Martin Buber

Martin Buber (1878 - 1965)

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Martin Buber
Born in Vienna, Austriamap
Son of and [mother unknown]
[sibling(s) unknown]
Husband of — married [date unknown] [location unknown]
Father of
Died in Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israelmap
Profile last modified | Created 22 Mar 2019
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Martin Buber is Notable.

Martin Buber was born February 8, 1878 in Vienna . Buber's parents, Carl Buber and Elise née Wurgast, separated when Martin was four years old. For the next ten years, he lived with his paternal grandparents, Solomon and Adele Buber, in Lemberg (now: Lviv/Ukraine) who were part of what one might call the landed Jewish aristocracy. Solomon, a “master of the old Haskala” (“[ein] … Meister der alten Haskala”; Buber 1906b, Dedication) who called himself “a Pole of the Mosaic persuasion” (Friedman [1981] p. 11), produced the first modern editions of rabbinic midrash literature yet was also greatly respected in the traditional Jewish community.

His reputation opened the doors for Martin when he began to show interest in Zionism and Hasidic literature. The wealth of his grandparents was built on the Galician estate managed by Adele and enhanced by Solomon through mining, banking, and commerce. It provided Martin with financial security until the German occupation of Poland in 1939, when their estate was expropriated. Home-schooled and pampered by his grandmother, Buber was a bookish aesthete with few friends his age, whose major diversion was the play of the imagination. He easily absorbed local languages (Hebrew, Yiddish, Polish, German) and acquired others (Greek, Latin, French, Italian, English). German was the dominant language at home, while the language of instruction at the Franz Joseph Gymnasium was Polish. This multi-lingualism nourished Buber's life-long interest in language.

Though strongly influenced by both his grandparents and taught Hebrew by Solomon, young Martin was drawn more to Schiller’s poems than to the Talmud. His inclination toward general culture was strengthened by his grammar-school education, which provided him with an excellent grounding in the classics. During his adolescence his active participation in Jewish religious observances ceased altogether.

Buber studied in Vienna, Leipzig, Berlin, Zurich and soon entered the Zionist Movement, more for religious and cultural than for political reasons. He was the editor of a renowned Jewish magazine and lectured Jewish religion philosophy at the University of Frankfurt from 1924 to 1933. During that time, he worked together with Franz Rosenzweig (1886-1929) at the "Freies Jüdisches Lehrhaus". And it was also Rosenzweig with whom together he translated the Old Testament into German.

The foundations of Buber's religion philsophy lie in his Chassidic work and his philosopy of dialogue. The basis of belief is the relation between man and God, the relation to the eternal Thou. In an unparalleled consistent way he accomplishes the anthropological turn-about in theology towards the human being: following the dialogical existence of man, there is no statement about God which does not at the same time state something about man. For Buber, the biblical history of belief of Israel is a living tradition, a dialogical history between God and man: from calling Abraham out of his environment, the covenant at Mount Sinai up to the prophets, a dialogical history which demands anyone who joins it.

The basis for all statement about faith is the dialogical relation of trust, not the belief in dogmatic contents, as he views in Christian theology: "One can believe that God is and live in his back, he who trusts him lives in his face." (Two Types of Faith). "Trust is proving trust in the fullness of life in spite of the experienced course of the world."

In the first years of Hitler's rule, he stayed in Germany until he had to emigrate in 1938, and from then on he lectured, interrupted by numerous journeys, at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He made many efforts for improving the understanding between the Israelis and the Arabs, in the postwar period also for reestablishing the dialogue with German thinkers and institutions. He died on June 6, 1965.

Buber counted among his friends and admirers Christian theologians such as Karl Heim, Friedrich Gogarten, Albert Schweitzer, and Leonard Ragaz. His philosophy of dialogue entered into the discourse of psychoanalysis through the work of Hans Trüb, and is today among the most popular approaches to educational theory in German-language studies of pedagogy.


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Images: 1
English: Martin Buber in Palestine/Israel
English: Martin Buber in Palestine/Israel


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