Skip to main content

Full text of "About Preaching"

See other formats


Early Journal Content on JSTOR, Free to Anyone in the World 

This article is one of nearly 500,000 scholarly works digitized and made freely available to everyone in 
the world byJSTOR. 

Known as the Early Journal Content, this set of works include research articles, news, letters, and other 
writings published in more than 200 of the oldest leading academic journals. The works date from the 
mid-seventeenth to the early twentieth centuries. 

We encourage people to read and share the Early Journal Content openly and to tell others that this 
resource exists. People may post this content online or redistribute in any way for non-commercial 

Read more about Early Journal Content at 
journal-content . 

JSTOR is a digital library of academic journals, books, and primary source objects. JSTOR helps people 
discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content through a powerful research and teaching 
platform, and preserves this content for future generations. JSTOR is part of ITHAKA, a not-for-profit 
organization that also includes Ithaka S+R and Portico. For more information about JSTOR, please 

120 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 


In his JUdische Ilomiletik^ Dr. Maybaum has published a 
course of lectures which he delivered during the years 
1888 and 1889 at the Lehranstalt fiir die Wissenschaft des 
Judenthums in Berlin. An Appendix contains an extensive 
list — it does not pi-etend to be a bibliography — of printed 
sermons delivered by well-known preachers, chiefly in 
Germany and Austria-Hungary, The text and the subject 
are given in each case, and sometimes a sentence is quoted 
from the discourse which indicates its scope in a few words. 
This Appendix serves indirectly to show how rich German- 
speaking Jews are in honiiletical literature. Its chief 
purpose, however, is to afford practical aid to preachers 
who are at a loss for a text or a subject, or both. Its 
usefulness is enhanced by its arrangement. The discourses 
are carefully classified, typical headings being " Bereshith," 
" Pesach," '' Wedding Addresses," " Patriotic Addresses," 
and " Addresses on Various Occasions." In preparing the 
list Dr. Maybaum has had regard only for the intrinsic 
excellence of the sermons, not for the theological opinions 
of the preachers. In his choice of authors he shows 
himself sufficiently eclectic. The list includes names as 
diverse as Plessner and Salomon, Mannheimer and Geiger, 
Sachs and Ritter, N. M. Adler and Holdheim.^ 

' Judische Homiletik, nebst einer Auswahl von Texten und Themen, von 
Dr. S. Maybaum, R.abbiner der jiidischen G-emeinde und Decent an der 
Lehranstalt fur die Wissenschaft des Judenthums zu Berlin. — Berlin, 1890. 

* There are two sermons by the late Chief Rabbi in the list, one, the 
inaugural sermon delivered on his assumption of the Chief Rabbinate 
of Oldenburg, on the 6th of June, 1829 : Die PJiichten die der Seelsorger 
geyen seine Gemeinde. die Gemeinde gegen ihn zu er/iillen hat ; the other, 
the sermon preached in the Great Synagogue, on the 8th July, 1845, on 

About Preaching. 121 

In publishing the present work Dr. Maybaum justly 
claims to have supplied a want. Preachers like Mann- 
heimer, Stein and Philippson have more or less formally 
discussed the subject of homiletics in the introductions to 
their volumes of sermons. Pliilippson, indeed, devoted to 
it some special articles in his Allgemeine Zeitung, It has 
also been dealt with by Jellinek in the Ben Chananja. 
But a systematic and comprehensive treatise on Jewish 
homiletics had still to be written, and Dr. Maybaum has 
written it. His qualifications for the task are unquestion- 
able. He is one of the most efiective preachers in Germany, 
and he owes his success in the pulpit to the careful study 
of the preacher's art, with which he has reinforced his 
learning and his oratorical gifts. Practical experience, he 
tells us, he has enjoyed in abundance ; but he has also 
diligently sought for the best examples of pulpit eloquence, 
and made them his model. Another characteristic is his 
unmistakable earnestness — nay, enthusiasm. He takes 
his pulpit ministrations seriously. They are no vain thing 
for him ; they are his life. There are men who make the 
pulpit a dernier ressort, who welcome it as an alternative to 
coals, that favourite haven of refuge from the storms of 
commercial disaster. There is a more numerous class — 
those who put only one hand to their work instead of both 
hands, who make sermons as though they were omelets, 
as rapidly as possible, and with a minimum expenditure of 
inventive power. They are the preachers who deliver 
machine-made discourses, devoid of originality, utterly 
lacking in soul. They have seen, to borrow Mr. Moncure 
Conway's striking image, no " pattern on the Mount " by 
which to work. Nor is it inspiration only that they need, 
but a recognition of the solemnity of their mission and the 

his induction into the office of Chief Rabbi of the United Congregations 
of the British Empire : Die VorsStze und Hofftmn^en, mit welchen, der 
Oeistliche in sein Amt tritt. The latter discourse was subsequently 
translated into English by Barnard Van Oven. (See Dr. Friedlander's 
article in this Review for July, 1890). 

