Thursday, February 02, 2012


Inscription for a Bookcase

Stefan C. Reif, "Taylor and the importance of the Genizah," in Charles Taylor and the Genizah Collection: A Centenary Seminar and Exhibition, St. John's College, Cambridge, 2 November 2008 (Cambridge: St. John's College, 2009), pp. 37-43 (at 43):
[I]t seems to me a fitting tribute to his memory to cite in conclusion part of a fragment from the Genizah collection that deservedly bears his name and that of his colleague and friend, Solomon Schechter. That small manuscript (T-S Ar.5.1) consists of an inscription that was prepared for a Jewish bookcase in Cairo some eight hundred years ago, at about the time that the University of Cambridge was being founded in distant England. The first five lines (in my translation, that does not do justice to the original Hebrew) convey a scholarly and religious message that would have commended itself to Taylor:
I, the bookcase, say to you: Open up my contents regularly and learn from them.
I, the bookcase, because of my contents, am greatly superior to all other containers.
They contain stores of silver and gold and precious items that cannot save you from fiery damnation.
I, the bookcase, contain treasure from Eden's tree of knowledge, Israel's special inheritance.
How can chaff be compared to the grain which it contains?
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

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