Page 103 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 16

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89
S
t e i n b a c h
— T
h em e s
for
W
r it ing
Jewish soul. On the contrary, he is known as the Jewish Aristotle,
without in the least derogating his Jewish genius. A culture runs
the hazard of becoming arid and desiccated if it ignores or rejects
intellectual enlightenment that exists beyond its own boundary
lines. Such a static attitude toward the potentialities of the mind
and of the spirit must necessarily lead to cultural chauvinism.
When the mind is tethered to a frozen pattern, it is a songless
skylark doomed to a barnyard existence. Culture must liberate,
not hem in; it must break shackles that narrow the mind.
The Jewish mind, almost from the moment it burst out of its
tribal chrysalis, embraced a cosmic and planetary, rather than a
local and parochial point of view. “In the beginning God created
the heaven and the earth.” This opening verse in Genesis is a
forerunner of the global outlook which the theo-centrically dis-
posed mind of the Jew avouched. Four chapters later in Genesis
this global outlook is no longer an abstraction; it is a clear inti-
mation of the broad base upon which the superstructure of
human history must be built. “This is the book of the genera-
tions of man.” The Midrash offers a global interpretation of this
verse: “When the Holy One, blessed be He, created Adam, He
created him extending over the whole world.” Adam is not an
individual, but all men—humanity. In chapter twelve, Abraham
learns what is to be the destiny of the Jew: “And in thee shall all
the families of the earth be blessed.”
To a mentality which for thousands of years has been con-
cerned with cosmogony and with the genealogy of the whole
human race, and which saw itself as a spiritual courier to all the
peoples of the earth, a provincial view of life and of humanity
must degenerate into a debilitating bondage. Modern Jewish
writers must resist and avoid the encroachment of such a servi-
tude. Like the literary prophets who appealed first to their own
people and then to the wider audience of mankind, the Jewish
writer, too, must create not only for his own but also for the
larger group. His themes should originate in the Jewish psyche
and reveal with fidelity the contents of the Jewish mind. But
they must be developed with sufficient depth and breadth to
transcend their circumscribed Jewish orbit. Not only history, but
the universalizing tone and tendency of Jewish culture, obligate
the Jewish writer to further this tendency.