122 The Jeioish Quarterly Review. 

necessity of throwing their whole selves into it. There 
are few preachers, I suspect, like Mannheimer — " a real 
man," Professor Graetz calls him — who used during the 
whole week to think about his Sabbath sermon, and read 
everything that he thought might help him in its pre- 
paration. In point of zeal, Dr. Maybaum deserves to rank 
with this old master of homiletics. Every line of his book 
reveals him as a preacher who is impressed with the re- 
sponsibility of his office, and who has freely dedicated his 
powers to the discharge of its duties. If they h^lp to 
imbue other ministers with a like earnestness these lectures 
will indeed have accomplished a great work. 

Dr. Maybaum's fundamental postulate is that the sermon 
is an essential constituent of the synagogue service. The 
historical sketch with which he sets out establishes the 
truth of this proposition. Passing over the discourses of 
the Prophets, he looks for the origin of the Jewish sermon 
to the expositions which accompanied the public reading 
of the Scriptures in the days of Ezra. As time went on 
these expositions obtained a firmer place in the synagogue; 
and about the beginning of the Christian era, as Zunz 
proves, discourses on the portion of the day were delivered 
on every Sabbath and festival in Palestine, either during 
the service or independently of it. As the raison d'etre of 
these discourses was the ignorance of the sacred tongue 
that prevailed among the people, they were naturally 
delivered in Aramaic, the vernacular. A similar practice 
obtained outside Palestine, so that in Alexandria, for ex- 
ample, the preacher or expounder spoke in Greek ; nor 
did he scruple to adopt even the rhetorical methods of the 
Hellenic orators. Anxiety to popularise the pulpit, and to 
ensure its utterances being understood by the vulgar, led 
to the adoption of a curious device which continued in 
vogue throughout the Talmudic and Gaonistic periods. 
The sermon was delivered by the head of the Rabbinical 
school (the Chacham), or by his delegate (the Darshan), not 
aloud to the audience, but sotto voce to the Meturgeman or 

About Preachiny. 123 

Amora, who reproduced it in an attractive form for the 
benefit of the assembly. This arrangement originated in 
the increased importance that was attached both in Pales- 
tine and Babylonia to "dexterity in using the language of 
the people, to a pleasant voice, and to appropriate elocution 
— qualities which were not always possessed by the head 
of the school, whose chief activities lay in the domain of 
Halachah." Seeing how exceptional in these days is the 
union of the literary gift with elocutionary power, one 
could almost wish that a similar co-operative system were 
possible, by which the business of writing the sermon 
should be delegated to one man, and the duty of delivering 
it assigned to another. 

The practice of delivering a discourse on every Sabbath 
and Festival, which was scrupulously adhered to in the 
Talmudic and Gaonistic ages, fell subsequently into de- 
suetude. Homiletic skill came to be far less valued by 
the Rabbi than knowledge of the ritual law. If the dis- 
courses on the Sabbaths before the Great Festivals sur- 
vived, it was because they exceptionally demanded ac- 
quaintance with the Halachah rather than the Agadah. 
In Spain and in Italy the Jewish pulpit held its ground 
during the Middle Ages; but in Germany, and, indeed, 
in every country where persecution was most severe, 
it virtually perished. Oppression destroyed the very in- 
clination for sermons. In the mediaeval reign of terror 
the Jew had no thought for anything but his own 
despair. "His ear," says Zunz, "was deaf to the voice 
of consolation, and hope for him was but a silent look 
heavenwards." The growth of the piyut also helped 
to drive out the sermon. The poet dispossessed the 
preacher, and as the service increased in duration with 
the dimensions of the Prayer-book, the sermon was crowded 
out owing to sheer want of time. The synagogues of 
Germany were not without preachers at the close of the 
seventeenth century ; but their discourses were charac- 
terised by all the defects of the Polish style of preaching. 

