Heschel on Silencing God


God is not silent. He has been silenced.

…The faith believers cherish is second hand, it is a faith in the miracles of the past, an attachment to symbols and ceremonies. God is known from hearsay, a rumor fostered by dogmas, and even non-dogmatic thinkers offer hackneyed, solemn concepts without daring to cry out the startling vision of the sublime on the margin of which indecisions, doubts, are almost vile.

We have trifled with the name of God. We have taken ideals in vain…Now we reap the fruits of failure. Through centuries His voice cried out in the wilderness. How skillfully it was trapped and imprisoned in the temples! How throughly distorted! Now we behold it gradually withdraws, abandoning one people after another, departing from their souls, despising their wisdom…

…God did not depart from his own volition; He was expelled. God is in exile.

More grave then Adam’s eating the forbidden fruit was his hiding from from God after he had eaten it. “Where art thou?” Where is Man? is the first question that appears in the Bible. It is man’s alibi that is our problem. It is man who hides, who flees, who has an alibi. God is less rare than we think; when we long for Him, His distance crumbles away.

…There are many doors through which we have to pass in order to enter the palace, and none of them is locked.

…Life is a hiding place for God. We are never asunder from Him who is in need of us. Nations roam and rave- but all this is only ruffling the deep, unnoticed and uncherished stillness.

The grandchild of Rabbi Baruch was playing hide and seek with another boy. He hid himself and stayed in his hiding place for a long time, assuming that his friend would look for him. Finally, he went out and saw that his friend was gone, apparently having not looked for him at all, and that his own hiding had been in vain. He ran into the study of his grandfather, crying and complaining about his friend. Upon hearing the story the Rabbi burst into tears and said: “God, too, says: ‘I hide, but there is no one to look for me.'”

(Man is Not Alone 152-154)

Author: Matthew Zachary Gindin

Freelance journalist and teacher. I write regularly for the Forward, All That In Interesting, and the Jewish Independent, and have been published in Religion Dispatches, Situate Magazine, Elephant Journal, and elsewhere.

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