Page 52 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 2

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finely developed techniques of 20th century science, plus the
additional methods devised by the new Nazi
modern Goliath rashly and discriminatingly seeks to the destroy
the national records of the conquered. He realizes that the cultural
treasures of a people’s spirit are the surest guarantee of their will
to live. Destroy the spirit and your conquest is assured.
Let us then again revert to Israel’s tradition and history, before
discussing at greater length the evil work of the destroyers and
calumniators of Israel’s record. Moses, according to Jewish legend,
was not only a great lawgiver, he was also a great scribe and skilled
in the art of preserving books; so E. A. Back, an entomologist,
informs us. In the
Assumption of Moses,
the work of a Pharisaic
quietist, we read:
And receive thou this writing that thou mayest know how to preserve the
books which I shall deliver unto thee; and thou shalt set these in order and
anoint them with oil of cedar and put them away in earthen vessels in the
place which He made from the beginning of the creation of the world, that
His name should be called upon until the day of repentance in the visitation
wherewith the Lord will visit them in the consummation of the end of days.
Order, or accessibility, and preservation are the ideals of every
librarian. On the other hand, those who have sought to destroy
Israel have also aimed to destroy Israel’s books and to prohibit
the perusing or studying of them. A fact which is generally over-
looked, and which incidentally refers to one of the earliest records
of book-burning, is that of the incendiarism of Antiochus Epi-
phanes during the Maccabean struggle. For we read in the first
book of the Maccabees:
And they made Israel to hide themselves in every place of
refuge which they had . . . .
And they rent in pieces the books of the law which they found,
and set them on fire. [1:41-64],
This struggle for the survival of Israel and for the preservation
of Israel’s memory has continued down to our day through many
vicissitudes. The successive incidents in the struggle have differed
only in this, that the field of battle has broadened until it now en-
compasses the whole world of letters. Before the war, we indicated
in the pages of the
Menorah Journal
, [in our essay, “History Into
Propaganda :HowNazi‘Scholars’ Are Re-Writing Jewish History” ,]
that the burning of the Talmud at the beginning of the sixteenth
century was not merely a Jewish matter. “ I t became a struggle
over the freedom of thought and the survival and continuance of
humanism.” I t is even more than that today. I t is now not only
a question of the preservation of man, but of the immortality of
man’s spirit as well, to put it in the words of John Milton, par-
ticularly when we have seen priceless, unpublished and irreplace-
able manuscripts and books go up in smoke.
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