124 The Jewish Quarterly Review 

Pilpiil then reigned supreme in the sphere of Talmudic 
study, and it annexed the homiletical domain likewise. 
The chief concern of the preacher was not to expound the 
Scriptural text, still less to exalt the moral and religious 
datus of his hearers, but to clear up the difficulties of 
some recondite passage of the Midrash. Even when the 
discourse was founded on the Bible, its method was 
none the less vicious. The preacher, to quote Dr. May- 
baum's graphic description, began by citing contradictory 
passages from the Sacred Volume, and then proceeded to 
emphasise the difficulties they presented by questions rest- 
ing chiefly on false interpretations, and betraying ignorance 
of the simplest grammatical rules. In order to solve the 
problems thus manufactured the preacher would adduce 
new passages, which served in their turn as the starting- 
point for further questions, and thus a huge mass of 
bewildering ideas was piled up before the astonished gaze 
of the congregation. It was now the preacher's business 
to knock over these homiletical ninepins by means of a 
pai'able, which reflected his own narrow and distorted 
views of life. In this way all the original difficulties 
were satisfactorily disposed of to the great surprise of 
those few hearers who had not already been hopelessly 
lost in the twists and turns of the intellectual maze. 
The preacher's language — if the term is not wholly in- 
applicable to a nondescript jargon — was worthy of his 
matter and his method. It was not German, or Polish, or 
Hebrew, but an amalgam of all three, and of other tongues 
besides. It is hardly necessary to add that this peculiar 
style of preaching, which was common in the synagogues 
of Germany a century ago, is by no means defunct, and 
that illustrations of it are to be met with fco-day in London. 
The Polish Maggid may be heard on any Sabbath in the 
Jewish quarter at the East-end — & glaring instance of the 
survival of the unfittest. 

The Hercules who cleansed the Augean stable in Germany 
was, of course, Moses Mendelssohn. The pure language, 

About Preaching. 125 

the orderly methods, and the exalted doctrine of the pulpit 
discourses which are delivered in the German synagogues 
to-day are largely the result of his efforts. In labouring 
for the diffusion of culture and enlightenment among his 
Jewish countrymen, Mendelssohn indirectly helped to re- 
generate their pulpit. But he contributed to its revival by 
the most direct means also. He wrote three sermons, one of 
them, in celebration of the Peace of Hubertsburg, being 
delivered in the Berlin Synagogue by Rabbi Aaron Moses.^ 
In a comparatively short time, however, the preachers were 
able to deliver German discourses written by themselves. 
The first of these preachers was Joseph Wolf, of Dessau, 
Mendelssohn's birthplace. With Wolf in 1808^ the German- 
Jewish pulpit may be said to have taken its rise. To the 
ultra-orthodox party in Germany sermons in the vernacular 
were an abomination. No one with any pretence to 
historical knowledge could have objected to a vernacular 
pulpit on the ground of its being heterodox, seeing that 
its roots extended down to the very earliest ages of 
Talmudic Judaism. But a German sermon was a novelty 
at the beginning of the century, and a novelty in 
the synagogue stood self-condemned. Vernacular preach- 
ing suffered, too, in being identified as the sj-mbol of 
reform. Its advocates were men of enlightenment and 
profound religious feeling, for whom sermons in the lan- 
guage of their country constituted only one of the changes 
needed in order to restore to the service its old empire over 
the mind and the heart. Their programme bristled with 

1 This name has some interest for English Jews. The Eev. Dr. Adler, 
in his Lecture on " The Chief Rabbis of England " (^Anglo-Jewisk 
Historical Exldhition, Papers, p. 278), suggests the identity of B. Aaron 
Moses with the Eabbi of the same name who is included in the JTlDTn 
niDK'J recited in most English synagogues on the chief Festivals. There 
is no record of his having filled any ecclesiastical office in this country ; 
and the fact of his name appearing in the English Rabbinical roll must, 
Dr. Adler thinks, be accounted for on other grounds. 

2 Zunz gives 1812 as the date. He adds, that from 1809 to 1813, ser- 
mons in the vernacular were delivered every Sabbath in the School of 
the Consistory at Oassel (^Gottcsdienstliohe Vortraege, p. 460). 

126 Tlie Jewish Quarterly Review. 

innovations — revision of the Liturgy, a triennial cycle of 
readings from the Pentateuch, choral singing, and last, but 
unfortunately not least, the organ. Vernacular preaching 
had to pay in unmerited opposition for the bad company 
in which it found itself. The Government came to the aid 
of its opponents, and forcibly closed the synagogues in 
which it had been adopted. But even the arm of the law 
cannot indefinitely postpone the fulfilment of the higher 
law of religious progress. The demand for a German- 
Jewish pulpit was but the outward manifestation of 
powerful spiritual yearnings that were too imperious to 
remain long unsatisfied. Before many years had passed, 
vernacular preaching had not only ceased to be a shib- 
boleth, but had become a bond of union. 

