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Title: Studies in Judaism, First Series
Author: Schechter, Solomon
Language: English
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                            Studies in Judaism

                               First Series


                     Solomon Schechter, M.A., Litt.D.


                The Jewish Publication Society of America



I. The Chassidim
II. Nachman Krochmal and the “Perplexities Of The Time”
III. Rabbi Elijah Wilna, Gaon
IV. Nachmanides
V. A Jewish Boswell
VI. The Dogmas Of Judaism
VII. The History of Jewish Tradition
VIII. The Doctrine of Divine Retribution in Rabbinical Literature
IX. The Law And Recent Criticism
X. The Hebrew Collection of the British Museum
XI. Titles of Jewish Books
XII. The Child in Jewish Literature
XIII. Woman in Temple and Synagogue
XIV. The Earliest Jewish Community in Europe

                               [Cover Art]








These studies appeared originally in their first form in _The Jewish
Quarterly_ and _The Jewish Chronicle_. To the Editors of these periodicals
my best thanks are due for their readiness in placing the articles at my
disposal for the purposes of the present volume. The Introductory Essay is
new. I desire to express my sincere gratitude to Mr. J. G. Frazer, Fellow
of Trinity College, Cambridge, and Dr. J. Sutherland Black, of London, for
their great kindness in revising the proofs, and for many a valuable
suggestion. To Mr. Claude G. Montefiore I am indebted for the English
version of the Essay on “Chassidim”—my first literary effort in this
country, written at his own suggestion.

In the transliteration of Hebrew names, I have given the familiar English
forms of the authorised version. As regards post‐Biblical names, I have
with few exceptions followed Zedner’s _Catalogue of the Hebrew Books in
the Library of the British Museum_. A Hebrew word will be found here and
there in the text; I have purposely avoided bewildering devices for
representing the actual sound of the word, contenting myself with the
ordinary Roman alphabet, in spite of its shortcomings.

The authorities used for the various Essays will be found indicated in the
Notes at the end of the volume, where the reader will also find short
biographical and bibliographical notices, together with brief explanations
of technical terms for which no exact equivalent exists in English. The
index will, it is hoped, facilitate reference.

_S. S._

CAMBRIDGE, _February 1896_.


The essays published in this volume under the title of _Studies in
Judaism_ have been written on various occasions and at long intervals.
There is thus no necessary connection between them. If some sort of unity
may be detected in the book, it can only be between the first three
essays—on the Chassidim, Krochmal, and the Gaon—in which there is a
certain unity of purpose. The purpose in view was, as may easily be
gathered from the essays themselves, to bring under the notice of the
English public a type of men produced by the Synagogue of the Eastern
Jews. That Synagogue is widely different from ours. Its places of worship
have no claims to “beauty of holiness,” being in their outward appearance
rather bare and bald, if not repulsive; whilst those who frequent them are
a noisy, excitable people, who actually dance on the “Season of Rejoicing”
and cry bitterly on the “Days of Mourning.” But among all these
vagaries—or perhaps because of them—this Synagogue has had its moments of
grace, when enthusiasm wedded to inspiration gave birth to such beautiful
souls as Baalshem, such fine sceptics as Krochmal, and such saintly
scholars as Elijah Wilna. The Synagogue of the West is certainly of a more
presentable character, and free from excesses; though it is not devoid of
an enthusiasm of its own which finds its outlet in an ardent and self‐
sacrificing philanthropic activity. But owing to its practical tendency
there is too little room in it for that play of intellectual forces which
finds its extravagant expression in the saint on the one hand, and the
learned heretic on the other.

Eight of these essays are more or less of a theological nature. But in
reading the proofs I have been struck by the fact that there is assumed in
them a certain conception of the Synagogue which, familiar though it be to
the Jewish student, may appear obscure and even strange to the general
English reader. For brevity’s sake I will call it the High Synagogue,
though it does not correspond in all details to what one is accustomed to
understand under the term of High Church. The High Synagogue has a history
which is not altogether without its points of interest.

Some years ago when the waves of the Higher Criticism of the Old Testament
reached the shores of this country, and such questions as the
heterogeneous composition of the Pentateuch, the comparatively late date
of the Levitical Legislation, and the post‐exilic origin of certain
Prophecies as well as of the Psalms began to be freely discussed by the
press and even in the pulpit, the invidious remark was often made: What
will now become of Judaism when its last stronghold, the Law, is being
shaken to its very foundations?

Such a remark shows a very superficial acquaintance with the nature of an
old historical religion like Judaism, and the richness of the resources it
has to fall back upon in cases of emergency.

As a fact, the emergency did not quite surprise Judaism. The alarm signal
was given some 150 years ago by an Italian Rabbi, Abiad Sar Shalom
Bazilai, in his pamphlet _The Faith of the Sages_. The pamphlet is, as the
title indicates, of a polemical character, reviewing the work of the
Jewish rationalistic schools; and after warming up in his attacks against
their heterodox views, Bazilai exclaims: “Nature and simple meaning, they
are our misfortune.” By “nature and simple meaning” Bazilai, who wrote in
Hebrew, understood what we would call Natural Science and Philology. With
the right instinct of faith, Bazilai hit on the real sore points. For
though he mostly argues against the philosophical systems of Aristotle and
his commentators, he felt that it is not speculation that will ever
seriously endanger religion. There is hardly any metaphysical system, old
or new, which has not in course of time been adapted by able dialecticians
to the creed which they happened to hold. In our own time we have seen the
glorious, though not entirely novel spectacle, of Agnosticism itself
becoming the rightful handmaid of Queen Theology. The real danger lies in
“nature” (or Natural Science) with its stern demand of law and regularity
in all phenomena, and in the “simple meaning” (or Philology) with its
inconsiderate insistence on truth. Of the two, the “simple meaning” is the
more objectionable. Not only is it very often at variance with Tradition,
which has its own code of interpretation, but it is constantly increasing
the difficulties raised by science. For if words could only have more than
one meaning, there would be no objection to reading the first words of
Genesis, “In _a_ beginning God _evolved_.” The difficulties of science
would then be disposed of easily enough. Maimonides, who was as bold an
interpreter as he was a deep metaphysician, hinted plainly enough that
were he as convinced of the eternity of matter as he was satisfied of the
impossibility of any corporeal quality in the deity, he would feel as
little compunction in explaining (figuratively) the contents of the first
chapter of Genesis as he did in allegorising the anthropomorphic passages
of the Bible. Thus in the end all the difficulties resolve themselves into
the one great difficulty of the “simple meaning.” The best way to meet
this difficulty was found to be to shift the centre of gravity in Judaism
and to place it in the secondary meaning, thus making religion independent
of philology and all its dangerous consequences.

This shifting work was chiefly done, perhaps not quite consciously, by the
historical school which followed upon that of Mendelssohn and his first
successors. The historical school, which is still in the ascendant,
comprises many of the best Jewish writers who either by their learning or
by their ecclesiastical profession as Rabbis and preachers in great
communities have acquired some important position among their brethren.
The men who have inaugurated this movement were Krochmal (1785‐1841),
Rapoport (1790‐1867), and Zunz (1794‐1886).

It is not a mere coincidence that the first representatives of the
historical school were also the first Jewish scholars who proved
themselves more or less ready to join the modern school of Bible
Criticism, and even to contribute their share to it. The first two,
Krochmal and Rapoport, early in the second quarter of this century
accepted and defended the modern view about a second Isaiah, the post‐
exilic origin of many Psalms, and the late date of Ecclesiastes; whilst
Zunz, who began (in 1832) with denying the authenticity of Ezekiel,
concluded his literary career (1873) with a study on the Bible
(_Gesammelte __ Schriften_, i. pp. 217‐290), in which he expressed his
view “that the Book of Leviticus dates from a later period than the Book
of Deuteronomy, later even than Ezekiel, having been composed during the
age of the Second Temple, when there already existed a well‐established
priesthood which superintended the sacrificial worship.” But when
Revelation or the Written Word is reduced to the level of history, there
is no difficulty in elevating history in its aspect of Tradition to the
rank of Scripture, for both have then the same human or divine origin
(according to the student’s predilection for the one or the other
adjective), and emanate from the same authority. Tradition becomes thus
the means whereby the modern divine seeks to compensate himself for the
loss of the Bible, and the theological balance is to the satisfaction of
all parties happily readjusted.

Jewish Tradition, or, as it is commonly called, the Oral Law, or, as we
may term it (in consideration of its claims to represent an interpretation
of the Bible), the Secondary Meaning of the Scriptures, is mainly embodied
in the works of the Rabbis and their subsequent followers during the
Middle Ages. Hence the zeal and energy with which the historical school
applied itself to the Jewish post‐biblical literature, not only
elucidating its texts by means of new critical editions, dictionaries, and
commentaries, but also trying to trace its origins and to pursue its
history through its gradual development. To the work of Krochmal in this
direction a special essay is devoted in this volume. The labours of
Rapoport are more of a biographical and bibliographical nature, being
occupied mostly with the minor details in the lives and writings of
various famous Jewish Rabbis in the Middle Ages; thus they offer but
little opportunity for general theological comment. Of more importance in
this respect are the hints thrown out in his various works by Zunz, who
was just as emphatic in asserting the claims of Tradition as he was
advanced in his views on Bible criticism. Zunz’s greatest work is _Die
Gottesdienstlichen Vorträge_—an awkward title, which in fact means “The
History of the Interpretation of the Scriptures as forming a part of the
divine service.” Now if a work displaying such wide learning and critical
acumen, and written in such an impartial spirit can be said to have a
bias, it was towards bridging over the seemingly wide gap between the
Written Word (the Scriptures) and the Spoken Word (the Oral Law or
Tradition), which was the more deeply felt, as most of Zunz’s older
contemporaries were men, grown up in the habits of thought of the
eighteenth century—a century distinguished both for its ignorance of, and
its power of ignoring, the teachings of history. Indeed it would seem that
ages employed in making history have no time for studying it.

Zunz accomplished the task he set himself, by showing, as already
indicated, the late date of certain portions of the Bible, which by
setting the early history of Israel in an ideal light betray the
moralising tendency of their authors, and are, in fact, little more than a
traditional interpretation of older portions of Scripture, adapted to the
religious needs of the time. Placing thus the origin of Tradition in the
Bible itself, it was a comparatively easy matter for Zunz to prove its
further continuity. Prophecy and Interpretation are with him the natural
expressions of the religious life of the nation; and though by the loss of
Israel’s political independence the voice of the prophets gradually died
away, the voice of God was still heard. Israel continues to consult God
through the medium of the Scriptures, and He answers His people by the
mouth of the Scribes, the Sages, the Interpreters of the Law; whilst the
liturgy of the Synagogue, springing up at the time when Psalms were still
being composed, expands in its later stages through the work of the Poets
of the Synagogue into such a rich luxuriance “that it forms in itself a
treasure of history, poetry, philosophy; and prophecy and psalms are again
revived in the hymnology of the Middle Ages.” This is in brief the lesson
to be learned from Zunz’s _Gottesdienstliche Vorträge_ as far as it deals
with the significance of Tradition; and it is in the introduction to this
work that Zunz expresses himself to the following effect: Indispensable is
the free Spoken Word. Mankind has acquired all its ideal treasures only by
Word of Mouth; an education continuing through all stages of life. In
Israel, too, the Word of Instruction transmitted from mouth to mouth was
never silenced.

The historical school has never, to my knowledge, offered to the world a
theological programme of its own. By the nature of its task, its labours
are mostly conducted in the field of philology and archæology, and it pays
but little attention to purely dogmatic questions. On the whole, its
attitude towards religion may be defined as an enlightened Scepticism
combined with a staunch conservatism which is not even wholly devoid of a
certain mystical touch. As far as we may gather from vague remarks and
hints thrown out now and then, its theological position may perhaps be
thus defined:—It is not the mere revealed Bible that is of first
importance to the Jew, but the Bible as it repeats itself in history, in
other words, as it is interpreted by Tradition. The Talmud, that wonderful
mine of religious ideas from which it would be just as easy to draw up a
manual for the most orthodox as to extract a vade‐mecum for the most
sceptical, lends some countenance to this view by certain controversial
passages—not to be taken seriously—in which “the words of the scribes” are
placed almost above the words of the Torah. Since then the interpretation
of Scripture or the Secondary Meaning is mainly a product of changing
historical influences, it follows that the centre of authority is actually
removed from the Bible and placed in some _living body_, which, by reason
of its being in touch with the ideal aspirations and the religious needs
of the age, is best able to determine the nature of the Secondary Meaning.
This living body, however, is not represented by any section of the
nation, or any corporate priesthood, or Rabbihood, but by the collective
conscience of Catholic Israel as embodied in the Universal Synagogue. The
Synagogue “with its long, continuous cry after God for more than twenty‐
three centuries,” with its unremittent activity in teaching and developing
the word of God, with its uninterrupted succession of prophets, Psalmists,
Scribes, Assideans, Rabbis, Patriarchs, Interpreters, Elucidators,
Eminences, and Teachers, with its glorious record of Saints, martyrs,
sages, philosophers, scholars, and mystics; this Synagogue, the only true
witness to the past, and forming in all ages the sublimest expression of
Israel’s religious life, must also retain its authority as the sole true
guide for the present and the future. And being in communion with this
Synagogue, we may also look hopefully for a safe and rational solution of
our present theological troubles. For was it not the Synagogue which even
in antiquity determined the fate of Scripture? On the one hand, for
example, books like Ezekiel, the Song of Songs, and Ecclesiastes, were
only declared to be Holy Writ in virtue of the interpretation put upon
them by the Rabbis: and, on the other hand, it was the veto of the Rabbis
which excluded from the canon the works that now pass under the name of
Apocrypha. We may, therefore, safely trust that the Synagogue will again
assert its divine right in passing judgment upon the Bible when it feels
called upon to exercise that holy office. It is “God who has chosen the
Torah, and Moses His servant, and Israel His people.” But indeed God’s
choice invariably coincides with the wishes of Israel; He “performeth all
things” upon which the councils of Israel, meeting under promise of the
Divine presence and communion, have previously agreed. As the Talmud
somewhere expresses itself with regard to the Book of Esther, “They have
confirmed above what Israel has accepted below.”

Another consequence of this conception of Tradition is that it is neither
Scripture nor primitive Judaism, but general custom which forms the real
rule of practice. Holy Writ as well as history, Zunz tells us, teaches
that the law of Moses was never fully and absolutely put in practice.
Liberty was always given to the great teachers of every generation to make
modifications and innovations in harmony with the spirit of existing
institutions. Hence a return to Mosaism would be illegal, pernicious, and
indeed impossible. The norm as well as the sanction of Judaism is the
practice actually in vogue. Its consecration is the consecration of
general use,—or, in other words, of Catholic Israel. It was probably with
a view to this communion that the later mystics introduced a short prayer
to be said before the performance of any religious ceremony, in which,
among other things, the speaker professes his readiness to act “in the
name of all Israel.”

It would be out of place in an introductory essay to pursue any further
this interesting subject with its far‐reaching consequences upon Jewish
life and Jewish thought. But the foregoing remarks may suffice to show
that Judaism did not remain quite inactive at the approach of the great
religious crisis which our generation has witnessed. Like so many other
religious communities, it reviewed its forces, entrenched itself on the
field of history, and what it lost of its old devotion to the Bible, it
has sought to make up by a renewed reverence for institutions.

In this connection, a mere mention may suffice of the ultra‐Orthodox
party, led by the late Dr. S. R. Hirsch of Frankfort (1808‐1889) whose
defiance of reason and criticism even a Ward might have envied, and whose
saintliness and sublimity even a Keble might have admired. And, to take an
example from the opposite school, we must at least record the name of that
devout Jew, Osias Schorr (1816‐1895), in whom we have profound learning
combined with an uncompromising disposition of mind productive of a
typical champion of Radicalism in things religious. These men are,
however, representative of two extremes, and their followers constitute
mere minorities; the majority is with the historical school.

How long the position of this school will prove tenable is another
question. Being brought up in the old Low Synagogue, where, with all
attachment to tradition, the Bible was looked upon as the crown and the
climax of Judaism, the old Adam still asserts itself in me, and in
unguarded moments makes me rebel against this new rival of revelation in
the shape of history. At times this now fashionable exaltation of
Tradition at the expense of Scripture even impresses me as a sort of
religious bimetallism in which bold speculators in theology try to keep up
the market value of an inferior currency by denouncing loudly the bright
shining gold which, they would have us believe, is less fitted to
circulate in the vulgar use of daily life than the small cash of
historical interpretation. Nor can I quite reconcile myself to this
alliance of religion with history, which seems to me both unworthy and
unnatural. The Jew, some writer aptly remarked, was the first and the
fiercest Nonconformist of the East, and so Judaism was always a protesting
religion. To break the idols, whether of the past or of the present, has
always been a sacred mission of Judaism, and has indeed been esteemed by
it as a necessary preliminary to the advent of the kingdom of God on
earth. One of its daily prayers was and still is: “We therefore hope in
Thee, O Lord our God, that we may speedily behold the glory of Thy might,
when ... the idols will be cut off, when the world will be perfected under
the kingdom of the Almighty.” It bowed before truth, but it had never made
a covenant with facts only because they were facts. History had to be re‐
made and to sanctify itself before it found its way into its sacred
annals. Nor did Judaism make a virtue of swallowing down institutions.
Such institutions as crept into it in course of time had, when the
Synagogue was conscious of their claims to form part of religion, to
submit to the laborious process of a thorough adaptation to prophetic
notions before they were formally sanctioned. But when this process was
deemed impossible or impracticable, Judaism boldly denounced the past in
such fierce language as the prophets used and as still finds its echo in
such passages of the liturgy as “First our ancestors were worshippers of
idols and now God has brought us near to His service”; or “But of a truth,
we and our ancestors have sinned.”

However, it would be unfair to argue any further against a theological
system which, as already said, was never avowed distinctly by the
historical school—a school, moreover, with which speculation is a matter
of minor importance. The main strength of this school lies in its
scientific work, for which Judaism will always be under a sense of deep
gratitude. And living as we do in an age in which history reigns supreme
in all departments of human thought, we may hope that even its theology,
as far as it goes, will “do” for us, though I neither hope nor believe
that it will do for those who come after us. I may, however, humbly
confess that the sixth essay in this volume was written in a spirit of
rebellion against this all‐absorbing Catholic Israel, with its decently
veiled scepticism on the one hand, and its unfortunate tendency with many
people to degenerate into a soulless conformity on the other hand. There
is, I am afraid, not much to be said in favour of this essay. It is
deficient both in matter and in style. It proved to be a futile attempt to
bring within the compass of an essay what a whole book could hardly do
justice to. The Hebrew documents bearing upon the question of dogma which
I have collected from various manuscripts and rare printed books, would
alone make a fair‐sized volume. I only venture to offer it to the public
in the absence of anything better; since, so far as I know, no other
attempt has ever been made to treat the subject even in its meagrest
outlines. I even venture to hope that, with all its shortcomings, it will
contribute something towards destroying the illusion, in which so many
theologians indulge, that Judaism is a religion without dogmas. To declare
that a religion has no dogmas is tantamount to saying that it was wise
enough not to commit itself to any vital principles. But prudence, useful
as it may be in worldly affairs, is quite unworthy of a great spiritual

Jewish mysticism in the Middle Ages and in modern times is represented in
this volume by two essays (“The Chassidim” and “Nachmanides”). But in
order to avoid mistakes which might be implied by my silence, I think it
desirable to state that there are also to be found many mystical elements
in the old Rabbinic literature. Mysticism, not as a theosophic system or
as an occult science, but as a manifestation of the spiritual and as an
expression of man’s agonies in his struggle after communion with God, as
well as of his ineffable joy when he receives the assurance that he has
found it, is not, as some maintain, foreign to the spirit of old Rabbinic
Judaism. There was no need for the mediæval Rabbi to borrow the elements
of such a mysticism from non‐Jewish sources. The perusal of the old
Homilies on the Song of Songs, and on the Lessons from the Prophets, or
even a fair acquaintance with the Jewish liturgy would, in itself, suffice
to refute such baseless assertions. Those who are at all familiar with old
Rabbinic literature hardly need to be told that “the sea of the Talmud”
has also its gulf stream of mysticism which, taking its origin in the
moralising portions of the Bible, runs through the wide ocean of Jewish
thought, constantly commingling with the icy waters of legalism, and
unceasingly washing the desolate shores of an apparently meaningless
ceremonialism, communicating to it life, warmth, and spirituality. To draw
attention to this fact a humble attempt has been made in the ninth essay,
“The Law and Recent Criticism,” a subject which I have essayed to expound
in a series of essays on “Some Aspects of Rabbinic Theology,” now
appearing in _The Jewish Quarterly Review_.

The last five essays touch rather on certain social and familiar aspects
of Judaism, and need no further comment. They are mere _causeries_ and
hardly deserve the name of studies. Perhaps it may be useful for those who
judge of the heaviness of a work by its bulk to know that there is also a
lighter side of Rabbinic literature.

But I shall be better pleased if the more serious side of this
volume—Jewish mysticism and Rabbinic theology—should attract the attention
of students, and so draw some fellow‐workers into a field which is utterly
neglected. Notwithstanding the numerous Manuals and Introductions which
all more or less touch on the subject of Rabbinic theology, there is,
after nearly 250 years, not a single work among them which, either in
knowledge of facts or in their interpretation, is a single step in advance
of the Cambridge Platonist, John Smith, in his _Select Discourses_. But
those who try so hard to determine the miraculous distance of Christianity
by the eclipses in Rabbinism, should, if they wish to be just or prove
themselves worthy scholars, also endeavour to make themselves acquainted
with the numberless bright stars that move in the wide universe of Jewish
thought. We are often told that no creed or theological system which has
come down to us from antiquity can afford to be judged by any other
standard than by its spiritual and poetic _possibilities_: this indulgence
Judaism is as justly entitled to claim as any other religion. The great
and saintly Franz Delitzsch who, born with an intellect of admirable
temper, was also endowed by Heaven with a soul—and a beautiful soul it
was—was one of the few theologians who, partly at least, admitted this
claim, and sought earnestly and diligently after these spiritual and
poetic possibilities, and was amply rewarded for his labours.


Throughout the whole of that interesting field of Theological Literature
which deals with the genesis and course of religious movements, there is
probably none whose history, even whose name, is so little known to
English students, as that of the Chassidim. And yet it would be difficult
to point, in comparatively recent times, to a Dissenting movement more
strikingly complete in its development, more suggestive of analogy, more
full of interest in its original purpose, more pregnant of warning in its

The Hebrew word “Chassidim”(2) merely means “the Pious,” and appears to
have been complacently adopted by the early apostles of the sect. But the
thing—Chassidism—was, in its inception at all events, a revolt among the
Jews of Eastern Europe against the excessive casuistry of the contemporary
Rabbis. It was in fact one more manifestation of the yearning of the human
heart towards the Divine idea, and of its ceaseless craving for direct
communion with God. It was the protest of an emotional but uneducated
people against a one‐sided expression of Judaism, presented to them in
cold and over‐subtle disquisitions which not only did they not understand,
but which shut out the play of the feelings and the affections, so that
religion was made almost impossible to them.

Some account of the sect is the more necessary because, although the
Chassidim have not been wholly ignored by historians or novelists, the
references to them have generally, for perfectly intelligible reasons,
been either biassed or inaccurate. The historians who have treated of them
have been almost exclusively men saturated with Western culture and
rationalism. To them the rude and uncouth manifestations of an
undisciplined religious spirit could not be other than repellent; to them
Chassidism was a movement to be dismissed as unæsthetic and irrational.

To the purposes of fiction the romantic side of Chassidism lends itself
readily, but the novelists who have used this material have confined
themselves to its externals. Indeed, to have done more would have involved
a tedious and unremunerative study of difficult Hebrew texts, an
undertaking not to be expected from the most conscientious writers of this
class. Thus Franzos in his references to the Jews of Barnow describes
faithfully the outer signs of the man, his long coat and tangled curls,
but the inner life, the world in which the Chassid moved and had his
being, was unknown to him and is therefore unrecorded.

As to my treatment of the subject, I confess that there was a time when I
loved the Chassidim as there was a time when I hated them. And even now I
am not able to suppress these feelings. I have rather tried to guide my
feelings in such a way as to love in Chassidism what is ideal and noble,
and to hate in it what turned out bad and pernicious for Judaism. How far
I have been successful is another question. At least I have endeavoured to
write this paper in such a spirit. But of one thing I must warn the
reader—the desire to give some clear notion of the leading ideas of
Chassidism has compelled me to quote some passages in which the Chassidim
have spoken in very offensive terms of their opponents. In justice to
these I must remark that unfortunately religious struggles are usually
conducted on the most irreligious principles. Thus the Chassidim imputed
to their antagonists, the contemporary Rabbis, many vices from which they
were free. Certainly, there was, as one can read in every history of
Jewish religion, something wrong in the state of Judaism. But I know
people who maintain that there is something very wrong in the present
state of Judaism, and who despair of a regeneration. But surely this is a
silly exaggeration. The Chassidim also exaggerated. It would be better to
take but little notice of their accusations and dwell more on that which
was spoken in a kind and loving spirit.

As to the literature of the subject, I can only say here that I have made
use of every book I could consult, both in English and in foreign
libraries. But I cannot pledge myself to be what early Jewish writers
called “a donkey which carries books.” I exercise my own choice and my own
judgment on many points.

As an active force for good, Chassidism was short‐lived. For, as I propose
to show, there lurked among its central tenets the germs of the degeneracy
which so speedily came upon it. But its early purposes were high, its
doctrines fairly pure, its aspirations ideal and sublime.

The founder of the sect was one Israel Baalshem,(3) and the story of his
parentage, birth, and childhood, and the current anecdotes of his
subsequent career play a considerable part in Chassidic literature. But
the authentic materials for his biography are everywhere interwoven with
much that is pure legend and with much more that is miraculous. This was,
perhaps, inevitable, and is certainly not an unfamiliar feature in the
personal histories of religious reformers as presented by their followers
and devotees.

The sayings and doings of Baalshem are an essential—perhaps the most
essential—portion of any account of the sect. For Baalshem is the centre
of the Chassidic world, and Chassidism is so intimately bound up with the
personality of its founder that any separation between them is well nigh
impossible. To the Chassidim Baalshem is not a man who established a
theory or set forth a system; he himself was the incarnation of a theory
and his whole life the revelation of a system.

Even those portions of his history which are plainly legendary have their
uses in indicating the ideals and in illustrating the aspirations of the
early Chassidim; while their circulation and the ready credence they
received are valuable evidence of the real power and influence of
Baalshem’s personality.

In the tale as told by the sect little is omitted of those biographical
accessories which are proper to an Avatar. There is all the conventional
heralding of a pre‐ordained advent; all the usual signs and portents of a
new dispensation may be recognised in the almost preternatural virtues of
Baalshem’s parents, in the miraculous annunciation and exceptional
circumstances of his nativity, and in the early indication of a strong and
fearless individuality. Everywhere it seems to be suggested that Baalshem
from his infancy was conscious of a lofty mission. It is already in tender
years that he is made to give evidence of an indifference to conventional
restraints and accepted ideals.

Rabbi Eliezer and his wife, the parents of Baalshem, dwelt, as the story
goes, in Moldavia. They are described as a pious and God‐fearing couple,
who, when they had already reached old age, were still childless. They are
accredited with a spotless rectitude, which was unimpaired by a long
series of strange vicissitudes and misfortunes.

Ultimately, an angel of God appeared to Eliezer and announced that, as he
had successfully withstood all the temptations and sufferings by which he
had been tried, God was about to reward him with a son, who was destined
to enlighten the eyes of all Israel. Therefore his name should be Israel,
for in him the words of Scripture were to be fulfilled, “Thou art my
servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.” In due course the promise
was fulfilled, and to the aged couple a son was born, who was named Israel
according to the angel’s word. The date of Baalshem’s birth is about 1700;
his birthplace, in Bukowina, in a hitherto unidentified village which the
authorities call Ukop, then still belonging to Roumania. The child’s
mother died soon after he was weaned, and his father did not long survive
her. But before Eliezer died he took his child in his arms, and blessing
him, bade him fear naught, for God would always be with him.

As Eliezer had been greatly honoured in the community in which he lived,
his orphan son was carefully tended and educated. He was early supplied
with an instructor in the Holy Law. But though he learned with rare
facility, he rejected the customary methods of instruction. One day, while
still quite young, his teacher missed him, and on seeking found him
sitting alone in the forest that skirted his native village, in happy and
fearless solitude. He repeated this escapade so often that it was thought
best to leave him to follow his own bent. A little later we find him
engaged as assistant to a schoolmaster. His duty was not to teach, but to
take the children from their homes to the synagogue and thence on to the
school. It was his wont while accompanying the children to the synagogue
to teach them solemn hymns which he sang with them. In the synagogue he
encouraged them to sing the responses, so that the voices of the children
penetrated through the heavens and moved the Divine father to compassion.
Satan, fearing lest his power on earth should thereby be diminished,
assumed the shape of a werewolf, and, appearing before the procession of
children on their way to the synagogue, put them to flight. In consequence
of this alarming incident the children’s services were suspended. But
Israel, recollecting his father’s counsel to fear naught, besought the
parents to be allowed to lead the children once more in the old way. His
request was granted, and when the werewolf appeared a second time Israel
attacked him with a club and routed him.

In his fourteenth year Israel became a beadle at the Beth Hammidrash.(4)
Here he assiduously but secretly pursued the study of the Law. Yet, being
anxious that none should know his design, he read and worked only at
night, when the schoolroom was empty and the usual scholars had retired.
During the daytime he slept, so that he was popularly believed to be both
ignorant and lazy. Despite these precautions, however, his true character
was revealed to one person. A certain holy man, the father of a young
student at the college, had discovered some old manuscripts which
contained the deepest secrets. Before his death he bade his son repair to
Ukop, Israel’s birthplace, telling him that he would find one Israel, son
of Eliezer, to whom the precious documents were to be entrusted. They
possessed, so the old man declared, a certain mystic and heavenly affinity
with Israel’s soul. The student carried out his father’s instructions, and
at last discovered the object of his search in the beadle of the Beth
Hammidrash. Israel admitted him to his friendship and confidence on the
condition of secrecy as to his real character. The student, however, paid
dearly for this acquaintance with Israel. Contrary to Baalshem’s advice,
he entered upon a dangerous incantation in the course of which he made a
mistake so serious that it cost him his life.

Upon the death of his friend, Baalshem left his native village and settled
as a teacher in a small town near Brody. Here, although his true mission
and character were still unknown, he became much respected for his rigid
probity, and was frequently chosen as umpire in disputes among Jews. On
one of these occasions he arbitrated with so much learning and
impartiality that not only did he satisfy both parties, but one of them, a
learned man of Brody, named Abraham, offered him his own daughter in
marriage. Israel, to whom it had been revealed that Abraham’s daughter was
his predestined wife, immediately accepted the offer and the act of
betrothal was drawn up. But wishing his true character to remain unknown
he stipulated that Abraham, although a “Talmid Chacham” (student)(5)
himself and therefore presumably desirous that his daughter should marry a
scholar, should omit from the betrothal‐deed all the titles of honour
usually appended to the name of a learned bridegroom. While returning to
Brody, Abraham died, and Gershon his son, a scholar still greater and more
celebrated than his father, was surprised and shocked to find a deed of
betrothal among his father’s papers, from which it appeared that his
sister was to wed a man with apparently no claim to scholarship or
learning. He protested to his sister, but she declined to entertain any
objections to a marriage which her father had arranged. When the time for
the wedding was at hand, Israel gave up his post as teacher, and repaired
to Brody. Disguised as a peasant he presented himself before his future
brother‐in‐law, who was then fulfilling some high judicial function.
Gershon taking him for a beggar offered him alms, but Israel, refusing the
money, asked for a private interview, stating that he had an important
secret to reveal. He then, to Gershon’s surprise and disgust, explained
who he was and that he had come to claim his bride. As the girl was
determined to obey her father’s will the affair was settled and the day
fixed. On the morning of the wedding Israel revealed to his bride his real
character and mission, at the same time enjoining secrecy. Evil fortunes
would befall them, he said, but a better time would eventually follow.

After the wedding, Gershon, having in vain attempted to instruct his
seemingly ignorant brother‐in‐law, decided to rid himself of his presence.
He gave his sister the choice of being separated from her husband, or of
leaving the town in his company. She chose the latter, and thereupon the
two left Brody and began a life of hardship and suffering. Israel chose
for his new home a spot on one of the spurs of the Carpathian Mountains.
No Jews lived there, and Israel and his wife were thus separated from the
society of their fellows in a life of complete and unchanging solitude.
Israel dug lime in the ravines among the mountains, and his wife conveyed
it for sale to the nearest town. Their life at this period seems to have
been one of great privation, but the harder Israel’s outward lot, the more
he increased in spiritual greatness. In his solitude he gave himself up
entirely to devotion and religious contemplation. His habit was to climb
to the summit of the mountains and wander about rapt in spiritual
ecstasies. He fasted, prayed, made continual ablutions, and observed all
the customary outward and inward exercises of piety and devotion.

After seven years, Gershon, who was well aware of the bitter poverty which
his sister endured, relented and brought her and her husband back to
Brody. At first he employed Baalshem as his coachman, but as he proved
wholly unfit for this work Gershon rented a small inn in a remote village,
and there established his sister and her husband. The business of the inn
was managed by the wife, while Baalshem passed most of his time in a hut
in a neighbouring forest. Here he once more gave himself up to meditation
and preparation for his future work, and here, a little later, when nearly
forty‐two years of age, to a few chosen spirits, afterwards his most
fervent disciples, he first revealed his true character and mission.

From this point unfortunately the materials for a continuous biography are
wanting; we next hear of Baalshem discharging the functions of an ordinary
Rabbi at Miedziboz in Podolia, but for the remainder of his personal
history we have to be content with detached anecdotes and fragmentary
passages in his life, the sum total of which goes to show that he resided
in Podolia and Wallachia, teaching his doctrines to his disciples and
“working Wonders.” He does not seem to have figured as a public preacher,
nor has he left behind him any written work. He appears rather to have
used the method, familiar to students of Greek philosophy, of teaching by
conversations with his friends and disciples. These conversations, and the
parables with which they were largely interspersed, were remembered and
stored up by his hearers. By his neighbours the country folk, Baalshem was
regarded simply as “a man of God.” He was allowed to pursue his course
undisturbed by persecution of the serious character which his more
aggressive successors provoked. Such of the Rabbis as were aware of his
existence despised him and his ways, but the Rabbinical world was at that
time too much occupied in the controversy between Eybeschütz and Emden to
concern itself with the vagaries of an obscure and apparently “unlearned”
eccentric. Baalshem also took part in the disputes which were held in
Lemberg, the capital of Galicia (1757?), between the Rabbis and the
Frankists,(6) who denounced the Talmud to the Polish Government and wanted
to have all the Rabbinical books destroyed. Baalshem suffered from this
excitement in a most terrible way. The abrogation of the Oral Law meant
for him the ruin of Judaism.

Baalshem, in forming the little band of devoted followers who were
destined to spread a knowledge of his creed, travelled considerably about
Wallachia. He at one time decided to make a pilgrimage to Palestine, but
when he reached Constantinople he felt himself inspired to return and
continue his work at home. He died at Miedziboz on the eve of Pentecost,

After his death his disciples, of whom one Beer of Mizriez was the most
prominent, undertook the proselytising mission for which Baalshem had
prepared them, but from which he himself appears to have abstained. They
preached and taught in all the provinces of Russia where Jews may reside,
and in Roumania, and Galicia. The number of the sect at the present day is
probably about half a million.

Returning now to Baalshem the founder, it may be noted that his appearance
as a teacher and reformer was accompanied and justified by a customary and
adequate number of miracles. To one disciple he revealed secrets which
could have become known to him only by divine revelation; to another he
appeared with a nimbus round his head. On the evidence of the Chassidim we
learn that Baalshem performed all the recognised signs and marvels which
have ever been the customary minor characteristics of men of similar type
in similar environment. When Baalshem desired to cross a stream, he spread
forth his mantle upon the waters, and standing thereupon passed safely to
the other side. Ghosts evacuated haunted houses at the mere mention of his
name. Was he alone in the forest on a wintry night, he had but to touch a
tree with his finger tips and flames burst forth. When his spirit wandered
through the angelic spheres, as was frequently the case, he obtained
access to Paradise for millions of pining souls who had vainly waited
without through long thousands of mournful years. These and other miracles
need not be examined. Here, as in the case of other such blissful seasons
of grace, they were the ephemeral though important accessories in
establishing the inspired character of his utterances and the authority of
his injunctions. It is not as a worker of miracles, but as a religious
teacher and reformer, that Baalshem is interesting.

Properly to understand the nature and special direction of his teaching,
it is necessary in some measure to realise the character of the field in
which he worked; to consider, in other words, the moral and religious
condition of the Jews in those districts where Chassidism first took root.

In a Hebrew Hymn, written about 1000 A.C., and still recited in the
synagogue on the Day of Atonement, the poet expresses the strange and
bitter fortunes of his race in touching words of mingled sorrow and

    Destroyed lies Zion and profaned,
    Of splendour and renown bereft,
    Her ancient glories wholly waned,
    One deathless treasure only left;
        Still ours, O Lord,
        Thy Holy Word.

And this Divine Word it was, which a persecuted religion has sought to
preserve intact through so many centuries of persecution, and for the sake
of which no labour seemed too severe, no sacrifice too large. “Bethink
Thee, O God,” exclaimed one of our Jewish sages who flourished about the
same period, “bethink Thee of Thy faithful children who, amid their
poverty and want, are busy in the study of Thy Law. Bethink Thee of the
poor in Israel who are willing to suffer hunger and destitution if only
they can secure for their children the knowledge of Thy Law.” And so
indeed it was. Old and young, weak and strong, rich and poor, all pursued
that single study, the Torah. The product of this prolonged study is that
gigantic literature which, as a long unbroken chain of spiritual activity,
connects together the various periods of the Jews’ chequered and eventful
history. All ages and all lands have contributed to the development of
this supreme study. For under the word Torah was comprised not only the
Law, but also the contributions of later times expressing either the
thoughts or the emotions of holy and sincere men; and even their honest
scepticism was not entirely excluded. As in the canon of the Bible,
Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon found place in the same volume that
contains the Law and the Prophets, so at a later time people did not
object to put the philosophical works of Maimonides and the songs of Judah
Hallevi on the same level with the Code of the Law compiled by R. Isaac
Alfasi, and the commentaries on the Bible by R. Solomon b. Isaac.(7) None
of them was declared infallible, but also to none of them, as soon as
people were convinced of the author’s sincerity, was denied the homage due
to seekers after truth. Almost every author was called Rabbi (“my master”)
or Rabbenu (“our master”),(8) and nearly every book was regarded more or
less as a contribution to the great bulk of the Torah. It was called
Writ,(9) and was treated with a certain kind of piety. But, by a series of
accidents too long to be related here, sincerity ceased and sport took its
place. I refer to the casuistic schools commonly known by the name of
Pilpulists(10) (the “seasoned” or the “sharp” ones), who flourished in the
last two centuries preceding ours. To the authors of this unhappy period,
a few glorious exceptions always allowed, the preceding Jewish literature
did not mean a “fountain of living waters,” supplying men with truth and
religious inspiration, but rather a kind of armoury providing them with
juristic cases over which to fight, and to out‐do each other in sophistry
and subtlety. As a consequence they cared little or nothing for that part
of the Jewish literature that appeals less to the intellect than to the
feelings of men. In short, religion consisted only of complicated cases
and innumerable ordinances, in which the wit of these men found delight.
But the emotional part of it, whose root is the Faith and Love of men, was
almost entirely neglected.

But it was precisely these higher religious emotions that were Baalshem’s
peculiar province, and it was to them that he assigned in his religious
system a place befitting their importance and their dignity. And the
locality where his ministration lay was curiously adapted for such
propaganda. To that universal study of the Law of which I have just spoken
there was one exception. That exception was amongst the Jews in the
territories which bordered on the Carpathian Mountains, and comprise the
principalities of Moldavia, and Wallachia, Bukowina, and the Ukraine.

It is historically certain that the first arrival of the Jews in Roumania
was at a very early date, but there is no trace of any intellectual
productivity among the immigrants until recent times, and it is admitted
that the study of the Law was almost entirely neglected. It was in these
districts of mental, and perhaps we might add of even spiritual, darkness
that Chassidism took its rise and achieved its first success. “The sect of
the Chassidim,” says one of the bitterest but most trustworthy of their
opponents, “first gained ground in the most uncivilised provinces; in the
wild ravines of Wallachia and the dreary steppes of the Ukraine.”

Apart from the genius of its founder, Chassidism owed its rapid growth to
the intellectual barrenness of these districts as compared with the
intellectual fertility of the other regions where Jews most thickly
congregated. The Roumanian Jews were to some extent under the jurisdiction
of the Rabbis of Poland. Now the Poles were celebrated even in Germany for
the elaboration of their casuistry. These over‐subtle Rabbis, delighting
in the quibbles of their sophistry, and reducing religion to an unending
number of juristic calculations and all sorts of possibilities and
impossibilities, were but too apt to forget the claims of feeling in their
eager desire to question and to settle everything. They may have been
satisfactory guides in matters spiritual to the men of their own stamp,
but they were of no avail to their Roumanian brethren who failed to
recognise religion in the garb of casuistry. It was, therefore, not
surprising that a revolt against the excess of intellectualism should have
sprung up and flourished in those districts where the inhabitants were
constitutionally incapable of appreciating the delights of argument. The
field was ready, and in the fulness of time came the sower in the person
of Baalshem.

In the above estimate of the Polish Rabbis there undoubtedly lurks a touch
of exaggeration. But it represents the view which the Chassidim took of
their opponents. The whole life of Baalshem is a protest against the
typical Rabbi thus conceived. The essential difference in the ideals of
the two parties is perhaps best illustrated in those portions of their
biographical literature where legend treads most closely upon the heels of

The hero of Polish Rabbinic biography at five years of age can recite by
heart the most difficult tractates of the Talmud; at eight he is the
disciple of the most celebrated teacher of the time, and perplexes him by
the penetrative subtlety of his questions; while at thirteen he appears
before the world as a full‐fledged Doctor of the Law.

The hero of the Chassidim has a totally different education, and his
distinctive glory is of another kind. The legendary stories about
Baalshem’s youth tell us little of his proficiency in Talmudic studies;
instead of sitting in the Beth Hammidrash with the folios of some
casuistic treatise spread out before him, Baalshem passes his time singing
hymns out of doors, or under the green trees of the forest with the
children. Satan, however, says the Chassid, is more afraid of these
innocent exercises than of all the controversies in the Meheram Shiff.(11)
It was through external nature, the woods of his childhood, the hills and
wild ravines of the Carpathians where he passed many of his maturer years,
that Baalshem, according to his disciples, reached his spiritual
confirmation. The Chassidic hero had no celebrated Rabbi for his master.
He was his own teacher. If not self‐taught, it was from angelic lips, or
even the Divine voice itself, that he learned the higher knowledge. From
the source whence the Torah flowed Baalshem received heavenly lore. His
method of self‐education, his ways of life, his choice of associates were
all instances of revolt; not only did he teach a wholly different theory
and practice, but he and his disciples seem to have missed no opportunity
of denouncing the old teachers as misleading and ungodly. Among the many
anecdotes illustrating this feature, it is told how once, on the evening
before the great Day of Atonement, Baalshem was noticed by his disciples
to be, contrary to his usual custom, depressed and ill at ease. The whole
subsequent day he passed in violent weeping and lamentations. At its close
he once more resumed his wonted cheerfulness of manner. When asked for the
explanation of his behaviour, he replied that the Holy Spirit had revealed
to him that heavy accusations were being made against the Jewish people,
and a heavy punishment had been ordained upon them. The anger of heaven
was caused by the Rabbis, whose sole occupation was to invent lying
premisses and to draw from them false conclusions. All the truly wise
Rabbis of the olden time (such as the Tannaim, the Amoraim(12) and their
followers, whom Baalshem regarded as so many saints and prophets) had now
stood forth as the accusers of their modern successors by whom their words
were so grossly perverted from their original meaning. On this account
Baalshem’s tears had been shed, and his prayers as usual had been
successful. The impending judgment was annulled. On another occasion, when
he overheard the sounds of eager, loud discussion issuing from a
Rabbinical college, Baalshem, closing his ears with his hands, declared
that it was such disputants who delayed the redemption of Israel from
captivity. Satan, he said, incites the Rabbis to study those portions of
Jewish literature only on which they can whet the sharpness of their
intellects, but from all writings of which the reading would promote piety
and the fear of God he keeps them away. “Where there is much study,” says
a disciple of Baalshem, “there is little piety.” “Jewish Devils”(13) is
one of the numerous polite epithets applied to the Rabbis by the friends
of Baalshem. “Even the worst sinners are better than they; so blind are
they in the arrogance of their self‐conceit that their very devotion to
the Law becomes a vehicle for their sin.” It will be found when we deal
with the most positive side of Baalshem’s teaching that this antagonism to
the attitude and methods of the contemporary Rabbis is further emphasised,
and it will readily be seen that his whole scheme of religion and of
conduct in relation to God and man rendered this acknowledged hostility
inevitable. In approaching this part of our subject it should be
remembered that, as stated above, Baalshem himself wrote nothing. For a
knowledge of his sayings we are therefore dependent on the reports of his
friends and disciples. And it is not unfrequently necessary to supplement
these by the teaching of his followers, whom we may suppose in large
measure to have caught the spirit of their master. Unfortunately the
original authorities are in a difficult Hebrew patois which often obscures
the precise meaning of whole passages.

The originality of Baalshem’s teaching has been frequently impugned,
chiefly by the suggestion that he drew largely from the Zohar (Book of
Brightness).(14) This mystical book, “the Bible of the Cabbalists,”
whether we regard its subject‐matter or its history and influence, is
unique in literature. Its pretended author is Simeon ben Yochai, a great
Rabbi of the second century, but the real writer is probably one Moses de
Leon, a Spanish Jew, who lived eleven centuries later. The book is one of
the most interesting literary forgeries, and is a marvellous mixture of
good and evil. A passage of delicate religious fancy is succeeded by
another of gross obscenity in illustration and suggestion; true piety and
wild blasphemy are strangely mingled together. Baalshem undoubtedly had
studied the Zohar, and he even is reported to have said that the reading
of the Zohar had enabled him to see into the whole universe of things.
But, for all that, Baalshem was no copyist; and the Zohar, although it may
have suggested a hint to him here and there, was not the source whence his
inspiration was drawn.

Its attraction for Baalshem is sufficiently explained by the fantastic,
imaginative, and emotional nature of its contents. It lent itself more
easily than the older Rabbinical literature to new explanations unthought
of by its author. But even the Talmud and its early commentaries became
apocalyptic to the heroes of Chassidism. Nay, the driest and most legal
disquisitions about _meum_ and _tuum_ could be translated into parables
and allegories and symbols full of the most exalted meanings. Baalshem,
like every other religious reformer, was partially the product of his age.
The influences of the past, the history and literature of his own people,
helped to make him what he was. But they do not rob him of his
originality. He was a religious revivalist in the best sense; full of
burning faith in his God and his cause; convinced utterly of the value of
his work and the truth of his teaching.

Although there can be no real doubt of Baalshem’s claim to originality, it
should be borne in mind that his teaching is not only distinctively
Jewish, but that for every part of it parallels and analogies could be
found in the older Hebrew literature. Indeed it is not wonderful that in a
literature, extending over 2000 years, of a people whose chief thoughts
have been religion, and who have come in contact with so many external
religious and philosophic influences, the germs can be discovered of
almost every conceivable system, and the outline of almost every
imaginable doctrine.

The keynote of all Baalshem’s teachings is the Omnipresence, or more
strictly the Immanence, of God. This is the source from which flows
naturally every article of his creed; the universality of the Divinity is
the foundation of the entire Chassidic fabric. The idea of the constant
living presence of God in all existence permeates the whole of Baalshem’s
scheme; it is insisted on in every relation; from it is deduced every
important proposition and every rule in conduct of his school.

All created things and every product of human intelligence owe their being
to God. All generation and all existence spring from the thought and will
of God. It is incumbent upon man to believe that all things are pervaded
by the divine life, and when he speaks he should remember that it is this
divine life which is speaking through him. There is nothing which is void
of God. If we imagine for a moment such a thing to be, it would instantly
fall into nothingness. In every human thought God is present. If the
thought be gross or evil, we should seek to raise and ennoble it by
carrying it back to its origin. So, if a man be suddenly overwhelmed by
the aspect of a beautiful woman, he should remember that this splendour of
beauty is owing to the all‐pervading emanation from the divine. When he
remembers that the source of corporeal beauty is God, he will not be
content to let his thought abide with the body when he can rise to the
inward contemplation of the infinite soul of beauty, which is God. A
disciple of Baalshem has said: Even as in the jewels of his beloved the
lover sees only the beauty of her he loves, so does the true lover of God
see in all the appearances of this world, the vitalising and generative
power of his divine master. If you do not see the world in the light of
God you separate the creation from its Creator. He who does not fully
believe in this universality of God’s presence has never properly
acknowledged God’s Sovereignty, for he excludes God from an existing
portion of the actual world. The word of God (to Baalshem, a synonym for
God himself), which “is settled in heaven” and “established on earth,” is
still and always speaking, acting, and generating throughout heaven and
earth in endless gradations and varieties. If the vitalising word were to
cease, chaos would come again. The belief in a single creation after which
the Master withdrew from his completed work, is erroneous and heretical.
The vivifying power is never withdrawn from the world which it animates.
Creation is continuous; an unending manifestation of the goodness of God.
All things are an affluence from the two divine attributes of Power and
Love, which express themselves in various images and reflections.

This is the doctrine of universality in Chassidism. God, the father of
Israel, God the Merciful, God the All‐powerful, the God of Love, not only
created everything but is embodied in everything. The necessity of
believing this doctrine is the cardinal Dogma. But as creation is
continuous so also is revelation. This revelation is only to be grasped by
faith. Faith, therefore, is more efficacious than learning. Thus it is
that in times of persecution, the wise and the foolish, the sinner and the
saint, are wont alike to give up their life for their faith. They who
could render no answer to the questions of the casuist are yet willing to
die the most cruel of deaths rather than deny their faith in the One and
Supreme God. Their strength to face danger and death is owing to that
divine illumination of the soul which is more exalted than knowledge.

We should thus regard all things in the light of so many manifestations of
the Divinity. God is present in all things; therefore there is good,
actual or potential, in all things. It is our duty everywhere to seek out
and to honour the good, and not to arrogate to ourselves the right to
judge that which may seem to be evil. In thinking therefore of a fellow‐
man, we should above all things realise in him the presence of the spirit
of good. Whence we have the Doctrine that each of us, while thinking
humbly of himself, should always be ready to think well, and always slow
to think evil, of another. This explains the Chassidic attitude towards
erring humanity. Baalshem viewed human sin and infirmity in a very
different light from that of the ordinary Rabbi. Ever conscious of the
Divine side of Humanity, he vigorously combated the gratuitous assumption
of sinfulness in man which was a fertile subject with contemporary
preachers. They, among the Roumanian Jews as in other communities,
delighted chiefly to dwell on the dark side of things, and found their
favourite theme in elaborate descriptions of the infernal punishments that
were awaiting the sinner after death. It is related how on one occasion
Baalshem rebuked one of these. The preacher had been denouncing woe to an
audience of whom he knew nothing whether for evil or for good. Baalshem,
indignant at this indiscriminative abuse and conceited arrogation of the
divine office of judgment, turned on him in the following words: “Woe upon
thee who darest to speak evil of Israel! Dost not know that every Jew,
when he utters ever so short a prayer at the close of day, is performing a
great work before which the angels in heaven bow down?” Great, as it would
seem, was the value set by Baalshem upon the smallest evidence of the
higher nature in man, and few there were, as he believed, who, if their
spirit was not darkened by pride, did not now and again give proof of the
divine stamp in which God had created them. No sin so separates us from
God that we need despair of return. From every rung of the moral ladder,
no matter how low, let man seek God. If he but fully believe that nothing
is void of God, and that God is concealed in the midst of apparent ruin
and degradation, he will not fear lest God be far from him. God is
regained in a moment of repentance, for repentance “transcends the limits
of space and time.” And he who leads the sinner to repentance causes a
divine joy; it is as though a king’s son had been in captivity and were
now brought back to his father’s gaze.

Baalshem refused to regard any one as wholly irredeemable. His was an
optimistic faith. God was to be praised in gladness by the dwellers in
this glorious world. The true believer, recognising the reflection of God
in every man, should hopefully strive, when that reflection was obscured
by sin, to restore the likeness of God in man. The peculiar detestability
of sin lies in this, that man rejects the earthly manifestations of the
Divinity and pollutes them. One of Baalshem’s disciples delighted in the
saying that the most hardened sinners were not to be despaired of, but
prayed for. None knows the heart of man, and none should judge his
neighbour. Let him who burns with zeal for God’s sake, exercise his zeal
on himself, not others. Baalshem said, “Let no one think himself better
than his neighbour, for all serve God; each according to the measure of
understanding which God has given him.”

From this position it is a natural step to Baalshem’s view of prayer. He
is reputed to have said that all the greatness he had achieved was the
issue not of study but of prayer. But true prayer “must move,” as Baalshem
phrased it, “in the realms above,” and not be concerned with affairs
sublunary. Your prayer should not be taken up with your wishes and needs,
but should be the means to bring you nigh to God. In prayer man must lay
aside his own individuality, and not even be conscious of his existence;
for if, when he prays, Self is not absolutely quiescent, the object of
prayer is unattainable. Indeed it is only through God’s grace that after
true prayer man is yet alive; to such a point has the annihilation of self

It may be necessary to caution the reader against ascribing to Baalshem
any modern rationalistic notions on the subject of prayer. The power of
prayer, in the old‐fashioned sense, to produce an answer from God was
never doubted by Baalshem for a moment. Baalshem’s deity is not restricted
towards any side by any philosophic considerations. All Baalshem meant was
that any reference or regard to earthly requirements was unworthy and
destructive of this communion of man with God. The wise man, says
Baalshem, does not trouble the king with innumerable petitions about
trifles. His desire is merely to gain admission into the king’s presence
and to speak with him without a go‐between. To be with the king whom he
loves so dearly is for him the highest good. But his love for the king has
its reward; for the king loves him.

It has already been implied that, with regard to our duty towards our
fellow‐man, we must not only honour him for the good, and abstain from
judging the evil that may be in him, but must pray for him. Furthermore we
must work for his spiritual and moral reclamation. In giving practical
effect in his own life to this doctrine, Baalshem’s conduct was in
striking contrast to that of his contemporaries. He habitually consorted
with outcasts and sinners, with the poor and uneducated of both sexes,
whom the other teachers ignored. He thus won for his doctrines a way to
the heart of the people by adapting his life and language to their
understanding and sympathies. In illustration of this, as well as of his
hatred of vanity and display, it is told how, on the occasion of his being
accorded a public reception by the Jews on his arrival at Brody, instead
of addressing to them in the conventional fashion some subtle discourse
upon a Talmudical difficulty, he contented himself with conversing upon
trivial topics in the local dialect with some of the less important
persons in the crowd.

This incident is perhaps the more noteworthy because it occurred in Brody,
which was at that time a seat of learning and Rabbinic culture,—a place
where, for that very reason, Chassidism was never able to gain a foothold.
It is probable enough that Baalshem in his visits to this town kept aloof
from the learned and the wise, and sought to gather round him the
neglected and humbler elements of Jewish society. It is well known that
Baalshem consorted a good deal with the innkeepers of the district, who
were held in very low repute among their brethren. The following remark by
one of his followers is very suggestive in this respect. Just as only
superficial minds attach a certain holiness to special places, whilst with
the deeper ones all places are alike holy, so that to them it makes no
difference whether prayers be said in the synagogue or in the forest; so
the latter believe that not only prophecies and visions come from heaven,
but that every utterance of man, if properly understood, contains a
message of God. Those who are absorbed in God will easily find the divine
element in everything which they hear, even though the speaker himself be
quite ignorant of it.

This line of conduct gave a fair opening for attack to his opponents, an
opportunity of which they were not slow to avail themselves. Baalshem was
pointed at as the associate of the lowest classes. They avenged themselves
for his neglect of and hostility to the learned by imputing the worst
motives to his indifference to appearances. He was accused of idling about
the streets with disreputable characters, and one polemical treatise draws
the vilest inferences from his apparent familiarity with women. To this
charge Baalshem’s conduct, innocent in itself, gave some colour; for his
views and habits in relation to women marked a strong divergence from
current customs. The position of women in contemporary circles was neither
debased nor inevitably unhappy, but it was distinctly subordinate. Their
education was almost entirely neglected, and their very existence was
practically ignored. According to the Chassidic doctrine of Universality,
woman was necessarily to be honoured. “All Jews,” says one Chassid, “even
the uneducated and the women, believe in God.” Baalshem frequently
associated with women, assigning to them not only social equality, but a
high degree of religious importance.

His own wife he reverenced as a saint; when she died he abandoned the hope
of rising to heaven while yet alive, like Elijah of old, saying mournfully
that undivided such translation might have happened, but for him alone it
was impossible. Then again in a form of religion utilising so largely the
emotions of Faith and Love there was a strong appeal to the female mind.
The effect of this was soon evident, and Baalshem did not neglect to
profit by it. Among the most devoted of his early adherents were women.
One of them was the heroine of a favourite anecdote concerning Baalshem’s
work of Love and Rescue. It is related that in a certain village there
dwelt a woman whose life was so disgraceful that her brothers at last
determined to kill her. With this object they enticed her into a
neighbouring wood, but guided by the Holy Spirit Baalshem intervened at
the critical moment, and dissuading the men from their purpose rescued the
sinner. The woman afterwards became a sort of Magdalen in the new

Above I have endeavoured to throw together in some order of sequence the
doctrines and practical rules of conduct which Baalshem and his early
disciples seem to have deduced from their central idea of the omnipresence
of God. This was necessary in order to give a connected idea of their
creed, but it is right to say that nowhere in Chassidic literature have
these deductions been logically co‐ordinated. Perhaps their solitary
attempt to formulate and condense their distinctive views is confined to a
statement of their idea of piety or service of God, and an examination of
three cardinal virtues, Humility, Cheerfulness, and Enthusiasm. What the
Chassidim held as to true service brings into relief Baalshem’s
characteristic manner of regarding the Law.

By the service of God was generally understood a life which fulfilled the
precepts of the written and oral law. Baalshem understood by it a certain
attitude towards life as a whole. For, as God is realised in life, each
activity of life when rightly conceived and executed is at once a
manifestation and a service of the Divine. All things have been created
for the glory and service of God. The smallest worm serves Him with all
its power. Thus, while eating, drinking, sleeping, and the other ordinary
functions of the body are regarded by the old Jewish moralists as mere
means to an end, to Baalshem they are already a service of God in
themselves. All pleasures are manifestations of God’s attribute of love;
and, so regarded, they are at once spiritualised and ennobled. Man should
seek to reach a higher level of purity and holiness before partaking of
food and drink, than even before the study of the Law. For when the Torah
had once been given by God the whole world became instinct with its grace.
He who speaks of worldly matters and religious matters as if they were
separate and distinct, is a heretic.

Upon the continual and uninterrupted study of the Law, Baalshem lays but
little stress. He accepted the ordinary belief that the Law (under which
term are included not only the Pentateuch, but the whole Old Testament and
the major portion of the old Rabbinic literature) was a revelation of God.
But, as the world itself is equally a divine revelation, the Torah becomes
little more than a part of a larger whole. To understand it aright one
needs to penetrate to the inward reality—to the infinite light which is
revealed in it. We should study the Law not as we study a science for the
sake of acquiring knowledge (he who studies it so has in truth been
concerning himself with its mere outward form), but we should learn from
it the true service of God. Thus the study of the law is no end in itself.
It is studied because, as the word of God, God is more easily discerned
and absorbed in this revelation of Him than in any other. The Torah is
eternal, but its explanation is to be made by the spiritual leaders of
Judaism. It is to be interpreted by them in accordance with the Attribute
of the age. For he regarded the world as governed in every age by a
different Attribute of God—one age by the Attribute of Love, another by
that of Power, a third again, by Beauty, and so on—and the explanation of
the Torah must be brought into agreement with it. The object of the whole
Torah is that man should become a Torah himself. Every man being a Torah
in himself, said a disciple of Baalshem, has got not only his Abraham and
Moses, but also his Balaam and Haman: he should try to expel the Balaam
and develop the Abraham within him. Every action of man should be a pure
manifestation of God.

The reason why we should do what the Law commands is not to gain grace
thereby in the eyes of God, but to learn how to love God and to be united
to Him. The important thing is not how many separate injunctions are
obeyed, but how and in what spirit we obey them. The object of fulfilling
these various ordinances is to put oneself, as it were, on the same plane
with God, and thus, in the ordinary phrase of the religious mystic, to
become one with Him, or to be absorbed in Him. People should get to know,
says Baalshem, what the unity of God really means. To attain a part of
this indivisible unity is to attain the whole. The Torah and all its
ordinances are from God. If I therefore fulfil but one commandment in and
through the love of God, it is as though I have fulfilled them all.

I have now briefly to refer to the three virtues to which the Chassidim
assigned the highest place of honour. Of these the first is called in
Hebrew “Shiphluth,”(15) and is best rendered by our word “Humility,” but
in Chassidic usage it includes the ideas of modesty, considerateness, and
sympathy. The prominence given to these qualities is in sharp contrast to
the faults of conceit, vanity, and self‐satisfaction, against which
Baalshem was never weary of protesting. He regarded these as the most
seductive of all forms of sin. But a few minutes before his death he was
heard to murmur, “O vanity, vanity! even in this hour of death thou darest
to approach me with thy temptations: ‘Bethink thee, Israel, what a grand
funeral procession will be thine because thou hast been so wise and good.’
O vanity, vanity! beshrew thee.” “It should be indifferent to man,” says
the master, “whether he be praised or blamed, loved or hated, reputed to
be the wisest of mankind or the greatest of fools. The test of the real
service of God is that it leaves behind it the feeling of humility. If a
man after prayer be conscious of the least pride or self‐satisfaction, if
he think, for instance, that he has earned a reward by the ardour of his
spiritual exercises, then let him know that he has prayed not to God but
to himself. And what is this but disguised idolatry? Before you can find
God you must lose yourself.” The Chassidim treated Shiphluth from two
sides: a negative side in thinking humbly of oneself, a positive in
thinking highly of one’s neighbour, in other words the love for our

He who loves the father will also love his children. The true lover of God
is also a lover of man. It is ignorance of one’s own errors that makes one
ready to see the errors of others. “There is no sphere in heaven where the
soul remains a shorter time than in the sphere of merit, there is none
where it abides longer than in the sphere of Love.”

The second Cardinal Virtue is “Cheerfulness,” in Hebrew “Simchah.”(16)
Baalshem insisted on cheerfulness of heart as a necessary attitude for the
due service of God. Once believe that you are really the servant and the
child of God and how can you fall again into a gloomy condition of mind?
Nor should the inevitable sins which we all must commit disturb our glad
serenity of soul. For is not repentance ready at hand by which we may
climb back to God? Every penitent thought is a voice of God. Man should
detect that voice in all the evidence of his senses, in every sight and
sound of external nature. It is through his want of faith in the
universality of God’s presence that he is deaf to these subtle influences
and can read only the lessons which are inscribed in books.

The reader will be prepared to learn that Baalshem, taking this cheerful
view of things, was opposed to every kind of asceticism. Judaism, or
rather Israelitism, it is true, was not originally much of an ascetic
religion. But there can be little doubt that in the course of history
there came in many ascetic doctrines and practices, quite enough at least
to encourage such tender souls the bent of whose minds lay in this
direction. To one of these, a former disciple, Baalshem wrote: “I hear
that you think yourself compelled from religious motives to enter upon a
course of fasts and penances. My soul is outraged at your determination.
By the counsel of God I order you to abandon such dangerous practices,
which are but the outcome of a disordered brain. Is it not written ‘Thou
shalt not hide thyself from thine own flesh?’ Fast then no more than is
prescribed. Follow my command and God shall be with you.” On another
occasion Baalshem was heard to observe that it is a machination of Satan
to drive us into a condition of gloom and despondency in which the
smallest error is regarded as a deadly sin. Satan’s object is to keep us
away from the true service of God, and God can only be truly served from a
happy and confident disposition. Anxious scrupulosity in details is
therefore to be avoided. It is the counsel of the Devil to persuade us
that we never have done and shall never do our duty fully, and that moral
progress is impossible. Such ideas beget melancholy and despair, which are
of evil.

The third virtue is called in the Hebrew Chassidic literature
“Hithlahabuth,”(17) and is derived from a verb meaning “to kindle” or “set
on fire.” The substantive “Hithlahabuth,” so far as I am aware, was first
coined by Baalshem’s followers. It is best rendered by our word
“Enthusiasm.” Every religious action, to be of any avail, must be done
with enthusiasm. A mere mechanical and lifeless performance of an
ordinance is valueless. A man is no step nearer the goal if he thinks,
forsooth, that he has done his duty when he has gone through the whole
round of laws in every section of the code. This essential enthusiasm is
only begotten of Love. The service of fear, if not wholly useless, is yet
necessarily accompanied by a certain repulsion and heaviness, which
effectually prevent the rush and ardour of enthusiasm. The inspiration of
true service is its own end. There is no thought of this world, and there
is none of the world to come. In the Talmud there is frequent reference to
one Rabbi Elisha ben Abuyah, an apostate from Judaism, who, when urged to
repent, replied that repentance was useless, and that for this mournful
belief he had direct divine authority. For he had been told by a voice
from heaven that even though he repented he would be excluded from sharing
the happiness of the world to come. Of him it was said by one of the
Chassidim, “This man indeed missed a golden opportunity. How purely could
he have served God, knowing that for his service there could never be a

From the conception of Enthusiasm springs the quality of mobility,
suggesting spiritual progress, and commonly opposed by Baalshem and his
followers to the dull religious stagnation of self‐satisfied
contemporaries. Man should not imagine himself to have attained the level
of the righteous; let him rather regard himself as a penitent who should
make progress every day. Always to remain on the same religious plane,
merely repeating to‐day the religious routine of yesterday, is not true
service. There must be a daily advance in the knowledge and love of the
Divine Master. Mere freedom from active sin is not sufficient; such
negative virtue may be but another word for the chance absence of
temptation. What boots it never to have committed a sin if sin lies
concealed in the heart? It is only the uninterrupted communion with God
which will raise and ennoble your thoughts and designs, and cause the
roots of sin to die. The patriarch Abraham, without any command from God,
fulfilled the whole Torah, because he perceived that the Law was the life
of all created things. In the Messianic age the law will no longer seem to
man as something ordained for him from without; but the law will be within
the hearts of men; it will seem natural and self‐evident to them, because
they will realise that God and life are manifested through the law.

Baalshem, who dealt largely in parable, has left the following, which we
may fitly add to our somewhat inadequate presentation of his doctrine.

There was once a king who built himself a glorious palace. By means of
magical illusion it seemed as if the palace were full of devious corridors
and mazes, preventing the approach to the royal presence. But as there was
much gold and silver heaped up in the entrance halls, most people were
content to go no further, but take their fill of treasure. The king
himself they did not notice. At last the king’s intimate had compassion
upon them and exclaimed to them, “All these walls and mazes which you see
before you do not in truth exist at all. They are mere illusions. Push
forward bravely, and you shall find no obstacle.”

We must not interpret the parable to mean that Baalshem denied the reality
or even the importance of the actual phenomenal world. The very contrary
is the truth. The world is for him full of God, penetrated through and
through by the divine, and therefore as real as God himself. It was quite
in Baalshem’s manner when one of his disciples declared that only fools
could speak of the world as vanity or emptiness. “It is in truth a
glorious world. We must only learn how rightly to make use of it. Call
nothing common or profane: by God’s presence all things are holy.”

