A word on tradition

We honor the law, the armor of our peoplehood that was forged by venerable forces. We salute the men who, unmediatedly certain that God put it, just as it is, on the people with His own hand, ride with us into the field unimpeded by the weight of the armor. But we commiserate with those who wear it without this certainty, with the men whose limbs it makes so rigid and so stiff that they cannot go forth to perform their work, for the venerable armor hangs on their bodies like a costume in a historical parade. But we shall resist those who, invoking the authority of the already existing law, want to keep us from receiving new weapons from the hands of the living God. For we can tolerate nothing that comes between us and the realization of God.

Martin Buber, “The Holy Way,” in *On Judaism*, edited by Nahum N. Glatzer, translated by Eva Jospe, Schocken Books, 1967 (1918), 138.

red line embellished

Image: “Leslie and Rachel Detained” [cropped], 15 November 2012, מיכל פטל, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons [see Women of the Wall]

6 responses to “A word on tradition”

    • The essay “The Holy Way” is the context; Buber is writing (actually, I think, speaking) in 1918 about the revitalization of Judaism. His point about the living God, though, I think transcends his particular context.


      • Oh, yes … the Women of the Wall movement just seemed like one good example from today of the kind of thing Buber is talking about. From one angle it looks like breaking the law, (so, “invoking the authority of the already existing law”), but from another angle it looks like renewal. “New weapons from the hands of the living God.”


      • In 2012, it was against the law for women to pray at the western wall wearing prayer shawls, as these women are doing. Prayer shawls are for men only, according to the rabbinate. At least at that time. Idk how much has changed since that time. I added a link to the organization’s website to the caption, btw, in case you’re interested. The picture came from Wikipedia, though, which has an article on the movement.

        The prohibition reflects, I think, exactly the kind of thinking Buber is addressing in the essay. Back in 1918. But the main point seems to me to be a more general one.


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