And here I may not inappropriately shift the scene and 
transfer the action to our own country. The introduction 
of systematic preaching in the vernacular into our com- 
munity took place but a few years after its initiation in the 
synagogues of Germany. Wolf, of Dessau, had his English 
counterpart in Bennaton, who delivered a series of dis- 
courses in the Liverpool Synagogue during the years 1824 
and 1825.^ The work he thus began was continued by his 

I Marks' Sermons, Second Series, p. 291. See also " Nemo's " letter in 
the Jewish Chronicle for October 7th., 1870. The present writer has a 
MS. copy of one of Bennaton's Liverpool sermons, made at the time 
of its delivery, by the late Miss Sarah Hess, of that city. The first 
Jewish Sermon preached in English was the well-known discourse on 
" The Faith of Israel," by Rabbi Tobias Goodman. The date is the 2nd 
of May, 181!), and the place, Liverpool again. Cottonopolis was both the 
birth-place and the nursery of the Anglo-Jewish Pulpit. Groodman also 
preached at the Maiden Lane Synagogue on the death of George III. and 
the Princess Charlotte respectively. It may be desirable to add that the 
London Jews were not without accomplished preachers, even in the days 
anterior to the birth of the Anglo-Jewish Pulpit. It. Joshua da Silva, 
the first Ecclesiastical Chief of the Spanish and Portuguese Congregation, 
who died in 1679, was an accomplished pulpit orator. Thirty-one of his 
discourses in Spanish, published in Amsterdam in 1688, are extant. 
Among his successors, Jacob Abendana and David Kieto may be mentioned 
as able preachers. In the sister congregation, B. David Tewele SchiS 

About Preaching. 127 

brotlier, the Kev. Moses Nathan; and in 1836 the Rev. 
David Isaacs, on his removal from Bristol to Liverpool, 
inaugurated the practice of delivering weekly sermons. 
Six years later the West London Synagogue, in Burton 
Street, was consecrated, and regular pulpit instruction 
commenced in the metropolis by the Rev. D. W. Marks. 
In its early days, however, the Anglo-Jewish pulpit made 
but slow progress. Writing in 1832,' Zunz^ thus refers to 
the position of Judaism in this country : — " Theology is 
still a century behindhand, and Jewish institutions are ac- 
cordingly in a state of stagnation ; but the elements of a 
better condition of things are not wanting. The sermons 
that are occasionally delivered do not appear to be charac- 
terised by any particular importance." Zunz's authority 
for this statement seems to have been David Levi's 
Customs of the Jeios — a work which was already fifty years 
old.' The author of the Vortraege makes the necessary 
amende in a footnote. He learns that greater attention is 
now being paid by the preachers to both matter and diction. 
Nevertheless, in 1832 the Anglo-Jewish pulpit was not in 
a flourishing condition. It was still wrestling with infantile 
troubles. History repeated itself, and the vernacular 
sermon was assailed in England with the same acrimony 
that it had encountered in Germany. " Some whom I am 
now addressing," says Professor Marks,"* "must be old 
enough to remember the time when the proposal to intro- 

" must," Dr. Adler thinks, " have been a preadier of great power " (^Anglo- 
Jewish Historical Exhibition Papers, p. 286). 

1 The Rev. D. A. de Sola was then delivering occasional Sermons, in 
English, at the Bevis Marks Synagogue. His " Discourse on the Excellence 
of the Holy Law," preached on the 26th of March, 1831, was published, 
and was the first English sermon delivered in that place of worship. 

* Gottesdienstliohe Vortraege, p. 471. 

' Levi's sole reference to the pulpit of his time is as follows : " The 
Sabbath which happens in those days is called the Sabbath of Repentance, 
the reason of which is this, the Rabbi of every synagogue on that day 
preaches a sermon to the Congregation, the subject of which is the 
Doctrine of Repentance." (Customs of the Jews, p. 86.) 

■• Sermons, Second Series, p. 290. 