Above we have reviewed the essential doctrines of Baalshem and his
immediate followers; we have now to see how they fared at the hands of the
sect which he founded. This is a sad part of our task, for the subsequent
history of Chassidism is almost entirely a record of decay. As formulated
by its founder the new creed amounted to a genuine Reformation, pure and
lofty in ideal. After his death unhappily it was rapidly corrupted and
perverted. This was due almost exclusively to the dangerous and
exaggerated development of a single point in his teaching. That point, the
honour due to the divine in man, was relatively a minor article in the
original creed. But the later Chassidism has given it a distorted and
almost exclusive importance wholly out of proportion to the grander and
more essential features of Baalshem’s teaching, until the distinctive
feature of the Chassidism of to‐day is an almost idolatrous service of
their living leaders. What little there is to say of the history of the
sect after Baalshem’s death would be unintelligible without some
explanation of the origin and growth of this unfortunate perversion.

It has been explained that Baalshem laid but little stress upon the study
of the Law or the observance of its precepts in themselves, but regarded
them only as means to an end. The end is union with God. Man has to
discover the presence of God in the Divine word and will. Now this
mystical service of God, although perhaps sufficing to sensitive and
enthusiastic natures, is scarcely plain or definite enough for ordinary
men. Few can realise abstractions: and yet fewer can delight in them and
find in their contemplation sufficient nurture for their religious needs.
What then had Chassidism to offer to the ordinary majority who could not
recognise God in all the plenitude of His disguise? The want of something
tangible whereon to fix the minds of the people, which has confronted the
teachers of so many creeds, was also encountered by the Chassidim, and
they unfortunately found their way out of the difficulty by relying on and
developing their doctrine of man’s position in the Universe. Man’s ideal
is to be a law himself; himself a clear and full manifestation of God.
Now, not only is he God’s servant and child, but in highest development he
becomes himself a part of God, albeit in human shape, so that he may
become wholly one with his divine Father. But if man may reach this
highest level of holiness, he is virtually a kind of God‐man, whom his
fellow‐men of lower levels perceive by reason of his manhood, but his
essential office consists in raising them up to God by reason of his

The few chosen spirits who through the successful persistency with which
they have sought God in all things have become, though yet on earth,
absorbed in Him, are known in Chassidic literature by the name of the
“Zaddikim.” The Hebrew word Zaddik(18) means “just” or “righteous,” and
the term was probably chosen in conscious opposition to the title of
Rabbinic heroes, “disciples of the wise.” For the Zaddik is not so much
the product of learning as of intuition: his final consummation is reached
by a sudden and direct illumination from God. The Zaddik not only
resembles Moses, but, in virtue of his long communion with the Divine, he
is also the true child of God. He is, moreover, a vivifying power in
creation, for he is the connecting bond between God and his creatures. He
is the source of blessing and the fount of grace. Man must therefore learn
to love the Zaddik, so that through the Zaddik he may win God’s grace. He
who does not believe in the Zaddik is an apostate from God. Here then we
have the fatal exaggeration to which I have alluded, and here its logical
consequence. The step to man‐worship is short.

This peculiar doctrine of the Intermediary soon became the distinguishing
feature of Chassidism. By a Chassid was understood not a man who held such
and such opinions in theology and religion, but a believer in the Zaddik,
and one who sought to attain salvation through the worship of the Zaddik.
Every other doctrine of Chassidism was rapidly pushed into the background
and overlooked. Even the grand and fundamental doctrine of Omnipresence in
the Creation was veiled by the special presence in the Zaddik. Chassidism
became mere Zaddikism, and its subsequent history is identical with the
downward development of that cult.

Whether Baalshem named his successor is doubtful. But the lead after his
death was assumed by his disciple Beer of Mizriez. This man’s conversion
to Chassidism was an important event for the new community; his piety and
learning were beyond dispute, and, whereas during Baalshem’s life
Chassidism had found its chief adherents among the lower classes of
society, Beer managed to gather round him many of the most learned among
his contemporaries. It was to these new and ardent disciples of Beer that
the expansion of Chassidism was chiefly due. They came together from many
quarters, and after Beer’s death separated and preached the new doctrine
far and wide. Many even went forth during the lifetime of their master,
and at his command, to found fresh branches of the new sect. Like Beer
himself, they directed their efforts mainly to winning over the educated
sections of the Jews. The elder men paid little heed to their word, but
the youths, just fresh from their casuistic studies, which had sharpened
their wits and starved their souls, lent a ready ear and an eager heart to
the new doctrine. The uneducated were by no means excluded; to them
Chassidism held out a deeper consolation and a grander hope than the
current Rabbinism of the age; they therefore joined the young community in
large numbers without any special effort being necessary to gain them

In their methods of Prayer the Chassidim most conspicuously differed from
the older communities. Laying as they did supreme stress on the importance
and efficacy of prayer, they soon found it necessary to secede from the
existing synagogues and erect separate buildings for themselves. The usual
salaried Reader “with the beautiful voice and empty head,” who naturally
regarded his function as a matter of business, was done away with and his
place taken either by the Zaddik himself or by some other distinguished
person in the community. The Chassidim also effected many changes in the
liturgy. Instead of the German they adopted the Spanish ritual. They
excised many prayers which, lacking the authority of antiquity, were
cumbrous in form or objectionable in matter. They inserted new prayers and
hymns of their own. They paid little regard to the prescribed hours at
which public worship should be held. Prayer began when they had got
themselves into the proper devotional frame of mind. Frequent ablutions,
perusal of mystical writings, introspective meditation were the means by
which they sought to gain the befitting mood. The prayers themselves were
accompanied by the usual phenomena of religious excitement. Some in the
zeal of their devotion began to dance; others were rapt in a motionless
ecstasy; some prayed aloud; others in solemn silence. They justified their
abrogation of fixed hours for prayer by saying that you cannot order a
child when to speak with its father: such restraint were fit only for

As a rule the larger number of the younger Chassidim were able to devote
their whole time to religious exercises. It was the custom among the Jews
in Eastern Europe for the young men to live at the expense of their own or
their wives’ parents, in order that they might give themselves up entirely
to religious study. According to the old notions, this meant the study of
the Talmud and its Commentaries; the Chassidim who cared little for the
legal side of Jewish literature betook themselves to the literature of
edification and mysticism. No small part of their time was taken up with
endless conversations about the Zaddik, his piety, goodness, and self‐
sacrifice and the wonderful miracles which he had wrought. If a Zaddik was
living in his own town, the youthful Chassid spent as many hours as he
could in the Zaddik’s company, in order to observe and study this embodied
Torah as constantly as possible. Where no Zaddik was at hand, periodical
pilgrimages were made to the town in which he lived, and endless were the
tales which were afterwards repeated, to those who were obliged to stay at
home, of the Zaddik’s marvellous wisdom and extraordinary deeds. The last
hours of the Sabbath day were looked upon as a special season of grace,
and the Chassidim were therefore in the habit of collecting together in
the waning of the Sabbath and celebrating the so‐called “Supper of the
Holy Queen.” The meal was accompanied by the usual conversations as well
as by hymns and prayers.

The Chassidim were second to no other sect in their loyalty and affection
for each other. No sacrifice for a brother Chassid was too great. They
knew no difference of rich and poor, old and young, wise and ignorant; for
they all, with one accord, worshipped one common ideal, the Zaddik, who in
his exalted position was equally raised above them all. Before him all
minor differences of rank disappeared. When a Chassid travelled, he had no
scruple in asking for lodging or entertainment in the house of any Chassid
who could afford to give them. If he was in money difficulties the purse
of his host was at his disposal. If that was not sufficient, it was
supplemented by a grant from the fund of the community. These gifts were
not looked upon in the light of charity either by giver or receiver; they
were made to the Zaddik, to whom all Chassidim alike were debtors. It
sometimes even happened that a Zaddik said that the son of some rich
merchant was to marry the daughter of a poor schoolmaster, and both
parties were equally delighted to fulfil the wish of their beloved chief.

It may easily be imagined that the innovations of the Chassidim provoked
the wrath of the orthodox communities. But in their detestation of the
Rabbis the Chassidim returned in full measure all the hatred they
received. The Zaddik is the Moses of his age: the Rabbis its Korah and
Abiram. Where the Chassidic party in any community gained the upper hand,
the Rabbi was deposed and a Zaddik, if that was possible, elected in his
place. The issue of these bitter attacks upon the old nobility of the
Jewish race was a rigorous persecution. In many places the Chassidim were
excommunicated, in others their leaders were publicly scourged and put
into the stocks. Their books were burnt and their synagogues forcibly
closed. But persecution produced only the usual result of increasing the
popularity and the numbers of the sect. The devotion of the Chassidim to
each other and to their common cause was increased a hundred‐fold by
suffering. In one case a distinguished Zaddik was accused of treason,
before the Russian authorities, and was thrown into prison. In Russia,
however, the power of money is considerable, and on payment of a large
ransom not only was the beloved Zaddik released but as an obvious
consequence his reputation greatly profited: the day of his release was
celebrated as a yearly festival, while his sufferings were regarded by his
followers as a sin‐offering that atoned for the iniquities of his age.
From this time the government maintained a purely neutral attitude towards
the new sect, and ere long the persecution by the orthodox ceased.

The cessation of persecution may possibly be accounted for by the fact
that Chassidism as a secession soon ceased to be formidable. There were
early divisions within the sect. Even Beer’s disciples began to quarrel
over theological differences and to found separate communities. When once
the course of corruption and spiritual decay had begun, it was the
interest of the false Zaddikim to accentuate these differences. Each
Zaddik sought to have a whole little sect to himself, from which to draw
an undivided revenue. And each deluded little sect as it arose boasted of
the exclusive possession of the true Zaddik.

It must not be supposed that these strictures apply to the whole class of
Zaddikim. The greater number of Baalshem’s leading disciples as well as
Beer’s were beyond question men of pure, unalloyed piety, who would have
rejected with scorn any idea of making a trade of their sacred profession.
Their motives and their zeal were alike ideal. Many gave up highly paid
posts as Rabbis when they joined the new sect. Some emigrated to Palestine
to lead a holy life on holy ground, others sought to become religious
specialists, following out practically, although with some exaggeration, a
favourite doctrine of the Founder, that he who observes but one
commandment devotedly and lovingly, may reach the goal desired: the union
with God. Thus one Zaddik made it his business never to tell the smallest
falsehood, whatever the cost or the inconvenience of truth might be. It is
related that the Russian Government, suspecting the Jews of his town of
smuggling, consented to withdraw the charge if he declared his brethren
innocent. Having no alternative but either to bring misfortune on his
brethren or to tell an untruth, he prayed to God to save him from this
dilemma by sending death upon him. And lo! when the officials came to
fetch him before the law court they found him dead. Another, thinking that
the commandment in Exodus xxiii. 3, relating to the help that should be
given to a neighbour or enemy when “his ass is lying under its burden,”
was practically unobserved, devoted himself to its fulfilment. He was
continually to be seen in the streets, helping one man to load his waggon,
and another to drag his cart out of the mire. A third made the service of
the oppressed his religious specialty. It is said that one day his wife,
having had a quarrel with her maid, was setting out to the magistrate of
the town to obtain satisfaction. Noticing that her husband was about to
accompany her, she asked him whither he was bound. He replied, “to the
magistrate.” His wife declared that it was below his dignity to take any
part in a quarrel with a servant. She could deal with the matter herself.
The Zaddik replied, “That may be, but I intend to represent your maid, who
when accused by my wife will find no one willing to take her part.” And
then, bursting into a passion of tears, he quoted Job xxxi. 13: “If I did
despise the cause of my man‐servant or of my maid‐servant, when they
contended with me, what shall I do when God riseth up?”

Several Zaddikim were learned men and thinkers of no ordinary kind. The
works of Solomon Ladier or of Mendel Witipsker, read with attention and
without Western preconceptions, certainly give the impression of both
originality and depth of thought. But most characteristic of all is the
passionate yearning of authors such as these towards the Divine. The
reader is astonished and moved by the intense sincerity and ardour of
their longing after God. But, despite the adherence of these worthy men,
the fate of Chassidism, as a regenerative force, was sealed from the day
when Zaddikism replaced the original doctrines of the sect.

For, apart from the obvious theological considerations already suggested,
there are two points of inherent weakness in the cult of the Zaddik which
naturally doomed it to perversion and failure. The necessary
qualifications for “Zaddikship” are wholly undefined. We hear a great deal
about what a Zaddik actually is, but we hear very little about what he
should be. The Zaddik has many virtues, but we are nowhere told what are
his indispensable qualifications. Moreover, the Zaddik is a being who can
be comprehended by the understanding as little as an angel, or as God
Himself. He is realised by faith, not conceived by thought. Hence there is
no human test of a true Zaddik except the test of miracles; and every
student of religious history knows the deceitful character of that test.

The second source of danger arose from the Chassidim holding it to be
their sacred duty to provide for the Zaddik a life of comfort and ease.
The Zaddik must pursue his divine avocations undisturbed by grosser cares.
But what were the consequences? The Chassidim believed they could win the
grace and blessing of the Zaddik by the richness and variety of their
gifts. A Zaddik’s career became a very profitable concern. The result of
both defects was that not only was the opportunity given for every
scheming charlatan to become a Zaddik, but inducements were offered to
make the deception lucrative. Hence the anxiety of the false Zaddikim,
already noticed, to found separate communities.

Among the Chassidim of to‐day there is not one in ten thousand who has the
faintest conception of those sublime ideas which inspired Baalshem and his
immediate disciples. It is still the interest of the wretched ringleaders
of a widely spread delusion to crush and keep down every trace of
reflection and thought so that they may play at will with the conscience
and purses of their adherents. The new scientific movement, inaugurated by
such men as Krochmal, Zunz, and others who came under the influence of the
German critical spirit, found in them its hottest and most fanatical
opponents. That the cult of the Zaddikim has not led to still more
disastrous consequences is solely due to the fact that the Chassidim in
general have remained faithful to the Law. It is the Law, against the
excessive study of which the original Chassidim protested, that has put
limits to the license of its modern false prophets.

Amid much that is bad, the Chassidim have preserved through the whole
movement a warm heart, and an ardent, sincere faith. There is a certain
openness of character and a ready friendliness about even the modern
Chassidim which are very attractive. Religion is still to them a matter of
life and death. Their faith is still real enough to satisfy the demands of
a Luther, but it is diverted and wasted upon unworthy objects. If
Chassidism is to be reformed, its worship must no longer be of man; it
must be brought back again to the source of all Beauty, all Wisdom, and
all Goodness; it must be restored to God.


In her good‐natured panegyric of mediocrity which is known under the title
of _Scenes of Clerical Life_, George Eliot remarked: “Let us hope that
there is a saving ignorance.”

Strange as this demand may sound, the wish of the great novelist to see
her favoured mediocrities “saved,” has been shared by the great majority
of mankind. I know that I, at least, echo that desire with all my heart.
And I am afraid that I am prompted by some rather selfish reasons. It
would be somewhat hard, when one is born with small abilities, but a great
desire for being saved, to be deprived of the hope held out by the author
of _Adam Bede_.

But there are some, I am afraid, who are not satisfied with this dictum of
George Eliot. They show a strong tendency to make salvation a monopoly of
ignorance. This is a little too selfish. With all due respect to every
form of ignorance, sacred as well as profane, we ought, I think, to
believe that there is also such a thing as a saving knowledge. Nay, we
might go even farther. There may be certain epochs in history when there
is hardly any other path to salvation than knowledge, and the deep search
after truth.

We all know the words of the Psalmist, “The Lord preserveth the simple.”
But as there are periods in the life of the individual when naïveté has to
give way to sagacity and reflection, so there are times in history at
which Providence does not choose to leave men in simplicity. At such times
doubts arise, as though of themselves; questions suddenly become open when
they had been supposed solved for centuries; and the human mind is stirred
by a sceptical breeze of which no man can tell whence it came. One may
under those circumstances be indifferent, but one can be simple no more.

Even in such cases, however, man has no cause to despair. When our dearest
beliefs are shaken by all kinds of doubts, Providence sends us also great
thinkers, earnest lovers of truth, who devote their lives to enlightening
our puzzled minds. Not that these men try to answer all the questions by
which we feel perplexed. They endeavour to satisfy us, partly by showing
that many of our difficulties are not difficulties at all, but merely
arise from superficiality, and partly by proving that the great cause
about which we feel so much anxiety does not exactly depend on the
solution of the questions that are troubling us. They give to the things
which are dearer to us than our life a fresh aspect, which enables us to
remain attached to them with the same devotion and love as before. To
speak again in the words of the Psalmist: “Thou sendest forth Thy Spirit,
and they are created, and Thou renewest the face of the earth.”

This spirit that renews the face of things is what I understand by “saving
knowledge.” As men of that saving knowledge we may regard Rabban Johanan
ben Zaccai(19) and his disciples, who made it possible for Judaism to
survive the destruction of the Temple, which some believed to involve the
end of the religion. As such men we may look upon R. Saadiah Gaon and his
followers, who worked at a time when Judaism was menaced in its inner
life, namely in the tradition, by the attempts of the narrow‐minded
Caraites to convert it into a bookish religion.(20) Such men were
Maimonides and his successors, who came to the aid of religion when it had
got into dogmatic troubles by reason of its coming into contact with
various philosophical systems. And in order to approach the subject of the
present essay, I venture to say that a man of such saving knowledge was
also Nachman Krochmal, who lived and laboured in the first half of the
present century, when Judaism had been terribly shaken by the scepticism
of Voltaire, and the platitudes of the so‐called Mendelssohnian school.

Nachman Krochmal was born on the 17th of February in the year 1785. His
father, Solomon Krochmal, was a merchant of Brody, a commercial frontier
town in the north‐east of Galicia in Austria. In his early years Solomon
often used to visit Berlin for business purposes. He is said to have seen
Mendelssohn there on one occasion, and to have learned greatly to revere
the Jewish sage. And it is not unlikely that Nachman’s subsequent
admiration for Mendelssohn was partly due to his father’s influence.

Solomon was a man of considerable wealth, and he, therefore, endeavoured
to give his son the best possible education. But as a respectable member
of a Polish community a hundred years ago, Solomon had to follow the
fashion adopted by his neighbours, and the best possible education
consisted in affording the child an opportunity to study the Talmud and
other Rabbinical works. All other languages and their literatures were
sealed books to the child—a very absurd and regrettable fashion indeed.
But let us not be too hard on Polish Jews. I have been told that there are
countries on our globe where people have been driven by the force of
fashion into the opposite extreme; where, with few exceptions, they think
that the Talmud, as well as the whole Hebrew literature, must needs be
excluded from the programme of a gentleman’s education.

Happily, or the reverse, Krochmal’s childhood did not last long, for in
the year 1798 we find that Nachman, a boy of fourteen, was already married
to a Miss Haberman in Zolkiew. As a result of this foolish custom of
marrying at so very early an age, Nachman was hardly ever a boy; we have
at once to deal with him as a man.

It was then customary in Poland, and perhaps is so still, for the father
of the bride to provide for the support of the young couple for some years
after their marriage. In order to reduce the expense of this arrangement,
the bridegroom had to reside in the same house as his father‐in‐law. Thus
we see Krochmal removing from Brody to Zolkiew, the native town of his
wife. Here Krochmal lived in the house of her father for many years,
entirely devoted to his studies; and he certainly needed all his time for
them. For he now began to expand the sphere of his education, to embrace
subjects quite new to him. By his marriage Nachman seems to have gained a
certain amount of independence, and the first use he made of it was to
study the _Guide of the Perplexed_(21) of Maimonides, the _Commentaries_
of Ibn Ezra on the Bible,(22) and other more or less philosophical works
written in the Hebrew language. His next step was to learn German; but, as
his biographers inform us, he was not able to follow this course without
undergoing many struggles, and overcoming many obstacles.

It would lead us too far to give a full account of the difficulties which
the young scholar had to conquer while pursuing his new studies. They will
be sufficiently characterised by the following extract from a Hebrew
letter of his disciple, Solomon Leb Rapoport, who, writing in 1841
concerning his master and friend, remarks: “Consider this, ye inhabitants
of Germany”—and, I may add, ye inhabitants of England—“and you will be
astounded. It is easy for you to avoid being one‐sided, and to study
different sciences, for you possess many schools and teachers from every
branch of learning. It is not so in Poland and Russia even at present,
much less was it so forty years ago. There is no teacher, no guide, no
supporter, for the Jew who desires any sort of improvement. The Jew who
wishes to enter on a new path of learning has to prepare the road for
himself. And when he has entered on it, his friend will come to him and
ask, ‘Is it true that you have got scientific books in your house? Mind
you do not mention it to any one. There are enough bigots in the town to
persecute you and all your family if they get scent of it.’ ” It was under
these conditions that Krochmal pursued his studies, which were by no means
few or easy, for he was not content with a knowledge of only the lighter
portions of German literature. He soon began to read the works of Lessing,
Mendelssohn, and more especially of Kant, who always remained his
favourite philosopher. In his later years he also became acquainted with
the writings of Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel. But to the last he could not
console himself for having missed the advantages of a systematic
university education.

After having learned German, Krochmal proceeded to acquire a knowledge of
Latin and French, and to read the best books written in those languages.
To deepen his knowledge of Hebrew, he studied Arabic and Syraic, but we
are unable to say how far he succeeded in mastering these languages. With
these studies, which appear to have occupied our philosopher for an
interval of ten years after his marriage, the first period of his life
seems also to end. But the hard work of ten years did not pass over the
delicate youth without undermining his health for ever. At the age of
twenty‐four, Krochmal fell sick of an illness which compelled him to
interrupt his work. He was forced to go to Lemberg to consult the doctors
of that town, and he had to remain there for a long time. And now began
Krochmal’s career as a teacher. For during his stay at Lemberg there
gathered round him a band of young scholars whom Krochmal’s fame had
already reached. It is useless to enumerate the names of all these
students. Among them figured Isaac Erter, Samson Bloch, A. Bodek, and many
others. The most gifted of them was undoubtedly Rapoport, who afterwards
became even more famous than his master Krochmal. It is not easy to define
accurately the relation that subsisted between these two men. Graetz, in
his history, calls Rapoport a disciple of Krochmal. Rapoport himself, in
his memoir of Krochmal, describes the latter as a dear friend with whom he
was wont to discuss literary topics. Zunz does not mention Rapoport at all
in his account of our author. It seems to me that this relation may be
most aptly defined by the Talmudic term “Talmid‐Chaber,”(23) “disciple‐

Indeed, Krochmal’s whole method of teaching was rather that of a companion
than of a professor. He gave no set lectures on particular subjects, but
conveyed his instruction rather by means of suggestive conversations with
his younger friends. His usual habit was to walk with his pupils in the
neighbourhood of the town, and to try to influence their minds each in
accordance with its bent. If any of his disciples showed an inclination
for poetry, Krochmal sought to refine his taste by directing his attention
to the best works in Hebrew and German literature. To another, whose fancy
strayed into mysticism, he recommended the writings of Philo and Ibn Ezra,
at the same time suggesting how the works of the latter should be
interpreted. A third who, like Rapoport, was interested in historical
researches, Krochmal instructed in the methods of critical inquiry.

There must have been some fascinating charm in Nachman’s personality,
which made him irresistible to all who came into contact with him.
Rapoport has described his first interview with Krochmal. “It is more than
thirty years since I first made his acquaintance, and beheld the glory of
his presence. Though he was in weak health, still his soul was strong; and
as soon as I conversed with him there came over me a spirit of judgment
and knowledge. I felt almost transformed into another man.” Elsewhere the
same writer says: “Oh, how sweet to me were these walks with
Krochmal—sweeter than all the pleasures of this world. I could never have
enough of his wisdom; with his every word he conveyed a new lesson.”

After a lengthy stay at Lemberg, Krochmal partially, though not entirely,
recovered from his severe illness; he remained weak and pale for the rest
of his days. His antagonists, the Chassidim, believed him to be possessed
by a demon who could find no better dwelling‐place than in the person of
this arch‐heretic. Had it been in their power they would probably have
dragged him to some exorcist for the purpose of driving out his German,
French, Latin, and other symptoms of demoniacal heresy. Happily the
orthodox were powerless to do this, so Krochmal was left unmolested, and
was allowed to resume his walks and studies. It may be here remarked that
Krochmal in general avoided giving the Chassidim any cause for reasonable
complaint. Rapoport asserts that his master was “deeply religious and a
strict observer of the law. He was zealously anxious to perform every
ordinance, Biblical or Rabbinical.” The only liberty that Krochmal claimed
for himself and his disciples was the right to study what they thought
best and in the way they thought best. When this liberty was attacked, he
showed a firmness and resolution which would hardly have been expected
from this quiet and gentle man. To one of his pupils, who made concessions
to the Chassidim and their Zaddikim worship, Krochmal wrote: “Be firm in
this matter unless you wish to earn the contempt of every honest man. One
who is afraid of these people, and debases himself before them bears a
mean soul that was born to slavery. The man that wishes to rise above the
mob, with its confused notions and corrupt morality, must be courageous as
a lion in conquering the obstacles that beset his path. Consideration of
what people will say, what bigots will whisper, what crafty enemies will
scheme—questions such as these can have but one effect,—to darken the
intellect and confuse the faculty of judgment.”

So Krochmal continued his studies without interruption till 1814, when the
death of his wife’s mother brought his period of ease and comfort to an
end. His father‐in‐law seems to have died some time before, and Krochmal
was forced to seek his own living. He became a merchant, but it is to be
regretted that he did not prove as successful a man of business as he was
a man of letters. He found it a hard struggle to earn a living. But the
severest trial which he had to undergo was the death of his wife in 1826.
In a letter, dating from about this time, to a friend who had asked him
for assistance in his philosophical inquiries, Krochmal wrote—“How can I
help you now? I am already an old man; my head is gray, and my health is
broken. In the last three years I have met with many misfortunes. My
beloved wife died after a long illness. My daughter will soon leave me to
get married, my elder son will depart to seek his livelihood, and I shall
be left alone with only a child of ten years, the son of my old age. I
will lift up mine eyes unto the hills: From whence shall my help come?”

Nachman was evidently in very low spirits at this time, but he was in too
true a sense a philosopher to despair. He turned for comfort to his
studies, and at this dark epoch of his life he first became acquainted
with the Philosophy of Hegel, whose system he was wont to call the
“Philosophy of Philosophies.”

For the next ten years the works of Hegel and inquiries into Jewish
history appear to have absorbed all the leisure that his mercantile
occupation left him. We shall presently see what the result of these
studies was. No fresh subjects were undertaken by Krochmal in the last
years of his life; he had already acquired a fund of knowledge vast enough
to engage all his thoughts. There are, however, some remaining points in
his private circumstances which it may not be uninteresting to mention.

Krochmal, as has been already related, was not prosperous in his business.
Things went from bad to worse, and he was compelled in 1836 to seek a
situation. “There ought to be literary men poor,” some writer has
maintained, “to show whether they are genuine or not.” This test Krochmal
successfully passed through. Even as a young man Nachman’s strength of
character was admired by his contemporaries not less than his rare
learning. In his subsequent distress, he gave evidence of the truth of
this judgment. Despite his poverty, his friends could not prevail upon him
to accept the post of Rabbi in any Jewish community. “I am unwilling,” he
wrote to a friend, “to be the cause of dissensions in any Jewish
congregation. I should prefer to die of hunger rather than become a Rabbi
under present circumstances.” He expressed his views on this subject even
more decidedly on a later occasion when the Berlin congregation offered
him the post of Chief Rabbi in that town. In a letter, conveying his
refusal of this honourable office, he says: “I never thought of becoming
the Conscience‐counsellor (_Gewissensrath_) of men. My line of studies was
not directed to that end, nor would it accord with my disposition and
sentiments. The only post that I should care to accept would be that of
teacher in the Jewish Theological Seminary, which, as I was informed, you
were thinking of establishing in Berlin.” The plan to found such an
institution was not realised till forty years later, and in the interval
Nachman had to look for his living in other regions than Jewish theology.
Being in poor circumstances, and as his children and friends had left him,
he felt very lonely at Zolkiew. “Nobody cares for me here,” he writes,
“and I am equally indifferent.” His one desire was to obtain a situation
at Brody, possibly as book‐keeper with a salary of some thirty pounds a
year, on condition that he would be expected to devote only half the day
to his business duties, thus securing for himself leisure for
philosophical studies.

His terms were accepted, and he obtained the humble post he sought. He
remained in Brody for the next two years, 1836‐8, but at the end of 1838
he fell so dangerously ill that he could no longer resist the pressing
request of his daughter to live with her at Tarnopol. She had urged him to
take this step even previous to his removal to Brody, but he had declined
on the plea that he preferred to live by the labour of his hands. Now,
however, he yielded to her wish, and betook himself to Tarnopol, where for
two years longer he lived affectionately tended by his children and
respected by all who knew him. In May 1840, Krochmal’s illness began to
develop fatal symptoms, and he died in the arms of his daughter on the
31st of July (the first of Ab), at the age of fifty‐five. As Zunz happily
remarked: “This great man was born on the 7th of Adar, the birthday of
Moses (according to Jewish tradition), and died on the first of Ab, the
anniversary of the death of Aaron, the High Priest.”

I have tried in the foregoing remarks to give a short sketch of our
Rabbi’s life according to the accounts of Zunz, Rapoport, and Letteris.
There is one other point to which I must allude, as it involves a
consideration on which Letteris seems to lay much stress. This biographer
appears to think that Krochmal was in his youth greatly influenced by the
society in which he moved, consisting as it did of many learned and
enlightened men. There is, too, the oft‐quoted saying of Goethe:—

    Wer den Dichter will verstehen
    Muss in Dichters Lande gehen.

And I am probably expected to give some account of the state of society in
which Nachman grew up. I regret that I must ask to be excused from doing
so. I cannot consent to take the reader to Krochmal’s land. And if I might
venture to give him my humble advice, I should only say, “By all means
stop at home.” Goethe may be right about the poet, but his remark does not
apply to the case of the scholar. It may be true, as some think, that
every great man is the product of his time, but it certainly does not
follow that he is the product of his country. Nor could I name any other
country of which Krochmal was the product. Many a city no doubt boasted
itself a town full of “_Chakhamim_ and _Sopherim_”(24) as the Hebrew
phrase is, or, as we would express it, “a seat of learning,” full of
scholars of the ancient and modern schools. But neither these ancient
scholars nor the modern were of a kind to produce a real scholar and an
enlightened thinker like Krochmal. There were many men who knew by heart
the whole of the Halachic works of Maimonides, the Mishnah, and even the
whole of the Babylonian Talmud. This is very imposing. But if you look a
little closer, you will find that with a few exceptions—such as the school
of R. Elijah Wilna—these men, generally speaking, hardly deserve the name
of scholars at all. They were rather a sort of studying engines. The
steam‐engine passes over a continent, here through romantic scenery, there
in the midst of arid deserts, by stream and mountain and valley, always
with the same monotonous hum and shriek. So these scholars went through
the Talmud with never changing feelings. They did not rejoice at the
description which is given in tractate _Biccurim_(25) of the procession
formed when the first‐fruits were brought into the Holy Temple. They were
not much saddened when reading in tractate _Taanith_(26) of the unhappy
days so recurrent in Jewish history. They were not delighted by the wisdom
of _Seder Nezikin_,(27) which deals with civil law; nor were they vexed of
_Seder Taharoth_,(28) which treats of the laws of cleanliness and
uncleanliness, that by their exaggeration gave cause to much dissension in
the time of the Temple. The pre‐Talmudic literature, such as the _Siphra_,
_Siphré_, and _Mechilta_(29)—the only existing means of obtaining an
insight into the Talmud—were altogether neglected. All that these readers
cared for was to push on to the end, and the prayer recited at the close
was of more importance to them than the treatise they had perused.

Not less melancholy was the spectacle presented by the so‐called men of
“Enlightenment” (_Aufklärung_). They belonged chiefly to the rationalistic
school of Mendelssohn, but they equalled their master neither in knowledge
nor in moral character. It was an enlightenment without foundation in real
scholarship, and did not lead to an ideal life, though again I must add
that there were exceptions. These men were rather what Germans would term
_Schöngeister_, a set of dilettanti who cared to study as little as
possible, and to write as much as possible. They wrote bad grammars,
superficial commentaries on the Bible, and terribly dull poems. Of this
literature, with the exception of Erter’s _Watchman_,(30) there is
scarcely a work that one would care to read twice. Most of them despised
Rabbinism, but without understanding its noblest forms as they are to be
traced in the Talmud and later Hebrew literature. They did not dislike
Judaism, but the only Judaism they affected was one “which does not oppose
itself to anything in particular”; or, as Heine would have described it,
“Eine reinliche Religion.” In one respect these little men were great: in
mutual admiration, which reached such a pitch that such titles as “Great
Luminary,” “World‐famed Sage,” were considered altogether too
insignificant and commonplace.

I will now pass to the writings of Krochmal. It must be premised that
Krochmal was not a voluminous author. All his writings, including a few
letters which were published in various Hebrew periodicals, would scarcely
occupy four hundred pages. Krochmal used to call himself “der ewige
Student” (the perpetual pupil). He did not read books, nor study
philosophical systems, with the object of writing books of his own on
them. He read and studied in order that he might become a better and a
wiser man. Besides, he did not think himself competent to judge on grave
subjects, nor did he consider his judgment, even if he formed one, worthy
of publication. He counselled his friends to be equally slow in publishing
their views to the world. “Be not,” he wrote to a correspondent,—“be not
hasty in forming your opinions before you have studied the literature of
the subject with care and devotion. This is no easy matter, for no man can
obtain any real knowledge of the Torah and philosophy unless he is
prepared to give himself up in single‐hearted devotion to his studies.”
Severe though he was to his friends, he was still more severe to himself.
Though he had been collecting materials on subjects of Jewish history and
philosophy from his early youth, it was not until he had endured much
persuasion and pressure from his friends that he began to write down his
thoughts in a connected form. We thus possess only one work from the pen
of this author; but that work is the _Guide of the Perplexed of the
Time_,(31) a posthumous book published in 1851, eleven years after
Krochmal’s death. His work had been much interrupted by illness during the
last years of his life, and as a necessary consequence many parts of his
treatise finally remained in an unfinished state. Krochmal commissioned
his children to hand over his papers to Zunz, who was to arrange and edit
them as best he might. Zunz, who in his reverence for Krochmal went so far
as to call him the man of God, gladly accepted the task, in which he was
aided by Steinschneider. Unfortunately, the work was published in Lemberg,
a place famous for spoiling books. Even the skill of these two great
masters did not suffice to save Krochmal’s work from the fate to which all
the books printed in Lemberg seem inevitably doomed. Thus Krochmal’s work
is printed on bad paper, and with faint ink; it is full of misprints and
the text is sometimes confused with the notes. A second edition appeared
in Lemberg in 1863; but, it is scarcely necessary to add, the reprint is
even worse than the original issue.

The work occupies some 350 pages, and is divided into seventeen chapters.
The opening six treat of Religion in general. The author first indicates
the opposite dangers to which men are liable. On the one hand, men are
exposed to extravagant phantasy (_Schwärmerei_), superstition and
ceremonialism (_Werkheiligkeit_). Some, on the other hand, in their
endeavour to avoid this danger, fall into the opposite extreme,
materialism, unbelief, and moral degeneracy as a consequence of their
neglect of all law. He proceeds to say: Even in the ritual part of
religion, such as the regulations of the Sabbath, the dietary laws and so
forth, we find abstract definitions necessary, and differences of opinions
prevalent. In the dogmatic aspects of religion, dealing as they do with
the grave subjects of metaphysics, the mystery of life and death, the
destiny of man, his relation to God, reward and punishment, the inner
meaning of the laws,—in these spiritual matters, the difficulty of
accurate definition must be far greater and the opportunities for
difference of opinion more frequent and important. What guide are we to
follow, seeing that every error involves the most dangerous consequences?
Shall we abandon altogether the effort of thinking on these grave
subjects? Such a course is impossible. Do not believe, says Krochmal, that
there ever was a time when the religious man was entirely satisfied by
deeds of righteousness, as some people maintain. On the contrary, every
man, whether an independent thinker or a simple believer, always feels the
weight of these questions upon him. Every man desires to have some ideal
basis for his actions which must constitute his real life in its noblest
moments. Krochmal here quotes a famous passage from the Midrash.(32) The
Torah, according to one of our ancient sages, may be compared to two
paths, the one burning with fire, the other covered with snow. If a man
enters on the former path he will die by the heat; if he walks by the
latter path he will be frozen by the snow. What, then, must he do? He must
walk in the middle, or, as we should say, he must choose the golden mean.
But, as Krochmal suggests, the middle way in historical and philosophical
doubts does not consist, as some idle heads suppose, in a kind of
compromise between two opposing views. If one of two contending parties
declares that twice two make six, while his opponent asserts that twice
two make eight, a sort of compromise might be arrived at by conceding that
twice two make seven. But such a compromise would be as false as either
extreme; and the seeker after the truth must revert to that mean which is
the heart of all things, independently of all factions, placing himself
above them.

Having dealt with the arguments relating to the existence of God as
elaborated in the philosophical systems of his time, Krochmal leads up to
his treatment of the History of Israel by a chapter on the ideal gifts
bestowed upon the various ancient nations, which, possessed by them
through many centuries, were lost when their nationality ceased. We next
come, in Chapter VII., to the ideal gifts of Israel. These are the
religious gift and the faculty and desire for seeking the ideal of all
ideals, namely, God. But Israel, whose mission it was to propagate this
ideal, was, even as other nations, subject to natural laws; and its
history presents progress and reaction, rise and decline. Krochmal devotes
his next three chapters to showing how, in the history of Israel, as in
other histories, may be detected a triple process. These three stages are
the budding, the period of maturity, and the decay. As the history of
Israel is more a history of religion than of politics and battles, its
rise and decline correspond more or less with Israel’s attachment to God,
and its falling away from Him. The decay would be associated with the
adoption of either of the extremes, the dangerous effects of which have
been already mentioned. But “through progress and backsliding, amid
infectious contact with idolatry, amid survival of old growths of
superstition, of the crude practices of the past; amid the solicitation of
new aspects of life; in material prosperity and in material ruin,” Israel
was never wholly detached from God. In the worst times it had its judges
or its prophets, its heroes or its sages, its Rabbis or its philosophers,
who strove to bring Israel back to its mission, and who succeeded in their
efforts to do so. Even in its decay traces of the Divine spirit made
themselves felt, and revived the nation, which entered again on a triple
course and repeated its three phases. The first of these three‐fold epochs
began, according to Krochmal’s eighth chapter, with the times of the
Patriarchs, and ended with the death of Gedaliah after the destruction of
the first Temple. Next, in the following two chapters, Krochmal finds the
second triple movement in the interval between the prophets of the exile
in Babylon and the death of Bar‐Cochba about 135 A.C. The author also
hints at the existence of a third such epoch beginning with R. Judah the
Patriarch, the compiler of the Mishnah (220 A.C.),(33) and ending with the
expulsion of the Jews from Spain (1492). This idea is not further
developed by Krochmal; but it would be interesting to ask, by the way, in
which phase of the three‐fold process—rise, maturity, or decay—are we at
the present time?

The next five chapters may be regarded as an excursus on the preceding
two. Krochmal discusses the Biblical books which belong to the period of
the Exile and of the Second Temple, such as the Second Isaiah, certain
Exilic and Maccabean psalms, Ecclesiastes, certain Apocryphal books, and
the work of the Men of the Great Synagogue. They contain, again,
researches on the various sects, such as the Assideans, Sadducees,
Pharisees, Essenes, the Gnostics, the Cabbalists and their relation to the
latter, and the Minim,(34) who are mentioned in the Talmud. In another
part of this excursus Krochmal describes the systems of the Alexandrian
Jewish philosophers, such as Philo and Aristobulus, and discusses their
relation to certain theosophic ideas in various Midrash‐collections. The
author also attempts to prove the necessity of Tradition; he shows its
first traces in the Bible, and explains the term Sopherim (scribes); and
he points out the meaning of the phrase “A law unto Moses from Mount
Sinai,”(35) and similar expressions. He gives a summary of the development
of the Halachah in its different stages, the criteria by which the older
Halachahs may be discriminated; he seeks to arrive at the origin of the
Mishnah, and deals with various cognate topics. In another discourse
Krochmal endeavours to explain the term Agadah,(36) its origin and
development; the different kinds of Agadah and their relative value.
Chapter XVI. contains the Prolegomena to a philosophy of the Jewish
religion in accordance with the principles laid down by Hegel. In the
seventeenth and last chapter the author gives a general introduction to
the Philosophy of Ibn Ezra, and quotes illustrative extracts.

The space of an essay does not permit me to give further details of
Krochmal’s book. I am conscious that the preceding outline is deficient in
quality as well as in quantity. Yet, even from this meagre abstract, the
reader will gather that Krochmal reviews many of the great problems which
concern religion in general and Judaism in particular. Zunz somewhere
remarks that Krochmal was inspired in his work by the study of Hegel, just
as Maimonides had been by the study of Aristotle. I give this statement
solely on the authority of Zunz, as I myself have never made a study of
the works of the German philosopher, and am therefore unable to express an
opinion on the question.

Now there is no doubt that Krochmal’s book is not without defects. The
materials are not always well arranged, there is at times a want of
proportion in the length at which the various points are treated, and the
author occasionally seems to wander from the subject in hand. But we shall
be better able to account for these and similar technical faults, as well
as to appreciate the real value of the author’s work, if we consider the
following fact. Nachman Krochmal’s object was to elaborate a philosophy of
Jewish history, to trace the leading ideas that ran through it, and the
ultimate causes that led to its various phases. But, unfortunately, at the
time when Krochmal began to write, there did not exist a Jewish history at
all. The labours of Zunz were conducted in an altogether different field.
Not to mention the names of the younger scholars then unborn, Graetz, the
author of the _History of the Jews_, and Weiss, who wrote a history of the
Tradition, were still studying at college. Frankel’s masterly essays on
the Essenes and the Septuagint, his well‐known work, _Introduction to the
__ Mishnah_, and the results of Geiger’s most interesting and suggestive
researches on the older and later Halachah, and on the Pharisees and
Sadducees, had yet to be written. Rapoport’s great treatise, _Erech
Millin_,(37) had not been published at that time, and Steinschneider was
not yet working at his historical sketch of Jewish literature. It was not
till six years after Krochmal’s death (viz. in 1846) that Landauer’s
memorable studies on the Jewish mystics were given to the world. Even the
bad books of Julius Fürst, such as his _History of the Canon_, and his
still worse _History of Jewish Literature in Babylon_, were then
unwritten. Neither the most charlatanic _History of the Opinions and
Teachings of All the Jewish Sects_, by Peter Beer, the universal provider,
nor Jost’s most honest but narrow‐minded and superficial _History of the
Jews_, was of much use to Krochmal. Jost’s more scholarly works were not
published till long afterwards. Krochmal was thus without the guidance of
those authorities to which we are now accustomed to turn for information.
Excepting the aid that he derived from the writings of Azariah de
Rossi,(38) Krochmal was therefore compelled to prosecute all the necessary
research for himself; he had to establish the facts of Jewish history as
well as to philosophise upon them. Hence, in the very midst of his
philosophical analysis, the author was bound to introduce digressions on
historical subjects, in order to justify as well as to form the basis of
that analysis. He had to survey the ground and to collect the materials,
besides constructing the plan of the edifice and working at its erection.
Nevertheless, it is precisely for these historical excursuses that
Krochmal has deserved the gratitude of posterity. He it was who taught
Jewish scholars how to submit the ancient Rabbinic records to the test of
criticism and the way in which they might be utilised for the purpose of
historical studies; he it was who enabled them to trace the genesis of the
tradition, and to watch the inner germination of that vast organism. He
even indicated to them how they might continue to connect their own lives
with it, how they might derive nourishment from it, and in their turn
further its growth. I may assert with the utmost confidence that there is
scarcely a single page in Krochmal’s book that did not afterwards give
birth to some essay or monograph or even elaborate treatise, though their
authors were not always very careful about mentioning the source of their
inspiration. Thus Krochmal justly deserves the honourable title assigned
to him by one of our greatest historians, who terms him the Father of
Jewish Science.

So far, I have been speaking of the importance of Krochmal’s treatise and
of its significance in the region of Jewish Science. It is necessary, I
think, to add a few words with regard to the general tendency of his whole
work. I have already alluded to the characteristic modesty of Krochmal; I
have pointed out how little he cared for publicity, how dearly he loved
retirement. The question accordingly presents itself—What can have been
the real and sufficient causes that prevailed upon him to yield to the
solicitations of his friends and to write upon what the Talmud would term
“matters standing on the heights of the world”?

The answer to this question may, I think, be found in the title of
Krochmal’s book, the _Guide of the Perplexed of the Time_. It is indeed a
rather unusual coincidence for the title of a Hebrew book to have any
connection with its subject matter. The same merit is possessed by the
_Guide of the Perplexed_ of Maimonides, the title of which undoubtedly
suggested that of Krochmal’s treatise. There is, however, one little
addition in Krochmal’s title that contains a most important lesson for us.
I mean the words “of the Time.” By these words Krochmal reminds us that,
great as are the merits of the immortal work of Maimonides—and it would be
difficult to exaggerate its value and importance—still it will no longer
suffice for us. For, as Krochmal himself remarks, every time has its own
perplexities, and therefore needs its own guide. In order to show that
these words are no idle phrase, I shall endeavour to illustrate them by
one example at least. In the _Guide of the Perplexed_ of Maimonides, Part
II., Chapter XXVI., occurs a passage which runs thus: “In the famous
chapters known as the ‘Chapters of R. Eliezer the Great,’(39) I find R.
Eliezer the Great saying something more extraordinary than I have ever
seen in the utterances of any believer in the Law of Moses. I refer to the
following passage: ‘Whence were the heavens created? He (God) took part of
the light of His garment, He stretched it like a cloth, and thus the
heavens were extending continually, as it is said (Ps. civ. 2): He
covereth Himself with light as with a garment, He stretcheth the heavens
like a curtain. Whence was the earth created? He took of the snow under
the throne of glory, and threw it; according to the words (in Job xxxvii.
6), He said to the snow be thou earth.’ These are the words given there
(in the ‘Chapters of R. Eliezer the Great’), and I, in my surprise, ask,
What was the belief of this sage? Did he think it impossible that
something be produced from nothing?... If the terms ‘the light of His
garment’ and the ‘snow of glory’ mean something eternal (as matter) they
_must_ be rejected.... In short, it is a passage that greatly confuses the
notions of all intelligent and religious persons. I am unable to explain
it sufficiently.”

So far Maimonides; and we are quite able to conceive his perplexity in
dealing with this passage. On one side, Maimonides himself believed that
Judaism is a dogmatic religion, and that one of its dogmas is the
principle of _Creatio ex nihilo_. On the other side, he found R.
Eliezer—one of the greatest authorities of the early part of the second
century—apparently denying this dogma. The perplexity was indeed a serious
one for Maimonides, but we find no difficulty whatever in extricating
ourselves from it. In the first place, there are many who cling to the
theory which holds that there are no dogmas in Judaism at all, and to them
Maimonides’ difficulty would have no relevance. Secondly, those who
believe that there are dogmas in Judaism may regard such expressions as
those quoted above from the “Chapters of R. Eliezer” in the light of mere
poetical metaphors, or may call them fairy tales or legends, or include
them in some other section of literature, known under the name of
folklore, which is an excuse for every absurdity, the fortunate authors of
which are responsible neither to philosophy nor to religion, and sometimes
not even to common sense. But there is a third consideration that affords
the best solution of the difficulty. The “Chapters of R. Eliezer,” despite
their pompous title, are not the work of R. Eliezer at all. Criticism has
taught us to attach no importance to the heading of a chapter or the
title‐page of a book. We are now in a position to judge from the tone,
style, and contents of the work, that the “Chapters of R. Eliezer” is a
later compilation of the eighth century, and that its author could not
have been R. Eliezer, the teacher of R. Akiba, in the second century. In
this way, these particular difficulties of Maimonides solve themselves for
us in a sufficiently easy way. But it is just these solutions that open up
new difficulties and perplexities which did not exist for the generation
of the great Spanish philosopher. Suppose that we accept the view that
Judaism is not a dogmatic religion. But how are we to conceive a religion
without dogmas, or, if you prefer the expression, without principles or
bases of belief? Or is Judaism, as some platitudinarians think, a mere
national institute with some useful dietary and sanitary laws, but with
nothing that makes for the sanctification of man, with no guidance to
offer us in the great problems of our life, and in the greatest anxieties
of the human soul? On the other hand, granted that we may consider certain
things as mere legend, how are we to discriminate between these and the
things that must be taken seriously? Does it depend on the nature of the
subject, or on the position of the book in the canon of Hebrew literature?
In the thirteenth century symbolical meanings were given to certain
difficult passages in the Talmud; but the process was carried further, and
the Biblical narratives were subjected by philosophers to a like
treatment. R. Solomon ben Adereth and his colleagues (in the thirteenth
century) settled the question by indiscriminately excommunicating all
young men who should study philosophy; but this method is scarcely one to
be commended for present use.

The third, or the philological solution of difficulties, leads to fresh
troubles. A hundred years ago men were in that happy state of mind in
which they knew everything. They knew the exact author and date of every
Psalm; they knew the author of each and every ancient Midrash; they knew
the originator of every law and ordinance; they even knew the writer of
the Zohar, and of other mystical books. There were certainly a few who did
not know all these things, among them Ibn Ezra, Azariah de Rossi, and the
two Delmedigos.(40) But they were merely a miserable historical blunder,
men who had no right to be born when they were. But the philological
method has swept away all this knowingness as by a deluge from heaven, and
men find that they know nothing. True, there linger on a few who still
know all these things, but it is they who are now the anachronism. These,
and such as these, are the perplexities of our time, to the resolution of
which the labours of Krochmal and of a noble band of scholars have been
directed in this century.

Have these perplexities, we must ask, and these puzzles been solved by
Krochmal and his coadjutors? We may with all certainty answer: They have
only pointed out the way, it is for ourselves to proceed by it. It would
be unreasonable to expect that difficulties which have been accumulating
during the course of thousands of years should be solved by the men of one
or two generations. Again, we live in a century in which excavations and
discoveries in other fields have added at once to our knowledge and to our
uncertainty. Each country, we might almost say, over and above the
perplexities that trouble mankind in general, has its own special
difficulties which are entirely unknown to those who dwell outside its
frontiers. I am not disposed to discuss these difficulties in this place.
Nor have I the ability to do so. But of two things I am perfectly certain:
the first is, that for a solution of these difficulties which, in the
language of Maimonides, “confuse the notions of all intelligent and
religious persons,” the only hope is in true knowledge and not in
ignorance; and secondly, this knowledge can only be obtained by a
combination of the utmost reverence for religion and the deepest devotion
to truth. The poor old Rabbis who have been so foully decried by their
calumniators as hedonists, and so foolishly praised by sorry apologists as
materialistic optimists, strongly insisted that when a man woos the truth,
his suit can only prosper if he is influenced by the purest and most
single‐hearted affection. “A man,” says the Siphré, “must not say: ‘I will
study the Torah in order that I may attain the title of Rabbi or savant,
or that I may become rich by it, or that I may be rewarded for it in the
world to come.’ He must study for love’s sake.” Such a knowledge, which is
free from all taint of worldliness and of other‐worldliness, a knowledge
sought simply and solely for pure love of God, who is Truth,—such a
knowledge is in the highest sense a saving knowledge, and Nachman Krochmal
was in possession of it.


The three great stars of German literature are usually characterised by
German scholars in the following way: Goethe they say represents the
beautiful, Schiller the ideal, while Lessing represents truth. I think
that we may apply the same characteristics to the three great luminaries,
with which the Jewish middle ages ceased—for as Zunz somewhere remarked,
the Jewish middle ages lasted till the beginning of the eighteenth
century—and the modern age of Judaism opened. I am thinking of Mendelssohn
in Germany, Israel Baalshem, the founder of the sect of the Chassidim in
Podolia, and Elijah Wilna, or as he is more frequently called, the
Gaon,(41) the Great One, in Lithuania.

As to Mendelssohn, enough, and perhaps more than enough, has already been
written and spoken about his merits in awakening the sense for the
beautiful and the harmonious which was almost entirely dormant among the
Jews of his age. In regard to the second, namely, Israel Baalshem, I have
only to refer the reader to the first essay in this volume. The subject of
the present essay will be R. Elijah Wilna, who, among the Jews, as Lessing
among the Germans, represented truth, both by his life and by his literary

I say that the Gaon represented truth, but these words must be taken _cum
grano salis_. For I do not mean at all to say that he was in possession of
the whole truth, still less in _exclusive_ possession of it. It is true as
we shall learn in the course of this essay, that the Gaon was a genius of
the first order. But there are matters of truth, the obtaining of which
cannot be accomplished by genius alone. R. Elijah Wilna did not know any
other language than Hebrew. Truths, therefore, which are only to be
reached through the medium of other languages, remained a secret to him.
Again, records of ancient times which are buried in the shelves of remote
libraries or under the ruins of past civilisations are not always a matter
of intuition. Even the most gifted of men have to wait patiently till
these are brought to light by the aid of spade and shovel, or the pen of
some obscure copyist. But R. Elijah lived at a time when excavation had as
yet done very little for Semitic studies, and when a Jew scarcely got
admittance into the great libraries of Europe. Thus much truth which we
get now in a very easy way was beyond this seer’s eye.

But even if all the libraries on earth had been at his disposal, even if
he had read all the cuneiform writings which ornament the British Museum,
and had deciphered all the Hieroglyphics which the Louvre possesses, even
in that case we should not be justified in terming him a representative of
the truth, without qualifying our words.

“Truth,” said the old Rabbis, “is the Seal of the Holy One, praised be
He.” But Heaven has no Lord Chancellor. Neither men nor angels are trusted
with the great Seal. They are only allowed to catch a glimpse of it, or
rather to long after this glimpse. However, even the longing and effort
for this glimpse will bring man into communion with God, and make his life
divine. And the life of the Gaon was, as we shall see, one long effort and
unceasing longing after the truth.

Again, if I say that the Gaon represented truth, you must not think that
he lacked the two other qualities. A life entirely devoted to such a great
cause as that of seeking the truth is, _ipso facto_, ideal and harmonious.
It is only in his influence on Judaism—more particularly on the Jews in
the North of Europe—that this feature in his life becomes more prominent
than his other admirable qualities.

In what this truth consisted, how the Gaon arrived at it, and by what
means he conveyed it to others, we shall see in the course of this essay.

R. Elijah was born at Wilna in the year 1720. His father, Solomon Wilna,
is called by his biographers the great Rabbi Solomon, and is said to have
been the descendant of R. Moses Rivkas, the author of a learned work,
containing notes to the Code of the Law by R. Joseph Caro.(42)

Having quoted the biographers, I must point out that there are only two
biographies of the Gaon: the one by Finn, in his book _Faithful City_,(43)
on the celebrities of Wilna, the other by Nachman of Horodna, in his book
_Ascension of Elijah_.(44) The former is a very honest account of the
Gaon’s life, but a little too short. The latter is too long, or rather too
much intermixed with that sort of absurd legend, the authors of which are
incapable of marking the line which separates the monster from the hero.

Even in the region of imagination we must not for a moment forget the good
advice given to us by one of our greatest scholars who had to deal with a
kindred subject: “He,” says this scholar, “who banishes the thought of
higher and lower from his study, degrades it into a mere means of
gratifying his curiosity, and disqualifies it for the lofty task which it
is called upon to perform for modern society.” We shall thus cling to the
higher and stop at the hero.

Our hero was the first‐born of five brothers. They were all famous men in
their little world. According to the tradition in Wilna, Elijah was a
lovely child, with beautiful eyes, and goodly to look at, or as it is
expressed in another place, “as beautiful as an angel!” The tradition, or
rather the legend, relates that as a child of six years he was already the
pupil of R. Moses Margalith, the famous author of a commentary on the
Talmud of Jerusalem. At the age of seven years he is said to have already
perplexed the Chief Rabbi of his native town by his controversial skill in
Talmudical subjects. At the early age of nine he was acquainted with the
contents of the Bible, the Mishnah, the Talmud and its ancient
commentaries; and even the Cabbalistic works of R. Isaac Loria were no
secret to the youthful scholar.(45) At the age of twelve years he is said
to have acquired the seven liberal arts, and to have puzzled the scholars
of Wilna by his astronomical knowledge. At thirteen, when according to
Jewish law he attained his majority, he was already the accomplished or
“the great one” (Gaon); so far tradition. I am afraid that tradition is
here, against all experience, too exact in its dates. But we may learn
from it that the child Elijah showed many signs of the future Gaon, and
was therefore considered as the prodigy of his age. Again it is likewise
pretty certain that no man could boast of having been the master of
Elijah. He was not the product of any school, nor was he biassed by the
many prejudices of his time. He was allowed to walk his own way in his
struggle after truth.

It is rather an unfortunate thing that history is so much made up of
parallels and contrasts that the historian or even the biographer cannot
possibly point out the greatness of some men without touching, however
slightly, on the smallness of others. It is only natural that every strong
shining object should push the minor lights of its surroundings into the
background and darken them. Thus, when we are speaking of the superiority
of the Gaon, we cannot escape hinting at least at the shortcomings of his
contemporaries, as well as of his predecessors.

To indicate briefly in what this superiority consisted, I will premise
here a few words from a _Responsum_ by one of his great predecessors, the
Gaon Rabbi Hai.(46) Consulted by a student as to the meaning of certain
mystical passages in the tractate _Chagigah_,(47) Rabbi Hai, in warning
his correspondent not to expect from him a long philosophical
dissertation, writes as follows: “Know that it never was our business to
palliate matters and explain them in a way of which the author never could
have thought. This is fashionable with other people, but our method is to
explain the words of this or that authority in accordance with his own
meaning. We do not pledge ourselves that this meaning is ‘right rule’ in
itself, for there _do_ exist statements made by the old authorities that
cannot be accepted as norm.” Thus far the words of the Gaon of the tenth
century, which speak volumes. The Gaon of the eighteenth century followed
the same course. All his efforts were directed to this point; namely, to
find out the true meaning of the Mishnah, the true meaning of the
Gemara,(48) the true meaning of the Gaonim, the true meaning of the great
codifiers, and the true meaning of the commentators on the ancient
Rabbinical literature. Whether this meaning would be acceptable to us
mattered very little to him. His only object was to understand the words
of his predecessors, and this he obtained, as we shall soon see, by the
best critical means. This was the method of the Gaon; that of other
scholars (at least of the great majority) was dictated by entirely
different considerations. They would not suffer the idea that the great
man could be wrong at times. To them, all that he said was “right rule.”
Now suppose a great author like Maimonides had overlooked an important
passage in the Talmud or any other statement by a great authority, the
alternative remaining to them was either to explain away the passage of
the Talmud or to give the words of Maimonides a strange meaning. This led
originally to the famous method of the _Pilpul_ (casuistry), a kind of
spiritual gymnastic, which R. Liva of Prague in the sixteenth century, and
many others condemned as most pernicious to Judaism and leading to the
decay of the study of the Torah.

Now it is beyond doubt that the method of the two Gaonim is the only right
one. But, in justice to the casuistic school, which includes many a great
name, it is only right to remember that this impartiality towards
acknowledged authorities as maintained by our hero is not at all such an
easy matter as we imagine. We quote often with great satisfaction the
famous saying, _Amicus Plato, amicus Socrates, sed magis amica veritas_,
“Plato is our friend, so is Socrates, but Truth is, or rather ought to be,
our greatest friend.” This sounds very nicely, but let us only realise
what difficulties it involves. To be a friend of Socrates or Plato means
to know them, or in other words to have a thorough knowledge of the
writings of the one and the recorded utterances of the other. But such a
knowledge can with most men only be obtained by devoting one’s _whole_
life to the study of their works, so that there is not left much time for
new friendships. And the few who are able to save a few years after long
wanderings with these Greek philosophers, seldom see the necessity of new
friendships. For what else did those long courtships of Plato or Aristotle
mean except that those who conducted them thought that thereby they would
wed Truth?

This impartiality is the more difficult when these friends are invested
with a kind of religious authority where humility and submission are most
important factors. The history of Lanfranc, the predecessor of Anselm of
Canterbury, gives a striking example of what this submission meant in the
Middle Ages. One day, we are told, when he was still an ordinary monk, he
was reading at the table and pronounced a word as it ought to be
pronounced, but not as seemed right to the person presiding, who bade him
say it differently; “as if he had said _docēre_, with the middle syllable
long, as is right, and the other had corrected it into _docĕre_, with the
middle short, which is wrong; for that Prior was not a scholar. But the
wise man, knowing that he owed obedience rather to Christ than to Donatus,
the grammarian, gave up his pronunciation, and said what he was wrongly
told to say; for to make a short syllable long, or a long one short, he
knew to be no deadly sin, but not to obey one set over him in God’s behalf
was no light transgression.”(49)

But this admiration—and here we turn again to the Gaon—must not prevent us
from believing that Providence is not confined to such ungrammatical
Priors, and that the men who are really working on behalf of God are those
who teach us to pronounce rightly, and to think rightly, and to take
matters as they are, not as we desire them to be on account of our

As for the critical means to which I have alluded, the Gaon himself said
somewhere that simplicity is the best criterion of truth, and this is the
most characteristic feature of all his literary career. The Gaon studied
Hebrew grammar in order to obtain a clear notion of the language in which
the Scriptures are written. He tried to attain to the knowledge of the
Bible by reading the Bible itself; and was not satisfied to become
acquainted with its contents from the numerous quotations which are made
from it in Rabbinical literature. Again, he studied mathematics,
astronomy, and philosophy, as far as they could be found in Hebrew books.
Certainly the Gaon did not study these subjects for their own sake, and
they were considered by him only as a means to the end, or as the phrase
goes, as the “hand‐maidens” of Theology, the queen of all sciences. But it
may be looked upon as a mark of great progress in an age when Queen
Theology had become rather sulky, continually finding fault with her hand‐
maidens, and stigmatising every attention paid to them as conducive to
disloyalty. To these accusations the Gaon answered that Queen Theology
does not study her own interests. Knowledge of all arts and sciences, the
Gaon maintained, is necessary for the real understanding of the Torah
which embraces the whole of them. From his own writings it is evident that
he himself was familiar with Euclid, and his _Ayil Meshulash_ contains
several original developments of Euclid. It was at his suggestion that a
certain Baruch of Sclow translated Euclid into the Hebrew language.

Another way which led the Gaon to the discovery of many truths was his
study of the pre‐Talmudic literature, and of the Jerusalem Talmud. By some
accident or other it came to pass that only the Babylonian Talmud was
recognised as a guide _in the practices of religious life_. As the great
teachers and their pupils cared more for satisfying the religious wants of
their flocks than for theoretic researches, the consequence was that a
most important part of the ancient Rabbinic literature was almost entirely
neglected by them for many centuries. And it was certainly no
exaggeration, when R. Elijah said that even the Gaonim and Maimonides,
occupied as they were with the practical part of the law, did not pay
sufficient attention to the Talmud of Jerusalem and the Tosephta.(50) The
Gaon was no official head of any Jewish community, and was but little
troubled by decisions of questions which concern daily life. He was thus
in a position to leave for a little while the Babylonian Talmud and to
become acquainted with the guides of the guide. I refer to Siphra, Siphré,
Mechilta, Tosephta, the Seder Olam,(51) the Minor Tractates,(52) and above
all the Talmud of Jerusalem, which, regarded from an historical and
critical point of view, is even of more importance than its Babylonian
twin‐brother. But by this means there came a new light upon the whole of
ancient Rabbinic literature. The words of the Torah, the Midrash says, are
poor in one place, but we shall find them rich in another place. The Gaon
by his acquaintance with the _whole_ of the Torah had no difficulty
whatever in discovering the rich places. If there was a difficult passage
in this or that Tractate, he showed, by giving a reference to some other
place, that it was wanting in some words or lines. Obscure passages in the
Mishnah he tried to elucidate by parallel passages in the Tosephta. The
too complicated controversies of the Babylonian Talmud he tried to explain
by comparing them with the more ancient and more simple Talmud of

There is little to be told of the Gaon’s private affairs. Even the date of
his marriage with a certain Miss Anna of Kaidon is not mentioned by his
biographers. But it may be taken for granted that, in accordance with the
custom in Poland, he married at a very early age, say about eighteen
years. It was also when a young man that he travelled for some years
through Poland and Germany. It is rather difficult to say what his object
may have been in making these travels—for the Gaon was not the man to
travel for pleasure’s sake. Perhaps it was to become acquainted with the
great Rabbis of these countries. It is also possible, as others maintain,
that the Gaon considered the many privations which a traveller had to
endure a hundred and fifty years ago, as an atonement for his imaginary
sins. Indeed we find in many ascetic books that travelling, or as they
term it “receiving upon oneself to be banished into the exile,”(53) is
recommended as a very successful substitute for penance. At least it seems
that the coachmen whom the Gaon employed on his journeys looked at it from
this point of view. One of them went so far in adding to the privations of
the Gaon as to run away with his carriage when the Rabbi alighted from it
in order to read his prayers. But the reading of the Eighteen
Benedictions(54) must not be interrupted excepting in the case of danger;
and the Gaon did not consider it very dangerous to be left without money
and without luggage.

These travels ended in the year 1745. The Gaon left Wilna again at a later
date with the purpose of going to Palestine and settling there. But he
found so many obstacles on his way that he was soon compelled to give up
his favourite plan and to return to his native town. It is not known
whether he left Wilna again.

The position which the Gaon occupied in Wilna was, as already hinted, that
of a private man. He could never be prevailed upon to accept the post of
Rabbi or any other office in a Jewish community. I am unable to give the
reason for his declining all the offers made to him in this direction. But
it may be suggested here that it was in the time of the Gaon that there
arose a bitter struggle between the Rabbi and the Jewish wardens of his
native town, which ended in the abolition of the office of Rabbi. The
history of the struggle is the more irritating, as it arose from the
pettiest reasons imaginable. People actually discovered that there was no
light in the house of the Rabbi after the middle of the night, which fact
might lead to the conclusion that he did not study later than 12 o’clock
P.M. What an idle man! And this idleness was the less pardonable in the
eyes of the community, as the Rabbi’s wife was so unfortunate as not to
have been polite enough to some Mrs. Warden. Under such circumstances we
must not wonder if the Gaon did not find it very desirable to meddle with
congregational affairs in an official capacity. The relation of the Gaon
to his contemporaries resembles rather the position in the olden times of
a Tanna or Amora,(55) who neither enjoyed the title of Nasin or that of Ab
Beth Din.(56) Like R. Akiba, or Mar Samuel, the Gaon became influential
among his contemporaries only by his teaching and his exemplary life.

It must be said in praise of the Jews of Wilna that, notwithstanding their
petty behaviour towards their ecclesiastical chief, they willingly
submitted to the authority of the Gaon (who was devoid of all official
authority). They revered him as a saint. To converse with the Gaon was
considered as a happy event in the life of a Jew in Wilna, to be of any
use to him as the greatest distinction a man could attain on earth. But
what is remarkable is the readiness with which even scholars acknowledged
the authority of the Gaon. Scholars are usually more slow in recognising
greatness than simple mortals. Every new luminary does not only outshine
their minor lights and thus hurt their personal vanity, but it threatens
also sometimes to obscure certain traditions which they wish to keep
prominently in view. But the literary genius of the Gaon was too great to
be opposed with success, and his piety and devotion to religion far above
suspicion. Thus the Gaon was very soon recognised by his contemporaries as
their master and guide; not only in literary questions, but also in
matters of belief and conduct.

