Page 16 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 35

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
biography o f the late Dr. Solomon Simon, a first-class pedagogue
and fine Bible scholar, who was for many years a practicing
dentist in Brooklyn and wrote chiefly in Yiddish. In volume I,
which the Jewish Publication Society published in 1956 from
the Yiddish original as My Jewish Roots, on p. 39, the author
describes an Erev Shabbat scene:
. . . on Fridays, Mother would stand before the m irro r fix­
ing her hair for the Sabbath, but . . . before removing her
kerchief she would ask Simcha, the older son, to draw the
curtain over the bookshelves. This was Simcha’s assignment
and, i f he happened to be playing outside at the time, he
would be called in. Simcha used to object and protested
against climbing to the shelves twice, first to shut the cur­
tain and then to open it again after Mother finished fixing
her hair. Mother would chide him: “W hy do you argue,
Simcha? You know that I can’t stand with bare head before
the holy books.” The argument would be renewed after
she had finished, and sometimes it required a slap to add
conviction to her argument. “Do you think that we can
leave books covered? This is a Jewish home and the books
must be seen.”
Sacred words, holy books, sacred covers—the word “sacred,
holy, qadosh” is the key to the kind of Jewish societal institu­
tions for which we have been convoked and which we are dedi­
cating today: a Jewish repository for books in conjunction with
a rabbinical school. Let us take a look, even i f it must be bu t a
brief glance, at this phenomenon historically.
IN THE ANCIENT WORLD
It is now generally recognized that the first system o f writing
was developed after about 3500 B.C.E. in Mesopotamia, prob­
ably by the Sumerians, to meet the administrative and economic
needs of their temples, for the temples were the center o f the
community’s activities. The numerous priests in charge o f the
deities, and of the services and ceremonies that were performed
in their behalf, developed schools and libraries where apprentice
priests were trained for their duties, in part by having to copy
old and current religious texts; at the same time, the temple