Page 16 - 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
10
contemplation than any other in man’s history. I t is the heart’s
unfailing chart; the inner eye enabling finite man to glimpse the
infinite. I t is a mine so inexhaustible that the more one pores
over it the more abundant is the precious ore it yields. I t
exercises a mystical pull that prompts unceasing human effort to
unlock its riches and to fathom its deepest meanings.
I should like to hold before you three types of ore I have
found in this mine of incalculable wealth. I shall discuss briefly
three aspects of the Bible that demonstrate its grandeur as the
principium et fons
of human aspiration. These will be subsumed
under the headings: (1) The Humanism of the Bible; (2)
Dialogue and Dialectic in the Bible; (3) Glory in Failure.
Humanism of the Bible
The cryptic rabbinic metaphor, “The Torah speaks in the
idiom of man,” is more significant than appears on the surface.
I t intimates that, although the overall configuration of the Bible
is theocentric, its anthropocentric architecture is paramount. The
human element is never relegated to a secondary status.
An interesting illustration of this emphasis appears in chapter
18 of the Book of Genesis. Let the Torah speak for itself. “And
the Lord appeared unto him (Abraham) by the terebinths of
Mamre, as he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; and
he lifted up his eyes and looked, and lo, three men stood over
against him; and when he saw them he ran to meet them from
the tent door, and bowed down to the ground.”
So simple and unobtrusive is this seeming prosaic narrative
that the human value it adumbrates may be overlooked. What
was Abraham doing at his tent door? He was engaged in a
conversation with God. Now what can be more important than
holding communion with one’s Creator? The answer is given
here in Genesis. Undeniably, the quest for the divine is an
inescapable mandate binding upon every individual. But the
Bible hints at an even higher obligation, namely, the search
for one’s brother-man. Abraham, without so much as asking God’s
forbearance, breaks off his conversation and runs to meet the
three strangers. God interposes no protest, utters no rebuke. The
human equation becomes quite clear in the context of this
episode. More important than folding one’s hands in a colloquy
with the Almighty is the opening of hands and heart to serve
a fellowman. Abraham keeps God waiting while dispensing
hospitality to three weary travelers. There is apparently no
irreverence here. Human good deeds, no less than divine revela־
tion, are plenipotentiaries of Deity.