Page 9 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 32

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A. ALAN STEIN BACH
Introduction
i
F
rom
its
ea r l ie st
g ene s is
,
a people embarks upon a two-fold
career of ultimate consummations: it must evolve a viable, en­
during history and it must create an authentic indigenous cul­
ture. These two factors, indissolubly interrelated and interde­
pendent, coalesce to mold the pattern and the goals of its civil­
ization, its peoplehood.
Beginning with ancient times, both history and culture pre­
sent a paradox for the Jew. While weaving his own tapestry of
history, he himself became a filament of history in a world out­
side himself; the Bible created by his cultural genius became in­
extricably intertwined with the cultural life of civilized peoples.
T he first volume he created, the Bible, not only undergirds Jew­
ish religion; it provided the scaffolding for the New Testament
and for Christianity. Indeed, the Jew has attained a unique
place in the realm of culture. Humanity worships and prays to
his God, sings his Psalms, venerates his prophets, and espouses
the ethical concepts of his moralists.
All this would not have been possible were it not for a felici­
tous turn in Jewish history—the triumph of the Maccabees more
than twenty-one centuries ago. Had the Syrian Antiochus IV
prevailed, Judaism would have been obliterated, and there would
not have been Christianity. Subsequently, had the Jew not suc­
ceeded in maintaining his cultural identity in the next 1,000
years, the Golden Age in Spain would never have dawned, with
the chilling corollary tha t both the Moorish and the Christian
civilizations would have been denied the contributions of the
Jewish poets and philosophers, scientists and commentators.
Coming closer to modern times, it cannot be denied that, if
the Jewish cultural identity had not survived, human knowl­
edge since the French Revolution would have been considerably
impoverished. T he German poet Friedrich Schiller had pro­
claimed, “Willst Du den Dichter recht verstehn, Must Du in des