Page 176 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 46

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On the verse in Ecclesiastes 12:12, “A further word: Against
them, my son, be warned! O f making many books there is no
end and much study is a wearying o f the flesh,” the Midrash
“Whoever brings into his house more than the twenty-four books
[o f the Bible] introduces confusion into his house, as, for exam­
ple, the book o f Ben Sira and the book o f Ben Tagla. A n d much
study is a wearing o f the flesh’ — [These books] are given to
talk about but are not given for ‘wearying o f the flesh.’”
It is not clear whether the book o f Ben Tagla is the same
as the book o f Ben Laanah or an independent work which has
been totally lost.
Antiochus’ aim in Judea was to eradicate the Jewish way o f
life and loyalty to the Torah, and one o f the methods he used
was to destroy the Torah scrolls. In I Maccabees 1:56-58 it is
stated: “And when they had rent in pieces the books o f the
Torah which they found, they burnt them with fire. And where­
soever was found with any o f the book o f the covenant, or i f
any consented to the Torah, the king’s commandment was, that
they should put him to death. Thus did they by their authority
unto the Israelites every month, to as many as were found in
the cities.” This is what is referred to in the prayer o f
al ha-nissim
recited on Hanukkah: “when the iniquitous power o f Greece
rose up against thy people Israel to make them forgetful o f
thy Torah, and to force them to transgress the statutes o f thy
The decrees were directed against anything written in He­
brew: they burnt Torah scrolls and forcibly removed mezuzot
from doorways. While our sources make mention o f Torah
scrolls and mezuzot, it is clear that the decrees covered anything
written in the Hebrew alphabet. There must have been at that
time other books in addition to the books o f the Torah and
prophets. The fact remains that except for the book o f Ben
Sira we have no book from the time prior to the Maccabean