Listen in a New Way

I’m in the midst of High Holiday preparations, and I want to share a passage I came across today. It’s from Walter Kaufmann’s 1970 introduction to Martin Buber’s I and Thou, which I’m reviewing for sermon material. I offer it as way to set our intention for the prayers and readings we’ll perform in the next few weeks.

Still why use religious terms? Indeed, it might be better not to use them because they are always misunderstood. But what other terms are there?

We need a new language, and new poets to create it, and new ears to listen to it.

Meanwhile, if we shut our ears to the old prophets who still speak more or less in the old tongues, using ancient words, occasionally in new ways, we shall have very little music.

We are not so rich that we can do without tradition. Let [one] who has new ears listen to it in a new way.

Walter Kaufmann, “I and You: A Prologue”

L’shanah tovah tikateivu. May we all be written for a good new year.


  1. I have heard that Walter Kaufman provided the definitive understanding of Martin Buber – no simple task. In this passage, I believe we are reminded that although tradition may not change, we do, and therefore, in our conversation with tradition we create meaning. You may wish to read the work of Hans Georg Gadamer (Truth and Method) on this subject. Sam, you are a joy to read. שנה טובה ופוריה

    Liked by 2 people

    • It was refreshing to go back to the text its into. Hope to return for closer study again soon. I’ve added the Gadamer book to my list—thanks for the recommendation. Wishing you a good new year, and hope to see you soon!


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