“There is immense silent agony in the world, and the task of man is to be a voice for the plundered poor, to prevent the desecration of the soul and the violation of our dream of honesty. The more deeply immersed I became in the thinking of the prophets, the more powerfully it became clear to me what the lives of the Prophets sought to convey: that morally speaking, there is no limit to the concern one must feel for the suffering of human beings, that indifference to evil is worse than evil itself, that in a free society, some are guilty, but all are responsible.”
—Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel,
“The Reasons for My Involvement in the Peace Movement” (1972)
Abraham Joshua Heschel [born in 1907 in Warsaw, Poland–died in 1972 in New York City, New York] is known for his stand against the Vietnam War, for his support of Black Civil Rights—including taking part in the Selma–Montgomery March in 1965—for his scholarship, and for finding the middle ground between the legalism of Orthodox and the leniency of Reform Judaism. Rabbi Heschel was, by all accounts, a most humane thinker and individual, who left a legacy of goodness, thoughtfullness and kindness, illuminated in his teachings, actions and writings, notably in such influential works as Man is Not Alone (1951), The Sabbath (1951), God in Search of Man (1955), and The Prophets (1962). Robert D. McFadden writes for The New York Times (in 1972) about the many parts that made up Rabbi Heschel: “Standing before a class, he was by turns a scholar who could elucidate fine points of the Talmud, a philosopher who could compare the metaphysics of Hegel and Kant and a Hasid, who could evoke the mystery of God's concern for man in tales and parables.” In Who is Man, Rabbi Heschel writes about the search for meaning, never easy but always necessary for thinking man: “The sense of meaning is not born in ease and sloth. It comes after bitter trials, disappointments in the glitters, foundering, strandings. It is the marrow from the bone. There is no manna in our wilderness.” True enough.