Monasteries of the Heart

Monks in Our Midst: Rabbi Abraham Heschel on Reverence for Words

As we stand with our Jewish brothers and sisters during this tragic week, we bow to the wisdom of one of the great prophets of our time, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel.

One of the major symptoms of the general crisis existent in our world today is our lack of sensitivity to words. We use words as tools. We forget that words are a repository of the spirit.

The tragedy of our times is that the vessels of the spirit are broken. We cannot approach the spirit unless we repair the vessels. Reverence for words – an awareness of the wonder of words, of the mystery of words – is an essential prerequisite for prayer. By the word of God the world was created.

We have forfeited the reverence for words. Purification of language, therefore, remains a major task in theological discipline. Beginning by emphasizing deep sensitivity to words, its goal must be the sanctification of human speech.

Abraham Joshua Heschel was a Polish-born American rabbi and one of the leading Jewish theologians and Jewish philosophers of the 20th century. To relish more of his wisdom, read this review of "Abraham Heschel: Essential Writings," edited by his daughter Susannah Heschel that contains numerous quotes from Rabbi Heschel.

In our desperation to heal our broken world, Rabbi Heschel offers the challenge of reclaiming our "reverence for words." How might you, we, in a simple practical way, answer that challenge?

Thank you for sharing your reflections here so we might address the challenge together.





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