Page 13 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 22

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S
t e in b a c h
— H
eartbeats
o f
B
ooks
7
tage; bridges extending in time from mind to mind; lamps to
diffuse illumination for the gropings of future travelers. The
analogy may seem somewhat indelicate, but this strange foresight
purposing to link present with future thinking brings to mind
certain types of insects that collect food before dying and store
it away for the unborn they will never see.
This desire to link the present with the future was more
than a temporal phenomenon. I t involved also spatial considera­
tions as well as language. For example, while Hebrew was the
dominant conduit through which the Jew poured his sagas of
joy and suffering, his hopes and his doubts, his realizations and
his disappointments, other languages also became vehicles to
transport the fruits of Jewish thinking. To illustrate, the Pass-
over Haggadah has been translated into over twenty languages.
Jewish literature is not couched in a monolithic language.
Philo wrote his expositions and philosophical treatises in
Alexandria, Egypt, in the Greek tongue. Josephus’ works were
penned in Rome, also in Greek. Solomon ibn Gabirol wrote
his principal philosophical work
Mekor Hayim
in Arabic, in
Spain. A monk translated it into Latin under the title
Fons
Vitae,
and for a while it exercised a considerable influence
upon early scholasticism. Maimonides wrote his
More Nebuhim
in Cairo, in Arabic.
Judah Halevi’s
Kusari
was written in Arabic, in Spain.
Manasseh ben Israel, attempting to harmonize contradictions
in the Bible and the Talmud, wrote his
El Concillador
in
Spanish, in Amsterdam. Moses Mendelssohn’s
Phaedon
was
penned in Germany, in classical German. Glueckel von Hameln’s
Memoirs
appeared in Hanover, Germany, in the Judeo-German
of the time “interspersed with Hebrew and with many Latinisms
and Gallicisms.” Israel Zangwill wrote his
Voice of Jerusalem
and his novels in London, in English. Bialik’s Hebrew poems
were written in Odessa, Russia. H. Leivick wrote his collected
poems “I Was Not in Treblinka” in New York City, in Yiddish.
Edmund Fleg employed French for his poems like
Ecoute
and
Israel,
his plays like
Le Juif du Pape,
and his novels like
L ’enfant Prophete.
In Canada we have the
Poems
by A. M.
Klein, and it is hardly necessary to enumerate the galaxy of
writers in Israel using the medium of Hebrew.
The Jewish literary map is indeed expansive—in time, in
space, and in language.
Works Tha t Do No t Die
Heinrich Heine wrote wistfully, “A book, like a child, needs
time to be born.” But unlike a child, a book need not necessarily
anticipate inexorable oblivion. This year marks the 400th an­