Tales of the Hasidim: Martin Buber's Universal Vision of Ecstatic Joy and Spiritual Wholeness
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I will examine Martin Buber’s Tales of the Hasidim, and the limits of his concepts of “ecstatic joy” and “spiritual wholeness.” To Buber, Hasidic legends present the possibility of overcoming tensions between the quotidian present and the messianic future, divisions of sacred and profane, divine and self. I argue that Buber does not present clear instructions on how to achieve this unity, so I turn to his other writings on Hasidism in order to trace his definition of “ecstatic joy” and “spiritual wholeness.” While Buber accurately depicts the Zaddik-Hasidim relationship, he downplays the importance of Jewish Law (Halacha) in facilitating the goal of ecstatic joy and spiritual wholeness which he posits as the essence of Hasidism. Ultimately, I conclude that while Buber ignores “authentic” aspects of Hasidic life, he indeed uses the Hasidic tale to effectively present a message of ecstatic joy and spiritual wholeness to a universal audience.