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GOD WANTS TO COME INTO THE WORLD THROUGH HUMANITY: on the Birthday of the Philosopher Martin Buber

GOD WANTS TO COME INTO THE WORLD THROUGH HUMANITY: on the Birthday of the Philosopher Martin Buber
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Philosopher Martin Buber /


On February 8, 1878, the outstanding existential philosopher Martin Buber, theorist of Zionism, spiritual leader of European Jewry, and the first president of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities (1960–1962) was born. He is the author of collections of Hasidic devotions and one of the most significant thinkers of the twentieth century. Martin Buber was nominated 10 times for the Nobel Peace Prize and seven times for the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Martin Buber spent his childhood in Lviv, attending one of the synagogues with boys like himself. In his early youth, he learned about the teachings of the founder of Hadithism: Baal Shem Tov taught that not reading the Torah, but a sincere attachment to God can save the human soul.

During prayer, it is possible to know the complete purification of the soul, to receive the highest revelation, and the soul can separate from the bodily shell in a burst of communion with God Almighty. Over the years, Martin Buber began to study Hasidic traditions in detail and developed his doctrine of interaction with higher powers, the central idea of which is being a dialog.

The philosopher came to perceive God as the eternal «You», to understand the relationship between man and the Almighty as «I — You». God, the eternal «You», is comprehended not in a rational way but through a personal relationship of «I — You» with people, animals, nature, and works of art.


Solitude is a place of purification


The philosopher gives the Bible the role of a fixed dialog between man and God. The laws of the Bible are man’s reaction to God, who revealed Himself to him in the dialog. The Bible is not a dead book but a living speech in which the eternal «You» from the past becomes the present for the one whose ears perceive this language.

The dialog between the Almighty and the people of Israel, however, is expressed in the contract that lies at the heart of Jewish messianism.

According to Buber, God demands of Israel that its people become a holy nation, thereby realizing the reign of God in all aspects of social life: social, economic, and international. He argues that it is the Jewish people who have invested so much spiritual energy in the concept of dialog with God.

«Is it possible to bring God into the world? Is it not an audacious and arrogant desire? How dare an earthworm encroach on something that is accomplished only by the grace of God: his share in His creation! Martin Buber writes in his philosophical treatise «The Way of Man: According to the Teaching of Hasidism». — In this, too, the Jewish teaching stands in contrast to the teachings of other religions, and it is most profoundly expressed in Hasidism. The mercy of God, we believe, is that God wants man to receive Him, that it is as if He is given into human hands. God wants to come into his world, but he wants to come into it through man. That is the mystery of our being, the chance of the human race for superhumanity».


Every journey has its own secret purpose of which the traveler himself has no idea


Martin Buber advocated the modernization of religion and viewed Jesus not as a Christian but as a Jewish thinker. He believed that God was not a created being but some deep soul-mystical state of man.

The theorist of Zionism was convinced that God must be let in — but only where you are yourself, where you live your daily life. «If in that small area of Creation with which we come in contact in our lives, we try to help the most sacred in us, our soul substance, to reach perfection, then we erect on this allotted place a dwelling for God, then we let God into it», he wrote.

In many of his later writings, he develops the idea that the sphere of being human is nothing other than the «interhuman». At the core is the human desire to treat one’s neighbor as oneself, to reveal oneself in dialogues. Buber took an exclusively pacifist position, defending the good-neighborly existence of peoples and calling for the peaceful resolution of military conflicts.

Despite this, in the early 70s, many of Martin Buber’s philosophical works were withdrawn from the general collections of public libraries in the USSR and transferred to the category of forbidden literature, which required special permission to read. But many of his works, translated during self-publishing, were illegally distributed in typewritten copies.


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