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God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism

4.37  ·  Rating details ·  1,389 ratings  ·  81 reviews
Abraham Joshua Heschel was one of the most revered religious leaders of the 20th century, and God in Search of Man and its companion volume, Man Is Not Alone, two of his most important books, are classics of modern Jewish theology. God in Search of Man combines scholarship with lucidity, reverence, and compassion as Dr. Heschel discusses not man's search for God but God's ...more
Paperback, 437 pages
Published June 1st 1976 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1955)
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Sarah Im reading the paperback version with ISBN 9780374513313 and its on page 3. Its the first page of the chapter titled "Self-understanding of Judaism".…moreIm reading the paperback version with ISBN 9780374513313 and its on page 3. Its the first page of the chapter titled "Self-understanding of Judaism".(less)

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India M. Clamp
Feb 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Though theology is a deviation from surgical texts/guides/memoirs by gifted physicians “God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism” is a fetching requisite for life. Readings from the book of Amos delineate an ardency for scripture, wisdom and tradition---which is the intrinsic philosophy of Abraham Joshua Heschel.

“When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, the two tablets in his hands, the whole people of Israel saw that his face sent forth beams; and they were afraid to come nigh unto him. Onl
Jun 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: judaism
Beginning with the first page of this book, I was hooked on Heschel. In one paragraph, he summed up my thoughts on the religious experience and the problems with religion in modern society.

“It is customary to blame secular science and anti-religious philosophy for the eclipse of religion in modern society. It would be more honest to blame religion for its own defeats. Religion declined not because it was refuted, but because it became irrelevant, dull, oppressive, insipid. When faith is complete
Jana Light
Aug 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
It took me a couple days to write a review of this book, because I have had a hard time sorting out what I think about it. It's beautiful, intricate, winding, cohesive, dense... so many things. Heschel provides a rich Jewish mystical theology that explores God, God's revelation to man, and man's response to God. Every page contains something stirring and profound. A proper reading should take a while -- there is a lot to absorb and this book deserves full attention.

I have only two caveats to my
Mar 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It is not easy to write a review of God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism, by Abraham Joshua Heschel. This book was recommended to me 20 years ago by a fellow seeker, an intellectual, and it came up again recently by another fellow seeker, who is also a deep thinker. So I checked out a copy from the library. But because it was a library copy, I was not free to highlight the many outstanding quotes I encountered.

Much of this book was over my head, but I persisted, and I’m glad I did. The
Jun 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
I see now why Heschel is a very well respected and popular author in the area of Judaism and religious philosophy. I had to focus carefully while reading, because his words seem to softly blow by you like a soft spring breeze, and you could easily miss important, yet subtle, points if you are not paying close attention. Perhaps because I am not really a religious person or scholar, I feel like I was often on the cusp of understanding something quite fundamental and profound, but couldn't quite g ...more
Jun 13, 2012 rated it liked it
I liked this book though at times I had to plough through some sections; here is the opening paragraph;
"Religion declined not because it was refuted, but because it became irrelevant, dull, oppressive, and insipid. When faith is completely replaced by creed, worship by discipline, love by habit; when the crisis of today is ignored because of the splendor of the past; when faith becomes an heirloom rather than a living fountain; when religion speaks only in the name of authority rather than with
Laura Howard
May 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Gobsmacked, best find of grad school year one fersher, fave thinker other than Kierkegaard maybe? I’m hooked
Curtis Hefner
Jul 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book took me a while to read, not because it is obtuse, but because it is so rich. I had to take a while to digest each part and "chew the cud".

I am not a Jew, but a Gentile believer in Hashem (Christian), so my perspective in reading is not one of self-definition but of relation. As we Gentile believers have been 'grafted into God's olive tree (Israel)'[Rom 11:24], we should be able to celebrate our root and profess our commonalities.

All too often, we Christians have instead stumbled over
May 15, 2012 rated it liked it
I'd been warned that this book was hard sledding and that I'd almost surely never make it all the way through.

I fought that warning. I denied it. But, finally, I've come to terms with the fact that it's true: I'm almost surely never going to pick this back up and I should stop pretending that I'm going to do so. It's just not going to happen.

