Page 22 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 14

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weary you before you get to the real point. The second part,
where Josephus, instead of quoting other people, speaks in his
own name and on things for which he cares deeply and intimately,
is not only readable; it is genuinely alive and fine; and that, I
suppose, is a principal reason for our scholars to ignore it.
Another reason may be that it is an attempt to set out the
meaning of the great themes of Judaism in plain terms. Josephus is
not a theologian, but he has observed the basic fact that Judaism is
primarily a theology in the strict sense of the word, that is, a
doctrine of God. This doctrine of God leads to a doctrine of man;
and Josephus describes in some detail the main features of the way
of life which the Jewish doctrine of God involves. In particular he
explains, and follows out in its practical consequences, the root
idea of regulation and law.
I mention this because it seems to me that one of the main
(and many) deficiencies in modern Jewish life is an appreciation
of the necessity of giving positive, though not necessarily dogmatic,
information on these and similar themes. We seem to be concerned
to spread knowledge about everything except the nature and
doctrine of Judaism.
And that leads me to some wider points which I feel it essential
to touch upon. The first is the general question why we should
worry about books at all; and on that I shall have some reasonably
conventional remarks to make although I may have to give them
an irritating application. Another, which I propose to take first,
is a little more elementary and obvious, although necessary. You
may take it as the effete moralizing of a former pedagogue, or the
death-bed growlings of a dying Tory, or the last fling of an Enemy
of the People. But addressing myself in particular to the younger
and more important elements in this audience, may I say that in
matters of books, or if you like, literature and particularly great
literature, or, in general, things of the mind, nothing can be
achieved without personal effort. And by personal effort I mean
something more than the turning of a knob. Unless you’re prepared
to give your time and your brain and your will, all talk about
books is empty. I ’m afraid of using the word Study. But I looked
up my old Latin dictionary the other day and found that the word
from which Study is derived means application, assiduity,
zeal, eagerness, fondness, inclination, desire, exertion. Well, I can
only tell you that without application, assiduity, zeal, eagerness,
fondness, inclination, desire, exertion, you won’t get anywhere
with books. Reading a book isn’t just flipping over pages. And
reading once only isn’t reading. There’s a great deal to be said