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Book Title: La leggenda del Baal-Scem|
The author of the book: Martin Buber
Edition: Beniamino Carucci
Date of issue: 1989
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 2.99 MB
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Reader ratings: 3.9
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Martin Buber, perhaps more than any other intellectual in the efflorescence of German-Jewish culture, was responsible for relativizing Jewish religious texts, inasmuch as he treated them as works of literature first and foremost and secondly as cultural artifacts. Anyone who has ever used the phrase "culturally Jewish" probably owes Buber as much as they do Moses Mendelssohn. If you're an observant, Orthodox Jew, this is apostasy. If not, well, there are some good stories, poems, aphorisms,and assorted odds and ends compiled in "Jewish Mysticism and the Legends of Baalshem."
Inside are tales of compassion, cruelty, hubris, outright horror ("The Werewolf" is a disturbing little tale), as well as some enigmatic and truly mysterious stories. These Shtetl Chassids (a mystical sect of Jews) were regarded as too superstitious and earthy in their religious practices for a lot of rabbinical Jews, what with their emphasis on merriment and syncretism (at least among various groups of competing Jewish philosophy), but there's no doubt that, while Chassidism is less focused on scholarship than many other forms of Judaism, it still has a sort of kabbalistic and fascinating complexity to it that makes it a mysterious and intriguing wellspring in its own right.
I didn't find the stories uniformly strong, and some of the moral admonitions no doubt served a purpose (especially when recited to the very young) but they're less edifying than the stories that function as narratives rather than mere cautions about hubris or not steadfastly observing the sabbath. But what was good in the book was very good, sometimes beautiful and chilling, achieving the sonorous humming quality of really good poetry. My favorite story (called "The Language of Birds") concerns a man who beseeches a more powerful rabbi to grant him the magical power to understand the chirping of the birds in the trees. Some of the shorter parables have the quality of koans, provoking a sort of one-hand-clapping sensation that made me want to go back and instantly reread them again, or dwell on their contradictions long after I'd set the book aside.
Not Buber's best work, but an admirable effort to collect tales that otherwise might have been lost to the vagaries of time as well as more deliberate attempts to erase these artifacts, which are all worthy of preserving for posterity, Jewish and secular alike. Danke Herr Buber, fur ihre wunderbare Leistung!
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Read information about the authorMartin Buber was an Austrian-born Jewish philosopher best known for his philosophy of dialogue, a religious existentialism centered on the distinction between the I-Thou relationship and the I-It relationship.
Buber came from a family of observant Jews, but broke with Jewish custom to pursue secular studies in philosophy. In 1902, Buber became the editor of the weekly Die Welt, the central organ of the Zionist movement, although he later withdrew from organizational work in Zionism. In 1923 Buber wrote his famous essay on existence, Ich und Du (later translated into English as I and Thou), and in 1925 he began translating the Hebrew Bible into the German language.
In 1930 Buber became an honorary professor at the University of Frankfurt am Main, and resigned in protest from his professorship immediately after Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933. He then founded the Central Office for Jewish Adult Education, which became an increasingly important body as the German government forbade Jews to attend public education. In 1938, Buber left Germany and settled in Jerusalem, in the British Mandate of Palestine, receiving a professorship at Hebrew University and lecturing in anthropology and introductory sociology.
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