Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Martin Buber's I and Thou

Martin Buber’s I and Thou, is a difficult, overly complex and abstruse book, further hobbled by its almost complete divorce from Jewish concerns.  

This great work of “Jewish” existentialism does not mention God into at least two-thirds into the book, and there is not a biblical, rabbinical, or Jewish reference in the whole work (that I could discern).  Buber quotes or alludes to Meister Eckhart, Dante, the Gospel of John, the Buddha, all the while steering clear of Jewish sources.

Well, you can say, he wanted to create a radical, universal work, not necessary tied down to uniquely Jewish concerns.  Your problem with the book is that it does not confirm to your ideas of what a Jewish book should contain.  Perhaps.  My idea of a revolution in Jewish theology, philosophy or practice should always maintain an strong flavor of Jewish tradition.  Because a revolution in Judaism can happen even within traditional confines.  Even as it redefines that tradition, it stays within the tradition; this has always been part and parcel of Jewish interpretative work for centuries.  You work with traditional sources and mold them to the time; you take what is old and make it new.

I and Thou just sprints forth in cloudy prose away from every marker that relates to me.  It contains no answers about the plight of being Jewish in our world from my vantage.

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