Page 17 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 4

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“The Holy One Blessed Be He looked into the Torah and
created the Universe.” “In the beginning was the Word and the
Word was made Flesh,” is the affirmation of the Apostles of the
new faith who in the beginning were Jews.
The Universe was not only created by the Book, but also for
the Book. Spirit, vision are concepts of supreme import. They
constitute the heart of the Cosmos. If ideas and ideals, values
and visions were to be extirpated then nature would be incon-
ceivable or sink into a state of disorder which would make its
existence impossible. The Universe would be like a chart of an
optometrist with lines of letters of various sizes, but which are
totally devoid of meaning.
Do you know how an eminent philosopher countered the
skeptic’s contention that everything — even man’s objective
reality — is an illusion, a phantasmagoria? “Cogito ergo sum” —
“ I think therefore I am,” was his answer. The presence, per-
sistence and profoundness of thought is the surest index of reality.
This is a truth which moderns must relearn. For we have been
accustomed to deem a man alive who pampers his appetites and
indulges in all emotional craving, even though he utterly neglects
to develop the mental powers with which nature has endowed
Now one may say, “Why make such a fuss about books? You
don’t see people languishing and dying when they are deprived
of books. Has it not been said that, ‘Of making many books
there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh?’ and
is there not a maxim that ‘ignorance is bliss’?”
Let us therefore examine the value and usefulness of books.
1 — Good books tend to make our minds keen and alert. One
can through reading and the study of books develop an ability to
see things as they are and distinguish between a mirage and
what is actual. To an inexperienced desert traveller the inability
to distinguish between the glint and sheen of an imaginary and an
actual oasis with its life-sustaining spring or streamlet may
prove to be a fatal error. The same is true of our appraisals of
social situations.
f 2 — Books do not merely sharpen the mind, they cultivate
one’s imagination. One may be in body in one land and yet in
spirit move in a distant country. One may live in the twentieth