It would lead me too far to name here all the Gaon’s disciples. It seems
as if all the great scholars in his country considered themselves to be
more or less his pupils. The Gaon used to give in the Beth Hammidrash,
which he founded, public lectures on various subjects, and the students
who attended these lectures also claimed the honour of being called his
pupils. I shall mention here only his greatest disciple, R. Chayim
Walosin, who, after the Gaon, influenced his countrymen more than any
other scholar of that time. This R. Chayim also did not occupy any
official post among his brethren. He was a cloth manufacturer by
profession, and was very prosperous in his business. But it did not
prevent him from being devoted to Hebrew literature, and he enjoyed a
wide‐spread fame as a great scholar. But as soon as the fame of the Gaon
reached him, he left cloth manufactory and scholarship behind, and went to
Wilna to “learn Torah” from the mouth of the great master. It must be
noticed that even the giving up of his claim to scholarship was no little
sacrifice. All our learning, said some scholar in Wilna, disappeared as
soon as we crossed the threshold of the Gaon’s house. He made every
disciple who came into close contact with him begin at the beginning. He
taught them Hebrew grammar, Bible, Mishnah, and many other subjects, which
were, as already mentioned, very often neglected by the Talmudists of that
time. R. Chayim had also to go through all this course. Some would have
considered such treatment a degradation. R. Chayim, however, became the
more attached to his master for it.

In such a way the life of the Gaon was spent, studying by himself or
teaching his pupils. It must be understood that to learn Torah meant for
the Gaon more than mere brain work for the purpose of gaining knowledge.
To him it was a kind of service to God. Contemporaries who watched him
when he was studying the Torah observed that the effect wrought on the
personality of the Gaon was the same as when he was praying. With every
word his countenance flushed with joy; with every line he was gaining
strength for proceeding further. Only by looking at matters from this
point of view shall we be able to understand the devotion and the love of
the Gaon for study.

There has been, no doubt, among the Russian Jews a strong tendency to
exaggerate the intellectual qualities of the Gaon. But one can readily
excuse such a tendency. He was gifted by nature with such a wonderful
memory that, having read a book once, he was able to recite it by heart
for the rest of his life. Not less admirable was his sure grasp. The most
complicated controversies in the Talmud, into which other scholars would
require whole days and weeks to find their way, the Gaon was able to read
by a glance at the pages. Already as a boy he is said to have gone through
in a single night the tractates _Zebachim_ and _Menachoth_,(57) containing
not less than two hundred and thirty pages, the contents of which are
sometimes so difficult as to make even an aged scholar despair of
understanding them. Again, he possessed so much common‐sense that all the
intellectual tricks of the casuistic schools did not exist for him. And
nevertheless his biographers tell us that he was so much occupied by his
studies, that he could not spare more than one hour and a half for sleep
out of twenty‐four hours. This is, no doubt, an exaggeration. But let us
say five hours a day. He had not time to take his meals regularly. He used
also, according to tradition, to repeat every chapter in the Bible, every
passage in the Talmud, hundreds of times, even if they presented no
difficulty at all. But it was, as already said, a matter of love for the
Gaon; of love, not of passing affection.

Nothing on earth could be more despicable to the Gaon than amateurs who
dabble with ancient literature. To understand a thing clearly made him
happy. He is said to have spent more than six months on a single Mishnah
in the tractate _Kilayim_,(58) and felt himself the happiest man when he
succeeded in grasping its real meaning. Not to be able to go into the
depth of a subject, to miss the truth embedded in a single passage, caused
him the most bitter grief. A story told by his pupil, R. Chayim, may
illustrate this fact. One Friday, narrates R. Chayim, the servant of the
Gaon came to him with the message that his master wanted to see him as
soon as possible. R. Chayim went instantly. When he came into the house,
he found the Gaon lying in bed with a bandage on his head and looking very
ill. The wife of the Gaon also reported to him that it was more than three
days since her husband had taken any food, and that he had hardly enjoyed
any sleep all this time. All this misery was caused by reason of not
having been able to understand some difficult passages in the Talmud of
Jerusalem. The Gaon now asked his disciples to resume with him their
researches. Heaven, he said, might have mercy upon them and open their
eyes, for it is written, “Two are better than one”: and lo! Heaven did
have mercy on them; they succeeded in getting the true meaning of the
passage. The Gaon recovered instantly, and master and disciple had a very
joyful Sabbath.

He is also reported to have said on one occasion, he would not like to
have an angel for his teacher who would reveal to him all the mysteries of
the Torah. Such a condition is only befitting the world to come, but in
_this_ world only things which are acquired by hard labour and great
struggle are of any value. The German representative of truth expressed
the same thought in other words, which are well worth repeating here: “Did
the Almighty,” says Lessing, “holding in His right hand Truth and in His
left Search after Truth, deign to tender me the one I might prefer, in all
humility and without hesitation I should select Search after Truth.”

This absorption of all his being in the study of the Torah may also, I
think, account for the fact that his biographers have so little to say
about the family of the Gaon. Of his wife, we know only that she died in
the year 1783. Not much fuller is our knowledge about his children. The
biographers speak of them as of the family “which the Lord has blessed,”
referring to his two sons, Rabbi Aryeh Leb and Rabbi Abraham, who were
known as great scholars and very pious men. The latter one is best known
by his edition of a collection of smaller Midrashim. Mention is also made
of the Gaon’s sons‐in‐law, especially one Rabbi Moses of Pinsk. But this
is all, and we are told nothing either about their lives or their
callings. From his famous letter which he sent to his family when on his
way to Palestine, we see that he was rather what one may call a severe
father. He bids his wife punish his children most severely for swearing,
scolding, and speaking untruth. He also advises her to live as retired a
life as possible. Retirement he considers as a condition _sine qua non_
for a religious life. He even advises his daughter to read her prayers at
home, for in the synagogue she may get envious of the finer dresses of her
friends, which is a most terrible sin. The only tender feature in this
letter is perhaps where he implores his wife to be kind to his mother on
account of her being a widow, and it were a great sin to cause her the
least annoyance. From other passages we may gather that his family had at
times to suffer hunger and cold by the excessive occupation of their
father with the study of the Torah and other religious works. In short,
the Gaon was a one‐sided, severe ascetic, and would never have deserved
the title of a good father, a good husband, an amiable man or any other
appellation derived from those ordinary “household decencies” which, as
Macaulay informs us, half of the tombstones claim for those who lie behind
them. But I am very much afraid that many a great man who has made his
mark in history could never claim these household virtues as his own. I do
not want to enter here into the question whether Judaism be an ascetic
religion or not. But even those who think Judaism identical with what is
called “making the best of this life,” will not dispute the fact that
Jewish literature contains within it enough ascetic elements to justify
the conduct of our greatest men whose lives were one long‐continued self‐
denial and privation. “The Torah,” says the Talmud, “cannot be obtained
unless a man is prepared to give his life for it,” or as the Talmud puts
it, in another place, “if it be thy desire not to die, cease to live
before thou diest.” This was the principle by which the Gaon’s life was
actuated. And as he did not spare himself, he could not spare others. We
could not expect him to act differently. The Scriptures tell us: “Thou
shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” But how is it with the man who never
loved himself, who never gave a thought to himself, who never lived for
himself, but only for what he considered to be his duty and his mission
from God on earth? Such a man we cannot expect to spend his time on
coaxing and caressing us. As to the charge of one‐sidedness at which I
have hinted, if the giving up of everything else for the purpose of
devoting oneself to a scholarly and saintly life is one‐sidedness, the
Gaon must certainly bear this charge; but in a world where there are so
many on the other side, we ought, I think, to be only too grateful to
Providence for sending us from time to time great and strong one‐sided
men, who, by their counterbalancing influence, bring God’s spoilt world to
a certain equilibrium again. To appease my more tender readers, I should
like only to say that there is no occasion at all for pitying Mrs. Gaon.
It would be a miserable world indeed if a good digestion and stupidity
were, as a certain author maintained, the only conditions of happiness.
Saints are happy in their sufferings, and noble souls find their happiness
in sacrificing themselves for these sufferers.

Another severe feature in the life of the Gaon showed itself in his
dispute with the Chassidim. I regret not to be able to enter here even
into a brief account of the history of this struggle. I shall only take
leave to say that I am afraid each party was right, the Gaon as well as
the Chassidim; the latter, in attacking the Rabbis of their time, who
mostly belonged to the casuistic schools, and in their intellectual
pursuits almost entirely neglected the emotional side of religion; but
none the less was the Gaon right in opposing a system which, as I have
shown above, involved the danger of leading to a worship of men.

Excepting this incident, the Gaon never meddled with public affairs. He
lived in retirement, always occupied with his own education and that of
his disciples and friends. It is most remarkable that, in spite of his
hard work and the many privations he had to endure, he enjoyed good health
almost all his life. He never consulted a doctor. It was not until the
year 1791, in the seventieth year of his life, that he began to feel the
decline of his health. But he was not much interrupted by the failure of
his powers. As a means of recovery, he esteemed very highly the
conversation of the preacher Jacob of Dubna, better known as the Dubna
Maggid,(59) whose parables and sallies of wit the Gaon used to enjoy very
much. On the eve of the Day of Atonement in the year 1797, he fell very
ill and gave his blessing to his children. He died on the third day of the
Feast of Tabernacles, with the branch of the Lulab(60) in his hands. The
Feast of Joy, relates a contemporary, was turned into days of mourning. In
all the streets of Wilna were heard only lamenting and crying voices. The
funeral orations delivered on this occasion in Wilna, as well as in other
Jewish communities, would form a small library. His disciples wept for
their master, the people of Wilna for the ornament of their native town,
and the feeling of the Jews in general was that “the Ark of God was taken

After the foregoing sketch, the reader will hardly expect me to give an
account of the Gaon’s literary productions. The results of so long a life
and such powers of mind devoted to one cause with such zeal and fervour,
would furnish by themselves the subject of a whole series of essays. The
tombstone set on his grave by his pious admirers bears the inscription,
“The Gaon gave heed and sought and set in order”—that is to say, he wrote
commentaries or notes on—“the Bible, the Mishnah, both Talmuds, the
Siphré, Siphra, the Zohar, and many other works.” Inscriptions on
tombstones are proverbial for exaggeration, and we all know the saying,
“as mendacious as an epitaph.” But a glance at the catalogue of the
British Museum under the heading of Elijah Wilna, will show that this
inscription makes a praiseworthy exception. We will find that this list
might be lengthened by many other works of great importance for Jewish
life and thought. His commentary to the Code of R. Joseph Caro, in which
one will find that in many cases he knew the sources of the religious
customs and usages, put together in this work, better than its compiler
himself, would have been sufficient to place him at the head of Halachic
scholarship, whilst his notes and textual emendations to the Tosephta and
Seder Olam, to the restoration of which he contributed so much, would have
sufficed to establish his fame as a critic of the first order. And this is
the more astonishing when we consider that all this was done without
manuscripts or any other aid, and by mere intuition. We cannot wonder that
scholars who had the opportunity of visiting great libraries and saw how
the emendations of the Gaon agreed sometimes with the readings given in
the best manuscripts exclaimed very often: “Only by inspiration could he
have found out these secrets.” We have no need to go so far; we shall
simply say with the Talmud, “The powers of the real sage surpass those of
the prophet.” Nay, even had we possessed only his _Gleanings_, which form
a kind of _obiter dicta_ on various topics of Jewish literature, the Gaon
would have remained a model of clear thinking and real ingenuity for all
future generations.

However, a real appreciation of the Gaon’s greatness as a scholar would
only be possible either by a thorough study of his works, to which I have
alluded, or by giving many specimens of them. The short space I am limited
to makes such an undertaking impossible. I shall therefore use what
remains to me to say a few words on the salutary influence the Gaon had on
his countrymen, the Russian Jews.

The Russian Jew is still a riddle to us. We know this strange being only
from the Reports of the Board of Guardians or from bombastic phrases in
public speeches; for he has always been the victim of platform orators,

    So over violent or over civil,
    That every man with them is God or Devil.

From all, however, that I can gather from the best Jewish writers in
Russia, I can only judge that the Russian Jew, when transplanted to a
foreign soil, where he is cut off from the past and uncertain of his
future, is for the time at least in a position in which his true character
cannot be truly estimated. His real life is to be sought in his own
country. There, amidst his friends and kinsmen who are all animated by the
same ideals, attached to the same traditions, and proud of the same
religious and charitable institutions, everything is full of life and
meaning to him. Thus, a certain Russian writer addresses his younger
colleagues who find so much fault with the bygone world: “Go and see how
rich we always were in excellent men. In every town and every village you
would find scholars, saints, and philanthropists. Their merits could
sustain worlds, and each of them was an ornament of Israel.” And he
proceeds to give dozens of names of such excellent men, who are not all
indeed known to us, but with whom the Russian Jew connects many noble and
pious reminiscences of real greatness and heroic self‐denial, and of whom
he is justly proud.

The focus, however, of all this spiritual life is the Yeshibah (Talmudical
College)(61) in Walosin. I hope that a glance at its history and
constitution will not be found uninteresting. The intellectual originator
of this institution which bears the name _Yeshibah Ets Chayim_ (Tree of
Life College),(62) was the Gaon himself. Being convinced that the study of
the Torah is the very life of Judaism, but that this study must be
conducted in a scientific, not in a scholastic way, he bade his chief
disciple, the R. Chayim already mentioned, to found a college in which
Rabbinical literature should be taught according to his own true method.
It would seem that, as long as the Gaon was alive, R. Chayim preferred to
be a pupil rather than a teacher. When, however, the Gaon died, R. Chayim
did not rest till he had carried out the command of his master, and in the
year 1803 the College was opened in Walosin. The cloth manufacturer and
disciple now became Rabbi and master. He began on a small scale, teaching
at first only a few pupils. But even for the sustenance of a small number
he had not sufficient means, and his pious wife sold her jewellery to help
him in accomplishing his favourite plan. This is the best refutation of
the French proverb _Avare comme une Rabbine_. The number, however,
increased daily, and before he died (1828), he was fortunate enough to
lecture to a hundred students. The number of students in the year 1888
amounted to 400, and the Russian Jews are thus right in asserting that
they have the greatest Talmudical College in the world. It is evident that
no private charity by a single man, however great, could suffice to
maintain such large numbers. Thus R. Chayim was already compelled to
appeal to the liberality of his Russian brethren. The name of R. Chayim,
and the still greater name of his master, were recommendation enough, and
besides private offerings, many communities promised large sums towards
supporting the students in Walosin. From time to time also messengers are
sent out by the committee to promote the interests of the Yeshibah. The
writers to whom I owe these data tell us that these messengers travel to
all parts of the world to collect offerings for Walosin: so that it is a
standing joke with the students that the existence of the mythical river
Sambatyon(63) may be questioned after all, otherwise it must long have
been discovered by these messengers who explore the whole world in their
journeys. But it would seem that this world is only a very small one. For
the whole income of the Yeshibah has never exceeded the sum of about
£1800. Of this a certain part is spent in providing the salaries of the
teaching staff and proctors, and on the repairs of the building; whilst
the rest is distributed amongst the students. Considering that no
scholarship exceeds £13—it is only the forty immortals of Walosin who
receive such high stipends—considering again that the great majority of
the students belong to the poorer classes and thus receive no remittance
from their parents, we may be sure that the words of the Talmud: “This is
the way to study the Torah; eat bread and salt, drink water by measure,
sleep on the earth, and live a life of care,” are carried out by them
literally. But it would seem that the less they eat and the less they
sleep, the more they work. Indeed the industry and the enthusiasm of these
Bachurim (_alumni_)(64) in the study of the Torah is almost unsurpassable.
The official hours alone extend from nine in the morning until ten in the
evening, while many of the students volunteer to continue their studies
till the middle of the night, or to begin the day at three in the morning.

As to the subject of these studies, it is confined, as may be imagined, to
the exploration of the old Rabbinic literature in all its branches. But it
would be a mistake to think that the modern spirit has left Walosin quite
untouched. It would be impossible that among 400 thinking heads there
should not be a few who are interested in mathematics, others again in
philosophy or history, while yet others would conjugate the irregular
verbs of some classical language when moving to and fro over their Talmud
folios and pretending to “_learn_.” Indeed, almost all the writers who
demand that these subjects should be introduced as obligatory into the
programme of Walosin, belonged themselves to this Yeshibah. And it is
these writers who betray the secret how secular knowledge is now invading
the precincts of Walosin, as well as of other Talmudical Colleges in spite
of all obstacles and prohibitions. In conquering these difficulties seem
to consist the pleasures of life of many Bachurim at Walosin. Look only at
that undergraduate, how, after a heavy day’s work he is standing there in
the street reading Buckle’s _History of Civilisation_ in the moonlight!
Poor man, he is not so romantic as to prefer the moonlight to a cheerful,
warm room, with the more prosaic light of a candle, but he has got tired
of knocking at the door, for his landlady, to whom he has neglected to pay
rent for the last three terms, made up her mind to let him freeze to‐
night. But still more cruel to him is his fellow‐sufferer, who is also
wandering in the streets with an overloaded brain and empty stomach; he
roughly shakes him out of his dreams by telling him that Buckle is long
ago antiquated, and that he had better study the works of Herbert Spencer,
who has spoken the last word on every vital subject in the world. Still
these two starving and freezing representatives of English thought in
Walosin form only an exception. The general favourites are the
representatives of Jewish thought. That such books as the _Guide of the
Perplexed_, by Maimonides, the Metaphysical Researches of Levi b.
Gershom,(65) and other philosophical works of the Spanish school are read
by the Walosin students it is needless to say. These books now form a part
of the Rabbinic literature, and it would be almost unorthodox to suspect
their readers. But is worth noticing that even the productions of the
modern historico‐critical school, such as the works of Zunz, Frankel,
Graetz, Weiss, are very popular with the Bachurim, being much read and
discussed by them.

Thus Walosin deserves rightly to be considered as the centre of Jewish
thought in Russia, in which the spirit of the Gaon is still working.

I have very often, however, heard doubts expressed as to the continuance
of this spirit when, as it is to be hoped, better times come for the Jews
in Russia. Is it not to be feared that liberty and emancipation will
render untenable ideas and notions which arose under entirely different
circumstances? There is no need of entertaining such fears. Rabbi Jedaiah
of Bedres(66) concludes his philosophical work _Examination of the World_,
with the following words: “The conclusion of the whole matter is, go
either to the right, my heart, or go to the left, but believe all that R.
Moses ben Maimon (Maimonides) has believed, the last of the Gaonim by
time, but the first in rank.” About five hundred years have passed away
since these lines were written. Time, as we have seen, has brought another
Gaon, and probably Time will favour us in future with still another. But
times have also altered. The rebellious hearts of a liberal age are not
likely to obey always the command, “believe all that the Gaon said.” But
the heart of man will in all ages retain idealism enough to love and
revere the greatest of men and to follow what was best in them.


R. Chayim Vital, in his _Book of the Transmigrations of Souls_, gives the
following bold characteristic of the two great teachers of Judaism,
Maimonides and Nachmanides. Their souls both sprang forth from the head of
Adam—it is a favourite idea of the Cabbalists to evolve the whole of ideal
humanity from the archetype Adam—but the former, Maimonides, had his
genius placed on the left curl of Adam, which is all judgment and
severity, whilst that of the latter, Nachmanides, had its place on the
right curl, which represents rather mercy and tenderness.

I start from these words in order to avoid disappointment. For Nachmanides
was a great Talmudist, a great Bible student, a great philosopher, a great
controversialist, and, perhaps, also a great physician; in one word, great
in every respect, possessed of all the culture of his age. But, as I have
already indicated by the passage quoted by way of introduction, it is not
of Nachmanides in any of these excellent qualities that I wish to write
here. For these aspects of his life and mind I must refer the reader to
the works of Graetz, Weiss, Steinschneider, Perles, and others. I shall
mostly confine myself to those features and peculiarities in his career
and works which will illustrate Nachmanides the tender and compassionate,
the Nachmanides who represented Judaism from the side of emotion and
feeling, as Maimonides did from the side of reason and logic.

R. Moses ben Nachman, or Bonastruc de Portas, as he was called by his
fellow‐countrymen, or Nachmanides, as he is commonly called now, was born
in Gerona about the year 1195. Gerona is a little town in the province of
Catalonia in Spain. But though in Spain, Gerona was not distinguished for
its philosophers or poets like Granada, Barcelona, or Toledo. Situated as
it was in the North of Spain, Gerona was under the influence of Franco‐
Jewish sympathies, and thus its boast lay in the great Talmudists that it
produced. I shall only mention the name of R. Zerahiah Hallevi Gerundi—so‐
called after his native place—whose strictures on the Code of R. Isaac
Alfasi, which he began as a youth of nineteen years, will always remain a
marvel of critical insight and independent research. Nachmanides is
supposed by some authors to have been a descendant of R. Isaac ben Reuben
of Barcelona, whose hymns are still to be found in certain rituals. The
evidence for this is insufficient, but we know that he was a cousin of R.
Jonah Gerundi, not less famous for his Talmudic learning than for his
saintliness and piety. Nachmanides thus belonged to the best Jewish
families of Gerona. Various great men are mentioned as his teachers, but
we have certainty only about two, namely R. Judah ben Yakar, the
commentator of the prayers, and R. Meir ben Nathan of Trinquintaines. The
mystic, R. Ezra (or Azriel), is indeed alleged to have been his instructor
in the Cabbalah, and this is not impossible, as he also was an inhabitant
of Gerona; but it is more probable that Nachmanides was initiated into the
Cabbalah by the R. Judah just mentioned, who also belonged to the mystical

Whoever his masters were, they must have been well satisfied with their
promising pupil, for he undertook, at the age of fifteen, to write
supplements to the Code of R. Isaac Alfasi. Nor was it at a much later
date that he began to compose his work, _The Wars of the Lord_, in which
he defends this great codifier against the strictures of R. Zerahiah, to
which we have referred above. I shall in the course of this essay have
further occasion to speak of this latter work; for the present we will
follow the career of its author.

Concerning the private life of Nachmanides very little has come down to
us. We only know that he had a family of sons and daughters. He was not
spared the greatest grief that can befall a father, for he lost a son; it
was on the day of the New Year.(68) On the other hand, it must have been a
great source of joy to him when he married his son Solomon to the daughter
of R. Jonah, whom he revered as a saint and a man of God. As a token of
the admiration in which he held his friend, the following incident may be
mentioned. It seems that it was the custom in Spain to name the first
child in a family after his paternal grandfather; but Nachmanides ceded
his right in behalf of his friend, and thus his daughter‐in‐law’s first
son was named Jonah. Another son of Nachmanides whom we know of was
Nachman, to whom his father addressed his letters from Palestine, and who
also wrote Novellæ to the Talmud, still extant in MS. But the later
posterity of Nachmanides is better known to fame. R. Levi ben Gershom was
one of his descendants; so was also R. Simeon Duran;(69) whilst R. Jacob
Sasportas, in the eighteenth century,(70) derived his pedigree from
Nachmanides in the eleventh generation.

As to his calling, he was occupied as Rabbi and teacher, first in Gerona
and afterwards in Barcelona. But this meant as much as if we should say of
a man that he is a philanthropist by profession, with the only difference
that the treasures of which Nachmanides disposed were more of a spiritual
kind. For his livelihood he probably depended upon his medical practice.

I need hardly say that the life of Nachmanides, “whose words were held in
Catalonia in almost as high authority as the Scriptures,” was not without
its great public events. At least we know of two.

The one was about the year 1232, on the occasion of the great struggle
about Maimonides’ _Guide of the Perplexed_, and the first book of his
great Compendium of the Law. The Maimonists looked upon these works almost
as a new revelation, whilst the Anti‐Maimonists condemned both as
heretical, or at least conducive to heresy.(71) It would be profitless to
reproduce the details of this sad affair. The motives may have been pure
and good, but the actions were decidedly bad. People denounced each other,
excommunicated each other, and did not (from either side) spare even the
dead from the most bitter calumnies. Nachmanides stood between two fires.
The French Rabbis, from whom most of the Anti‐Maimonists were recruited,
he held in very high esteem and considered himself as their pupil. Some of
the leaders of this party were also his relatives. He, too, had, as we
shall see later on, a theory of his own about God and the world little in
agreement with that of Maimonides. It is worth noting that Nachmanides
objected to calling Maimonides “our teacher Moses” (Rabbenu Mosheh),(72)
thinking it improper to confer upon him the title by which the Rabbis
honoured the Master of the Prophets. The very fact, however, that he had
some theory of the Universe shows that he had a problem to solve, whilst
the real French Rabbis were hardly troubled by difficulties of a
metaphysical character. Indeed, Nachmanides pays them the rather doubtful
compliment that Maimonides’ work was not intended for them, who were
barricaded by their faith and happy in their belief, wanting no protection
against the works of Aristotle and Galen, by whose philosophy others might
be led astray. In other words, their strength lay in an ignorance of Greek
philosophy, to which the cultivated Jews of Spain would not aspire.
Nachmanides was also a great admirer of Maimonides, whose virtues and
great merits in the service of Judaism he describes in his letter to the
French Rabbis. Thus, the only way left open to him was to play the part of
the conciliator. The course of this struggle is fully described in every
Jewish history. It is sufficient to say that, in spite of his great
authority, Nachmanides was not successful in his effort to moderate the
violence of either party, and that the controversy was at last settled
through the harsh interference of outsiders who well‐nigh crushed
Maimonists and Anti‐Maimonists alike.

The second public event in the life of Nachmanides was his Disputation,
held in Barcelona, at the Court and in the presence of King Jayme I., of
Aragon, in the year 1263. It was the usual story. A convert to
Christianity, named Pablo Christiani, who burned with zealous anxiety to
see his former co‐religionists saved, after many vain attempts in this
direction, applied to the King of Aragon to order Nachmanides to take part
in a public disputation. Pablo maintained that he could prove the justice
of the Messianic claims of Jesus from the Talmud and other Rabbinic
writings. If he could only succeed in convincing the great Rabbi of Spain
of the truth of his argument, the bulk of the Jews was sure to follow. By
the way, it was the same Talmud which some twenty years previously was, at
the instance of another Jewish convert, burned in Paris, for containing
passages against Christianity. Nachmanides had to conform with the command
of the king, and, on the 21st of July, 1263, was begun the controversy,
which lasted for four or five days.

I do not think that there is in the whole domain of literature less
profitable reading than that of the controversies between Jews and
Christians. These public disputations occasionally forced the Jews
themselves to review their position towards their own literature, and led
them to draw clearer distinctions between what they regarded as religion
and what as folklore. But beyond this, the polemics between Jews and
Christians were barren of good results. If you have read one you have read
enough for all time. The same casuistry and the same disregard of history
turn up again and again. Nervousness and humility are always on the side
of the Jews, who know that, whatever the result may be, the end will be
persecution; arrogance is always on the side of their antagonists, who are
supported by a band of Knights of the Holy Cross, prepared to prove the
soundness of their cause at the point of their daggers.

Besides, was there enough common ground between Judaism and thirteenth
century Christianity to have justified the hope of a mutual understanding?
The Old Testament was almost forgotten in the Church. The First Person in
the Trinity was leading a sort of shadowy existence in art, which could
only be the more repulsive to a Jew on that account. The largest part of
Church worship was monopolised by devotion to the Virgin Mother, prayers
to the saints, and kneeling before their relics. And a Jew may well be
pardoned if he did not entertain higher views of this form of worship than
Luther and Knox did at a later period. It will thus not be worth our while
to dwell much on the matter of this controversy, in which the essence of
the real dispute is scarcely touched. There are only two points in it
which are worth noticing. The first is that Nachmanides declared the
Agadoth(73) in the Talmud to be only a series of sermons (he uses this
very word), expressing the individual opinions of the preacher, and thus
possessing no authoritative weight. The convert Pablo is quite aghast at
this statement, and accuses Nachmanides of heterodoxy.

Secondly,—and here I take leave to complete the rather obscure passage in
the controversy by a parallel in his book, _The Date of Redemption_,(74)
quoted by Azariah de Rossi—that the question of the Messiah is not of that
dogmatic importance to the Jews that Christians imagine. For even if Jews
supposed their sins to be so great that they forfeited all the promises
made to them in the Scriptures, or that, on some hidden ground, it would
please the Almighty never to restore their national independence, this
would in no way alter the obligations of Jews towards the Torah. Nor is
the coming of the Messiah desired by Jews as an end in itself. For it is
not the goal of their hopes that they shall be able again to eat of the
fruit of Palestine, or enjoy other pleasures there; not even the chance of
the restoration of sacrifices and the worship of the Temple is the
greatest of Jewish expectations (connected with the appearance of the
Messiah). What makes them long for his coming is the hope that they will
then witness, in the company of the prophets and priests, a greater spread
of purity and holiness than is now possible. In other words, the
possibility for them to live a holy life after the will of God will be
greater than now. But, on the other hand, considering that such a godly
life under a Christian government requires greater sacrifices than it
would under a Jewish king; and, considering again that the merits and
rewards of a good act increase with the obstacles that are in the way of
executing it—considering this, a Jew might even prefer to live under the
King of Aragon than under the Messiah, where he would perforce act in
accordance with the precepts of the Torah.

Now there is in this statement much that has only to be looked upon as a
compliment to the government of Spain. I am inclined to think that if the
alternative laid before Nachmanides had been a really practical one, he
would have decided in favour of the clement rule of the Messiah in
preference to that of the most cruel king on earth. But the fact that he
repeats this statement in another place, where there was no occasion to be
over polite to the Government, tends to show, as we have said, that the
belief in the Messiah was not the basis on which Nachmanides’ religion was
built up.

The result of the controversy is contested by the different parties; the
Christian writers claim the victory for Pablo, whilst the Jewish documents
maintain that the issue was with Nachmanides. In any case, “_Der Jude wird
verbrannt_.” For in the next year (1264) all the books of the Jews in
Aragon were confiscated and submitted to the censorship of a commission,
of which the well‐known author of the _Pugio Fidei_, Raymund Martini, was,
perhaps, the most important member. The books were not burned this time,
but had to suffer a severe mutilation; the anti‐Christian passages, or
such as were supposed to be so, were struck out or obliterated.
Nachmanides’ account of the controversy, which he probably published from
a sense of duty towards those whom he represented, was declared to contain
blasphemies against the dominant religion. The pamphlet was condemned to
be burned publicly, whilst the author was, as it seems, punished with
expulsion from his country. It is not reported where Nachmanides found a
home during the next three years; probably he had to accept the
hospitality of his friends, either in Castile or in the south of France;
but we know that in the year 1267 he left Europe and emigrated to

Nachmanides was, at this juncture of his life, already a man of about
seventy. But it would seem as if the seven decades which he had spent in
the Spanish Peninsula were only meant as a preparation for the three years
which he was destined to live in the Holy Land, for it was during this
stage of his life that the greatest part of his _Commentary on the
Pentateuch_ was written. In this work, as is agreed on all sides, his
finest thoughts and noblest sentiments were put down.

Before proceeding to speak of his works, let us first cast a glance at his
letters from Palestine, forming as they do a certain link between his
former life and that which was to occupy him exclusively for the rest of
his days. We have three letters, the first of which I shall translate here
_in extenso_.

The letter was written soon after his arrival at Jerusalem in the year
1267. It was addressed to his son Nachman, and runs as follows:—

    “The Lord shall bless thee, my son Nachman, and thou shalt see the
    good of Jerusalem. Yea, thou shalt see thy children’s children
    (Ps. cxxviii.), and thy table shall be like that of our father
    Abraham!(75) In Jerusalem, the Holy City, I write this letter.
    For, thanks and praise unto the rock of my salvation, I was
    thought worthy by God to arrive here safely on the 9th of the
    month of Elul, and I remained there till the day after the Day of
    Atonement. Now I intend going to Hebron, to the sepulchre of our
    ancestors, to prostrate myself, and there to dig my grave. But
    what am I to say to you with regard to the country? Great is the
    solitude and great the wastes, and, to characterise it in short,
    the more sacred the places, the greater their desolation!
    Jerusalem is more desolate than the rest of the country: Judæa
    more than Galilee. But even in this destruction it is a blessed
    land. It has about 2000 inhabitants, about 300 Christians live
    there who escaped the sword of the Sultan. There are no Jews. For
    since the arrival of the Tartars, some fled, others died by the
    sword. There are only two brothers, dyers by trade, who have to
    buy their ingredients from the government. There the Ten Men(76)
    meet, and on Sabbaths they hold service at their house. But we
    encouraged them, and we succeeded in finding a vacant house, built
    on pillars of marble with a beautiful arch. That we took for a
    synagogue. For the town is without a master, and whoever will take
    possession of the ruins can do so. We gave our offerings towards
    the repairs of the house. We have sent already to Shechem to fetch
    some scrolls of the Law from there which had been brought thither
    from Jerusalem at the invasion of the Tartars. Thus they will
    organise a synagogue and worship there. For continually people
    crowd to Jerusalem, men and women, from Damascus, Zobah
    (Aleppo),(77) and from all parts of the country to see the
    Sanctuary and to mourn over it. He who thought us worthy to let us
    see Jerusalem in her desertion, he shall bless us to behold her
    again, built and restored, when the glory of the Lord will return
    unto her. But you, my son, and your brothers and the whole of our
    family, you all shall live to see the salvation of Jerusalem and
    the comfort of Zion. These are the words of your father who is
    yearning and forgetting, who is seeing and enjoying, Moses ben
    Nachman. Give also my peace to my pupil Moses, the son of Solomon,
    the nephew of your mother. I wish to tell him ... that there,
    facing the holy temple, I have read his verses, weeping bitterly
    over them. May he who caused his name to rest in the Holy Temple
    increase your peace together with the peace of the whole

This letter may be illustrated by a few parallels taken from the appendix
to Nachmanides’ _Commentary to the Pentateuch_, which contains some rather
incoherent notes which the author seems to have jotted down when he
arrived in Jerusalem. After a lengthy account of the material as well as
the spiritual glories of the holy city in the past, he proceeds to say:—

    “A mournful sight I have perceived in thee (Jerusalem); only one
    Jew is here, a dyer, persecuted, oppressed and despised. At his
    house gather great and small when they can get the Ten Men. They
    are wretched folk, without occupation and trade, consisting of a
    few pilgrims and beggars, though the fruit of the land is still
    magnificent and the harvests rich. Indeed, it is still a blessed
    country, flowing with milk and honey.... Oh! I am the man who saw
    affliction. I am banished from my table, far removed from friend
    and kinsman, and too long is the distance to meet again.... I left
    my family, I forsook my house. There with my sons and daughters,
    and with the sweet and dear children whom I have brought up on my
    knees, I left also my soul. My heart and my eyes will dwell with
    them for ever.... But the loss of all this and of every other
    glory my eyes saw is compensated by having now the joy of being a
    day in thy courts (O Jerusalem), visiting the ruins of the Temple
    and crying over the ruined Sanctuary; where I am permitted to
    caress thy stones, to fondle thy dust, and to weep over thy ruins.
    I wept bitterly, but I found joy in my tears. I tore my garments,
    but I felt relieved by it.”

Of some later date is his letter from Acra, which may be considered as a
sort of ethical will, and which has been justly characterised as a eulogy
of humility. Here is an extract from it:—

    “Accustom yourself to speak gently to all men at all times, and
    thus you will avoid anger, which leads to so much sin.... Humility
    is the first of virtues; for if you think how lowly is man, how
    great is God, you will fear Him and avoid sinfulness. On the
    humble man rests the divine glory; the man that is haughty to
    others denies God. Look not boldly at one whom you address....
    Regard every one as greater than thyself.... Remember always that
    you stand before God, both when you pray and when you converse
    with others.... Think before you speak.... Act as I have bidden
    you, and your words, and deeds, and thoughts, will be honest, and
    your prayers pure and acceptable before God.”

The third letter is addressed to his son (R. Solomon?) who was staying (in
the service of the king) in Castile. It is in its chief content a eulogy
of chastity.(78) Probably Nachmanides had some dread of the dangerous
allurements of the court, and he begs his son never to do anything of
which he knows that his father would not approve, and to keep his father’s
image always before his eyes.

As to his works, we may divide them into two classes. The one would
contain those of a strictly legalistic (Halachic), whilst the other those
of a more homiletic‐exegetical and devotional character (Agadic). As
already indicated in the preliminary lines of this paper, I cannot dwell
long on the former class of our author’s writings. It consists either of
Glosses or Novellæ to the Talmud, in the style and manner of the French
Rabbis, or of Compendia of certain parts of the Law after the model set by
R. Isaac Alfasi or Maimonides, or in defences of the “Earlier Authorities”
against the strictures made on them by a later generation. A few words
must be said with regard to these defences; for they reveal that deep
respect for authority which forms a special feature of Nachmanides’
writings. His _Wars of the Lord_, in which he defends Alfasi against R.
Zerahiah of Gerona, was undertaken when he was very young, whilst his
defence of the author of the _Halachoth Gedoloth_(79) against the attacks
of Maimonides, which he began at a much more mature age, shows the same
deference “to the great ones of the past.” Indeed, he says in one place,
“We bow before them (the earlier authorities), and though their words are
not quite evident to us we submit to them”; or, as he expresses himself
elsewhere, “Only he who dips (deeply enough) in the wisdom of the ‘ancient
ones’ will drink the pure (old) wine.” But it would be unjust to the
genius of Nachmanides to represent him as a blind worshipper of authority.
Humble and generous in disposition, he certainly would bow before every
recognised authority, and he would also think it his duty to take up the
cudgels for him as long as there was even the least chance of making an
honourable defence. But when this chance had gone, when Nachmanides was
fully convinced that his hero was in the wrong, he followed no guide but
truth. “Notwithstanding,” he says in his introduction to the defences of
the _Halachoth Gedoloth_, “my desire and delight to be the disciple of the
Earlier Authorities, to maintain their views and to assert them, I do not
consider myself a ‘donkey carrying books.’ I will explain their way and
appreciate their value, but when their views are inconceivable to my
thoughts, I will plead in all modesty, but shall judge according to the
sight of my eyes. And when the meaning is clear I shall flatter none, for
the Lord gives wisdom in all times and ages.” But, on the other hand,
there seems to have been a certain sort of literary agnosticism about
Nachmanides which made it very difficult for him to find the “clear
meaning.” The passage in the _Wars of the Lord_ to the effect “that there
is in the art (of commenting) no such certain demonstration as in
mathematics or astronomy,” is well known and has often been quoted; but
still more characteristic of this literary agnosticism is the first
paragraph of the above‐mentioned defences of the _Halachoth Gedoloth_.
Whilst all his predecessors accepted, on the authority of R. Simlai,(80)
the number (613) of the commandments as an uncontested fact, and based
their compositions on it, Nachmanides questions the whole matter, and
shows that the passages relating to this enumeration of laws are only of a
homiletical nature, and thus of little consequence. Nay, he goes so far as
to say, “Indeed the system how to number the commandments is a matter in
which I suspect all of us (are mistaken) and the truth must be left to him
who will solve all doubts.” We should thus be inclined to think that this
adherence to the words of the earlier Authorities was at least as much due
to this critical scepticism as to his conservative tendencies.

The space left to me I shall devote to the second class of his writings,
in which Nachmanides worked less after given types. These reveal to us
more of his inner being, and offer us some insight into his theological
system. The great problem which seems to have presented itself to
Nachmanides’ mind was less how to reconcile religion with reason than how
to reconcile man with religion. What is man? The usual answer is not
flattering. He is an animal that owes its existence to the same instinct
that produces even the lower creatures, and he is condemned, like them, to
go to a place of worm and maggot. But, may not one ask, why should a
creature so lowly born, and doomed to so hapless a future, be burdened
with the awful responsibility of knowing that he is destined “to give
reckoning and judgment before the King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be
He”? It is true that man is also endowed with a heavenly soul, but this
only brings us back again to the antithesis of flesh and spirit which was
the stumbling‐block of many a theological system. Nor does it help us much
towards the solution of the indicated difficulty; for what relation can
there be between this _materia impura_ of body and the pure intellect of
soul? And again, must not the unfavourable condition in which the latter
is placed through this uncongenial society heavily clog and suppress all
aspiration for perfection? It is “a house divided against itself,” doomed
to an everlasting contest, without hope for co‐operation or even of

The works _The Sacred Letter_ and _The Law of Man_ may be considered as an
attempt by Nachmanides, if not to remove, at least to relieve the
harshness of this antithesis. The former, in which he blames Maimonides
for following Aristotle in denouncing certain desires implanted in us by
nature as ignominious and unworthy of man, may, perhaps, be characterised
as a vindication of the flesh from a religious point of view. The contempt
in which “that Greek,” as Nachmanides terms Aristotle, held the flesh is
inconsistent with the theory of the religious man, who believes that
everything (including the body, with all its functions) is created by God,
whose work is perfect and good, without impure or inharmonious parts. It
is only sin and neglect that disfigure God’s creations. I cannot enter
into any further details of this work, but I may be permitted to remark
that there is a very strong similarity between the tendency of the _Sacred
Letter_ and certain leading ideas of Milton. Indeed, if the first two
chapters of the former were a little condensed and put into English, they
could not be better summarised than by the famous lines in the _Paradise

    Whatever hypocrites austerely talk
    Of purity, and place, and innocence,
    Defaming as impure what God declares
    Pure, and commands to some, leaves free to all,
    Our Maker bids increase; who bids abstain
    But our destroyer, foe to God and man?
    Hail, wedded love, mysterious law!...
    Far be it that I should write thee sin or blame
    Or think thee unbefitting holiest place,
    Perpetual fountain of domestic sweets.

The second of these two works, the _Law of Man_, may be regarded as a
sanctification of grief, and particularly of the grief of griefs, death.
The bulk of the book is legalistic, treating of mourning rites, burial
customs, and similar topics; but there is much in the preface which bears
on our subject. For here again Nachmanides takes the opportunity of
combating a chilling philosophy, which tries to arm us against suffering
by stifling our emotions. “My son,” he says, “be not persuaded by certain
propositions of the great philosophers who endeavour to harden our hearts
and to deaden our sensations by their idle comfort, which consists in
denying the past and despairing of the future. One of them has even
declared that there is nothing in the world over the loss of which it is
worth crying, and the possession of which would justify joy. This is an
heretical view. Our perfect Torah bids us to be joyful in the day of
prosperity and to shed tears in the day of misfortune. It in no way
forbids crying or demands of us to suppress our grief. On the contrary,
the Torah suggests to us that to mourn over heavy losses is equivalent to
a service of God, leading us, as it does, to reflect on our end and ponder
over our destiny.”

This destiny, as well as Reward and Punishment in general, is treated in
the concluding chapter of the _Law of Man_, which is known under the title
of _The Gate of Reward_.(81) Nachmanides does not conceal from himself the
difficulties besetting inquiries of this description. He knows well enough
that in the last instance we must appeal to that implicit faith in the
inscrutable justice of God with which the believer begins. Nevertheless he
thinks that only the “despisers of wisdom” would fail to bring to this
faith as full a conviction as possible, which latter is only to be gained
by speculation. I shall have by and by occasion to refer to the results of
this speculation. Here we must only notice the fact of Nachmanides
insisting on the _bodily_ resurrection which will take place after the
coming of the Messiah, and will be followed by the _Olam Habba_(82) (the
life in the world to come) of which the Rabbis spoke.

Irrational as this belief may look, it is only a consequence of his
theory, which, as we have seen, assigns even to the flesh an almost
spiritual importance. Indeed, he thinks that the soul may have such an
influence on the body as to transform the latter into so pure an essence
that it will become safe for eternity. For, as he hints in another place,
by the continual practising of a thing the whole man, the body included,
becomes so identified with the thing that we call him after it, just as
the Holy Singer said: I am prayer,(83) so that—

          Oft converse with heavenly habitants
    Begins to cast a beam on the outward shape,
    The unpolluted temple of the mind,
    And turns it by degrees to the soul’s essence,
    Till all be made immortal.

But if even the body holds such a high position as to make all its
instincts and functions, if properly regulated, a service of God, and to
destine it for a glorious future of eternal bliss and rejoicing in God, we
can easily imagine what a high place the soul must occupy in the system of
Nachmanides. To be sure it is a much higher one than that to which
philosophy would fain admit her. A beautiful parable of the Persian poet
Yellaladeen (quoted by the late Mr. Lowell) narrates that “One knocked at
the beloved’s door, and a voice asked from within, ‘Who is there?’ and he
answered, ‘It is I.’ Then the voice said, ‘This house will not hold me and
thee,’ and the door was not opened. Then went the lover into the desert
and fasted and prayed in solitude, and after a year he returned and
knocked again at the door, and again the voice asked ‘Who is there?’ and
he said ‘It is thyself’; and the door was opened to him.” This is also the
difference between the two schools—the mystical and the philosophical—with
regard to the soul. With the rationalist the soul is indeed a superior
abstract intelligence created by God, but, like all His creations, has an
existence of its own, and is thus separated from God. With the mystic,
however, the soul is God, or a direct emanation from God. “For he who
breathes into another thing (Gen. ii. 7) gives unto it something of his
own breath (or soul),” and as it is said in Job xxxii. 8, “And the soul of
the Almighty giveth them understanding.” This emanation, or rather
immanence—for Nachmanides insists in another place that the Hebrew term
employed for it, _Aziluth_,(84) means a permanent dwelling with the thing
emanating—which became manifest with the creation of man, must not be
confounded with the moving soul (or the _Nephesh Chayah_),(85) which is
common to man with all creatures.

It may be remarked here that Nachmanides endows all animals with a soul
which is derived from the “Superior Powers,” and its presence is proved by
certain marks of intelligence which they show. By this fact he tries to
account for the law prohibiting cruelty to animals, “all souls belonging
to God.” Their original disposition was, it would seem, according to
Nachmanides, peaceful and harmless.

                    About them frisking played
    All beasts of earth, since wild, and of all chase
    In wood or wilderness, forest or den.

It was only after man had sinned that war entered into creation, but with
the coming of the Messiah, when sin will disappear, all the living beings
will regain their primæval gentleness, and be reinstituted in their first

The special soul of man, however, or rather the “over‐soul,” was pre‐
existent to the creation of the world, treasured up as a wave in the sea
or fountain of souls—dwelling in the eternal light and holiness of God.
There, in God, the soul abides in its ideal existence before it enters
into its material life through the medium of man; though it must be noted
that, according to Nachmanides’ belief in the Transmigration of souls, it
is not necessary to perceive in the soul of every new‐born child, “a fresh
message from heaven” coming directly from the fountain‐head. Nachmanides
finds this belief indicated in the commandment of levirate marriage, where
the child born of the deceased brother’s wife inherits not only the name
of the brother of his actual father, but also his soul, and thus
perpetuates his existence on earth. The fourth verse of Ecclesiastes ii.
Nachmanides seems to interpret to mean that the very generation which
passes away comes up again, by which he tries to explain the difficulty of
God’s visiting the iniquity of the fathers on their children; the latter
being the very fathers who committed the sins. However, whatever trials
and changes the soul may have to pass through during its bodily existence,
its origin is in God and thither it will return in the end, “just as the
waters rise always to the same high level from which their source sprang

It is for this man, with a body so superior, and a soul so sublime—more
sublime than the angels—that the world was _created_. I emphasise the last
word, for the belief in the creation of the world by God from nothing
forms, according to Nachmanides, the first of the three fundamental dogmas
of Judaism. The other two also refer to God’s relation to the world and
man. They are the belief in God’s Providence and his _Yediah_.(86)
Creation from nothing is for Nachmanides the keynote to his whole
religion, since it is only by this fact, as he points out in many places,
that God gains real dominion over nature. For, as he says, as soon as we
admit the eternity of matter, we must (logically) deny God even “the power
of enlarging the wing of a fly, or shortening the leg of an ant.” But the
whole Torah is nothing if not a record of God’s mastery in and over the
world, and of His miraculous deeds. One of the first proclamations of
Abraham to his generation was that God is the Lord (or Master) of the
world (Gen. xviii. 33). The injunction given to Abraham, and repeated
afterwards to the whole of Israel (Gen. xvii. 2, and Deut. xviii. 13), to
be perfect with God, Nachmanides numbers as one of the 613 commandments,
and explains it to mean that man must have a whole belief in God without
blemish or reservation, and acknowledge Him possessed of power over nature
and the world, man and beast, devil and angel, power being attributable to
Him alone. Indeed, when the angel said to Jacob, “Why dost thou ask after
my name” (Gen. xxxii. 29), he meant to indicate by his question the
impotence of the heavenly host, so that there is no use in knowing their
name, the power and might belonging only to God.

We may venture even a step further, and maintain that in Nachmanides’
system there is hardly room left for such a thing as nature or “the order
of the world.” There are only two categories of miracles by which the
world is governed, or in which God’s Providence is seen. The one is the
category of the manifest miracles, as the ten plagues in Egypt, or the
crossing of the Red Sea; the other is that of the hidden miracles, which
we do not perceive as such, because of their frequency and continuity. “No
man,” he declares, “can share in the Torah of our Teacher, Moses (that is,
can be considered a follower of the Jewish religion), unless he believes
that all our affairs and events, whether they concern the masses or the
individual, are all miracles (worked by the direct will of God),
attributing nothing to nature or to the order of the world.” Under this
second order he classes all the promises the Torah makes to the righteous,
and the punishments with which evil‐doers are threatened. For, as he
points out in many places, there is nothing in the nature of the
commandments themselves that would make their fulfilment necessarily
prolong the life of man, and cause the skies to pour down rain, or, on the
other hand, would associate disobedience to them with famine and death.
All these results can, therefore, only be accomplished in a supernatural
way by the direct workings of God.

Thus miracles are raised to a place in the regular scheme of things, and
the difficulty regarding the possibility of God’s interferences with
nature disappears by their very multiplication. But a still more important
point is, that, by this unbroken chain of miracles, which unconditionally
implies God’s presence to perform them, Nachmanides arrives at a theory
establishing a closer contact between the Deity and the world than that
set forth by other thinkers. Thus, he insists that the term _Shechinah_,
or _Cabod_(87) (Glory of God), must not be understood, with some Jewish
philosophers, as something separate from God, or as _glory created_ by
God. “Were this the case,” he proceeds to say, “we could not possibly say,
‘Blessed be the glory of the Lord from his place,’ since every mark of
worship to anything _created_ involves the sin of idolatry.” Such terms as
_Shechinah_, or _Cabod_, can therefore only mean the immediate divine
presence. This proves, as may be noted in passing, how unphilosophical the
idea of those writers is who maintain that the rigid monotheism of the
Jews makes God so transcendental that He is banished from the world. As we
see, it is just this assertion of His absolute Unity which not only
suffers no substitute for God, but also removes every separation between
Him and the world. Hence also Nachmanides insists that the prophecy even
of the successors of Moses was a direct communion of God with the prophet,
and not, as others maintained, furnished through the medium of an angel.

The third fundamental dogma, _Yediah_, includes, according to Nachmanides,
not only the omniscience of God—as the term is usually translated—but also
His recognition of mankind and His special concern in them. Thus, he
explains the words in the Bible with regard to Abraham, “For I know him”
(Gen. xviii. 19), to indicate the special attachment of God’s Providence
to the patriarch, which, on account of his righteousness, was to be
uninterrupted for ever; whilst in other places we have to understand,
under God’s knowledge of a thing, his determination to deal with it
compassionately, as, for instance, when Scripture says that God knew
(Exod. ii. 25), it means that His relation to Israel emanated from His
attribute of mercy and love. But just as God knows (which means loves) the
world, He requires also to be recognised and known by it. “For this was
the purpose of the whole creation, that man should recognise and know Him
and give praise to His name,” as it is said, “Everything that is called by
my name (meaning, chosen to promulgate God’s name), for my glory have I
created it.”

It is this fact which gives Israel their high prerogative, for by
receiving the Torah they were the first to know God’s name, to which they
remained true in spite of all adversities; and thus accomplished God’s
intention in creating the world. It is, again, by this Torah that the
whole of Israel not only succeeded in being real prophets (at the moment
of the Revelation), but also became _Segulah_,(88) which indicates the
inseparable attachment between God and His people, whilst the righteous
who never disobey His will become the seat of His throne.

The position of the rest of humanity is also determined by their relation
to the Torah. “It is,” Nachmanides tells us, “a main principle to know
that all that man contrives to possess of knowledge and wisdom is only the
fruits of the Torah or the fruits of its fruits. But for this knowledge
there would be no difference between man and the lower animated species.
The existence of the civilised nations of the world does not disprove this
rule both Christians and Mahometans being also the heirs of the Torah. For
when the Romans gained strength over Israel they made them translate the
Torah which they studied, and they even accommodated some of their laws
and institutions to those of the Bible.” Those nations, however, who live
far away from the centre of the world (the Holy Land) and never come into
contact with Israel are outside the pale of civilisation, and can hardly
be ranked together with the human species. “They are the isles afar off,
that have not heard my fame, neither have seen my glory.”

What Nachmanides meant by maintaining that all knowledge and wisdom were
“the fruits of the Torah, or the fruits of these fruits,” will be best
seen from his _Commentary on the Pentateuch_. I have already made use of
this Commentary in the preceding quotations, but, being the greatest of
the works of Nachmanides, it calls for some special attention by itself.
Its general purpose is edification, or as he says, “to appease the mind of
the students (labouring under persecution and troubles) when they read the
portion on Sabbaths and festivals, and to attract their heart by simple
explanations and sweet words.” The explanations occupy a considerable
space. As Dr. Perles has shown in his able essay on this work of
Nachmanides, our author neglected no resource of philology or archæology
accessible in his age which could contribute to establish the “simple
explanations” on a sound scientific basis. The prominent feature of this
Commentary, however, is the “sweet words.” Indeed, how sweet and soothing
to his contemporaries must have been such words as we read at the end of
the “Song of Moses” (Deut. xxxii.): “And behold there is nothing
conditional in this Song. It is a charter testifying that we shall have to
suffer heavily for our sins, but that, nevertheless, God will not destroy
us, being reconciled to us (though we shall have no merits), and forgiving
our sins for his name’s sake alone.... And so our Rabbis said, Great is
this song, embracing as it does both the past (of Israel) and the future,
this world and the world to come.... And if this song were the composition
of a mere astrologer we should be constrained to believe in it,
considering that all its words were fulfilled. How much more have we to
hope with all our hearts and to trust to the word of God, through the
mouth of his prophet Moses, the faithful in all his house, like unto whom
there was none, whether before him or after him.” A part of these sweet
words may also be seen in the numerous passages in which he attempts to
account for various laws, and to detect their underlying principles.

For though “the Torah is the expression of God’s simple and absolute will,
which man has to follow without any consideration of reward,” still this
will is not arbitrary, and even that class of laws which are called
_chukkim_(89) (which means, according to some Jewish commentators,
motiveless decrees) have their good reasons, notwithstanding that they are
unfathomable to us. “They are all meant for the good of man, either to
keep aloof from us something hurtful, or to educate us in goodness, or to
remove from us an evil belief and to make us know his name. This is what
they (the Rabbis) meant by saying that commandments have a purifying
purpose, namely, that man being purified and tried by them becomes as one
without alloy of bad thoughts and unworthy qualities.” Indeed, the soul of
man is so sensitive to every impurity that it suffers a sort of infection
even by an unintentional sin. Hence the injunction to bring a _Korban_
(sacrifice) even in this case; the effect of the _Korban_, as its
etymology (_Karab_)(90) indicates, is to bring man back to God, or rather
to facilitate this approach. All this again is, as Nachmanides points out,
only an affluence from God’s mercy and love to mankind. God derives no
benefit from it. “If he be righteous what can he give thee?” And even
those laws and institutions which are intended to commemorate God’s
wonders and the creation of the world (for instance, the Passover festival
and the Sabbath) are not meant for His glorification, or, as Heine
maliciously expressed it:—

    Der Weltkapellenmeister hier oben
    Er selbst sogar hört gerne loben
    Gleichfalls seine Werke....

“For all the honour (we give to Him), and the praising of His work are
counted by Him less than nothing and as vanity to Him.” What He desires is
that we may know the truth, and be confirmed in it, for this makes us
worthy of finding in Him “our Protector and King.”

The lessons which Nachmanides draws from the various Biblical narratives
also belong to these “sweet words.” They are mostly of a typical
character. For, true as all the stories in the Scriptures are, “the whole
Torah is,” as he tells us (with allusion to Gen. v. 1.), “the book of the
generations of Adam,” or, as we should say, a history of humanity written
in advance. Thus the account of the six days of the creation is turned
into a prophecy of the most important events which would occur during the
succeeding six thousand years, whilst the Sabbath is a forecast of the
millennium in the seventh thousand, which will be the day of the Lord.
Jacob and Esau are, as in the old Rabbinic homilies generally, the
prototypes of Israel and Rome; and so is the battle of Moses and Joshua
with Amalek indicative of the war which Elijah and the Messiah the son of
Joseph will wage against Edom (the prototype of Rome), before the Redeemer
from the house of David will appear.(91) Sometimes these stories convey
both a moral and a pre‐justification of what was destined to happen to
Israel. So Nachmanides’ remarks with reference to Sarah’s treatment of
Hagar (Gen. xvi. 6): “Our mother Sarah sinned greatly by inflicting this
pain on Hagar, as did also Abraham, who allowed such a thing to pass; but
God saw her affliction and rewarded her by a son (the ancestor of a wild
race), who would inflict on the seed of Abraham and Sarah every sort of
oppression.” In this he alluded to the Islamic empires. Nor does he
approve of Abraham’s conduct on the occasion of his coming to Egypt, when
he asked Sarah to pass as his sister (Gen. xii.). “Unintentionally,”
Nachmanides says, “Abraham, under the fear of being murdered, committed a
great sin when he exposed his virtuous wife to such a temptation. For he
ought to have trusted that God would save both him and his wife.... It is
on account of this deed that his children had to suffer exile under the
rule of Pharaoh. There, where the sin was committed, also the judgment
took place.” It is also worth noticing that, in opposition to Maimonides,
he allows no apology for the attack of Simeon and Levi on the population
of Shechem (Gen. xxxiv. 25). It is true that they were idolaters, immoral,
and steeped in every abomination; but Jacob and his sons were not
commissioned with executing justice on them. The people of Shechem trusted
their word, therefore they ought to have spared them. Hence Jacob’s
protest, and his curse against their wrath, which would have been quite
unjustified had he looked on the action of his sons as a good work.

Besides these typical meanings, the matters of the Torah have also their
symbolical importance, which places them almost above the sphere of human
conception; they are neither exactly what they seem to be nor entirely
what their name implies, but a reflex from things unseen, which makes any
human interference both preposterous and dangerous. Of “the things
_called_ Tree of Life and Tree of Knowledge,” Nachmanides tells us that
their mystery is very great, reaching into higher worlds. Otherwise, why
should God, who is good and the dispenser of good, have prevented Adam
from eating the fruit (of the latter), whilst in another place he says:
“And if thou wilt be worthy, and understand the mystery of the word
_Bereshith_(92) (with which the Torah begins), thou wilt see that in truth
the Scripture, though apparently speaking of matters here below (on
earth), is always pointing to things above (heaven);” for “every glory and
every wonder, and every deep mystery, and all beautiful wisdom are hidden
in the Torah, sealed up in her treasures.”

It is very characteristic of the bent of Nachmanides’ mind, that he is
perhaps the first Jewish writer who mentions the apocryphal book _The
Wisdom of Solomon_, which he knew from a Syriac version, and which he
believed to be genuine. And when we read there (vii. 7‐25), “Wherefore I
prayed and understanding was given to me. I called upon God and the spirit
of wisdom came upon me.... For God has given me unmistakable knowledge to
know how the world was made, and the operations of the planets. The
beginning, ending, and midst of the times, the alterations and the
turnings of the sun, the changes of the seasons, the natures of the living
creatures and the furies of the wild beasts, the force of the spirits and
the reasonings of men, the diversities of plants and the virtues of the
roots. All such things that are either secret or manifest, them I
knew”—the wise king was, according to Nachmanides (who quotes the passages
which I have just cited), speaking of the Torah, which is identical with
this wisdom, a wisdom which existed before the creation, and by which God
planned the world. Hence it bears the impression of all the universe,
whilst on the other hand when it is said, “The king brought me into his
chambers,” those secret recesses of the Torah are meant in which all the
great mysteries relating to Creation and to the Chariot (Ezekiel i.) are

We must content ourselves with these few sparks struck from the glowing
fires of these inner compartments, which, imperfectly luminous as my
treatment has left them, may yet shed some light on the personality of
Nachmanides, which is the main object of this essay. But I do not propose
to accompany the mystic into the “chambers of the king,” lest we may soon
get into a labyrinth of obscure terms and strange ways of thinking for
which the Ariadne thread is still wanting. We might also be confronted by
the Fifty Gates of Understanding, the Thirty‐Two Paths of Wisdom, and the
Two Hundred and Thirty‐One Permutations or Ciphers of the Alphabet, the
key to which I do not hold. It is also questionable whether it would
always be worth while to seek for it. When one, for instance, sees such a
heaping on of nouns (with some Cabbalists) as the Land of Life, the Land
of Promise, the Lord of the World, the Foundation Stone, Zion, Mother,
Daughter, Sister, the Congregation of Israel, the Twin Roes, the Bride,
Blue, End, Oral Law, Sea, Wisdom, etc., meant to represent the same thing
or attribute, and to pass one into another, one cannot possibly help
feeling some suspicion that one stands before a conglomerate of words run
riot, over which the writer had lost all control.

Indeed Nachmanides himself, in the preface to the above‐mentioned
Commentary, gives us the kind advice not to meditate, or rather brood,
over the mystical hints which are scattered over this work, “speculation
being (in such matters) folly, and reasoning over them fraught with
danger.” Indeed, the danger is obvious. I have, to give one or two
instances, already alluded to the theory which accepts the Torah or the
Wisdom as an agent in the creation of the world. But the mystic pushes
further, and asks for the Primal Being to which this Wisdom owes its
origin. The answer given is from the great Nothing, as it is written, And
the Wisdom shall be found from Nothing.(93) What is intended by this, if
it means anything, is probably to divest the first cause of every possible
quality which by its very qualifying nature must be limiting and
exclusive. Hence, God becomes the Unknowable. But suppose a metaphysical
Hamlet, who, handling words indelicately, should impetuously exclaim, To
be or not to be, that is the question?—into what abyss of utter negations
would he drag all those who despair, by his terrible Nothing.

On the other hand, into what gross anthropomorphisms may we be drawn by
roughly handling certain metaphors which some Cabbalists have employed in
their struggling after an adequate expression of God’s manifestations in
His attribute of love, if we forget for a single moment that they are only
figures of speech, but liable to get defiled by the slightest touch of an
unchaste thought.

But the greater the dangers that beset the path of mysticism, the deeper
the interest which we feel in the mystic. In connection with the above‐
mentioned warning, Nachmanides cites the words from the Scriptures, “But
let not the priests and the people break through to come up unto the Lord,
lest he break forth upon them” (Exod. xix. 24). Nevertheless, when we read
in the Talmud the famous story of the four Rabbis(94) who went up into the
_Pardes_, or Garden of Mystical Contemplation, we do not withhold our
sympathy, either from Ben Azzai, who shot a glance and died, or from Ben
Zoma, who shot a glance and was struck (in his mind). Nay, we feel the
greatest admiration for these daring spirits, who, in their passionate
attempt to “break through” the veil before the Infinite, hazarded their
lives, and even that which is dearer than life, their minds, for a single
glance. And did R. Meir deny his sympathies even to Other One or Elisha
ben Abuyah, who “cut down the plants”? He is said to have heard a voice
from heaven, “Return, oh backsliding children, except Other One,” which
prevented his repentance. Poor fallen Acher, he mistook hell for heaven.
But do not the struggle and despair which led to this unfortunate
confusion rather plead for our commiseration?

Nachmanides, however, in his gentle way, did not mean to storm heaven.
Like R. Akiba, “he entered in peace, and departed in peace.” And it was by
this peacefulness of his nature that he gained an influence over posterity
which is equalled only by that of Maimonides. “If he was not a profound
thinker,” like the author of the _Guide of the Perplexed_, he had that
which is next best—“he felt profoundly.” Some writers of a rather
reactionary character even went so far as to assign to him a higher place
than to Maimonides. This is unjust. What a blank would there have been in
Jewish thought but for Maimonides’ great work, on which the noblest
thinkers of Israel fed for centuries! As long as Job and Ecclesiastes hold
their proper place in the Bible, and the Talmud contains hundreds of
passages suggesting difficulties relating to such problems as the creation
of the world, God’s exact relation to it, the origin of evil, free will
and predestination, none will persuade me that philosophy does not form an
integral part of Jewish tradition, which, in its historical developments,
took the shape which Maimonides and his successors gave to it. If
Maimonides’ _Guide_, which he considered as an interpretation of the Bible
and of many strange sayings in the old Rabbinic homilies in the Talmud, is
Aristotelian in its tone, so is tradition too; even the Talmud in many
places betrays all sorts of foreign influences, and none would think of
declaring it un‐Jewish on this ground. I may also remark in passing that
the certainty with which some writers deprecate the aids which religion
may receive from philosophy is a little too hasty. For the question will
always remain, What religion? The religion of R. Moses of Tachau or R.
Joseph Jabez(95) would certainly have been greatly endangered by the
slightest touch of speculation, while that of Bachya,(96) Maimonides,
Jedaiah of Bedres, and Delmedigo undoubtedly received from philosophy its
noblest support, and became intensified by the union.

But apart from that consideration, the sphere of the activity of these two
leaders seems to have been so widely different that it is hardly just to
consider them as antagonists, or at least to emphasise the antagonism too
much. Maimonides wrote his chief work, the _Guide_, for the few elect,
who, like Ibn Tibbon(97) for instance, would traverse whole continents if
a single syllogism went wrong. And if he could be of use to one wise man
of this stamp, Maimonides would do so at the risk of “saying things
unsuitable for ten thousand fools.” But with Nachmanides, it would seem,
it was these ten thousand who formed the main object of his tender care.
They are, as we have seen, cultivated men, indeed “students,” having
enjoyed a proper education; but the happy times of abstract thinking have
gone, and being under a perpetual strain of persecutions and cares, they
long for the Sabbath and Festivals, which would bring them both bodily and
spiritual recreation. They find no fault with religion, a false syllogism
does not jar on their ears; what they are afraid of is that, being engaged
as they are, all the six days of work, in their domestic affairs, religion
may be too good a thing for them. “To appease their minds,” to edify them,
to make life more sweet and death less terrible to them, and to show them
that even their weaknesses, as far as they are conditioned by nature, are
not irreconcilable with a holy life, was what Nachmanides strove after.
Now and then he permits them a glance into the mystical world in which he
himself loved to move, but he does not care to stifle their senses into an
idle contemplation, and passes quickly to some more practical application.
To be sure, the tabernacle is nothing but a complete map of the superlunar
world; but nevertheless its rather minute description is meant to teach us
“that God desires us to work.”

This tendency toward being useful to the great majority of mankind may
account for the want of consistency of which Nachmanides was so often
accused. It is only the logician who can afford to be thoroughgoing in his
theory, and even he would become most absurd and even dangerous but for
the redeeming fact “that men are better than their principles.” But with
Nachmanides these “principles” would have proved even more fatal. Could
he, for instance, have upset authority in the face of the ten thousand?
They need to be guided rather than to guide. But he does not want them to
follow either the Gaon or anybody else slavishly, “the gates of wisdom
never having been shut,” whilst on the other hand he hints to them that
there is something divine in every man, which places him at least on the
same high level with any authority. Take another instance—his wavering
attitude between the Maimonists and the Anti‐Maimonists, for which he was
often censured. Apart from other reasons, to which I have pointed above,
might he not have felt that, in spite of his personal admiration for
Maimonides’ genius, he had no right to put himself entirely on the side
where there was little room for the ten thousand who were entrusted to his
guidance, whilst the French Rabbis, with all their prejudices and
intolerance, would never deny their sympathies to simple emotional folk?

