Page 18 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 4

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century but through books transport himself to bygone periods
and eras.
3 — The habitual reading of books, regardless of their content,
trains the mind to be attentive and withstand distractions. I t
helps to enable the reader to concentrate, without which our
characters would be undisciplined and life’s problems could never
be successfully faced.
4 — Books also help us to interpret events and place things
in a setting which clarifies and illumines the whole. The pebble
is not merely a discrete piece of stone attractive because of its
shape and color. I t is perceived as a part of a grand mosaic. Books
therefore, tend to make the reader creative. For he is taught
to coordinate and evaluate experiences. The reader becomes
an amplifier as well as a purveyor of knowledge. The reader
does not merely partake of the artist’s insight. He deepens it
and to that extent he, too, is an agent of revelation.
5 — Books, in a sense, may be said to bestow upon the reader
as well as the author a form of immortality — not the immortality
which expresses itself in the egotistical desire for self-perpetua-
tion. The immortality which books give to reader and writer
is one which comes from the imperishability of one’s influence —
an influence which leaves an ineradicable impress upon the
minds of one’s fellowmen, and therefore upon the very Universe
This is also true in another sense. Great ideas are indestruct-
ible. They defy time and space. They are eternal as well as
transcendent. To the extent that we identify ourselves with them
and become possessed by them we share their fate and future.
Milton sensed the true essence of books when he wrote, “Books
are not absolutely dead things but do contain a progeny of life
in them to be as active as that soul was whose progeny they are;
nay, they do preserve as in a vial the purest efficacy and extrac-
tion of that living intellect that bred them.”
Jewish Tradition, more than that of any other folk, reflects
this noble estimate of the value and significance of books. When
an ark containing The Book is placed in a room, humble as it
may be, that room becomes a shrine. When good books become
old and worn and their pages become loose and separated, it is
deemed a sacrilege to discard them and subject them to the mercy
of tramping feet or the whims of shifting winds. They are col-