Classic & Contemporary Excerpts from August 11, 1997

1997This article is part of CT's digital archives. Subscribers have access to all current and past issues, dating back to 1956.
Jewish authors and literature yield an enormous wealth of material well worth repeating. This issue's Reflections page thus draws on Jewish writers and writings.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT
In biblical days prophets were astir while the world was asleep; today theworld is astir while church and synagogue are busy with trivialities.

—Abraham Joshua Heschel,
theologian, poet, mystic, social reformer, author,
in
The Insecurity of Freedom


TRUE LOVE
The test of love is in how one relates not to saints and scholars but torascals.

—Abraham Joshua Heschel
in
A Passion for Truth


GOD EVER PRESENT
Wherever I go—only Thou!
Wherever I stand—only
Thou! Just Thou; again Thou!
always Thou! Thou, Thou,
Thou! When things are good,
Thou! when things are bad—
Thou! Thou, Thou, Thou!

—An early Hasidic song, from
The Oxford Book of Prayer


IF …
If my lips could sing as many songs
as there are waves in the sea:
if my tongue could sing as many hymns
as there are ocean billows:
if my mouth
filled the whole firmament with praise:
if my face
shone like the sun and moon together:
if my hands
were to hover in the sky like powerful eagles
and my feet
ran across mountains as swiftly as the deer;
all that would not be enough
to pay you fitting tribute,
O Lord my God.

—Hymn probably composed in the
Talmudic period, 3rd-5th century A.D., in

Praying with the Jewish Tradition (comp. Elias Kopciowski)

GOD'S SHADOWS "Do you know the story of the great Rabbi Haim-Gedalia of Upshpitzin?" heasks me another evening. "He interceded with God in favor of an innkeeperwho was notorious for his many sins. 'Very well, I forgive him,' said theAlmighty. Whereupon, pleased with his success, the Rabbi began to look forsinners to defend in heaven. ...

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