Tags: Heschel

I Asked for Wonder

by Ruth Tenzer Feldman
Published on: September 4, 2013
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heschel-and-king This photo shows a familiar face on the right: The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Next to him stands the Jewish activist, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, and between the two men is a tiny American flag. If the average picture, they say, is worth 1,000 words, then this one is worth at least 10,000. For today’s blog post, however, I will be brief.

Forget the essay on social justice and the American dream. Forget the essay on the pitfalls and rewards of writing historical fiction. As I contemplate the start of the Jewish New Year tonight at sundown, I remember Heschel’s reflection on his book of poetry:

“I did not ask for success; I asked for wonder. And you gave it to me.”

Dr. King, and many people of all faiths, would have understood that the “you” Rabbi Heschel referred to is the divine spirit that goes by more names than I will attempt to list. What intrigues me as a writer, though, is not the “you” part, but Heschel’s asking for wonder.

Wonder, I realize, is what drives my writing. Yours, too, I’d guess. I see wonder in the work I have the pleasure of critiquing through Viva Scriva. Wonder at the natural world, or the supernatural world. Wonder at a newly-discovered star, or the workings of a volcano, or a canoe trip into the wilderness. There’s the wonder of the power of family during war, or of two people becoming a couple, or of friendship in the midst of despair. And the wonder of simply living a life day by day.

Don’t get me wrong. Success would certainly be satisfying. I wouldn’t say no to the Prinz award and to a wagon load of money. But success in the writing world is dicey. Stories worth reading go unfinished or unpublished. Life intervenes.

Instead, I ask for wonder. There’s plenty to go around. Here. Take a bit yourself. Take more. You won’t ever be sorry that you did.



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