This tender and absorbing care for the people in general may also account
for the fact that we do not know of a single treatise by Nachmanides of a
purely Cabbalistic character in the style of the _Book of Weight_, by
Moses de Leon, or the _Orchard_, by R. Moses Cordovora, or the _Tree of
Life_ by R. Isaac Loria.(98) The story that attributes to him the
discovery of the _Zohar_ in a cave in Palestine, from whence he sent it to
Catalonia, needs as little refutation as the other story connected with
his conversion to the Cabbalah, which is even more silly and of such a
nature as not to bear repetition. The _Lilac of Mysteries_(99) and other
mystical works passed also for a long time under his name, but their claim
to this honour has been entirely disproved by the bibliographers, and they
rank now among the _pseudepigraphica_. It is true that R. Nissim, of
Gerona, said of Nachmanides that he was too much addicted to the belief in
the Cabbalah, and as a fellow‐countryman he may have had some personal
knowledge about the matter. But as far as his writings go, this belief
finds expression only in incidental remarks and occasional citations from
the Bahir,(100) which he never thrusts upon the reader. It was chiefly
when philosophy called in question his deep sympathies with even lower
humanity, and threatened to withdraw them from those ennobling influences
under which he wanted to keep them, that he asserted his mystical

Nachmanides’ inconsistency has also proved beneficial in another respect.
For mysticism has, by its over‐emphasising of the divine in man, shown a
strong tendency to remove God altogether and replace Him by the creature
of His hands. Witness only the theological bubble of Shabbethai
Tsebi—happily it burst quickly enough—which resulted in mere idolatry (in
more polite language, Hero Worship) on the one side, and in the grossest
antinomianism on the other. Nachmanides, however, with a happy
inconsistency, combined with the belief of man’s origin in God, a not less
strong conviction of man’s liability to sin, of the fact that he _does_
sin—even the patriarchs were not free from it, as we have seen above—and
that this sin _does_ alienate man from God. This healthy control over
man’s extravagant idea of his own species was with Nachmanides also a
fruit of the Torah, within the limits of which everything must move, the
mystic and his aspirations included, whilst its fair admixture of 365 _Do
not’s_ with 248 _Do’s_ preserved him from that “holy doing nothing” which
so many mystics indulged in, and made his a most active life.

Much of this activity was displayed in Palestine, “the land to which the
providence of God is especially attached,” and which was, as with R. Judah
Hallevi, always “his ideal home.” There he not only completed his
_Commentary on the Pentateuch_, but also erected synagogues, and engaged
in organising communities, whose tone he tried to elevate both by his
lectures and by his sermons. His career in Palestine was not a long one,
for he lived there only about three years, and in 1270 he must already
have been dead. A pretty legend narrates that when he emigrated to
Palestine his pupils asked him to give them a sign enabling them to
ascertain the day of his death. He answered them that on that day a rift
in the shape of a lamp would be seen in the tombstone of his mother. After
three years a pupil suddenly noticed this rift, when the mourning over the
Rabbi began. Thus, stone, or anything else earthly, breaks finally, and
the life of the master passes into light.

What life meant to him, how deeply he was convinced that there is no other
life but that originating in God, how deeply stirred his soul was by the
consciousness of sin, what agonies the thought of the alienation from God
caused him, how he felt that there is nothing left to him but to throw
himself upon the mercy of God, and how he rejoiced in the hope of a final
reunion with Him—of all these sentiments we find the best expression in
the following religious poem, with which this paper may conclude.
Nachmanides composed it in Hebrew, and it is still preserved in some
rituals as a hymn, recited on the Day of Atonement. It is here given in
the English translation of Mrs. Henry Lucas.(101)

    Ere time began, ere age to age had thrilled,
    I waited in his storehouse, as he willed;
    He gave me being, but, my years fulfilled,
        I shall be summoned back before the King.

    He called the hidden to the light of day,
    To right and left, each side the fountain lay,
    From out the stream and down the steps, the way
        That led me to the garden of the King.

    Thou gavest me a light my path to guide,
    To prove my heart’s recesses still untried;
    And as I went, thy voice in warning cried:
        "Child! fear thou him who is thy God and King!"

    True weight and measure learned my heart from thee;
    If blessings follow, then what joy for me!
    If nought but sin, all mine the shame must be,
        For that was not determined by the King.

    I hasten, trembling, to confess the whole
    Of my transgressions, ere I reach the goal
    Where mine own words must witness ’gainst my soul,
        And who dares doubt the writing of the King?

    Erring, I wandered in the wilderness,
    In passion’s grave nigh sinking powerless;
    Now deeply I repent, in sore distress,
        That I kept not the statutes of the King!

    With worldly longings was my bosom fraught,
    Earth’s idle toys and follies all I sought;
    Ah! when he judges joys so dearly bought,
        How greatly shall I fear my Lord and King!

    Now conscience‐stricken, humbled to the dust,
    Doubting himself, in thee alone his trust,
    He shrinks in terror back, for God is just—
        How can a sinner hope to reach the King?

    Oh, be thy mercy in the balance laid,
    To hold thy servant’s sins more lightly weighed,
    When, his confession penitently made,
        He answers for his guilt before the King.

    Thine is the love, O God, and thine the grace,
    That folds the sinner in its mild embrace;
    Thine the forgiveness, bridging o’er the space
        ’Twixt man’s works and the task set by the King.

    Unheeding all my sins, I cling to thee;
    I know that mercy shall thy footstool be:
    Before I call, oh, do thou answer me,
        For nothing dare I claim of thee, my King!

    O thou, who makest guilt to disappear,
    My help, my hope, my rock, I will not fear;
    Though thou the body hold in dungeon drear,
        The soul has found the palace of the King!


The third letter of Nachmanides to which I have alluded above, is embodied
in the following will by R. Solomon, son of the martyr Isaac. Neither the
date nor the country of the testator is known, but style and language make
it probable that he was a Spanish Jew, and lived in the fourteenth
century. I give here a translation from the whole document as it is to be
found in the Manuscripts.

    These are the regulations which I, Solomon, the son of the martyr,
    Rabbi Isaac, the son of R. Zadok, of blessed memory, draw up for
    myself. That as long as I am in good health, and free from
    accident, and think of it, I shall not eat before I have studied
    one page of the Talmud or of its commentaries. Should I transgress
    this rule intentionally, I must not drink wine on that day, or I
    shall pay half a _Zehub_(102) to charity. Again, that I shall
    every week read the Lesson twice in the Hebrew text, and once in
    the Aramaic version. Should I intentionally omit completing the
    Lesson as above, then I must pay two _Zehubs_ to charity. Again,
    that I shall every Sabbath take three meals, consisting of bread
    or fruit. Should I omit to do so, I must give in charity half a
    _Zehub_. Again, in order to subdue my appetites, and not to enjoy
    in this world more than is necessary for the maintenance of my
    body, I must not eat at one meal more than one course of meat, and
    not more than two courses altogether; nor must I drink more than
    two cups of wine at one meal, apart from the blessing‐cup (over
    which grace is said), except on Sabbath, Festivals, Chanukah (the
    Maccabean Dedication Feast), New Moon, and at other religious
    meals (for instance, wedding‐dinners and similar festive
    occasions). Again, I must not have any regular meal on the day
    preceding Sabbath or Festivals. I must not have during the day
    more than one course, so that I shall enter upon the holy day with
    a good appetite. Should I transgress this resolve intentionally I
    shall have to fast a day, or to pay two _Zehubs_. Again, that I
    shall not eat the fish called _burbot_,(103) if I think of it.
    Again, even on the above‐mentioned days, I must not eat more than
    three courses at a meal, nor drink more than three cups of wine,
    exclusive of the blessing‐cup. Again, ... I must not swear by God,
    nor mention the name of Heaven without a purpose, nor curse any
    man in the name of God. Should I, God forbid, transgress it, I
    must not drink more than one cup of wine on that day exclusive of
    the blessing‐cup. Should I, however, transgress this after dinner,
    I must abstain from wine the following day. Should I transgress
    it, I have to pay half a _Zehub_. Again, that I shall get up every
    night to praise God, to supplicate for His mercy, and to confess.
    On those nights when confession is not to be said (Sabbaths and
    Festivals), I shall say hymns and psalms. This I shall do when I
    am in my house, and in good health, free from any accident. Should
    I transgress it, I shall drink not more than one cup of wine the
    following day, except the blessing‐cup. I again take upon myself
    to give in charity the following proportion of my expenditure—from
    each dress which I shall have made for myself or for one member of
    my family, costing more than ten _Zehubs_, I must pay one
    _Pashut_(104) for each ten _Zehubs_. Again, if I should buy an
    animal, or a slave, or a female slave, or ground, that I shall
    also pay at the same rate. And if I shall buy clothes for sale,
    called _fashas_, I shall pay two _Pashuts_ for each garment. As
    often as I have occasion to say the benediction of thanksgivings
    for having escaped danger I shall pay a _Zehub_, except when I am
    travelling [also involving danger in those times!], in which case
    I shall have to pay a _Zehub_ on my arrival, and two _Pashuts_
    daily during the journey. Again, from every kind of fish bought
    for me, costing more than a _Zehub_, I shall pay a _Pashut_ for
    each _Zehub_. And also, if I shall be deemed worthy by God to
    marry my children, and to be present at their wedding, to cause
    them to give to the poor from the dowry brought to them by their
    wives, whether in money or in kind, at the rate of one per cent.
    If God will find me worthy of having sons, I must give in charity
    according to my means at the time.

    I shall also, between New Year and the Day of Atonement in each
    year, calculate my profits during the past year and (after
    deducting expenses) give a tithe thereof to the poor. Should I be
    unable to make an accurate calculation, then I shall give
    approximately. This tithe I shall put aside, together with the
    other money for religious (charitable) purpose, to dispose of it
    as I shall deem best. I also propose to have the liberty of
    employing the money in any profitable speculation with a view to
    augmenting it. But in respect of all I have written above I shall
    not hold myself guilty if I transgress, if such transgression be
    the result of forgetfulness; but in order to guard against it, I
    shall read this through weekly.

    I also command my children to take upon themselves as many of the
    above regulations as may be in their power to observe, and also to
    bind them (_i.e._ the regulations), from generation to generation,
    upon their children. And he who carries them out, and even adds to
    them, at pain of discomfort to himself, shall merit a special
    blessing. And this is the text of the will which I, the above‐
    mentioned Solomon, draw up for my children, may God preserve them.
    That they shall pray thrice daily, and endeavour always to utter
    their prayers with devotion. Again, that this prayer shall be said
    in the _Beth Hammidrash_, or in the synagogue together with the
    congregation. Again, that they shall apply all their powers to
    maintain the synagogues and the houses of study, which our
    ancestors have built, as well as to continue the endowments
    established by my ancestors and myself. They must always endeavour
    to imitate them, so that goodness shall never cease from among
    them. Again, that they shall always have a chair on which a volume
    of the Talmud, or some other Talmudical work, shall lie; so that
    they shall always open a book when they come home. At least, they
    shall read in any book they like four lines before taking their
    meal. Again, that they shall every week read the Lesson twice in
    the Hebrew text, and once in the Aramaic version. Again, to take
    three meals on the Sabbath....

    Again, that they shall be always modest, merciful, and charitable,
    for these are the qualities by which the children of Israel are
    known. Let also all their thoughts and meditations be always
    directed to the service of the Lord, and be as charitable and
    benevolent as possible, for this is all that remains to man of his
    labour. They shall also endeavour to regulate their diet according
    to the rules laid down by Rabbi Moses (b. Maimon, or Maimonides),
    so as to fulfil the words of Scripture: “The righteous eateth to
    the satisfying of his soul.” And let them always be careful not to
    take the name of God in vain, to be honest in all business
    transactions, and let their yea be always yea. They shall always
    be under the obligation to train their children to the Study of
    the Torah, but one shall devote his life exclusively to the study
    thereof. And it shall be incumbent upon his brothers to support
    this one, and to invest his moneys, and to provide for him that he
    and his family may live respectably, so that he be not distracted
    by worldly cares from his studies. Let also the elder love the
    younger brothers as their own children, and the younger respect
    the elder as a parent. Thus they may always bear in mind that they
    are of a God‐fearing family. Let them love and honour scholars,
    thus to merit the honour of having scholars for their sons and
    sons‐in‐law. This will they shall themselves read weekly, and
    shall also make it incumbent upon their children, from generation
    to generation, to read weekly, in order to fulfil what is written
    (Gen. xviii. 19), “For I know him that he will command his
    children,” etc., and also the words of Isaiah (lix. 21), “And this
    is my covenant,” etc. But as often as they shall read this will,
    they shall also read the two letters below written, which Rabbi
    Moses ben Nachman sent to his sons, with a view of being
    serviceable to them in many respects. Should, heaven forbid, they
    be by any sad accident prevented from fulfilling the injunctions
    above laid down, they must fine themselves by not drinking wine on
    that day, or by eating one course less at the dinner, or by giving
    some fine in charity....

And this is the letter which the above‐mentioned Rabbi sent from the Holy
Land to Castile, when his son was staying before the king (in his

    “... May God bless you and preserve you from sin and punishment.
    Behold, our master, King David, had a son, wise and of an
    understanding heart, like unto whom there was never one before or
    after. Nevertheless he said to him (1 Kings ii. 2): ‘And keep the
    charge of the Lord thy God,’ etc. He also said to him: ‘And thou,
    my son, know the God of thy father’ (1 Chron. xxviii. 9). Now, my
    son, if thou wilt measure thyself with Solomon, thou wilt find
    thyself a worm—not a man, merely an insect; nevertheless, if thou
    wilt seek God, he will make thee great; and if thou wilt forsake
    him, thou wilt be turned out and forsaken. My son, be careful that
    thou read the _Shema_(105) morning and evening, as well as that
    thou say the daily prayers. Have always with thee a Pentateuch
    written correctly, and read therein the Lesson for each
    Sabbath.... ‘Cast thy burden upon the Lord,’ for the thing which
    thou believest far from thee is often very near unto thee. Know,
    again, that thou art not master over thy words, nor hast power
    over thy hand; but everything is in the hand of the Lord, who
    formeth thy heart.... Be especially careful to keep aloof from the
    women [of the court?]. Know that our God hates immorality, and
    Balaam could in no other way injure Israel than by inciting them
    to unchastity. [Here come many quotations from Malachi and
    Ezra.]... My son, remember me always, and let the image of my
    countenance be never absent from before thine eyes. Love not that
    which I hate.... Let the words of the Psalmist be always upon thy
    lips, ‘I am a stranger in the earth: hide not thy commandments
    from me’ (Ps. cxix. 19); and God, who is good and the dispenser of
    good, shall increase thy peace and prolong thy life in peace and
    happiness, and promote thy honour according to thy wish and the
    wish of thy father who begat thee, Moses ben Nachman.”


There is a saying in the Talmud “Nothing exists of which there is not some
indication in the Torah.” These words are often quoted, and some modern
authors have pressed them so far as to find even the discoveries of
Columbus and the inventions of Watt and Stephenson indicated in the Law.
This is certainly misapplied ingenuity. But it is hardly an exaggeration
to maintain that there is no noble manifestation of real religion, no
expression of real piety, reverence, and devotion, to which Jewish
literature would not offer a fair parallel.

Thus it will hardly be astonishing to hear that Jewish literature has its
Boswell to show, more than three centuries before the Scottish gentleman
came to London to admire his Johnson, and more than four centuries before
the Sage of Chelsea delivered his lectures on Hero Worship. And this
Jewish Boswell was guided only by the motives suggested to him in the old
Rabbinic literature. In this literature the reverence for the great man,
and the absorption of one’s whole self in him, went so far that one Rabbi
declared that the whole world was only created to serve such a man as

Again, the fact that, in the language of the Rabbis, the term for studying
the Law and discussing it is “to attend” or rather “to serve the disciples
of the Wise” may also have led people to the important truth that the
great man is not a lecturing machine, but a sort of living Law himself.
“When the man,” said one Rabbi, “has wholly devoted himself to the Torah,
and thoroughly identified himself with it, it becomes almost his own
Torah.” Thus people have not only to listen to his words but to observe
his whole life, and to profit from all his actions and movements.

This was what the Jewish Boswell sought to do. His name was Rabbi Solomon,
of St. Goar, a small town on the Rhine, while the name of the master whom
he served was R. Jacob, the Levite, better known by his initials Maharil,
who filled the office of Chief Rabbi in Mayence and Worms successively.
The main activity of Maharil falls in the first three decades of the
fifteenth century. Those were troublous times for a Rabbi. For the
preceding century with its persecution and sufferings—one has only to
think of the Black Death and its terrible consequences for the Jews—led to
the destruction of the great Schools, the decay of the study of the Law,
and to the dissolution of many congregations. Those which remained lost
all touch with each other, so that almost every larger Jewish community
had its own _Minhag_ or ritual custom.(107)

It was Maharil who brought some order into this chaos, and in the course
of time his influence asserted itself so strongly that the rules observed
by him in the performing of religious ceremonies were accepted by the
great majority of the Jewish communities. Thus the personality of Maharil
himself became a standing Minhag, suppressing all the other Minhagim

But there must have been something very strong and very great about the
personality of the man who could succeed in such an arduous task. For we
must not forget that the Minhag or custom in its decay degenerates into a
kind of religious fashion, the worst disease to which religion is liable,
and the most difficult to cure. It is therefore an irreparable loss both
for Jewish literature and for Jewish history, that the greatest part of
Maharil’s posthumous writings are no longer extant, so that our knowledge
about him is very small. But the little we know of him we owe chiefly to
the communicativeness of his servant, the Solomon of St. Goar whom I
mentioned above.

Solomon not only gave us the “Customs” of his master, but also observed
him closely in all his movements, and conscientiously wrote down all that
he saw and heard, under the name of _Collectanea_. It seems that the bulk
of these _Collectanea_ was also lost. But in the fragments that we still
possess we are informed, among other things, how Maharil addressed his
wife, how he treated his pupils, how careful he was in the use of his
books, and even how clean his linen was. Is this not out‐Boswelling

The most striking point of agreement between the Boswell of the fifteenth
and him of the eighteenth century, is that they both use the same passage
from the Talmud to excuse the interest in trifles which their labours of
love betrayed. Thus Solomon prefaces his _Collectanea_ with the following
words: “It is written, His leaf shall not wither. These words were
explained by our Sages to mean that even the idle talk of the disciples of
the wise deserves a study. Upon this interpretation I have relied. In my
love to R. Jacob the Levite, I collected everything about him. I did not
refuse even small things, though many derided me. Everything I wrote down,
for such was the desire of my heart.”

Thus far Solomon. Now, if we turn to the introduction to Boswell’s _Life
of Johnson_, we read the following sentence: “For this almost
superstitious reverence, I have found very old and venerable authority
quoted by our great modern prelate, Secker, in whose tenth sermon there is
the following passage: ‘Rabbi Kimchi, a noted Jewish commentator who lived
about five hundred years ago, explains that passage in the first Psalm,
“His leaf also shall not wither” from Rabbins yet older than himself, that
even the idle talk, so he expressed it, of a good man ought to be
regarded.’ ”

Croker’s note to this passage sounds rather strange. This editor says:
“Kimchi was a Spanish Rabbi, who died in 1240. One wonders that Secker’s
good sense should have condescended to quote this far‐fetched and futile
interpretation of the simple and beautiful metaphor, by which the Psalmist
illustrates the prosperity of the righteous man.” Now Kimchi died at least
five years earlier than Croker states, but dates, we know from Macaulay’s
essay on the subject, were not Croker’s strong point. But one can hardly
forgive the editor of Boswell this lack of sympathy. Had he known what
strong affinity there was between his most Christian author and the humble
Jew Solomon, he would have less resented this condescension of Archbishop

As for the Jewish Boswell himself, we know very little about him. The only
place in which he speaks about his own person is that in which he derives
his pedigree from R. Eleazar ben Samuel Hallevi (died 1357), and says that
he was generally called “Der gute (the good) R. Salman.” He well deserved
this appellation. In his Will we find the following injunction to his
children: “Be honest, and conscientious in your dealing with men, with
Jews as well as Gentiles, be kind and obliging to them; do not speak what
is superfluous.” And wisdom is surely rare enough to render inappropriate
a charge of superfluousness against the work of those who in bygone times
spent their energies in gathering the crumbs that fell from the tables of
the wise.


The object of this essay is to say about the dogmas of Judaism a word
which I think ought not to be left unsaid.

In speaking of dogmas it must be understood that Judaism does not ascribe
to them any saving power. The belief in a dogma or a doctrine without
abiding by its real or supposed consequences (_e.g._ the belief in
_creatio ex nihilo_ without keeping the Sabbath) is of no value. And the
question about certain doctrines is not whether they possess or do not
possess the desired charm against certain diseases of the soul, but
whether they ought to be considered as characteristics of Judaism or not.

It must again be premised that the subject, which occupied the thoughts of
the greatest and noblest Jewish minds for so many centuries, has been
neglected for a comparatively long time. And this for various reasons.
First, there is Mendelssohn’s assertion, or supposed assertion, in his
_Jerusalem_, that Judaism has no dogmas—an assertion which has been
accepted by the majority of modern Jewish theologians as the only dogma
Judaism possesses. You can hear it pronounced in scores of Jewish pulpits;
you can read it written in scores of Jewish books. To admit the
possibility that Mendelssohn was in error was hardly permissible,
especially for those with whom he enjoys a certain infallibility. Nay,
even the fact that he himself was not consistent in his theory, and on
another occasion declared that Judaism _has_ dogmas, only that they are
purer and more in harmony with reason than those of other religions; or
even the more important fact that he published a school‐book for children,
in which the so‐called Thirteen Articles were embodied, only that instead
of the formula “I believe,” he substituted “I am convinced,”—even such
patent facts did not produce much effect upon many of our modern
theologians.(108) They were either overlooked or explained away so as to
make them harmonise with the great dogma of dogmalessness. For it is one
of the attributes of infallibility that the words of its happy possessor
must always be reconcilable even when they appear to the eye of the
unbeliever as gross contradictions.

Another cause of the neglect into which the subject has fallen is that our
century is an _historical_ one. It is not only books that have their fate,
but also whole sciences and literatures. In past times it was religious
speculation that formed the favourite study of scholars, in our time it is
history with its critical foundation on a sound philology. Now as these
two most important branches of Jewish science were so long neglected—were
perhaps never cultivated in the true meaning of the word, and as Jewish
literature is so vast and Jewish history so far‐reaching and eventful, we
cannot wonder that these studies have absorbed the time and the labour of
the greatest and best Jewish writers in this century.

There is, besides, a certain tendency in historical studies that is
hostile to mere theological speculation. The historian deals with
realities, the theologian with abstractions. The latter likes to shape the
universe after his system, and tells us how things _ought to be_, the
former teaches us how they _are_ or _have been_, and the explanation he
gives for their being so and not otherwise includes in most cases also a
kind of justification for their existence. There is also the _odium
theologicum_, which has been the cause of so much misfortune that it is
hated by the historian, whilst the superficial, rationalistic way in which
the theologian manages to explain everything which does not suit his
system is most repulsive to the critical spirit.

But it cannot be denied that this neglect has caused much confusion.
Especially is this noticeable in England, which is essentially a
theological country, and where people are but little prone to give up
speculation about things which concern their most sacred interest and
greatest happiness. Thus whilst we are exceedingly poor in all other
branches of Jewish learning, we are comparatively rich in productions of a
theological character. We have a superfluity of essays on such delicate
subjects as eternal punishment, immortality of the soul, the day of
judgment, etc., and many treatises on the definition of Judaism. But
knowing little or nothing of the progress recently made in Jewish
theology, of the many protests against all kinds of infallibility, whether
canonised in this century or in olden times, we in England still maintain
that Judaism has no dogmas as if nothing to the contrary had ever been
said. We seek the foundation of Judaism in political economy, in hygiene,
in everything except religion. Following the fashion of the day to esteem
religion in proportion to its ability to adapt itself to every possible
and impossible metaphysical and social system, we are anxious to squeeze
out of Judaism the last drop of faith and hope, and strive to make it so
flexible that we can turn it in every direction which it is our pleasure
to follow. But alas! the flexibility has progressed so far as to classify
Judaism among the invertebrate species, the lowest order of living things.
It strongly resembles a certain Christian school which addresses itself to
the world in general and claims to satisfy everybody alike. It claims to
be socialism for the adherents of Karl Marx and Lassalle, worship of man
for the followers of Comte and St. Simon; it carefully avoids the word
“God” for the comfort of agnostics and sceptics, whilst on the other hand
it pretends to hold sway over paradise, hell, and immortality for the
edification of believers. In such illusions many of our theologians
delight. For illusions they are; you cannot be everything if you want to
be anything. Moreover, illusions in themselves are bad enough, but we are
menaced with what is still worse. Judaism, divested of every higher
religious motive, is in danger of falling into gross materialism. For what
else is the meaning of such declarations as “Believe what you like, but
conform to this or that mode of life”; what else does it mean but “We
cannot expect you to believe that the things you are bidden to do are
commanded by a higher authority; there is not such a thing as belief, but
you ought to do them for conventionalism or for your own convenience.”

But both these motives—the good opinion of our neighbours, as well as our
bodily health—have nothing to do with our nobler and higher sentiments,
and degrade Judaism to a matter of expediency or diplomacy. Indeed, things
have advanced so far that well‐meaning but ill‐advised writers even think
to render a service to Judaism by declaring it to be a kind of enlightened
Hedonism, or rather a moderate Epicureanism.

I have no intention of here answering the question, What is Judaism? This
question is not less perplexing than the problem, What is God’s world?
Judaism is also a great Infinite, composed of as many endless Units, the
Jews. And these Unit‐Jews have been, and are still, scattered through all
the world, and have passed under an immensity of influences, good and bad.
If so, how can we give an exact definition of the Infinite, called

But if there is anything sure, it is that the highest motives which worked
through the history of Judaism are the strong belief in God and the
unshaken confidence that at last this God, the God of Israel, will be the
God of the whole world; or, in other words, Faith and Hope are the two
most prominent characteristics of Judaism.

In the following pages I shall try to give a short account of the manner
in which these two principles of Judaism found expression, from the
earliest times down to the age of Mendelssohn; that is, to present an
outline of the history of Jewish Dogmas. First, a few observations on the
position of the Bible and the Talmud in relation to our theme.
Insufficient and poor as they may be in proportion to the importance of
these two fundamental documents of Judaism, these remarks may nevertheless
suggest a connecting link between the teachings of Jewish antiquity and
those of Maimonides and his successors.

I begin with the Scriptures.

The Bible itself hardly contains a command bidding us _to believe_. We are
hardly ordered, _e.g._, to believe in the existence of God. I say hardly,
but I do not altogether deny the existence of such a command. It is true
that we do not find in the Scripture such words as: “You are commanded to
believe in the existence of God.” Nor is any punishment assigned as
awaiting him who denies it. Notwithstanding these facts, many Jewish
authorities—among them such important men as Maimonides, R. Judah Hallevi,
Nachmanides—perceive, in the first words of the Ten Commandments, “I am
the Lord thy God,” the command to believe in His existence.(109)

Be this as it may, there cannot be the shadow of a doubt that the Bible,
in which every command is dictated by God, and in which all its heroes are
the servants, the friends, or the ambassadors of God, presumes such a
belief in every one to whom those laws are dictated, and these heroes
address themselves. Nay, I think that the word “belief” is not even
adequate. In a world with so many visible facts and invisible causes, as
life and death, growth and decay, light and darkness; in a world where the
sun rises and sets; where the stars appear regularly; where heavy rains
pour down from the sky, often accompanied by such grand phenomena as
thunder and lightning; in a world full of such marvels, but into which no
notion has entered of all our modern true or false explanations—who but
God is behind all these things? “Have the gates,” asks God, “have the
gates of death been open to thee? or hast thou seen the doors of the
shadow of death?... Where is the way where light dwelleth? and as for
darkness, where is the place thereof?... Hath the rain a father? or who
hath begotten the drops of dew?... Canst thou bind the sweet influences of
Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion?... Canst thou send lightnings, that
they may go, and say unto thee, Here we are?” (Job xxxviii.). Of all these
wonders, God was not merely the _prima causa_; they were the result of His
direct action, without any intermediary causes. And it is as absurd to say
that the ancient world believed in God, as for a future historian to
assert of the nineteenth century that it believed in the effects of
electricity. We _see_ them, and so antiquity _saw_ God. If there was any
danger, it lay not in the denial of the existence of a God, but in having
a wrong belief. Belief in as many gods as there are manifestations in
nature, the investing of them with false attributes, the misunderstanding
of God’s relation to men, lead to immorality. Thus the greater part of the
laws and teachings of the Bible are either directed against polytheism,
with all its low ideas of God, or rather of gods; or they are directed
towards regulating God’s relation to men. Man is a servant of God, or His
prophet, or even His friend. But this relationship man obtains only by his
conduct. Nay, all man’s actions are carefully regulated by God, and
connected with His holiness. The 19th chapter of Leviticus, which is
considered by the Rabbis as the portion of the Law in which the most
important articles of the Torah are embodied, is headed, “Ye shall be
holy, for I the Lord your own God am holy.” And each law therein
occurring, even those which concern our relations to each other, is _not_
founded on utilitarian reasons, but is ordained because the opposite of it
is an offence to the holiness of God, and profanes His creatures, whom He
desired to be as holy as He is.(110)

Thus the whole structure of the Bible is built upon the visible fact of
the existence of a God, and upon the belief in the relation of God to men,
especially to Israel. In spite of all that has been said to the contrary,
the Bible _does_ lay stress upon belief, where belief is required. The
unbelievers are rebuked again and again. “For all this they sinned still,
and believed not for His wondrous work,” complains Asaph (Ps. lxxviii.
32). And belief is praised in such exalted words as, “Thus saith the Lord,
I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals,
when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown”
(Jer. ii. 2). The Bible, especially the books of the prophets, consists,
in great part, of promises for the future, which the Rabbis justly termed
the “Consolations.”(111) For our purpose, it is of no great consequence to
examine what future the prophets had in view, whether an immediate future
or one more remote, at the end of days. At any rate, they inculcated hope
and confidence that God would bring to pass a better time. I think that
even the most advanced Bible critic—provided he is not guided by some
modern Aryan reasons—must perceive in such passages as, “The Lord shall
reign for ever and ever,” “The Lord shall rejoice in his works,” and many
others, a hope for more than the establishment of the “national Deity
among his votaries in Palestine.”

We have now to pass over an interval of many centuries, the length of
which depends upon the views held as to the date of the close of the
canon, and examine what the Rabbis, the representatives of the prophets,
thought on this subject. Not that the views of the author of the _Wisdom
of Solomon_, of Philo and Aristobulus, and many others of the Judæo‐
Alexandrian school would be uninteresting for us. But somehow their
influence on Judaism was only a passing one, and their doctrines never
became authoritative in the Synagogue. We must here confine ourselves to
those who, even by the testimony of their bitterest enemies, occupied the
seat of Moses.

The successors of the prophets had to deal with new circumstances, and
accordingly their teachings were adapted to the wants of their times. As
the result of manifold foreign influences, the visible fact of the
existence of God as manifested in the Bible had been somewhat obscured.
Prophecy ceased, and the Holy Spirit which inspired a few chosen ones took
its place. Afterwards this influence was reduced to the hearing of a Voice
from Heaven, which was audible to still fewer. On the other hand the
Rabbis had this advantage that they were not called upon to fight against
idolatry as their predecessors the prophets had been. The evil inclination
to worship idols was, as the Talmud expresses it allegorically, killed by
the Men of the Great Synagogue, or, as we should put it, it was suppressed
by the sufferings of the captivity in Babylon. This change of
circumstances is marked by the following fact:—Whilst the prophets mostly
considered idolatry as the cause of all sin, the Rabbis show a strong
tendency to ascribe sin to a defect in, or a want of, belief on the part
of the sinner. They teach that Adam would not have sinned unless he had
first denied the “Root of all” (or the main principle), namely, the belief
in the Omnipresence of God. Of Cain they say that before murdering his
brother he declared: “There is no judgment, there is no judge, there is no
world to come, and there is no reward for the just, and no punishment for
the wicked.”(112)

In another place we read that the commission of a sin in secret is an
impertinent attempt by the doer to oust God from the world. But if
unbelief is considered as the root of all evil, we may expect that the
reverse of it, a perfect faith, would be praised in the most exalted
terms. So we read: Faith is so great that the man who possesses it may
hope to become a worthy vessel of the Holy Spirit, or, as we should
express it, that he may hope to obtain by this power the highest degree of
communion with his Maker. The Patriarch Abraham, notwithstanding all his
other virtues, only became “the possessor of both worlds” by the merit of
his strong faith. Nay, even the fulfilment of a single law when
accompanied by true faith is, according to the Rabbis, sufficient to bring
man nigh to God. And the future redemption is also conditional on the
degree of faith shown by Israel.(113)

It has often been asked what the Rabbis would have thought of a man who
fulfils every commandment of the Torah, but does not believe that this
Torah was given by God, or that there exists a God at all. It is indeed
very difficult to answer this question with any degree of certainty. In
the time of the Rabbis people were still too simple for such a diplomatic
religion, and conformity in the modern sense was quite an unknown thing.
But from the foregoing remarks it would seem that the Rabbis could not
conceive such a monstrosity as atheistic orthodoxy. For, as we have seen,
the Rabbis thought that unbelief must needs end in sin, for faith is the
origin of all good. Accordingly, in the case just supposed they would have
either suspected the man’s orthodoxy, or would have denied that his views
were really what he professed them to be.

Still more important than the above cited Agadic passages is one which we
are about to quote from the tractate Sanhedrin. This tractate deals with
the constitution, of the supreme law‐court, the examination of the
witnesses, the functions of the judges, and the different punishment to be
inflicted on the transgressors of the law. After having enumerated various
kinds of capital punishment, the Mishnah adds the following words: “These
are (the men) who are excluded from the life to come: He who says there is
no resurrection from death; he who says there is no Torah given from
heaven, and the Epikurus.”(114) This passage was considered by the Rabbis
of the Middle Ages, as well as by modern scholars, the _locus classicus_
for the dogma question. There are many passages in the Rabbinic literature
which exclude man from the world to come for this or that sin. But these
are more or less of an Agadic (legendary) character, and thus lend
themselves to exaggeration and hyperbolic language. They cannot,
therefore, be considered as serious legal dicta, or as the general opinion
of the Rabbis.

The Mishnah in Sanhedrin, however, has, if only by its position in a legal
tractate, a certain _Halachic_ (obligatory) character. And the fact that
so early an authority as R. Akiba made additions to it guarantees its high
antiquity. The first two sentences of this Mishnah are clear enough. In
modern language, and positively speaking, they would represent articles of
belief in Resurrection and Revelation. Great difficulty is found in
defining what was meant by the word _Epikurus_. The authorities of the
Middle Ages, to whom I shall again have to refer, explain the Epikurus to
be a man who denies the belief in reward and punishment; others identify
him with one who denies the belief in Providence; while others again
consider the Epikurus to be one who denies Tradition. But the parallel
passages in which it occurs incline one rather to think that this word
cannot be defined by one kind of heresy. It implies rather a frivolous
treatment of the words of Scripture or of Tradition. In the case of the
latter (Tradition) it is certainly not honest difference of opinion that
is condemned; for the Rabbis themselves differed very often from each
other, and even Mediæval authorities did not feel any compunction about
explaining Scripture in variance with the Rabbinic interpretation, and
sometimes they even went so far as to declare that the view of this or
that great authority was only to be considered as an isolated opinion not
deserving particular attention. What they did blame was, as already said,
scoffing and impiety. We may thus safely assert that reverence for the
teachers of Israel formed the third essential principle of Judaism.(115)

I have still to remark that there occur in the Talmud such passages as
“the Jew, even if he has sinned, is still a Jew,” or “He who denies
idolatry is called a Jew.” These and similar passages have been used to
prove that Judaism was not a positive religion, but only involved the
negation of idolatry. But it has been overlooked that the statements
quoted have more a legal than a theological character. The Jew belonged to
his nationality even after having committed the greatest sin, just as the
Englishman does not cease to be an Englishman—in regard to treason and the
like—by having committed a heinous crime. But he has certainly acted in a
very un‐English way, and having outraged the feelings of the whole nation
will have to suffer for his misconduct. The Rabbis in a similar manner did
not maintain that he who gave up the belief in Revelation and
Resurrection, and treated irreverently the teachers of Israel, severed his
connection with the Jewish nation, but that, for his crime, he was going
to suffer the heaviest punishment. He was to be excluded from the world to

Still, important as is the passage quoted from Sanhedrin, it would be
erroneous to think that it exhausted the creed of the Rabbis. The liturgy
and innumerable passages in the Midrashim show that they ardently clung to
the belief in the advent of the Messiah. All their hope was turned to the
future redemption and the final establishment of the Kingdom of Heaven on
earth. Judaism, stripped of this belief, would have been for them devoid
of meaning. The belief in reward and punishment is also repeated again and
again in the old Rabbinic literature. A more emphatic declaration of the
belief in Providence than is conveyed by the following passages is hardly
conceivable. “Everything is foreseen, and free will is given. And the
world is judged by grace.” Or, “the born are to die, and the dead to
revive, and the living to be judged. For to know and to notify, and that
it may be known that He (God) is the Framer and He the Creator, and He the
Discerner, and He the Judge, and He the Witness,” etc.(116)

But it must not be forgotten that it was not the habit of the Rabbis to
lay down, either for conduct or for doctrine, rules which were commonly
known. When they urged the three points stated above there must have been
some historical reason for it. Probably these principles were controverted
by some heretics. Indeed, the whole tone of the passage cited from
Sanhedrin is a protest against certain unbelievers who are threatened with
punishment. Other beliefs, not less essential, but less disputed, remain
unmentioned, because there was no necessity to assert them.

It was not till a much later time, when the Jews came into closer contact
with new philosophical schools, and also new creeds which were more liable
than heathenism was to be confused with Judaism, that this necessity was
felt. And thus we are led at once to the period when the Jews became
acquainted with the teachings of the Mohammedan schools. The Caraites came
very early into contact with non‐Jewish systems. And so we find that they
were also the first to formulate Jewish dogmas in a fixed number, and in a
systematic order. It is also possible that their separation from the
Tradition, and their early division into little sects among themselves,
compelled them to take this step, in order to avoid further sectarianism.

The number of their dogmas amounts to ten. According to Judah Hadasi
(1150), who would appear to have derived them from his predecessors, their
dogmas include the following articles:—1. _Creatio ex nihilo_; 2. The
existence of a Creator, God; 3. This God is an absolute unity as well as
incorporeal; 4. Moses and the other prophets were sent by God; 5. God has
given to us the Torah, which is true and complete in every respect, not
wanting the addition of the so‐called Oral Law; 6. The Torah must be
studied by every Jew in the original (Hebrew) language; 7. The Holy Temple
was a place elected by God for His manifestation; 8. Resurrection of the
dead; 9. Punishment and reward after death; 10. The Coming of the Messiah,
the son of David.

How far the predecessors of Hadasi were influenced by a certain Joseph
Albashir (about 950), of whom there exists a manuscript work, “Rudiments
of Faith,” I am unable to say. The little we know of him reveals more of
his intimacy with Arabic thoughts than of his importance for his sect in
particular and for Judaism in general. After Hadasi I shall mention here
Elijah Bashazi, a Caraite writer of the end of the fifteenth century. This
author, who was much influenced by Maimonides, omits the second and the
seventh articles. In order to make up the ten he numbers the belief in the
eternity of God as an article, and divides the fourth article into two. In
the fifth article Bashazi does not emphasise so strongly the completeness
of the Torah as Hadasi, and omits the portion which is directed against
Tradition. It is interesting to see the distinction which Bashazi draws
between the Pentateuch and the Prophets. While he thinks that the five
books of Moses can never be altered, he regards the words of the Prophets
as only relating to their contemporaries, and thus subject to changes. As
I do not want to anticipate Maimonides’ system, I must refrain from giving
here the articles laid down by Solomon Troki in the beginning of the
eighteenth century. For the articles of Maimonides are copied by this
writer with a few slight alterations so as to dress them in a Caraite

I must dismiss the Caraites with these few remarks, my object being
chiefly to discuss the dogmas of the Synagogue from which they had
separated themselves. Besides, as in everything Caraitic, there is no
further development of the question. As Bashazi laid them down, they are
still taught by the Caraites of to‐day. I return to the Rabbanites.(117)

As is well known, Maimonides (1130‐1205), was the first Rabbanite who
formulated the dogmas of the Synagogue. But there are indications of
earlier attempts. R. Saadiah Gaon’s (892‐942) work, _Creeds and Opinions_,
shows such traces. He says in his preface, “My heart sickens to see that
the belief of my co‐religionists is impure and that their theological
views are confused.” The subjects he treats in this book, such as
creation, unity of God, resurrection of the dead, the future redemption of
Israel, reward and punishment, and other kindred theological subjects
might thus, perhaps, be considered as the essentials of the creed that the
Gaon desired to present in a pure and rational form. R. Hannaneel, of
Kairowan,(118) in the first half of the eleventh century, says in one of
his commentaries that to deserve eternal life one must believe in _four_
things: in God, in the prophets, in a future world where the just will be
rewarded, and in the advent of the Redeemer. From R. Judah Hallevi’s
_Cusari_, written in the beginning of the twelfth century, we might argue
that the belief in the election of Israel by God was the cardinal dogma of
the author.(119) Abraham Ibn Daud, a contemporary of Maimonides, in his
book _The High Belief_,(120) speaks of _rudiments_, among which, besides
such metaphysical principles as unity, rational conception of God’s
attributes, etc., the belief in the immutability of the Law, etc., is
included. Still, all these works are intended to furnish evidence from
philosophy or history for the truth of religion rather than to give a
definition of this truth. The latter task was undertaken by Maimonides.

I refer to the thirteen articles embodied in his first work, _The
Commentary to the Mishnah_. They are appended to the Mishnah in Sanhedrin,
with which I dealt above. But though they do not form an independent
treatise, Maimonides’ remarks must not be considered as merely incidental.

That Maimonides was quite conscious of the importance of this exposition
can be gathered from the concluding words addressed to the reader: “Know
these (words) and repeat them many times, and think them over in the
proper way. God knows that thou wouldst be deceiving thyself if thou
thinkest thou hast understood them by having read them once or even ten
times. Be not, therefore, hasty in perusing them. I have not composed them
without deep study and earnest reflection.”

The result of this deep study was that the following Thirteen Articles
constitute the creed of Judaism. They are:—

1. The belief in the existence of a Creator; 2. The belief in His Unity;
3. The belief in His Incorporeality; 4. The belief in His Eternity; 5. The
belief that all worship and adoration are due to Him alone; 6. The belief
in Prophecy; 7. The belief that Moses was the greatest of all Prophets,
both before and after him; 8. The belief that the Torah was revealed to
Moses on Mount Sinai; 9. The belief in the Immutability of this revealed
Torah; 10. The belief that God knows the actions of men; 11. The belief in
Reward and Punishment; 12. The belief in the coming of the Messiah; 13.
The belief in the Resurrection of the dead.

The impulse given by the great philosopher and still greater Jew was
eagerly followed by succeeding generations, and Judaism thus came into
possession of a dogmatic literature such as it never knew before
Maimonides. Maimonides is the centre of this literature, and I shall
accordingly speak in the remainder of this essay of Maimonists and Anti‐
Maimonists. These terms really apply to the great controversy that raged
round Maimonides’ _Guide of __ the Perplexed_, but I shall, chiefly for
brevity’s sake, employ them in these pages in a restricted sense to refer
to the dispute concerning the Thirteen Articles.

Among the Maimonists we may probably include the great majority of Jews,
who accepted the Thirteen Articles without further question. Maimonides
must indeed have filled up a great gap in Jewish theology, a gap,
moreover, the existence of which was very generally perceived. A century
had hardly elapsed before the Thirteen Articles had become a theme for the
poets of the Synagogue. And almost every country where Jews lived can show
a poem or a prayer founded on these Articles. R. Jacob Molin (1420) of
Germany speaks of metrical and rhymed songs in the German language, the
burden of which was the Thirteen Articles, and which were read by the
common people with great devotion. The numerous commentaries and homilies
written on the same topic would form a small library in themselves.(121)
But on the other hand it must not be denied that the Anti‐Maimonists, that
is to say those Jewish writers who did not agree with the creed formulated
by Maimonides, or agreed only in part with him, form also a very strong
and respectable minority. They deserve our attention the more as it is
their works which brought life into the subject and deepened it. It is not
by a perpetual Amen to every utterance of a great authority that truth or
literature gains anything.

The Anti‐Maimonists can be divided into two classes. The one class
categorically denies that Judaism has dogmas. I shall have occasion to
touch on this view when I come to speak of Abarbanel. Here I pass at once
to the second class of Anti‐Maimonists. This consists of those who agree
with Maimonides as to the existence of dogmas in Judaism, but who differ
from him as to what these dogmas are, or who give a different enumeration
of them.

As the first of these Anti‐Maimonists we may regard Nachmanides, who, in
his famous _Sermon in the Presence of the King_, speaks of three
fundamental principles: Creation (that is, non‐eternity of matter),
Omniscience of God, and Providence. Next comes R. Abba Mari ben Moses, of
Montpellier. He wrote at the beginning of the fourteenth century, and is
famous in Jewish history for his zeal against the study of philosophy. We
possess a small pamphlet by him dealing with our subject, and it forms a
kind of prologue to his collection of controversial letters against the
rationalists of his time.(122) He lays down three articles as the
fundamental teachings of Religion: 1. Metaphysical: The existence of God,
including His Unity and Incorporeality; 2. Mosaic: _Creatio ex nihilo_ by
God—a consequence of this principle is the belief that God is capable of
altering the laws of nature at His pleasure; 3. Ethical: Special
Providence—_i.e._ God knows all our actions in all their details. Abba
Mari does not mention Maimonides’ Thirteen Articles. But it would be false
to conclude that he rejected the belief in the coming of the Messiah, or
any other article of Maimonides. The whole tone and tendency of this
pamphlet is polemical, and it is therefore probable that he only urged
those points which were either doubted or explained in an unorthodox way
by the sceptics of his time.

Another scholar, of Provence, who wrote but twenty years later than Abba
Mari—R. David ben Samuel d’Estella (1320)—speaks of the seven pillars of
religion. They are: Revelation, Providence, Reward and Punishment, the
Coming of the Messiah, Resurrection of the Dead, _Creatio ex nihilo_, and
Free Will.(123)

Of authors living in other countries, I have to mention here R. Shemariah,
of Crete, who flourished at about the same time as R. David d’Estella, and
is known from his efforts to reconcile the Caraites with the Rabbanites.
This author wrote a book for the purpose of furnishing Jewish students
with evidence for what he considered the five fundamental teachings of
Judaism, viz.: 1. The Existence of God; 2. The Incorporeality of God; 3.
His Absolute Unity; 4. That God created heaven and earth; 5. That God
created the world after His will 5106 years ago—5106 (1346 A.C.), being
the year in which Shemariah wrote these words.(124)

In Portugal, at about the same time, we find R. David ben Yom‐Tob Bilia
adding to the articles of Maimonides thirteen of his own, which he calls
the “Fundamentals of the Thinking Man.” Five of these articles relate to
the functions of the human soul, that, according to him, emanated from
God, and to the way in which this divine soul receives its punishment and
reward. The other eight articles are as follows: 1. The belief in the
existence of spiritual beings—angels; 2. _Creatio ex nihilo_; 3. The
belief in the existence of another world, and that this other world is
only a spiritual one; 4. The Torah is above philosophy; 5. The Torah has
an outward (literal) meaning and an inward (allegorical) meaning; 6. The
text of the Torah is not subject to any emendation; 7. The reward of a
good action is the good work itself, and the doer must not expect any
other reward; 8. It is only by the “commands relating to the heart,” for
instance, the belief in one eternal God, the loving and fearing Him, and
not through good actions, that man attains the highest degree of
perfection.(125) Perhaps it would be suitable to mention here another
contemporaneous writer, who also enumerates twenty‐six articles. The name
of this writer is unknown, and his articles are only gathered from
quotations by later authors. It would seem from these quotations that the
articles of this unknown author consisted mostly of statements emphasising
the belief in the attributes of God: as, His Eternity, His Wisdom and
Omnipotence, and the like.(126)

More important for our subject are the productions of the fifteenth
century, especially those of Spanish authors. The fifteen articles of R.
Lipman Muhlhausen, in the preface to his well‐known _Book of Victory_(127)
(1410), differ but slightly from those of Maimonides. In accordance with
the anti‐Christian tendency of his polemical book, he lays more stress on
the two articles of Unity and Incorporeality, and makes of them four. We
can therefore dismiss him with this short remark, and pass at once to the
Spanish Rabbis.

The first of these is R. Chasdai Ibn Crescas, who composed his famous
treatise, _The Light of God_, about 1405. Chasdai’s book is well known for
its attacks on Aristotle, and also for its influence on Spinoza. But
Chasdai deals also with Maimonides’ Thirteen Articles, to which he was
very strongly opposed. Already in his preface he attacks Maimonides for
speaking, in his _Book of the Commandments_, of the belief in the
existence of God as an “affirmative precept.” Chasdai thinks it absurd;
for every commandment must be dictated by some authority, but on whose
authority can we dictate the acceptance of this authority? His general
objection to the Thirteen Articles is that Maimonides confounded dogmas or
_fundamental beliefs_ of Judaism, without which Judaism is inconceivable,
with beliefs or _doctrines_ which Judaism inculcates, but the denial of
which, though involving a strong heresy, does not make Judaism impossible.
He maintains that if Maimonides meant only to count fundamental teachings,
there are not more than seven; but that if he intended also to include
doctrines, he ought to have enumerated sixteen. As beliefs of the first
class—namely, fundamental beliefs—he considers the following articles: 1.
God’s knowledge of our actions; 2. Providence; 3. God’s omnipotence—even
to act against the laws of nature; 4. Prophecy; 5. Free will; 6. The aim
of the Torah is to make man long after the closest communion with God. The
belief in the existence of God, Chasdai thinks, is an axiom with which
every religion must begin, and he is therefore uncertain whether to
include it as a dogma or not. As to the doctrines which every Jew is bound
to believe, but without which Judaism is not impossible, Chasdai divides
them into two sections: (_a_) 1. _Creatio ex nihilo_; 2. Immortality of
the soul; 3. Reward and Punishment; 4. Resurrection of the dead; 5.
Immutability of the Torah; 6. Superiority of the prophecy of Moses; 7.
That the High Priest received from God the instructions sought for, when
he put his questions through the medium of the Urim and Thummim; 8. The
coming of the Messiah. (_b_) Doctrines which are expressed by certain
religious ceremonies, and on belief in which these ceremonies are
conditioned: 1. The belief in the efficacy of prayer—as well as in the
power of the benediction of the priests to convey to us the blessing of
God; 2. God is merciful to the penitent; 3. Certain days in the year—for
instance, the Day of Atonement—are especially qualified to bring us near
to God, if we keep them in the way we are commanded. That Chasdai is a
little arbitrary in the choice of his “doctrines,” I need hardly say.
Indeed, Chasdai’s importance for the dogma‐question consists more in his
critical suggestions than in his positive results. He was, as we have
seen, the first to make the distinction between fundamental teachings
which form the basis of Judaism, and those other simple Jewish doctrines
without which Judaism is not impossible. Very daring is his remark, when
proving that Reward and Punishment, Immortality of the soul, and
Resurrection of the dead must not be considered as the basis of Judaism,
since the highest ideal of religion is to serve God without any hope of
reward. Even more daring are his words concerning the Immutability of the
Law. He says: “Some have argued that, since God is perfection, so must
also His law be perfect, and thus unsusceptible of improvement.” But he
does not think this argument conclusive, though the fact in itself (the
Immutability of the Law) is true. For one might answer that this
perfection of the Torah could only be in accordance with the intelligence
of those for whom it was meant; but as soon as the recipients of the Torah
have advanced to a higher state of perfection, the Torah must also be
altered to suit their advanced intelligence. A pupil of Chasdai
illustrates the words of his master by a medical parallel. The physician
has to adapt his medicaments to the various stages through which his
patient has to pass. That he changes his prescription does not, however,
imply that his medical knowledge is imperfect, or that his earlier
remedies were ignorantly chosen; the varying condition of the invalid was
the cause of the variation in the doctor’s treatment. Similarly, were not
the Immutability of the Torah a “doctrine,” one might maintain that the
perfection of the Torah would not be inconsistent with the assumption that
it was susceptible of modification, in accordance with our changing and
progressive circumstances. But all these arguments are purely of a
theoretic character; for, practically, every Jew, according to Chasdai,
has to accept all these beliefs, whether he terms them fundamental
teachings or only Jewish doctrines.(128)

Some years later, though he finished his work in the same year as Chasdai,
R. Simeon Duran (1366‐1444,) a younger contemporary of the former, made
his researches on dogmas. His studies on this subject form a kind of
introduction to his commentary on Job, which he finished in the year 1405.
Duran is not so strongly opposed to the Thirteen Articles as Chasdai, or
as another “thinker of our people,” who thought them an arbitrary
imitation of the thirteen attributes of God. Duran tries to justify
Maimonides; but nevertheless he agrees with “earlier authorities,” who
formulated the Jewish creed in Three Articles—The Existence of God,
Revelation, and Reward and Punishment—under which Duran thinks the
Thirteen Articles of Maimonides may be easily classed. Most interesting
are his remarks concerning the validity of dogmas. He tells us that only
those are to be considered as heretics who abide by their own opinions,
though they know that they are contradictory to the views of the Torah.
Those who accept the fundamental teachings of Judaism, but are led by
their deep studies and earnest reflection to differ in details from the
opinions current among their co‐religionists, and explain certain passages
in the Scripture in their own way, must by no means be considered as
heretics. We must, therefore, Duran proceeds to say, not blame such men as
Maimonides, who gave an allegorical interpretation to certain passages in
the Bible about miracles, or R. Levi ben Gershom, who followed certain un‐
Jewish views in relation to the belief in _Creatio ex nihilo_. Only the
views are condemnable, not those who cherish them. God forbid, says Duran,
that such a thing should happen in Israel as to condemn honest inquirers
on account of their differing opinions. It would be interesting to know of
how many divines as tolerant as this persecuted Jew the fifteenth century
can boast.(129)

We can now pass to a more popular but less original writer on our theme. I
refer to R. Joseph Albo, the author of the _Roots_,(130) who was the pupil
of Chasdai, a younger contemporary of Duran, and wrote at a much later
period than these authors. Graetz has justly denied him much originality.
The chief merit of Albo consists in popularising other people’s thoughts,
though he does not always take care to mention their names. And the
student who is a little familiar with the contents of the _Roots_ will
easily find that Albo has taken his best ideas either from Chasdai or from
Duran. As it is of little consequence to us whether an article of faith is
called “stem,” or “root,” or “branch,” there is scarcely anything fresh
left to quote in the name of Albo. The late Dr. Löw, of Szegedin, was
indeed right, when he answered an adversary who challenged him—“Who would
dare to declare me a heretic as long as I confess the Three Articles laid
down by Albo?” with the words “Albo himself.” For, after all the subtle
distinctions Albo makes between different classes of dogmas, he declares
that every one who denies even the immutability of the Law or the coming
of the Messiah, which are, according to him, articles of minor importance,
is a heretic who will be excluded from the world to come. But there is one
point in his book which is worth noticing. It was suggested to him by
Maimonides, indeed; still Albo has the merit of having emphasised it as it
deserves. Among the articles which he calls “branches” Albo counts the
belief that the perfection of man, which leads to eternal life, can be
obtained by the fulfilling of _one_ commandment. But this command must, as
Maimonides points out, be done without any worldly regard, and only for
the love of God. When one considers how many platitudes are repeated year
by year by certain theologians on the subject of Jewish legalism, we
cannot lay enough stress on this article of Albo, and we ought to make it
better known than it has hitherto been.(131)

Though I cannot enter here into the enumeration of the Maimonists, I must
not leave unmentioned the name of R. Nissim ben Moses of Marseilles, the
first great Maimonist, who flourished about the end of the thirteenth
century, and was considered as one of the most enlightened thinkers of his
age.(132) Another great Maimonist deserving special attention is R.
Abraham ben Shem‐Tob Bibago, who may perhaps be regarded as the most
prominent among those who undertook to defend Maimonides against the
attacks of Chasdai and others. Bibago wrote _The Path of Belief_(133) in
the second half of the fifteenth century, and was, as Dr. Steinschneider
aptly describes him, a _Denkgläubiger_. But, above all, he was a believing
Jew. When he was once asked, at the table of King John II., of Aragon, by
a Christian scholar, “Are you the Jewish philosopher?” he answered, “I am
a Jew who believes in the Law given to us by our teacher Moses, though I
have studied philosophy.” Bibago was such a devoted admirer of Maimonides
that he could not tolerate any opposition to him. He speaks in one passage
of the prudent people of his time who, in desiring to be looked upon as
orthodox by the great mob, calumniated the Teacher (Maimonides), and
depreciated his merits. Bibago’s book is very interesting, especially in
its controversial parts; but in respect to dogmas he is, as already said,
a Maimonist, and does not contribute any new point on our subject.

To return to the Anti‐Maimonists of the second half of the fifteenth
century. As such may be considered R. Isaac Aramah, who speaks of three
foundations of religion: _Creatio ex nihilo_, Revelation (?), and the
belief in a world to come.(134) Next to be mentioned is R. Joseph Jabez,
who also accepts only three articles: _Creatio ex nihilo_, Individual
Providence, and the Unity of God.(135) Under these three heads he tries to
classify the Thirteen Articles of Maimonides.

The last Spanish writer on our subject is R. Isaac Abarbanel. His treatise
on the subject is known under the title _Top of Amanah_,(136) and was
finished in the year 1495. The greatest part of this treatise forms a
defence of Maimonides, many points in which are taken from Bibago. But, in
spite of this fact, Abarbanel must not be considered a Maimonist. It is
only a feeling of piety towards Maimonides, or perhaps rather a fondness
for argument, that made him defend Maimonides against Chasdai and others.
His own view is that it is a mistake to formulate dogmas of Judaism, since
every word in the Torah has to be considered as a dogma for itself. It was
only, says Abarbanel, by following the example of non‐Jewish scholars that
Maimonides and others were induced to lay down dogmas. The non‐Jewish
philosophers are in the habit of accepting in every science certain
indisputable axioms from which they deduce the propositions which are less
evident. The Jewish philosophers in a similar way sought for first
principles in religion from which the whole of the Torah ought to be
considered as a deduction. But, thinks Abarbanel, the Torah as a revealed
code is under no necessity of deducing things from each other, for all the
commands came from the same divine authority, and, therefore, all are
alike evident, and have the same certainty. On this and similar grounds
Abarbanel refused to accept dogmatic articles for Judaism, and he thus
became the head of the school that forms a class by itself among the Anti‐
Maimonists to which many of the greatest Cabbalists also belong. But it is
idle talk to cite this school in aid of the modern theory that Judaism has
no dogmas. As we have seen, it was rather an _embarras de richesse_ that
prevented Abarbanel from accepting the Thirteen Articles of Maimonides. To
him and to the Cabbalists the Torah consists of at least 613 Articles.

Abarbanel wrote his book with which we have just dealt, at Naples. And it
is Italy to which, after the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, we have to
look chiefly for religious speculation. But the philosophers of Italy are
still less independent of Maimonides than their predecessors in Spain.
Thus we find that R. David Messer Leon, R. David Vital, and others were
Maimonists. Even the otherwise refined and original thinker, R. Elijah
Delmedigo (who died about the end of the fifteenth century) becomes almost
impolite when he speaks of the adversaries of Maimonides in respect to
dogmas. “It was only,” he says, “the would‐be philosopher that dared to
question the articles of Maimonides. Our people have always the bad habit
of thinking themselves competent to attack the greatest authorities as
soon as they have got some knowledge of the subject. Genuine thinkers,
however, attach very little importance to their objections.”(137)

Indeed, it seems as if the energetic protests of Delmedigo scared away the
Anti‐Maimonists for more than a century. Even in the following seventeenth
century we have to notice only two Anti‐Maimonists. The one is R. Tobijah,
the Priest (1652), who was of Polish descent, studied in Italy, and lived
as a medical man in France. He seems to refuse to accept the belief in the
Immutability of the Torah, and in the coming of the Messiah, as
fundamental teachings of Judaism.(138) The other, at the end of the
seventeenth century (1695), is R. Abraham Chayim Viterbo, of Italy. He
accepts only six articles: 1. Existence of God; 2. Unity; 3.
Incorporeality; 4. That God was revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai, and that
the prophecy of Moses is true; 5. Revelation (including the historical
parts of the Torah); 6. Reward and Punishment. As to the other articles of
Maimonides, Viterbo, in opposition to other half‐hearted Anti‐Maimonists,
declares that the man who denies them is _not_ to be considered as a
heretic; though he ought to believe them.(139)

I have now arrived at the limit I set to myself at the beginning of this
essay. For, between the times of Viterbo and those of Mendelssohn, there
is hardly to be found any serious opposition to Maimonides worth noticing
here. Still I must mention the name of R. Saul Berlin (died 1794); there
is much in his opinions on dogmas which will help us the better to
understand the Thirteen Articles of Maimonides. As the reader has seen, I
have refrained so far from reproducing here the apologies which were made
by many Maimonists in behalf of the Thirteen Articles. For, after all
their elaborate pleas, none of them was able to clear Maimonides of the
charge of having confounded dogmas or fundamental teachings with
doctrines. It is also true that the Fifth Article—that prayer and worship
must only be offered to God—cannot be considered even as a doctrine, but
as a simple precept. And there are other difficulties which all the
distinctions of the Maimonists will never be able to solve. The only
possible justification is, I think, that suggested by a remark of R. Saul.
This author, who was himself—like his friend and older contemporary
Mendelssohn—a strong Anti‐Maimonist, among other remarks, maintains that
dogmas must never be laid down but with regard to the necessities of the

Now R. Saul certainly did not doubt that Judaism is based on eternal
truths which can in no way be shaken by new modes of thinking or changed
circumstances. What he meant was that there are in every age certain
beliefs which ought to be asserted more emphatically than others, without
regard to their theological or rather logical importance. It is by this
maxim that we shall be able to explain the articles of Maimonides. He
asserted them, because they were necessary for his time.

We know, for instance, from a letter of his son and from other
contemporaries, that it was just at his time that the belief in the
incorporeality of God was, in the opinion of Maimonides, a little relaxed.
Maimonides, who thought such low notions of the Deity dangerous to
Judaism, therefore laid down an article against them. He tells us in his
_Guide_ that it was far from him to condemn any one who was not able to
demonstrate the Incorporeality of God, but he stigmatised as a heretic one
who refused to believe it. This position might be paralleled by that of a
modern astronomer who, while considering it unreasonable to expect a
mathematical demonstration of the movements of the earth from an ordinary
unscientific man, would yet regard the person who refused to believe in
such movements as an ignorant faddist.

Again, Maimonides undoubtedly knew that there may be found in the
Talmud—that bottomless sea with its innumerable undercurrents—passages
that are not quite in harmony with his articles; for instance, the well‐
known dictum of R. Hillel, who said, there is no Messiah for Israel—a
passage which has already been quoted _ad nauseam_ by every opponent of
Maimonides from the earliest times down to the year of grace 1896.
Maimonides was well aware of the existence of this and similar passages.
But, being deeply convinced of the necessity of the belief in a future
redemption of _Israel_—in opposition to other creeds which claim this
redemption exclusively for their own adherents—Maimonides simply ignored
the saying of R. Hillel, as an isolated opinion which contradicts all the
consciousness and traditions of the Jew as expressed in thousands of other
passages, and especially in the liturgy. Most interesting is Maimonides’
view about such isolated opinions in a letter to the wise men of
Marseilles. He deals there with the question of free will and other
theological subjects. After having stated his own view he goes on to say:
“I know that it is possible to find in the Talmud or in the Midrash this
or that saying in contradiction to the views you have heard from me. But
you must not be troubled by them. One must not refuse to accept a
doctrine, the truth of which has been proved, on account of its being in
opposition to some isolated opinion held by this or that great authority.
Is it not possible that he overlooked some important considerations when
he uttered this strange opinion? It is also possible that his words must
not be taken literally, and have to be explained in an allegorical way. We
can also think that his words were only to be applied with regard to
certain circumstances of his time, but never intended as permanent
truths.... No man must surrender his private judgment. The eyes are not
directed backwards but forwards.” In another place Maimonides calls the
suppression of one’s own opinions—for the reason of their being
irreconcilable with the isolated views of some great authority—a moral

By such motives Maimonides was guided when he left certain views hazarded
in the Rabbinic literature unheeded, and followed what we may perhaps call
the religious instinct, trusting to his own conscience. We may again be
certain that Maimonides was clear‐headed enough to see that the words of
the Torah: “And there arose no prophet since in Israel like unto Moses”
(Deut. xxxiv. 10), were as little intended to imply a doctrine as the
passage relating to the king Josiah, “And like unto him was there no king
before him that turned to the Lord with all his heart ... neither after
him arose there any like him” (2 Kings xxiii. 25). And none would think of
declaring the man a heretic who should believe another king to be as pious
as Josiah. But living among followers of the “imitating creeds” (as he
calls Christianity and Mohammedism), who claimed that their religion had
superseded the law of Moses, Maimonides, consciously or unconsciously,
felt himself compelled to assert the superiority of the prophecy of Moses.
And so we may guess that every article of Maimonides which seems to offer
difficulties to us contains an assertion of some relaxed belief, or a
protest against the pretensions of other creeds, though we are not always
able to discover the exact necessity for them. On the other hand,
Maimonides did not assert the belief in free will, for which he argued so
earnestly in his _Guide_. The common “man,” with his simple unspeculative
mind, for whom these Thirteen Articles were intended, “never dreamed that
the will was not free,” and there was no necessity of impressing on his
mind things which he had never doubted.(141)

So much about Maimonides. As to the Anti‐Maimonists, it could hardly
escape the reader that in some of the quoted systems the difference from
the view of Maimonides is only a logical one, not a theological. Of some
authors again, especially those of the thirteenth and fourteenth
centuries, it is not at all certain whether they intended to oppose
Maimonides. Others again, as for instance R. Abba Mari, R. Lipman, and R.
Joseph Jabez, acted on the same principle as Maimonides, urging only those
teachings of Judaism which they thought endangered. One could now, indeed,
animated by the praiseworthy example given to us by Maimonides, also
propose some articles of faith which are suggested to us by the
necessities of our own time. One might, for instance, insert the article,
“I believe that Judaism is, in the first instance, a divine religion,
_not_ a mere complex of racial peculiarities and tribal customs.” One
might again propose an article to the effect that Judaism is a
proselytising religion, having the mission to bring about God’s kingdom on
earth, and to include in that kingdom all mankind. One might also submit
for consideration whether it would not be advisable to urge a little more
the principle that religion means chiefly a _Weltanschauung_ and worship
of God by means of holiness both in thought and in action. One would even
not object to accept the article laid down by R. Saul, that we have to
look upon ourselves as sinners. Morbid as such a belief may be, it would,
if properly impressed on our mind, have perhaps the wholesome effect of
cooling down a little our self‐importance and our mutual admiration that
makes all progress among us almost impossible.

But it was not my purpose to ventilate here the question whether
Maimonides’ articles are sufficient for us, or whether we ought not to add
new ones to them. Nor do I attempt to decide what system we ought to
prefer for recitation in the Synagogue—that of Maimonides or that of
Chasdai, or of any other writer. I do not think that such a recital is of
much use. My object in this sketch has been rather to make the reader
_think_ about Judaism, by proving that it regulates not only our actions,
but also our thoughts. We usually urge that in Judaism religion means
life; but we forget that a life without guiding principles and thoughts is
a life not worth living. At least it was so considered by the greatest
Jewish thinkers, and hence their efforts to formulate the creed of
Judaism, so that men should not only be able to do the right thing, but
also to think the right thing. Whether they succeeded in their attempts
towards formulating the creed of Judaism or not will always remain a
question. This concerns the logician more than the theologian. But surely
Maimonides and his successors _did_ succeed in having a religion depending
directly on God, with the most ideal and lofty aspirations for the future;
whilst the Judaism of a great part of our modern theologians reminds one
very much of the words with which the author of _Marius the Epicurean_
characterises the Roman religion in the days of her decline: a religion
which had been always something to be done rather than something to be
thought, or believed, or loved.

Political economy, hygiene, statistics, are very fine things. But no sane
man would for them make those sacrifices which Judaism requires from us.
It is only for God’s sake, to fulfil His commands and to accomplish His
purpose, that religion becomes worth living and dying for. And this can
only be possible with a religion which possesses dogmas.