128 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

duce English sermons into the Jewish House of Worship 
was rejected by the congregational rulers as an attempt to 
foist on the synagogue the spurious offspring of a strange 
worship. Qiian rypU was the cry with which this attempt 
was met by hundreds of pious and well-meaning, though 
most unlettered men, who imagined that a vernacular 
pulpit was the creation of an anti-Jewish and post-biblical 

Forty years had to elapse before the pulpit showed that 
it had taken firm root in the English synagogues. As late 
as 1862 there were only two ministers who preached 
regularly every Sabbath in London. They were the Rev. 
A. L. Green, at the Portland Street Synagogue, and the 
Rev. Professor Marks, at the Margaret Street Synagogue.' 
In that year the latter urged that a determined effort should 
be made " to place the pulpit of the English Synagogue on 
a footing of equality with that of our brethren of Conti- 
nental Germany." This object, he thinks, can never be 
attained, "until every Anglo- Jewish congregation is ad- 
dressed from the pulpit by an Englishman."^ Utterances 
like these help us to realise the great strides which preach- 
ing has made in the community during the last twenty-five 
years. The vernacular pulpit is no longer an exotic : it is 
a thoroughly acclimatised institution. As against the two 
metropolitan preachers who spoke every Sabbath in 1862, 
there are now some half-a-dozen who preach either weekly 
or on alternate Sabbaths, besides others who regularly 
occupy the pulpit at slightly longer intervals. The number 
of preachers in the provinces has also largely increased. 

If we would account for the impetus that has thus been 
given to English preaching during the last two decades, 
we must look to the intellectual movement which has taken 
place in the community during that period. But due credit 
must be given to Jews' College, which has provided English 
Jews with the ministers capable of satisfying their new- 

' Sermons, Second Series, p. 296. ^ IHd, p. 307. 

About Preaching. 129 

born spiritual needs. The College has contributed to the 
development of Anglo-Jewish preaching in a two-fold 
manner. It has filled some pulpits, and by tha,t very act 
revealed the emptiness of others. To go sermonless from 
year's end to year's end is no longer a circumstance that a 
congregation may acquiesce in — an affliction to be suffered 
gladly. It is felt as a reproach, a stigma ; it is a sign of 
inferior caste. The feeling of self-dissatisfaction thus en- 
gendered is a healthy symptom, for it is a guarantee that, 
sooner or later, the grounds for it will be removed by the 
initiation of periodical preaching in the synagogue con- 
cerned. Jews' College has done much to breed and foster 
this noble discontent. Every minister it sends forth 
satisfies the need of one Congregation only to create the 
needs of many others. At one and the same time it satis- 
fies and stimulates a hunger to hear the Word of God. No 
work could be nobler. In seeking for the causes of the 
increased vitality which is now manifested by the Anglo- 
JeAvish pulpit, justice demands that we should give a promi- 
nent place among them to the influence of an institution 
which hitherto has not received its due meed of appreciation 
at the hands of the communitj^ 

Nevertheless, it is doubtful, to say the least, whether our 
pulpit has hitherto reached the degree of vigour displayed 
by the Jewish pulpit in Germany. The progress has not 
been so wide or so deep. Even when we have made the 
necessary allowance for difference of population, we shall 
find, I think, that the number of active pulpits in Germany 
is larger than it is here. To put it in another way, there 
are proportionately fewer synagogues in that country 
without preachers than there are in England. I believe, 
too, that a comparison based on the average quality of the 
sermons delivered would not be to our advantage. We 
have but a handful of really effective preachers, and only 
a very few of our pulpit discourses deserve to survive their 
birth, to be read and re-read. Our homiletical literature 
is of scanty proportions, and the materials for increasing it 


130 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

are accumulating but slowly. It looks as though we 
should have to wait a long time for an English work 
corresponding to Kayserling's Bibliothek Israelitischer Kan- 
zelredner. It may not unfairly be urged in our defence that 
our pulpit is of more recent growth than that of our Ger- 
man brethren; that our one training college for ministers 
has been heavily handicapped by many difficulties, not the 
least being the microscopic dimensions of the support 
extended to it by the Community it serves ; and lastly, that 
from various causes, difference of intellectual status among 
them, English Jews at the outset offered a far less con- 
genial soil than their German co-religionists to vernacular 
preaching. Whatever the explanation, the fact remains 
that the pious wish breathed by Professor Marks thirty 
years ago, though it has already come far nearer to fulfil- 
ment than even he could have expected, is a pious wish still. 
We are not yet abreast of Germany in matters relating to 
the pulpit. On the other hand, anything like an ideal 
state has not been reached in Germany itself. Dr. May- 
baum hopes (in italics) that the time is not far distant 
when a service without a sermon on a Sabbath or Festival 
will be " unthinkable." But at present he can only hope. 
He also deplores the fact that so many German-Jewish 
pulpits ai'e filled by foreigners. 

