God is of no importance unless He is of supreme importance.
From the fact that technology could solve some problems it was deduced that technology could solve all problems. Social reforms would cure all ills and banish all evils from the world. This proved a fallacy. Man has a drive for cruel deeds and suffocating selfishness which only awe and fear of God can soothe. Dogmas of man's self-sufficiency are doomed to failure.
The grace of guidance may be bestowed upon those who pray for it in spite of their unworthiness. An unexpected spark of enlightenment may engender a flame.
The cardinal sin in thinking about ultimate issues is literal mindedness. The meaning of revelation is given to those who are mystery-minded, not to those who are literal-minded. Nothing immersed in this world can see beyond it.
Not all reality is material; not all acts are perceptible. That which is incomprehensible must not be considered unreal.
The world as scrutinized and depicted by science is but a thin surface of the profoundly unknown.
The God of the philosopher is a concept derived from abstract ideas. The God of the prophet is derived from acts and events.
Socrates taught us that life without thinking is not worth living. The Bible taught us that life without commitment is not worth living.
Not all that was conveyed to Moses was revealed to Israel. There is a yearning for that yet to be disclosed. Thus Judaism is based on a minimum of revelation and a maximum of interpretation.
Right living is a way to right thinking. The heart is revealed in the deeds.
Infinite are the consequences of our actions, yet finite is our wisdom.
As surely as we are driven to live, we are driven to serve spiritual ends that surpass our own interests.
God needs the work of man to fulfill His ends in the world.
The goal of all performing is transforming the soul. A pious man is he who is greater than his rituals.
The Torah contains both law and love. Law holds the world together; love brings it forward.
Polarity is an essential trait of all things. Tension, contrast, contradiction, and paradox characterize all reality. The Zohar states: there is polarity in everything except God. For He is beyond all tension and every dichotomy.
Living is not a private affair. Living is what man does with God's time, with God's world. The soul grows by noble deeds.
To him who strives with heart and soul to give himself to God, the gates break open and he is able to achieve what is beyond his power.
There is nothing in this world which is not a mixture of good and evil. The Biblical answer to evil is not "the good" but "the holy". It is an attempt to raise man to a higher level of existence, where man is not alone when confronted with evil.
The world is in need of redemption. Man's task is to make the world worthy of ultimate redemption by his faith and works.
The experience of bliss in doing the good is the greatest moment that mortals know.
What is ghastly about evil is its ability to camouflage. Is piety ever detached from self-serving expediency? Austere soul-searching is essential. Job showed himself capable of selfless piety.
Can a civilization glittering with fortunes actually be a stench of greedy self-interest rising to the sky? Can our religion just be another attempt to satisfy subconscious needs and wishes?
The self is spiritually immature. It grows by concern for the well-being of others. This is the profound paradox and redeeming feature of human existence. There is no joy for the self within the self. Joy is found in giving rather than acquiring, in serving rather than taking. The mystery of the self is the power of self-transcendence.
The Greeks said that men condemn injustice because they fear being its victim, not because they shrink from committing it. But it's also true that only he who understands justice for himself is capable of rendering it unto others.
To purify the self we must begin with awareness of our inner enslavement to the ego. To be contrite at our failures is holier than being complacent in perfection. Avoid dwelling upon the self and concentrate upon the task. The road to pure intention is paved with good deeds.
It is the grace of God that helps those who do everything which lies within their power to achieve what lies beyond their power.
Nothing exists for its own sake, nothing is valid by its own right. What seems a purpose is but a station on the road.
If a man is not more than human, he is less than human.
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!
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.