It is true that every great religion is “a concentration of many ideas and
ideals,” which make this religion able to adapt itself to various modes of
thinking and living. But there must always be a point round which all
these ideas concentrate themselves. This centre is Dogma.


There is an anecdote about a famous theologian to the effect that he used
to tell his pupils, “Should I ever grow old and weak—which usually drives
people to embrace the safer side—and alter my opinions, then pray do not
believe me.” The concluding volume of Weiss’s _History of Jewish
Tradition_(142) shows that there was no need for our author to warn his
pupils against the dangers accompanying old age. For though Weiss had,
when he began to write this last volume, already exceeded his three‐score
and ten, and, as we read in the preface, had some misgivings as to whether
he should continue his work, there is no trace in it of any abatement of
the great powers of the author. It is marked by the same freshness in
diction, the same marvellous scholarship, the same display of astonishing
critical powers, and the same impartial and straightforward way of judging
persons and things, for which the preceding volumes were so much
distinguished and admired.

This book, which is recognised as a standard work abroad, is, I fear,
owing to the fact of its being written in the Hebrew language, not
sufficiently known in this country. Weiss does not want _our_ recognition;
we are rather in need of his instruction. Some general view of his
estimate of Jewish Tradition may, therefore, be of service to the student.
It is, indeed, the only work of its kind. Zunz has confined himself to the
history of the Agadah. Graetz gave most of his attention to the political
side of Jewish history. But comparatively little has been done for the
Halachah, though Frankel, Geiger, Herzfeld, and others have treated some
single points in various monographs. Thus it was left for Weiss to write
the _History of Tradition_, which includes both the Agadah and the
Halachah. The treatment of this latter must have proved, in consequence of
the intricate and intractable nature of its materials, by far the more
difficult portion of his task.

In speaking of the _History_ of Tradition, a term which suggests the
fluctuating character of a thing, its origin, development, progress, and
retrogression, we have already indicated that Weiss does not consider even
the Halachah as having come down from heaven, ready‐made, and definitely
fixed for all time. To define it more clearly, Tradition is, apart from
the few ordinances and certain usages for which there is no precedent in
the Bible, the history of interpretation of the Scriptures, which was
constantly liable to variation, not on grounds of philology, but through
the subjective notions of successive generations regarding religion and
the method and scope of its application.

Weiss’s standpoint with reference to the Pentateuch is the conservative
one, maintaining both its unity and its Mosaic authorship. Those passages
and accounts in the Bible in which the modern critic discerns traces of
different traditional sources, are for Weiss only indicative of the
various stages of interpretation through which the Pentateuch had to pass.
The earliest stage was a very crude one, as may be seen from the case of
Jephthah’s vow, for which only a misinterpretation of certain passages in
the Pentateuch (Gen. xxii. 2; Num. xxv. 4) could be made responsible. Nor
was Jephthah, who felt himself bound to carry out his vow, acquainted with
the provision for dissolving vows(143) that was sufficiently familiar to
later ages. When, on the other hand, Jeremiah declared sacrifices to be
altogether superfluous, and said that God did not command Israel, when he
brought them from the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or
sacrifices (vii. 22), he was not in contradiction with Leviticus, but
interpreted the laws contained in this book as a concession to popular
custom, though not desirable on their own account. This concession,
whenever it was of a harmless nature, the prophets carried so far as to
permit altars outside the Tabernacle or Temple, though this was against
the plain sense of Deuteronomy. Elijah even bewailed their destruction (1
Kings xix. 10). He and other prophets probably interpreted the law in
question as directed against the construction and maintenance of several
chief sanctuaries, but not against sacrificing in different places on
minor occasions. This is evidently a free interpretation, or rather
application, of the Law. Occasionally the conception as to when and how a
law should be applied took a completely negative form. In this manner is
to be explained the action of Solomon in suspending the Fast of the Day of
Atonement before the festival he was going to celebrate in honour of the
consecration of the Temple (1 Kings viii. 65), the king being convinced
that on this unique occasion the latter was of more religious importance
than the former. Weiss thinks that the later custom of holding public
dances in the vineyards on the 10th of Tishri might have had its origin in
this solemn, but also joyful, festival. Ezekiel, again, though alluding
more frequently than any other prophet to the laws in the Pentateuch, is
exceedingly bold in his interpretation of them, as, for instance, when he
says that _priests_ shall not eat anything that is dead or torn (xliv.
31), which shows that he took the verses in Exod. xxii. 30, and Deut. xiv.
20, to have been meant only as a good advice to the laymen to refrain from
eating these unclean things, but not as having for them the force of a
real commandment.

Starting from this proposition, that there existed always some sort of
interpretation running side by side with the recognised Scriptures, which
from the very looseness of its connection with the letter of the Scripture
could claim to be considered a thing independent in itself, and might
therefore be regarded as the _Oral Law_, in contradistinction to the
_Written Law_, the author passes to the age of the Second Temple, the
period to which the rest of the first volume is devoted. In these pages
Weiss reviews the activity of Ezra and Nehemiah, the ordinances of the Men
of the Great Synagogue, the institutions of the Scribes, the Lives of the
so‐called Pairs,(144) the characteristics of the three sects, the
Sadducees, Pharisees, and Essenes, and the differences between the schools
of Shammai and Hillel. To each of these subjects Weiss gives his fullest
attention, and his discussions of them would form perfect monographs in
themselves. To reproduce all the interesting matter would mean to
translate the whole of this portion of his work into English. I shall only
draw attention to one or two points.

First, this liberal interpretation was active during the whole period
referred to. Otherwise no authority could have abolished the _lex
talionis_, or have permitted war on Sabbath, or made the condition that no
crime should be punished without a preceding warning (which was chiefly
owing to the aversion of the Rabbis to the infliction of capital
punishment), or have sanctioned the sacrificing of the Passover when the
14th of Nisan fell on Sabbath. Indeed Shemaiah and Abtalyon, in whose name
Hillel communicated this last law, were called the Great

Secondly, as to the so‐called _laws given to Moses on Sinai_.(146) Much
has been said about these. The distinction claimed for them by some
scholars, viz. that they were never contested, is not tenable, considering
that there prevailed much difference of opinion about some of them. Nor is
the theory that they were ancient religious usages, dating from time
immemorial, entirely satisfactory. For though the fact may be true in
itself, this could not have justified the Rabbis in calling them all
Sinaitic laws, especially when they were aware that not a few of them were
contested by certain of their colleagues, a thing that would have been
quite impossible if they had a genuine claim to Mosaic authority. But if
we understand Weiss rightly these laws are only to be considered as a
specimen of the whole of the Oral Law, which was believed to emanate, both
in its institutional and in its expository part, from the same authority.
The conviction was firmly held that everything wise and good, be it
ethical or ceremonial in its character, whose effect would be to
strengthen the cause of religion, was at least potentially contained in
the Torah, and that it only required an earnest religious mind to find it
there. Hence the famous adage that “everything which any student will
teach at any future time was already communicated to Moses on Mount
Sinai”; or the injunction that any acceptable truth, even if discovered by
an insignificant man in Israel, should be considered as having the
authority of a great sage or prophet, or even of Moses himself. The
principle was that the words of the Torah are “fruitful and multiply.”

It will probably be said that the laws of clean and unclean, and such
like, have proved rather too prolific; but if we read Weiss carefully, we
shall be reminded that it was by the same process of propagation that the
Rabbis developed from Deut. xxii. 8, a whole code of sanitary and police‐
laws which could even now be studied with profit; from the few scanty
civil laws in Exod. xxi., a whole _corpus juris_, which might well excite
the interest and the admiration of any lawyer; and from the words “And
thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children,” a complete school‐
system on the one hand, and on the other the _résumé_ of a liturgy that
appears to have sufficed for the spiritual needs of more than fifty
generations of Israelites.

Before we pass to the age of the Tannaim,(147) the subject of Weiss’s
second volume, we must take account of two important events which have
greatly influenced the further development of Tradition. I refer to the
destruction of the Temple and the rise of Christianity. With the former
event Judaism ceased to be a political commonwealth, and if “the nation
was already in the times of Ezra converted into a church,”—an assertion,
by the way, which has not the least basis in fact,—it became the more so
after it had lost the last remains of its independence. But it was a
church without priests, or, since such a thing, as far as history teaches
us, has never existed, let us rather call it a Synagogue.

From this fact diverse results flowed. A Synagogue can exist not only
without priests, but also without sacrifices, for which prayer and charity
were a sufficient substitute. With the progress of time also many
agricultural laws, as well as others relating to sacerdotal purity,
gradually became obsolete, though they lingered on for some generations,
and, as a venerable reminiscence of a glorious time, entered largely into
Jewish literature. This disappearance of so many laws and the weakening of
the national element, however, required, if Judaism was to continue to
exist, the strengthening of religion from another side. The first thing
needed was the creation of a new religious centre which would not only
replace the Temple to a certain degree, but also bring about a greater
solidarity of views, such as would render impossible the ancient
differences that divided the schools of Hillel and Shammai. The creator of
this centre was R. Johanan ben Zaccai, who founded the school of Jamnia,
and invested it with the same authority and importance as the Sanhedrin
had enjoyed during Temple times. The consciousness that they were standing
before a new starting‐point in history, with a large religious inheritance
from the past, actuated them not only to collect the old traditional laws
and to take stock of their religious institutions, but also to give them
more definite shape and greater stability. As many of these traditions
were by no means undisputed, the best thing was to bring them under one or
other heading of the Scriptures. This desire gave the impulse to the
famous hermeneutic schools of R. Akiba and R. Ishmael.

The next cause that contributed to give a more determinate expression to
the Law was the rise of Christianity. This is not the place to give an
account of the views which the Rabbis entertained of Christianity. Suffice
it to say they could not see in the destruction of the Law its fulfilment.
They also thought that under certain conditions it is not only the letter
that killeth, but also the spirit, or rather that the spirit may sometimes
be clothed in a letter, which, in its turn, will slay more victims than
the letter against which the loudest denunciations have been levelled.
Spirit without letter, let theologians say what they will, is a mere
phantasm. However, the new sect made claims to the gift of prophecy,
which, as they thought, placed them above the Law. It would seem that this
was a time of special excitement. The student of the Talmud finds that
such marvels as predicting the future, reviving the dead, casting out
demons, crossing rivers dry‐shod, curing the sick by a touch or prayer,
were the order of the day, and performed by scores of Rabbis. Voices from
heaven were often heard, and strange visions were frequently beheld.
Napoleon I. is said to have forbidden the holy coat of Treves to work
miracles. The Jewish legislature, however, had no means of preventing
these supernatural workings; but when the Rabbis saw their dangerous
consequences, they insisted that miracles should have no influence on the
interpretation and development of the Law. Hence the saying with regard to
Lev. xxvii. 34, that no prophet is authorised to add a new law. And when
R. Eliezer b. Hyrkanos (about 120 A.C.) thought to prove the justice of
his case by the intervention of miracles, the majority answered that the
fact of this or that variation, effected at his bidding, in the
established order of nature, proved nothing for the soundness of his
argument. Nay, they even ignored the _Bath‐Kol_(148) (the celestial
voice), which declared itself in favour of R. Eliezer, maintaining that
the Torah having once been given to mankind, it is only the opinion of the
majority that should decide on its interpretation and application. Very
characteristic is the legend connected with this fact. When one of the
Rabbis afterwards met Elijah and asked him what they thought in heaven of
the audacity of his colleagues, the prophet answered, “God rejoiced and
said, my children have conquered me.”

Into such discredit did miracles fall at that period, whilst the opinion
of the interpreting body, or the Sanhedrin, became more powerful than
ever. These were merely dogmatical consequences. But new laws were enacted
and old ones revived, with the object of resisting Christian influences
over the Jews. To expand the Oral Law, and give it a firm basis in the
Scriptures, were considered the best means of preserving Judaism intact.
“Moses desired,” an old legend narrates, “that the Mishnah also (that is
Tradition) should be written down;” but foreseeing the time when the
nations of the world would translate the Torah into Greek, and would
assert their title to rank as the Children of God, the Lord refused to
permit tradition to be recorded otherwise than by word of mouth. The claim
of the Gentiles might then be refuted by asking them whether they were
also in possession of “the Mystery.” The Rabbis therefore concentrated
their attention upon “the Mystery,” and this contributed largely towards
making the expository methods of R. Akiba and R. Ishmael, to which I have
above referred, the main object of their study in the schools.

It would, however, be a mistake to think that the Sanhedrin now spent
their powers in “enforcing retrograde measures and creating a strange
exegesis.” I especially advise the student to read carefully that
admirable chapter (VII., of Vol. II.) in which Weiss classifies all the
Ordinances, “Fences,” Decrees, and Institutions, dating both from this and
from earlier ages, under ten headings, and also shows their underlying
principles. The main object was to preserve the Jewish religion by
strengthening the principle of Jewish nationality, and to preserve the
nationality by the aid of religion. But sometimes the Rabbis also
considered it necessary to preserve religion against itself, so to speak,
or, as they expressed it, “When there is time to work for the Lord, they
make void thy Torah.” This authorised the _Beth Din_(149) to act in
certain cases against the letter of the Torah. “The welfare of the World”
was another great consideration. By “World” they understood both the
religious and the secular world. From a regard to the former resulted such
“Fences” and Ordinances as were directed against “the transgressors,” as
well as the general injunction to “keep aloof from what is morally
unseemly, and from whatever bears any likeness thereto.” In the interests
of the latter—the welfare of the secular world—they enacted such laws as
either tended to elevate the position of women, or to promote the peace
and welfare of members of their own community, or to improve the relations
between Jews and their Gentile neighbours. They also held the great
principle that nothing is so injurious to the cause of religion as
increasing the number of sinners by needless severity. Hence the
introduction of many laws “for the benefit of penitents,” and the maxim
not to issue any decree which may prove too heavy a burden to the majority
of the community. The relaxation of certain traditional laws was also
permitted when they involved a serious loss of property, or the sacrifice
of a man’s dignity. Some old decrees were even permitted to fall into
oblivion when public opinion was too strong against them, the Rabbis
holding that it was often better for Israelites to be unconscious sinners
than wilful transgressors. The _Minhag_, or religious custom, also played
an important part, it being assumed that it must have been first
introduced by some eminent authority; but, if there was reason to believe
that the custom owed its origin to some fancy of the populace, and that it
had a pernicious effect on the multitude, no compunction was felt in
abolishing it.

Very important it is to note that the Oral Law had not at this period
assumed a character of such rigidity that all its ordinances, etc., had to
be looked upon as irremovable for all times. With those who think
otherwise, a favourite quotation is the administratory measure laid dawn
in Tractate _Evidences_,(150) I. 5, where we read that no _Beth Din_ has
the right of annulling the dicta of another _Beth Din_, unless it is
stronger in numbers (having a larger majority) and greater in wisdom than
its fellow tribunal. Confess with becoming modesty that the world is
always going downhill, decreasing both in numbers and in wisdom, and the
result follows that any decision by the earlier Rabbis is fixed law for
all eternity. Weiss refutes such an idea not only as inconsistent with the
nature of Tradition, but also as contradictory to the facts. He proves by
numerous instances that the Rabbis did abolish ordinances and decrees
introduced by preceding authorities, and that the whole conception is
based on a misunderstanding. For the rule in question, as Weiss clearly
points out, originally only meant that a _Beth Din_ has no right to undo
the decrees of another _contemporary Beth Din_, unless it was justified in
doing so by the weight of its greater authority. This was necessary if a
central authority was to exist at all. Weiss is indeed of opinion that the
whole passage is a later interpolation from the age of R. Simeon b.
Gamaliel II., when certain Rabbis tried to emancipate themselves from the
authority of the Patriarch. But it was not meant that the decision of a
_Beth Din_ should have perpetual binding power for all posterity. This was
left to the discretion of the legislature of each generation, who had to
examine whether the original cause for maintaining such decision still

The rest of this volume is for the greater part taken up with complete
monographs of the Patriarchs and the heads of the schools of that age,
whilst the concluding chapters give us the history of the literature, the
Midrash, Mechilta, Siphra, Siphré, Mishnah, etc., which contain both the
Halachic and the Agadic sayings emanating from these authorities.

With regard to these Patriarchs, I should like only to remark that Weiss
defends them against the charge made by Schorr and others, who accuse them
of having assumed too much authority on account of their noble descent,
and who describe their opponents as the true friends of the people. Weiss
is no lover of such specious phrases. The qualifications required for the
leadership of the people were a right instinct for the necessities of
their time, a fair amount of secular knowledge, and, what is of chief
importance, an unbounded love and devotion to those over whose interests
they were called to watch. These distinctions, as Weiss proves, the
descendants of Hillel possessed in the highest degree. It is true that
occasionally, as for instance in the famous controversy of R. Gamaliel II.
with R. Joshua b. Hananiah, or that of R. Simeon b. Gamaliel II. with R.
Nathan and R. Meir, they made their authority too heavily felt;(151) but
this was again another necessity of those troubled times, when only real
unity could save Israel.

However, Weiss is no partisan, and the love he lavishes on his favourite
heroes does not exhaust his resources of sympathy and appreciation for
members of the other schools. Weiss is no apologist either, and does not
make the slightest attempt towards explaining away even the defects of R.
Akiba in his somewhat arbitrary method of interpretation, which our author
thinks much inferior to the expository rules of R. Ishmael; but this does
not prevent him from admiring his excellences.

Altogether it would seem that Weiss thinks R. Akiba more happy in his
quality as a great saint than in that of a great exegete. What is most
admirable is the instinct with which Weiss understands how to emphasise
the right thing in its right place. As an indication of the literary
honesty and marvellous industry of our author, I would draw attention to
the fact that the sketch of R. Akiba and his school alone is based on more
than two thousand quotations scattered over the whole area of the Rabbinic
literature; but he points in a special note to a sentence attributed to R.
Akiba, which presents the whole man and his generation in a single stroke.
I refer to that passage in Tractate _Joys_,(152) in which R. Akiba speaks
of the four types of sufferers. He draws the comparison of a king
chastising his children; the first son maintains stubborn silence, the
second simply rebels, the third supplicates for mercy, and the fourth (the
best of sons) says: “Father, proceed with thy chastisement, as David said,
Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity and cleanse me from my sin” (Ps. li.
4). This absolute submission to the will of God, which perceives in
suffering only an expression of His fatherly love and mercy, was the ideal
of R. Akiba.

The great literary production of this period was the Mishnah, which,
through the high authority of its compiler, R. Judah the Patriarch, his
saintliness and popularity, soon superseded all the collections of a
similar kind, and became the official text‐book of the Oral Law. But a
text requires interpretation, whilst other collections also demanded some
attention. This brings us to the two _Talmuds_, namely, the Talmud of
Jerusalem and the Talmud of Babylon, the origin and history of which form
the subject of Weiss’s third volume.

Here again the first chapters are more of a preliminary character, giving
the student some insight into the labyrinth of the Talmud. The two
chapters entitled “The instruments employed in erecting the great
Edifice,” and the “Workmanship displayed by the Builders,” give evidence
of almost unrivalled familiarity with the Rabbinical literature, and of
critical powers of the rarest kind. Now these instruments were by no means
new, for, as Weiss shows, the Amoraim employed in interpreting the Mishnah
the same explanatory rules that are known to us from the School of R.
Ishmael as “the Thirteen Rules by which the Torah is explained,” though
they appear in the Talmud under other names, and are in reality only a
species of Midrash. Besides this there comes another element into play. It
was the exaggerated awe of all earlier authorities that endeavoured to
reconcile the most contradictory statements by means of a subtle dialectic
for which the schools in Babylon were especially famous. There were
certainly many opponents of this system, and from the monographs which
Weiss gives on the various heads of the western and eastern schools we see
that not all followed this method, and some among them even condemned it
in the strongest words. However, it cannot be denied that there is a
strong scholastic feature in the Talmud, which is very far from what we
should look for in a trustworthy exegesis. Thus we must not always expect
to find in the Talmud the true meaning of the sayings of their
predecessors, and it is certain that a more scientific method in many
cases has led to results the very opposite of those at which the later
Rabbis have arrived. This fact was already recognised in the sixteenth
century, though only in part, by R. Yom‐Tob Heller and others. Only he
insisted that in this matter a line must be drawn between theory and
practice. But Weiss gives irrefragable proofs that even this line was
often overstepped by the greatest authorities, though they remained always
within the limits of Tradition. Indeed, as Weiss points out, not every
saying to be found in the Talmud is to be looked upon as representing
Tradition; for there is much in it which only gives the individual opinion
or is merely an interpolation of later hands; nor does the Talmud contain
the _whole_ of Tradition, this latter proceeding and advancing with the
time, and corresponding to its conditions and notions. As we read Weiss,
the conviction is borne in upon us that there was a Talmud before, and
another after _The Talmud_.

Much space in this volume is given to the Agadah and the so‐called
“Teachers of the Agadah.” Weiss makes no attempt at apology for that which
seems to us strange, or even repugnant in this part of the Rabbinic
literature. The greatest fault to be found with those who wrote down such
passages as appear objectionable to us is, perhaps, that they did not
observe the wise rule of Johnson, who said to Boswell on a certain
occasion, “Let us get serious, for there comes a fool.” And the fools
unfortunately did come in the shape of certain Jewish commentators and
Christian controversialists, who took as serious things which were only
the expression of a momentary impulse, or represented the opinion of some
isolated individual, or were meant simply as a piece of humorous by‐play,
calculated to enliven the interest of a languid audience. But on the other
hand, as Weiss proves, the Agadah contains also many elements of real
edification and eternal truths as well as abundant material for building
up the edifice of dogmatic Judaism. Talmudical quotations of such a nature
are scattered by thousands over Weiss’s work, particularly in those
chapters in which he describes the lives of the greatest Rabbinical
heroes. But the author lays the student under special obligations by
putting together in the concluding pages of this volume some of these
sentences, and classifying them under various headings. I give here a few
extracts. For the references to authorities I must direct the reader to
the original:—

“The unity of God is the keystone of dogmatic Judaism. The Rabbis give
Israel the credit of having proclaimed to the world the unity of God. They
also say that Israel took an oath never to change Him for another God.
This only God is eternal, incorporeal, and immutable. And though the
prophets saw Him in different aspects, He warned them that they must not
infer from the visions vouchsafed to them that there are different Gods.
‘I am the first,’ He tells them, which implies that he had no father, and
the words, ‘There is no God besides me,’ mean that he has no son. Now,
this God, the God of Israel, is holy in every thinkable way of holiness.
He is merciful and gracious, as it is said, ‘And I will be gracious to
whom I will be gracious,’ even though he who is the recipient of God’s
grace has no merit of his own. ‘And I will show mercy to whom I will show
mercy,’ that is, even to those who do not deserve it. His attributes are
righteousness, loving‐kindness, and truth. God speaks words of eternal
truth, even as He himself is the eternal life. All that the Merciful One
does is only for good, and even in the time of His anger He remembers His
graciousness, and often suppresses His attribute of judgment before His
attribute of mercy. But with the righteous God is more severe than with
the rest of the world, and when His hand falls in chastening on His saints
His name becomes awful, revered, and exalted. This God of Israel, again,
extends His providence over all mankind, and especially over Israel. By
His eye everything is foreseen, yet freedom of choice is given, and the
world is judged by grace, yet all according to the works wrought. Hence,
know what is above thee, a seeing eye and a hearing ear, and that all thy
deeds are written in a book.

“They [the Rabbis] believed that God created the world out of nothing,
without toil and without weariness. This world was created by the
combination of His two attributes, mercy and justice. He rejoices in His
creation, and if the Maker praises it, who dares to blame it? And if He
exults in it, who shall find a blemish in it? Nay, it is a glorious and a
beautiful world. It is created for man, and its other denizens were all
meant but to serve him. Though all mankind are formed after the type of
Adam, no one is like his fellow‐man (each one having an individuality of
his own). Thus he is able to say, ‘For my sake, also, was the world
created’; and with this thought his responsibilities increase. But the
greatest love shown to man is that he was created in the image of God. Man
is a being possessed of free will, and, though everything is given on
pledge, whosoever wishes to borrow may come and borrow. Everything is in
the gift of Heaven except the fear of God. In man’s heart abide both the
evil inclination and the good inclination; and the words of Scripture,
‘Thou shalt not bow down before a strange god,’ point to the strange god
who is within man himself, who entices him to sin in this world, and gives
evidence against him in the next. But the Holy One—blessed be He!—said, ‘I
have created the evil inclination, but I have also created its antidote,
the Torah.’ And when man is occupied with the Torah and in works of
charity, he becomes the master of the evil inclination; otherwise, he is
its slave. When man reflects the image of God, he is the lord of creation,
and is feared by all creatures; but this image is defaced by sin, and then
he has no power over the universe, and is in fear of all things.

“Another principle of Judaism is the belief in reward and punishment. ‘I
am the Lord, your God,’ means, ‘it is I who am prepared to recompense you
for your good actions, and to bring retribution upon you for your evil
deeds.’ God does not allow to pass unrewarded even the merit of a kind and
considerate word. By the same measure which man metes out, it shall be
meted out to him. Because thou drownedst others, they have drowned thee,
and at the last they who drowned thee shall themselves be drowned. Though
it is not in our power to explain either the prosperity of the wicked or
the affliction of the righteous, nevertheless know before whom thou
toilest, and who thy employer is, who will pay thee the reward of thy
labour. Here at thy door is a poor man standing, and at his right hand
standeth God. If thou grantest his request, be certain of thy reward; but
if thou refusest, think of him who is by the side of the poor, and will
avenge it on thee. ‘God seeketh the persecuted’ to defend him, even though
it be the wicked who is persecuted by the righteous. The soul of man is
immortal, the souls of the righteous being treasured up under the throne
of God. Know that everything is according to the reckoning, and let not
thy imagination give thee hope that the grave will be a place of refuge
for thee, for perforce thou wast formed, and perforce thou wast born, and
thou livest perforce, and perforce thou wilt die, and perforce thou wilt
in the future have to give account and reckoning before the Supreme King
of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He.

“The advent of the Messiah is another article of the belief of the Rabbis.
But if a man tell thee that he knows when the redemption of Israel will
take place, believe him not, for this is one of the unrevealed secrets of
the Almighty. The mission of Elijah is to bring peace into the world,
while the Messiah, in whose days Israel will regain his national
independence, will lead the whole world in repentance to God. On this, it
is believed, will follow the resurrection of the dead.

“Another main principle in the belief of the Rabbis is the election of
Israel, which imposes on them special duties, and gives them a peculiar
mission. Beloved are Israel, for they are called the children of God, and
His firstborn. ‘They shall endure for ever’ through the merit of their
fathers. There is an especial covenant established between God and the
tribes of Israel. God is their father, and He said to them, My children,
even as I have no contact with the profanity of the world, so also
withdraw yourselves from it. And as I am holy, be ye also holy. Nay,
sanctify thyself by refraining even from that which is not forbidden thee.
There is no holiness without chastity.

“The main duty of Israel is to sanctify the name of God, for the Torah was
only given that His great name might be glorified. Better is it that a
single letter of the law be cast out than that the name of Heaven be
profaned. And this also is the mission of Israel in this world: to
sanctify the name of God, as it is written, ‘This people have I formed for
myself, that they may show forth my praise.’ Or, ‘And thou shalt love the
Lord thy God,’ which means, Thou shalt make God beloved by all creatures,
even as Abraham did. Israel is the light of the world; as it is said, ‘And
nations shall walk by thy light.’ But he who profanes the name of Heaven
in secret will suffer the penalty thereof in public; and this whether the
Heavenly Name be profaned in ignorance or in wilfulness.

“Another duty towards God is to love Him and to fear Him. God’s only
representative on earth is the God‐fearing man. Woe unto those who are
occupied in the study of the Torah, but who have no fear of God. But a
still higher duty it is to perform the commandments of God from love. For
greater is he who submits to the will of God from love than he who does so
from fear.

“Now, how shall man love God? This is answered in the words of Scripture,
‘And these words shall be upon thy heart.’ For by them thou wilt recognise
Him whose word called the world into existence, and follow His divine

“God is righteous; be ye also righteous, O Israel. By righteousness the
Rabbis understand love of truth, hatred of lying and backbiting. The seal
of the Holy One, blessed be He, is Truth, of which the actions of man
should also bear the impress. Hence, let thy yea be yea, and thy nay, nay.
He who is honest in money transactions, unto him this is reckoned as if he
had fulfilled the whole of the Torah. Greater is he who earns his
livelihood by the labour of his hands than even the God‐fearing man;
whilst the righteous judge is, as it were, the companion of God in the
government of the world. For upon three things the world stands: upon
truth, upon judgment, upon peace; as it is said, ‘Judge ye the truth and
the judgment of peace in your gates.’ But he who breaks his word, his sin
is as great as if he worshipped idols; and God, who punished the people of
the time of the Flood, will also punish him who does not stand by his
word. Such a one belongs to one of the four classes who are not admitted
into the presence of the Shechinah; these are the scoffers, the hypocrites
(who bring the wrath of God into the world), the liars, and the
slanderers. The sin of the slanderer is like that of one who would deny
the root (the root of all religion, _i.e._ the existence of God). The
greatest of liars, however, is he who perjures himself, which also
involves the sin of profanation of the name of God. The hypocrite, who
insinuates himself into people’s good opinions, who wears his phylacteries
and is enwrapped in his gown with the fringes, and secretly commits sins,
equally transgresses the command, ‘Thou shalt not take the name of the
Lord thy God in vain.’

“God is gracious and merciful; therefore man also should be gracious and
merciful. Hence, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,’ which is a
main principle in the Torah. What is unpleasant to thyself, do not unto
thy neighbour. This is the whole Torah, to which the rest is only to be
considered as a commentary. And this love is also extended to the
stranger, for as it is said with regard to Israel, ‘And thou shalt love
thy neighbour as thyself,’ so is it also said, ‘And thou shalt love him
(the stranger) as thyself.’ And thus said God to Israel, ‘My beloved
children, Am I in want of anything that I should request it of you? But
what I ask of you is that you should love, honour, and respect one
another.’ Therefore, love mankind, and bring them near to the Torah. Let
the honour of thy friend be as dear to thee as thine own. Condemn not thy
fellow‐man until thou art come into his place, and judge all men in the
scale of merit. Say not ‘I will love scholars, but hate their disciples;’
or even, ‘I will love the disciples, but hate the ignorant,’ but love all,
for he who hates his neighbour is as bad as a murderer. Indeed, during the
age of the second Temple, men studied the Torah and the commandments, and
performed works of charity, but they hated each other, a sin that
outweighs all other sins, and for which the holy Temple was destroyed. Be
careful not to withdraw thy mercy from any man, for he who does so rebels
against the kingdom of God on earth. Walk in the ways of God, who is
merciful even to the wicked, and as He is gracious alike to those who know
Him, and to those who know Him not, so be thou. Indeed, charity is one of
the three pillars on which the world is based. It is more precious than
all other virtues. The man who gives charity in secret is greater even
than Moses our teacher. An act of charity and love it is to pray for our
fellow‐man, and to admonish him. ‘Thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy
neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him’ (Lev. xix. 18), means it is thy
duty to admonish him a hundred times if need be, even if he be thy
superior; for Jerusalem was only destroyed for the sin of its people in
not admonishing one another. The man whose protest would be of any weight,
and who does not exercise his authority (when any wrong is about to be
committed), is held responsible for the whole world.

“Peacefulness and humility are also the fruit of love. Be of the disciples
of Aaron, loving peace, and pursuing peace. Let every man be cautious in
the fear of God; let him ever give the soft answer that turneth away
wrath; let him promote peace, not only among his own relatives and
acquaintances, but also among the Gentiles. For (the labour of) all the
prophets was to plant peace in the world. Be exceeding lowly of spirit,
since the hope of man is but the worm. Be humble as Hillel, for he who is
humble causes the Divine presence to dwell with man. But the proud man
makes God say, ‘I and he cannot dwell in the same place.’ He who runs
after glory, glory flees from him, and he who flees from glory, glory
shall pursue him. Be of those who are despised rather than of those who
despise; of the persecuted rather than of the persecutors; be of those who
bear their reproach in silence and answer not.

“Another distinctive mark of Judaism is faith in God, and perfect
confidence in Him. Which is the right course for a man to choose for
himself? Let him have a strong faith in God, as it is said, ‘Mine eye
shall be upon the faithful (meaning those possessing faith in God) of the
land.’ And so also Habakkuk based the whole Torah on the principle of
faith, as it is said, ‘And the just shall live by his faith’ (ii. 4). He
who but fulfils a single commandment in absolute faith in God deserves
that the Holy Spirit should rest on him. Blessed is the man who fears God
in private, and trusts in Him with all his heart, for such fear and trust
arms him against every misfortune. He who puts his trust in the Holy One,
blessed be He, God becomes his shield and protection in this world and in
the next. He who has bread in his basket for to‐day, and says, ‘What shall
I have to eat to‐morrow?’ is a man of little faith. One consequence of
real faith is always to believe in the justice of God’s judgments. It is
the duty of man to thank God when he is visited with misfortune as he does
in the time of prosperity. Therefore, blessed is the man who, when visited
by suffering, questions not God’s justice. But what shall he do? Let him
examine his conduct and repent.

“For repentance is the greatest prerogative of man. Better is one hour of
repentance and good deeds in this world than the whole life of the world
to come. The aim of all wisdom is repentance and good deeds. The place
where the truly penitent shall stand is higher than that of the righteous.
Repentance finds its special expression in prayer; and when it is said in
Scripture, ‘Serve God with all thy heart,’ by this is meant, serve Him by
prayer, which is even greater than worship by means of sacrifices. Never
is a prayer entirely unanswered by God. Therefore, even though the sword
be on a man’s neck, let him not cease to supplicate God’s mercy. But
regard not thy prayer as a fixed mechanical task, but as an appeal for
mercy and grace before the All‐Present; as it is said, ‘For He is gracious
and full of mercy, slow to anger, abounding in loving‐kindness, and
repenteth him of the evil.’ ”

The last two volumes of Weiss’s work deal with the history of Tradition
during the Middle Ages, that is, from the conclusion of the Talmud to the
compilation of the Code of the Law by R. Joseph Caro. I have already
indicated that with Weiss Tradition did not terminate with the conclusion
of the Talmud. It only means that a certain undefinable kind of
literature, mostly held in dialogue form and containing many elements of
Tradition, was at last brought to an end. The authorities who did this
editorial work were the so‐called _Rabbanan Saburai_(153) and the
_Gaonim_, whose lives and literary activity are fully described by Weiss.
But, while thus engaged in preserving their inheritance from the past,
they were also enriching Tradition by new contributions, both the Saburai
and the Gaonim having not only added to and diminished from the Talmud,
but having also introduced avowedly new ordinances and decrees, and
created new institutions.

Now, it cannot be denied that a few of these ordinances and decrees had a
reforming tendency (see the second and twentieth chapters of vol. iv.); in
general, however, they took a more conservative turn than was the case in
the previous ages. This must be ascribed to the event of the great schism
within the Rabbinical camp itself. I refer to the rise of Caraism, which
took place during the first half of the eighth century.

There is probably no work in which the Halachic or legalistic side of this
sect is better described than in this volume of Weiss. I regret that I am
unable to enter into its details. But I cannot refrain from pointing to
one of the main principles of the Caraites. This was “Search the
Scriptures.” Now this does not look very dissimilar from the principle
held by the Rabbis. For what else is the Talmud, but a thorough searching
through the Bible for whatever was suggestive by time and circumstances?
The light which the Caraites applied to the searching of the Scriptures
was the same which illumined the paths of the Rabbis’ investigations. They
employed most of the expository rules of the Tannaite schools. The fact is
that they were only determined to find something different from what the
Rabbis found in the Scriptures. They wanted to have gloomy Sabbaths and
Festivals, and discovered authority for it in the Bible; they wanted to
retain most of the dietary laws which had their root only in Tradition,
but insisted on petty differences which they thought might be inferred
from the Scriptures, and they created a new “order of inheritance,” and
varied the forbidden degrees in marriage, in all which the only merit was
that they were in contradiction to the interpretation of the Rabbis. They
also refused to accept the Liturgy of Rabbinical Judaism, but never
succeeded in producing more than a patch‐work from verses of the Bible,
which, thus recast, they called a prayer‐book. There were undoubtedly
among their leaders many serious and sincere men, but they give us the
impression of prigs, as for instance, Moses Darai, when he reproaches the
Rabbinical Jews for having an “easy religion,” or Israel Hammaarabi, when
he recommended his book on the laws regarding the slaughtering of animals,
as having the special advantage that his decisions were always on the more
stringent side. Those who made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land were by the
Caraites canonised as “mourners.” The Rabbanite R. Judah Hallevi also
visited the ruins of Jerusalem, but he did something more than “mourn and
sigh and cry,” he became a God‐intoxicated singer, and wrote the “Zion‐
Elegy.” The novel terminology which they use in their exegetical and
theological works, was only invented to spite the Rabbanites, and marks
its authors as pedants. On the other hand, it is not to be denied that
their opponents did not employ the best means to conciliate them. The
Middle Ages knew no other remedy against schism than excommunication, and
the Gaonim were the children of their time. Nor were the arguments which
the latter brought forward in defence of Tradition always calculated to
convince the Caraites of their error. When R. Saadiah, in his apology for
the institution of the Second Day of the Festival,(154) went the length of
assigning to it a Sinaitic origin, he could only succeed in making the
Caraites more suspicious of the claims of Tradition than before. In a
later generation one of his own party, R. Hai Gaon, had to declare his
predecessor’s words a “controversial exaggeration.” The zeal which some of
the Gaonim showed in their defence of such works as the _Chambers_ and the
_Measure of the Stature_(155) was a not less unfortunate thing, for it
involved the Rabbanites in unnecessary responsibilities for a new class of
literature of doubtful origin, which in succeeding centuries was disowned
by the best minds in Judaism.

The Gaonic period, to which we also owe the rise of the Massorah and the
introduction of points in the text of the Bible—of which Weiss treats
fully in the twenty‐third and twenty‐fourth chapters of vol. iv.—comes to
an end with the death of R. Hai. The famous schools of Sura and
Pumbeditha, over which these two Gaonim presided, fell into decay, and
Babylon ceased to be the centre of Judaism. To be more exact, we should
say that Judaism had no longer any real centre. Instead of dwelling in one
place for centuries, we now have to be perpetually on our journey,
accompanying our authors through all the inhabited parts of the
world—France, Italy, Spain, Germany, with an occasional trip to Africa and
Russia. There we shall meet with the new schools, each of which, though
interpreting the same Torah, occupied with the study of the same Talmud,
and even conforming more or less to the same mode of life, has an
individuality and character of its own, reflecting the thought and habits
of the country which it represents. Thus “geographical Judaism” becomes a
factor in history which no scholar can afford to neglect. It is true that
Judaism never remained entirely unbiassed by foreign ideas, and our author
points in many a place to Persian, Greek, and Roman influences on
Tradition; still, these influences seem to have undergone such a thorough
“Judaization” that it is only the practised eye of the scholar that is
able to see through the transformation. But it requires no great skill to
discriminate between the work produced by a Spanish and that of a French
Rabbi. Though both would write in Hebrew, they betray themselves very soon
by the style, diction, and train of thought peculiar to each country. The
Spaniard is always logical, clear, and systematising, whilst the French
Rabbi has very little sense of order, is always writing occasional notes,
has a great tendency to be obscure, but is mostly profound and critical.
Hence the fact that whilst Spain produced the greatest codifiers of the
law, we owe to France and Germany the best commentaries on the Talmud.
What these codes and commentaries meant for Judaism the student will find
in Weiss’s book, and still more fully in his admirable essays on Rashi
(Solomon b. Isaac), Maimonides, and R. Jacob Tam (published in his
periodical, _Beth Talmud_, and also separately). It is enough for us here
only to notice the fact of the breadth of Tradition, which could include
within its folds men of such different types as the sceptics, Maimonides,
Solomon b. Gabirol, and Abn Ezra on one side, and the simple “non‐
questioning” Rabbenu Gershom, Rashi, and Jacob Tam on the other.

The last three centuries, which occupy our author’s attention in the fifth
volume, are not remarkable for their progress. The world lives on the
past. The rationalists write treatises on Maimonides’ philosophical works,
whilst the German Talmudists add commentary to commentary. It is, indeed,
the reign of authority, “modified by accidents.” Such an accident was the
struggle between the Maimonists and Anti‐Maimonists, or the rise of the
Cabbalah, or the frequent controversies with Christians, all of which
tended to direct the minds of people into new channels of thought. But
though this period is less original in its work, it is not on that account
less sympathetic. One cannot read those beautiful descriptions which Weiss
gives of R. Meir of Rothenburg and his school, or of R. Asher and his
descendants, without feeling that one is in an atmosphere of saints, who
are the more attractive the less they were conscious of their own
saintliness. The only mistake, perhaps, was that the successors of these
“Chassidim or pious men of Germany” looked on many of the religious
customs that were merely the voluntary expression of particularly devout
souls as worthy of imitation by the whole community, and made them
obligatory upon all.

This brings us to the question of the Code already mentioned (by R. Joseph
Caro), with which Weiss’s work concludes. I have already transgressed the
limits of an essay, without flattering myself that I have done anything
like justice to the greatest work on Jewish Tradition which modern Jewish
genius has produced. But I should not like the reader to carry away with
him the false impression that our author shares in the general cry, “Save
us from the Codifiers.” Weiss, himself a Rabbi, and the disciple of the
greatest Rabbis of the first half of this century, is quite aware of the
impossibility of having a law without a kind of manual to it, which brings
the fluid matter into some fixed form, classifying it under its proper
headings, and this is what we call codifying the law. And thus he never
passes any attempt made in this direction without paying due tribute to
its author—be it Maimonides or Caro. But however great the literary value
of a code may be, it does not invest it with the attribute of
infallibility, nor does it exempt the student or the Rabbi who makes use
of it from the duty of examining each paragraph on its own merits, and
subjecting it to the same rules of interpretation that were always applied
to Tradition. Indeed, Weiss shows that Maimonides deviated in some cases
from his own code, when it was required by circumstances.

Nor do I know any modern author who is more in favour of strong authority
than Weiss. His treatment of the struggle between the Patriarch R.
Gamaliel and his adversaries, which I have touched on above, proves this
sufficiently. What Weiss really objects to, is a _weak_ authority—I mean
that phonograph‐like authority which is always busy in reproducing the
voice of others without an opinion of its own, without originality,
without initiative and discretion. The real authorities are those who,
drawing their inspiration from the past, also understand how to reconcile
us with the present and to prepare us for the future.


“Blessed be he who knows.” These are the words with which Nachmanides, in
his classical treatise, _Gate of Reward_, dismisses a certain theory of
the Gaonim with regard to this question; after which he proceeds to
expound another theory, which seems to him more satisfactory. This mode of
treatment implies that, unsatisfactory as the one or other theory may
appear to us, it would be presumptuous to reject either entirely, there
being only One who knows the exact truth about the great mystery. But we
may indicate our doubt about one doctrine by putting by its side another,
which we may affirm to be not more absolutely true, but more probable.
This seems to have been the attitude, too, of the compilers of the ancient
Rabbinical literature, in which the most conflicting views about this
grave subject were embodied. Nor did the Synagogue in general feel called
upon to decide between these views. There is indeed no want of theodicies,
for almost every important expounder of Job, as well as every Jewish
philosopher of note, has one with its own system of retribution. Thus
Judaism has no fixed doctrine on the subject. It refused a hearing to no
theory, for fear that it should contain some germ of truth, but on the
same ground it accepted none to the exclusion of the others.

These theories may, perhaps, be conveniently reduced to the two following
main doctrines that are in direct opposition to each other, whilst all
other views about the subject will be treated as the more or less logical
results of the one or other doctrine.

1. There is no death without (preceding) sin, nor affliction without
(preceding) transgression.(156) This view is cited in the name of R. Ammi,
who quoted in corroboration the verses Ez. xviii. 20, and Ps. lxxxix. 33.
Though this Rabbi flourished towards the end of the third century, there
is hardly any doubt that his view was held by the authorities of a much
earlier date. For it can only be under the sway of such a notion of
Retribution that the Tannaim were so anxious to assign some great crime as
the antecedent to every serious calamity by which mankind was visited. The
following illustrations will suffice:—“Pestilence comes into the world for
capital crimes mentioned in the Torah, which are not brought before the
earthly tribunal.... Noisome beasts come into the world for vain swearing
and for profanation of the name (of God). Captivity comes upon the world
for strange worship and incest, and for shedding of blood and for (not)
giving release to the land.” As an example of the misfortune befalling the
individual I will merely allude to a passage in another tractate of the
Talmud, according to which leprosy is to be regarded as the penalty for
immorality, slander, perjury, and similar sins.(157)

If we were now to complement R. Ammi’s view by adding that there is no
happiness without some preceding merit—and there is no serious objection
to making this addition—then it would resolve itself into the theory of
Measure for Measure, which forms a very common standard of reward and
punishment in Jewish literature. Here are a few instances:—“Because the
Egyptians wanted to destroy Israel by water (Exod. i. 22), they were
themselves destroyed by the waters of the Red Sea, as it is said,
Therefore I will _measure_ their former work into their bosom (Is. lxv.
7);” whilst, on the other hand, we read, “Because Abraham showed himself
hospitable towards strangers, providing them with water (Gen. xviii. 4),
God gave to his children a country blessed with plenty of water (Deut.
viii. 1).” Sometimes this form of retribution goes so far as to define a
special punishment to that part of the body which mostly contributed to
the committing of the sin. Thus we read, “Samson rebelled against God by
his eyes, as it is said, Get her (the Philistine woman) for me, for she
pleases _my eyes_ (Judg. xvi. 21); therefore his _eyes_ were put out by
the Philistines (Judg. xviii. 9)”; whilst Absalom, whose sinful pride
began by his _hair_ (2 Sam. xiv. 25), met his fate by his _hair_ (2 Sam.
xviii. 9).(158) Nahum of Gemzo himself explained his blindness and the
maimed condition of his arms and legs as a consequence of a specific
offence in having neglected the duty of succouring a poor man. Addressing
the dead body of the suppliant who perished while Nahum was delaying his
help, he said, “Let my eyes (which had no pity for your pitiful gaze)
become blind; may my hands and legs (that did not hasten to help thine)
become maimed, and finally my whole body be covered with boils.”(159)
“This was the hand that wrote it,” said Cranmer at the stake; “therefore
it shall first suffer punishment.”

It is worth noticing that this retribution does not always consist in a
material reward, but, as Ben Azzai expressed it: “The reward of a command
is a command, and the reward of a transgression is a transgression.”(160)
So again: “Because Abraham showed himself so magnanimous in his treatment
of the king of Sodom, and said, I will not take from thee a thread;
therefore, his children enjoyed the privilege of having the command of
Zizith, consisting in putting a thread or fringe in the border of their
garments.” In another passage we read, “He who is anxious to do acts of
charity will be rewarded by having the means enabling him to do so.”(161)
In more general terms the same thought is expressed when the Rabbis
explained the words, Ye shall sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy
(Lev. xi. 44), to the effect that if man takes the initiative in holiness,
even though in a small way, Heaven will help him to reach it to a much
higher degree.(162)

Notwithstanding these passages, to which many more might be added, it
cannot be denied that there are in the Rabbinical literature many passages
holding out promises of _material_ reward to the righteous as well as
threatening the wicked with _material_ punishment. Nor is there any need
of denying it. Simple‐minded men—and such the majority of the Rabbis
were—will never be persuaded into looking with indifference on pain and
pleasure; they will be far from thinking that poverty, loss of children,
and sickness are no evil, and that a rich harvest, hope of posterity, and
good health, are not desirable things. It _does_ lie in our nature to
consider the former as curses and the latter as blessings; “and if this be
wrong there is no one to be made responsible for it but the Creator of
nature.” Accordingly the question must arise, How can a just and
omnipotent God allow it to happen that men should suffer innocently? The
most natural suggestion towards solving the difficulty would be that we
are _not_ innocent. Hence R. Ammi’s assertion that affliction and death
are both the outcome of sin and transgression; or, as R. Chanina ben Dossa
expressed it, “It is not the wild beast but sin which kills.”(163)

We may thus perceive in this theory an attempt “to justify the ways of God
to man.” Unfortunately it does not correspond with the real facts. The cry
wrung from the prophets against the peace enjoyed by the wicked, and the
pains inflicted on the righteous, which finds its echo in so many Psalms,
and reaches its climax in the Book of Job, was by no means silenced in the
times of the Rabbis. If long experience could be of any use, it only
served to deepen perplexity. For all this suffering of the people of God,
and the prosperity of their wicked persecutors, which perplexed the
prophets and their immediate followers, were repeated during the death‐
struggle for independence against Rome, and were not lessened by the
establishment of Christianity as the dominant religion. The only comfort
which time brought them was, perhaps, that the long continuance of
misfortune made them less sensible to suffering than their ancestors were.
Indeed, a Rabbi of the first century said that his generation had by
continuous experience of misery become as insensible to pain as the dead
body is to a prick of a needle.(164) The anæsthetic effect of long
suffering may, indeed, help one to endure pain with more patience, but it
cannot serve as an apology for the deed of the inflictors of the pain. The
question, then, how to reconcile hard reality with the justice of God,
remained as difficult as ever.

The most important passage in Rabbinical literature relating to the
solution of this problem is the following:—With reference to Exod. xxxiii.
13, R. Johanan said, in the name of R. José, that, among other things,
Moses also asked God to explain to him the method of his Providence, a
request that was granted to him. He asked God, Why are there righteous
people who are prosperous, and righteous who suffer; wicked who are
prosperous and wicked who suffer? The answer given to him was, according
to the one view, that the prosperity of the wicked and the suffering of
the righteous are a result of the conduct of their ancestors, the former
being the descendants of righteous parents and enjoying their merits,
whilst the latter, coming from a bad stock, suffer for the sins of those
to whom they owe their existence. This view was suggested by the
Scriptural words, “Keeping mercy for thousands (of generations) ...
visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children” (Exod. xxxiv. 7),
which were regarded as the answer to Moses’ question in the preceding
chapter of Exodus.(165) Prevalent, however, as this view may have been in
ancient times, the Rabbis never allowed it to pass without some
qualification. It is true that they had no objection to the former part of
this doctrine, and they speak very frequently of the “Merits of the
Fathers” for which the remotest posterity is rewarded; for this could be
explained on the ground of the boundless goodness of God, which cannot be
limited to the short space of a lifetime. But there was no possibility of
overcoming the moral objection against punishment of people for sins they
have not committed.

It will suffice to mention here that, with reference to Joshua vii. 24,
25, the Rabbis asked the question, If he (Achan) sinned, what
justification could there be for putting his sons and daughters to death?
And by the force of this argument they interpreted the words of the
Scriptures to mean that the children of the criminal were only compelled
to be present at the execution of their father.

Such passages, therefore, as would imply that children have to suffer for
the sins of their parents are explained by the Rabbis as referring to
cases in which the children perpetuate the crimes of their fathers.(166)
The view of R. José, which I have already quoted, had, therefore, to be
dropped, and another version in the name of the same Rabbi is accepted.
According to this theory the sufferer is a person either “entirely wicked”
or “not perfectly righteous,” whilst the prosperous man is a person either
“perfectly righteous,” or “not entirely wicked.”

It is hardly necessary to say that there is still something wanting to
supplement this view, for the given classification would place the not
entirely wicked on the same level with the perfectly righteous, and on a
much higher level than the imperfectly righteous, who are undoubtedly far
superior. The following passage may be regarded as supplying this missing
something:—“The wicked who have done some good work are as amply rewarded
for it in _this_ world as if they were men who have fulfilled the whole of
the Torah, so that they may be punished for their sins in the next world
(without interruption); whilst the righteous who have committed some sin
have to suffer for it (in this world) as if "they were men who burned the
Law,” so that they may enjoy their reward in the world to come (without
interruption).(167) Thus the real retribution takes place in the next
world, the fleeting existence on earth not being the fit time either to
compensate righteousness or to punish sin. But as, on the one hand, God
never allows “that the merit of any creature should be cut short,” whilst,
on the other hand, He deals very severely with the righteous, punishing
them for the slightest transgression; since, too, this reward and
punishment are only of short duration, they must take place in this short
terrestrial existence. There is thus established a sort of divine economy,
lest the harmony of the next world should be disturbed.

Yet another objection to the doctrine under discussion remains to be
noticed. It is that it justifies God by accusing man, declaring every
sufferer as more or less of a sinner. But such a notion, if carried to its
last consequences, must result in tempting us to withhold our sympathies
from him. And, indeed, it would seem that there were some non‐Jewish
philosophers who argued in this way. Thus a certain Roman official is
reported to have said to R. Akiba, “How can you be so eager in helping the
poor? Suppose only a king, who, in his wrath against his slave, were to
set him in the gaol, and give orders to withhold from him food and drink;
if, then, one dared to act to the contrary, would not the king be angry
with him?”(168) There is some appearance of logic in this notion put into
the mouth of a heathen. The Rabbis, however, were inconsistent people, and
responded to the appeal which suffering makes to every human heart without
asking too many questions. Without entering here into the topic of charity
in the Rabbinic literature, which would form a very interesting chapter, I
shall only allude now to the following incident, which would show that the
Rabbis did not abandon even those afflicted with leprosy, which, according
to their own notion, given above, followed only as a punishment for the
worst crimes. One Friday, we are told, when the day was about to darken,
the Chassid Abba Tachnah was returning home, bearing on his shoulders the
baggage that contained all his fortune; he saw a leprous man lying on the
road, who addressed him: “Rabbi, do me a deed of charity and take me into
the town.” The Rabbi now thought, “If I leave my baggage, where shall I
find the means of obtaining subsistence for myself and my family? But if I
forsake this leprous man I shall commit a mortal sin.” In the end, he
allowed the good inclination to prevail over the evil one, and first
carried the sufferer to the town.(169) The only practical conclusion that
the Rabbis drew from such theories as identify suffering with sin were for
the sufferer himself, who otherwise might be inclined to blame Providence,
or even to blaspheme, but would now look upon his affliction as a reminder
from heaven that there is something wrong in his moral state. Thus we read
in tractate _Berachoth_:(170) “If a man sees that affliction comes upon
him, he ought to inquire into his actions, as it is said, Let us search
and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord (Lam. iii. 40).” This means
to say that the sufferer will find that he has been guilty of some
offence. As an illustration of this statement we may perhaps consider the
story about R. Huna, occurring in the same tractate.(171) Of this Rabbi it
is said that he once experienced heavy pecuniary losses, whereupon his
friends came to his house and said to him, “Let the master but examine his
conduct a little closer.” On this R. Huna answered, “Do you suspect me of
having committed some misdeed?” His friends rejoined, “And do you think
that God would pass judgment without justice?” R. Huna then followed their
hint, and found that he did not treat his tenant farmer so generously as
he ought. He offered redress, and all turned out well in the end.
Something similar is to be found in the story of the martyrdom of R.
Simeon ben Gamaliel and R. Ishmael ben Elisha. Of these Rabbis we are told
that on their way to be executed the one said to the other, “My heart
leaves me, for I am not aware of a sin deserving such a death”; on which
the other answered, “It might have happened that in your function as judge
you sometimes—for your own convenience—were slow in administering

But even if the personal actions of the righteous were blameless, there
might still be sufficient ground for his being afflicted and miserable.
This may be found in his relations to his kind and surroundings, or, to
use the term now more popular, by reason of human solidarity. Now, after
the above remarks on the objections entertained by the Rabbis against a
man’s being punished for the sins of others, it is hardly necessary to say
that their idea of solidarity has little in common with the crude notions
of it current in very ancient times. Still, it can hardly be doubted that
the relation of the individual to the community was more keenly felt by
the Rabbis than by the leaders in any other society, modern or ancient.
According to the view given by an ancient Rabbi whose name is unknown, it
would, indeed, seem that to them the individual was not simply a member of
the Jewish commonwealth, or a co‐religionist, but a limb of the great and
single body “Israel,” and that as such he communicated both for good and
evil the sensations of the one part to the whole. In the _Midrash_, where
a parallel is to be found to this idea, the responsibility of the
individual towards the community is further illustrated by R. Simeon ben
Yochai, in the following way: “It is,” we read there, “to be compared to
people sitting on board a ship, one of the passengers of which took an awl
and began to bore holes in the bottom of the vessel. Asked to desist from
his dangerous occupation, he answered, ‘Why, I am only making holes on my
own seat,’ forgetting that when the water came in it would sink the whole
ship.” Thus the sin of a single man might endanger the whole of humanity.
It was in conformity with the view of his father that R. Eliezer, the son
of R. Simeon (ben Yochai) said, “The world is judged after the merits or
demerits of the majority, so that a single individual by his good or bad
actions can decide the fate of his fellow‐creatures, as it may happen that
he is just the one who constitutes this majority.”(173) Nor does this
responsibility cease with the man’s own actions. According to the Rabbis
man is responsible even for the conduct of others—and as such liable to
punishment—if he is indifferent to the wrong that is being perpetrated
about him, whilst an energetic protest from his side could have prevented
it. And the greater the man the greater is his responsibility. He may
suffer for the sins of his family which is first reached by his influence;
he may suffer for the sins of the whole community if he could hope to find
a willing ear among them, and he may even suffer for the sins of the whole
world if his influence extend so far, and he forbear from exerting it for
good.(174) Thus the possibility is given that the righteous man may suffer
with justice, though he himself has never committed any transgression.

As a much higher aspect of this solidarity—and as may have already
suggested itself to the reader from the passage cited above from the
anonymous Rabbi—we may regard the suffering of the righteous as an
atonement for the sins of their contemporaries. “When there will be
neither Tabernacle nor the Holy Temple,” Moses is said to have asked God,
“what will become of Israel?” Whereupon God answers, “I will take from
among them the righteous man whom I shall consider as pledged for them,
and will forgive all their sins;” the death of the perfect man, or even
his suffering being looked upon as an expiation for the shortcoming of his

It is hardly necessary to remind the reader of the affinity of this idea
with that of sacrifices in general, as in both cases it is the innocent
being which has to suffer for the sins of another creature. But there is
one vital point which makes all the difference. It is that in our case the
suffering is not enforced, but is a voluntary act on the part of the
sacrifice, and is even desired by him. Without entering here on the often‐
discussed theme of the suffering of the Messiah, I need only mention the
words of R. Ishmael who, on a very slight provocation, exclaimed, “I am
the atonement for the Jews,” which means that he took upon him all their
sins to suffer for them.(176) This desire seems to have its origin in
nothing else than a deep sympathy and compassion with Israel. To suffer
_for_, or, at least _with_ Israel was, according to the Rabbis, already
the ideal of Moses. He is said, indeed, to have broken the Two Tables with
the purpose of committing some sin, so that he would have either to be
condemned together with Israel (for the sin of the golden calf), or to be
pardoned together with them.(177) And this conduct was expected not only
from the leaders of Israel, but almost from every Jew. “When Israel is in
a state of affliction (as, for instance, famine) one must not say, I will
rather live by myself, and eat and drink, and peace be unto thee, my soul.
To those who do so the words of the Scriptures are to be applied: And in
that day did the Lord God of Hosts call to weeping and to mourning, ...
and behold joy and gladness.... Surely this iniquity shall not be purged
out from you till ye die” (Is. xxii. 12‐14). Another passage is to the
effect that, when a man shows himself indifferent to the suffering of the
community, there come the two angels (who accompany every Jew), put their
hands on his head, and say, “This man who has separated himself shall be
excluded from their consolations.”(178)

We might now characterise this sort of suffering as the chastisement of
love (of the righteous) to mankind, or rather to Israel. But we must not
confuse it with the Chastisement of Love often mentioned in the Talmud,
though this idea also seems calculated to account for the suffering of the
righteous. Here the love is not on the side of the sufferer, but proceeds
from him who inflicts this suffering. “Him,” says R. Huna, “in whom God
delights he crushes with suffering.” As a proof of this theory the words
of Is. liii. 10 are given, which are interpreted to mean: him whom the
Lord delights in He puts to grief. Another passage, by the same authority,
is to the effect that where there is no sufficient cause for punishment
(the man being entirely free from sin), we have to regard his suffering as
a chastisement of love, for it is said: “Whom the Lord loveth He
correcteth” (Proverbs iii. 11).(179) To what purpose He corrects him may,
perhaps, be seen from the following passage: “R. Eleazar ben Jacob says:
If a man is visited by affliction he has to be thankful to God for it: for
suffering draws man to, and reconciles him with God, as it is said: For
whom God loveth he correcteth.”(180)

It is in conformity with such a high conception that affliction, far from
being dreaded, becomes almost a desirable end, and we hear many Rabbis
exclaim, “Beloved is suffering,” for by it fatherly love is shown to man
by God; by it man obtains purification and atonement, by it Israel came in
possession of the best gifts, such as the Torah, the Holy Land, and
eternal life.(181) And so also the sufferer, far from being considered as
a man with a suspected past, becomes an object of veneration, on whom the
glory of God rests, and he brings salvation to the world if he bears his
affliction with joyful submission to the will of God.(182) Continuous
prosperity is by no means to be longed after, for, as R. Ishmael taught,
“He who has passed forty days without meeting adversity has already
received his (share of the) world (to come) in this life.”(183) Nay, the
standing rule is that the really righteous suffer, whilst the wicked are
supposed to be in a prosperous state. Thus, R. Jannai said, “We (average
people) enjoy neither the prosperity of the wicked nor the afflictions of
the righteous,”(184) whilst his contemporary, Rab, declared that he who
experiences no affliction and persecution does not belong to them (the

2. The second main view on Retribution is that recorded by the Rabbis as
in direct opposition to that of R. Ammi. It is that there is suffering as
well as death without sin and transgression. We may now just as well infer
that there is prosperity and happiness without preceding merits. And this
is, indeed, the view held by R. Meir. For in contradiction to the view
cited above, R. Meir declares that the request of Moses to have explained
to him the mysterious ways of Providence was _not_ granted, and the answer
he received was, “And I will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy” (Exod.
xxxiii. 19), which means to say, even though he to whom the mercy is shown
be unworthy of it. The old question arises how such a procedure is to be
reconciled with the justice and omnipotence of God. The commentaries try
to evade the difficulty by suggesting some of the views given above, as
that the real reward and punishment are only in the world to come, or that
the affliction of the righteous is only chastisement of love, and so on.
From the passages I am about to quote, however, one gains the impression
that some Rabbis rather thought that this great problem will indeed not
bear discussion or solution at all. Thus we have the legend: “The angels
said to God, why have you punished Adam with death? He answered, On
account of his having transgressed my commandment (with regard to the
eating of the tree of knowledge). But why had Moses and Aaron to die? The
reply given to them is the words, Eccl. ix. 2: ‘All things come alike to
all; there is one event to the righteous and to the wicked, to the good
and to the clean and to the unclean.’ ”(186) Another legend records, “When
Moses ascended to heaven, God showed him also the great men of futurity.
R. Akiba was sitting and interpreting the law in a most wonderful way.
Moses said to God: Thou hast shown me his worth, show me also his reward;
on which he is bidden to look back. There he perceives him dying the most
cruel of deaths, and his flesh being sold by weight. Moses now asks: Is
this the reward of such a life? whereupon God answers him: Be silent; this
I have determined.”(187)

It is impossible not to think of the fine lines of the German poet:—

    Warum schleppt sich blutend, elend,
    Unter Kreuzlast der Gerechte,
    Während glücklich als ein Sieger
    Trabt auf hohem Ross der Schlechte?

    Also fragen wir beständig,
    Bis man uns mit einer Handvoll
    Erde endlich stopft die Mäuler—
    Aber ist das eine Antwort?

Still, one might perhaps suggest that these passages when examined a
little closer, not only contain a rebuke to man’s importunity in wanting
to intrude into the secrets of God, but also hint at the possibility that
even God’s omnipotence is submitted to a certain law—though designed by
His own holy will—which He could not alter without detriment to the whole
creation. Indeed, in one of the mystical accounts of the martyrdom of R.
Akiba and other great Rabbis, God is represented as asking the sufferers
to accept His hard decree without protest, unless they wish Him to destroy
the whole world. In another place again, we read of a certain renowned
Rabbi, who lived in great poverty, that once in a dream he asked the
divine Shechinah how long he would have still to endure this bitter
privation? The answer given to him was: “My son, will it please you that I
destroy the world for your sake?”(188) It is only in this light that we
shall be able to understand such passages in the Rabbinic literature as
that God almost suffers Himself when He has to inflict punishment either
on the individual or on whole communities. Thus God is represented as
mourning for seven days (as in the case when one loses a child) before He
brought the deluge on the world; He bemoans the fall of Israel and the
destruction of the Temple, and the Shechinah laments even when the
criminal suffers his just punishment. And it is not by rebelling against
these laws that He tries to redeem His suffering. He himself has recourse
to prayer, and says: “May it be my will that my mercy conquer my wrath,
that my love over‐rule my strict justice, so that I may treat my children
with love.”(189) If now man is equal to God, he has nevertheless, or
rather on that account, to submit to the law of God without any outlook
for reward or punishment; or, as Antigonos expressed it, “Be not as slaves
that minister to the Lord with a view to receive recompense.”(190)
Certainly it would be hazardous to maintain that Antigonos’s saying was a
consequence of this doctrine; but, at any rate, we see a clear tendency to
keep the thought of reward (in spite of the prominent part it holds in the
Bible) out of view. Still more clearly is it seen when, with reference to
Ps. cxii., “Blessed is the man ... that delighteth greatly in his
commandments,” Rabbi Eleazar remarks that the meaning is that the man
desires only to do His commandments, but he does not want the rewards
connected with them.(191) This is the more remarkable, as the whole
contents of this psalm are nothing else than a long series of promises of
various rewards, so that the explanation of Rabbi Eleazar is in almost
direct contradiction to the simple meaning of the words. On the other
hand, also, every complaint about suffering must cease. Not only is
affliction no direct chastisement by God in the way of revenge; but even
when it would seem to us that we suffer innocently, we have no right to
murmur, as God himself is also suffering, and, as the Talmud expresses it,
“It is enough for the slave to be in the position of his master.”(192)

This thought of the compassion—in its strictest sense of fellow‐
suffering—of God with His creatures becomes a new motive for avoiding sin.
“Woe to the wicked,” exclaims a Rabbi, “who by their bad actions turn the
mercy of God into strict justice.”(193) And the later mystics explain
distinctly that the great crime of sin consists in causing pain, so to
speak, to the Shechinah. One of them compared it with the slave who abuses
the goodness of his master so far as to buy with his money arms to wound
him. But, on the other hand, it becomes, rather inconsistently, also a new
source of comfort; for, in the end, God will have to redeem Himself from
this suffering, which cannot be accomplished so long as Israel is still
under punishment.(194) Most interesting is the noble prayer by a Rabbi of
a very late mystical school: “O God, speedily bring about the redemption.
I am not in the least thinking of what I may gain by it. I am willing to
be condemned to all tortures in hell, if only the Shechinah will cease to

If we were now to ask for the attitude of the Synagogue towards these two
main views, we should have to answer that—as already hinted at the opening
of this paper—it never decided for the one or the other. R. David Rocca
Martino dared even to write a whole book in Defence of Adam proving that
he committed no sin in eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge against
the literal sense of the Scriptures, which were also taken by the Rabbis
literally.(196) By this he destroyed the prospects of many a theodicy, but
it is not known to me that he was severely rebuked for it. It has been
said by a great writer that the best theology is that which is not
consistent, and this advantage the theology of the Synagogue possesses to
its utmost extent. It accepted with R. Ammi the stern principle of divine
retribution, in as far as it makes man feel the responsibility of his
actions, and makes suffering a discipline. But it never allowed this
principle to be carried so far as to deny the sufferer our sympathy, and
by a series of conscious and unconscious modifications, he passed from the
state of a sinner into the zenith of the saint and the perfectly righteous
man. But, on the other hand, the Synagogue also gave entrance to the very
opposite view which, abandoning every attempt to account for suffering,
bids man do his duty without any hope of reward, even as God also does
His. Hence the remarkable phenomenon in the works of later Jewish
moralists, that, whilst they never weary of the most detailed accounts of
the punishments awaiting the sinner and the rewards in store for the
righteous, they warn us most emphatically that our actions must not be
guided by these unworthy considerations, and that our only motive should
be the love of God and submission to His holy will.

