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A Prophetic Voice in Our Midst As the decade of the 1960s moved onward from its hopeful beginnings through the ordeal of assassinations urban crises and protracted war to the opening of yet another new frontier in outer space a disquieting voice was heard increasingly throughout America The voice was that of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel On college and university campuses at Christian seminaries as well as Jewish rabbinical assemblies at colloquies on race relations and in the corridors of power he spoke on the sensitive and difficult problems of the day in the best tradition of the Western conscience and of its biblical roots Even in his physical appearance conjuring up the image of what an Amos or an Isaiah must have looked like--stocky full-bearded speaking softly but with passionate intensity--itsmall wonder that many viewed him as a latter-day Hebrew prophet Heschel would reject the title since according to Jewish teaching prophecy ceased in biblical times yet in the adjectival sense his was surely a prophetic voice He himself provided the best description of what it would mean to stand in this tradition The prophet he wrote is a man who feels fiercely God has thrust a burden upon his soul and he is bowed and stunned at mans fierce greed Frightful is the agony of man no human voice can convey its full terror Prophecy is the voice that God has lent to the silent agony a voice to the plundered poor to the profaned riches of the world God is raging in the prophets words It was at this deeper level that Abraham Heschels protest was directed To withdraw from Vietnam would no doubt mean losing face he admitted he understood the dilemmas of the policy-makers but to remain there would mean something worse losing our souls He saw the continuation and escalation of the war as another instance of that moral callousness that insensitivity to the sufferings
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