Not that I actually knew the Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-19720, but whenever I read something of his, I get the strange sense that he knew me. Works of his that have enlightened and blessed me by helping me see the Bible from a Jewish perspective (slap forehead and say, ‘Duh!’) include Sabbath, The Prophets, and, especially, God In Search of Man.
Our wonderful discussion in adult Sunday School, on Meghan Good’s book, The Bible Unwrapped, brought to mind some of what Rabbi Heschel wrote about revelation in God In Search of Man. Here are some excerpts from that book with the page numbers:
“What begins—theoretically- as faith in the prophets moves and grows to be faith with the prophets. The Bible enables us to hear something of what they have heard, though not in the manner they heard. The soul of the prophet is a mirror to God. To share the faith of a prophet means more than perceiving what common sense fails to perceive; it means being what common people fail to be: a mirror to God. To share the faith of a prophet means rising toward the level of his existence.” P. 249
“It is not enough to think about the prophets; we must think through the prophets. It is not enough to read the Bible for its wisdom; we must pray the Bible to comprehend its claim.” P. 251
The divine quality of the Bible is not on display, it is not apparent to an inane, fatuous mind; just as the divine in the universe is not obvious to the debaucher. When we turn to the Bible with an empty spirit, moved by intellectual vanity, striving to show our superiority to the text; or as barren souls who go sight-seeing to the words of the prophets, we discover the shells but miss the core. It is easier to enjoy beauty than to sense the holy. To be able to encounter the spirit within the words, we must learn to crave for an affinity with the pathos of God” p. 252
“The Bible is an eternal expression of a continuous concern; God’s cry for man; not a letter from one who sent out a message and remained indifferent to the attitude of the recipient. It is not a book to be read but a drama in which to participate; not a book about events but itself an event, the continuation of the event, while our being involved in it is the continuation of the response. The event will endure so long as the response will continue. When we open it as if it were a book, it is silent; as a spiritual power it is a voice’“…calling men day by day to herself in love…’” p. 254
“The word was not given to the prophets for their own sake. We were all faced by God when the prophets were faced by Him. We were all addressed, when the prophets were spoken to. Our faith is derived from our perceptiveness to the word that has gone out to all of us.” p. 255
Thank you, Rabbi Heschel.