Page 11 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 20

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T H E B I B L E — E T E R N A L B O O K *
A . A
S t e i n b a c h
HE English poet Shelley wrote in the Preface to his lyrical
“We are all Greeks; our laws, our literature,
our religion, our arts have their roots in Greece.” More than a
century later Pope Pius XI, addressing a delegation of Belgian
pilgrims in 1938, referred to Abraham as “our patriarch” and
admonished the pilgrims that “spiritually we are Semites.”
Both allusions were reminders not to forget the source, the
matrix from which we spring. They point up Isaiah’s exhortation,
“Look to the rock whence ye were hewn and to the hole of the
pit whence ye were digged. Look unto Abraham your father,
and unto Sara that bore you.”
I t is universally conceded that for moral and spiritual truths,
for sublimity of ethical precepts, for the ecstasy and profundity
of its religious affirmations, for its majestic sweep of the heights
and depths of human nature, and for its conspicuous role as
great literature, the Hebrew Bible is the primer and textbook
of humanity. Its moral maxims have marched like spiritual
battalions across the map of history. In the whole compass of
world literature there is no comparable book which looks with
such profound compassion upon every phase of human life, which
echoes such exquisite strains of poetry, which teaches man not
only the best way to live, but also how to suffer nobly, and
even how to die. The Book of Job is a notable example. I t is
such sublime literature that the English poet Swinburne is said
to have memorized it completely. No wonder many regard it as
an invaluable training manual for life's vicissitudes and vagaries!
The Bible Theme
There is a cogent reason for selecting the Bible as the theme
for our forthcoming nineteenth annual nation-wide observance
of Jewish Book Month next November 16 through December 16.
* Address delivered at Annual Meeting of the Jewish Book Council of
America, May 15, 1962.