Nor must it be thought that the views of the Rabbis are so widely
divergent from those enunciated in the Bible. The germ of almost all the
later ideas is already to be found in the Scriptures. It only needed the
process of time to bring into prominence those features which proved at a
later period most acceptable. Indeed, it would seem that there is also a
sort of domestication of religious ideas. On their first association with
man there is a certain rude violence about them which, when left to the
management of untutored minds, would certainly do great harm. But, let
only this association last for centuries, during which these ideas have to
be subdued by practical use, and they will, in due time, lose their former
roughness, will become theologically workable, and turn out the greatest
blessing to inconsistent humanity.


Professor Toy’s work, _Judaism and Christianity_, gives an admirable
conspectus of the results of the modern critical school in their bearing
on the genesis of Christianity. The author takes various important
doctrines of Christianity, traces them back to their origin in
Israelitism, pursues their course through their various phases in Judaism,
until they reach their final development in the teaching of Jesus and His
disciples, which, in the author’s judgment, is the consummation of that
which the prophets and their successors had to give to the world. Laying
so much stress as Professor Toy does on the saying, “By their fruits shall
ye know them,” he ought also, perhaps, to have told us what, in the course
of time, has become of these several doctrines. For when, for instance,
with regard to the doctrine of original sin, he remarks that “in certain
systems of Christian theology the human race is involved in the
condemnation of the first man” (p. 185, n. 1); or that, in the New
Testament, “the demand for a mediating power between God and humanity is
pushed to the farthest point which thought can occupy consistently with
the maintenance of the absoluteness of the one Supreme Deity” (p. 121), he
is rather evading a difficulty than answering it. Such elaboration would,
however, have been outside the scope of Professor Toy’s book, which claims
only to be a sketch of the progress of thought from the Old Testament to
the New. For his own solution of the indicated difficulty, Toy, to judge
from his liberal standpoint, would probably refer us to Dr. Hatch’s
Hibbert lectures; the issue of such an appeal must, I imagine, remain for
long doubtful and disputed.

A delightful characteristic of Toy’s book is its transparent clearness and
sobriety, which will make it interesting reading, even to those who are
acquainted with the writer’s authorities in their original sources. Almost
entirely new, as well as most suggestive, is the justice which Toy does to
the law in recognising it as a factor for good in the history of religion.
In this point Toy is not only up to his date, but beyond it. It is true
that even the Pharisees have made some advance in the estimation of the
liberal school. They are no longer condemned _en masse_ as so many
hypocrites. It is even admitted that there were a few honest men among
them, such as Rabban Gamaliel, the teacher of Paul, or R. Akiba, the
patriot of Bethar. We are now too polite to be personal. But with regard
to the law, on the other hand, there is at present a markedly opposite
tendency. The general idea seems to be that, as the doctrine of the
resurrection of Christ must be loosely interpreted in a spiritual sense,
it must logically have been preceded by a universal spiritual death, and
the germs of the disease which brought this death about are to be sought
for in the law. Hence the strained efforts to discover in the law the
source of all religious evil,—cant, hypocrisy, formalism, externalism,
transcendentalism, and as many “isms” more, of bad reputation.

It was probably with this current representation of the law in view that
Toy, when speaking of the Levitical legislation, and of its fixing “men’s
minds on ceremonial details which, in some cases, it put into the same
category and on the same level with moral duties,” asks the question:
“Would there not thence result a dimming of the moral sense and a
confusion of moral distinctions? The ethical attitude of a man who could
regard a failure in the routine of sacrifice as not less blameworthy than
an act of theft cannot be called a lofty one” (p. 186). The answer which
he gives is more favourable than such a leading question would induce us
to expect. He tells us that, “in point of fact, the result was different”
(_ibid_). “The Levitical law is not to be looked on as a mere extension
and organisation of the ritual.... Its ritual was, in great part, the
organised expression of the consciousness of sin” (p. 226). Of the law in
general Toy says that it had “larger consequences than its mere details
would suggest,” for it “cultivated the moral sense of the people into
results above its mechanical prescriptions,” and “it developed the sense
of sin, as Paul points out” (Gal. iii. 19), “and therewith a freer
feeling, which brought the soul into more immediate contact with God” (p.
227); whilst in another place he reminds us “that much of the law is
moral, and that no one could fail to see a spiritual significance beneath
its letter” (p. 245), and he even admits that “the great legal schools
which grew up in the second century, if we may judge by the sayings of the
teachers which have come down to us, did not fail to discriminate between
the outward and the inward, the ceremonial and the moral” (p. 186).

These and similar passages will suffice to show that Toy’s estimate of the
law is a very different one from that of Smend and his school. However, it
must not be supposed that he is not on the look‐out for the germs of the
disease. He must find these germs somewhere, or else the progress, which
his book is intended to illustrate, would be difficult to detect. And thus
he repeats the old accusations, though not without modification.

Professor Toy’s objections may, perhaps, be summed up in the passage in
which he represents the Jewish law as “an attempt to define all the
beliefs and acts of life” (p. 239), or as “the embodiment of devotion to a
fixed rule of belief and conduct” (p. 237). Toy does not entirely condemn
this system, and even speaks of it as a “lofty attempt” (p. 239); but, on
the whole, he considers that it must have resulted in bad theology, as
well as in doubtful conduct. Without following Professor Toy over the
whole area of his investigations, which would require a volume for itself,
I will only take the opportunity of making a few general remarks upon the
nature and character of this legal system, which seems to hold the key to
the spiritual history of Judaism.

First, as to its theology, Toy’s description of the law as an attempt to
define all the _beliefs_ of life—an assertion which is also made by
Schürer—is not wholly accurate. For such an attempt was never made by
Judaism. The few dogmas which Judaism possesses, such as the Existence of
God, Providence, Reward, and Punishment—without which no revealed religion
is conceivable—can hardly be called a creed in the modern sense of the
term, which implies something external and foreign to man’s own knowledge,
and received only in deference to the weight of authority. To the Jew of
the Christian era, these simpler dogmas were so self‐evident that it would
have cost him the greatest effort _not_ to believe them. Hence the fact
that, whilst there have come down to us so many controverted points
between the Sadducees and Pharisees with regard to certain juristic and
ritual questions, we know of only one of an essentially dogmatic
character, viz. the dispute concerning the Resurrection.

It is thus difficult to imagine to what Professor Toy can be alluding when
he speaks of the “interest they (the Jews) threw into the discussion and
determination of minutiæ of faith” (p. 241). Discussions upon _minutiæ_ of
faith are only to be read in the works of the later schoolmen (as Saadiah,
Maimonides and their followers), in which such subtle problems as _Creatio
ex nihilo_, the origin of evil, predestination, free will and similar
subjects are examined; but this period is very distant from that with
which Toy is concerned. The older schools and the so‐called houses of
Shammai and Hillel, most of whose members were the contemporaries of the
Apostles, show very little predilection for such _minutiæ_. Their
discussions and differences of opinion about ritual matters are very
numerous, scattered as they are over the whole of the ancient Rabbinic
literature, but I can only remember two of a metaphysical character, or
touching upon the _minutiæ_ of faith. The one, dealing with the efficacy
of certain sacrifices, discusses whether it only extends to the remission
of the pending punishment for sins, or also includes their purification
and washing away; the other considers the question whether it would not
have been better for man not to have been created.(198) But this latter
controversy, which is said to have lasted for two years and a half, by no
means led to any big metaphysical or theological system, but only to the
practical advice that, as we have been created, we ought to be watchful
over our conduct. It is, indeed, a noteworthy feature of Judaism that
theological speculations have never resulted in the formulation of any
imposing or universal doctrine, but usually in divers ceremonial
practices. To give one illustration: according to Professor Toy (p. 210)
the conclusion which the author of 1 Tim. ii. 11‐14 draws from the fact
that woman was the immediate agent of the introduction of sin was the
subordination of her sex. The Rabbis also noticed the same fact, and in
their less abstract language speak of woman as having brought death and
grief into the world; but the conclusion which they drew was that since
woman had extinguished the “light of the world,” she ought to atone for it
by lighting the candles for the Sabbath.(199) Nor is Toy quite correct
when he maintains that the conception of the Memra as Creator and Lord,
etc., and as “representative of the immediate divine activity,” did not
keep its hold on Jewish thought, having been discarded in the later
literature (p. 104). For the Shechinah of the Talmud, the _Metatron_(200)
of the Gaonic‐mystical literature, the Active Intelligence of the
philosophical schools, as well as the Ten Sephiroth(201) (Emanations) of
the Cabbalists, all owe their existence to the same theosophic scruples
and subtleties in which the Logos of Philo and the Memra(202) of the
Targums originated. Thus, they always kept—though under various
forms—their hold on the Jewish mind. Judaism was always broad enough to
accommodate itself to these formulæ, which for the one may mean the most
holy mysteries, and for the other empty and meaningless catchwords. The
objection—in fact, the active opposition—of the Synagogue began when these
possible or impossible explanations of the universe tended to transgress
the bounds of abstract speculation, and, passing over into real concrete
beings, to be worshipped as such. An instance from comparatively modern
times might be found in one of the vagaries of the followers of the
Pseudo‐Messiah, Shabbethai Tsebi. For many generations the controversy had
raged among the Cabbalists, whether the first of the above‐mentioned Ten
Emanations (called by some _Original Adam_, by others, _Crown_(203)) is to
be considered as a part of the Deity or as something separate, and so to
speak, having a reality in itself. The danger of establishing a Being near
the Deity, having an existence of its own and invested with divine
attributes, could not have escaped the thoughtful, and there are indeed
some indications to this effect. The Synagogue as such, however, remained
during the whole controversy strictly neutral, and allowed these
theosophists to fight in the air as much as they liked. But the moment
that the sect of Shabbethai Tsebi identified the incarnate Original Adam
with their leader, and worshipped him as a sort of God‐Messiah, the
Synagogue at once took up a hostile attitude against those who separated
God from His world, and, declaring Shabbethai Tsebi and his followers to
be apostates, excluded them from Judaism for ever.

Nor can it be proved that legalism or nomism has ever tended to suppress
the spiritual side of religion, either in respect of consciousness of sin,
or of individual love and devotion. With an equal logic quite the opposite
might be argued. Professor Toy tells us himself that it is no “accident
that along with this more definite expression of ethical‐religious law we
find the first traces of a more spiritual conception of righteousness in
the ‘new heart’ of Jeremiah and Ezekiel” (p. 235), whilst in another
passage we read that “a turning point is marked by the Deuteronomist
Jeremiah and Ezekiel, who announce the principles of individual
responsibility and inwardness of obedience” (p. 184). Now, two things are
certain; first, that Ezekiel urges the necessity of the new heart as well
as of individual responsibility more keenly than any of his predecessors;
secondly, that in Ezekiel the legalistic tendency is more evident than in
Deuteronomy and Jeremiah. The logical conclusion would thus be that the
higher ideals of religion are not only not inconsistent with legalism, but
are the very outcome of it, and the so‐called Priestly Code, by the very
fact of its markedly legalistic tendency, should be considered as a step
in the right direction. The latter assertion sounds like a paradox, but it
will seem less so when the prevailing characteristic of this portion of
the Pentateuch, as given even by Kuenen, who is by no means a champion of
the Law, is borne in mind. “The centre of gravity,” according to the great
Dutch critic, “lies for the priestly author elsewhere than for the
prophet; it lies in man’s attitude, not towards his fellow‐men, but
towards God; not in his social, but in his personal life” (_Hibbert
Lectures_, p. 161). It is here that we seem to strike the keynote of the
_Weltanschauung_ of the Priestly Legislation. In it man is more than a
social being. He has also an individual life of his own, his joys and
sorrows, his historical claims, his traditions of the past, and his hopes
for the future—and all these have to be brought under the influence of
religion, and to become sanctified through their relation to God. Hence,
the work of the Priestly narrator and legislator opens with a cosmogony of
his own, in which we find the grand theological idea of man being created
in the Divine image; hence, too, his religious conception of the history
of the nation and the control claimed by him over all the details of human
life, which became with him so many opportunities for the worship of God.
To him, God is not a mere figurehead; He not only reigns, but governs.
Everywhere,—in the temple, in the judge’s seat, in the family, in the
farm, and in the market‐place,—His presence is felt in enforcing the laws
bearing His _imprimatur_, “I am the Lord thy God.” By thus diffusing
religion over the whole domain of human life—not confining it to the
social institutions which are represented only by a few personages, such
as the king, the princes, the priests, the judges or elders—they made it
the common good of the whole people, and the feeling of personal
responsibility for this good became much deeper than before. Thus it came
to pass that whilst, during the first temple, the apostasy of kings and
aristocracy involved the entire people, so that the words “And he (the
king) did evil in the sight of the Lord,” embrace the whole nation, during
the second temple it was no longer of much consequence which side the
political leaders took. Both during the Hellenistic persecutions, as well
as afterwards in the struggles of some Maccabean kings with the Pharisees,
the bulk of the people showed that they considered religion as their own
personal affair, not to be regulated by the conscience of either priest or
prince. It is true that this success may be largely ascribed to such
contemporary religious factors as the Synagogue with its minimum of form,
the Scribes with their activity as teachers, and the Psalmists with their
divine enthusiasm; but the very circumstance that these factors arose and
flourished under the influence of the Priestly Code would suffice to prove
that its tendency was not so sacerdotal as some writers would have us
believe. Jewish tradition indeed attributes the composition of the daily
public prayers, as well as of others for private worship, to the very men
whom modern biblical criticism holds responsible for the introduction of
the Priestly Code. Now this fact may perhaps be disputed, but there is
little doubt that the age in which these prayers were composed was one of
flourishing legalism. Nor is there any proof that the synagogues and their
ritual were in opposition to the temple. From the few documents belonging
to this period, it is clear that there was no opposition to the legalistic
spirit by which the Priestly Code was actuated. This would prove that
legalism meant something more than tithes and sacrifices for the benefit
of the priests.

Nor is it true that the legal tendency aimed at narrowing the mind of the
nation, turning all its thoughts into the one direction of the law. Apart
from the fact that the Torah contained other elements besides its
legalism, the prophets were not forgotten, but were read and interpreted
from a very early age. It was under the predominance of the Law that the
Wisdom literature was composed, which is by no means narrow or one‐sided,
but is even supposed by some critics to contain many foreign elements. In
the book of Job, the great problems of man’s existence are treated with a
depth and grandeur never equalled before or since. This book alone ought
partly to compensate the modern school for the disappearance of prophecy,
which is usually brought as a charge against the Law. Then, too, the
Psalms, placed by the same school in the post‐exilic period, are nothing
but another aspect of prophecy, with this difference, perhaps, that in the
Prophets God speaks to man, while in the Psalms it is man who establishes
the same communion by speaking to God. There is no reason why the critical
school, with its broad conception of inspiration, and with its insistence
that prophecy does _not_ mean prediction, should so strongly emphasise
this difference. If “it is no longer as in the days of Amos, when the Lord
Yahveh did nothing without revealing his counsel to his servants the
prophets,” there is in the days of the Psalmists nothing in man’s heart,
no element in his longings and meditations and aspirations, which was not
revealed to God. Nay, it would seem that at times the Psalmist hardly ever
desires the revelation of God’s secrets. Let future events be what they
may, he is content, for he is with God. After all his trials, he exclaims,
“And yet I am continually with thee; thou hast taken hold of my right
hand. According to thy purpose wilt thou lead me, and afterwards receive
me with glory. Whom have I (to care for) in heaven? and possessing thee, I
have pleasure in nothing upon earth. Though my flesh and my heart should
have wasted away, God would for ever be the rock of my heart and my
portion” (Ps. lxxiii. 23‐26). How an age producing a literature containing
passages like these—of which Wellhausen in his _Abriss_ (p. 95) justly
remarks, that we are not worthy even to repeat them—can be considered by
the modern school as wanting in intimate relation to God and inferior to
that of the prophets is indeed a puzzle.

Now a few words as to the actual life under the Law. Here, again, there is
a fresh puzzle. On the one side, we hear the opinions of so many learned
professors, proclaiming _ex cathedrâ_, that the Law was a most terrible
burden, and the life under it the most unbearable slavery, deadening body
and soul. On the other side we have the testimony of a literature
extending over about twenty‐five centuries, and including all sorts and
conditions of men, scholars, poets, mystics, lawyers, casuists, schoolmen,
tradesmen, workmen, women, simpletons, who all, from the author of the
119th Psalm to the last pre‐Mendelssohnian writer—with a small exception
which does not even deserve the name of a vanishing minority—give
unanimous evidence in favour of this Law, and of the bliss and happiness
of living and dying under it,—and this, the testimony of people who were
actually living under the Law, not merely theorising upon it, and who
experienced it in all its difficulties and inconveniences. The Sabbath
will give a fair example. The law of the Sabbath is one of those
institutions the strict observance of which was already the object of
attack in early New Testament times. Nevertheless, the doctrine proclaimed
in one of the Gospels—that the son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath—was
also current among the Rabbis. They, too, taught that the Sabbath had been
delivered into the hand of man (to break, if necessary), and not man
delivered over to the Sabbath.(204) And they even laid down the axiom that
a scholar who lived in a town, where among the Jewish population there
could be the least possibility of doubt as to whether the Sabbath might be
broken for the benefit of a dangerously sick person, was to be despised as
a man neglecting his duty; for, as Maimonides points out, the laws of the
Torah are not meant as an infliction upon mankind, “but as mercy, loving‐
kindness, and peace.”(205)

The attacks upon the Jewish Sabbath have not abated with the lapse of
time. The day is still described by almost every Christian writer on the
subject in the most gloomy colours, and long lists are given of minute and
easily transgressed observances connected with it, which, instead of a day
of rest, would make it to be a day of sorrow and anxiety, almost worse
than the Scotch Sunday as depicted by continental writers. But it so
happens that we have the prayer of R. Zadok, a younger contemporary of the
Apostles, which runs thus: “Through the love with which Thou, O Lord our
God, lovest Thy people Israel, and the mercy which Thou hast shown to the
children of Thy covenant, Thou hast given unto us in love this great and
holy Seventh Day.”(206) And another Rabbi, who probably flourished in the
first half of the second century, expresses himself (with allusion to
Exod. xxxi. 13: Verily my Sabbaths ye shall keep ... that ye may know that
I am the Lord that doth sanctify you)—“The Holy One, blessed be He, said
unto Moses, I have a good gift in my treasures, and Sabbath is its name,
which I wish to present to Israel. Go and bring to them the good
tidings.”(207) The form again of the Blessing over the Sanctification‐
cup(208)—a ceremony known long before the destruction of the Second
Temple—runs: “Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, who hast sanctified us by
Thy commandments, and hast taken pleasure in us, and in love and grace
hast given us Thy holy Sabbath as an inheritance.” All these Rabbis
evidently regarded the Sabbath as a gift from heaven, an expression of the
infinite mercy and grace of God which He manifested to His beloved

And the gift was, as already said, a _good_ gift. Thus the Rabbis
paraphrase the words in the Scripture “See, for that the Lord hath given
you the Sabbath” (Exod. xvi. 29): God said unto Israel behold the gem I
gave you, My children I gave you the Sabbath for your good. Sanctify or
honour the Sabbath by choice meals, beautiful garments; delight your soul
with pleasure and I will reward you (for this very pleasure); as it is
said: “And if thou wilt call the Sabbath a delight and the holy of the
Lord honourable (that is honouring the Sabbath in this way) ... then shalt
thou delight thyself in the Lord” (Is. lviii. 13, 14).(209)

The delight of the Sabbath was keenly felt. Israel fell in love with the
Sabbath, and in the hyperbolic language of the Agadah the Sabbath is
personified as the “Bride of Israel,” whilst others called it “Queen
Sabbath,”(210) and they are actually jealous of a certain class of semi‐
proselytes who, as it seems, were willing to observe the Sabbath, but
declined to submit to the covenant of Abraham. The Gentile Sabbath‐
keepers—who, like all the nations of the world, envy Israel their
Sabbath—the Rabbis considered as shameless intruders deserving
punishment.(211) No, it was Israel’s own Queen or Bride Sabbath whose
appearance in all her heavenly glory they were impatiently awaiting. Thus
we are told of R. Judah b. Ilai that when the eve of the Sabbath came “he
made his ablutions, wrapped himself up in his white linen with fringed
borders looking like an angel of the Lord of Hosts,” thus prepared for the
solemn reception of Queen Sabbath. Another Rabbi used to put on his best
clothes, and arise and invite the Sabbath with the words: “Come in Bride,
come in.”(212) What the Bride brought was peace and bliss. Nay, man is
provided with a super soul for the Sabbath, enabling him to bear both the
spiritual and the material delights of the day with dignity and
solemnity.(213) The very light (or expression) of man’s face is different
on Sabbath, testifying to his inward peace and rest. And when man has
recited his prayers (on the eve of the Sabbath) and thus borne testimony
to God’s creation of the world and to the glory of the Sabbath, there
appear the two angels who accompany him, lay their hands on his head and
impart to him their blessing with the words: “And thine iniquity is taken
away and thy sin purged” (Is. vi. 7).(214) For nothing is allowed to
disturb the peace of the Sabbath; not even “the sorrows of sin,” though
the Sabbath had such a solemn effect on people that even the worldly man
would not utter an untruth on the Day of the Lord. Hence it was not only
forbidden to pray on Sabbath for one’s own (material) needs, but
everything in the liturgy of a mournful character (as for instance the
confession of sin, supplication for pardon) was carefully avoided. It was
with difficulty, as the Rabbis say, that they made an exception in the
case of condoling with people who had suffered loss through the death of
near relatives. There is no room for morbid sentiment on Sabbath, for the
blessing of the Lord maketh rich, and He addeth no sorrow with it (Prov.
x. 22).(215) The burden of the Sabbath prayers is for peace, rest,
sanctification, and joy (through salvation) and praise of God for this
ineffable bliss of the Sabbath.

Such was the Sabbath of the old Rabbis and the same spirit continued
through all ages. The Sabbath was and is still celebrated by the people
who did and do observe it, in hundreds of hymns, which would fill volumes,
as a day of rest and joy, of pleasure and delight, a day in which man
enjoys some foretaste of the pure bliss and happiness which are stored up
for the righteous in the world to come. Somebody, either the learned
professors, or the millions of the Jewish people, must be under an
illusion. Which it is I leave to the reader to decide.

It is also an illusion to speak of the burden which a scrupulous care to
observe six hundred and thirteen commandments must have laid upon the Jew.
Even a superficial analysis will discover that in the time of Christ many
of these commandments were already obsolete (as for instance those
relating to the tabernacle and to the conquest of Palestine), while others
concerned only certain classes, as the priests, the judges, the soldiers,
the Nazirites, or the representatives of the community, or even only one
or two individuals among the whole population, as the King and the High‐
Priest. Others, again, provided for contingencies which could occur only
to a few, as for instance the laws concerning divorce or levirate
marriages, whilst many—such as those concerning idolatry, and incest, and
the sacrifice of children to Moloch—could scarcely have been considered as
a practical prohibition by the pre‐Christian Jew; just as little as we can
speak of Englishmen as lying under the burden of a law preventing them
from burning widows or marrying their grandmothers, though such acts would
certainly be considered as crimes. Thus it will be found by a careful
enumeration that barely a hundred laws remain which really concerned the
life of the bulk of the people. If we remember that even these include
such laws as belief in the unity of God, the necessity of loving and
fearing Him, and of sanctifying His name, of loving one’s neighbour and
the stranger, of providing for the poor, exhorting the sinner, honouring
one’s parents and many more of a similar character, it will hardly be said
that the ceremonial side of the people’s religion was not well balanced by
a fair amount of spiritual and social elements. Besides, it would seem
that the line between the ceremonial and the spiritual is too often only
arbitrarily drawn. With many commandments it is rather a matter of opinion
whether they should be relegated to the one category or the other.

Thus, the wearing of Tephillin(216) or phylacteries has, on the one hand,
been continually condemned as a meaningless superstition, and a pretext
for formalism and hypocrisy. But, on the other hand, Maimonides, who can
in no way be suspected of superstition or mysticism, described their
importance in the following words: “Great is the holiness of the
Tephillin; for as long as they are on the arm and head of man he is humble
and God‐fearing, and feels no attraction for frivolity or idle things, nor
has he any evil thoughts, but will turn his heart to the words of truth
and righteousness.” The view which R. Johanan, a Palestinian teacher of
the third century, took of the fulfilment of the Law, will probably be
found more rational than that of many a rationalist of to‐day. Upon the
basis of the last verse in Hosea, “The ways of the Lord are right, and the
just shall walk in them, but the transgressors shall fall therein,” he
explains that while one man, for instance, eats his paschal lamb with the
purpose of doing the will of God who commanded it, and thereby does an act
of righteousness, another thinks only of satisfying his appetite by the
lamb, so that his eating it (by the very fact that he professes at the
same time to perform a religious rite) becomes a stumbling‐block for
him.(217) Thus all the laws by virtue of their divine authority—and in
this there was in the first century no difference of opinion between Jews
and Christians—have their spiritual side, and to neglect them implies, at
least from the individual’s own point of view, a moral offence.

The legalistic attitude may be summarily described as an attempt to live
in accordance with the will of God, caring less for what God is than for
what He wants us to be. But, nevertheless, on the whole this life never
degenerated into religious formalism. Apart from the fact that during the
second temple there grew up laws, and even beliefs, which show a decided
tendency towards progress and development, there were also ceremonies
which were popular with the masses, and others which were neglected. Men
were not, therefore, the mere soulless slaves of the Law; personal
sympathies and dislikes also played a part in their religion. Nor were all
the laws actually put upon the same level. With a happy inconsistency men
always spoke of heavier and slighter sins, and by the latter—excepting,
perhaps, the profanation of the Sabbath—they mostly understood ceremonial
transgressions. The statement made by Professor Toy (p. 243), on the
authority of James (ii. 10), that “the principle was established that he
who offended in one point was guilty of all,” is hardly correct; for the
passage seems rather to be laying down a principle, or arguing that
logically the law ought to be looked upon as a whole, than stating a fact.
The fact was that people did not consider the whole law as of equal
importance, but made a difference between laws and laws, and even spoke of
certain commandments, such as those of charity and kindness, as
outweighing all the rest of the Torah. It was in conformity with this
spirit that in times of great persecution the leaders of the people had no
compunction in reducing the whole Law to the three prohibitions of
idolatry, of incest, and of bloodshed. Only these three were considered of
sufficient importance that men should rather become martyrs than
transgress them.

These, then, are some of the illusions and misrepresentations which exist
with regard to the Law. There are many others, of which the complete
exposure would require a book by itself. Meanwhile, in the absence of such
a book to balance and correct the innumerable volumes upon the other side,
Professor Toy has done the best he could with existing materials, and
produced a meritorious work deserving of wide recognition and approval.


The Hebrew collection in the British Museum forms one of the greatest
centres of Jewish thought. It is only surpassed by the treasures which are
contained in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. The fame of these magnificent
collections has spread far and wide. It has penetrated into the remotest
countries, and even the Bachurim (_alumni_) of some obscure place in
Poland, who otherwise neither care nor know anything about British
civilisation, have a dim notion of the nature of these mines of Jewish

All sorts of legends circulate amongst them about the “millions” of books
which belong to the “Queen of England.” They speak mysteriously of an
autograph copy of the Book of Proverbs, presented to the Queen of Sheba on
the occasion of her visit to Jerusalem, and brought by the English troops
as a trophy from their visit to Abyssinia, which is still ruled by the
descendants of that famous lady. They also talk of a copy of the Talmud of
Jerusalem which once belonged to Titus, afterwards to a Pope, was
presented by the latter to a Russian Czar, and taken away from him by the
English in the Crimean war; of a manuscript of the book _Light is
Sown_,(218) which is so large that no shelf can hold it, and which
therefore hangs on iron chains. How they long to have a glance at these
precious things! Would not a man get wiser only by looking at the
autograph of the wisest of men?

But even the students of Germany and Austria, who are inaccessible to such
fables, and by the aid of Zedner’s, Steinschneider’s, and Neubauer’s
catalogues have a fair notion of our libraries, cherish the belief that
they would gain in scholarship and wisdom by examining these grand
collections. How often have I been asked by Jewish students abroad: “Have
you really been to the British Museum? Have you really seen this or that
rare book or manuscript? Had you not great difficulties in seeing them? Is
not the place where these heaps of jewels are treasured up always crowded
by students and visitors?”

Yet how little does our English public know of these wonderful things! We
are fairly interested in Græco‐Roman art. We betray much curiosity about
the different Egyptian dynasties. We look with admiration at the cuneiform
inscriptions in the Nimrod room. We do not even grudge a glance at the
abominable idols of the savage tribes. But as to the productions of Jewish
genius,—well, it is best to quote here the words of Heine, who ridiculed
this indifference to everything that is Jewish, in the following lines:—

    Alte Mumien, ausgestopfte,
    Pharaonen von Ægypten,
    Merowinger Schattenkön’ge,
    Ungepuderte Perticken,

    Auch die Zopfmonarchen China’s
    Alle lernen sie answendig,
    Kluge Mädchen, aber, Himmel!

    Fragt man sie nach grossen Namen,
    Aus dem grossen Goldzeitalter
    Der arabisch‐althispanisch
    Jüdischen Poetenschule,

    Fragt man nach dem Dreigestirn
    Nach Jehuda ben Halevy,
    Nach dem Salomon Gabirol
    Und dem Moses Iben Esra.

    Fragt man nach dergleichen Namen,
    Dann mit grossen Augen schaun
    Uns die Kleinen an—alsdann
    Stehn am Berge die Ochsinnen.

Now Heine goes on to advise his beloved one to study the Hebrew language.
It would be indeed the best remedy against this indifference. But this is
so radical a cure that one cannot hope that it will be made use of by
many. A few remarks in English, trying to give some notion of the Hebrew
collection in the British Museum, may, therefore, not be considered
altogether superfluous.

The Hebrew collection in the Museum may be divided into two sections:
Printed Books, and Manuscripts. The number of the printed books amounted
in the year 1867, in which Zedner concluded his catalogue, to 10,100
volumes. Within the last twenty‐eight years about 5000 more have been

This enormous collection has grown out of very small beginnings. The
British Museum was first opened to the public in the year 1759. Amongst
the 500,000 volumes which it possessed at that time only a single Jewish
work, the _editio princeps_ of the Talmud (Bomberg, Venice, 1520‐1523) was
to be found on its shelves. According to an article by Zedner in the
_Hebräische Bibliographie_ (ii. p. 88), this copy of the Talmud once
belonged to Henry VIII. But very soon the Museum was enriched by a small
collection of Hebrew books, presented to it by Mr. Solomon da Costa,
surnamed Athias, who had emigrated to England from Holland. The
translation of the Hebrew letter with which the donor accompanied his
present to the Trustees of the Museum was first published in the
_Gentleman’s Magazine_, February 1760, and was afterwards republished by
the Rev. A. L. Green, in an article in the _Jewish Chronicle_, 1859. I
shall only reproduce here the passage relating to the history of this
collection. After expressing his gratitude to the “crowning city, the city
of London, in which he dwelt for fifty‐four years in ease and quietness
and safety,” and telling us that he bequeaths these books to the British
nation as a token of his gratitude, Da Costa proceeds to say that they are
180 books, which had been gathered and bound for Charles II., with
valuable bindings and marked with the king’s own cipher. These books were
intended as a present from the London Jewish community to Charles for
certain privileges which he had bestowed on them. The sudden death of the
king seems to have frustrated the intention of the first donors. The books
were scattered, and Da Costa had to collect them again.

Small as this collection is, it is most valuable on account of its
including many early editions of Venice, Constantinople, Naples, etc. The
original letter of Da Costa, with a full list of the 180 books, is
preserved in a MS. in the British Museum (Additional, 4710‐11).

Of still greater importance is the Michaelis collection. It consists of
4420 volumes, and was bought by the Trustees of the Museum in 1848. Other
successive acquisitions, especially the purchase of a large number of
printed books from the Almanzi collection, brought the Museum into
possession of one of the most complete and one of the largest Hebrew
libraries in the world.

After the foregoing remarks on the quantity of this collection, I shall
now attempt to give some idea of its quality. The following table, taken
from the Preface of Zedner’s _Catalogue_, shows its manifold contents:—

    1. Bibles, 1260
    2. Commentaries on the Bible, 510
    3. Talmud, 730
    4. Commentaries on the Talmud, 700
    5. Codes of Law, 1260
    6. Decisions, 520
    7. Midrash, 160
    8. Cabbalah, 460
    9. Sermons, 400
    10. Liturgies, 1200
    11. Divine Philosophy, 690
    12. Scientific works, 180
    13. Grammars, Dictionaries, 450
    14. History, Geography, 320
    15. Poetry, Criticism, 770

The reader can see that almost every branch of human thought, religious
and secular, is amply represented in this collection. Looking at this
table from a geographical point of view, we may perhaps classify the
authors in the following way:—France and Germany in the Middle Ages,
Poland and the East in modern times, are represented by the fourth, fifth,
and sixth classes. The Rabbis of Spain and Italy would probably excel in
the last five classes. In the productions of classes eight and nine all
the before‐mentioned countries would have an equal share. English Judaism,
by reason of its large number of occasional prayers and wedding hymns
(Zedner, pp. 472, 652), may perhaps be represented in the last class
(criticism excluded). We in England are a pious, devotional people, and
leave the thinking to others.

But what is still more welcome to the student is the fact that all these
branches of Jewish learning are represented in the British Museum by the
best editions. It would be a rather tedious task to enumerate here all the
early editions of which this collection can boast. There is hardly any
Hebrew book of importance from the Bible down to the Code of R. Joseph
Caro of which the Museum does not possess the first printed edition. There
are also many books and editions in the Museum of which no second copy is
known to be in existence. An enumeration of these rare books and editions
would require long lists, the perusal of which would be rather trying. But
I shall say a few words to show the importance of such early editions for
the student. They possess, first, the advantage of being free from the
misprints which crept in with every fresh republication. The art of
editing books in a correct and scientific way is of a very recent date.
And even Hebrew literature does not find that support from the public
which would enable scholars to edit Jewish books in such a way as Roman
and Greek classics are prepared by Oxford and Cambridge students. A new
edition of a Hebrew book meant therefore an addition of new mistakes and
misprints. And it is only by examining the _editiones principes_ that the
scholar finds his way out of these perplexities.

Another advantage is the fact that these early editions escaped the hand
of the censor, whose office was not introduced till a comparatively late
date. The same advantage is also possessed by the Hebrew books published
at Constantinople, Salonica, and other Mohammedan cities. Only Christian
countries indulged in the barbarous pleasure of burning and disfiguring
Jewish books. It is one of the most touching points in the life of R.
David Oppenheim, of Prague, who spent all his life and fortune in
collecting Hebrew works, and whose collection now forms one of the
greatest ornaments of the Bodleian Library, that he was not allowed by the
censor to enjoy the use of his treasures. He had to put them under the
protection of Lipman Cohen, his father‐in‐law in Hanover, many hundreds of
miles from his own home. With the exception of the Bible hardly any Jewish
books escaped mutilation. In certain Christian countries some books were
not allowed to be published at all; of others, again, whole chapters had
to be omitted, while of others many passages had to be expunged. The words
Roman, Greek, Gentile, were strictly forbidden, and had to be changed into
Turks, Arabs, Samaritans, or worshippers of the stars and planets. One can
imagine what confusion such stupid alterations caused. Fancy what blunders
would have been committed in history if the old chroniclers had been
compelled to change the Pope into the Grand Turk or the Shah of Persia,
the Christian rulers into as many califs and pashas, or Rome and Athens
into Pekin and Mecca!

It may perhaps be interesting to learn that Jews sometimes imitated their
bitter enemies in this work of mutilation. Thus in the later editions of
the _Book of Genealogies_ by Abraham Zacuto,(219) a passage was left out
reproducing the evidence given by the widow of Moses de Leon to the effect
that the cabbalistic work, the Zohar, was a forgery manufactured by her
poor dear husband. Another omission of this kind is to be found in the
Code of R. Joseph Caro, mentioned above. Here the earliest editions
declare, in the heading of section 605, “a certain religious usage” to be
“a custom of folly.” In the republications, the last three words were left
out. From such nonsensical omissions and changes only the earliest
editions, which are abundant in the Museum, were exempt.

A remarkable feature about the books of this Hebrew collection also is
that many of them are provided in the margin with manuscript notes by
their former possessors. These often happen to bear very great names in
literature. I shall only mention here R. Jacob Emden, Almanzi, Michael,
Gerundi, and Heidenheim. Of the works written by R. Jacob Emden, the
Museum possesses an almost complete author’s copy with abundant
corrections, notes, and emendations by the author himself. His works are
still very popular among Polish and Russian Jews, especially his Prayer‐
Book, and his Responses. It would be advisable for publishers in these
countries to avail themselves of this copy on the occasion of a new
edition. Of Christian scholars I should name here Isaac Casaubon. A rather
amusing mistake occurs in Ben‐Jacob’s _Treasure of Books_ in connection
with this name. Among the many valuable copies of Kimchi’s grammatical
work _Perfection_,(220) possessed by the Museum, there is included one
which belonged to Casaubon, and is full of notes by him. The author of the
_Treasure_ speaks of a _Perfection_ with notes by Rabbi Yitzchak Kasuban.
I was at first at a loss to guess who that Rabbi Casaubon might be. When
examining Zedner I found it was no other than the famous Christian
scholar, Isaac Casaubon. It is not known that Casaubon’s ambition lay in
this direction. But when Philo was regarded as a Father of the Church, Ben
Gabirol quoted for many centuries as a Mohammedan philosopher, why should
not Casaubon obtain for once the dignity of a Rabbi?

After having given the reader some notion of the collection of printed
works, I should like now to invite him to accompany me through the
Manuscript Department of the Museum. But I am afraid that I shall make a
bad guide here; for the Museum is still without a descriptive catalogue of
the Hebrew manuscripts, which is the only means of enabling the student to
obtain a general view of the number and nature of these works. The
manuscript catalogue of Dukes goes only as far as 1856. It was, as we
shall soon see, just after this time that the Museum made its largest and,
to a certain degree also, its most valuable acquisitions in Hebrew
manuscripts. The following remarks must, therefore, not be taken as the
result of a systematic study of this collection, which would be quite
impossible without the aid of a catalogue. They rest partly on the
descriptions given of a certain number of manuscripts in the catalogue by
Dukes, but for the greater part on occasional glances at this or that MS.

As to the history of the collection, it has grown out of small beginnings
just as that of printed books. The collection of Dr. Sloane, which laid
the foundation of the Museum Library, contained only nine Hebrew MSS.
Later acquisitions, as the Harleian collection, the Cottonian collection,
the Royal collection, and many other smaller collections marked as
Additional up to 1854, increased the number of the Hebrew manuscripts to
232. Of much more importance was the Almanzi collection, bought by the
trustees of the Museum in 1865, and consisting of 335 MSS. Of succeeding
acquisitions I shall mention here only the Yemen MSS., which were brought
to this country by the famous Shapira. The number of Hebrew MSS. at the
present day is said to exceed one thousand. But we must not forget that
many MSS. contain more than one work; in some cases even three or four, so
that the number of Hebrew works is far greater still.

I shall now speak of the nature and importance of these MSS. As to their
contents they may be easily grouped under the following headings: Biblical
MSS., Commentaries (to the Bible) and Super‐Commentaries, parts of the
Talmud and their Commentaries, Theology, Philosophy and Ethics, Massorah,
Grammar and Lexicography, Cabbalah, Poetry, Mathematics, Astronomy,
Astrology and Magic, Historical and Polemical Literature, etc. All these
branches of theological and secular learning and even of human folly are
fairly represented in the collection of Hebrew MSS. in the Museum, though
often only by a part or a fragment of a work.

Thus the Babylonian Talmud is to be found only in two MSS. (Harl. 5508 and
Add. 25,717) both of them including 11 Tractates, hardly a third part of
the whole work. Indeed poor “Rabbinus Talmud” had to go to the _auto de
fé_ on so many occasions that one cannot wonder if only disjointed limbs
are to be found of him in libraries. The only complete MS. copy which
escaped this vandalism is that in the Royal Library in Munich, from which
Mr. Rabbinowicz has edited his monumental work, _Variae Lectiones of the

All other libraries, Oxford included, have to be satisfied with fragments.
Still worse, as it is seen, fared the Jerusalem Talmud, and excepting the
well‐known copy in Leyden from which the Venice edition was prepared, not
even fragments of this Talmud are to be found in the majority of
libraries. To my knowledge it is only the British Museum which can boast
of the Jerusalem Talmud in MS. extending over _Order of Seeds_ and one
tractate of _Order of Festivals_(221) (Or. 2122‐24) with commentaries of
R. Solomon Syrillo, the first few pages of which were edited by Dr.
Lehmann of Mayence. The Museum also possesses a great part of the Tosephta
extending over 14 Tractates (Add. 27,296). Of Midrashim we find in the
Museum two excellent manuscripts of the Genesis _Rabbah_, one of the
Leviticus _Rabbah_, and one of the _Siphra_ and the _Siphré_ (Add. 27,169
and 16,406), besides two copies of the Midrash _Haggadol_ and other
Aagadic collections brought from Yemen. The _Midrash_ by Machir b. Abba
Mari to the minor prophets included in the Harleian collection (5704) is
unique. Of Liturgies, besides a great number of MSS. representing the most
peculiar rites, I shall mention the Machzor(222) Vitri (Add. 27,200‐1)
composed by the disciples of R. Solomon b. Isaac, and forming in itself
almost a small library. For, apart from the prayers for festivals and week
days which gave it its title, it includes, besides the _Sayings of the
Fathers_ with a large commentary, three of the Minor Tractates of the
Talmud, many responses by German and French Rabbis, and a whole series of
religious hymns by German and Spanish authors, and many other literary
pieces. Cabbalah is represented by various valuable writings of the pre‐
Zoharistic time (see for instance Add. 15,299) and the works of R. Moses
de Leon and R. Abraham Abulafia. Of Poetry, I shall point here to the
Tarshish of R. Moses Ibn Ezra, the Makames by Judah Al Charisi (Add.
27,122), and the Divan of R. Abraham of Bedres (Add. 27,188). Of works
relating to grammar and lexicography, I may refer to a Codex (Add. 27,214)
which contains the lexicon of R. Menahem ben Saruk, which is considered as
the oldest Hebrew MS. in the Museum, dating from the year 1091. Of
historical works, I mention the chronicle of R. Joseph the Priest (Add.
27,122) and the letter of R. Sherira Gaon (Arundel 51), the oldest
existing copy of this work (1189), which was edited by Dr. Neubauer in his
_Mediæval Jewish Chronicles_.

These examples will suffice to show the significance of the MSS.
collection of this Library. And the student may rest assured that in
whatever branch of Jewish thought he is interested, he will always find in
the Museum some Hebrew manuscript useful for his purpose.

I ought now to say a few words as to the value of this collection of
manuscripts. Now, if the work contained in a MS. has never been edited, as
for instance the Machzor Vitri(223) and so many others, its value is
established by the mere fact of its existence. For those who published
MSS. were not always guided by the best literary motives. And while they
published and republished many books of which one edition would have been
more than enough, many other works of the greatest importance for Jewish
literature and history remained in manuscript. As an instance, it will
suffice to mention here the Zohar, which has passed through twenty‐four
editions since the sixteenth century, whilst the earliest Jewish Midrash,
the _Pessikta de Rab Kahana_, had to linger in the libraries till the year
1868, when it was edited by Mr. S. Buber. Thus there are still many pearls
of Jewish literature which exist only in MS. Likewise most publishers were
careless in their choice of the manuscript from which our editions have
been prepared. Almost the whole of Jewish literature will have to be re‐
edited before a scientific study of it will be possible. But such critical
editions can only be obtained by the aid of the MSS. not yet made use of,
in which better readings are to be found. From this fact even those MSS.
the contents of which have been several times reprinted, as for instance
the MSS. of the Midrash _Rabbah_, gain the greatest literary importance.
And the more MSS. the editor of a work has at his disposal, the more
certain is he of being able to furnish us with a good text.

But even when the whole of Jewish literature lies before the student in
the best of texts, there will still remain a great charm about
manuscripts. Printed books, like the great mass of the modern society for
which they are prepared, are devoid of any originality. They interest us
only as classes, and it is very seldom that they have a story of their own
to tell. It is quite different with manuscripts, where the fact of their
having been produced by a living being invests them with a certain kind of
individuality. This is specially the case with Hebrew MSS., which were not
copied by men shut up in cloisters, but by sociable people living in the
world and sharing its joys and sorrows. Even women were employed in this
art, and I remember to have read in some MS. or catalogue a postscript by
the lady copyist, which, if I remember rightly, ran as follows: “I beseech
the reader not to judge me very harshly when he finds that mistakes have
crept into this work; for when I was engaged in copying it God blessed me
with a son, and thus I could not attend to my business properly.”

To be sure, some of these copyists were curious folk. Their mind as well
as that of the world around them must have been of a peculiar constitution
hardly conceivable to us. Take, for example, Benjamin, the copyist of a
certain Machzor in the Museum (Add. 11,639). This Machzor was written in
times of bitter persecution. The copyist, who was himself a learned man,
alludes in one place to the sufferings which the Jews in a certain French
town had to undergo in the year 1276. On one of them, the martyr R.
Samson, Benjamin the copyist composed a lamentation written in a most
mournful strain. But this lamentation is followed by a wine‐song, one of
the jolliest and wildest parodies for the feast of Purim.

Speaking of this Machzor I should like to remark that it forms one of the
greatest ornaments of the Museum. Besides including the whole of the
Pentateuch, the above‐mentioned Tarshish by R. Moses Ibn Ezra, and many
other smaller literary pieces which would require a small volume to
describe them properly, this MS. is most richly illuminated, and contains
very many illustrations. The subjects of these illustrations are biblical,
sometimes also apocryphal, such as—Adam and Eve in Paradise, Noah in the
Ark, Abraham meeting the angels, Sarah behind the door listening to the
conversation of her husband with his guests, Moses with the rod in his
hands dividing the Red Sea, Samson riding on the back of a lion, Solomon
on his throne, Daniel in the lion’s den, the king Ahasuerus holding out
the golden sceptre to Esther, Judith addressing Holofernes, the Leviathan,
the mythical bird Bar Yochni, and many other similar subjects. In passing
I recommend these illustrations and illuminations to the attention of the
artist as the most worthy examples of Jewish ecclesiastical art,—if there
is such a thing as a special Jewish art. The artist will find the Museum
best suited for this purpose, its collection being considered as the
richest of the kind. Besides this Machzor I must also allude to the
illuminated Bible (Or. 2226‐28) written in Lisbon for R. Judah Alchakin—it
is said to be one of the finest specimens of such works—and the
illuminated Mishneh Torah of Maimonides, executed for R. Joseph of the
famous Yachya family, also thought to be most artistically done. The
liturgies for the Passover Eve service will also offer to the artist a
rich harvest, especially Codex, Add. 27,210, which the wealthy Lady Rosa
Galico presented to her son‐in‐law on his wedding‐day, and Codex, Add.
14,762, even the binding of which is considered as an artistic curiosity.

Leaving now these marvels to the appreciation of the artist, the greatest
wonder which suggests itself to us is how the Jews could maintain such a
cultured taste in such unhappy times, and get the means of satisfying it.
These reflections about the owners present themselves the more strongly to
our mind when we meet with one of those old Jewish prayer‐books, which in
many cases formed the whole religious and literary treasure of the family.
In their fly‐leaves, in which the births and deaths of successive
generations are very often registered, the _spiritus familiaris_ seems to
be still haunting the pages. When you turn them over and see the service
for Passover Eve, are you not bound to think of the anxiety with which
these poor creatures engaged in this ceremony lest they might be attacked
suddenly by a fanatic mob? must you not ask how they could bear life under
such circumstances? And when you turn a few more pages and arrive at the
prayers read for the dead, must you not ask how did they die? Were they
perhaps burnt alive _ad majorem Dei gloriam_, or torn to pieces by a
“saintly mob”? Take again the illuminated copies of the Bible and the
Mishneh Torah, both of which were finished only a few years before the
great expulsion of the Jews from Spain and Portugal, times when the earth
already “burnt under their feet, and the heaven was also very unkind to
them.” And nevertheless Jews were still, as these MSS. show us,
cultivating science and art. Another instance of such a devotion to
science in spite of the unfavourable times may be seen from a colophon to
Codex Or. 39. It contains the book _Nissim_, a philosophical treatise on
the fundamental teachings of Judaism, together with a philosophical
commentary on the Pentateuch by R. Nissim of Marseilles, a contemporary of
R. Solomon ben Adereth in the thirteenth century. The Museum copy was
written by R. Jacob, the son of David, who also added some annotations to
the book. At the end he says: “I have copied this book _Nissim_ for my own
use, that I may study in it, I and my children and my grandchildren.... I
have finished it to‐day, Sunday, the 28th of Ab, 5333 (1573), at Venice,
in the year of the expulsion which befell us on account of our sins.” Now,
only observe this poor R. Jacob, who has to go through all these horrors,
yet is still occupied in copying MSS. for his own pleasure, and in
meditating on the most complicated problems of philosophy and religion.

But it is not always stories of this heroic nature that the MSS. tell us.
They betray also very much of the instability of human affairs and their
weakness. You find in many copies the words that they must not “be sold or
given in mortgage.” But scarcely a generation has passed away, and they
are already in the possession of a new owner, who writes the same
injunction to be broken again by his children in their turn. In Codex
27,122, we find commendatory letters for a worthy poor man, who is so
unhappy as to have two grown‐up daughters, and not to have the means of
supplying them with marriage portions. Indeed, he must have been very
poor, not possessing even a book in his house, or else his troubles could
not have been so great. For in Codex Harl. 5702, we find the owner saying:
“To eternal memory that I have acquired this _Third Book of Avicena_ from
the hands of my father‐in‐law, R. Jekuthiel, as a part of my dowry.”

As a sign of human weakness I give the following two instances. There lies
before me a cabbalistic Codex (Add. 27,199), which acquired some notoriety
from the fact of its having been copied by the famous grammarian, R.
Elijah Levita, for his pupil Cardinal Aegidius. At the end of this MS. we
read: “I (Levita) have finished (the copying of) this book on Wednesday,
the day of Hoshana Rabba,(224) 5277 (1516), on which day I have seen my
head in the shadow of the moon. Praised be God (for it), for now I am sure
not to die in the following year.” These words relate to a well‐known
superstition, according to which, when a man is going to die in the course
of the next year his shadow disappears from him on the preceding Hoshana
Rabba. But is it not humiliating to see that the great Levita, who was
superior to many prejudices of his time, and taught Christians Hebrew, and
who denied the antiquity of the vowels in the Bible, which was considered
by the great majority of his contemporaries as a mortal heresy—is it not
humiliating to see this enlightened man trembling for his life on this
night, and anxiously observing his shadow? Another Codex lies before me
(Add. 17,053), containing the Novellæ to three tractates of the Talmud.
Its owner must accordingly have been a learned man. But in the fly‐leaf of
this MS. we read the following words: “Memorandum—Thursday, the 25th of
Sivan, 5295 (1535), I have taken an oath in the presence of R. David Ibn
Shushan and R. Moses de Castro, etc., not to play (cards) any more.” I
might perhaps suggest on this occasion that in our days when all sorts of
Judaisms are circulating, a cooking Judaism, a racing Judaism, a muscular
Judaism, and so many Judaisms more—it would be interesting to take up also
the subject of playing Judaism, and to write its history.

In conclusion I shall mention the colophon to Codex Harl. 5713, which may
have some interest for the English reader. It runs: “I have written it in
honour of the noble and pious, etc., Humphrey Wanley, the noble Librarian
of my Lord Treasurer. May his glory be increased. In the year 5474 (1714)
in the holy community of London, under the reign of the noble and happy
Queen Anne. May the Lord increase her splendour and glory.” The signature
of the copyist is “Aaron the son of Moses, born in the city of Navaschadok
in Poland.” By the way, we learn from this signature that the immigration
of Polish Jews into this country had already begun in the time of Queen
Anne, and perhaps still earlier.

Thus everything in a MS., the arrangement of the matter, the remarks of
the owners, the signature of the copyist, sets the reader thinking, and
contributes many a side‐light to the history of the Jews.


It is now more than half a century since Isaac Reggio in his edition of
Elijah Delmedigo’s _Examination of Religion_, made the remark that this
book adds to its other merits that of bearing a title corresponding to its
contents,—a merit that is very rare in Jewish books. Reggio proceeds to
give a few specimens confirming his assertion, and concludes his remarks
with a eulogy on Delmedigo, who in this respect also had the courage to
differ from his contemporaries. Zunz also once wrote an article on titles
of books. But this article unfortunately appeared in some German
periodical which the British Museum does not possess, and I could not even
succeed in ascertaining whether Zunz treats at all of titles of Hebrew
books, nor am I aware that the subject has been taken up by any other
scholar, Isaac D’Israeli’s few notes on the subject in his _Curiosities of
Literature_ being scarcely worth mention. It seems to me, however,
interesting enough to deserve some illustration, though I can by no means
hope to be complete.

The titles of the books contained in the Bible need not be discussed here;
information concerning them is to be found in every critical introduction
to the Old Testament. The Rabbinical works dating from antiquity also
offer little opportunity for reflection on their titles. The Talmud, as a
work, has no title at all; for Talmud simply means “teaching” or “study.”
Sometimes it is termed ShaSS, an abbreviation of _Shisha Sedarim_,(225)
meaning the Six Orders or divisions contained in the Mishnah. This last
word means, according to some authors, “Repetition.” Other Tannaitic
collections of laws or expositions of the Scriptures are called “the Book”
(Siphra), “the Books” (Siphré), or “Additions” (Tosephta to the Mishnah).
The word _Baraitha_(226) means the external Mishnah that enjoyed less
authority than the Mishnah of R. Judah the Patriarch. Some approach to
titles we find in the names given to the different tractates included in
the Mishnah, as _Berachoth_, because it treats of Benedictions,
_Peah_(227) (Corner) which contains the particulars concerning the law in
Lev. xix. and so forth. Of the few works quoted in the Talmud it will
suffice to mention the _Seder Olam_, the Order of the World, the name of
which is very suitable to the chronological contents of the book. In
general, I may observe that as long as the law which prohibited the
writing down of the Oral teachings was in force, there hardly existed
Jewish books. But where there are no books there is also no need for
titles. The few titles, however, which can be proved to be historical are
simple and to the point. It is not till about the beginning of the Middle
Ages, when this prohibitive law had, for reasons not to be explained here,
been abolished, that we can speak of Hebrew books. But here also the
Title‐confusion begins.

In order that we may have some general view of the thousands of titles
that are catalogued by the Jewish bibliographers, it will perhaps be well
to arrange them under the following six classes:—

I. _Simple titles_, that have no other object than that of indicating the
subject matter of the book. These are, as we have just seen, the only kind
of titles known to antiquity. The few books which the Gaonim left us bear
such simple titles as could have served as models to later generations.
Among them may be mentioned the _Halachoth_ or collection of Laws, _Creeds
and Opinions_, by R. Saadiah Gaon, the _Book on Buying and Selling_, by R.
Hai Gaon, containing the laws relating to commercial transactions. It may
be noticed that this last book is one of the best arranged in Jewish
literature, and displays more systematising powers than even the Code of
Maimonides. The greatest part of the literary activity of the Gaonim
consists in their Responsa, in which they gave decisions on ritual
questions, or explanations of difficult passages in the Talmud. The titles
borne by the various collections of those Responsa belong to a period
later than the author’s. The great majority of the books produced by the
Franco‐German school may also be included in this class. They are termed
“Commentaries,” “Additions” or “Glosses,” “Novellæ,” or “Confirming
Proofs,” and similar modest titles which show both their relation to, and
dependence on, another older authority. The largest collection of
Midrashim we possess bears the simple title “Bag.”(228) Many of the
Responsa satisfy themselves with the words “Questions to, and Answers by.”

II. _Titles taken from the first word with which the book begins_, or from
the first word of the Scriptural verse occurring first in the book. This
class is strongly represented by the Midrashim. Thus the Midrash to the
Song of Songs is also quoted as the Midrash _Chazitha_,(229) “Midrash,
Seest thou” (the first text with which this Midrash deals being Proverbs
xxii. 28). The Midrash to the Psalms is called Midrash _Shocher Tob_,(230)
“Midrash, He that diligently seeketh the good” (Prov. xi. 37). The Midrash
containing the legendary story of the wars of the sons of Jacob with the
Canaanites is quoted as Midrash _V’yisseu_,(231) “Midrash, And they
journeyed,” as the story begins with the verse from Gen. xxxv. 5. And this
is the case with the titles of many other Midrashim. Whether the work
cited under the strange name of _Meat on Coals_ did not begin with those
words, containing some law relating to the salting of meat, I do not
venture to decide. Under this class we may also arrange those books that
are called after a phrase which is often used in the book, _e.g._, the
Midrash _Yelamdenu_ (He may teach us), or the _Vehizhir_, “And He
commanded us,” almost every paragraph in these books beginning with the
phrases mentioned.(232) Probably all the books belonging to this class
received from the hands of their authors or compilers no titles at all.
The student who had to quote them gave them names after the phrase or word
which first caught his eye. In later centuries this class disappears
almost entirely (see, however, Ben‐Jacob’s _Treasure_, p. 201, No. 827).

III. _Pompous titles._ The largest contributions to this class were made
by the mystical writers. Books which profess to know what is going on in
the heavens above and the earth beneath cannot possibly be satisfied with
modest titles. Thus we have the “Book of Brightness” (Zohar), “the shining
book” (Bahir), “the Confidential Shepherd” (Moses).(233) The books which
the Zohar quotes bear such titles as the Book of Adam, the Book of Enoch.
The only excuse for the Zohar is that the manufacturing of such books with
pseudo‐epigraphical titles had already begun in antiquity. It is not,
however, till the Gaonic period that a whole apocryphal literature
suddenly emerges which perplexes the Gaonim themselves. No one is spared.
Angels, patriarchs, and martyrs are called upon to lend their names to
these books. What one resents most is that history came within the range
of the forger’s activity. There is, for instance, the Josippon, which
professes to be written by Josephus, the well‐known Jewish historian of
the first century. But in spite of all the care taken by the author to
disguise himself in the garb of antiquity, the Josippon is a forgery of
the ninth or tenth century. Of a similar kind is the Book of Jasher,
containing legendary stories relating to Biblical personages. It pretends
to be identical with the Book of Jasher quoted in Joshua x. 13 and 2 Sam.
i. 18. Some sixty years ago a certain Mr. Samuel of Liverpool had the
misfortune to make himself ridiculous by maintaining the pretensions of
this book; for, indeed, it does not require much knowledge of the Agadic
literature to see that the Book of Jasher is only a compilation of
comparatively late Midrashim.

IV. _Titles suggested by other Titles._ As an instance of this we may take
Maimonides’ great Code of Law, which bears the title _Mishneh Torah_. The
importance of the book made it the object of study for hundreds of
scholars, who wrote their commentaries and glosses on it. Among the titles
of the commentaries such Title‐genealogies may be discovered as Maggid
_Mishneh_, _Mishneh_ Lammelech; which last word again suggested such
titles as Emek ha‐_Melech_, Shaar ha‐_Melech_, and so on.(234)

The same process may be observed in other standard works, the importance
of which made them a subject of investigation and interpretation as the
“Prepared Table,” one of the glosses to which is called _Mappah_,
“Tablecloth,” whilst others provided it with the _Shewbread_ and with _New

V. _Euphemistic Titles_, as “The Tractate of Joys,” treating of funeral
ceremonies and kindred subjects. It does not seem that this title was
known to antiquity, but it is certain that already the earlier authorities
quoted it by this name. “The Book of Life” (the German Jewish title of
which is _Alle Dinim, von Freuden_), is the name of a very popular book
containing the prayers to be read in the house of mourning as well as in
the cemetery, which is also called the House of Life.

VI. _Titles taken from the Bible_, or Fancy Titles. This is the largest
class of all, though it was utterly unknown in antiquity. It will be,
perhaps, convenient to arrange this class of titles under the following
sub‐divisions. (_a_) Titles taken from the Bible, but also fulfilling the
purpose of indicating the name of the author. For instance, “Seed of
Abraham” (Ps. cv. 6), is the title of nine different books, the name of
whose authors happened to be Abraham; “And Isaac entreated” (Gen. xxv.
21), is by Isaac Satanow on the Prayers; “Then Isaac sowed” (_ibid._ xxvi.
12), edited by R. Isaac Perles, contains an index to the Zohar. “Jacob
shall take root” (Is. xxvii. 6) is the name of a book on Grammar and
Massorah by R. Jacob Bassani. R. Joseph of Posen left two collections of
sermons and commentaries on the Pentateuch, of which the one is called
“And Joseph nourished” (Gen. xlvii. 12), the other “And Joseph gathered”
(_ibid._ 14). Authors with the name of Judah are represented among others
by such titles as “And this of Judah” (Deut. xxxiii.7), a treatise on the
laws concerning the killing of animals; or “Judah shall go up” (Judges i.
2), a pamphlet containing a collection of prayers to be said on a journey.
“Moses began” (Deut. i. 5) forms the title of three different books on
various subjects, the authors of which had the name Moses. “Moses shall
rejoice,” a phrase occurring in the morning prayer for Sabbaths, is also
the title of two books, the authors of which were named Moses. The “Rod of
Aaron” enjoyed, as it seems, a goodly popularity; there are four bearing
this name, not to speak of a fifth, “The Rod of Aaron brought forth buds”
(Exod. xvii. 23), which is the name of a collection of Responsa by R.
Aaron ben Chayim. But other Rods also were fashionable; there are, besides
the five Rods of Moses, also Rods of Ephraim, Dan, Judah, Joseph,
Naphtali, and Manasseh. By authors of the name of David we find books with
the title “And David said,” or a “Prayer of David,” and other phrases
occurring in the Psalms relating to David; whilst the “Tower of David”
became the stronghold of other writers, and the “Shield of David”
protected as many as nine more. The “Chariot of Solomon” (Cant. iii. 9)
adorns the title‐pages of five books by authors named Solomon. The Caraite
Solomon Troki was so fond of that title that he called his two polemical
treatises “He made himself a chariot,” while R. Solomon of Mir’s
collection of sermons has the title, “This Bed which is Solomon’s” (Cant.
iii. 7). As to family names, there were not many authors in the enjoyment
of that luxury (especially among the German Jews), but we find them
indicating the fact of their being Priests or Levites. Among such books
are the collection of Responsa, by R. Raphael Cohen, which has the title
“And the Priest shall come again” (Lev. xiv. 39), and the Cabbalistic
treatise by R. Abraham Cohen, of Lask, with the title “And the Priest
shall reckon unto him” (Lev. xxvii. 18). Probably the author deals with
numbers. R. Hirsch Horwitz, the Levite, called his Novellæ to the Talmud
“The Camp of Levi.” The title “The Service of the Levite” (with allusion
to Exodus xxxviii. 21) is borne by five other books by authors who were
Levites. And there may be found hundreds of books with titles suggesting
the Priestly or Levitical descent of their authors. Most anxious is Joseph
Ibn Kaspi (Joseph the Silvern, so called after his native place
Argentière, in the south of France) to provide most of his numerous books
with some Biblical titles combined with silver, as a “Bowl of Silver”
(Numb. vii. 13), or “Points of Silver” (Song of Songs i. 11), or “Figures
of Silver” (Prov. xxv. 10), and other similar phrases. On the other hand
Azulai manages to indicate at least one of his three Hebrew names, Chayim
Joseph David, in most of his works, of which the number exceeds seventy,
as Chayim Shaal,(235) “He asked Life” (Ps. xxi. 4), or “The knees of
Joseph” (alluding to Gen. xlviii. 12), and “Truth unto David” (Ps. cxxxii.

(_b_) The Tabernacle with its furniture was also a great favourite with
many authors. There are not only six tabernacles (two on Cabbalah, two on
grammar, and two on Talmudical subjects), but also three “Arks of the
Testimony,” two “Altars of gold,” two “Tables of Shewbread,” four
“Candlesticks of the Light,” two “Sockets of Silver,” and two “Pillars of
Silver.” Others again preferred the vestments of the priests as the “Plate
of Judgment,” the “Robe of the Ephod,” the “Mitre of Aaron,” the “Plate of
Gold,” the “Bell and Pomegranate,” “Wreathen Chains,” and the “Arches of
Gold.” Many of these books were written by authors claiming to be priests.
(_c_) But besides the canonical, other costumes were also fashionable. R.
Mordecai Yafeh composed ten books, every one of them bearing the name of
some garment or apparel, as “Apparel of Royalty,” “Apparel of Blue,”
“Apparel of White,” and so the whole suit with which Mordecai went out
from the presence of the king (Esther viii. 15). These ten works range
from codifications of the law and occasional sermons to philosophy,
astronomy, and Cabbalah. By other writers we have three “Coats of many
colours” (Gen. xxxvii. 4), one “Bridal Attire,” and the “Thread of
Scarlet” is not missing. (_d_) The ingredients for incense as well as
other articles used in the Tabernacle or in the Temple were also fancied
by some authors, and we have two books with the title of “Principal
Spices,” two “Pure Myrrh,” three “Arts of the Apothecary,” one “Oil of
Holy Ointment,” five “Meat Offerings mingled or dry,” three or four “Flour
of the Meat Offering,” and also one “Two Young Pigeons” (Bene Yonah) by R.
Jonah Zandsopher. But the appetite of the authors did not stop at these
holy things. It extended also to such lay articles as “Spiced Wine,”
“Juice of Pomegranate” (Cant. viii. 2), “Forests of Honey,” the “Book of
the Apple,” and “Seven Kinds of Drink.”

(_e_) Field and flock also suggested to Hebrew writers as well as to Mr.
Ruskin such titles as “The Fruit of the Hand,” the “Rose of Sharon,” the
“Lily of the Valleys,” or “The Shepherds’ Tents,” and “In the Green
Pastures” (Ps. xxiii. 2).

The specimens given for every class may with very little trouble be
doubled and redoubled. But it is not my intention to reproduce here whole
catalogues. Reggio thinks all such titles, which do not correspond with
the context of the book, absurd and confusing. He suggests that the Jews
followed in this respect the Arabic writers. There is no doubt that Reggio
is not altogether wrong in his complaint. Almost all the titles included
in class vi., as the reader might have observed, never indicate to the
student the subject of which the books treat. How can one guess that the
Responsa, the Dance of Mahanaim (two companies), is of a polemical nature
against the tendencies of reform? This list may be lengthened by hundreds
of titles. But even these incomprehensible titles are better than the
_Chad Gadyah Lo Israel_ (One Kid No Israel),(236) the un‐Hebrew title of a
pamphlet trying to prove the un‐Jewish origin of the well‐known folk‐song
sung on Passover Eve. But, on the other hand, it must not be overlooked
that even this class has, though not always, something suggestive and even
practical about it. The “Choice of Pearls” is undoubtedly more attractive
than the prosaic “Collection of Proverbs and Sayings,” which is what the
book contains. “Understanding of the Seasons” (1 Chr. xii. 32), sounds
also better than the simple “Collection of Sermons on different
occasions.” “The Lips of those who Sleep” recommends itself as a very
suggestive title for a catalogue, especially when one thinks of the Agadic
explanation given to Cant. vii. 10, according to which the study of the
book of a departed author makes the lips of the dead man to speak. Such
titles as “Bunch of Lilies” for a collection of poems are still usual with
us. Such a title as the “Jealousy Offering,” or the “Law of Jealousies,”
in polemical literature is very appropriate for its subject. R. Jacob
Emden, who named one of his pamphlets “Rod for the fool’s back” (Prov.
xxvi. 3), will be envied for his choice by many a controversialist even
to‐day. Wittily devised is the pun‐title, “City of Sihon” for a
mathematical book by R. Joseph Tsarphathi, alluding to Numb. xxi. 27, “For
Hesbon (reckoning) is the City of Sihon.”

