Next week I'm starting to take a class about a most amazing book: Abraham Joshua Heschel's Man's Quest for God. (Between that and my writing class, who knows how I'll find time to write here. But I will, even if I have to cram like I did today in order to achieve my pointless but satisfying goal of one post in honor of every day of January. Which I doubt I'll do again in February. Still, it's a good kind of cramming.) I've had the book for awhile, and have read a few pages here and there, most notably following a suggestion of one of my rabbis. I'm taking the class because I need to figure out prayer a little better. I love to do it, and want to do more of it, but I'm not sure why—and this is confusing to me. If anyone can shed light on the question, it's Heschel.
Even though I haven't yet finished the whole book, I know this passage will remain my favorite, just as it was in 2005:
"To pray is to regain a sense of the mystery that animates all beings, the divine margin in all attainments. Prayer is our humble answer to the inconceivable surprise of living. It is all we can offer in return for the mystery by which we live. Who is worthy to be present at the constant unfolding of time? Amidst the meditation of mountains, the humility of flowers--wiser than all alphabets--clouds that die constantly for the sake of God's glory, we are hating, hunting, hurting. Suddenly we feel ashamed of our clashes and complaints in the face of the tacit glory in nature. It is so embarrassing to live! Only one response can maintain us: gratefulness for witnessing the wonder, for the gift of our unearned right to serve, to adore, and to fulfill. It is gratefulness which makes the soul great."