Friday, September 17, 2010

Extracts: "Worship and living are not two separate realms."

Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) starts this evening, and I'm reading these words now from Abraham Joshua Heschel's book God in Search of Man:
The problem of living does not begin with the question of how to take care of the rascals, of how to prevent delinquency or hideous crimes. The problem of living begins with the realization that all of us blunder in our dealings with our fellow men. The silent atrocities, the secret scandals... are the true seat of moral infection. The problem of living begins, in fact, in relation to our own selves, in the handling of our emotional functions, in the way we deal with envy, greed, and pride.

Worship and living are not two separate realms. Unless living is a form of worship, our worship has no life. Religion is not a reservation, a tract of time reserved for solemn celebrations on festive days. The spirit withers when confined in splendid isolation. What is decisive is not the climax we reach in rare moments, but how the achievements of rare moments affect the climate of the entire life. The goal of Jewish law is to be the grammar of living, dealing with all relations and functions of living.

Religion is trying to teach us that no act is trite, every moment is an extraordinary occasion.

The highest peak of spiritual living is not necessarily reached in rare moments of ecstasy; the highest peak lies wherever we are and may be ascended in a common deed. There can be as sublime a holiness in performing friendship, in observing dietary laws day by day, as in uttering a prayer on the Day of Atonement.

It is not by the rare act of greatness that character is determined, but by everyday actions, by a constant effort to rend our callousness.

4 comments:

naida said...

wonderful post.
"It is not by the rare act of greatness that character is determined, but by everyday actions, by a constant effort to rend our callousness."
I think these are words to live by.

http://thebookworm07.blogspot.com/

patteran said...

There is a practicality about these edicts that says so much about that relationship between spirituality and day-to-day living that characterises Judaism. Set it against the cranky archaicisms of Catholicism (as so very evident currently) and one recognises clearly why the former faith system has lasted for so long and wonders how the latter faith system every lurched out of the Middle Ages.

Crystal Calliope said...

Thank you so much for sharing, I loved reading this.

Relyn said...

It is not by the rare act of greatness that character is determined, but by everyday actions, by a constant effort to rend our callousness.
I love this. Really love this. At my school, we always tell our students that character is the way you act when you think no one is looking. I love Heschel's definition even more.