Chronicles of Jerahmeel, by M. Gaster , at sacred-texts.com
Behold I have sworn not to lend anybody this book to take away, with the exception of three, whom I shall mention by name, but whoever desires to read it at my house is at liberty to do so.
Behold I am the youngest of all my family. I, Elazar, son of R. Asher, the Levite, have set my mind upon writing from precious and valuable secular books, for my spirit bore me aloft and filled me with enthusiasm in the days of my youth, when I was easygoing and keen-witted. For I saw many books scattered and dispersed here and there. I then resolved to collect them, and unite them in one book. I then made a collection of the words of the wise and their aphorisms, and wrote them down in a book for the use of those who love parable and history, and for wise men generally who are not otherwise occupied, in order that they may reflect upon these things, so that they may see, understand, and know the truth concerning a few of the events which have taken place under the sun, and of a few of the troubles and afflictions which our ancestors endured in their exile, and what vicissitudes they underwent when the tempest swept over them, so that they may not be forgotten by their seed. Therefore I called this book the 'Book of Chronicles,' wherein may be recorded
many varied events. For I have collected in this book records of all events and incidents which have happened from the creation of the world until the present day as it is written in this book, and as I found, so I copied, and I have deftly woven the materials to form one book.
Nor did I write them to make myself a great name, but to the glory of my Creator, who truly knows, and so that this book should be a memorial for future generations; and whoever chooses to add to this book may add, and may blessing fall upon him. Behold I hope that God may make my son worthy of inheriting this Book of Chronicles, which I have collected from many books. I wrote it, and laid aside many affairs for its sake, so. as to be able to complete it. The bulk of it I wrote in the autumn and winter, for I only had leisure at that time. 'In the day the drought consumed me, and the cold at night, and drove my sleep from my eyes.' And many events have happened, and what I was not able to do in the daytime, I did at night, for I neither rested nor reposed until I had completed its composition. For I gave a long time to it, and I was constantly occupied upon its composition, and I was continually busy with it, and I worked and laboured vigorously until I had selected each subject and placed it in its proper position, like a pearl in its setting and like a hook in its eye, and had I done it for payment no sum would have satisfied me, for I dwelt upon it days and years until I had completed its composition, for I had not always the books to copy it from, nor had I often the leisure, whilst occasionally I was not in the humour, on account of many misfortunes which befell me in my captivity. Therefore I conjure and command my son—since I bequeath him this Book of Chronicles—that I hand it to him on his undertaking to fulfil the solemn conditions which I impose upon him, a father to his son. He may not sell it, nor may he give it away nor pledge it, neither he nor his posterity, neither may he exchange it nor substitute anything else for it. For what will a small amount of money avail him, since he could not succeed in purchasing its
equal or its like in the whole world, either for a large or small sum of money? For I have searched in many places before I composed it; for this reason rather let a man pledge or sell the cloak from his back before he disposes of this. For I know that nobody can obtain half its worth or value, for no scribe could be found to write it for less than six small pieces of gold, to say nothing of the parchment. And who sells it will soon squander the money on frivolity; then he will immediately repent his transaction, but in vain. Moreover, I can assure him that he will never obtain its like, inasmuch as I know full well that no man would compose another such work, on account of the magnitude of the task; further, I know that nobody is broad-minded enough to resolve to compose and publish such a book as this, for it appears at first sight a collection of tales. Nevertheless, if he wishes to dispose of it to one of his sons or to one of his brothers, he may do so, but the one who acquires it may not override my conditions, but must observe everything as set down here. And he may only bequeath this book to one of his sons, or, failing male issue, he should bequeath it to one of his brothers, but not to one of his daughters, who have no portion or inheritance in it, that this book may not pass from one tribe to another. And do not, my sons, resolve to divide the work into two or three portions, so that each one of you may have a share in it, but let the one who inherits it receive it in one volume. May the one who ignores my writing, transgresses my command, or does not fulfil my words, be cursed; but blessed be my descendants, and may they be established if they fulfil my wishes. Neither scoff at me when you notice in what detail I have communicated my wishes concerning this book to my sons, for do ye not know that whatever man completes by the labour and toil of his hands he values highly? And I knew that unless I did it myself, unassisted, I should never have completed it. For who can depend upon scribes in the case of a book of this kind? Besides, even if I had the will, could I order scribes to be present just as books came to my hand; and where could I
get the books from? Therefore I said, 'If I do not do it for myself, who, then, will do it for me?' And God enlightened me, and I girded my loins like a mighty man, and composed this Book of Chronicles. May God remember it for me for good!