Page 17 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 23

Basic HTML Version

r ie dm a n
— M
art in
of him. Through his emphasis on the divine power of the
and through the awe of his disciples, the Seer holds the
place of an oriental potentate in his congregation. The Yehudi,
on the other hand, preserves an informal and democratic rela-
tion with his disciples. The Seer uses his disciples for magic
purposes, the Yehudi helps his disciples find of themselves and
for their own sake the path they seek to pursue. He teaches his
disciples that though they cannot exercise a magic influence
upon God, when they cease to strive consciously and turn to
God, they are not without effect. Man’s turning is not for the
sake of individual redemption alone. It is also for the sake of
the Shekhinah, God’s indwelling glory which is in exile. More-
over, redemption takes place not in isolation, but in a communal
life of justice, love, and consecration.
Of the legends that surround the Yehudi’s death, Buber has
chosen the one in which the Seer asks the Yehudi to die so that
the Seer might find out from the upper world what next step
to take in the great Messianic enterprise. The Yehudi obeys
though he knows that all the conflicts of Gog and Magog arise
out of the evil forces that have not been overcome in our hearts.
The method of the Yehudi’s death is itself mystical. He falls into
a great ecstasy of prayer such as he has experienced since his
youth, not without danger of death, and this time he does not
return. The moments before his death are given up entirely to
the thought of the Shekhinah, for whom he has suffered and
striven during his life. Repeating the words of Deutero Isaiah
about the suffering servant, the lamb who is led to slaughter,
he dies with the phrase on his lips, “The only one to declare
Thy oneness.”4 Of all the holy men who work “for the sake of
heaven” in this novel, only the Yehudi has refused to work for
redemption with external means or to accept a division of the
world between God and the devil or a redemption that is any-
thing less than the redemption of all evil. His struggle with the
Seer is a part of this affirmation of the oneness of God. It pre-
vents us from seeing the conflict of the story as one between good
and evil. Rather it is tragedy in that special sense in which Buber
defines it, as the cruel opposition of existence itself, the fact that
each is as he is and that there are not sufficient resources in the
relationship to bring the opposition into genuine dialogue and
to prevent it from crystallizing into oppositeness.
The Mean ing of For the Sake of Heaven
That Buber means
For the Sake of Heaven
as an
of man
for contemporary man is clear from his Preface in which he dis­
4 For a full-scale treatment of
For the Sake of Heaven,
see Maurice Fried-
Martin Buber: The L ife of Dialogue
(New York, Harper Torchbooks,
1960), Chap. XVIII, pp. 149-158, parts of which are used here.