Monday, July 26

Finding Inspiration in Dr. West and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

flickr photo by On Being  cc licensed ( BY NC SA )
flickr photo by On Being
cc licensed ( BY NC SA )

Tonight I went to see Dr. Cornel West along with two young men that I work with. We were all inspired by the passionate energy that Dr. West brings to his presentation! Tonight, he was particularly focused on the work of Abraham Joshua Heschel. He describes the arch of Heschel's work in a way that I totally relate to this community!


Meaning, personal piety not bound by religious rules but bound by reverence or seeing the sacred worth in all be-ings. For West's interpretation of Heschel, the pietic leads to the poetic. A poetry that is not grounded in nihilism or optimism, but grounded in hope. He said, Heschel was "not a person of optimism, but a person of hope." And that Heschel's hope as expressed in poetry was hope for the world--not just the Hasidic Jew world--but the entire world. And lastly, but using poetic imagination, we move to the prophetic: speaking truth to power. The importance of the poetic imagination cannot be overstressed! And that is what you are already doing! And it is a sacred journey that leads to wholeness and healing just by the simple transformation of words. And make no doubt, words are action and words cause action. Words can change perceptions which can bring about changes in the world. So, today, embrace your poetic imagination. Allow it to mold you and change your vision so that you see the "faces everywhere" that are longing with thirst. And use that imagination to call the world into prophetic compassion with each other.

There is no space more sacred than that which causes compassion.

Intimate Hymn

by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

English version by Rabbi Zalman M. Schachter-Shalomi
Original Language English, Yiddish

From word to word I roam, from dawn to dusk.
Dream in, dream out -- I pass myself and towns,
A human satellite.

I wait, am hopeful, as one who waits at the rock
For the spring to well forth and ever well on.
I feel as bright as if I tented somewhere in the Milky Way.
To urge the world to feel I walk through lonesome solitudes.

All around me lightning explodes sparks from my glance
To reveal all light, unveil faces everywhere.
Godward, onward to the final weighing
overcoming heavy weight with thirst.
Constantly, the longings of all born call out, "Is anyone around?"
I know each one is HE, but in my heart there writhes a tear;
When of men and rocks and trees I hear;
All plead "Feel us"
All beg "See us"
God! Lend me your eyes!

I came to be, to sow the seed of sight in the world,
To unmask the God who disguised Himself as world--
And yes, I wait to be the first to announce "The Dawn."

- from "Human, God's Ineffable Name," by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, freely rendered by Rabbi Zalman M. Schachter-Shalomi. Available from the Reb Zalman Legacy Project

Shalom and Amen!


(c) 2014, Terri Stewart

simultaneously published at

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