Other titles were probably intended more as mottoes than titles. “Go forth
and behold, ye daughters of Zion” (Cant. iii. 11), is put in the title‐
page of R. Jacob’s German‐Jewish paraphrase of the Pentateuch, which was
written chiefly for the use of ladies. “Let another man praise thee and
not thine own mouth, a stranger and not thine own lips” (Prov. xxvii. 2),
forms the title of a book extending over only one and a half page in
quarto. It contains letters by seven Rabbis (among them R. Liva of Prague)
recommending the Ascetic, R. Abraham Wangos, who has a daughter to marry,
and wants also to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, as deserving the
support of his brethren.

There is also another objection to these titles. It is that they seem
sometimes not quite consonant with our notions of modesty. Thus we have
“Desirable and Sweet” on astronomy, “Sweeter than Honey” or “He shall
comfort us,” and many others of this kind. But it must not be thought that
we have a right to infer from the title to the author. There is, indeed,
an anecdote that three authors were rather too little careful about the
choice of their titles, namely Maimonides in calling his Code _Mishneh
Torah_ (which is the traditional title of the Book of Deuteronomy), R.
Moses Alshech in calling his homiletical commentaries _Torah_ of Moses,
and R. Isaiah Horwitz in calling his book _Shene Luchoth ha‐Berith_ (The
Two Tables of the Covenant). These authors, as the story goes, had for
their punishment that their works are never quoted by the titles they gave
to them, the former two being usually cited as Rambam or Alshech, whilst
the last is more known by its abbreviated title of SHeLa(237) than by its
full name.

I do not remember where I have read this story, but I am quite sure that
its pious author would have been more careful about repeating it had he
known that this accusation against Maimonides was a favourite topic with
apostates, who thought to hit Judaism in the person of its representative
Maimonides. But, as R. Solomon Duran in his polemical work remarks,
Maimonides was too much of a truly great man to find any satisfaction in
such petty vanity. Nor do I believe that even the character of less‐known
authors can in any way be impugned by the seemingly conceited titles of
their books; just as on the other hand the humility of the author is not
proved by calling his book “The Offering of the Poor,” or other modest
titles. The fancy title was in common use, and was therefore a commonplace
with no significance whatever. The real disadvantage of such titles lies
in the fact that, as already pointed out, they conceal from the student
the contents of the book which he might otherwise consult in the course of
his researches.

Did these authors perhaps foresee that there would come a time in which
index‐knowledge would pass for deep scholarship? and did they thus by
using these obscure titles try to put a check on the dabblers who speak
the more of a book the less they have read of its contents? If this be the
case we can only admire their foresight.


“I saw a Jewish lady only yesterday with a child at her knee, and from
whose face towards the child there shone a sweetness so angelical that it
seemed to form a sort of glory round both. I protest I could have knelt
before her, too, and adored in her the divine beneficence in endowing us
with the maternal _storgé_ which began with our race and sanctifies the
history of mankind.” These words, which are taken from Thackeray’s
_Pendennis_, may serve as a starting‐point for this paper. The fact that
the great student of man perceived this glory just round the head of a
Jewish lady rouses in me the hope that the small student of letters may,
with a little search, be able to discover in the remains of our past many
similar traces of this divine beneficence and sanctifying sentiment.
Certainly the glimpses which we shall catch from the faded leaves of
ancient volumes, dating from bygone times, will not be so bright as those
which the novelist was so fortunate as to catch from the face of a lady
whom he saw but the previous day. The mothers and fathers, about whom I am
going to write in this essay, have gone long ago, and the objects of their
anxiety and troubles have also long ago vanished. But what the subject
will lose in brightness, it may perhaps gain in reality and intensity. A
few moments of enraptured devotion do not make up the saint. It is a whole
series of feelings and sentiments betrayed on different occasions,
expressed in different ways, a whole life of sore troubles, of bitter
disappointments, but also moments of most elevated joys and real

And surely these manifestations of the divine beneficence, which appear in
their brightest glory in the literature of every nation when dealing with
the child, shine strongest in the literature of the Jewish nation. In it,
to possess a child was always considered as the greatest blessing God
could bestow on man, and to miss it as the greatest curse. The patriarch
Abraham, with whom Israel enters into history, complains—“Oh Lord, what
wilt Thou give me, seeing I go childless!”

The Rabbis regarded the childless man as dead, whilst the Cabbalist in the
Middle Ages thought of him who died without posterity as of one who had
failed in his mission in this world, so that he would have to appear again
on our planet to fulfil this duty. To trace out the feelings which
accompanied the object of their greatest anxiety, to let them pass before
the reader in some way approaching to a chronological order, to draw
attention to some points more worthy of being emphasised than others, is
the aim of this essay.

I said that I propose to treat the subject in chronological order. I meant
by this that I shall follow the child in the different stages through
which it has to pass from its birth until it ceases to be a child and
attains its majority. This latter period is the beginning of the
thirteenth year in the case of a female, and the beginning of the
fourteenth year in the case of a male. I shall have occasion later on to
examine this point more closely.

But there is the embryo‐period which forms a kind of preliminary stage in
the life of the child, and plays a very important part in the region of
Jewish legends. Human imagination always occupies itself most with the
things of which we know least. And so it got hold of this semi‐existence
of man, the least accessible to experience and observation, and surrounded
it by a whole cycle of legends and stories. They are too numerous to be
related here. But I shall hint at a few points which I regard as the most
conspicuous features of these legends.

These legends are chiefly based on the notion of the pre‐existence of the
soul on the one hand, but on the other hand they are a vivid illustration
of the saying of the Fathers, “Thou art born against thy will.” Thus the
soul, when it is brought before the throne of God, and is commanded to
enter into the body, pleads before Him: “O Lord, till now have I been holy
and pure; bring me not into contact with what is common and unclean.”
Thereupon the soul is given to understand that it was for this destiny
alone that it was created. Another remarkable feature is the warning given
to man before his birth that he will be responsible for his actions. He is
regularly sworn in. The oath has the double purpose of impressing upon him
the consciousness of his duty to lead a holy life, and of arming him
against the danger of allowing a holy life to make him vain. As if to
render this oath more impressive, the unborn hero is provided with two
angels who, besides teaching him the whole of the Torah, take him every
morning through paradise and show him the glory of the just ones who dwell
there. In the evening he is taken to hell to witness the sufferings of the
reprobate. But such a lesson would make free will impossible. His future
conduct would only be dictated by the fear of punishment and hope of
reward. And the moral value of his actions also depends, according to
Jewish notions, upon the power to commit sin. Thus another legend records:
“When God created the world, He produced on the second day the angels with
their natural inclinations to do good, and the absolute inability to
commit sin. On the following days again He created the beasts with their
exclusively animal desires. But He was pleased with neither of these
extremes. If the angels follow my will, said God, it is only on account of
their impotence to act in the opposite direction. I shall therefore create
man, who will be a combination of both angel and beast, so that he will be
able to follow either the good or evil inclination. His evil deeds will
place him beneath the level of animals, whilst his noble aspirations will
enable him to obtain a higher position than angels.” Care is therefore
taken to make the child forget all it has seen and heard in these upper
regions. Before it enters the world an angel strikes it on the upper lip,
and all his knowledge and wisdom disappear at once. The pit in the upper
lip is a result of this stroke, which is also the cause why children cry
when they are born.

As to the origin of these legends, the main features of which are already
to be found in the Talmud, I must refer the reader to the researches of
Löw and others.(238) Here we have only to watch the effect which these
legends had upon the minds of Jewish parents. The newly born child was in
consequence looked upon by them as a higher being, which, but a few
seconds before, had been conversing with angels and saints, and had now
condescended into our profane world to make two ordinary mortals happy.
The treatment which the child experienced from its parents, as well as
from the whole of the community, was therefore a combination of love and
veneration. One may go even further and say that the belief in these
legends determines greatly the destination of the child. What other
destination could a being of such a glorious past have than to be what an
old German Jewish poem expressed in the following lines:—

    Geboren soll es wehren
    Zu Gottes Ehren.

“The child should be born to the honour of God.” The mission of the child
is to glorify the name of God on earth. And the whole bringing up of the
child in the old Jewish communities was more or less calculated to this
end. The words of the Bible, “And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of
priests,” were taken literally. Every man felt it his duty to bring up his
children, or at least one member of his family, for this calling. How they
carried out this programme we shall see later on.

Now, regarding almost every infant as a predestined priest, and thinking
of it as having received a certain preparation for this calling before it
came into this world, we cannot wonder that the child was supposed to show
signs of piety from the days of its earliest existence, and even earlier.
Thus we read that even the unborn children joined in with the chorus on
the Red Sea and sang the Song (of Moses). David, again, composed Psalms
before perceiving the face of this world. On the Day of Atonement they
used to communicate to the unborn child, through the medium of its mother,
that on this great day it had to be satisfied with the good it had
received the day before. And when a certain child, afterwards named
Shabbethai, refused to listen to such a request, R. Johanan applied to it
the verse from the Psalm, “The wicked are estranged from the womb.”
Indeed, Shabbethai turned out a great sinner. It will perhaps be
interesting to hear what his sin was. It consisted in forestalling the
corn in the market and afterwards selling it to the poor at a much higher
price. Of a certain child the legend tells that it was born with the word
_emeth_ (truth) engraved on its fore‐head. Its parents named it
Amiti,(239) and the child proved to be a great saint.

The priest, however, could not enter into his office without some
consecration. As the first step in this consecration of the child we may
consider the Covenant of Abraham. But this was prefaced by a few other
solemn acts which I must mention. One of the oldest ceremonies connected
with the birth of a child was that of tree‐planting. In the case of a boy
they planted a cedar, in that of a girl a pine; and on their marriage they
cut branches from these trees to form the wedding‐canopy. Other rites
followed, but they were more of a medical character, and would be better
appreciated by the physician. In the Middle Ages superstition played a
great part. To be sure, I have spoken of saints; but we ought not to
forget that saints, too, have their foolish moments, especially when they
are fighting against hosts of demons, the existence of which is only
guaranteed by their own over‐excited brains. Jewish parents were for many
centuries troubled by the fear of Lilith,(240) the devil’s mother, who was
suspected of stealing children and killing them. The precautions they took
to prevent this atrocity were as foolish as the object of their fear. I do
not intend to enumerate here all these various precautions. Every country
almost has its own usages and charms, one more absurd than the other. It
will suffice to refer here to the most popular of these charms, in which
certain angels are invoked to protect the child against its dangerous
enemy Lilith. But of whatever origin they may be, Judaism could do better
without them. The only excuse for their existence among us is to my mind
that they provoked the famous Dr. Erter to the composition of one of the
finest satires in the Hebrew language.

Of a less revolting character was the so‐called ceremony of the “Reading
of the Shema.”(241) It consisted in taking all the little children of the
community into the house of the newly‐born child, where the teacher made
them read the Shema, sometimes also the ninety‐first Psalm. The fact that
little children were the chief actors in this ceremony reconciles one a
little to it despite its rather doubtful origin. In some communities these
readings took place every evening up to the day when the child was brought
into the covenant of Abraham. In other places they performed the ceremony
only on the eve of the day of the _Berith Milah_(242) (Ceremony of the
Circumcision). Indeed, this was the night during which Lilith was supposed
to play her worst tricks, and the watch over the child was redoubled.
Hence the name “Wachnacht,” or the “Night of Watching.” They remained
awake for the whole night, and spent it in feasting and in studying
certain portions of the Bible and the Talmud, mostly relating to the event
which was to take place on the following day. This ceremony was already
known to Jewish writers of the thirteenth century. Nevertheless, it is
considered by the best authorities on the subject to be of foreign origin.
Quite Jewish, as well as entirely free from superstitious taint, was the
visit which was paid to the infant‐boy on the first Sabbath of his
existence. It was called “Shalom Zachar,”(243) probably meaning “Peace‐
boy,” in allusion to a well‐known passage in the Talmud to the effect that
the advent of a boy in the family brings peace to the world.

At last the dawn of the great day of the Berith came. I shall, however,
only touch here on the social aspects of this rite.

Its popularity began, as it seems, in very early times. The persecutions
which Israel suffered for it in the times of Antiochus Epiphanes, “when
the princes and elders mourned, the virgins and the young men were made
feeble, and the beauty of women was changed, and when certain women were
put to death for causing their children to be circumcised,” are the best
proof of the attachment of the people to it. The repeated attempts against
this law, both by heathen and by Christian hands, only served to increase
its popularity. Indeed R. Simeon ben Eleazar characterised it as the law
for which Israel brought the sacrifice of martyrdom, and therefore held
firmly by it. In other words they suffered for it, and it became endeared
to them. R. Simeon ben Gamaliel declares it to be the only law which
Israel fulfils with joy and exultation. As a sign of this joy we may
regard the eagerness and the lively interest which raised this ceremony
from a strictly family affair to a matter in which the whole of the
community participated. Thus we find that already in the times of the
Gaonim the ceremony was transferred from the house of the parents to the
synagogue. Here it took place after the prayers, in the presence of the
whole congregation. The synagogue used to be specially illuminated in
honour of the event. Certain pieces of the daily prayer, of a rather
doleful nature, such as the confession of sins, were omitted, lest the
harmony of the festival should be disturbed. As a substitute for these
prayers, various hymns suitable for the occasion were composed and
inserted in the liturgy for the day. As the most prominent members among
those present figured the happy father of the child and the medical man
who performed the ceremony, usually called the Mohel or Gozer,(244) both
wearing their festal garments and having certain privileges, such as being
called up to the Reading of the Law and chanting certain portions of the
prayers. It is not before the tenth century that a third member suddenly
emerges to become almost as important as the father of the child. I refer
to the _Sandek_ or Godfather. In some countries he was also called the
Baal Berith (Master of the Covenant). In Italy they seemed to have had two
Sandeks. This word was for a long time supposed to be the Greek word
σύνδικος. But it is now proved beyond doubt that it is a corruption of the
word σύντεκνος used in the Greek church for godfather. In the church he
was the man who lifted the neophyte from the baptismal waters. Among the
Jews, the office of the Sandek was to keep the child on his knees during
the performance of the rite. The Sandek’s place was, or is still, near the
seat of honour, which is called the Throne of Elijah, who is supposed to
be the angel of the covenant. Other angels, too, were believed to
officiate at this rite. Thus the angel Gabriel is also said to have
performed the office of Sandek to a certain child. According to other
sources the archangel Metatron himself attended. Probably it was on this
account that later Rabbis admonished the parents to take only a pious and
good Jew as Sandek for their children. Christian theologians also declared
that no good Christian must render such a service to a Jew. The famous
Buxtorf had to pay a fine of 100 florins for having attended the Berith of
a child, whose father he had employed as reader when editing the well‐
known Basel Bible. The poor reader himself, who was the cause of Buxtorf’s
offence, was fined 400 florins. Of an opposite case in which a Jew served
as godfather to a Christian child, we find a detailed account in Schudt’s
_Merkwürdigkeiten der Juden_, a very learned and very foolish book. When
the father was summoned before the magistrate, and was asked how he dared
to charge a Jew with such a holy Christian ceremony, he coolly answered,
because he knew that the Jew would present him with a silver cup. As to
the present, I have to remark that with the Jews also the godfather was
expected to bestow a gift on the child. In some communities he had to
defray the expenses of the festival‐dinner, of which I shall speak
presently. In others, again, he had also to give a present to the mother
of the child.

Much older than the institution of the Sandek is the festival‐dinner just
alluded to, which was held after the ceremony. Jewish legend supplies many
particulars of the dinner the patriarch Abraham gave at the Berith of his
son Isaac. This is a little too legendary, but there is ample historical
evidence that such meals were already customary in the times of the Second
Temple. The Talmud of Jerusalem gives us a detailed account of the
proceedings which took place at the Berith dinner of Elisha ben Abuyah,
who afterwards obtained a sad celebrity as Acher. Considering that
Elisha’s birth must have fallen within the first decades after the
destruction of the Temple, and that these sad times were most unsuitable
for introducing new festivals, we may safely date the custom back to the
times of the Temple. The way in which the guests entertained themselves is
also to be gathered from the passage referred to. First came the dinner,
in which all the guests participated; afterwards the great men of
Jerusalem occupied one room, indulging there in singing, hand clapping,
and dancing. The scholars again, who apparently did not belong to the
great men, were confined to another room, where they employed themselves
in discussing biblical subjects. In later times special hymns, composed
for this festival, were inserted in the grace after dinner. After the
dinner, sermons or speeches used also to be given, the contents of which
were usually made up of reflections on biblical and Talmudical passages
relating to the event of the day. Sometimes they consisted of a kind of
learned puns on the name which the child received on this occasion.

With this meal the first consecration of the child‐priest was concluded.
In some places they used to come to the father’s house on the third day
after the circumcision with the purpose of making inquiries after the
child’s health. In the case when the child was the first‐born the ceremony
of “redeeming the child”(245) in accordance with Exodus xiii. used to take
place. The details of this ceremony are to be found in almost every
prayer‐book, and there is nothing fresh to add. But perhaps I may be
allowed to draw attention to another distinction that the first‐born
received in the Middle Ages. I refer to an account given by the author of
the book, _The Ordinance of the Law_,(246) who flourished in the
thirteenth century. He says: Our predecessors made the rule to destine
every first‐born to God, and before its birth the father had to say, “I
take the vow that if my wife presents me with a son, he shall be holy unto
the Lord, and in His Torah he shall meditate day and night.” On the eighth
day after the Berith Milah they put the child on cushions, and a Bible on
its head, and the elders of the community, or the principal of the
college, imparted their blessings to it. These first‐born sons formed,
when grown up, the chief contingent of the Yeshiboth (Talmudical
Colleges), where they devoted the greatest part of their lives to the
study of the Torah. In later centuries the vow was dropped, but from the
abundance of the Yeshiboth in Poland and elsewhere it seems as if almost
every child was considered as having no other calling but the study of the
Torah. Indeed, the growing persecutions required a strengthening of the
religious force.

With these ceremonies the first act of consecration ended in the case
where the new‐born child was a boy. I will now refer to the ceremony of
the name‐giving, which was common to males and females. In the case of the
former this ceremony was connected with the Berith Milah. The oldest
formula, which is already to be found in the _Ritual Rab Amram Gaon_, is
composed in Aramaic. It is, like many prayers in that language, a most
beautiful composition, and very suitable for the occasion. Our present
Hebrew prayer is far less beautiful, and dates from a much later age. In
some countries the ceremony of naming was repeated in the house of the
parents. It took place on the Sabbath, when the mother returned home from
her first visit to the synagogue after her recovery. Here the friends and
relatives of the family assembled, and after arranging themselves round
the cradle of the child they lifted it three times, shouting the new name
at every lifting. This name was the so‐called “profane” name, whilst the
name it received in the synagogue was the “sacred” or Hebrew name. The
ceremony concluded with the usual festival‐dinner. By the way, there was
perhaps a little too much feasting in those days. The contemporary Rabbis
tried indeed to suppress some of the banquets, and put all sorts of
restrictions on dinner‐hunting people. But considering the fact that, as
Jews, they were excluded from every public amusement, we cannot grudge
them the pleasure they drew from these semi‐religious celebrations. For
people of an ascetic disposition it was, perhaps, the only opportunity of
enjoying a proper meal. In the same way, in our days, the most severe
father would not deny his lively daughter the pleasure of dancing or
singing charitably for the benefit of suffering humanity. The ceremony
described was known to the authors of the Middle Ages by the name of
_Holle Kreish_. These words are proved by Dr. Perles to be of German
origin, and based on some Teutonic superstition into the explanation of
which I cannot enter here.

Of much more importance was the ceremony of name‐giving in the case of a
girl, it being the only attention the female child received from the
synagogue. The usages varied. In some countries the name was given on the
first Sabbath after the birth of the child. The father was “called up to
the Reading of the Law,” on which followed the formula, “He who blessed
our ancestors Abraham,” etc., “may He also bless,” etc., including the
blessing and announcement of the child’s name. After the prayer the
congregation assembled in the house of the parents to congratulate them.
In other countries the ceremony took place on the Sabbath when the mother
attended the synagogue after the recovery. The ceremony of Holle Kreish
seems to have been especially observed in the case of a girl.

Though the feasting was now over for the parents, the child still lived in
a holiday atmosphere for a long time. In the legend of the “Ages of Man”
the child is described in the first year of its existence as a little
prince, adored and petted by all. The mother herself nourished and tended
the child. Although the Bible already speaks of nurses, many passages in
the later Jewish literature show a strong aversion to these substitutes
for the mother. In the event of the father of the child dying, the mother
was forbidden to marry before her suckling infant reached the age of two
years, lest a new courtship might lead to the neglect of the child.

More difficult is it to say wherein the other signs of loyalty to the
little prince consisted; as, for instance, whether Jews possessed anything
like lullabies to soothe the little prince into happy and sweet slumber.
At least I am not aware of the existence of such songs in the ancient
Jewish literature, nor are they quoted by mediæval writers. The
“Schlummerlied,” by an unknown Jewish bard, about which German scholars
wrote so much, contains more heathen than Jewish elements. From the
protest in _The Book of the Pious_, against using non‐Jewish cradle‐songs,
it seems that little Moshechen was lulled to sleep by the same tunes and
words as little Johnny. The only Jewish lullaby of which I know, is to be
found in the work of a modern writer who lived in Russia. How far its
popularity goes in that country I have no means of ascertaining. This
jingle runs as follows:—

    O! hush thee, my darling, sleep soundly my son,
    Sleep soundly and sweetly till day has begun;
    For under the bed of good children at night
    There lies, till the morning, a kid snowy white.
    We’ll send it to market to buy Sechora,(247)
    While my little lad goes to study Torah.
    Sleep soundly at night and learn Torah by day,
    Then thou’lt be a Rabbi when I have grown gray.
    But I’ll give thee to‐morrow ripe nuts and a toy,
    If thou’lt sleep as I bid thee, my own little boy.(248)

But naturally the holiday atmosphere I spoke of was very often darkened by
clouds resulting from the illness of the child. Excepting small‐pox, the
child was subject to most of those diseases which so often prove fatal to
our children. These diseases were known under the collective name of “the
difficulties (or the pain) of bringing up children.” These difficulties
seem to have been still greater in Palestine, where one of the old Rabbis
exclaimed that it was easier to see a whole forest of young olive trees
grow up than to rear one child.(249) To avoid so mournful a subject, I
refrain from repeating the touching stories relating to the death of
children. The pain was the more keenly felt since there was no other way
of explaining the misfortune which befell the innocent creature than that
it had suffered for the sins of the parents; and the only comfort the
latter had was that the child could not have lost much by its being
removed from this vale of tears at such an early period. A remarkable
legend describes God Himself as giving lessons so many hours a day to
these prematurely deceased children.(250) Indeed, to the mind of the old
Rabbis, the only thing worth living for was the study of the Law.
Consequently the child that suffered innocently could not have a better
compensation than to learn Torah from the mouth of the Master of masters.

But even when the child was healthy, and food and climate proved congenial
to its constitution, there still remained the troubles of its spiritual
education. And to be sure it was not an easy matter to bring up a
“priest.” The first condition for this calling was learning. But learning
cannot be acquired without honest and hard industry. It is true that R.
Akiba numbers wisdom among the virtues which are hereditary from father to
son. Experience, however, has shown that it is seldom the case, and the
Rabbis were already troubled with the question how it happens that
children so little resemble their fathers in respect of learning.

Certainly Jewish legends can boast of a whole series of prodigies. Thus a
certain Rabbi is said to have been so sharp as to have had a clear
recollection of the mid‐wife who made him a citizen of this world. Ben
Sira again, instantly after his birth, entertains his terrified mother
with many a wise and foolish saying, refuses the milk she offers him, and
asks for solid food. A certain Nachman was born with a prophecy on his
lips, predicting the fate of all nations on earth, as well as fixing the
date for the advent of the Messiah. The youngest of seven sons of Hannah,
who became martyrs under the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes, was according
to one version aged two years, six months, six hours, and thirty minutes.
But the way in which he defied the threats of the tyrant was really worthy
of one of seventy. R. Judah de Modena is said to have read the lesson from
the prophets in the synagogue at the age of two years and a half. A famous
Cabbalist, Nahum, at the age of three, gave a lecture on the decalogue
that lasted for three days. The Chassidim pretended of one of their
Zaddikim that he remembered all that he had been taught by the angels
before his birth, and thus excused their Zaddik’s utter neglect of
studying anything. Perhaps I may mention in this place a sentence from
Schudt, which may reconcile one to the harmless exaggerations of the
Chassidim. It relates to a case where a Jewish girl of six was taken away
by a Christian with the intention of baptising her, for he maintained that
this was the wish and pleasure of the child. Probably the little girl
received her instruction from the Christian servant of the house, as has
happened many times. Schudt proves that this wish ought to be granted in
spite of the minority of the child. He argues: As there is a maxim, “What
is wanting in years may be supplied by wickedness,” why could not also the
reverse be true that “What is wanting in years can be supplied by grace”?
Of a certain R. Meshullam, again, we know that he preached in the
synagogue at Brody, at the age of nine, and perplexed the chief Rabbi of
the place by his deep Talmudical learning. As the Rabbi had a daughter of
seven, the cleverness exhibited by the boy Rabbi did not end without very
serious consequences for all his life.

Happily all these prodigies or children of grace are only exceptional. I
say happily, for the Rabbis themselves disliked such creatures. They were
more satisfied with those signs of intelligence that indicate future
greatness. The following story may serve as an instance:—R. Joshua ben
Hananiah once made a journey to Rome. Here he was told that amongst the
captives from Jerusalem there was a child with bright eyes, its hair in
ringlets, and its features strikingly beautiful. The Rabbi made up his
mind to redeem the boy. He went to the prison and addressed the child with
a verse from Isaiah, “Who gave Jacob for a spoil and Israel to the
robbers?” On this the child answered by continuing the second half of the
same verse, “Did not the Lord, He against whom we have sinned? For they
would not walk in His ways, neither were they obedient unto His law”
(Isaiah xlii. 24). The Rabbi was so delighted with this answer, that he
said: “I am sure he will grow up to be a teacher in Israel. I take an oath
to redeem him, cost what it may.” The child was afterwards known under the
name of R. Ishmael ben Elisha. Such children were ideals of the Rabbis,
but they hated the baby scholar, who very often grew impertinent and
abused his elders. The Rabbis much preferred the majority of those tiny
creatures, who are characterised by the already mentioned legends on the
“Ages of Men” as little animals playing, laughing, crying, dancing, and
committing all sorts of mischief.

But these children must be taught. Now, there is the well‐known advice of
Judah ben Tema, who used to say that the child at five years was to be
taught Scripture, at ten years Mishnah, at thirteen to fulfil the Law,
etc. This saying, incorporated in most editions in the fifth Chapter of
the _Sayings of the Fathers_, is usually considered as the programme of
Jewish education. But, like so many programmes, this tells us rather how
things ought to have been than how they were. In the times of the Temple,
the participation of the youth in religious actions began at the tenderest
age. As soon as they were able to walk a certain distance with the support
of their parents, the children had to accompany them on their pilgrimages
to Jerusalem. In the Sabbatical year they were brought to the Temple, to
be present at the reading of Deuteronomy by the king.(251) The period at
which the child’s allegiance to the Synagogue began is still more
distinctly described. Of the many Talmudical passages relating to this
question, I shall select the following quotation from a later Midrash,
because it is the most concise. In allusion to Leviticus xix. 23, 24,
concerning the prohibition of eating the fruits of a tree in the first
three years, this Midrash goes on to say: “And this is also the case with
the Jewish child. In the first three years the child is unable to speak,
and therefore is exempted from every religious duty, but in the fourth
year all its fruits shall be holy to praise the Lord, and the father is
obliged to initiate the child in religious works.” Accordingly the
religious life of the child began as soon as it was able to speak
distinctly, or with the fourth year of its life. As to the character of
this initiation we learn from the same Midrash and also from other
Talmudical passages, that it consisted in teaching the child the verses,
“Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God _is_ One” (Deut. vi. 4), and “Moses
commanded us a Torah, the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob” (Deut.
xxxiii. 4). It was also in this year that the boys began to accompany
their parents to the synagogue, carrying their prayer‐books. At what age
the girls first came out—not for their first party, but with the purpose
of going to the synagogue—is difficult to decide with any degree of
certainty. But if we were to trust a rather doubtful reading in Tractate
_Sopherim_,(252) we might maintain that their first appearance in the
synagogue was also at a very tender age. I hope that they behaved there
more respectfully than their brothers, who played and cried instead of
joining in the responses and singing with the congregation. In some
communities they proved so great a nuisance that a certain Rabbi declared
it would be better to leave them at home rather than to have the devotion
of the whole congregation disturbed by these urchins. Another Rabbi
recommended the praiseworthy custom of the Sephardim,(253) who confined
all the boys in the synagogue to one place, and set a special overseer by
their side, with a whip in his hands, to compel them to keep quiet and to
worship with due devotion.

A strange custom is known among the Arabian and Palestinian Jews under the
name of _Chalaka_. It means the first hair‐cutting of the boy after his
fourth birthday. As on this occasion loyalty to the Scripture is shown by
not touching the “corners” (Lev. xix. 17), the whole action is considered
a religious ceremony of great importance. In Palestine it usually takes
place on the second day of the Feast of the Passover when the counting of
the seven weeks begins. On this day friends and relatives assemble at the
house of the parents. Thither the boy is brought, dressed in his best
garments, and every one of the assembly is entrusted with the duty of
cutting a few hairs, which is considered a great privilege. The ceremony
is as usual followed by a dinner given to the guests. The Jews in Safed
and Tiberias perform the ceremony with great pomp in the courtyard
surrounding the (supposed) grave of R. Simeon ben Yochai, in one of the
neighbouring villages.

Another custom already mentioned in the Talmud, but which quite
disappeared in later times, is that of weighing the child. It would be
worth reviving if performed in the way in which the mother of Doeg ben
Joseph did it. This tender‐hearted mother weighed her only son every day,
and distributed among the poor, in gold, the amount of the increased
weight of her child.

I pass now to the second great consecration of the boy,—the rites
performed on the day when the boy went to school for the first time. This
day was celebrated by the Jews, especially in the Middle Ages, in such a
way as to justify the high esteem in which they held the school. The
school was looked upon as a second Mount Sinai, and the day on which the
child entered it as the Feast of Revelation. Of the many different
customs, I shall mention here that according to which this day was fixed
for the Feast of Weeks. Early in the morning, while it was still dark, the
child was washed and dressed carefully. In some places they dressed it in
a “gown with fringes.” As soon as day dawned the boy was taken to the
synagogue, either by his father or by some worthy member of the community.
Arrived at their destination, the boy was put on the Almemor, or reading‐
dais, before the Scroll of the Law, from which the narrative of the
Revelation (Exod. xx. 2‐26) was read as the portion of the day. From the
synagogue the boy was taken to the house of the teacher, who took him into
his arms. Thereupon a slate was brought, containing the alphabet in
various combinations, the verse, “Moses has commanded,” etc. in Deut.
xxxiii. 4, the first verse of the Book of Leviticus, and the words, “The
Torah will be my calling.” The teacher then read the names of the letters,
which the boy repeated. After the reading, the slate was besmeared with
honey, which the boy licked off. This was done in allusion to Ezekiel iii.
3, where it is said: “And it (the roll) was in my mouth as honey for
sweetness.” The boy was also made to eat a sweet cake, on which were
written passages from the Bible relating to the importance of the study of
the Torah. The ceremony was concluded by invoking the names of certain
angels, asking them to open the heart of the boy, and to strengthen his
memory. By the way, I am very much afraid that this invocation was
answerable for the abolition of this ceremony. The year in which this
ceremony took place is uncertain, probably not before the fifth, nor later
than the seventh, according to the good or bad health of the child.

The reverence for the child already hinted at was still further increased
when the boy entered the school. “The children of the house (school) of
the master” is a regular phrase in Jewish literature. It is on their pure
breath that the existence of the world depends, and it is their merit that
justifies us in appealing to the mercy of God. Words of Scripture, uttered
by them quite innocently, were considered as oracles; and many a Rabbi
gave up an undertaking on account of a verse pronounced by a schoolboy,
who hardly understood its import. Take only one instance: R. Johanan was
longing to see his friend Mar Samuel in Babylon. After many disturbances
and delays, he at last undertook the journey. On the way he passed a
school where the boys were reciting the verse from 1 Samuel xxviii. 3,
“And Samuel died.” This was accepted by him as a hint given by Providence
that all was over with his friend.

Especially famous for their wisdom and sharpness were the children of
Jerusalem. Of the many illustrative stories given in the Midrash to
Lamentations, let the following suffice: R. Joshua was one day riding on
his donkey along the high road. As he passed a well, he saw a little girl
there, and asked her to give him some water. She accordingly gave water to
him and to his animal. The Rabbi thanked her with the words: “My daughter,
you acted like Rebecca.” “To be sure,” she answered, “I acted like
Rebecca; but you did not behave like Eleazar.” I must add that there are
passages in Jewish literature from which, with a little ingenuity, it
might be deduced that Jewish babies are the most beautiful of their kind.
The assertion made by a monk that Jewish children are inferior to
Christian children is a dreadful libel. The author of the _Old
Victory_,(254) in whose presence this assertion was made, was probably
childless, or he would have simply scratched out the eyes of this
malicious monk, instead of giving a mystical reason for the superior
beauty of any other children than his own.

Another point to be emphasised is that the boys were not confined all day
long to the close air of the schoolroom. They had also their hours of
recreation. This recreation consisted chiefly, as one can imagine, in
playing. Their favourite game was the ball, boys as well as girls being
fond of this form of amusement. They did not deny themselves this pleasure
even on festivals. They were also fond of the kite and games with nuts, in
which their mothers also took part. Letter‐games and riddles also occupied
their minds in the recreation hours. The angel Sandalphon,(255) who also
bears in the Cabbalah the name of “Boy,” was considered by the children as
their special patron, and they invoked him in their plays, addressing to
him the words: “Sandalphon, Lord of the forest, protect us from pain.”
Speaking generally, there are very few distinctively Jewish games. From
the researches of Zunz, Güdemann, and Löw on this subject, it is clear
that the Jews always adopted the pastimes of the peoples among whom they

But it must not be thought that there was too much playing. Altogether,
Jewish education was far from spoiling the children. And though it was
recommended—if such recommendation were necessary—to love children more
than one’s own soul, the Rabbis strongly condemned that blind partiality
towards our own offspring, which ends in burdening our world with so many
good‐for‐nothings. The sad experience of certain biblical personages
served as a warning for posterity. Even from the quite natural behaviour
of Jacob towards his son Joseph, which had the best possible results in
the end, they drew the lesson that a man must never show to one of his
children marks of greater favour than to the others. In later times they
have been even anxious to conceal this love altogether, and some Rabbis
went so far as to refrain from kissing their children. The severity of
Akabya ben Mahalaleel is worth mentioning, if not imitating. When this
Rabbi, only a few minutes before his death, was asked by his son to
recommend him to his friends and colleagues, the answer the poor boy
received was: “Thy conduct will recommend thee to my friends, or will
estrange thee from them.” Another Rabbi declared (with reference to Prov.
xxviii. 27) that it is life‐giving to a youth to teach him temperance in
his diet, and not to accustom him to meat and wine. R. Judah, the Pious,
in the Middle Ages, gives the advice to rich parents to withdraw their
resources from their sons if they lead a disorderly life. The struggle for
their existence, and the hardship of life, would bring them back to God.
When the old Rabbi said that poverty is a most becoming ornament for
Israel, his remark was probably suggested by a similar thought. And many a
passage in the Rabbinic literature gives expression to the same idea as
that in Goethe’s divine lines:—

    Wer nie sein Brot mit Thränen ass,
    Wer nie die kummervollen Nächte
    Auf seinem Bette weinend sass,
    Der kennt Euch nicht, Ihr himmlischen Mächte.

I have spoken of a kingdom of priests, but there is one great disadvantage
of such a polity. One or two priests in a community may be sustained by
the liberality of the congregation. But if a community consisted of only
priests, how could it then be maintained? Besides, the old Jewish ideal
expected the teacher to be possessed of a divine goodness, imparting his
benefits only as an act of grace. Salaries, therefore, either for teaching
or preaching, or for giving ritual decisions, were strongly forbidden. The
solution of the question put by the Bible, “And if ye shall say, What
shall we eat?” is to be found in the law that every father was obliged to
teach his son a handicraft, enabling him to obtain a living.

I have now to speak of the time when childhood is brought to a conclusion.
It is, as I stated above, in the case of a girl at the beginning of the
thirteenth year, and in that of a boy at the beginning of the fourteenth
year. As a reason for this priority I will reproduce the words of R.
Chisda, who said that God has endowed woman with a greater portion of
intelligence than man, and therefore she obtains her maturity at an
earlier period than man does. A very nice compliment, indeed; but like all
compliments it is of no practical consequence whatever. It is not always
the wiser who get the best of it in life. Whilst the day on which the girl
obtained her majority passed unnoticed either by her or by her family, it
was marked in the case of the boy as the day on which he became a Son of
the Law,(256) and was signalised by various rites and ceremonies, and by
the bestowing on him of beautiful presents. I miss only the wig, which
used to form the chief ornament of the boy on this happy day.

Less known, however, is the origin of this ceremony, and the reason for
fixing its date. It cannot claim a very high antiquity. I may remark that
in many cases centuries elapse before an idea or a notion takes practical
shape and is crystallised into a custom or usage, and still longer before
this custom is fossilised into a law or fixed institution. As far as the
Bible goes, there is not the slightest indication of the existence of such
a ceremony. From Lev. xxvii. 5, and Num. xiv. 29, it would rather seem
that it was not before the twentieth year that the man was considered to
have obtained his majority, and to be responsible for his actions. It was
only in the times of the Rabbis, when Roman influence became prevalent in
juristic matters at least, that the date of thirteen, or rather the
_pubertas_, was fixed as giving the boy his majority. But it would be a
mistake to think that before having obtained this majority the boy was
considered as under age in every respect. Certainly the law made every
possible effort to connect him with the synagogue, and to initiate him in
his religious duties long before the age of thirteen.

We have seen that the boy’s first appearance in the synagogue was at the
beginning of the fourth year. We have noticed the complaints about his
troublesome behaviour. But how could we expect the poor child to be
attentive to things which quite surpassed the intellectual powers of his
tender age? There was no better reason for this attendance either in the
Temple or in the synagogue than that the parents might be rewarded by God
for the trouble of taking their children there. These cares, by the way,
fell most heavily upon the women. The mother of R. Joshua enjoyed this
burden so much that she carried her boy, when still in the cradle, to the
“House of Study of the Law,” in order that his ears might be accustomed to
the sound of the Torah. In later times there was another excuse for taking
the little children to the synagogue. They were there allowed to sip the
wine of the Sanctification Cup,(257) which was the exclusive privilege of
the children; an easy way of worshipping, but, as you can observe, it is a
method that they enjoy and understand most excellently. They did not less
enjoy and understand the service with which they were charged on the day
of “The Rejoicing of the Law.”(258) On this feast they were provided with
flags, which they carried before the bearers of the Torah, who feasted
them after the service with sweets. Another treat was that of being called
up on this day to the Torah, a custom that is still extant. In the Middle
Ages they went in some countries so far as to allow these little fellows
who did not wear caps “to be called up” to say the blessings over the Law
bare‐headed. A beautiful custom was that every Sabbath, after finishing
the weekly lesson and dressing the Scroll of the Law, the children used to
come up to the Almemor and kiss the Torah. Leaving the synagogue they
kissed the hands of the scholars. At home the initiation began with the
blessing the child received on every eve of the Sabbath, and with its
instruction in “Hear O Israel” and other verses as already mentioned.
Short prayers, consisting of a single sentence, were also chosen for
children of this age. The function of the child on the eve of the first
day of Passover is well known. Besides the putting of the four questions
for the meaning of the strange ceremony (Exod. xiii. 14), the boy had also
to recite, or rather to sing, the “Praise.”(259) But I am afraid that they
enjoyed better the song of “One Kid,” which was composed or rather adapted
for their special entertainment from an old German poem.

Within three or four years after entering the synagogue, and with the
growth of intellect and strength, the religious duties of the boy
increased, and became of a more serious character. He had not only to
attend the school, which was troublesome enough, but he was also expected
to attend the services more regularly, and to gain something by it. Yet
the Rabbis were not so tyrannical as to put unjust demands on the patience
of the child. The voice of God on Mount Sinai, the Rabbis said, was
adapted to the intellect and powers of all who witnessed the
Revelation—adapted, as the Midrash says, to the powers of old and young,
children and women. It was in accordance with this sentiment that the
Rabbis suited their language to the needs of the less educated classes.
Thus we read in the Tractate _Sopherim_ that according to the law the
portion of the week, after having been recited in Hebrew, must be
translated into the language of the vernacular for the benefit of the
unlearned people, the women, and the children. Another consideration
children experienced from the Rabbis was that at the age of nine or ten
the boy was initiated into the observance of the Day of Atonement by
fasting a few hours. Lest, however, this good work might be overdone, and
thus endanger the child’s health, the sage R. Acha used to tell his
congregation after the Addition‐Prayer “My brethren, let every one of you
who has a child go home and make it eat.” In later centuries, when the
disease of small‐pox became so fatal, some Rabbis declared it to be the
duty of every father to leave the town with his children as soon as the
plague showed itself. The joy with which the Rabbis hailed Dr. Jenner’s
discovery deserves our recognition. None of them perceived in vaccination
a defiance of Providence. R. Abraham Nansich, from London, wrote a
pamphlet to prove its lawfulness. The Cabbalist Buzagli disputed Dr.
Jenner’s priority, but nevertheless approved of vaccination. R. Israel
Lipschütz declared that the Doctor acquired salvation by his new remedy.

With his advancing age, not only the boy’s duties but also his rights were
increased. An enumeration of all these rights would lead me too far, but I
shall mention the custom which allowed the boy the recital of
“Magnified”(260) and “Bless ye”(261) in the synagogue. Now this privilege
is restricted to the orphan boy. It is interesting to hear that girls were
also admitted to recite the Magnified in the synagogue, in cases where
their parents left no male issue. I have myself witnessed such a case. In
some countries the boy had the exclusive privilege of reading the prayers
on the evenings of the festivals and Sabbaths. R. Samson ben Eleazar, in
the fifteenth century, received his family name Baruch Sheamar(262) from
the skill with which he recited this prayer when a boy. He chanted it so
well that he was called by the members of the community Master Baruch
Sheamar. As to the question whether the boy, while under age, might
lawfully be considered as one of the Ten when such a quorum was required,
or one of the three in the case of grace after meals, I can only say that
the authorities never agreed in this respect. Whilst the one insisted upon
his having obtained his majority, the other was satisfied with his showing
such signs of intelligence as would enable him to participate in the
ceremony in question. Here is an instance of such a sign. Abaye and Raba,
the two celebrated heroes of the Babylonian Talmud, were sitting at the
table of Rabbah. Before saying grace he asked them, “Do you know to whom
these prayers are addressed?” Thereupon one boy pointed to the roof,
whilst the other boy went out and pointed to the sky. The examiner was
satisfied with their answer.

The privilege of putting on the phylacteries forms now in most countries
the chief distinction of “The Son of the Law”; in olden times, however,
every boy had claim to it as soon as he showed himself capable of behaving
respectfully when wearing the holy symbol. It even happened that certain
honours of the synagogue were bestowed on boys, though under age. We
possess a copy of a Jewish epitaph dating from about the third century,
which was written in Rome for a boy of eight years, who is there
designated as archon. The fact is the more curious, as on the other hand
the Palestinian R. Abuha, who lived in the same century, maintained that
no man must be elected as Warden before he has achieved his fiftieth year.
That boys were admitted to preach in the synagogue I have already

From all these remarks it will easily be seen that in olden times the boy
enjoyed almost all the rights of majority long before the day of his being
“The Son of the Law.” The condition of the novice is hardly
distinguishable from that of the initiated priest. The Talmud, the Gaonim,
and even R. Isaac Alfasi and Maimonides knew neither the term “The Son of
the Law” (in our sense of the word) nor any ceremony connected with it.
There is only one slight reference to such an institution, recorded in the
Tractate _Sopherim_, with the quotation of which I shall conclude this
paper. We read there: “In Jerusalem there was the godly custom to initiate
the children at the _beginning_ of the thirteenth year by fasting the
whole Day of Atonement. During this year they took the boy to the priests
and learned men that they might bless him, and pray for him that God might
think him worthy of a life devoted to the study of the Torah and pious
works.” For, this author says, “they were beautiful, and their lives
harmonious and their hearts directed to God.”


The learned Woman has always been a favourite subject with Jewish
students; and her intellectual capabilities have been fully vindicated in
many an essay and even fair‐sized book. Less attention, however, has been
paid to woman’s claims as a devotional being whom the Temple, and
afterwards the Synagogue, more or less recognised. At least it is not
known to me that any attempt has been made to give, even in outline, the
history of woman’s relation to public worship. It is needless to say that
the present sketch, which is meant to supply this want in some measure,
lays no claim to completeness; but I venture to hope that it will help to
direct the attention of the friends of research to the matter, and that it
may induce others to deal more fully with the subject and do it the
justice it deserves.

The earliest allusion to women’s participation in _public_ worship, is
that in Exodus xxxviii. 8, to the women who assembled to minister at the
door of the “tent of meeting,” of whose mirrors the lavers of brass were
made (cf. 1 Sam. ii. 22). Philo, who is not exactly enamoured of the
emancipation of women, and seeks to confine them to the “small state,” is
here full of their praise. “For,” he says, “though no one enjoined them to
do so, they of their own spontaneous zeal and earnestness contributed the
mirrors with which they had been accustomed to deck and set off their
beauty, as the most becoming first‐fruits of their modesty, and of the
purity of their married life, and, as one may say, of the beauty of their
souls.” In another passage Philo describes the Jewish women as “competing
with the men themselves in piety, having determined to enter upon a
glorious contest, and to the utmost extent of their power to exert
themselves so as not to fall short of their holiness.”

It is, however, very difficult to ascertain in what this ministry of women
consisted. The Hebrew term “Zobeoth”(264) would suggest the thought of a
species of religious Amazons, who formed a guard of honour round the
Sanctuary. Some commentators think that the ministry consisted in
performing religious dances accompanied by various instruments. The
Septuagint again speaks “of the women who fasted by the doors of the
Tabernacle.” But most of the old Jewish expositors, as well as Onkelos,
conceive that the women went to the tent of meeting to pray. Ibn Ezra
offers the interesting remark, “And behold, there were women in Israel
serving the Lord, who left the vanities of this world, and not being
desirous of beautifying themselves any longer, made of their mirrors a
free offering, and came to the tabernacle every day to pray and to listen
there to the words of the commandments.” When we find that in 1 Sam. i.
12, “Hannah continued to pray before the Lord,” she was only doing there
what many of her sisters did before and after her. We may also judge that
it was from the number of these noble women, who made religion the aim of
their lives, that the “twenty‐two” heroines and prophetesses sprang who
form part of the glory of Jewish history. Sometimes it even happened that
their husbands derived their religious inspiration from them. Thus the
husband of the prophetess Deborah is said to have been an unlettered man.
But his wife made him carry to the Sanctuary the candles which she herself
had prepared, this being the way in which she encouraged him to seek
communion with the righteous.

The language in which the husband of the “Great Woman” of Shunem addresses
his wife: “Wherefore wilt thou go to him” (the prophet)? “it is neither
New Moon nor Sabbath” (2 Kings iv. 23), proves that on Festivals and
Sabbaths the women used to attend some kind of worship, performed by the
prophet, though we cannot say in what this worship consisted. The New Moon
was especially a woman’s holiday, and was so observed even in the Middle
Ages, for the women refrained from doing work on that day. The explanation
given by the Rabbis is that when the men broke off their golden earrings
to supply material for the golden calf, the women refused to contribute
their trinkets, for which good behaviour a special day of repose was
granted to them. Some Cabbalists even maintain that the original
worshippers of the golden calf continue to exist on earth, their souls
having successively migrated into various bodies, while their punishment
consists in this, that they are ruled over by their wives. Rather
interesting as well as complimentary to women is the remark which the
Rabbis made with regard to the “Great Woman.” As will be remembered, it is
_she_ who says, “I perceive that this (Elisha) is a holy man of God” (2
Kings iv. 19). In allusion to this verse the Talmud says: “From this fact
we may infer that woman is quicker in recognising the worth of a stranger
than man.”

The great woman, or women, continued to pray and to join in the public
worship also after the destruction of the first Temple. Thus Esther is
reported by tradition to have addressed God in a long extempore prayer
before she presented herself before the throne of Ahasuerus to plead her
people’s cause; and women were always enjoined to attend the reading of
the Book of Esther. When Ezra read the Law for the first time, he did so
in the presence of the men and the women (Neh. viii. 3). In the Book of
the Maccabees we read of “The women girt with sackcloth ... and the
maidens that ran to the gates.... And all holding their hands towards
heaven made supplication.” In the Judith legend, mention is also made of
“Every man and woman ... who fell before the Temple, and spread out their
sackcloth before the face of the Lord ... and cried before the God of
Israel.” In the second Temple, the women, as is well known, possessed a
court reserved for their exclusive use. There the great illuminations and
rejoicings on the evening of the Feast of Tabernacles used to be held. On
this occasion, however, the women were confined to galleries specially
erected for them. It was also in this Women’s Hall that the great public
reading of certain portions of the Law by the king, once in seven years,
used to take place, and women had also to attend at the function. On the
other hand, it is hardly necessary to say that women were excluded from
performing any important service in the Temple. If we were to trust a
certain passage in the “Chapters of R. Eliezer,” we might perhaps conclude
that during the first Temple, the wives of the Levites formed a part of
the choir, but the meaning of the passage is too obscure and doubtful for
us to be justified in basing on it so important an inference. Nor can the
three hundred maidens who were employed for the weaving of the curtains in
the Temple, be looked upon as having stood in closer connection with the
Temple, or as having formed an order of women‐priests or girl‐devotees (as
one might wrongly be induced to think by certain passages in Apocryphal
writings of the New Testament). But on the other hand, it is not
improbable that their frequent contact with the Sanctuary of the nation
produced in them that religious enthusiasm and zeal which may account for
the heroic death which—according to the legend—they sought and found after
the destruction of the Temple. It is to be remarked that, according to the
law, women were even exempted from putting their hands on the head of the
victim, which formed an important item in the sacrificial worship. It is,
however, stated by an eye‐witness, that the authorities permitted them to
perform this ceremony if they desired to do so, and that their reason for
this concession was “to give calmness of the spirit, or satisfaction, to

Still greater, perhaps, was “the calmness of spirit” given to women in the
synagogue. We find in ancient epitaphs that such titles of honour were
conferred upon them as “Mistress of the Synagogue,” and “Mother of the
Synagogue,” and, though they held no actual office in the Synagogue, it is
not improbable that they acquired these titles by meritorious work
connected with a religious institution, viz.: Charity. There was, indeed,
a tendency to exclude women from the synagogue at certain seasons, but
almost all the authorities protest against it, many of them declaring such
a notion to be quite un‐Jewish. Some Jewish scholars even think that the
ancient synagogues knew of no partition for women. I am rather inclined to
think that the synagogue took for its model the arrangements in the
Temple, and thus confined women to a place of their own. But, whether they
sat side by side with the men or occupied a special portion of the
edifice, there can be no doubt that the Jewish women were great synagogue‐
goers. To give only one instance. One Rabbi asks another: Given the case
that the members of the synagogue are all descendants of Aaron, to whom
then would they impart their blessing? The answer is, to the women who are

Of the sermon they were even more fond than their husbands. Thus one woman
was so much interested in the lectures of R. Meir, which he was in the
habit of giving every Friday evening, that she used to remain there so
long that the candles in her house burnt themselves out. Her lazy husband,
who stopped at home, so strongly resented having to wait in the dark, that
he would not permit her to cross the threshold until she gave some offence
to the preacher, which would make him sure that she would not venture to
attend his sermons again.

The prayers they said were the Eighteen Benedictions which were prescribed
by the Law. But it would seem that occasionally they offered short prayers
composed by themselves as suggested by their personal feelings and needs.
Thus, to give one instance, R. Johanan relates that one day he observed a
young girl fall on her face and pray: “Lord of the world, Thou hast
created Paradise, Thou hast created hell, Thou hast created the wicked,
Thou hast created the righteous; may it be Thy will that I may not serve
as a stumbling‐block to them.” The fine Hebrew in which the prayer is
expressed, and the notion of the responsibility of Providence for our
actions, manifest a high degree of intelligence and reflection. It would
also seem that some women went so far in their religious sensibility as to
lead a regular ascetic life, and, according to the suggestion of some
scholars, even took the vow of celibacy. Of these the Rabbis did not
approve, and stigmatised them as the “destroyers of the world.” Perhaps it
was just at this period that Judaism could not afford to give free play to
those morbid feelings, degenerating into religious hysterics, which led
some to join rival sects, and others to abandon themselves to the gross
immorality we read of in the history of the Gnostics.

The same circumstances may have been the cause of public opinion being led
to accept the view of R. Eliezer, who thought it inadvisable—it would seem
on moral grounds—to permit woman to study the Law. This opinion was
opposed to that of Ben Azzai, who considered it incumbent upon every
father to teach his daughter Torah. But justified as the advice of R.
Eliezer may have been in his own time, it was rather unfortunate that
later generations continued to take it as the guiding principle for the
education of their children. Many great women in the course of history
indeed became law‐breakers and studied Torah; but the majority were
entirely dependent on men, and became in religious matters a sort of
appendix to their husbands, who by their good actions insured salvation
also for them, and sometimes the reverse. Thus there is a story about a
woman which, put into modern language, would be to the effect that she
married a minister and copied his sermons for him; he died, and she then
married a cruel usurer, and kept his accounts for him.

The fact that women were exempted from certain affirmative laws, which
become operative only at special seasons—_e.g._, the taking of the palm
branch on the Feast of Tabernacles—must also have contributed to weaken
their position as a religious factor in Judaism. The idea that women
should vie with men in the fulfilment of every law, became even for the
Rabbis a notion connected only with the remotest past. This is the
impression one gains when reading the legend about Michal, the daughter of
Saul, putting on phylacteries, or the wife of the prophet Jonah making a
pilgrimage to Jerusalem at the three Festivals. It would indeed seem as if
women were led to strive for the satisfaction of their religious wants in
another direction. Yet it was said of Jewish women, “The daughters of
Israel were stringent and laid certain restrictions on themselves.” They
were also allowed to form a quorum by themselves for the purpose of saying
the Grace, but they could not be counted along with males for this end. It
was also against the early notion of the dignity of the congregation that
women should perform any public service for men.

One privilege was left to women—that of weeping. In Judges xi. 40, we read
of the daughters of Israel that went yearly to lament the daughter of
Jephthah; while in 2 Chronicles xxxv. 25, we are told how “all the singing
men and the singing women spake of Josiah in their lamentations.” Of this
privilege they were not deprived, and if they were not allowed to sing any
longer, they at least retained the right to weep as much as they pleased.
Even in later times they held a public office as mourning women at
funerals. In the Talmud fragments of compositions by women for such
occasions are to be found. Indeed, woman became in these times the type of
grief and sorrow. She cannot reason, but she feels much more deeply than
man. Here is one instance from an old legend: Jeremiah said, “When I went
up to Jerusalem (after the destruction of the Temple) I lifted my eyes and
saw there a lonely woman sitting on the top of the mountain, her dress
black, her hair dishevelled, crying, ‘Who will comfort me?’ I approached
her and spake to her, ‘If thou art a woman, speak to me. If thou art a
ghost, begone.’ She answered, ‘Dost thou not know me?... I am the Mother,
Zion.’ ”

In general, however, the principle applied to women was: The king’s
daughter _within the palace_ is all glorious (Psalm xlv. 14), but _not_
outside of it. In the face of the “Femina in ecclesia taceat,” which was
the ruling maxim with other religions, Jewish women could only feel
flattered by this polite treatment by the Rabbis, though it meant the same
thing. We must not think, however, that this prevented them from attending
the service of the synagogue. According to the Tractate _Sopherim_, even
“the little daughters of Israel were accustomed to go to the synagogue.”
In the same tractate we find it laid down as “a duty to translate for them
the portion (of the Law) of the week, and the lesson from the prophets”
into the language they understand. The “King’s daughter” occasionally
asserted her rights without undue reliance on the opinion of the
authorities. And thus being ignorant of the Hebrew language women prayed
in the vernacular, though this was at least against the letter of the law.
And many famous Rabbis of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries express
their wonder that the “custom of women praying in other (non‐Hebrew)
languages extended over the whole world.” It is noteworthy that they did
not suppress the practice, but on the contrary, they endeavoured to give
to the Law such an interpretation as would bring it into accord with the
general custom. Some even recommended it, as, for example, the author of
_The Book of the Pious_, who gives advice to women to learn the prayers in
the language familiar to them.

At about the same period a lengthy controversy was being waged by the
commentators of the Talmud and the codifiers, about woman’s partaking in
the fulfilment of the laws for special seasons, from which, as already
remarked, they were exempted. To the action itself there could not be much
objection, but the difficulty arose when women also insisted on uttering
the blessing. Now the point at issue was whether they could be permitted
to say, for instance, “Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, etc., who hast
sanctified us by Thy Commandments, and _hast commanded us_, concerning the
taking of the Palm branch,” since in reality the women had _not_ been
commanded to do it. To such logical and systematic minds as Maimonides and
R. Joseph Caro, the difficulty was insurmountable, and they forbade women
to use the formula; but with the less consistent majority women carried
their point. Rather interesting is the answer received by R. Jacob, of
Corbeil, with regard to this question. This Rabbi is said to have enjoyed
the mysterious power which enabled him to appeal in cases of doubt to the
celestial authorities. Before them he put also this women’s case for
decision. Judgment was communicated to him in the verse from the
Scriptures, “In all that Sarah saith unto Thee, hearken unto her voice”
(Gen. xxi. 12). Nor was it unknown for a pious Jew to compose a special
hymn for his wife’s use in honour of the Sabbath.

How long this custom of women praying in the vernacular lasted, we have no
means of ascertaining. Probably was already extinct about the end of the
fifteenth century. For R. Solomon Portaleone, who lived in the sixteenth
century, already regrets the abolition of “this beautiful and worthy
custom.” “When they prayed in the vernacular,” he says, “they understood
what they were saying, whilst now they only gabble off their prayers.” As
a sort of compromise we may regard the various “Supplications”;(265) they
form a kind of additional prayers supplementary to the ordinary liturgy,
and are written in German. Chiefly composed by women, they specially
answer the needs of the sex on various occasions. These prayers deserve a
full description by themselves, into which I cannot enter here; I should
like only to mention that in one of these collections in the British
Museum, a special supplication is added for servant‐maids, and if I am not
quite mistaken, also one for their mistresses.

It is also worth noticing that the manuals on the “Three Women’s
Commandments” (mostly composed in German, sometimes also in rhymes),
contained much more than their titles would suggest. They rather served as
headings to groups of laws, arranged under each commandment. Thus the
first (about certain laws in Lev. xii. and xv.) becomes the motto for
purity in body and soul; the second (the consecration of the first cake of
the dough) includes all matters relating to charity, in which women were
even reminded to encourage their newly married husbands not to withhold
from the poor the tithes of the bridal dowry, as well as of their future
yearly income; whilst the third (the lighting of the Sabbath lamp) becomes
the symbol for spiritual light and sweetness in every relation of human

As another compromise may also be considered the institution of
“Vorsugern” (woman‐reader) or the “Woilkennivdicke” (the well‐knowing one)
who reads the prayers and translates them into the vernacular for the
benefit of her less learned sisters. In Poland and in Russia, even at the
present time, such a woman‐reader is to be found in every synagogue, and
from what I have heard the institution is by no means unknown in London.
The various prayer‐books containing the Hebrew text as well as the Jewish‐
German translation, which appear in such frequent editions in Russia, are
mostly intended for the use of these praying women. Not uninteresting is
the title‐page of R. Aaron Ben Samuel’s Jewish‐German translations and
collections of prayers which appeared in the beginning of the eighteenth
century. He addressed the Jewish public in the following terms: “My dear
brethren, buy this lovely prayer‐book or wholesome tonic for body and
soul, which has never appeared in such German print since the world began;
and make your wives and children read it often, thus they will refresh
their bodies and souls, for this light will shine forth into your very
hearts. As soon as the children read it they will understand their
prayers, by which they will enjoy both this world and the world to come.”

An earlier translator of the prayer‐book addresses himself directly to the
“pious women” whom he invites to buy his book, “in which they will see
very beautiful things.” Recent centuries seem, on the whole, to have been
distinguished for the number of praying‐women they produced. The virtues
which constituted the claim of women to religious distinction were
modesty, charity, and daily attendance at the synagogue morning and
evening. In the memorial books of the time hundreds of such women are
noticed. Some used also to spin the “Fringes,” which they presented to
their friends; others fasted frequently, whilst “Old Mrs. Hechele” not
only attended the synagogue every day, and did charity to poor and rich,
but also understood the art of midwifery, which she practised in the
community without accepting payment for her services. According to R. Ch.
J. Bachrach women used also to say the “Magnified” prayer in the synagogue
when their parents left no male posterity.

In bringing to a close this very incomplete sketch, perhaps I ought to
notice the confirmation of girls introduced during this century in some
communities in Germany, which the “Reformed” Rabbis recommended, but of
which the “Orthodox” Rabbis disapproved. It would be well if in the heat
of such controversies both sides would remember the words of R. Zedekiah
b. Abraham, of Rome, who with regard to a certain difference of opinion on
some ritual question, says: “Every man receives reward from God for what
he is convinced is the right thing, if this conviction has no other motive
but the love of God.”


Roman Judaism has disappeared from our guide‐books. Civilisation has
levelled down the walls of the Ghetto, and its former inhabitants are not
any longer “a people that dwell alone.” But with this well‐deserved
destruction a good deal of the interest was also destroyed which the
traveller used to attach to “the peculiar people” enclosed in that
terrible slum of Rome.

Still, if there is anything eternal in the “eternal city,” which was
neither reconstructed by the Cæsars, nor improved upon by the Popes, it is
the little Jewish community at Rome. It has survived the former; it has
suffered for many centuries under the latter, and, partaking in the
general revival which has come upon the Italian nation, it may still be
destined for a great future. Indeed, the history of the relation of Israel
to Rome is so old that it is not lacking even in legendary elements. On
the day on which King Solomon married the daughter of Pharaoh, the Rabbis
narrate, there came down the angel Gabriel. He put a reed into the sea,
which, by means of the slime that adhered to it, formed itself, in the
course of time, into a large island, on which the city of Rome was
built—an event with which the troubles of Israel began. These were the
evil consequences of the first _mésalliance_. Even more unfortunate for
Israel (and it is not impossible that this is the meaning of the legend)
were the results of that spiritual mixed marriage between Judaism and
paganism which took place at a much later period, whereat a blunt soldier,
who sympathised with neither, and “who dealt in salvation as he dealt in
provinces,” acted as best man. As a fact, the parties concerned never
understood each other properly. The declaration of love, and the final
proposal, were made in an Alexandrine jargon, strange to both, the
obscurities of which only grew with the commentaries each successive
generation added to them. Under such circumstances, a happy union was not
to be expected, and the family quarrel which fills the annals of civilised
Europe soon broke out. Judaism, more particularly Roman Judaism, witnessed
this struggle from the beginning, and its fortunes were greatly dependent
on the chance which of these two elements, the Jewish or the pagan, won
the ascendency.

However, I am theologising too much, whilst I am deviating from the
subject of these lines. Nor could I think of giving here, even in outline,
the history of the oldest Jewish community in Europe. This has been
already admirably done by Dr. A. Berliner, who has made the history of the
Jews of Rome the subject of his studies for nearly a quarter of a century.
I intend only to reproduce here, in a stray fashion, some of those
impressions and reflections which, I am certain, must occur to every
Jewish traveller in Italy.

Now I do not think for a moment that we Jews should have a point of view
of our own for looking at things and men in this paradise of Europe. It
would be as silly to have a Jewish Baedeker as to think of orthodox
mathematics or an ecclesiastical logic or a racial morality—though
unfortunately there exist such things. But on the other hand, if we have
not, like the fox in the fable, left our heart at home, let us not do
violence to our feelings by passing over everything Jewish, over sights
which might remind us of our history, with a certain indifference which
would be affected on our part. We are not all little Goethes, nor even
little Ruskins, and our artistic enjoyment is hardly so intense as to shut
our hearts against impressions which force themselves upon us either by
the way of remembrance of the past, or even as a living contrast in the

It so happened that my first visit to the Vatican was on a Friday. After
doing my work in the Vatican Library, which is open till noon, I went into
the adjoining Church of St. Peter.

One should be, like the angel of death in the legend, full of eyes,
properly to see all the wonders of art and marvels of architecture at
which human genius and piety laboured busily through centuries, in
adorning the grandest of sacred buildings in the world. But there is
Baedeker or Murray serving at least as a pair of good spectacles to the
layman, and it was by their aid that I made my round in St. Peter. But lo,
whilst you are observing the celebrated Pietà by Michael Angelo, and,
according to the instruction of your guides, admiring both the grief of
the Mother and the death of the Son, you notice in its vicinity a little
column, surrounded by rails to which the pilgrims approach with a certain
awe; for “Tradition affirms it to have been brought from Jerusalem.”
Naturally, one is instantly reminded of the report, given by the famous
traveller of Tudela, of the curiosities of Rome, which among other things
records, “That there are also to be seen in St. Giovanni in Porta Latina
(probably meant for Lateran) the two brazen pillars, constructed by King
Solomon of blessed memory, whose name, Solomon, the son of David, is
engraved upon each; of which he was also told that every year about the
9th of Ab (the anniversary of the destruction of Jerusalem), these pillars
sweat so much that water runs down from them.” So far Benjamin of Tudela
in the twelfth century. In our days pillars weep no longer, and even of
men it is considered a special sign of good breeding to behave pillar‐
like; but a sigh is still permissible at the sight of this temple‐column,
which in its captivity symbolises, not less than the Pietà, the grief of a
whole people. Of course, not possessing on the spot either the _Itinerary_
or even Urlick, one is unable to establish the connection between these
two traditions and their claim to authenticity. Perhaps one may even
comfort oneself on the same ground on which the famous curé tried to
appease his flock who were sobbing bitterly at his telling them the
Passion story. He exclaimed: “My children, do not weep so much; it
happened long ago, and even perhaps is not quite true.”

However, the Vatican is the last place in the world to exercise your
critical faculties; you are so deeply absorbed in seeing, that you have no
time to think. So on I went, from aisle to aisle, from niche to niche,
from chapel to chapel, looking, staring, and admiring, till of a sudden my
eyes were struck by a large statue, on which the words, “Thou shalt have
no other God before me,” are engraved. There I stood before a question of
exegesis, where one is permitted to use his right senses without any
regard to the æsthetic side. Yet not all the manifold expositions of the
Decalogue, nor all the talk about the subjective‐objective, the absolute
and the real, with which metaphysicians have tried to confuse the notion
of the Unity of God, will reconcile one to the meaning which Mediæval Art
has impressed upon the Ten Commandments. The truth has to be sought
elsewhere, and thus my thoughts were turned to the synagogue, and thither
I went.

The day was already drawing to its close, and, by a marvellous
coincidence, I arrived at the synagogue just as the congregation was
intoning the words: “The Lord is one, and His name is one to His renown
and glory.” Here was sound, simple exegesis, though sadly lacking in the
illustrative matter in which the Vatican is so rich. But what need was
there of any real or artificial “aid to the believer,” in the presence of
such a living faith, as enabled this little community to maintain its
protesting position in the teeth of the mistress of the world! And this
even at a time, when it only required a hint from the successors of the
old Roman Emperors to make the whole world renounce its right of thinking
and judging, and, were we to believe Herr Janssen, even to feel perfectly
happy in this torpor.

