April 12, 2013

Bibliotherapy: The Power of Books to Heal


I believe in bibliotherapy, the power of books to open and heal hearts, minds, and even souls. Some books are better at this than others, and over the course of time I hope to share some of these with you in a new lunch-and-learn program I’m offering at St. Mary’s Sewanee.

Our first gathering is on Wednesday, April 24, and our book will The Way of Man According to the Teachings of Hasidism, a slim volume of story and commentary by Martin Buber.

When people hear the name “Martin Buber” they often expect something quite difficult to read and understand, and many of his books fall into that category, but not this one. The Way of Man is only 42 pages, and focuses on five very short stories drawn from Hasidism, the Jewish mystical movement founded in the 18th century.

This is not a book about Hasidism or Judaism, and no prior knowledge of either is necessary. This is a book about life and human nature, and how to realize our potential as human beings without regard to religious affiliation. Buber himself was a religious humanist who saw in the teachings of Hasidism insights into the universal plight of humankind.

“There is something,” Buber writes in the Way of Man, “that can only be found in one place. It is a great treasure, which may be called the fulfillment of existence. The place where this treasure can be found is the place on which one stands.” The Way of Man challenges us to take our place, and in so doing to engage life from our own uniqueness.

I have read and reread this book for decades, and it never fails to speak to me. I hope to share it with you in a manner that will have you feeling the same.

(Editor’s note:  please join Rabbi Shapiro at St. Mary’s Sewanee on April 24 from 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Cost is $45 which includes lunch.)