In May I had the privilege of teaching a class on the writing of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel of blessed memory. His words resonate with relevance across the decades since he composed them, and inspired me afresh, as they always seem to do. I want to share with you one passage that has especially stayed with me. Its message is both timeless and ever timely:
Looking upon myself from the perspective of society, I am an average person. Facing myself intimately, immediately, I regard myself as unique, as exceedingly precious, not to be exchanged for anything else.
No one will live my life for me, no one will think my thoughts or dream my dreams.
In the eyes of the world, I am an average man. But to my heart I am not an average man. To my heart I am of great moment. The challenge I face is how to actualize the quiet eminence of my being.
Abraham Joshua Heschel, from “Who Is Man?” (1965)
I want to repeat that final statement:
“The challenge I face is how to actualize the quiet eminence of my being.”
Heschel is not being arrogant here. Rather, he recognizes the truth, that each of us possesses a “quiet eminence”, an inner light, a unique self. Actualizing that inner self does not require becoming famous, or being recognized at all. It is a private act in which one affirms that one has a place in the world, that one matters. We were not created so that we could hide our unique light under a bushel. We were created in order actualize that light: in our daily exchanges, in our creative life, in our garden, in our work. Whatever the arena of our lives, that is where we each have something to offer that no one can replace: our selves. Your quiet, magnificent eminence is a gift to the world, and a wonder to behold. Go for it.
Shabbat Shalom and love,