Rabbi A.J. Heschel’s Lessons on Religion and Race

Sarah Barasch presents a selection of quotes from Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel’s 1963 speech, “Religion and Race.”

Right now, it’s worth rereading lessons on “despair” from Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel in his Jan. 14, 1963 speech, “Religion and Race”

[Lesson 66] Racism is an evil of tremendous power, but God’s will transcends all powers. Surrender to despair is surrender to evil. It is important to feel anxiety; it is sinful to wallow in despair.

[67] What we need is a total mobilization of heart, intelligence and wealth for the purpose of love and justice. God is in search of man, waiting, hoping for man to do His will.

[75] There are those who maintain that the situation is too grave for us to do much about it, that whatever we might do would be “too little and too late,” that the most practical thing we can do is “to weep” and to despair. If such a message is true, then God has spoken in vain.

[76] Such a message is 4,000 years too late. It is good Babylonian theology. In the meantime, certain things have happened: Abraham, Moses, the Prophets, the Christian Gospel.

[77] History is not all darkness. It was good that Moses did not study theology under the teachers of that message; otherwise, I would still be in Egypt building pyramids. Abraham was all alone […]; the difficulties he faced were hardly less grave than ours.

[78] The greatest heresy is despair … ”

Read more about Rabbi Heschel here.

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