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Poster Commentary
"All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware."Martin Buber
Poster design:Yarom Vardimon


by Daniel Gordis

Martin Buber (1878–1965) was an Austrian-born Jewish philosopher who was raised as a traditional Jew but who left that world for the secular academy of Europe. As the Nazis came to power, he was increasingly forbidden from teaching, and in 1938, he moved to Jerusalem, where he lived until his death. He is best known for his philosophic work I and Thou, but was also a noted biblical scholar.

Thus, we are probably best off understanding Buber’s enigmatic claim about journeys with unknown destinations in the light of the Bible’s focus on the very same theme. When God first reaches out to Abram, the first Jew, God’s command is that Abram leave his homeland, his birthplace and the land of his fathers and embark upon a journey (Genesis 12). It’s noteworthy, this first encounter–the first thing that God says to the first Jew is that he cannot stay where he is. Life, Judaism teaches us at every turn, is a journey—we are always on the move, leaving something and headed toward something else.

But while God is explicit about the place that Abram must depart, God says nothing about the destination. All Abram is told is that he should head “to the land that I will show you.” God says nothing about Canaan, or the Jordan River plains of the Mediterranean shore. The belief demanded of Abram is extraordinary: he must leave everything he knows, and he must do so not knowing where he is headed.

This Jewish focus on the journey more than the destination is evident even in the way that Jews read the Torah each year. We begin with Genesis and continue through Deuteronomy, culminating with the Israelites on the eastern shore of the Jordan River. And then, just as the Israelites are about to cross the river and enter into the Promised Land, we stop, return to the beginning of the Torah and start over again. In this cycle, we, like Abram, are always on our way. But we never actually arrive.

Martin Buber, a profoundly sensitive and deeply religious soul, understood well what religion at its best can be. It is about more than fulfilling commandments, more than seeking theological truth. The truly religious life is about not knowing; it is about searching, wondering and about making ourselves as open and as vulnerable as we can be, so that we might discover truths, commands, loves and meanings of which—at least now—we are hardly even aware.

Conversation Guide


The commentary to Martin Buber’s teaching reads Buber as echoing the story of Abraham and his journey to the land of Israel, reminding us that at every turn, life is a journey. The commentator compares this with the cycle that leads Jews on an annual journey through the Torah, only to begin anew each year. We are challenged by Buber to constantly strive for growth.

What kinds of journeys are there in life? What could be “secret destinations” of a journey? For what reasons could the traveler be “unaware” of them?

Think about your own life. Was there a journey you didn’t realize you were on until you reached your “destination”? How was your journey a life-changing experience?

What process do you use, or could you use, to glean the most out of life’s journeys?



Each image calls out to us to examine it, to note our thoughts and feelings, and relate these impressions to the quotation. Often clues in the artwork suggest meaning and invite interpretation.

Israeli designer Yarom Vardimon depicts Buber’s quotation by using simple shapes and colors.  

How does the image present the quotation? Was this how you interpreted the quotation without the image?

Do you see any significance to the colors, lines, and background? How do they convey the concepts of “journey” and “traveler”?

What might be the artist’s intent in the layout of the quotation? In the black and white letters?

What emotions does this image evoke in you?


Copyright© 2012 Harold Grinspoon Foundation

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Masters Series©2012, Yarom Vardimon, Quote: Martin Buber,

Harold Grinspoon Foundation, West Springfield, MA