The Quotable Heschel
Abraham Joshua Heschel
Abraham Joshua Heschel on the relationship between prayer and prayer book, and the difference between asking how to pray, and what to pray.
...To Kabbalah and Hasidism the primary problem was how to pray; to the modern movements, the primary problem was what to say. What has Hasidism accomplished? It has inspired worship in a vast number of Jews. What have the moderns accomplished? They have inspired the publication of a vast number of prayer books. It is important for the rabbis to clarify their goal. Is it to make a contribution to bibliography or to endow our people with a sense of kavanah. There have been numerous Prayer Book Commissions. Why is there no Prayer Commission?
Modern Jews suffer from a neurosis which I should like to call the Siddur (prayer book) complex.
True, the text of the prayer book presents difficulties to many people. But the crisis of prayer is not a problem of the text. It is a problem of the soul. The Siddur must not be used as a scapegoat. A revision of the prayer book will not solve the crisis of prayer. What we need is a revision of the soul, a new heart rather than a new text.
Man's Quest for God by Abraham Joshua Heschel
New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, p. 83.
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