The Shape of Revelation

Zachary Braiter­man
  • Review
By – December 12, 2011

Zachary Braiter­man believes that in the mod­ern world, the charis­ma of reli­gion and rev­e­la­tion depends upon aes­thet­ic judg­ment — How beau­ti­ful’ — and want­i­ng to share it with oth­ers.” In his new book he bril­liant­ly traces the par­al­lels between mod­ern Jew­ish reli­gious thought as epit­o­mized by Mar­tin Buber and Franz Rosen­zweig, and con­tem­po­ra­ne­ous trends in visu­al art as exem­pli­fied by Kandin­sky, Klee, and Franz Marc. 

Braiter­man makes the case that in art and the­ol­o­gy alike in the 1920’s, oth­er­word­ly meta­physics (Expres­sion­ism) gave way to a more mate­r­i­al depic­tion of real­i­ty (The New Objec­tiv­i­ty). In those terms Buber and Rosenzweig’s joint project of trans­lat­ing the Bible becomes an act of mak­ing rev­e­la­tion con­crete. Yet as Braiter­man explains, the trans­la­tors nev­er entire­ly aban­doned their expres­sion­ist, oth­er­world­ly sensibility. 

This book’s intel­lec­tu­al scope is wide enough to touch as well on Buber’s bina­tion­al Zion­ism, notions of rit­u­al space in Rosenzweig’s thought, lin­ear and cycli­cal ideas of time, and the con­tem­po­rary per­sis­tence of Ger­man mod­ernist ideas about Jew­ish ethics, com­mu­ni­ty, and uni­ver­sal­ism. The author is equal­ly per­cep­tive when he writes about aes­thet­ic mat­ters. In short, an impres­sive achievement. 

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