Archiving Judaism for $0.00

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If I haven’t made enough of a case for the Internet Archive, please let me ram it down your throat once more: This is the singular most useful, amazing and holy resource on the Interwebz.

We already told you how they’ve catalogued over 10,000 Yiddish books — all saved, recorded, and made available to anyone for free.

But when our friends Haskel and Deah came into the office with this week’s installment of Wise Fridays, they told me about the amazing 19th-century scholar Grace Aguilar and raved about her remarkable book The Spirit of Judaism — which hasn’t been in print for decades, and which it’s next to impossible to find a copy of. “You want to read it?” Deah asked teasingly, smiling her wry smile.

I snorted. Deah and Haskel are notorious for dangling these little bits of wisdom before us like something we could understand completely instead of merely struggle to grasp. They love playing these philosophical games. It’s one of their things.

And then she showed me the book — the complete book — which anyone with an Internet browser can read, right now.

It’s a little frightening. And, regarding the disposability of everything we post on the Interwebz, it’s more than a little humbling: every time I check my Twitter or Buzzfeed or Wil Wheaton’s blog, I could be learning amazing things about the nature of God. The opening chapter — a discourse on the Shema, and a meditation of what we should be thinking about when we say it — is totally just as worthwhile as anything I read on Slate. The only difference is, it’s a little harder to remember the Web address.

Posted on May 18, 2009

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