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Tales of the Hasidim (The Early Masters / The Later Masters) Paperback – July 23, 1991
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Original Language: German
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Thankyou Rabbi Buber for the passion and dedication in compiling this oral history. Martin Buber's fascination with the Hasidim is reflected in this fine compendium. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Daniel Hunt
I read it every day- very inspiring. If you would like to grow spiritually - this is a book to read!Published 13 months ago by LZZ
Beautiful book, fun stories, an interesting way of learning about Hasidik origins and the Hasidik movement.Published 14 months ago by Ezra R. Abrahamy
In the past month I have been reading Martin Buber's book " Tales of Hasidim". Not a book that you can read in a few days. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Jackie St. Hilaire
This is a book that should be on everyone's shelf/in everyone's Kindle. Buber did us all a marvelous service when he collected these illuminating Tales.Published 18 months ago by Conard Carroll
Spiritual Classic. Not tales, true mystical encounters with God from great spiritual saints and souls.
God is the entire purpose of life. Read more
I read these books many years ago and somehow lost the books. Rereading them so many years later brought back such joy to me.Published 19 months ago by Joel Kravetz
Has both books One & Two in it. Many, many tales that, Zen like, point to an ultimate reality that can not be fully described but only experienced.Published on November 17, 2013 by Wilmot Proviso
If you need to really follow along with the scriptures, this book is an excellent resource to help you do that. Read morePublished on June 28, 2013 by Amari