It will readily be understood that Dr. Maybaum touches 
only incidentally on the history of the Jewish Pulpit. His 
main object is eminently practical. His book is chiefly 
intended for ministers, actual or potential, and his para- 
mount concern is to induct them into the art and mystery 
of preaching, in both its literary and its elocutionary 
aspects. It is because his lectures have this aim that they 
possess the charm of novelty. A guide for Jewish preachers 
is a new thing indeed, but no one can pretend that it was 
not needed. Christian ministers of all denominations have 
their Preacher's Handbooks, their Homiletical Aids and 
Hints, and what not. Why .should not their Jewish col- 
leagues be equally well cared for ? Not that these vado 

About Preaching. 131 

mecmns are all admirable. It is necessary to draw the line 
somewhere, and I would draw it at " Sermon Outlines," the 
exact analogue of the religious Catechism. The one encou- 
rages the idle preacher, the other the lazy teacher. Both 
put the brain in splints, and are the grave of originality. 
But this, by the way. The very fact that a work on the 
art of Jewish preaching should have been recognised as a 
want, eloquently testifies to the importance of the place 
which the sermon now occupies in the synagogue. It is 
evident that preaching in the vernacular has become a 
more wide-spread practice, and that the need of making 
the discourse conform to fixed rules, as regards both treat- 
ment and style, has grown more imperious. In fine 
the Jewish sermon is no longer an anachronism ; it is 
thoroughly modem in form and spirit. It has freed itself 
from the undisciplined methods of Poland, and is now an 
orderly, coherent production. Nay, more than this; the 
preacher aims no longer at puzzling and astonishing his 
hearers. He has ceased to be an oratorical conjuror, a 
propounder of homiletical conundrums. His sole object is 
to teach and uplift. 

This is the supreme function of the sermon, and Dr. 
Maybaum never permits his readers to lose sight of it. He 
sees, in the growing ignorance of Hebrew, the language of 
the Prayer-book, a potent argument for the utmost possible 
increase in the activity of the pulpit. Modern indifference 
to Sabbath observance still further establishes, in his 
opinion, the necessity of the sermon, which, if it does not 
succeed in preserving the sanctity of the entire day of rest, 
may secure at least a part of it for religious contempla- 
tion. The importance and the dignity of the pulpit 
receives from him the the fullest recognition. "For the 
congregation the preacher is the ideal Israelite, filled with 
the knowledge and the fear of the Lord. United to him in 
sympathy they rise to the contemplation of Divine truth 
and to the reception of the Revelation which flows un- 
ceasingly from the everlasting fount of the Sacred Scrip- 


132 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

tures." It is an exalted keynote that is thus struck, and 
it gives the tone to the entire work. The pitch is never 
lowered. The Jewish preacher who ponders these inspiring 
lectures will acquire something even more precious than a 
clearer insight into the art of preaching. He will gain a 
deeper reverence for his mission. He will learn to be 
strong and of good courage when oppressed by the dis- 
parity between the severity of his work and the seeming 
meagreness o£ its results. The memorv of these dis- 
courses will give him new heart, and impel him to put all 
his strength, all his soul, into his holy task. The book is a 

But I must not forget that I am writing for the public, 
not for the preachers only. Thus I cannot follow my 
author into his many homiletical rules. Even the preacher 
will have to take some few of his recipes cum grano. Here 
and there they seem to me to have a spice of pedantry, 
quite a I'AUemande. Thus one of them affirms the necessity 
of founding the sermon on the Sedrah (Pentateuchal 
lesson) of the week; to treat even of the Haphtorah 
(Lesson from the Prophets) is a privilege only to be 
allowed to old-standing preachers who have earned it by 
much discoursing on the Pentateuch. Another rule pro- 
hibits irony in the pulpit, in direct opposition to the 
example of the great Masters of the Agadah. A third 
forbids the recital of the text previous to the sermon, thus 
putting the preacher into utterly superfluous leading- 
strings. A fourth pays far too much honour to the intro- 
duction. Now, of all the pitfalls prepared for the unwary 
feet of the preacher the introduction is the most deadly. 
The congregants know it to their cost ; and that is why I 
dwell on it here. To give to the introduction what is 
meant for the sermon, to waste on the preface strength 
that ought to be reserved for the subject itself, with 
the result that the discourse grows long and weedy, — 
this is the neophyte's besetting sin. Knowing the almost 
incurable tendency of the beginner to unduly protract his 

