Heschel and Glory

Current Read: God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism by Abraham Joshua Heschel

So, I try to read as many Jewish-themed texts as possible. I read the Torah portion every week (almost) and supplement with numerous other texts from Elie Wiesel’s classic Night to the Sefer HaAggadah. Now that I have undertaken the sharing of this blog, I have even more impetus to continue my quest for wisdom in this manner. I just finished Gil Troy’s new book about Zionists, which was essentially an update of Theodor Herzl’s original work. If you are interested in an accessible way to read about influential Zionists from past to present, I would highly recommend Troy’s volume (The Zionist Ideas). More to come on Zionism later.

Forward to my current read. Abraham Joshua Heschel is someone whose name I have heard a myriad of times, but I am just now delving into his work. I am only about 100 pages into God in Search of Man, and I find myself feeling as if every paragraph he writes deserves its own post. I suppose that is why he wrote so many books–because he had amazing ideas and insights. I just finished reading Heschel’s chapter about “glory.” Glory is one of those words that seems to be used often, but its meaning is a bit cumbersome and nebulous. Heschel approaches this word from a religious perspective, and I could not help but find it fascinating. 

Heschel says: “The glory is the presence, not the essence of God; an act rather than a quality; a process not a substance”

“The whole earth is full of His glory, but we do not perceive it; it is within our reach but beyond our grasp.”

Now instead of summarizing the rest of Heschel’s chapter, I would like to discuss what you think it all means. Since the glory of God exists even outside of the realm of human perception, is it our responsibility as human beings to tap into and sense the glory of Godly presence in every moment? Heschel believes that human perception of glory is an extremely rare happening. Human beings are accustomed to routine, and become indifferent in terms of finding the gloriousness in what we typically perceive as humdrum moments. 

Heschel believes that this whole conversation might actually be impossible to have in a truly profound way, as we cannot ultimately describe or know glory. The beauty of glory is knowing that we are known. This is one of the ideas that seems to be behind the title of the entire book. God is aware of us at all times, even when we are unaware, doubting, mindless, apathetic, uncaring, or distracted. Isn’t it a beautiful notion that God is constantly mindful of us? Even at times when we do not know it or feel it, the presence is everywhere.

Heschel appears to believe that the biblical prophets were aware of the glory, and this is one of the qualities that made them prophetic. There will come a time (perhaps in a messianic age) when all will be aware of the glory. 

What kind of world would it be wherein humans are aware of the awareness, so to speak? I would love to know your thoughts. 



Published by Joshua Gray

I am Joshua Gray. I am a husband, father, not-for-profit-worker by day, and a former professional actor/singer. I am very active in the Jewish community in my area, helping to teach at religious school on Sundays, while also serving on the board of trustees at my local temple. My relationship with Judaism is a joy of mine, and I find great pleasure in studying texts and learning more and more Hebrew. I still enjoy warbling tunes, and I even got to sing the Kol Nidre on Yom Kippur, which was a definite highlight. Please feel free to contact me with any ideas for topics, conversations, or general inquiries. Shalom!

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