Page 18 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 23

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e w i s h
o o k
n n u a l
claims having written this chronicle-novel to give definitive ex-
pression to his teaching. Instead he wrote it to point up a real-
ity. “He who expects from me a teaching which is anything other
than a pointing of this kind will always be disappointed,” writes
Buber. For Buber the tradition of the past is of essential im-
portance in creating a modern image of man. If Eliot's
in the Cathedral
is set in the Middle Ages, Buber’s
For the Sake
of Heaven
is set in a world that is still more foreign to modern
man, even though it is nearer in time. Moreover, Buber does not
try to modernize his presentation, as does Eliot, but faithfully
recreates the historical situation. He sees the reality to which he
points as one which is so real in the actual events that occurred
that he needed only supply the connecting links in the spirit of
the existing facts and sayings in order to make it complete.
The Yehudi too is a charismatic figure, like Eliot’s Thomas a
Becket; he too is the center of a religious community. But he is
so not through appointment, like Thomas, but because he is
the man that he is. His charisma is personal and not official. In
this sense Thomas stands closer to the Seer who receives a special
reverence and credence from his disciples and stands at the head
of a structured, authoritarian community. The Yehudi’s com-
munity is a loose and informal one, and his leadership of it is
based entirely upon the community’s recognition of him as a
person. The Yehudi too is a mystic and is given to mystic ecstasy,
as Eliot’s religious figures are. But his mysticism is one that puts
off neither creation nor community, neither the life of the senses
nor the relation between man and man. Rather it brings all of
these into his relation with God, hallows them through his rela-
tion to them, liberates the spark of the divine in each thing
through his everyday contact with it.
The Yehudi is also a martyr. From the Seer’s point of view
his martyrdom might resemble that of Thomas a Becket since
the Seer hopes that it will help in his magical-apocalyptic actions
to bring the coming of the Messiah. But from the point of view
of the Yehudi, and of Buber the author, there is no objective
meaning to the Yehudi’s “martyrdom”: his dying is not part of
any predestined design or of any spiritual hierarchy, and he
accomplishes no purpose by his death in the sense of a means
that can lead to some end. He is simply an image of a man who
takes on himself suffering. He stands, Buber suggests, in the sue-
cession of figures who, in every generation, "become Deutero-
Isaiah’s “suffering servant of the Lord.” But he is also and equally
the image of a man who refuses to allow the tragic contradiction
of existence to cut him off from faithful relationship with the
teacher whom he acknowledges even while he opposes him.
The Yehudi does not speak of his enemies as beast and madman,
as does Eliot’s Thomas. “You are not to think that those who