, , ,

Heschel preferred frankness and authenticity to popularity

Heschel preferred frankness and authenticity to popularity. He told people exactly what he thought, because he believed more in the destruction of a false god than in the compromise of truth. Rabbi Heschel warned The General Assembly of the Council of Jewish Federation and Welfare Funds, that while their members were concerning themselves with numbers, society was increasingly consumed by spiritual decline. He reminded those who measure religious engagement in terms of monetary contributions of an old Jewish principle: “The world stands on three pillars: on learning, on worship and on charity. We are not going to invite a friend to sit on a tripod, a stool designed to have three legs, when two legs are missing.” He pointed to the spiritual absence which was so typical of religious life in America. According to Heschel, synagogues and churches suffer from an identical disease: acute coolness, since leaders of religious communities think that spiritual problems can be resolved by administrative means.

Waldemar Szczerbiński, “Poland and Christianity in Heschel’s Life and Thought” in Abraham Joshua Heschel: Philosophy, Theology and Interreligious Dialogue, ed. Stanisław Krajewski and Adam Lipszyc (Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 2009), 16.

“Far too many Jews are too lazy mentally to take the trouble to inform themselves about the trends and currents of contemporary life”

Far too many Jews are too lazy mentally to take the trouble to inform themselves about the trends and currents of contemporary life, and of how they and their lives fit into the pattern of what is happening…. They make a virtue out of their ignorance of the Jewish past, thus dispossessing themselves of vital links to the present and the future. As far as religion is concerned, when they do affiliate with synagogues and, when they do occasionally attend services of worship, they look upon it as a form of entertainment headlined by a rabbinical performer in the pulpit. The phrase, “I enjoyed the sermon,” is one of the chief criteria of the religiosity of the modern Jew.

Leon I. Feuer, On Being a Jew (New York: Bloch Publishing Company, 1947), 6.