The Legend of the Baal-Shem

The Legend of the Baal-Shem

The Legend of the Baal-Shem

The Legend of the Baal-Shem

Synopsis

These twenty captivating stories about the founder of the Hasidic faith Israel ben Eliezer called the Baal-Shem or Master of God's Name, provide a profound and charming account of the genesis of Hasidism, still Judaism's most important religious movement. As a delicate and moving portrayal not only of the power of the Baal-Shem's mystical faith, but also of Eastern European Jewish daily life, The Legend of the Baal-Shem is an ideal introduction to Hasidic religious thought, and to Martin Buber's own influential philosophy of love and mutual human understanding.

Excerpt

It is fifty years since the legends of Hasidic literature cast their spell over me. Soon thereafter I began the retelling of the Baal-Shem cycle out of which this book arose. the existing material was so formless that I was tempted to deal with it as with some kind of subject-matter for poetry. That I did not succumb to this temptation I owe to the power of the Hasidic point of view that I encountered in all these stories. There was something decisive here that had to be kept in mind throughout. What that was can be gathered from what follows. But within these limits, which forbid bringing in alien motifs, all freedom remained to the epic form. Only some time after the original German edition appeared in 1907 was a stricter binding imposed on the relation which I had as an author to the tradition of the Hasidic legends-a binding that bid me reconstruct the intended occurrence of each individual story, no matter how crude

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