Tales of the Hasidim
By Martin Buber
Schocken Books, 1991, 353 pages
Reviewed by Israel Drazin - June 22, 2010
Chassidic tales – the stories of Chassidic rabbis – is the subject of scholarly study. Papers, books, and dissertations are written on the subject. Scholars identify all kinds of issues and debate them with fervor.
Why, they ask, were these stories told and why were they written down? Does the story teller's intent for the tales of the early days of the Chassidic movement differ with the intent of those that were written later? Are there stages of development in intent, in style, in how the rabbi is perceived? Do some tales, such as those of Nachman of Braslav, stand outside of any characterization of any other group of stories? How does mysticism play in these stories?
Martin Buber (1878-1965), who gathered and published this collection, was a brilliant scholar, philosopher, Bible translator, the author of the famous "I Thou" philosophy. He was the first and arguably the best of the people who collected the Chassidic stories.
Buber began to publish Chassidic tales as early as 1906. The stories in this edition were published in English for the first time in 1947. The book is a classic. It is a book of very well told tales that any scholar concerned about the history of Chassidic stories must deal with. And, what is more, much more, the book offers its readers truly pleasing, easy to read, and instructive stories, small vignettes that will surprise and delight and entertain them, Jew and non-Jew, believer and non-believer.