Aesthetics of RenewalMartin Buber's Early Representation of Hasidism as Kulturkritik

Aesthetics of RenewalMartin Buber's Early Representation of Hasidism as Kulturkritik

Martina Urban

Print publication date: 2013

ISBN: 9780226842707

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract

Martin Buber's embrace of Hasidism at the start of the twentieth century was instrumental to the revival of this popular form of Jewish mysticism. Hoping to instigate a Jewish cultural and spiritual renaissance, Buber published a series of anthologies of Hasidic teachings written in German to introduce the tradition to a wide audience. This book closely analyzes his writings and sources to explore his interpretation of Hasidic spirituality as a form of cultural criticism. For Buber, Hasidic legends and teachings were not a static, canonical body of knowledge, but were dynamic and open to continuous reinterpretation. The author argues that this representation of Hasidism was essential to the Zionist effort to restore a sense of unity across the Jewish diaspora as purely religious traditions weakened—and that Buber's anthologies in turn played a vital part in the broad movement to use cultural memory as a means to reconstruct a collective identity for Jews. As the author unravels the rich layers of Buber's vision of Hasidism, Buber emerges as one of the preeminent thinkers on the place of religion in modern culture.