Post­ed by Nao­mi Firestone-Teeter

As we approach the new year, Rab­bi Joseph Telushkin shares his thoughts on Rosh Hashanah and the Sami Rohr Prize for Jew­ish Lit­er­a­ture:

One of the most impor­tant images of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kip­pur derives from the world of books, most specif­i­cal­ly, the Book of Life, and those who shall be inscribed in it.

It is per­haps sym­bol­ic that in the Jew­ish mind life is so asso­ci­at­ed with a book, for I know of no oth­er cul­ture in which books play so cen­tral a role. Obvi­ous­ly, at the heart of Judaism is the book, the Bible. For that mat­ter, I don’t know of anoth­er cul­ture in which its cen­tral book is car­ried around at prayer ser­vices, as peo­ple kiss it. The famous expres­sion about the Jews, peo­ple of the book,” was coined by, or is attrib­uted to, Muham­mad, and he meant by that expres­sion the peo­ple of the Bible. But over the cen­turies, the expres­sion became asso­ci­at­ed with a gen­er­al sense of intel­lec­tu­al­ism and love of learn­ing among Jews. That is why the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil con­sid­ers it a great hon­or to admin­is­ter the Sami Rohr Prize for Jew­ish Lit­er­a­ture, and to encour­age through this award and through ongo­ing con­fer­ences the com­ing gen­er­a­tion of Jew­ish writers.

We still are the peo­ple of the book, the peo­ple of the Bible and Tal­mud, a peo­ple devot­ed to fic­tion and non-fic­tion, and a peo­ple who are try­ing to fash­ion a lit­er­a­ture that will affect the world in our gen­er­a­tion and in gen­er­a­tions to come.

So, as we approach the New Year, we extend to all of you a wish for a year of good books, both holy books and wise sec­u­lar ones, books that deep­en you even as they bless the lives of gen­er­a­tions to come. And may we all be inscribed for a year of sweet­ness, growth, and fine reading.

- Rab­bi Joseph Telushkin

Rab­bi Joseph Telushkin, spir­i­tu­al leader, schol­ar, ethi­cist, is the acclaimed author of four­teen non­fic­tion books. He lives with his wife Dvo­rah in New York City and lec­tures reg­u­lar­ly through­out the Unit­ed States.