About Preaching. 133 

exordium, Dr. Maybaum suggests that it should not exceed 
a third of the length of the sermon proper, which still 
seems to me too liberal. In spite of my author's strong 
dislike for plunging in mecUas res (mit der Thure ins Maus 
fallen), I would suggest that the student should be advised, 
as a general rule, to eschew introductions altogether. 
Perhaps the grudge against them is all the stronger in this 
country because the general staying-power of the con- 
gregation is inferior to what it is in Germany. Dr. 
Maybaum talks of half-an-hour on Sabbaths and three- 
quarters of an hour on Festivals, as the proper duration 
of the sermon. This is certainly more moderate than the 
Russian Maggid with his discourse that extends over half 
a day; but it is a larger allowance, nevertheless, than 
English congregations are accustomed to. In this country 
the preacher is cautioned never to exceed twenty minutes, 
and to the warning is appended a recommendation to lean 
to the side of mercy. This is a good working rule for 
English ministers, but a working-rule only. There are 
exceptional circumstances in which it becomes more 
honoured in the breach than the observance. A really 
powerful preacher may exceed these limits ; it might almost 
be said that he may consider himself independent of limits. 
I have heard sermons lasting over an hour by the clock, 
and have realised Mr. Weller senior's ideal by wishing 
there had been more of it. On the other hand, I have 
listened to pulpit harangues of fifteen minutes' duration 
which have been just a quarter of an hour too long. For 
the average preacher the twenty minutes rule is a safe one ; 
but it would be absurd to cavil at the man who takes five 
or ten minutes more, provided he succeeds in holding the 
attention of his audience to the end. The rule ought not 
to be forged into fetters. If, however, a preacher avails 
himself of this licence only to learn from some candid 
friend that his hearers have been bored, he will not only 
be wise, but bound, to heed the note of warning. The 
raison d^itre of a sermon is not the gratification of the 

134 TJie Jewish Quarterly Review. 

speaker, but the edification of the congregants ; and as soon 
as the latter begin to think of the clock, edification is out 
of the question. 

And here I should like to say a word, in the interests of 
both sides, on the necessity of making sermons, even short 
ones, interesting; for brevity is no excuse for dulness, 
though a never-to-be-forgotten speaker once urged the 
plea. It is certain that sermons are not as popular as they 
ought to be ; and the equivoque is true in both senses. The 
discovery that the threatened discourse is not to come off 
after all, too often sends an almost audible sigh of relief 
circulating round the synagogue. If the sermon is tiresome, 
the fault of necessity lies with the preacher, whose prime 
business it is to interest his hearers by telling them some- 
thing that stirs their emotions or calls their thinking 
powers into play. The old Talmudic doctor who once 
startled his drowsy audience with the wonderful story of 
the woman who brought forth 600,000 children at a birth, 
did not scruple to be sensational in order to be effective.^ 
Only a R. Jehudah in olden times and a Spurgeon in these 
days might venture on such expedients. But the lesson is 
suggested that it is the paramount duty of a preacher not 
to be dull. It is a duty, too, which congregants would like 
to see more often carried out. People are beginning to 
grumble about the platitudes of the pulpit, and the 
complaint is not altogether groundless. The charge, indeed, 
betokens intellectual progress, for to detect a real 
live platitude is a mark of thoughtfulness. Perhaps 
that is the reason why the task of detection is so 
congenial. It is a cheap way of proving one's mental 
superiority. Nevertheless, what is certain is that we live 
in an age when fresh presentments of truth are urgently 
demanded. The preacher's supply of ideas must be 
constantly renewed; it will not do for him to bring out 

' He explained that lie was alluding to Jochebed, whose son, Moses, 
was worth all the sixty myriads of Israel. Midrash Eabbah on 

Canticles 1G«. 