But, by the way, are our own times much better? As I write these lines
(October 1893) I hear that a Bill has been brought into the German Diet,
asking that the Talmud should be submitted to a Commission (which _en
passant_, has been sitting in unbroken session in that country since the
days of Pfefferkorn in the fifteenth century) with the purpose of
examining its contents, while in the Vatican the very pupils of Loyola are
offering every convenience and comfort to the student who should care to
devote his time to Rabbinic literature. Does not the work of a great
number of our poets, historians, theologians, and so‐called seers in this
blessed century of ours, in many respects prove but a strained effort to
destroy the few humanitarian principles which were established a few
generations ago, as well as to deify every brutal warrior who was
successful in his day? Again, is the national idea so much sublimer, so
much grander, than that of a universal religion, that we would willingly
permit the former to employ the means which have been denied to the latter
as inhuman and barbarous? Every age has its own idolatry, and the eternal
wandering Jew will always be the chosen victim of the Moloch in fashion.

Let us, however, return to the synagogue, which withstood many a cruelty,
both ancient and modern. The place where the synagogue stands is near the
Ghetto, now called Piazza di Scuola. It is, besides a few other communal
houses, the only building left there,—all those narrow, dirty, and
typhoid‐breeding streets which formed the old Ghetto having been
demolished by a sage and humane government, which by this action wiped out
the last stain from its history. There, on this vast blank is the
synagogue, a comparatively small, insignificant building, laden with heavy
age and looking down on her children whom she has been nursing, consoling,
and protecting for centuries, but who, now grown old, have forsaken her
and scattered to all the ends of the city. Of all her former acquaintances
there appears to be left only father Tiber, who would seem to be murmuring
to her many an old tale of the times before she was called into existence.
And if he listened to the special prayers recited within her walls by the
deputies of the Jewish communities, when preparing themselves to go to the
court of the Pope, the Tiber heard many a sigh and cry, wrung out from the
heart of a Jewish captive who, preferring death to slavery even under the
masters of the world, found his last repose in its waters. But
insignificant as this synagogue appears, she proved the spiritual bulwark
against all the attacks of the time, and you admire her brave resistance
all the more when you look at that multitude of churches and cloisters in
the closest vicinity of the Ghetto, impressing you as so many
intrenchments, all directing their missiles and weapons against this
humble, defenceless building, threatening it with death and destruction.
One of these churches, probably founded by some Jewish convert, who gained
in it both salvation and a good living, bears on its gates in Hebrew
letters the inscription: “I have spread out my hands all the day unto a
rebellious people, which walketh in the way that was not good, after their
own thoughts. A people that provoketh me to anger continually to my face”
(Isaiah lxv. 2, 3). Menace is followed by persuasion, the cited verses
being accompanied by the Latin words: “Indulgentia plenaria quotodiana
perpetua pro vivis et defunctis.” Theologians who like to quarrel most
about things they can know least, have for ages discussed the question,
whether prayers for the dead are of any use; here the matter is decided by
a simple advertisement. It is not to be denied that one would enjoy the
fortunes accumulated by one’s late sinner of an uncle all the better for
being sure that a few pennyworths of prayer enable the legatee to make
one’s benefactor in Hades comfortable and happy.

The thought is very consoling indeed, and it is not to be wondered at that
the Roman synagogue could not entirely withstand its temptations, and
introduced into the offering‐blessing after one is called up to the Torah,
the words: “To the advancing of the soul of the departed.” Of course much
of this tendency may be attributed to the Ford Jabbok,(266) which was and
is still very popular in that country; but the fact that the author of
this Jewish “Book of the Dead” was an Italian (from Modena), shows clearly
that there was some Catholic influence at work, from which even the
fellow‐countrymen of Azariah de Rossi and Judah Messer Leon could not
entirely emancipate themselves.

I ought to have spoken of Roman synagogues, since the building in the
Ghetto to which I have been constantly alluding comprises four prayer‐
houses devoted to Spanish and Italian rites. It says much for Roman
Judaism, that they did not consider ritual differences of such importance
as to prevent them from forming one community for all charitable and
congregational purposes. In Verona and in Modena some congregations even
retained the German rite, which their ancestors who immigrated from the
Rhine provinces brought with them, whilst they accepted the Spanish
pronunciation. I wish that the Anglo‐Jewish community could see their way
to imitate their example. Not that I think for a moment that the Spanish
pronunciation is more correct than the German. Each system has its own
mistakes and corruptions; and it is more than probable that the prophet
Isaiah, or even the author of Ecclesiastes, would be as little able to
follow the prayers in Bevis Marks as in Duke’s Place. But since the non‐
Jewish scientific world has, though only by pure accident, accepted the
Spanish way of reading the Hebrew, I should like to see this trifling
difference of _Ba_ruch over _Bu_ruch at last disappear, by pronouncing the
camets‐vowel _a_ instead of _o_, and accepting similar little changes,
which are of no real importance to us.

The inside of these synagogues is even more simple than their outside. I
was told that the synagogue which was burned down last winter, and which
also formed a part of this building, could boast of many fine decorations
and carvings, etc., but I could observe nothing of the kind in the
synagogues I had occasion to frequent. Nor is there much of natural
decorum in them, and they reconcile one perfectly to the worst of the
Small Synagogues elsewhere. I venture to think that in this respect, too,
we have to recognise Catholic influence. It was, I think, one of the
leaders in the Oxford Movement who expressed his delight at seeing in
Italy a woman poorly‐dressed coming into the church, who, after putting
down the basket from her back, kneels before one of the many altars and
says her prayers. A good deal of this familiarity in the place of worship
may also be noticed in the Roman synagogues, where I have seen a woman
come into the partition for men, notwithstanding their having a separate
gallery, without bonnet or hat on her head, and with an infant in her
arms, and listen there to the prayers, till she walked home with her
husband. The other people were also very restless, coming and going often,
whilst, as soon as the reading of the Law was over, the greater part of
the worshippers left the synagogue. It was not a very delightful sight. A
minus of decorum does not always mean a plus of devotion; just as little
as a maximum of respectability and stiffness are to be taken as signs of
true piety.

It is not uninteresting to notice that the Roman synagogue, in spite of
its old traditions, did not entirely shut itself against modern reforms.
Among them there is that of “calling up the people to the Torah” by the
simple formula, “Let the Priest” (or “the Levite”) “step forth,”(267) and
so on, not mentioning either names or titles, which I should like to
recommend most strongly to our congregations. I hope that no man will
suspect me of such heresy as that of questioning the wisdom of the
Synagogue Regulations. But I am inclined to think that the business of
conferring the degrees of _Rabbi_, “Associate” or “Master,” does not
exactly fall within the sphere of activity of the Wardens. The matter
could only be decided by a proper Board of examination. As the Council is
not provided with such a Board, nor is every aspirant to this honour
prepared to undergo the examination required, the wisest course would be
to give up titles altogether, calling up all people alike in the way

The robes the ministers wear (somewhat similar to those of the Greek
clergy), are probably also an innovation of modern date,—the old orthodox
Rabbis looking at any special vestment for the Preacher or Reader with the
same feeling of disgust which the old Puritans entertained for surplice or
mitre. But the principle of “The Beauty of Holiness” proved too strong for
resistance, and it was only a pardonable vanity when the reformers applied
it to their own persons; “Vanity of vanities,” saith the preacher, so
often, that he gets rather to like it. This vanity is greatly redeemed by
the fact that the preacher does not grudge his uniform to his humbler
brother, the beadle, who is in most cases to be distinguished from the
officiating ministry only by the brass‐plate on his breast, on which the
word “Servant” is engraved. Considering the great confusion arising from
the meaningless “Reverend” and the universal white neck‐tie, such a label,
indicating the proper office of the bearer, might, perhaps, prove as
useful among the English Jews as it is among the Jews of Rome.

It was with a pupil of the Rabbinical College, in company with his
friends, that I took my first walk through ancient Rome. I felt attracted
to him by his striking face of that peculiar fine Jewish type, which is
more common among the Jews in the East than among us. And when he was
reading the lesson from the Prophets in the synagogue, where I made his
acquaintance, he reminded me of that Jewish boy with bright eyes, black
curls, and features strikingly beautiful walking as a captive from
Jerusalem through the streets of Rome some seventeen centuries ago, whose
proficiency in the words of Isaiah caused his redemption. It would be an
exaggeration to say that my companion’s remarks were very instructive from
an artistic point of view. Being born and bred in Rome, he passed with
utter indifference many objects which we are bidden to admire, whilst at
others he actually shouted out “Image,” or made some other prosaic remark.
But in a country where one is determined to play the heathen for so many
weeks, to worship superannuated deities, to get into raptures at every
reminiscence of superseded and vanishing religions, and to be delighted at
the sights of “greasy saints and martyrs hairy,” there can be no great
harm in being called back to one’s true nature.

The feelings crowding upon one, when entering that part of the ancient
city which probably was in the mind of the Rabbis when they spoke of
“Guilty Rome,” are of a conflicting nature. Every stone and every brick
there saw the humiliation of Israel, in every theatre and every circus the
Jew served as a comic figure, and was held up to ridicule, whilst there
was, perhaps, hardly a single lane or gate through which those who
resented the yoke of the “anti‐Semites of Antiquity” did not pass, in
order to “be butchered to make a Roman holiday.” What concerns a Jew most
in this perished world of ruins, and at the same time causes him the
deepest grief, is the triumphal arch of Titus, “commemorating the defeat
of the Jews, and dedicated to him by his successor, Domitian.” Enough has
been said and written about it both by antiquarians and theologians, the
former admiring the workmanship of the reliefs, the latter perceiving in
it a proof of the fulfilment of the well‐known passages in the New
Testament about the destruction of the Temple, which came to pass in spite
of the efforts made by Titus to save it. Those who have read Bernay’s
essay on the “Chronik des Sulpicius Severus” know that the behaviour of
“the delight of the human species” on that occasion is rather open to
doubt, and it is more probable that, instead of trying to rescue it, he
commanded that it should be set on fire. Josephus, who witnessed the shame
of his compatriots and co‐religionists, has left us a full account of the
triumphal procession. Only a flunkey like Josephus could maintain that
calm indifference with which he describes the events of the “bitter day,”
the perusal of which makes one’s blood boil. His description fairly agrees
with the famous relief on the arch, showing that part of the procession in
which the table with the shewbread, the candlestick with the seven lamps,
and the golden trumpets figure as the chief objects. The only thing which
we miss is the “Law of the Jews,” which, according to Josephus, was
carried in the triumph as “the last of all the spoils.” Was it only an
oversight of the artist, or had he no place for it, or is it Josephus who
committed the error, mistaking some other object for the Scroll of the
Law? I dearly hope that this last was the case, and that Heine was under
the impulse of a true and real and poetic inspiration when he wrote
(speaking of the Holy Scripture to which he owed his conversion): “The
Jews, who appreciate the value of precious things, knew right well what
they did when, at the burning of the second temple they left to their fate
the golden and silver implements of sacrifice, the candlesticks and lamps,
even the breastplate of the High Priest adorned with great jewels, but
saved the Bible. This was the real treasure of the temple, and, thanks be
to God! it was not left a prey to the flames, nor to the fury of Titus
Vespasian, the wretch, who, as the Rabbi tells us, met with so dreadful a

However, there were others who brought the glad tidings of the Old
Testament to Rome long before there existed a New one. And this is, on the
other side, what makes Rome a sort of Terra Sancta even to the Jew. It is
true that we have not to look for the footprints of the prophets, for whom
even tradition never claimed “the gift of missionary‐travelling.” But
might not the ground there have received a sort of consecration by the
fact that it was traversed by the ambassadors of Judas Maccabæus (about
161 B.C.) “to make a league of amity and confederacy” with the Roman
Senate? Of the embassy of Simon the Maccabee (about 140 B.C.) there is
actual historical evidence that they began to propagate in Rome the Jewish
religion. Some seventy or eighty years later the Jews had already their
own quarter in Rome, with their own synagogues, which they were in the
habit of visiting, “most especially on the sacred Sabbath days, when they
publicly cultivate their national philosophy.” That many of the oldest
teachers of Israel, the Tannaim, went to Rome as deputies, and that one of
them (R. Mathia ben Chares) founded a school there early in the second
century, is also an authenticated fact. One would like to know what they
taught, and in what way they expounded their _national philosophy_. Most
of all one would like to know what were the spiritual means they employed
in their proselytising work, in which they were, according to the
testimony of history, so successful. Did they preach in the streets? Or
did they hold public controversies? Or did they even send out Epistles
which, in form at least, served as a model to apostles of another creed?
How many a problem would be solved; how many a miracle would disappear;
how many a book would become superfluous, if we could obtain certainty
about these points! The Talmud tells us little, almost nothing, about
these important things, whilst we get from the Roman writers only sneers
and raillery. To these respectable Romans the Jews were only a mob of
unlettered atheists. Indeed, to a good orthodox heathen, a religion
without images and statues, with a God without a pedigree and without a
theogony, was an impossible thing. Those poor metaphysicians!

However, why dwell so long on a past world? A famous Rabbi once exclaimed:
“If a man would ask thee, ‘Where is thy God?’ answer him: ‘In the great
city of Rome.’ ” The underlying idea was the mystical notion that wherever
Israel had to migrate, they were accompanied by the Divine presence. And
Rome was, in the times of the Rabbis, the point to which the streams of
Jewish migration from the Holy Land chiefly converged. But now, instead of
to Rome, might we not point to London and New York as centres of Jewish


This Index contains the most important names of persons, titles of books,
technical terms and Hebrew words occurring in the text. In the notes to
the text, the Hebrew words are for the most part given also in Hebrew

Abarbanel, Isaac, 173, 174

Abaye, 311

_Ab Beth Din_, 84

Abba Mari b. Moses, 165, 179

Abba Tachnah, the Chassid, 221

Abraham, Baalshem’s father‐in‐law, 7

Abraham, son of Elijah Wilna, 88

Abraham of Bedres, 262

Abraham Abulaphia, 262

Abraham Ibn Daud, 162

Abraham Ibn Ezra, 50, 52, 64, 71, 210, 314

Abraham b. Shem—Tob Bibago, 172, 173

Abtalyon, 186

Abuha, 311

Acha, 310

_Acher_, 292

_Adam, Primal_, 239

_Agadah_, pl. _Agadoth_, 64, 105, 183, 197

_Agadic_, 110, 156, 157, 193, 262, 279

_Ages of Man_, 295

Akabyah b. Mahalaleel, 305

Akiba, 70, 84, 130, 188, 190, 194, 220, 227, 228, 234

_Almemor_, 302

Ammi, 214, 217, 226, 231

_Amora_, pl. _Amoraim_, 17, 84, 195

Amram Gaon, 293

Anna of Kaidon, wife of Elijah Wilna, 82

Anselm, St., of Canterbury, 79

Antigonos of Socho, 229

Anti‐Maimonists, 133

Aristotle, 79, 167

Aryeh Leb, son of Elijah Wilna, 88

_Ascension of Elijah_, 75

Asher b. Jechiel, 210

Assideans, 64

_Ayil Meshulash_, 81

Azariah de Rossi, 66, 71, 105, 333

_Aziluth_, 117

Azulai, 277

_Baalshem_, Israel, 3‐12, 14‐35, 73

Bachrach, Ch. J., 325

_Bachur_, pl. _Bachurim_, 95, 97

Bachya, 131

_Baraitha_, 271

_Baruch Sheamar_, 311

Bashazi, 161

_Bath‐Kol_, 190

Beer of Mizriez, 11, 37

Beer, Peter, 66

Ben Azzai, 130, 216, 319

Benjamin of Tudela, 329

Ben‐Jacob, 259

Ben Sira, 297

Ben Zoma, 130

_Bereshith_, 127

_Berith Milah_, 288, 292, 293

Berliner, A., 327

Bernays, Isaak, 337

_Beth Din_, 191‐193

_Beth Hammidrash_, 7, 16, 84, 139

_Beth Talmud_, 210

_Biccurim_, 58

Bloch, Samson, 51

Bodek, A., 51

_Book of Brightness_ (_see_ Zohar)

_Book of the Pious_, 295, 322

_Book of Victory_, 167

_Book of Weight_, 133

Boswell, 142, 197

Buckle, 96

_Burbot_, 138

Buzagli, the Cabbalist, 310

Cabbalah, Cabbalists, 99, 128, 129, 133, 210, 283, 315

_Cabod_, 120, 121

Caraites, 48, 160, 161, 207, 208

Casaubon, Isaac, 259

_Chagigah_, 77

_Chakhamim_, 57

_Chambers_, the, 208

Chanina b. Dossa, 217

_Chanukah_, 138

_Chapters of R. Eliezer the Great_, 68, 69, 316

Chasdai Ibn Crescas, 167‐173, 180

_Chassidim_, Chassid, Chassidic, Chassidism, 1‐4, 11, 12, 14‐16, 21, 22,
            25‐27, 30, 33, 35‐41, 43‐45, 53, 73, 90, 298

Chayim Vital, 99

Chayim Walosin, 85, 87, 94

Chisda, 307

_Chukkim_, 124

_Code of the Law_, by Caro, 75, 92, 206, 211, 257

_Collectanea_, 144

_Commentary on the Pentateuch_, by Nachmanides, 107, 108, 123, 135

_Creeds and Opinions_, by Saadiah Gaon, 162

_Crown_, 239

_Cusari_, 162

_Date of the Redemption_, 105

David Rocca Martino, 230

David Messer Leon, 174

David b. Samuel d’Estella, 165, 166

David b. Yom‐Tob Bilia, 166.

_Defence of Adam_, 230

Delmedigo, 71, 131, 175

_Disputation_, by Nachmanides, 103

Dukes, L., 260

_Eighteen Benedictions_, 83

Eleazar, 229

Eleazar b. Jacob, 225

Eliezer, father of Baalshem, 5

Eliezer b. Hyrkanos, 189, 319

Eliezer b. Samuel Hallevi, 145

Eliezer b. Simeon, 223

Elijah Levita, 268

Elijah Wilna, 57, 73‐77, 81‐92, 96, 97

Elisha b. Abuyah, 33, 130, 292

Emden, Jacob, 10, 259

_Epikurus_, 157

_Erech Millin_, 66

Erter, Isaac, 51, 59, 288

Essenes, 64, 185

_Examination of the World_, 97

Eybeschütz, J., 10

Ezra, or Azriel, the mystic, 100

_Faithful City_, the, 75

Fichte, 51

Finn, 75

_Ford Jabbok_, 333

Frankists, 10

Frankl, Z., 65, 97

Fürst, J., 66

Gamaliel I., 234

Gamaliel II., 194, 212

_Gaon_, pl. _Gaonim_, 73, 76‐78, 97, 98, 206, 208, 209, 289, 312

_Garden of Mystical Contemplation_, 129

_Gate of Reward_, 115, 213

Geiger, A., 66

_Gemara_, 78

Gershon, brother‐in‐law of Baalshem, 8, 9

Ghetto, 326, 331‐333

Gnostics, 64

Goethe, 57, 73, 306, 328

_Gozer_, 290

Graetz, 65, 97, 99, 183

_Great Interpreters_, 186

Green, A. L., 255

_Guide of the Perplexed_, 49, 68, 97, 102, 130, 131, 179

_Guide of the Perplexed of the Time_, 60, 67

Hadasi, Judah, 160, 161

Hai Gaon, 77, 208, 209, 272

_Halachah_, pl. _Halachoth_, 64, 66, 183

_Halachic_, 57, 92, 110, 157, 193, 207

_Halachoth Gedoloth_, 111, 112

Hannaneel of Kairwan, 162

Hegel, 51, 54, 64, 65

Heine, 59, 124, 254

_High Belief_, 162

Hillel the Great, 185, 186, 188, 193, 237

Hillel, R., 177

_History of Jewish Tradition_, 65, 182

_Hithlahabuth_, 32

_Holle Kreisch_, 294, 295

Huna, 221, 225

Isaac Alfasi, 13, 100, 101, 111, 312

Isaac Aramah, 173

Isaac Loria, 76, 133

Isaac b. Ruben, 100

Ishmael, 188, 190, 224

Ishmael b. Elishah, 222, 299

Israel Baalshem (_see_ Baalshem, Israel)

Jacob of Corbeil, 322

Jacob Dubna, 91

Jacob the Levite, or Maharil, 143, 144

Jacob Sasportas, 101, 102

Jacob Tam, 210

Jannai, 226

Jedaiah of Bedres, 97, 131

_Jerusalem_, by Mendelssohn, 147

Johanan, 249, 287, 303, 318

Johanan b. Zaccai, 48, 188

Jonah Gerundi, 100, 101

Jonah, son of Nachmanides, 101

José, 218, 219

Joseph Albashir, 160

Joseph Albo, 171, 172

Joseph Caro, 75, 92, 206, 211, 322

Joseph Jabez, 131, 173, 179

Joshua b. Hananiah, 194, 299, 304, 308

Jost, M., 66

Judah Alcharisi, 262

Judah Hallevi, 13, 34, 152, 162, 208

Judah b. Ilai, 246

Judah Messer Leon, 333

Judah de Modena, 298

Judah the Patriarch, 63, 195

Judah the Pious, 306

Judah b. Tema, 299

Judah b. Yakar, 100

_Karab_, 124

_Kilayim_, 87

Kimchi, D., 145

_Korban_, 124

Krochmal, Nachman, 44, 46, 48‐68, 71, 72

Kuenen, 240

_Law of Man_, 113‐115

_Laws unto Moses on Mount Sinai_, 64

Lessing, 73

Letteris, M., 56, 57

Levi b. Gershom, 97, 101, 171

_Light of God_, 167

_Lilac of Mysteries_, 133

_Lilith_, 287, 288

Lipman of Mühlhausen, 167, 179

Liva of Prague, 78

Lowell, R., 116

Löw, L., 171, 285, 305

Lucas, Mrs. Henry, 135

Macaulay, 89

_Maggid_, 19

_Magnified_, 310

Maimonides, or Moses b. Maimon, 13, 48, 49, 68, 70, 78, 97, 100, 102, 103,
            111, 126, 130, 133, 140, 161‐168, 170‐181, 210, 211, 249, 274,
            280, 281, 312, 322

Maimonists, Anti‐Maimonists, 163‐165, 173, 210

Mar Samuel, 84

Mathia b. Chares, 339

_Measure of the Stature_, 208

_Mechilta_, 58, 81, 193

Meheram Schiff, 16

Meir, 130, 194, 226, 318

Meir b. Nathan of Trinquintaines, 100

Meir of Rothenburg, 210

_Memra_, 238

_Men of the Great Synagogue_, 64, 185

_Menachoth_, 86

Mendelssohn, Moses, 48, 58, 73, 147, 151, 176

_Metatron_, 238

_Midrash_, pl. _Midrashim_, 61, 64, 71, 81, 193, 195, 222, 262, 272, 273,

Milton, 114

_Minhag_, pl. _Minhagim_, 143, 192

_Minim_, 64

Minor Tractates, 81

_Mishnah_, 57, 64, 66, 76, 78, 82, 85, 87, 91, 157, 190, 193, 195, 271

Mistress of the Synagogue, 317

Moses Cordevora, 133

Moses Ibn Ezra, 262

Moses de Leon, 18, 133, 258, 262

Moses of Tachau, 131

_Mother Zion_, 321

Nachman, son of Nachmanides, 101

Nachmanides, or Moses b. Nachman, 99‐141, 213

Nahum of Gemzo, 215

_Nasi_, 84

Nathan, 194

_Nephesh Chayah_, 117

Neubauer, Dr. A., 263

_Night of Watching_, 288

Nissim of Gerona, 133

Nissim of Marseilles, 267

_Olam Habba_, 115

_Old Victory_, 304

Oral Law, 10

_Orchard_, the, 133

_Ordinance of the Law_, 293

Pablo Christiano, 103, 105, 106

_Pairs_, the, 185

_Paradise Lost_, 114

_Pardes_, 129

_Pashut_, 138

_Path of Belief_, 172

Perles, J., 99, 123, 294

Pharisees, 64, 185, 237, 241

Philo, 52, 64, 154, 238

_Pilpul Pilpulist_, 13, 78

Plato, 78

_Pugio Fidei_, 107

Raba, 311

_Rabbanan Saburai_, 206

Rabbah, 311

Rabbenu, 13

_Rabbenu Mosheh_, 103

Rabbinowicz, R. N. N., 261

Raimund Martini, 107

Rapoport, Solomon Leb, 50, 53, 56, 66

Reggio, Isaac, 270

_Roots_, the, 171

Ruskin, 328

Saadiah Gaon, 48, 162, 108, 272

_Sacred Letter_, 113

Sadducees, 64, 185, 237

Salman the Good, 145

_Sambatyon_, 95

_Sanctification‐cup_, 245

Sandalphon, 305

_Sandek_, 290

Sanhedrin, the, 188, 190, 191

Saul Berlin, 176, 180

_Sayings of the Fathers_, _Aboth_, 262, 299

Schelling, 51

Schiller, 73

_Schlummerlied_, 295

Schorr, O., 193

Schudt, 291, 298

_Sechorah_, 296

_Seder Nezikin_, 58

_Seder Olam_, 81, 92

_Seder Taharoth_, 58

_Segulah_, 122

_Sephardim_, 301

_Sepher_, 13

_Sephiroth_, Ten, 238

_Sermon in the Presence of the King_, by Nachmanides, 165

Shabbethai Tsebi, 134, 239

_Shalom Zachar_, 289

Shammai, 185, 188, 237

_Shechinah_, 120, 121, 228‐230

_Shema_, reading of the, 141, 288

Shemaiah, 186

Shemariah of Crete, 166

Sherira Gaon, 263

Shiphluth, 30

_Simchah_, 31

Simeon Duran, 101, 170, 171

Simeon b. Eleazar, 289

Simeon b. Gamaliel, 222

Simeon b. Gamaliel II., 193, 194

Simeon b. Yochai, 18, 223

Simlai, 112

_Siphra_, 58, 81, 91, 193, 262

_Siphré_, 58, 81, 91, 193, 262

Solomon b. Adereth, 70, 267

Solomon b. Gabirol, 210

Solomon of St. Goar, 143‐145

Solomon b. Isaac, Rashi, 13, 210

Solomon b. Isaac b. Zadok, 137

Solomon Ladier, 43

Solomon Portaleone, 323

Solomon, son of Nachmanides, 110

Solomon Syrillo, 262

Solomon Wilna, 75

_Son of the Law_, 307, 312

_Sopherim_, 64

Spencer, Herbert, 97

Steinschneider, M., 99, 172

_Taanith_, 58

_Talmid Chaber_, 52

_Talmid Chakam_, 7

Talmud (of Jerusalem or Babylon), 16, 19, 33, 49, 52, 57‐59, 64, 76, 78,
            81, 82, 86, 87, 89, 91, 92, 96, 101, 104, 105, 111, 129, 131,
            140, 151, 155, 158, 195, 196, 206, 207, 209, 210, 238, 252,
            254‐256, 261, 262, 271, 272, 277

_Tanna_, pl. _Tannaim_, 17, 84, 187

_Tephillin_, 249

Thackeray, 282

Thirteen Articles of the Creed, 148, 163, 164, 170, 176, 179

_Thirteen Rules_ (of Interpretation), 195

Tobijah, the Priest, 175

_Tosephta_, 81, 82, 92, 262, 271

Toy, Prof., 233‐239, 251

_Tractate Berachoth_, 221, 271

_Tractate Evidences_, 192

_Tractate Joys_, 194

_Tractate Sanhedrin_, 156, 157, 159

_Tractate Sopherim_, 301, 312, 321

_Tree of Life_, the, 133

Troki, Solomon, 161

_Variae Lectiones_ (of the Talmud), 261

Viterbo, Abraham Chayim, 175, 176

_Vorsugerin_, 324

_Wars of the Lord_, 101

_Watchman_, the, 59

Weiss, T. H., 65, 97, 99, 182, 183, 185‐187, 191‐197, 206, 207, 209‐212

Wellhausen, 243

_Wisdom of Solomon_, 127, 154

_Woilkennivdicke_, 324

_Yediah_, 119

_Yeshibah_, pl. _Yeshiboth_, 94‐96, 293

Yom‐Tob Heller, 196

_Zaddik_, pl. _Zaddikim_ (Zaddikism), 36‐44, 53, 298

Zadoc, 245

_Zebachim_, 86

Zedner, 254‐256

_Zehub_, 137‐139

Zerahiah Hallevi of Gerona (or Gerondi), 100, 101, 111

_Zion‐Elegy_, 208

_Zobeoth_, 314

_Zohar_, 18, 19, 71, 91, 133, 258

Zunz, Leopold, 44, 52, 56, 60, 65, 73, 97, 183, 279, 305


      CHASSIDIM.—_Historical and Bibliographical Works_: Graetz (xi.
      including the polemical literature quoted in the Appendix), Jost,
      Peter Beer, M. Bodek (סדר הרורות הנרשׂ, Lemberg, 1865), A. Walden
      (שׂמ תגרוליב הנדשׂ, Warschau, 1864), Finn (קרוה נאמנה, Wilna, 1860),
      D. Kahana (אצן אוסל in the periodical השׂחר, iv.), Zederbaum (כחר
      כדונה, Odessa, 1868). _Essays and Satires_: T. Erter (הצפה, Wien,
      1858), S. Szantó (_Jahrbuch für Israeliten_, p. 108‐178, 1867), A.
      Gottlober (in his periodical הברקר אור, iii.), L. Löw (Ben
      Chananjah, ii.), Rudermann (השׂחר, vi.), Rapoport (נחלת יחודה,
      Lemberg, 1873, p. 10), Fröhlich (המדרין, Warschau, 1876, p. 63
      _seq._), S. Maimon (_Autobiographie_, Berlin, 1792). Compare also
      the Hebrew novels by P. Smolensky, L. Gordon, M. Brandstätter, A.
      Gottlober and B. Horowitz (German). _Occasional references_ to the
      liturgy or the system of the Chassidim in the “Responses” of R.
      Ezechiel Landau, Moses Sopher, E. Flekeles and T. Steinhart, and in
      the works of Israel Samostsch, Salomon Chelma and Chayim Walosin.
      Compare also Zunz (_Gottesdienstliche Vorträge_, p. 477) and L. Löw
      (_Mannheimer Album_, Wien, 1874), Senior Sachs (התחיה, i. 61) and B.
      L. Zeitlin (הות קשׂה, Paris, 1846). The best book on the whole
      subject is E. Zweifel’s work שׂלום צל ישׂראל (Zitomyr 1868, three
      parts), which I strongly recommend to students. The books written by
      the Chassidim would amount to more than 200. They are catalogued by
      Bodek and Walden. I shall only draw the attention of the student to
      the works of Beer, Salomon Ladier, and Mendel Witipsker on one side,
      who developed the theory of the Immanence, and those of Nachman
      Braslaw and Melech Liezensker, who, on the other hand, carried the
      theory of Zaddikism to its utmost consequences. The student will
      find a fair collection of sayings and sentences arranged according
      to theological subjects in the books ררך המידים and לשׂן חכמים
      (Anon., Lemberg, 1876).

    2 חסידים, “pious ones” (Ps. xxxvii. 28, lxx. 2, etc.). The reader is
      probably acquainted with the term from the Maccabean history (1
      Macc. ii. 42, vii. 13), in which the strict party, opposed to all
      Hellenistic influence, are called “Assideans” [R.V. “Hasidaeans”],
      Gr. Ἁσιδαῖοι.

    3 בעל שׂם, “The Master of the Name,” a term usually applied to
      exorcists, who cast out devils and performed other miracles through
      adjuration by the name of God (or angels). The unbelieving Rabbis
      maintained indeed that in his exorcisms Baalshem employed “impure
      names” (of devils), whilst the Chassidim, on the other hand,
      declared that their Master never used “names” at all, his miracles
      being performed by the divine in Baalshem to which all nature owes
      obedience. Occasionally the Chassidim call him בעל שׂם תוב (The Man
      of Good Name), in allusion to Eccles. vii. 1, shortened by some into

    4 בית המדרשׂ—“House of Research” or of “study” (of the Law), but in
      which also divine service is held thrice a day.

    5 תלמיד הכם—“Disciple of the Wise,” the usual title of a scholar or

    6 A Jewish sect, so called after their founder Jacob Leibovicz Frank,
      who was himself one of the apostles of the pseudo‐Messiah Shabbethai
      Tsebi of Smyrna in Turkey. Among his other doctrines he taught also
      a sort of Trinity, consisting of the Holy Ancient One, the Holy King
      or the Messiah, and a feminine person in the Godhead, in which he,
      like his master, represented the Second Person. The sect ultimately
      abolished the Law, and, after many controversies with the Rabbinic
      Jews, went over to Catholicism, the dominant religion in Poland, by
      which they were soon absorbed. Eybeschütz, chief Rabbi of Prague and
      Hamburg, was suspected by Emden to be a secret adherent of
      Shabbethai Tsebi, which was tantamount to apostasy from Judaism.
      Eybeschütz protested. The litigants excommunicated each other, and
      the Rabbis divided into two camps, taking sides either with Emden or
      with his antagonist.

    7 The works of Maimonides or Moses b. Maimon (1135‐1204) are too many
      to be enumerated here. The most important are the _Guide of the
      Perplexed_ (מורה נבוכום) and his _Compendium of the Law_ (משׂנה
      הורה). Judah Hallevi or Abul Hassan flourished in the first half of
      the twelfth century. He is well known as a poet by his _Divan_ and
      as a deep religious thinker by his _Cusari_. The former contains
      also many songs of a secular nature. Isaac Alfasi (died 1103) is
      best known by his Compendium of the Talmud, which was so greatly
      admired by his contemporaries that they declared it could never have
      been composed “without the aid of the Holy Spirit.” R. Solomon b.
      Isaac, also called by his initials Rashi (1040‐1105), is well known
      by his commentaries on the Bible and the Talmud.

    8 רבי רבינו.

    9 ספר, _Sepher_.

   10 The Hebrew word is פלפול, meaning subtle discussion and sharp
      distinction. The word is closely related to פלפל or פלפלא, which
      means “pepper” or “seasoning.”

   11 מחרם שׂיף = R. Meir Shiff, whose _novellæ_ on the Talmud are of a
      very subtle kind, and were very popular with the students of this

   12 המוראים—תנאים, “The Repeaters,” and “The Interpreters.” The sayings
      and statements of the former are embodied in the Mishnah, a work
      compiled by R. Judah the Saint about 220 A.C., and covering a period
      of about 250 years (30 B.C.‐220 A.C.). The latter occupied
      themselves mainly with the interpretation of the Mishnah, and their
      discussions and controversies are incorporated in the Talmud of
      Jerusalem and that of Babylon, and extend over the period from
      220‐500 A.C. The Talmud of Jerusalem is mostly the product of the
      schools of Palestine. The Talmud of Babylon is a growth of that
      country. The authorities of this latter Talmud being far away from
      the place where the first great Rabbis lived and laboured, their
      traditions are naturally not so historically reliable as those of
      the Talmud of Jerusalem. The authorities of Palestine were also
      simpler in their method of interpretation. These again are followed
      by the Babylonian schools of new interpreters (of the Talmud).

   13 שׂדין יהודאין, an expression that goes back as far as to the

   14 זוהר, “Brightness.” Cf. Dan. xii. 3,—the authors of “The Brightness”
      pretending to be the _Maskilim_ or “Wise Ones” mentioned in this

   15 שׂפלות.

   16 שׂמחה.

   17 התלהבות.

   18 צדיק, pl. צדיקים.

   19 R. Johanan b. Zaccai was a contemporary of the Apostles, and died
      about 110 A.D. He belonged to the peace party in opposition to the
      Zealots, and obtained permission from the Roman government to
      establish the school of Jamnia, which, after the destruction of the
      Temple, became the centre of Jewish religious life. See also p. 188.

   20 R. Saadiah Gaon was born in Egypt in 892, and died as the head of
      the school of Sura in Babylon in 942. He is known by his
      translations of and commentaries on the Bible, and many other works,
      especially his philosophical treatise _Creeds and Opinions_. He was
      also a great controversialist. Most of his polemical writings are
      directed against the Caraites (קראים) or “Scripturalists,” a Jewish
      sect founded by Anan in the eighth century. They protested against
      the Oral Law, and denied Tradition. On the title “Gaon,” see note 1
      to Elijah Wilna.

   21 מורה נבוכים, _Moreh Nebuchim_, generally considered to be the
      greatest philosophical work by any Jewish thinker.

   22 R. Abraham Ibn Ezra, who spent some time in London, died about 1161.
      He is best known by his commentaries on the Bible. He was the first
      writer who doubted the unity of the book of Isaiah.

   23 תלמיד חבר.

   24 עיר מלאת הכמים וסופרים, meaning “sages” and “scribes,” but used by
      later writers in the sense given in the text.

   25 בכורים, dealing with the laws relating to the firstfruits which were
      brought to the temple (Ex. xxiii. 19). The processions formed by the
      pilgrims are very vividly described after the said tractate by
      Delitzsch in his _Iris_, p. 190 _sq._ (English ed.). See also by the
      same author, _Jüdisches Handwerkerleben zur Zeit Jesu_, p. 66 _seq._

   26 תענית, “Fast,” or תעניות, “Fasts.”

   27 סדר נזיקין, “Order of Damages,” treating of the civil law of the
      Jews, the procedure of courts of justice, and kindred subjects. This
      Order also includes the tractate אבות, _Aboth_ or “Sayings of the
      Fathers,” which is very important for the study of Rabbinic doctrine
      and ethics.

   28 סדר תהרות, “Order of Purities,” dealing with the laws regarding
      Levitical purity.

   29 ספרא (or הורת כהנים), ספרי, מכילתא. These three works form the
      oldest Rabbinic commentary on Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and
      Deuteronomy. The authorities cited in these commentaries all belong
      to the period of the Tannaim. See above, note 12 to the Chassidim.
      Constituting as they do, to a certain extent, one of the sources
      used by the _Gemara_, they are naturally indispensable for a
      scientific study of the Talmud.

   30 הצפה, “_Hatsophe_,” a spirited satire against the orthodox and
      especially against the then prevailing belief in the transmigration
      of souls taught by the mystical schools. The book is written in the
      purest biblical Hebrew.

   31 מורה נבוכי הזמן.

   32 מדרשׂ, pl. מדרשׂים (_Midrashim_), “Research,” “Researches,” a name
      usually applied to the homiletical part of the Rabbinic literature.
      The most important collection of this kind is the _Midrash Rabbah_
      to the Pentateuch. The usual way of quoting it is _Genesis Rabbah_,
      _Exodus Rabbah_, and so on.

   33 See above, note 12 to the Chassidim. [Transcriber’s Note: Footnote
      on the Tannaim and Amoraim.]

   34 מינים, “Heretics,” applied to the first Christians, and more so to
      certain Gnostic sects.

   35 הלכה למשׂה מפיני, see below, p. 186 and _note_. [Transcriber’s Note:
      The footnote on “laws given to Moses on Sinai.”]

   36 הגדה or אגדה—הלכה, “rule,” “method,”—“narrative.” The former deals
      with the legal side of the Scriptures, and is thus more of a
      juristic nature; the latter represents a collection of homilies
      having mostly as their text the historical and exhortatory parts of
      the Bible, and is thus more of an edifying character. The
      theological side of Judaism, as well as its ideal aspirations and
      Messianic hopes, find their expression in the Agadah. The two words
      are also used as adjectives, as _Halachic_ (legalistic, juristic,
      and obligatory) and _Agadic_ (poetic, edifying, and hyperbolic).

   37 ערך מלין, a sort of encyclopædia to the Talmud, of which only the
      first letter appeared.

   38 Menahem Azariah de Rossi, an Italian Jew who flourished in the first
      half of the sixteenth century. His great work, מאור עינים, _Meor
      Enayim_, “Light of the Eyes,” is the first attempt made by a Jew to
      submit the statements of the Talmud to a critical examination, and
      to question the value of tradition in its historical records.

   39 פרקי דריי אליעזר.

   40 Italian Jews of the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries. The one,
      Elijah Delmedigo, wrote an Examination of Religion, whilst his
      grandson, Joseph Solomon Delmedigo, wrote various pamphlets of a
      deeply sceptical character. See Geiger’s Introduction to his _Melo
      Chofnayim_ (Berlin, 1840).

   41 גאון, “The Great One.” The authorities of the Babylonian schools
      after the sixth century were also called the Gaonim (גאונים),
      “[their] Eminences.” The title was also given afterwards to great
      Rabbis distinguished for their learning.

   42 R. Joseph Caro (1488‐1575) lived in Safed. The title of his code is
      שׂלחן ערון, _Prepared Table_. This is a code of the Oral Law
      compiled from the Rabbinic literature.

   43 קדיה נאמנה, containing an account of the Jewish worthies of that

   44 עלית אלירו.

   45 A famous mystic of the sixteenth century, from Safed, who was the
      more admired the less his pupils understood him.

   46 Hai was the last of the authorities called Gaon. With his death
      (1038) the schools of Babylon fell into decay and soon disappeared.

   47 חגיגה, treating of the voluntary offerings brought by the pilgrims
      to Jerusalem.

   48 גמרה, “Perfection or Supplementary Explanations.” By this is
      understood the interpretation given to the Mishnah by the schools in
      Palestine and Babylon. See above, note 12 to the Chassidim.
      [Transcriber’s Note: Footnote on the Tannaim and Amoraim.]

   49 See Dean Church’s _St. Anselm_, from which this story is taken.

   50 תוספתה, “Addition” (to the Mishnah), but also containing only the
      sayings and discussions of the period of the Tannaim.

   51 סדר עולם, “Order of the World,” dealing with the Chronology of the
      Bible, and dating from about the end of the second century.

   52 These “Minor Tractates” include, among others, treatises on
      proselytes, on the laws concerning funerals, the writing of the Law,
      and the like. Others are more of an edifying nature, treating of
      good manners, conduct, etc.

   53 פבלת נלות.

   54 שׂמונה עשׂרה, “Eighteen.” They are recited thrice a day, and form
      the original germ of the prayers, from which a very rich liturgy
      developed in the course of time.

   55 The titles of the old authorities from 70 B.C. to 500 A.C. See
      above, note 12 to the Chassidim. [Transcriber’s Note: Footnote on
      the Tannaim and Amoraim.]

   56 אב בית דין, נשׂיא, “Prince,” or “Patriarch,” religious head, of the
      Jews (not political), and “Father (or president) of the Court of

   57 מנחות, זבחים, “Sacrifices,” “Offerings.” They treat of the laws
      relating to sacrifices and meal‐offerings.

   58 בלאים, the laws relating to diverse seeds and garments of diverse
      sorts. Cf. Deut. xxii. 9‐11.

   59 מגיד, “Teller,” a sort of travelling preacher.

   60 לולב, “palm branch.” Cf. Lev. xxiii. 40.

   61 ישׂיבה, “High School,” or “Academy,” in which the Rabbinic
      literature is studied.

   62 ישׂיבה עץ חיים.

   63 סמבטיון, a mythical river which is supposed to stop its course on

   64 בחורים, sing. בחוR, “Young man,” by which term the Jews usually
      understand the _alumni_ of their Talmudical schools.

   65 Levi b. Gershom (1286‐1344) is generally regarded as the greatest
      successor of Maimonides. Besides his rationalistic commentaries on
      the Bible, he wrote various treatises on metaphysics, mathematics,
      astronomy, medicine, etc.

   66 בחינת עולם.

   67 In Steinschneider’s _Catalogue of the Bodleian Library_, under the
      name of Moses Nachmanides, pp. 1947‐1965, all the works which are
      ascribed to this author are put together, and also discussed as to
      their authenticity. There are only to be added the new edition of
      the _Derasha_ by Jellinek (Vienna, 1872), in which the variants from
      Schorr’s MS. (החלוץ, viii. 162) are already incorporated; a new
      edition of the זיכות, and the commentary to Is. lii.‐liii. by
      Steinschneider (Berlin, 1860); a _Sermon_ for the New Year, ed. by
      H. Berliner (_Libanon_, v. 564); and another Sermon at a wedding
      (?), ed. by Schorr (_Hechalus_, xii. 3). For the literature on
      Nachmanides, besides the references given by Steinschneider, in his
      _Catalogue_, and the Addenda, p. cxviii. (cf. also the pedigree in
      the _Catalogue_ 2305), see also Graetz, _Geschichte_, vii., pp.
      112‐143, and p. 147 _seq._; Michael, אור החיים, No. 1125, and Weiss,
      דור דור ודערקיו, v. 4 _seq._; Perles’ _Monatsschrift_, 1860, p. 175;
      Zomber, _ibid._ 421; and Z. Frankel, _ibid._ 1868, p. 449, and _The
      Jewish Quarterly Review_, iv. 245 _seq._ For Nachmanides’
      disputation we have to add M. Loeb in the _Révue des Études Juives_,
      xv. 1 _seq._, and xviii. 52 (about Abner), and Dr. Neubauer’s Essay
      on Jewish Controversy in the _Expositor_, vol. vii. (third series),
      p. 98 _seq._, with the references given there. See also his article
      on the Bahir and the Zohar in _The Jewish Quarterly Review_, iv.
      357. With regard to Nachmanides’ mystical system see the references
      to S. Sachs (whose remarks are most suggestive), Krochmal, and
      Jellinek in Steinschneider, col. 1949 and 1964, Perles’
      _Monatsschrift_, 1858, p. 83 _seq._, and Steinschneider in the Heb.
      _Bibliographie_, i. 34. See also Professor Kaufmann’s _Die
      Geschichte der Attributenlehre_, and the references given in the
      index under this name. The _Novellæ_ by his son R. Nachman, alluded
      to in the text, are in the University Library, Cambridge (Add. 1187,
      2). The פץ הנאולה is extant in the British Museum, MS. Add. 26,894,
      and the passage quoted by De Rossi is to be found on p. 163_b_, but
      a few words are erased by the censor. As to the poem given at the
      end of this paper, see Zunz, _Synagogale Poesie_, p. 478; Landshut,
      _Amude ha‐Abodah_ _s.v._, the references in Sachs’ _Religiöse Poesie
      der Juden_, and Luzzatto in the _Ozar Nechmad_, ii. 27. Compare also
      Professor Cheyne’s _The Origin of the Psalter_, p. 421.

   68 New Year’s Day, on the first of Tishri. It is in autumn.

   69 A famous Rabbi of the fifteenth century, known by his various
      casuistical and philosophical works.

   70 Chiefly known through his controversial writings against the
      adherents of the pseudo‐Messiah Shabbethai Tsebi. He was for some
      time the Rabbi of the Portuguese congregation in London.

   71 The main objections of the opponents of Maimonides were directed
      against his rationalistic notions of Revelation, and his
      allegorising interpretation of the Scriptures, which amounted in
      some places to a denial of miracles. He was also suspected of having
      denied bodily resurrection. A history of Jewish rationalism is still
      a desideratum. I am certain that it would prove at least as
      interesting as Reuter’s _Geschichte der religiösen Aufklärung im
      Mittelalter_ (Berlin, 1845‐60).

   72 רבינו משׂה.

   73 אגדות, “Homilies.” See above, p. 64 and _note_.

   74 קץ הנאולה, “The end of the Redemption,” that is the time when the
      advent of the Messiah is to be expected.

   75 This patriarch is famous in Jewish legend for his hospitality. See
      Beer’s _Leben Abrahams_, pp. 37 and 56.

   76 This is the quorum necessary to form a congregation (עדת) for the
      purpose of holding divine service.

   77 By _Zobah_, or _Aram Zobah_, the Jews of the Middle Ages usually
      understood Aleppo. See Benjamin of Tudela’s _Itinerary_, i. 88, ii.
      124 (London and Berlin, 1840‐41).

   78 See below, p. 141, where a full translation of the letter is given.

   79 הלכות גדולות, a compendium of the Law, dating from the ninth
      century, by R. Simon Caro.

   80 R. Simlai flourished in Palestine in the third century. He is best
      known as an Agadic teacher and a great controversialist. According
      to him, 613 commandments were given to Moses on Mount Sinai, of
      which 365 are prohibitive laws, whilst the remaining 248 are
      positive injunctions.

   81 שׂער הנמול, “Treatise on Reward (and Punishment).”

   82 עלם הבא.

   83 Ps. cix. 4; ואנ תפלה.

   84 אצילות.

   85 נפשׂ חיח.

   86 ידיעה, “Knowledge,” “Foreknowledge,” “Omniscience.”

   87 בכוד, שׂבינה.

   88 סגולה. See Exod. xix. 5.

   89 חקים.

   90 קרב, קרבן.

   91 According to a Jewish tradition (the date of which is uncertain) the
      advent of the Messiah, the Son of David, will be preceded by that of
      the Messiah, the Son of Joseph. The latter will perish in the battle
      against Gog and Magog (the Antichrist of Jewish literature), but
      will soon be brought back to life on the appearance of the former.
      Cf. G. H. Dalman’s _Der leidende und der sterbende Messias der
      Synagoge_ (Berlin, 1881).

   92 בראשׂית, “In the beginning,” Gen. i. 1.

   93 מאין; Job xxvii. 12.

   94 _Chagigah_ 14_b_. The activity of these four Rabbis falls chiefly in
      the second century. R. Akiba died as a martyr in the Hadrianic
      persecution (about 130). Elisha b. Abuyah, the apostate, was usually
      called אחר, _Acher_, “the other one.”

   95 The former lived in the twelfth, the latter in the sixteenth,
      century. They are both known for their hostility to philosophy.

   96 Bachya wrote in the eleventh century a famous book called חובות
      חלבבות, _The Duties of the Heart_. For the others see above, p. 13
      and _note_, p. 49 and _note_, p. 102 and _note_, p. 97 and _note_,
      p. 71 and _note_. They all belong to the rationalistic school.

   97 A younger contemporary of Maimonides, who translated the _Guide_
      from Arabic into Hebrew.

   98 ספר המשׂקל. See above, p. 18. R. Moses Cordovora, the author of the
      סררם, lived in Safed in the sixteenth century. For R. Isaac Loria,
      the author of the עץ החיים, see above, note 5 to Elijah Wilna.

   99 שׂושׂן סודות.

  100 סשׂר הבהיר, a forgery by a Provençal Jew of the thirteenth century,
      who attributed it to a Rabbi of the first century.

  101 This hymn is now incorporated in her excellent little book, _Songs
      of Zion_, pp. 13‐15.

  102 זהוב, a gold piece. The country and the date of the writer not being
      certain, it is impossible to determine the value of this coin.

  103 The lawfulness of eating this fish (= sturgeon?) was contested for
      many centuries, and the controversy still continues.

  104 פשׂוט, a smaller coin than the Zehub.

  105 שׂמע, “Hear,” the verses from Deut. vi. 4‐9, xi. 13‐21, and Num. xv.
      37‐41, recited twice a day by the Jews.

  106 _Sabbath_, 30_b_.

  107 מנהג, pl. מנהגים (_Minhagim_), applied usually to those ritual
      customs and ceremonies for which there is no distinct authority in
      the Scriptures or even in the Talmud.

  108 _Jerusalem_, in Mendelssohn’s _Sämmtliche Werke_ (Vienna, 1838),
      especially from p. 264 onwards, and a letter by him published in
      Frankel‐Graetz’s _Monatsschrift_, 1859, p. 173. For Mendelssohn’s
      position, see Graetz’s _Geschichte_, xi. 86 _seq._, especially p. 88
      and note 1; Kayserling, _Leben und Werke_ of M., 2d ed., p. 394;
      Steinheim, _Moses Mendelssohn_ (Hamburg, 1840), p. 30 _seq._;
      Holdheim, _Moses Mendelssohn_ (Berlin, 1859), p. 18 _seq._; Leopold
      Löw’s pamphlet, _Jüdische Dogmen_ (Pesth, 1871).

  109 See the Commentaries on Maimonides’ סשׂר המצות, especially R. Simeon
      Duran’s זוהר הרקיע; cf. also ancient and modern commentaries on
      Exod. xx. 2.

  110 See _Siphra_ (ed. Weiss), pp. 86_b_, 93_b_.

  111 _Baba Bathra_, 14_b_; cf. Fürst’s _Kanon_, p. 15.

  112 See _Sanhedrin_, 38_b_, and _Pseudo‐Jonathan_ to Gen. iv. 8.

  113 _Mechilta_, 33_b_.

  114 אפיקורום, Lat. Epicurus.

  115 See _Mishnah_, _Sanhedrin_, x. e, § 1, and Talmud, _ibid._ 90_a_ and
      _b_, and Rabbinowicz’s _Variae Lectiones_, ix. p. 247 notes. Besides
      the ordinary commentaries on the Talmud, account must also be taken
      of the remarks of Crescas, Duran, Albo, and Abarbanel on the
      subject. Cf. also Kämpf in the _Monatsschrift_ (1863), p. 144
      _seq._; Oppenheim, _ibid._ (1864), p. 144; Friedmann in the _Beth
      Talmud_, i. p. 210 _seq._ See also Talmudical Dictionaries, _s.v._
      אפיקורום. The explanation I have adopted agrees partly with
      Friedmann’s and partly with Oppenheim’s views.

  116 _Sayings of the Fathers_, iii. § 9, and iv. § 22.

  117 See אדרת אליהו (Jovslow, 1835), p. 48. In my exposition of the
      dogmas of the Caraites I have mainly followed the late Dr. Frankl’s
      article “Karaiten” in Ersch u. Gruber’s _Encyclopädie_ (sec. ii.
      vol. xxxvi. pp. 12‐18). See also his _Ein mutazilitischer Kalam_ and
      his _Beiträge zur Literaturgeschichte der Karäer_ (Berlin, 1887) on
      Bashazi. Cf. also Jost’s _Geschichte_, ii. c. 13.

  118 Kairowan was one of the greatest centres of Jewish learning in North
      Africa during that period.

  119 See, however, Professor D. Kaufmann’s note in the _Jewish Quarterly
      Review_, i. p. 441. From this it would seem that the creed of R.
      Judah Hallevi may be formulated in the following articles:—The
      conviction of the existence of God, of His eternity, of His guidance
      of our fathers, of the Divine Origin of the Law, and of the proof of
      all this, the pledge or token of its truth, the exodus from Egypt.

  120 אמונה רמה, _Emunah Ramah_, pp. 44 and 69; cf. Gulmann,
      _Monatsschrift_, 1878, p. 304.

  121 For the various translations of the Thirteen Articles which were
      originally composed in Arabic, see Steinschneider, Cat. Bodl. col.
      1887. Cf. Rosin, _Ethik des Maimonides_, p. 30; Weiss, _Beth
      Talmud_, i. p. 330, and _Ben Chananjah_, 1863, p. 942, and 1864, pp.
      648 and 697, and Landshut, עמודי העבודה, p. 231.

  122 מנחת קנאות. See pp. 1‐16.

  123 See _Hammaskir_, viii. pp. 63 and 103.

  124 See Steinschneider, _Cat. München_, No. 210.

  125 See the Collection דברי הבמימ, by Ashkenazi, pp. 56_b_ _seq._

  126 See Albo, c. iii. Probably identical with the author mentioned by
      Duran, 13_b_.

  127 ספר נצחון, “Sepher Nizzachon.”

  128 See אור ה (ed. Johannisburg), preface, and pp. 20_a_, 44_b_, 59_b_,
      and elsewhere. The style of this author is very obscure. Cf. Joel’s
      pamphlet on this author (Breslau, 1874).

  129 See the first pages of the מגן (Leghorn, 1758), and his משׂסם, pp.
      13 _seq._

  130 עקרים, _Ikkarim_, “Fundamentals.”

  131 See _Ikkarim_, i. c. 23, and Maimonides’ _Commentary on the Mishnah_
      (end of tractate Maccoth). On Albo compare Schlesinger’s
      Introduction and notes to the _Ikkarim_, Joel’s pamphlet, p. 82;
      Paulus, _Monatsschrift_, 1874, p. 463, and Brüll’s _Jahrb._ iv. p.

  132 I know his work from a MS. in the British Museum, Orient. 39.

  133 דרך אמונה, _Derech Emunah_. Cf. Steinschneider, _Monatsschrift_,
      1883, p. 79 _seq._

  134 See עקירת יצחק, gate 55.

  135 See his ימוד האמונה and מאמר האחרות.

  136 ראשׂ אמנה.

  137 See בהיגת הדת, ed. Reggio, p. 28.

  138 See מעשׂה מבית (Venice, 1707), 16_a_ and 23_a_. His language is very

  139 See the Collection by Ashkenazi (as above, note 18), p. 29_b_.

  140 See his בשׂמים ראשׂ, p. 331.

  141 See Weiss’s admirable monograph on Maimonides, published in the
      _Beth Talmud_, i.

  142 The Hebrew title of the work is דור דור ורורשׂיו.

  143 That is, vows of an ascetic nature (not vows or oaths enforced by a
      court of justice), which the tribunal could annul when there was
      sufficient reason for it.

  144 The ten Rabbis who are named as the bearers of tradition during the
      period between 170 and 30 B.C. The “pair” in each case is supposed
      to have consisted of the president and the vice‐president of the
      Sanhedrin for the time being. See, however, Kuenen, _Gesammelte
      Schriften_, p. 49 _seq._

  145 דרשׂנים גדולים.

  146 הלכות למשׂה מסיני. They amount, in the whole of Rabbinic literature,
      to about forty, of which more than ten concern the preparation of
      the phylacteries, whilst others relate to the libations of water at
      the Feast of Tabernacles and similar subjects.

  147 This is the time when the school of R. Johanan b. Zaccai began its
      activity. Others place the Tannaitic age in Hillel’s time (30 B.C.).

  148 בת קרל.

  149 בית דין, lit. “Court of Justice,” as above, note 16 to Elijah Wilna,
      but it means also a sort of permanent Synod, in which of course
      justice was also administered as a part of religion.

  150 עדיות, “Evidences given by Witnesses.” The tractate consists mostly
      of a number of laws attested by various Rabbis as having come down
      to them as old traditions.

  151 The family of Hillel, which was supposed to be descended from the
      house of David, supplied the Jews with patriarchs for many
      generations. Gamaliel II. flourished about 120 A.C., whilst Simon b.
      Gamaliel’s activity as Patriarch falls about 160 A.C.

  152 שׂמכות, _Semachoth_. It is a euphemistic title, the tractate dealing
      with the laws relating to funeral ceremonies and mourning.

  153 מבוראי, “Elucidators” or “Explainers.” The heads of the schools in
      Babylon during the fifth and sixth centuries were so designated.

  154 The Rabbinic Jews of the dispersion add one day to each festival,
      and thus celebrate the Passover eight days, the Feast of Weeks two
      days, etc. The custom arose out of the uncertainty about the first
      day of the month, the prerogative of fixing the New Moon resting
      with the great _Beth Din_ in Palestine, which had not always the
      means of communicating in time the evidence given before them that
      the New Moon had been seen by qualified witnesses. The prerogative
      was abolished in the fourth century, and the calendar fixed for all
      future time, but the additional day is still kept by the Rabbinic
      Jews as the “Custom of their Fathers.”

  155 שׂיעור קומה, היכלות, “Chambers (of Heaven)” and the “Measure of the
      Stature,” mystical works in which occasionally gross
      anthropomorphisms are to be found. Their authorship is unknown.

  156 _Sabbath_, 55_a_.

  157 _Sayings of the Fathers_ (ed. C. Taylor), v. 12‐15. See also
      _Sabbath_, 32 _seq._, and _Mechilta_ (ed. Friedman), 95_b_.
      _Arachin_, 16_a_.

  158 See _Mechilta_, 25_a_, 32_b_. _Gen. Rabbah_, ch. 48, and _Tossephta
      Sotah_, iv. 7, and parallels.

  159 _Taanith_, 21_a_.

  160 _Sayings of the Fathers_, iv. 5.

  161 _Baba Bathra_, 9_b_.

  162 _Yoma_, 39_a_.

  163 _Berachoth_, 33_a_.

  164 _Sabbath_, 13_b_.

  165 _Berachoth_, 7_a_.

  166 See _Mechilta_, 68_b_, and parallels. _Siphra_, 112_b_. _Pessikta_
      of R. Kahana, 167_b_. Cp. _Sanhedrin_, 44_a_.

  167 _Aboth_ de R. Nathan, 40_a_, 59_b_, and 62_b_.

  168 _Baba Bathra_, 10_a_.

  169 _Eccles. Rabbah_, ix. 7.

  170 5_a_.

  171 7_b_.

  172 See _Mechilta_, 95_b_, and parallels.

  173 See _Kiddushin_, 40_b_. _Mechilta_, 63_b_. _Lev. Rabbah_, iv.

  174 See _Sabbath_, 54_a_.

  175 _Exodus Rabbah_, c. 35, and parallels.

  176 See _Negaim_, ii. 1.

  177 _Exod. Rabbah_, c. 46.

  178 _Taanith_, 11_a_.

  179 See _Berachoth_, 5_a_.

  180 _Tanchuma_, כי תצא, § 2. Cp. _Mechilta_, 72_b_.

  181 _Siphré_, 73_b_, and parallels.

  182 _Taanith_, 8_a_.

  183 _Arachin_, 16_b_.

  184 _Sayings of the Fathers_, iv. 15.

  185 See _Chagigah_, 5_a_.

  186 _Sabbath_, 55_a_.

  187 _Menachoth_, 29_b_.

  188 _Taanith_, 25_a_.

  189 _Gen. Rabbah_, xxvii.; _Pessikta_, 136_b_; _Sanhedrin_, vi. 5;
      _Berachoth_, 7_a_.

  190 _Sayings of the Fathers_, i. 3, p. 27, ed. Taylor. See also note 8.

  191 _Abodah Zarah_, 19_a_; _Siphré_, 79_b_.

  192 _Berachoth_, 58_b_.

  193 See _Exod. R._, 30, and parallels.

  194 See ראשׂית חבמה, i. 9.

  195 See רמתים נמים, 33_b_.

  196 See _Sabbath_, 55_b_, and _Siphra_, 27_a_.

  197 _Judaism and Christianity, a Sketch of the Progress of Thought from
      Old Testament to New Testament_, by C. H. Toy, Professor in Harvard
      University. London, 1890.

  198 See _Pessikta_ of R. Kahana, 61_b_, and parallels, and _Erubin_,

  199 Tal. Jer., _Sabbath_, 5_b_.

  200 מטטרון, the name of an angel, already found in the Talmud, but
      playing a more important part in the _Book of Chambers_, where he is
      identified with Enoch. The etymology of the word is doubtful, some
      authors considering it to be of Persian origin (_Mithra_); others
      again deriving it from the Greek μετὰ τύραννον, or μετὰ θρόνον.

  201 ספירות.

  202 מימרא, “The Word,” sometimes substituted for God. See J. Levy’s
      _Chaldäisches Wörterbuch_, _s.v._

  203 בחר, אדם קדמון.

  204 _Mechilta_, 104_a_.

  205 See Tal. Jer., _Yoma_, 45_b_. Cf. Maimonides, _Mishneh Torah_, הלבות
      שׂבת פב הג.

  206 _Tosephta Berackoth_, iii. 7.

  207 _Sabbath_, 10_b_. The name of the Rabbi is not given, but the fact
      that R. Simeon b. Gamaliel (160 A.C.) already refers to this
      interpretation makes it clear that its anonymous author must have
      lived at least a generation before.

  208 כום שׂל קדושׂ.

  209 See _Midrash_ to the Psalms xcii. and _Deut. Rabbah_ iii. The Rabbis
      perceived in the words וקראת לשׂבת עננ (Isa. lviii. 13), a command
      to make the Sabbath a day of pleasure, whilst the word הסצף was
      understood by them to mean “needs,” “wants,” or “business” (_not_
      “pleasure”). Cf. _Sabbath_, 113_a_ and _b_.

  210 See _Gen. Rabbah_, xi. (and parallels), and _Sabbath_, 119_a_.

  211 See _Maaseh Torah_ (ed. Schönblum) and _Deut. Rabbah_, i.

  212 _Sabbath_, 25_b_ and 119_a_.

  213 _Betsah_, 16_a_. Cf. Baer’s notes in his _Prayer‐Book_, p. 203

  214 See _Sabbath_, 119_b_, and _Gen. Rabbah_, xi.

  215 See _Sabbath_, 10_b_, and _Gen. Rabbah_, _ibid._

  216 תפלין.

  217 _Nazir_, 23_b_.

  218 אור זרוה by R. Isaac b. Moses of Vienna (thirteenth century), mostly
      on legal subjects.

  219 יוחסין, Yuchasin.

  220 מכלל, Miklal.

  221 זרעים, מועד, the former treating of the agricultural laws of the
      Bible, the latter of those relating to the Sabbath, Passover, and
      other festivals.

  222 מחזר, “Cycle,” containing the liturgy for the festivals.

  223 Since then edited by the Mekize Nirdamim.

  224 Eve of the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles.

  225 שׂשׂח סדרים. שׂ֜֜ם.

  226 ברייתה.

  227 פאה.

  228 ילקות, Yalkut.

  229 חזית.

  230 ישׂוהר נשׂב.

  231 ויסען.

  232 ילמרנו והזחיר.

  233 רעיא מחימנא.

  234 עמק המלך, משׂנה למלך, מגיד משׂנה, משׂנה תורה, שׂשׂר המלך.

  235 ח֜֜ם שאל.

  236 חד גדיא לא ישׂראל.

  237 שׂני לוחות הכרית. שׂ֜֜לה.

  238 The main authorities on the subjects of this essay are _Die
      Lebensalter_, by Dr. Leopold Löw; _The Jewish Rite of Circumcision_,
      by Dr. Asher; an article by Dr. Perles in the Graetz _Jubelschrift_,
      p. 23 _seq._; _Merkwürdigkeiten der Juden_, by Schudt; the מקורי
      המנהגים and other works on ritual customs; Güdemann’s _Geschichte
      des Erziehungswesens und der Cultur der Juden_; and _Das Kind in
      Brauch und Sitte der Völker_, by Dr. Ploss.

  239 אמתי, אמת.

  240 לילית, Is. xxxiv. 14.

  241 See above, note 39 to Nachmanides. [Transcriber’s Note: The footnote
      on _Shema_.]

  242 ברית מילה, “Covenant of Circumcision.” This is the usual expression
      in Hebrew literature for the rite of circumcision.

  243 שׂלום זכר.

  244 גוזר, מוהל.

  245 פדיון הבן.

  246 הקת תהורה, on educational matters.

  247 סחורה, “business,” or “wares.”

  248 I am indebted for the English adaptation to Mrs. Henry Lucas.

  249 _Bereshith Rabbah_, chapter xx. For another reading see ראשׂית הכמה
      (ed. Cracow), p. 374.

  250 _Abodah Zarah_, 3_b_.

  251 This is the way in which Deut. xxxi. 10‐12 was explained.

  252 סופרים, “Scribes”; treating of the regulations concerning the
      writing of the Law, but containing also much liturgical matter.

  253 סשׂרדים, by which name the Jews of the Spanish rite are designated.

  254 נצראן ישׂן, a controversial work published by Wagenseil. See above,
      p. 203, for another victory.

  255 סנדלפון, who is probably known to the English reader from
      Longfellow’s poem.

  256 בר מצוה.

  257 קידושׂ, “Sanctification”—“benediction”—on the eve of Sabbath, which
      is pronounced over a cup of wine.

  258 שׂמכת תורה, or on the 23rd of Tishri, when the last portion from the
      Pentateuch is read.

  259 הלל, “Praise,” _i.e._ Ps. cxiii.‐cxviii.

  260 קדִשׂ, the name of a prayer commencing יתגדל ויתקדשׂ, “Magnified and
      sanctified be,” etc.

  261 Prayer beginning ברכו, “Bless ye,” etc.

  262 ברוך שׂאמר, beginning of a prayer, “Blessed be He,” etc.

  263 See Schürer’s _Die Gemeindeverfassung der Juden in Rom_, p. 24. Cf.
      _Hebräische Bibliographie_, xix. p. 79.

  264 זבאת.

  265 תהנות.

  266 מעבר יכק.

  267 יעמוד. In olden times the weekly lesson from the Law used to be read
      by seven members of the congregation who were “called up” for this
      purpose; the Priest and the Levite took precedence of laymen for
      this honour. At the present day, the members of the congregation are
      still called up, but the actual reading is performed by an official.

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