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Tales of the Hasidim (The Early Masters / The Later Masters) Paperback – July 23, 1991

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Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: German

From the Inside Flap

This edition, bringing together Volumes One and Two of Buber's classic work, contains marvelous tales - terse, vigorous, often cryptic - of the Hasidic masters.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Schocken (July 23, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805209956
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805209952
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #89,195 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

58 of 61 people found the following review helpful By Rabbi Yonassan Gershom VINE VOICE on February 4, 2000
Format: Paperback
This classic source book has gone through numerous editions and reprints since it first came out back in the 1940's. The current Schocken edition, with both volumes together in one binding, is a very good deal -- I paid a whole lot more for my two-volume set three decades ago.
Although Buber himself was not a Hasid (he was an existentialist philosopher who developed an interest in Hasidism later in life), he does a good job of conveying the spirit of these stories. In my opinion, this collection is a must-have for anybody telling Hasidic stories.
The book is not so much a collection of "tales" in the sense of literary stories or fairy tales, as it is a collection of personal anecdotes about the lives of various Hasidic masters. Some of the tales are fully-developed narratives, but others are terse fragments that remind the reader of Zen koans, those "sound of one hand clapping" riddles which one can meditate upon for years before the great "Aha!" hits and you suddenly "get it."
My only complaint is that the English translation leaves much to be desired in many places, so that, if one is not already familiar with Hasidism, the point of some of the stories can easily be misunderstood. Part of this is due to Buber's original renditions into German, where his search for the right literary German word sometimes confused the Jewish meanings because there simply are no exact equivalents. (As, for example, rendering the verb "to mikveh" -- immerse oneself in a pool of water for ritual purification -- as "tauchen" (baptism).
Unfortunately, some of these types of linguistic errors got carried over into the English translation. I would really like to see a new translation done by a Hasid who knows modern English. But until then, this version remains an excellent sourcebook for traditional Hasidic tales.
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49 of 53 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
One of the major phases of Jewish literature is that produced by Hasidim, a sect founded in the eighteenth century by Israel ben Eliezer, also known as the Ba'al Shem Tov of Besht. After his death in 1760, one of his disciples compiled a collection of legends and folktales that had become associated with him.
During the twentieth century, Martin Buber undertook the task of retelling the legends of the Ba'al Shem Tov. Although Buber's retelling of these Hasidic folktales has been beneficial in allowing the reader to focus on finding the seed of relevancy behind the historical context, they remain only one scholar's interpretation of the folktales and therefore, not a truly objective work.
In assessing these folktales we must ask ourselves if one should strive to preserve original intent at the cost of modern accessibility or whether one should allow an historical text to evolve and change with the times.
Although Buber certainly performed a service by bringing translations and interpretations of Hasidic tales to modern readers, the problem with these tales is that, when reading them, one is inclined to forget that Buber is projecting his own opinions on the historical reality of the folktales, an historical reality that others might interpret in a very different light. Without examining primary source documents, we might be inclined to accept all that Buber says as true.
Buber, in his translations, seems to intentionally manipulate these primary source documents, documents to which most of us have no access, in order to align them to his own beliefs regarding Hasidim. Thus, the spiritual message Buber reads into these folktales is far too closely tied to his own philosophy of religious anarchism and existentialism.
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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful By bukhtan on April 2, 2004
Format: Paperback
Martin Buber was one of the great humanists of the modern era and his extraction and retelling of a small part of the Hasidic corpus is a great poetic and ethical achievement. Readers should keep in mind, though, that in this book Buber was using traditional Ashkenazic pietism to represent a more cosmopolitan and higher reality. When he composed this book, there was every reason to believe that the Hasidim who survived the genocide perpetrated by National Socialism would fall prey to Communism or, more slowly, to secular education and one or another form of democracy. Hence sentimentality led Buber to transfigure Khasiduth into something as etherialized as Platonism or his ally Paul Tillich's Protestantism.
History has astonished us. Hasidic courts of one kind or another are common in America and Israel and may even be encountered in Europe. It is a reality, not just a historical memory.
This reality in its folkloric aspect may be found, at least for the Hebrewless reader, in Jerome Mintz' "Legends of the Hasidim : an introduction to Hasidic culture and oral tradition in the New World", published by the University of Chicago Press. Unlike Buber, Mintz is a professional folklorist and not only presents the tales in their veritable form but fully contextualizes them by informant, court, place and time, with other cultural information supplied as appropriate.
Readers of Mintz' book will experience Hasidic folklore in its present variety and become acquainted with the bigotry, ignorance, viciousness and pomposity found among the Hasidim just as they are in most living religions. Folklore, like religion, is not just a vehicle for a particular individual's view of the universe but an intimate part of some real sociology, lived by some real people in some real context. Mintz gives us a picture of Khasiduth which the great Buber in his goodness and humanity could not.
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