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On Judaism Paperback – January 13, 1996

4.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

On Judaism is a collection of lectures by Martin Buber that had a profound influence on European Judaism in the early 20th century. The most interesting parts of this book are the lectures Buber delivered between 1909 and 1918, whose achievement was to convince intellectuals once again to take seriously the mystical elements of Judaism, such as kaballah. Assimilationism, secularism, and materialist skepticism had convinced many European Jews that religious Judaism demanded mindless allegiance to outmoded laws--a situation, as Rodger Kamenetz notes in his introduction to this volume, that bears a striking resemblance to the mindset of many young Jews today. Buber's involvement with Theodore Herzl's Zionist movement (which led to the creation of the state of Israel) gave him credibility with Jewish intellectuals, however. He used this credibility to persuade his listeners that there is an essential difference between rigid, legalistic "religion" and the vital, world-engaging "religiosity" that, he contended, is the prevailing character of Torah. As Kamenetz writes, "Buber's enduring insight is that Judaism is a process, not a conclusion: a religion of presence, and not simply an historical religion." Obviously, much has changed since Buber delivered these early lectures--the two World Wars, the Holocaust, and the rise of Reformed Judaism have forever altered the context in which young Jews define their religious identity. But Buber's driving question--"I must ask myself again and again: Is this particular law addressed to me and rightly so?"--is still the most important one for Jews who seek to understand themselves as people of the book. Martin Buber asked that question with unremitting intensity and intellectual rigor, and On Judaism will help its readers to do so as well. --Michael Joseph Gross

Review

“To read Martin Buber is to encounter an extraordinary soul—and to rish changing your life . . . Unique, exhilarating, profound.”
—David Wolpe, author of Why Be Jewish?
 
“When as an adult I first found myself wrestling with God, Torah, and Judaism, someone handed me these essays of Martin Buber. I found them, and subsequently all of Buber’s work, speaking deeply and wisely to my life-situation, inviting me into a conversation that has continued through the quarter-century since. To anyone who is newly attracted to, or deeply involved in, Jewish renewal, I recommend them for at least a quarter-century’s worth of wonderful exploration.”
—Arthur Waskow, author of Down-to-Earth Judaism
 
“How good it is to be reminded of the richness of Martin Buber’s early thought, of his passion, of his power as a teacher, even as a prophet. This collection, with Rodger Kamenetz’s foreword, will be of great value to all concerned with the revitalization of Judaism today.”
—Jonathan Omer-man, Metivta Institute
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Schocken (January 13, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805210504
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805210507
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #274,324 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I have never been enamored of Martin Buber’s work. The special tone of “existential Judaism,” the field he plowed, always had a nice ring, and suggested great potential: a Judaism which unfolded itself not in vast, overwhelming abstractions, but in encounter with the world.

This seems to be the core of religious Judaism anyway. The act, the deed, the mitzvoth is performed, and it is in that performance in this world that we find G-d.

But Buber’s opus I and Thou is an opaque work, largely devoid of Jewish content. He studied Christian mysticism closely, and the work appears largely inspired by it; it also hurts the Jewish tenor of the book that many of the paraphrases are from the gospels.

That is why his collection of essays On Judaism are as helpful as they are frustrating in understanding Buber's philosophy. The groundwork for Buber’s connection and disenchantment with his religion is here laid out far more clearly that in I and Thou.

Like many turn of the century, educated Jews, Buber was disenchanted with Jewish religious ritual. He says “Increasingly, the God-permeated, commanding, creative element was being replaced by the ridged, merely preserving, merely continuing, merely defensive element of Judaism.” Buber was enamored of early Hasidism, but thought that the contemporary forms of those sects were fossilized. He had an equal contempt of the “pale, feeble attempt at reform” of more liberal Judaism.

We live, he explains “in [a] uncertain state…. The last structure of the Oriental spirit within Judaism appears to be shaken, with no foundation laid for the new one.” However he believes the foundation does exist, in the soul of the individual Jew.

So what does Buber want beyond this vague formulation?
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Format: Paperback
Buber raises fundamental questions about the meaning of Jewishness. His profundity is unquestioned, as his poetic insightfulness. However his casting aside of the Halakhah means that he cuts himself off from what is arguably, both the most traditional and most vibrant form of Judaism in our world.

I want to myself look through these essays again, and see if they give new directions in regard to understanding the fundamental questions of Jewish identity and meaning in the modern world.
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A classic on the topic. Needed it to flesh out knowledge of Judaism. Helpful. I'm Jewish by choice. So all the information I can get from good sources is welcome.
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Classic essay collection
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