Between Heschel and Buber: A Comparative Study

Between Heschel and Buber: A Comparative Study


Alexander Even-Chen & Ephraim Meir

Series: Emunot: Jewish Philosophy and Kabbalah
ISBN: 9781936235728 (hardcover)
Pages: 320 pp.
Publication Date: October 2012

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Abraham Joshua Heschel and Martin Buber were giant thinkers of the 20th century who made significant contributions to the understanding of religious consciousness and of Judaism. They wrote on various subjects, such as the Bible, the commandments, Hasidism, Zionism and Christianity. Though they had much in common, they also differed on substantial points. To this date scholars have not undertaken a comparative analysis of Buber and Heschel as eminent contemporary interpreters of the Jewish tradition. In this volume, Meir and Even Chen have taken upon themselves the challenge of monitoring their agreements and disputes.

Alexander Even-Chen (PhD Hebrew University) is Professor of Medieval and Modern Jewish Philosophy at Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, Jerusalem, Israel.  He received rabbinical ordination at Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies and is the author of A Voice from the Darkness. Abraham Joshua Heschel, Phenomenology and Mysticism (in Hebrew, Tel-Aviv 1999); The Binding of Isaac - Mystical and Philosophical Interpretations of the Bible (in Hebrew, Tel-Aviv 2006).

Ephraim Meir (PhD Louvain University, Belgium) is Professor of Modern Jewish Philosophy at Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel. He has been a guest professor in Strasbourg, Heidelberg, and Phoenix, Arizona, and a regular guest professor at Hamburg University. Among his recent books are Levinas’s Jewish Thought between Jerusalem and Athens (2008), Identity Dialogically Constructed (2011), and Differenz und Dialog (2011).

Between them, articles relating to Martin Buber and Abraham Joshua Heschel account for over nine hundred entries in the Jewish National Library’s Index of Articles on Jewish Studies. Add to this the steady stream of books concerning either Buber or Heschel, and the sheer bulk of the bibliography is even more daunting. Comparisons between the two thinkers, however, are rare. None of the previous attempts to set these two figures alongside each other in search of affinities and contrasts compares in scope and depth to the volume under review. By undertaking a well-structured and thoughtful comparison of the men they describe as ‘giant and committed thinkers of the twentieth century,’ Alexander Even-Chen and Ephraim Meir have achieved a significant feat. Rather than being one more entry in a crowded field, Between Heschel and Buber deserves a special place within a rapidly burgeoning literature. . . . Without doubt, [the authors] have moved the discourse concerning the interface between Heschel and Buber to a new level of sophistication and depth.
— Michael Marmur, Hebrew Union College. Review in H-Judaic, April, 2013
In this finely researched and highly insightful study the authors trace out parallels and differences between two seminal modern Jewish thinkers. Through systematic analysis of both correspondence and books Even-Chen and Meir show how Buber and Heschel started out from similar origins in Poland and Germany and came to be leading Jewish thinkers in Europe and Israel (Buber) and in America (Heschel). The authors use Buber and Heschel to present us with a portrait of modern Jewish thought with two dynamic poles, one — a kind of secular religiosity represented by Buber, and the other—a modern traditionalism represented by Heschel. What is truly fascinating however is that Even-Chen and Meir show that both thinkers ground their visions in the same texts: those of the Bible and Hasidism. However, out of these texts Buber and Heschel not only seek to craft new moral and theological visions of Judaism but also attempt to relate Judaism to Christianity and the larger modern world.
— Steven Kepnes, Finard Professor in Jewish Studies, Colgate University
Two passionate Israeli scholars, Alexander Even-Chen and Ephraim Meir, have marked a new stage of intellectual and spiritual history in their ground-breaking comparative study of Martin Buber and Abraham Joshua Heschel, two giants of Jewish thought, spirituality, scholarship, and moral activism of the twentieth century. Heschel and Buber knew each other well, even as they developed competing interpretations of revelation, Hasidism, and the Hebrew prophets. The authors also provide the valuable background of Rosenzweig, Levinas, and Christian thinkers. Jews and non-Jews alike will appreciate this lucid introduction and study in depth, highlighting issues of continuing concern and controversy, humanism and theology, religious law and the living God, the Bible, Christianity, Zionism and the State of Israel.
— Edward K. Kaplan, Brandeis University, Biographer of Abraham Joshua Heschel
This comparative study of Heschel and Buber is a pioneering work on two of the most creative and influential Jewish thinkers of the Twentieth Century. Alexander Even-Chen and Ephraim Meir have given us a well documented account of these pivotal thinkers who continue to hold a profound place in the intellectual and spiritual conversations of our time. It is a marvelous achievement.
— Harold Kasimow George Drake Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies Grinnell College


Table of Contents


Chapter I
Aieka: Between Man and Man
Chapter II
The Approach to God
Chapter III
The Bible and Its Interpretation
Chapter IV
On the Commandments
Chapter V
Different Views on Hasidism
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
On Jesus and Christianity