Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Three Heschel Quotations

Abraham Heschel writes about paying attention to God with a sense of wonder in his book God in Search of Man. He describes how wonder is a form of thinking that can compliment logic and insight.

Here are three quotations from the first five chapters.
"The are three aspects of nature that command our attention: its grandeur, its beauty, and its power. Accordingly, there are three ways in which we may relate ourselves to the world: we may accept it in awe, enjoy it, or exploit it. The Hebrews learned in order to revere. The Greeks learned in order to comprehend. The modern man learns in order to use."
"The awareness of grandeur and the sublime is all but gone from the modern mind… Significantly, the theme of Biblical poetry is not the charm or beauty of nature; it is the grandeur, it is the sublime aspect of nature which Biblical poetry is trying to celebrate…Biblical man in sensing the sublime is carried away by his eagerness to exalt and to praise the Maker of the world…Wonder or radical amazement is the chief characteristic of the religious man’s attitude toward history and nature. One attitude is alien to his spirit: taking things for granted, regarding events as a natural course of things… To the prophets wonder is a form of thinking. It is not the beginning of knowledge but an act that goes beyond knowledge…The insights of wonder must be constantly kept alive. Since there is a need for daily wonder, there is a need for daily worship."
"Awe is more than an emotion; it is a way of understanding. Awe is itself an act of insight into a meaning greater than ourselves… The secret of every being is the divine care and concern that are invested in it… Knowledge is fostered by curiosity; wisdom is fostered by awe…[Through awe we can] look at all things from the point of view of God, sympathy with the divine pathos, the identification of the will with the will of God… the principal religious virtue is yirah [awe]… Awe precedes faith; it is at the root of faith… In Biblical language the religious man is not called a 'believer' but yare hashem [one in awe of Adonai, often translated as a 'God-fearer']."

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