Page 14 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 20

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J
e w i s h
B
o o k
A
n n u a l
8
in the wilderness of Horeb—No Man’s Land? They answered:
In order that no one could say, “I t belongs to me.” Another
midrash
declares that the Voice at Sinai split into seventy dif-
ferent languages so that it would address every nation in its own
vernacular. Still another suggests that the Voice traveled through-
out the universe—south and north, east and west.
This postulate of universality is a logical implementation of
God’s promise to Abraham, “In thee shall all the families of the
earth be blessed.” Such insistence that the Bible is Everyman’s
Book and belongs to every age, has set it apart as the spiritual
compass directing man’s tortuous, agonizing trek over the prom-
ontories of the gaping centuries. Goethe was correct when he
wrote, “The Jewish Bible is not the book of one people, but the
book of all peoples.” Its substance and purport are the scaffolding
for the higher divine law which controlled and guided the
upward history of man.
The Book: Human and Divine
With very rare exceptions, the books men write have their day
and grow obsolete. The Bible is the most memorable exception.
Long and vociferously (sometimes acrimoniously) men have
debated if it is
Torah min Ha-Shamayim
—the direct utterance
of Deity. Such a debate is academic, indeed puerile. Whether
or not the Bible is literally the Word of God in the old sense,
it is indisputably divine teaching in its espousal of the lofty
conceptions of truth, goodness, holiness and righteousness as
ultimate sanctions of divineness in the human spirit. Even if
one denies that the authority of the moral law lies in its supposed
provenience from God, one cannot question the validity of the
divineness of the good and the goodness of the divine. Thus
interpreted, the Bible is the most human book; the Bible is also
the most divine book.
This broader concept of divineness sustained man’s quin-
tessential faith in the Bible as the work representing a human-
divine symbiosis, a sublime partnership between man and his
Maker. Such a faith helps us to understand Chief Justice Jay’s
reply, when asked on his deathbed if he had a farewell address
to leave to his children, “They have the Bible.” He knew what
countless millions had learned before him: one who kindles
his spiritual taper at this altar draws nearer to the presence
of God.
II
One can readily understand why this powerfully stirring book
has excited more attention and commanded more study and