Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Buber Paradox

Martin Buber has not fared well in the world of religious Judaism.  He took on the mantle of existentialism after the Second World War, with his classic book I and Thou, which made its mark, but appeared to repudiate his commitment to Judaism as a set of precepts, or mitzvoth, to be followed. 
In this collection of essays, Hasidism and Modern Man, Buber tries to strengthen his record on the mitzvoth in the introduction.  The book then meanders among a series of essays which frame Hasidic life, or portions of it, with the predicament of modern “man.”

Generally, as in most of his book, a careful reading is in order, and even then, much will escape even the greatest of care.  Buber’s main problem is he tries to present a mainly anti-intellectual religious movement or trend in an intellectual framework.  This works to a degree, but much is missing.

To find out about Hasidism, it is best to go to the original written sources.  Or go find a good, genuine Hasid and watch him (or her!) in action.

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