Page 17 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 11 (1952-1952)

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CO H E N ----GREAT JEWI SH BOOKS AND CIVILIZATION 11
to behave like a machine and treats every other being, animate
or inanimate, as a mere object . . . rather than as a subject or
person.”
M artin Buber’s great contribution through his writings — and
they stem from the Bible, embody the supremacy of reason of
Maimonides, lead through Hasidism, and reckon with modern
thought — is his rebellion against the machine-system, asserting
the sacredness of the individual soul in whom is reflected God’s
glory.
Dr. Buber would not be permitted nor his books be permitted
in Soviet Russia, where they are more alerted to the danger of
books than we are. We in America still permit such books to be
published. For the most part they are kept in German so th a t the
masses may not get the books and the people cannot read them,
bu t there will be persons who will delve into Dr. Buber’s book and
the time may come when this lonely thinker, who already has
influenced Christian theology and whose name appears in index
after index of theological books as the authority and the source
for a new insight, an insight th a t man is hungry for, in the midst
of this increasingly impersonal, mechanized and dehumanized
world, will be more recognized.
To sum it all up: Books are centers of dangerous power. Great
books are the eternal enemies of prevailing civilizations. We of
the Jewish Book Council of America, who are dedicated to books,
if we do our work well, must know tha t we are given to dangerous
living and to dangerous lives. The book, the Jewish book, is still
the most vital influence th a t we can give to human civilization.
Whether it was the Bible in the ancient world, or whether i t was
The Guide for the Perplexed by Maimonides in the Middle Ages,
or whether it be the mystical books th a t are written by Buber and
his followers today, the Jewish book is no friend of any civilization
th a t would deny the human spirit.
Great books are the carriers of the human spirit. The old and
worn Midrash, th a t when Israel stood a t the foot of M t. Sinai, a
hand appeared to descend from the darkened clouds of the heavens
and in th a t great hand rested a book and a sword, is eternally
true. The book and the sword were bound together, and God’s
voice was heard speaking, and the voice said: *‘Choose! choose!”
Every generation and every civilization must choose between
the book and the sword. The book is still the most dangerous
weapon th a t man has created with which to defeat the sword in
human affairs.