Page 7 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 17 (1958-1959)

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I N T R OD U C T I ON
By
A
l e x a n d e r
A
la n
S
t e in b a c h
T
HE character in Shakespeare’s play who exclaimed, “My
library is dukedom large enough for me,” was paraphrasing
in somewhat altered form the charming sentiment expressed some
four centuries earlier by Judah Ibn Tibbon: “Let your book­
cases and shelves be your pleasure-grounds and orchards; bask
in their paradise, gather their fruit, pluck their roses, take their
spices.”
To the Jew books were not fortresses to be stormed but altars
to be approached with reverence. Printed volumes, throbbing
with the pulsebeat of learning and nostalgic with thoughts and
voices grown silent, are neighbors of the communities of books
preceding them and also of those that will follow. This un­
broken sequence shapes the architecture of time into the service
of wisdom. The past, far from being irretrievably buried, be­
comes a link in the chain of the present and a stepping-stone
to the unborn future. In this sense, there is more than verbal
jousting in the aphorism, “A book is the only immortality.”
We are privileged to bask in the erudition of a great host of
literary colossi who, like stars fallen to earth, continue to shine
out of the past like incandescent bulbs.
This volume of the
Jewish Book Annual,
like its sixteen
predecessors, retains the trilingual pattern of English, Hebrew
and Yiddish bibliography and author craftsmanship. It focuses
on the literary and cultural creativity that burgeons out of books
and their authors. I t is doubtful if many of our readers would
be willing to emulate the example of Erasmus who said, “When
I get a little money I buy books, and if any is left I buy food
and clothes.” But we of the Jewish Book Council believe a
large company will concur in our basic philosophy that in the
Jewish legacy books not only possess a vital potency, but also
provide profound insights to enrich our minds and to enhance
our spiritual stature. God’s pledge to Abraham (Gen. xii, 3)
was extended to books by Israel Zangwill in his
Dreamers of
the Ghetto.
He wrote, “The Jew’s books, like the Jew, should
be spread abroad so that in them all the nations of the earth
shall be blessed.”
The material for this
Annual
came from writers who vindi­
cated Kafka’s observation that “writing is a form of prayer.”
Their combined contributions delineate a heartening and grati­
fying curve of Jewish culture. Admittedly, these limited pages
provide only a few of the fruits that grow abundantly in the
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