Tales of the Hasidim: The Later Masters, by Martin Buber; Israel and the World, by Martin Buber; Hasidism, by Martin Buber
There is a sense of lastness about Hasidism that gives to the movement its tragic stature and ambiguous import: the last creative gesture of the ghetto community, the last prophetic extension of Jewish orthodoxy. In a way it is posthumous, coming after the end of the world to which it properly belongs. In 1648, the kabalists had long predicted, the Messianic Era would see the dissolution of this world into the next; but the Baal Shem Tov, founder of Hasidism, was not born until 1700, midway in the Sabbatian movement between Sabbatai Zevi and Jacob Frank, those false Messiahs, who had begun by attempting in despair and self-deceit to force the end that would not come as had been foretold, and had finished up in apostasy. Hasidism was in part a response to these pseudo- Messiahs, a way to go on living for a people who, weary of time and of their own seventeen-hundred- year-long denial of those who merely seemed what most desperately they desired, had committed themselves to apocalyptic ecstasy. “The Messiah will come,” Hasidism teaches, reasserting the endless futurity of the verb, which alone makes it possible for the Jews, as Jews, to persist.
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