Page 20 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 4

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
8
in the query of a contemporary writer at the end of a description
of a pushcart peddler on Allen Street. Reb Chaim was a middle-
aged man with a blackish beard. He had a large forehead and
black eyes that reflected a mystic and far-off look. He sat on an
empty orange box near his cart, engrossed in reading a tome
which disclosed age and excessive use. Occasionally Reb Chaim
would forget that he was in the street and would intone his reading
in the manner which was customary in the study hall of the
synagogue.
When a customer approached and sought to purchase Reb
Chaim’s merchandise he seemed as if he were roused and un-
willingly brought into a strange world. He wrapped the goods,
accepted money and gave the change, but his thoughts continued
to be engrossed with the discussion of the Talmudic doctors.
When his wife, Hannah, came to relieve him in the afternoon,
his recreation consisted in making a dash for the Synagogue
where he recited Mincha (afternoon prayers) and for an hour
sat listening to the Rabbi’s reading and exposition of a chapter
of the Mishna. He returned to his pushcart refreshed and in-
vigorated. Our author concludes the description with a question,
“What will Reb Chaim’s sons and grandsons read, we shall not
say during but after their business hours? Will it be the Mishna
and Gemara, will it be Goethe and Schiller or will it be detective
stories and articles of pulp magazines?”
VIII
The hopes of the originators and sponsors of the Jewish Book
Month are to impress upon the children of these people the beauty
and blessedness of preserving and continuing the noble tradition
of their fathers. Theirs is not an easy job, free of difficulties.
They must sail against the current and buck the wind. But I
am convinced that their efforts will not be in vain.
The initiation of an intensive program by the Jewish Book Coun-
cil at this time is a token of future achievements. For here was a
titanic struggle the like of which the world has never seen, a
struggle that has enveloped continents. The Jewish people found
themselves in the very center of this hellish vortex. Upon the out-
come of the Armageddon depended their continued life and exist-
ence. In the midst of such a scene, bruised and battered Jewry
paused to pay homage to Books.
Does not this augur well for a revival of the spirit and a ren-
aissance of loyalty to traditional visions and values? This is,
to me, a sign that Jews will continue to be. true to the Book.