Page 22 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 54

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learning would suffer. If a man is in reduced circumstances, and
forced to sell his property he should (§1,741) dispose first of his
gold and jewelery and houses and estates, and only at the very end,
when no alternative is left, denude himself of his library.
REVERENCE FOR VOLUMES
When a man is travelling on business and finds books that are
unknown in his own city, it is his duty to purchase them in prefer­
ence to anything else and bring them back with him, so that he may
be an agent in the diffusion of knowledge (§664). When a man is
buying a book, he should not try to reduce the price by saying
“This is a bad book.” All he should do is to state the price that he
is prepared to pay without degrading the quality of the literature
(§665). The whole is succincdy summed up in a pithy general in­
junction: “It is a man’s duty to have an eye to the honor of his
books.”
This conception was carried beyond the present evanescent
state: for otherwise Paradise would be deprived of the greatest of
possible delights. The Jewish pietists pictured the future world as
a vast library, where all the good books that had ever been written
were treasured up for the posthumous delectation of the righteous.
The souls of the blessed, the “Book of the Pious” informs us
(§1,546), have books lying before them in decent array on tables,
so that they study in death even as they studied in their lifetime.
One Friday evening, we are told, a non-Jew passed through the
Jewish cemetery after dark and there he actually saw a Jew, who
had passed away some time before, sitting and conning a book
which lay on a desk before him. A later fantasy informs us how the
Heavenly librarian was the Archangel Metatron, who brought
books from the shelves before the Holy One, Blessed be He, who
in turn handed them for study to the Academy on High. When a
certain work was written in the eighteenth century, when the
shelves were already full, the books in the celestial library pressed
themselves together of their own accord to make room for the
newcomer.