Page 44 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 1

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ABRAHAM IBN E Z RA -W AND E R ING ENCYCLOPED IA
By
Solomon Grayzel
Ab raham ibn Ezra was bo rn eight h u n d r ed and fifty years ago;
bu t in the m ind of the Jewish people he has never died. Even
more than his older con temporary and relative, Moses ibn Ezra,
Ab raham has lived on in Jewish memory as one who made a
un ique con t r ibu t ion to the preservat ion of Jewish cul ture . I t is
fitting, therefore, tha t a volume devoted to the fu r the rance of
Jewish cu l tu re by means of the Jewish book shou ld recall
Ab raham ibn Ezra on an im po r tan t anniversary of his b i r th , no t
only because of the numerous books which he wrote, b u t also
because of the significant role which he played in the spread and
in teg ra t ion of the Jewish heritage.
T h i s lat ter aspect of Ab raham ibn Ezra’s life is pa r t icu la r ly
interesting. In Israel, since its dispersion, m ind has he ld the
place of terr i tory and the peop le ’s cu l tu re has const i tuted
literally its common wealth. T h e story of how sp i r i tua l un i ty
was ma in ta ined among the scattered fractions of the people is
the essential element of the inne r history of the Jews. I t was for
the Jews wha t the ma in tenance of te r r i to r ia l integr i ty was for
the nat ions of the world. I t follows tha t anyone who he lped br ing
abou t cu l tu ra l un i ty among the Jews is as truly a popu la r hero
as are the statesmen of ter r i tor ia l groups who won over cen-
tr ifugal forces of a more tangible kind. In to this category
Ab raham ibn Ezra fits and for this reason he deserves to be
remembered, par t icu lar ly at a time when the cu l tu ra l common-
weal th of the Jewish people needs s t reng then ing as rarely before.
In the 12tl1 century, Spain, the home land of Ab raham ibn
Ezra, was fa r the r away from Eng land or even Italy than i t is
from America now. T h e men ta l distance was equal ly great.
Fewer in numbe r , more widely scattered, less fo r tuna te in the i r
env i ronmen t , the Jews of Chr is t ian Eu rope had jus t begun to
develop cu l tu ra l interests while Spa in ’s Jews were already at the
height of the i r Golden Age. T h e r e was dange r in such a situa-
tion, a doub le danger , tha t the Jews outside of Spain m igh t fail
to profit from the sp i r i tua l greatness of the more fo r tuna te com-
mun i ty before this good fo r tune was destroyed by the decay of
the Mohammedans and the conquest by the Christians. A cul-
tura l t ransm i t te r was needed. At this po in t and u n d e r such
circumstances Ab raham ibn Ezra played his memo rab le role,
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