Rabbi Heschel was a giant. His thoughts are intriguing. His influence enormous. But this book wasn't exactly written by him -- it's a reconstruction by his
Andy Oram
Feb 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book, I think, has helped me find my way as a person, as well as a Jew. Although Heschel focuses on Judaism and expects his readers to be observant Jews, I sense that his approach to spirit, action, and the purpose of life has a lot to say to sensitive non-Jews as well (although it’s hard for me to step outside of myself enough to be sure). The book is certainly a big commitment to the reader: long, repetitious, sometimes abstract. Although you can gain a lot by parsing and considering each ...more
Feb 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: judaism
"Faith in God is, we repeat, not easily attained. Had it been possible to prove His existence beyond dispute, atheism would have been refuted as an error long ago."

Faith is not easy, and neither is this book, but that's a virtue. This isn't simple theology; it's a bit of a slog, though it's divided into short chunks. I don't think I can do justice to it without writing a college term paper, but even when I found myself disagreeing with it, I was forced to challenge my own conception of God and
This holy and sacred sefer (book) poetically and logically portrays the essence and raison d'etre for believing in G-d and the sacredness of being a practicing Jew. No other book that I have ever read elucidated for me the depth and sublime nature of our relationship with G-d, as this one has.

Join us at for extensive reviews and essays of Rav Heschel’s magnificent work – G-d in Search of Man.
Aug 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: theology
This was a quick read for me. I read it during two overnight shifts. That is my biggest regret with this book. It deserves a slow, close reading and I did not do it justice. Herschel poetically extracts an inherent philosophy from within Judaism. Not only is it philosophically poignant, but it is a truly enjoyable read. I recommend this book for anyone interested in a Hebraic worldview.
Jim Killion
May 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reference
I agree with the review from TIME: "subtitled 'A Philosophy of Judaism,' but it speaks to all those for whom the Bible is a holy book."
And with The Boston Globe: "One of the most compelling books about being human that has been written in this century."
Oct 25, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Christians & Jews
Shelves: world-religions
The depth of Dr. Heschel is overwhelming. He understands the spiritual journey and the Biblical story as no other.
Aug 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An absolutely beautiful book on Jewish doctrine. Goodreads recommended this book to me; as I wanted to better live Stendahl's approach to interacting with other religions (1. when learning about other religions, ask them, not their enemies, 2. Don't compare your best with their worst, 3. Leave room for "holy envy."), and I am nearly illiterate when it comes to Judaism, I thought this would be a good introduction.

As an LDS reader, I was surprised but not surprised at some of our common understand
Apr 09, 2013 rated it did not like it
I had pretty high hopes coming in to G-d in Search of Man, since I had heard a lot about it before I read it. However, my reaction to the majority of the book can pretty much be summed up in the following image:

 photo 1403595476720.png

I should have known that I wasn't going to like the rest of the book when Heschel started talking about the arrogance of science in thinking it can know everything, and then when he continued in talking about how science cannot be used to understand the ineffable and is therefore inappro
Oct 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A must read for any studious Christian.
May 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
After years of pretending I was reading this book - a chapter a year on Yom Kippur, if that, and gathering dust on my bedside table the rest of the time - lockdown finally prompted me to sit down and read a chapter a day. I’m glad I did. This is an inspiring, moving, magisterial exploration of what Judaism means and why it matters, dense but clearly and beautifully written, working through metaphor and simile and quotation and the author’s own clear, penetrating insights. It’s even occasionally ...more
Jul 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Having been totally impressed with Heschel’s other book Man Is Not Alone , I made it a point to eventually read him again and was not disappointed with this equally profound work.

Personal Awareness Transcends Theology

Heschel is quick to point out that a major problem with theology is that it purports to have all the answers in advance, which deemphasizes the necessity for personal effort in scrutinizing the authenticity of one’s spiritual position. Much religious dogma has been expressed in an
Erin Becker
Mar 23, 2011 rated it it was ok
I started reading this book as part of an effort to get a better understanding of Jewish intellectual history. Heschel is routinely mentioned as one of the great Jewish philosophers of the 20th century and so I was excited to delve into this, one of his "greatest works". I could hardly have been more disappointed.

Heschel is a mystic and as such, eschews rationalist approaches to religion. Ok, sure. I'm willing to suspend my rationalism in that area for long enough to get through the book. The d
Feb 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A great take on what Judaism is and endlessly quotable, in a way much like one would expect from a Jedi Master. I must admit I am jealous of Judaism's (In Heschel's understanding) ability to sidestep the problem of faith vs works or intention vs action, while always appreciating that humans cannot become the ideals they strive for. The rest I'm gonna leave is just quotes:

"The mystic experience is man's turning toward God; the prophetic act is God's turning toward man." (198)

"To believe is to rem
Nov 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I tried reading this book and then put it down. On my second attempt I had to jump to the later sections of the book. It felt like the beginning of the book was so esoteric it made little sense to me. But starting with the final section was much more concrete. I then proceeded to work my way backward to section 2 then section 1 and the book was much easier for me to digest.

