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Related Products. In daily life, we usually fail to live up to this ideal. We tend to treat the people and the world around us as things to be used for our benefit. This way of thinking about God and faith may seem to be remote from Judaism as most Jews traditionally understood it. Buber was born in in Vienna. The course of his life was changed when he was three years old, when his mother ran away with a Russian officer, leaving without saying goodbye to her son. Mendes-Flohr emphasizes that this early loss left Buber with a lifelong feeling of abandonment, which in turn fed and shaped his religious longings.
The God he describes in his work is neither a stern lawgiver nor a merciful redeemer but a close presence to whom we can always turn for intimacy. His grandfather Salomon Buber was a wealthy philanthropist and a Jewish scholar of renown; Martin grew up in an observant household and was educated in Hebrew and in Yiddish, as well as in German. But, when he was fourteen, he moved in with his father, who had remarried and moved to Lemberg.
This household was more secular and assimilated, and Buber stopped observing most Jewish customs. Like many young people of his era, Buber kindled to the writings of Nietzsche. But his rebellion was not only intellectual: as a twenty-one-year-old student, Buber fell in love with a Christian fellow-student, Paula Winkler, who herself became a significant writer, and they had two children out of wedlock.
In time, they married—they remained a loving couple until her death, in —and she converted to Judaism.
Having private means enabled Buber to devote himself to a life of ideas. Handsome and delicate—he stood no taller than five feet two—he was a charismatic presence. A student at the University of Vienna, where his studies included philosophy, literature, and art history, he also spent a few semesters in Zurich, Leipzig, and Berlin, and his circle came to include various kinds of rebels, such as proto-New Agers living in communes.
One of his closest friends was Gustav Landauer, a Jewish intellectual who took part in the socialist revolution in Bavaria after the First World War and was murdered by counter-revolutionary soldiers.
Instead, as his thinking grew more radical, his engagement with Jewish politics and history deepened. In , he co-founded a Jewish publishing house, which produced German translations of many important works in Hebrew and in Yiddish.
But, although he became perhaps the most famous Jewish thinker and writer in Germany, Buber separated himself from institutional religious life. He avoided synagogue even on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar.
Traditional Judaism held that living according to law was itself a source and an expression of spiritual fervor. But Buber was convinced that Orthodox Judaism was no longer a real option for people like him. This equation of truth with creativity was something that Buber learned from Nietzsche, and it marked a radically new way of thinking about Judaism. Truth was no longer a question of what had happened in history—for instance, whether God had really given Moses a set of laws on Mt. Sinai—but of what would best be able to sustain the Jewish people in the future.
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Synopsis About this title In this study of Martin Buber's life and work, Donald Moore focuses in on Buber's central message about what it means to be a human being and a person of faith. From the Back Cover : Concerned about the lack of the spiritual and ethical dimensions in our social, economic, and political lives--what he calls' the eclipse of God'--Martin Buber aimed to point a way by which humanity could repair this lost spiritual dimension.
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