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Poster Commentary
"A Jew is asked to take a leap of action rather than a leap of faith."Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel
Poster design:Ofra Amit


by Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz 

The theologian, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel teaches us to take a leap into ethical and spiritual action that compels transformation, and not to act by faith alone.

The same Heschel also taught: “To be is to stand for.” What do Heschel’s teachings mean for us decades later?

In an era where a plethora of choices can paralyze, people often tend toward conformity, apathy, and disengagement. If one merely follows social trends, our most meaningful and authentic communal activities would disappear.

Memory has all but forgotten Nachshon ben Aminadav, but he is among the most radical Jews. When the newly-freed Israelites approached the Red Sea with the Egyptians in pursuit, God had not yet parted the waters to save them. The Israelites were frightened of what lay ahead, wailing, and threatening to return to Egypt. The Midrash teaches that Nachshon responded to his despondent brethren by jumping into the howling sea. The waters parted. Miracles were made plain. 

Now is the time. We must give to the world more than we take from the world. In each moment of our short lives, we are asked to approach the unknown and do something. But we stumble and fail, and this fear falsely restricts our potential. In the end, we are defined not by our thoughts or our words, but by what we have done. No longer shall we be slaves to lethargy! Let us bring a holy light into the world, our own unique flame of action to light the way. 


Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz is the executive director of the Valley Beit Midrash in Arizona, founder/president of Uri L’Tzedek, and founder/CEO of the Shamayim V’Aretz Institute. He completed an M.A. at Yeshiva University in Jewish philosophy, an M.A. at Harvard in moral psychology, and a doctorate at Columbia in epistemology and moral development. Yanklowitz studied as a Wexner Graduate Fellow at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah for rabbinic ordination. He is the author of six books on Jewish ethics and was listed in Newsweek’s 50 Most Influential Rabbis in America. 

Conversation Guide

What do you THINK?

1. What leaps of action would you love to presently make?

2. What do you have to solve or overcome before you act? Does anything hold you back from doing so?

3. Heschel’s dictum does not mean that Jews need only act, and not believe. Which beliefs can serve as a strong foundation for action? 


What do you SEE?

1. Describe the elements in this poster and how they portray the quote. Does it change how you originally thought of this quote without the image? How so?

2. What is symbolic about the vessel? What does it imply about the giver? What might the flowers represent?

3. What do the artist’s choice of colors and the black background convey to you? 


Copyright© 2015 Harold Grinspoon Foundation

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Proudly Jewish©2015, Ofra Amit, Quote: Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, Harold Grinspoon Foundation, West Springfield, MA