I think the book is difficult at parts to grasp especially for one coming out of a Christian background. But I feel that it
Jun 19, 2010 rated it liked it
Like so many pure philosophical/theological texts, this one takes awhile to chew through. Some of it just has to deal with subject matter and writing style that makes it difficult to read in great volume, but much of it is intentional. The chapters themselves are broken down frequently into shorter sections resembling restricted content essays, that eventually build on themselves as the book progresses. Its the first book that I have read that approaches the Jewish faith from a philosophical vie ...more
Jan 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
"Religion consists of Gods question and mans answer. The way to faith is the way of faith. The way to God is a way of God. Unless God asks the question, all our inquiries are in vain"

I have to give this a 4 star rating because at first it felt disjointed. The chapters and paragraphs didn't seem to flow the same way Heschel's usual writing does. But this is a minor thing and easily overlooked once you get into the bulk of the book.

In this work, Heschel places an emphasis on "two sources of religi
Graham Sommers
May 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is a treasure. Heschel writes with great wisdom and beautiful language. I look forward to spending more time with his writings.

"In the solitude of self-reflection the self may seem to be a fountain of beautiful thoughts and ideals. Yet thought may be a spell, and ideals may be worn like borrowed diadems. It is in deeds that man becomes aware of what his life really is, of his power to harm and to hurt, to wreck and to ruin; of his ability to derive joy and to bestow it upon others; to
Chelsea Wegrzyniak
Aug 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I was already sold on AJH before I started this book, but my love for his writing has only continued to grow. Such a rich discussion of what Judaism means as a religion and of the relationship of God and humankind. I actually brought three of the earlier chapters of this book to a philosophy of religion reading group and I think that this book is excellent in its discussion of some primary philosophical issues pertaining to monotheism (obviously Judaism is Heschel's subject matter, but some of t ...more
Jun 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book... but Rabbi Heschel is quite an intellectual. Even though it seems English is not his first language, I had to have a dictionary and a Bible open in order to follow his writings.

This book seems to be normally suggested as the second in a series with "Man is not Alone" as the first. I read this one first, and enjoyed it, although I can see why the other might be a better choice to read first.

This book has a lot of it specifically dealing with the Jewish religion. I am not Jewish,
Sep 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
In this 400 page tome, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel gives a philosophy of Judaism, explaining the deeper spiritual meaning of many Jewish practices and beliefs. His underlying them is that God is need of human beings and that all good acts are sacred deeds and that the bible is a treasure trove of wisdom not necessarily to be taken literally at all points but to be seen as a window into the divine.

I found many point of connection to my Christian faith and ways to deepen my practice. I came away
Ron Tenney
Dec 22, 2012 rated it really liked it

After hearing this podcast for the second time, I decided to buy this book. I previously bought his book on the Prophets.
So far, I am greatly enjoying this book. I can't read things like this without taking my time. He is a great writer and is expanding my vocabulary. He is allowing me to reflect on my on faith and beliefs. I always like that.

1/15/13 Troy stole my book. What I can say about this book so far is that the writing is colorful and very thougt-
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extensive reviews and essays on G-d in Search of Man 1 15 Feb 06, 2008 11:13PM  

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Heschel was a descendant of preeminent rabbinic families of Europe, both on his father's (Moshe Mordechai Heschel, who died of influenza in 1916) and mother's (Reizel Perlow Heschel) side, and a descendant of Rebbe Avrohom Yehoshua Heshl of Apt and other dynasties. He was the youngest of six children including his siblings: Sarah, Dvora Miriam, Esther Sima, Gittel, and Jacob. In his teens he recei ...more

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46 likes · 11 comments
“It is customary to blame secular science and anti-religious philosophy for the eclipse of religion in modern society. It would be more honest to blame religion for its own defeats. Religion declined not because it was refuted, but because it became irrelevant, dull, oppressive, insipid. When faith is completely replaced by creed, worship by discipline, love by habit; when the crisis of today is ignored because of the splendor of the past; when faith becomes an heirloom rather than a living fountain; when religion speaks only in the name of authority rather than with the voice of compassion--its message becomes meaningless.” 190 likes
“This is one of the goals of the Jewish way of living: to experience commonplace deeds as spiritual adventures, to feel the hidden love and wisdom in all things.” 15 likes
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