Buber, Martin

(1878–1965)
   Israel philosopher. Buber bears out the adage that men are not prophets in their own country. In Jerusalem he was pointed out as a white-bearded and fairly harmless professor, who collected chassidic tales (a Yiddish wag called them Bubermaises); who had naive political views about the Arabs and who had evolved an esoteric theology based on a personal equation. But he had acquired an ethical eminence in the outside world best illustrated by one story. When Dag Hammarskjold, the United Nations secretary-general, crashed to his death in the African bush, he was working on a Swedish translation of one of Buber’s books, and had been trying to get Buber nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature.
   From his childhood, Buber straddled the Jewish and the general intellectual world. Born in Vienna, he was brought up by his Polish grandfather, Solomon Buber, a well-known rabbinic scholar. Buber studied philosophy at universities in Vienna, Leipzig, Zurich and Berlin, and was influenced by German philosophers. From his student days, Zionism attracted him less as a political and national movement than as a path to Jewish spiritual redemption, and it is not surprising that he was a disciple of AHAD HA-AM. He founded a national Jewish student union in Leipzig in 1898, and the following year he attended the Third Zionist Congress and took part in debates on education. HERZL was impressed by him and in 1901 appointed him editor of the Zionist weekly Die Welt. He resigned when he joined WEIZMANN and other younger Zionists in opposing Herzl over the Uganda Project. In 1902 he was a co-founder of the Juedischer Verlag in Berlin, the first Zionist-oriented Jewish publishing house in western Europe. One of its initial booklets was a proposal by Buber and Weizmann for a Hebrew university in Jerusalem. In 1916 he started a paper, Der Jude, that stressed the need for cultural Zionism and a return to Jewish ethics and became a leading intellectual forum for German Jewry. From 1925, Buber taught Jewish religion and ethics at Frankfurt University, first as lecturer and then as professor. He was forced to retire from that academic post when Hitler came to power in 1933. For the next few years, he carried on with Jewish educational activities, lecturing throughout Germany until the Nazis banned him from speaking at meetings. In 1938 he accepted a chair of social philosophy at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, from which he retired in 1951. He helped to found the Hebrew publishing house Mosad Bialik, and served as president of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities (1960– 62). Buber joined the Brit Shalom (‘Covenant of Peace’) group, later called Ichud. It was headed by Dr Judah L.MAGNES, the American-born president of the Hebrew University. Brit Shalom preached friendship and co-operation with the Arabs and an eventual Jewish-Arab bi-national state in Palestine. While the sincerity and goodwill of the group was unquestioned, its views attracted more attention in academic circles abroad than they affected political events in Palestine. Its chief weakness was the lack of any serious response on the Arab side - in Buber’s own parlance, it was more I-Thou than Thou-I. His philosophical ideas derive from the basic premise that one cannot know external reality, which exists for the individual only in terms of his own relations or dialogue with it. These relations are of two kinds: those with other living creatures (I-Thou) and those with things (I - It). The eternal ‘Thou’ is God, and religious experience is the dialogue between man and God. Buber first set out these ideas in his famous book I and Thou (1937; orig. Ger., 1923). His concepts had some influence on the new German translation of the Bible (1925– 61) that he began with Franz ROSENZWEIG and completed on his own. While Buber had little impact on Jewish religious thought, he had a considerable influence on contemporary Christian theologians, both Catholic and Protestant. Buber’s outlook was strongly affected by his life-long research into Chassidism, the Jewish revivalist movement that was started by the Baal Shem Tov in the 18 century and spread throughout eastern Europe. He became fascinated as a young man by the legends that clustered round the names and personalities of the early chassidic masters, and published two collections of tales, The Tales of the Chassidim (‘The Early Masters’, 1947; ‘The Later Masters’, 1948) and The Legend of the Baal-Shem (1955). His literary interest evolved into a metaphysical one as he tried to grasp the mystical communion with God experienced by devout Chassidim, under the inspiration of their rebbe. He wrote extensively on the subject in an effort to interpret to emancipated western Jews and to the non-Jewish world the positive values he found in Chassidism.

Who’s Who in Jewish History after the period of the Old Testament. . 2012.

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  • Buber, Martin — born Feb. 8, 1878, Vienna, Austria Hungary died June 13, 1965, Jerusalem German Jewish religious philosopher and biblical translator. Brought up in Lemberg (now Lviv, Ukraine), he studied in Vienna, Berlin, Leipzig, and Zürich. Friedrich… …   Universalium

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  • Buber, Martin — (1878 1965)    A Jewish religious philosopher born in Vienna and settled in Palestine in 1938. Buber is the author of many books on Jewish philosophy, general philosophy, Hasidism, theology, Zionist theory, and the Bible. His fame, which was… …   Historical Dictionary of Israel

  • Buber, Martin — (1878 1965)    Austrian theologian, grandson of Solomon Buber. He was born in Vienna. He joined the Zionist movement and became editor of Die Welt in 1901. He founded the Jewish National Council in Berlin during World War I and in 1916… …   Dictionary of Jewish Biography

  • BUBER, Martin — (1878 1965)    JEWISH philosopher and theologian who did much to bring about a Jewish intellectual RENAISSANCE in Central Europe in the 1920s. Influenced by KANT, NIETZSCHE and KIERKEGAARD, Buber drew upon the Jewish HASIDIC TRADITION with its… …   Concise dictionary of Religion

  • Buber,Martin — Bu·ber (bo͞oʹbər), Martin. 1878 1965. Austrian born Judaic scholar and philosopher whose influential I and Thou (1923) posits a direct personal dialogue between God and the individual. * * * …   Universalium

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