Page 18 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 3

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in Venice and I did not have even so much as a single leaf either from the original
or from the printed work as a remembrance. So I was forced to begin all over
again and to write it from memory from the very commencement. After I had writ-
ten three chapters anew, I found one single copy of the printed work in the hands
of a non-Jew who had snatched it from the blaze, and I purchased it at a very high
price; and I found that by the providence of God I had made the second copy
more complete than the first.
A work which represents so vast a sum of human suffering, over
which a man labored and wept and yet, undaunted, labored again,
surely acquires a sanctity of its own. The literature that was the
object of these persecutions must be sacred for all time among
the descendants of those who fought to produce it, and had to
fight again to save it. That to-day it can be treated with neglect
or contempt passes human understanding.
Quaint Illustrations of Book-Lore
The Jewish love of books is demonstrated time after time in
the old literature. In the most unexpected sources, one finds quaint
illustrations of book-lore, sometimes curiously in advance of their
age. I t is worth while to assemble a few instances. Let us begin
with a charming instance from Hai Gaon. In his “Musar ha-
Sekhel,” a rhymed ethical treatise consisting of counsel for guid-
ance in life (“Advice to a Young Man,” we would call it to-day),
we find (§§32-3) the following characteristic admonition:
If children thou shouldst bear at length
Reprove them, but with tender thought.
Purchase them books with all thy strength,
And by skilled teachers have them taught.
Or again (Ibid, §128):
To three possessions thou shouldst look:
Acquire a field, a friend, a book.
A similar attitude of mind is reflected in that typical, but in
some ways unenlightened, book of godly anecdotes, the “ Book
of the Pious,” composed in the twelfth century by Judah, the
Saint of Regensburg. We are given much advice about the proper
use of books, some of which throws interesting light on contempo-
rary social habits — as, for example, when we are informed (§656)
that a man should not kneel on a recalcitrant folio in order to
fasten its clasp, or (§649) that pens or note-tablets should not be
used as bookmarks, or (§662) that a book should not be used as
a missile, a shield, or an instrument of chastisement. “ If a man
has two sons, one of whom is averse to lending his books while
the other does so willingly, he should have no hesitation in leaving
all his library to the second son, even though he be the younger,’ ’
runs one recommendation (§875). A gruesome anecdote (§647)
recounts how in time of persecution the body of a certain pious
man was dug up from his grave and stripped of its shroud and
treated with brutal indignity. No one could understand why a
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