Page 11 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 32

Basic HTML Version

STE INBACH / INTRODUCT ION
3
during the past year in seven distinct trilingual bibliographies,
which compare favorably with an ou tpu t of more than 500 books
last year. They encompass: American Jewish Non-Fiction Books;
American Jewish Fiction Books; American Jewish Juvenile
Books; American Hebrew Books; Yiddish Books; Anglo-Jewish
Books, and Selected Books of Israel. Ever since his ancestor Job
uttered his
cri de profundis,
“O tha t my words were now written,
O tha t they were inscribed in a book!” the Jew has venerated
books, the word
sefer
has become significantly paramount in the
Hebrew vocabulary. Solomon Feffer has pointed out (
Jewish
Book Annual,
vol. 19) that some form of
sefer
occurs 182 times
in the Bible and that a long list of meanings have proliferated
from its root letters
samekh, pe} resh.
Indeed, in our cultural
world books are like meteors diffusing light across the firmament
of our long historical span.
For the Jew, books were an ineluctable instrumentality in his
struggle for survival. His “book consciousness” extends over the
longest continuous period in man’s chequered history. T o an
extent unparalleled in the tortuous trek of civilization, the
Jew has been a patron of literature, motivated by a spiritual
and intellectual influx tha t flowed through his being. The notion
tha t books are nutriment for the m ind and for the spirit goes
back some twenty-six centuries to the prophet Ezekiel. I t is adum­
brated in his cryptic metaphorical utterance (Ezek. 2:8-10, 3:1-2):
“And He said, ‘Thou, son of man, hear what I say un to thee . . .
open thy mouth and eat what I give thee.’ And when I looked,
behold, a hand was pu t forth unto me and lo, a roll of a book was
therein. And He said, ‘Eat this ro ll’ . . . so I opened my mouth
and He caused me to eat that roll.”
T he Jewish idyllic attitude to books is reflected in this fanciful
old Jewish whimsy: “Heaven is a vast library where the Jewish
pious may read undisturbed throughout Eternity. The shelves are
kept up to date; when they learn tha t a new book has been
written, the books already there make room for the newcomer.”
Like its thirty-one predecessors, volume 32 of the
Jewish Book
Annual
offers an interesting table of contents. Among the essays
are two tha t deal with Israeli poets: Dr. Jacob Kabakoff’s
memorial tribute to Abraham Shlonsky, one of the foremost poets
of this century, and Harold Fisch’s penetrating analysis of the
poetry of Shin Shalom, Israel’s prize winner in 1973. (We voice