Page 32 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 25

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J
e w i s h
B
o o k
A
n n u a l
12
Oral Tradition, save when a man’s studies have become so
onerous that he is fearful of forgetting them. In the case of
my teacher who never forgot a single item he had learned, the
sages’ interdiction did apply to him.” (Likkutim be־Sof Sefer
Keset ha-Sofer).
R
abbi
K
ook
s
P
arable
of
the
S
iddur
A group of us, including Hayyim Nahman Bialik, Eliezer
Meir Lifshitz, Rabbi Simhah Asaf and Reb Binyamin among
others, once gathered in the study of the eminent Rabbi Abra-
ham Isaac Kook (20th century), of blessed memory. We were
discussing the serious breaches of tradition by the current gen-
eration, and what could be done about it. One of those present
began to disparage the rabbis who over the centuries had insti-
tuted many innovations and fences which militated against the
Torah. Rabbi Kook virtually leaped from his chair, pained
and obviously irate; but as was his wont he immediately sub-
dued his anger and said calmly, “I recall something I once
heard.” It seems, he went on to relate, that a noted scholar
found himself at sundown in a small town where he was com-
pelled to spend the night in the home of one of the townspeople.
Desiring to study, he asked his host for a tractate of the Gemara,
but he had none. Perhaps he had a copy of the Mishnah? No.
An
Ain Yaakov
? No. How about a
siddur
? The villager brought
him at once an old tattered
siddur.
All night long the rabbi perused the commentaries in the
siddur,
and was fascinated by the many charming insights he
found there. The next morning he offered a good price for the
book, but the villager refused to sell it. “I ’ll give you in ex-
change a magificent, beautifully bound
siddur.”
But the villager
was adamant. When the rabbi asked him for an explanation
he replied, “Rabbi, upon arising in the morning I usually have
my glass of hot tea. Since I build the fire myself and want it to
start quickly, I use a piece of paper to ignite the kindling wood.
Paper being scarce in my house, I tear each day a page from my
siddur
with which to start the fire. I do the same whenever I
want to light my pipe—out comes a page from the book. I
am approaching seventy years and my
siddur
is still pretty
much intact. This is because, while ripping out the pages, I have
left the heart of the book untouched.”
W
h en
W
ill
the
M
essiah
C
om e
?
In the book
Ben Porat Yosef
by Rabbi Jacob Joseph of Pol-
noye, it is stated that when the Baal Shem Tov (18th century),
inquired of the Messiah when he was coming, he received the