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My Friendship with Martin Buber

by Maurice Friedman

Publication Year: 2013

Martin Buber’s philosophy of dialogue sought to express the human experience through the ways in which we encounter and interact with others. His “I-Thou” theory of dialogue and “I-It” theory of monologue expressed ways of understanding one’s place in the world in relation to others, objects, and especially God. Buber died in 1965, leaving behind a vast library of writings and ardent students and scholars eager to engage with his ideas. One of these scholars is Maurice Friedman. This text considers the professional relationship Friedman had with Martin Buber and presents it as one based on translating, interpreting, and intellectual curiosity. Beginning in the summer of 1950 and ending with Buber’s death, the book takes the reader through Buber’s three visits to America, his wife’s death, the author’s stay in Jerusalem, and the articulation of Buber’s culminating philosophy of the interhuman. To trace this chronology, the author draws extensively on his personal collection of letters exchanged with Buber. This is a close and meditative consideration of a deeply intellectual friendship shared between two extraordinary thinkers.

Published by: Syracuse University Press

Series: Judaic Traditions in Literature, Music, and the Arts


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pp. 1-2

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 3-8


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p. vii-vii

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pp. ix-xiv

A person does not spend his entire life polishing a single lens unless doing so quickens his awareness, hones his perspectives, and releases a continuity of significant discoveries. Not shackled by the imperatives of classical pedagogy, Professor Maurice Friedman’s intellectual career, ...

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pp. xv-xvi

By rearranging and tightening the manuscript, he molded a more consistent and readable text. James has provided decisive help with the demanding task of revision—of bringing the book into focus so that it might attain its true form. ...

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pp. xvii-xx

I was with Martin Buber in his three visits to America as well as during my four months with him in Jerusalem in 1960. My friendship with him begins in the summer of 1950 and ends with his death in 1965. The chapters that contain my selections from my fifteen years of correspondence with him retain the form of dialogue that was close to Buber’s heart. ...

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1. My Friendship with Martin Buber Begins

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pp. 1-15

Martin Buber’s grandfather Solomon Buber was one of the great scholars and expositors in his day of the aggadic (nonlegal) portions of the Talmud. Although Martin Buber knew the Talmud, he did not draw heavily from those wellsprings. ...

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2. The Cost of My Commitment

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pp. 16-21

I spoke in the last chapter of having no notion of what the commitment to Buber would entail. I shall in this chapter sacrifice chronology and offer a few vivid illustrations of the price I would have to pay to honor the vow I made to fulfill my commitment to work with Martin Buber after I received a wonderful letter about my doctoral dissertation. ...

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3. On the Suspension of the Ethical

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pp. 22-34

In the fall of 1950, Buber suggested that I translate his essay “On the Suspension of the Ethical.” I objected that I did not see myself as a translator and had never in fact had a formal course in German. “I can tell,” he replied, “you are faithful and you are readable.” ...

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4. Martin Buber’s First Visit to America

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pp. 35-59

In November 1948 Louis Finkelstein, director of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, an institution that trains Conservative rabbis, approached Buber about coming to America to lecture at the seminary. Buber responded warmly that he would like to meet the next Jewish generation face to face ...

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5. Sartre, Heidegger, Jung, and Scholem

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pp. 60-77

In Images of Good and Evil, Buber used both biblical and Zoroastrian myths, which embody directly without passing through any conceptual form what has taken place in the countless human encounters with evil. Buber coupled the primordial mythical intuition of Zoroastrianism with directly experienced reality ...

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6. The Life of Dialogue: Letters Following Buber’s First Visit

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pp. 78-92

Buber and I kept up what I felt was an exhilarating correspondence after his return to Jerusalem as I grappled to understand and thus better explain his work. I was, at the time, as I still remain, fascinated by Buber’s understanding of the dialogue between God and man in the Talmud. ...

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7. Personal Direction: Letters, 1954–1957

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pp. 93-108

In May 1954 I received a letter from Dr. Heinz Joachim Heydorn, who had written a fine article on Buber as a Socialist, in which he asserted that next to Albert Schweitzer Buber stood out as the person with the greatest integrity in the world at the time. ...

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8. The Washington School of Psychiatry and the Buber-Rogers Dialogue

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pp. 109-120

In the spring of 1957 Martin and Paula came for their second visit to America, acting on the invitation of my friend Leslie Farber, chairman of the faculty of the Washington School of Psychiatry. Buber’s great concern before coming to the Washington School of Psychiatry, in addition to his health ...

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9. Postscript to I and Thou: Letters Following Buber’s Second Visit

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pp. 121-125

In the late summer of 1957, Buber was planning a trip to Munich for a June 1958 conference. Buber had agreed to share a platform with Martin Heidegger, “who,” Buber wrote to me, “is more to my taste than his writings.” He had had what he called a “very interesting” meeting with Heidegger shortly after leaving America. ...

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10. Buber’s Last Visit to America

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pp. 126-130

In the spring of 1958 Buber came to America for the last time at the invitation of the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton University where, by a happy coincidence, his old friend Albert Einstein was also present. This was the shortest of his three visits to America, lasting only two months. ...

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11. Interrogations and Responses: Letters Following Buber’s Last Visit

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pp. 131-141

On August 2, 1958, shortly after leaving America for the third time, Buber wrote to me from Venice that his “wife has been taken ill here a few days ago (a thrombosis but seemingly not a very grave one).” Since their ship to Haifa was not scheduled to depart until the end of the month, Paula Buber was checked into a hospital on the Lido. ...

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12. Our Stay in Jerusalem and Buber’s Last Years

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pp. 142-156

In January 1960, a long-standing dream of Eugenia’s and mine was fulfilled when we went for four months to stay in Jerusalem. Buber’s granddaughter Barbara (the sister of Judith, whom I had met in Michigan) found an apartment for us. She was generally helpful in other ways, such as taking us to Abu Tor ...

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Epilogue: Memorial Address

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pp. 157-168

“What do you think of Martin Buber?” a student of mine once asked Paul Tillich in my presence, obviously expecting some critical intellectual reply.1 “What do I think of him?” Tillich exclaimed. “I love him.” To my student the name “Martin Buber” stood for a collection of books. For Paul Tillich it evoked the presence of a man. ...


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pp. 169-172


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pp. 173-174


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pp. 175-190

Back Cover

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pp. 215-216

E-ISBN-13: 9780815652144
E-ISBN-10: 0815652143
Print-ISBN-13: 9780815610168
Print-ISBN-10: 0815610165

Page Count: 198
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Judaic Traditions in Literature, Music, and the Arts