Not for Your own sake do You want sacrificial gifts
Only for those disappointed in Your love.
Blasphemy pains You less
Than people’s despair.
The lines above are excerpted from a poem Abraham Joshua Heschel composed on the central issue that would define his life: the relationship between God and man. Heschel was one of the great philosopher-theologians of his time, but he was not alone in his quest to understand and grapple with faith amid the tragedies and upheavals of the Jewish experience. That experience inspired poetic responses from the likes of Bialik, Reisen, Leivick, Ravitch, and others. Their poems, in turn, inspired musical responses from composers wrestling with similar questions.
Part two of our virtual exhibit, The Art of Jewish Song: Yiddish and Hebrew, begins with Lazar Weiner’s Three Poems by Abraham Joshua Heschel, among a group of 12 songs that probe humans’ relationship with a higher power. The exhibit continues with songs of love, faith, God, and the meaning of life by Weiner, Leonard Bernstein, Yehudi Wyner, Sholom Secunda and Max Helfman. Explore the music, the artists and the sources that inspired them through music, video, photographs and more, now live on our website.