Page 12 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 23

Basic HTML Version

MART I N B U B E R ’S HA S I D I C BOOKS :
A CON T EMP ORARY I MAGE OF MAN *
B
y
M
aurice
F
riedman
M a r t in Buber , 1878-1965
Th e Passing of a M od e rn Z a d d ik
T
h e d e a t h o f
Martin Buber comes to us as a great loss—a loss
for Judaism and for mankind. In an age in which the modern
Jew found himself baseless, “suspended in the air,” Martin
Buber pointed to a way that he could walk. Through his lifelong
devotion to Zionism, Hasidism, and the Hebrew Bible, he helped
to renew the Jewish image of man for our age. Without leaving
the doorway of his ancestral home, he spoke with a depth, rele-
vance, and the universality that enabled countless Jews of our
time to overcome the unconscious depreciation of Judaism which
the contemporary Jew often shares with the culture in general.
One of the most important treasures that Buber has bequeathed
us is his many books on Hasidism. Hasidism came to Buber as a
conversion. He professed Judaism before he really knew it, he
confessed in “My Way to Hasidism.” In the effort to come to know
it, he read profusely in Hebrew texts until he came one day to
the testament of Rabbi Israel Baal-Shem, the founder of Hasidism.
The words flashed toward me, “He takes unto himself the
quality of fervor. He arises from sleep with fervor, for he
is hallowed and become another man and is worthy to ere-
ate and is become like the Holy One, blessed be He, when
He created His world.” It was then that, overpowered in
an instant, I experienced the Hasidic soul. The primally
Jewish opened to me, flowering to newly conscious expres-
sion in the darkness of exile: man’s being created in the
image of God I grasped as deed, as becoming, as task. And
this primally Jewish reality was a primal human reality,
the content of human religiousness. Judaism as religiousness,
as “piety,” as
hasidut
opened to me there. . . . I became
* From Maurice Friedman's forthcoming book
To Deny Our Nothingness:
Contemporary Images of Man
(New York, Delacorte Books, 1966).
6