Page 20 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 23

Basic HTML Version

e w i s h
o o k
n n u a l
him.” This means that anything may stand in that relation of
otherness to him which will call him to account by enabling
him to see his own life from a perspective outside himself. And
he adds: “All things are messengers of God to him.” All things
in “judging” him can call him back to genuine dialogical
The second stage is “the particular way,” that unique task
which every person has and which no one else will ever have.
“When I get to heaven, they will not ask me, ‘Why were you
not Moses,’ ״ said the Hasidic rebbe Zusya, “but ‘Why were
you not Zusya?’ ” Why did you not become what only you could
become? Without the image of man, Moses, he could not have
become Zusya, but he could never become Zusya by merely
imitating Moses. He had to respond to this image of man in his
unique way. One’s very existence as a person places on one the
demand to authenticate one’s life. If we recognize this, we are
still left with the all-important question of how we discover
“what we truly are.” Buber answers that a man knows his par-
ticular way through that knowledge of his essential quality and
inclination which is revealed to him by “his central wish, that
in him which stirs his inmost being.” This is no romanticism of
emotion but rather the recognition that only the wholeness which
includes the “central wish” can lead to the recognition of one’s
unique task. Often this recognition comes only in the form of
the evil “urge” that seeks to lead one astray, for one has gotten
so out of touch with one’s own strongest feelings that he knows
them only in the guise of what seems to be tripping him up on
his path to success.
The third stage is that resolution which seeks personal unity
through doing whatever one does “all of a piece” and not
“patch-work” until one attains a steadier unity than before and
can maintain one’s wholeness with a “relaxed vigilance.” The
fourth stage is “to begin with oneself,” to recognize that in con-
flict situations with others, it is our own inner contradictions
which again and again foster misunderstanding and mistrust.
The cause of conflict between me and my fellow-man, says
Buber, is that I do not say what I mean and that I do not do
what I say. This is another way of saying that I do not respond
as a whole person, that I am not really present, really respon-
sible, really “there.” As a result, I lead people to expect some-
thing on which later I am quite unwilling to follow through.
This is not a matter of sticking to a rigid external code but of
a spontaneity which is not mere fragmented impulse but the
expression of my wholeness as a person. It is that which places
the stamp of personal uniqueness on all my utterances, gestures,
and actions. Though my actions cannot be predicted even by
those who stand in the closest relationship to me, through these
gestures and actions I may be recognized ever again and ever
more strongly as the unique person that I am.