About Preaching. 135 

his old stock week after week, ringing the changes 
with something like mathematical regularity. Nor, to be 
interesting, need he be heterodox. He can stand firmly in 
the old paths, and yet charm his flock with his novel 
methods of illustrating and applying ancient truths. 
Neither ought he to fall into the error of preaching 
narrow sermons — narrow in the sense of appealing to only 
one section of his flock. Most congregations are hetero- 
geneous ; they comprise the educated and the untutored, 
the thoughtful and the unthinking. To each class ought 
the minister to speak in turn. He must have a quick 
sympathy for the most diverse wants. To do nothing but 
aim at awakening the slumbering religious sentiments of 
the indifferent would be unjust to the earnest believer, who 
needs exhortation and encouragement. But the latter must 
not monopolise all the solicitude of the pulpit ; there are 
souls to be won as well as to be kept. A preacher can 
make no greater mistake than to take thought only for 
those whose faith is as fixed as his own. He must put 
himself intellectually in the place of the doubter, and feed 
him with " the food convenient for him." It is only by 
such broad preaching — broad in the best sense — that the 
pulpit can escape that accusation of dulncss which is the 
exact equivalent of failure. Again, if the minister is wise, 
he will avoid preaching old-fashioned sermons — sermons 
which, in point of style and treatment, as well as choice of 
.subject, are out of touch with the age. When I was still 
a novice in the pulpit, an outspoken critic among my 
congregants— not by any means a man of " reform " views 
— would sometimes tell me that I did not preach " sermons 
for the times." If he had spoken to me in Sanskrit he 
could not have been more unintelligible. But I have since 
found out what he meant, and the lesson he tried to teach 
me is one that a minister cannot learn too quickly. The 
modern sermon must preach Judaism, but by modern 
methods. If it is an anachronism, intellectual or artistic, 
it repels; whereas a pulpit discourse must attract. A 

136 The Jemsh Quarterly Review. 

preacher has not discharged himself of his responsibility 
when he has delivered a sermon which would have satisfied 
him if he had listened to it, but which, to the majority of 
his congregants, is sound and fury, signifying nothing. He 
has to bring religious truth home to the conscience of his 
hearers, and he must take care to select the means most 
calculated to effect this supreme object. 

Thus, we are face to face with the qualities that go to 
make the successful preacher. Knowledge of Judaism — 
its meaning and its history — he must possess, of course, as 
the very first element in his equipment. But equallj^ 
essential is knowledge of the world and of men. Dr. 
Maybaum rightly lays stress upon this point. "Despite 
the proportions," he says, " to which the study of Jewish 
theology has attained in these days, and the application it 
demands from the student, the unfledged minister must be 
no mere recluse, if the great sphere of his future activity 
is not to remain for him an unknown land. The practical 
theologian who has to influence men's lives must learn first 
to know life." This is profoundly true. Unless the sermon 
is to be more or less sterile, it must spring from an intimate 
acquaintance with human nature, its weaknesses and its 
strength, its needs and its hopes. A preacher who is a man 
of the world, but devoid of culture, will probably be a 
pulpit-thumper. If, on the contrary, he is a bookworm, he 
will deliver not a sermon but an essay. He will preach in 
the air. I am not quite sure that pulpit-thumping is not 
to be preferred to essay reading. It does stand a chance of 
rousing the heart's echoes. At any rate, a man who knows 
little about Judaism and less about men, can never make a 
good preacher. The ideal combination of the ancients — 
that of rmn Tiiabn, with V"iM -jm, is as desirable as ever. 
It must become more general if the quality of the modern 
sermon is to undergo the requisite improvement. 

Some arrangement is urgently needed which will bring 
our Jews' College students into closer contact with the 
world, without interfering with their studies. Their life- 

About Preaching. 137 

work will consist in preaching to other hearts and minds. 
How are they to accomplish this task if those hearts and 
minds are a sealed book ? How can the spiritual physician 
heal the soul of whose physiology he is utterly ignorant ? 
It may be said that the necessary knowledge will come 
with experience ; but while the minister's experience grows 
the congregation starves — spiritually. The youthful 
preacher has to gain his worldly wisdom at the expense of 
his hearers, who are compelled to listen to admonitions 
how to live which lack the actuality that a ripe know- 
ledge of life alone can give them. That a congregation 
must be more or less a corpus vile is inevitable ; for the 
minister is always learning, even though he be a veteran. 
But steps ought to be taken to reduce the subject's suffer- 
ings to a minimum. Before a man is trusted with the cure 
of souls he ought to have added some knowledge of the 
world to his academic acquirements. But of this more 

Even ministers who have emerged from the probationary 
state may well apply themselves more diligently to the 
study of contemporary life. Jellinek who, I suppose, is 
the most eminent of living Jewish preachers, has long been 
accustomed — so Dr. Maybaum hears — to set down in his 
note-book the various suggestive circumstances that occur 
in his daily experience, with the view of utilising them in 
his sermons. As a rule, ministers are content, if they have 
a common-place book, to fill it with passages they meet 
with in their reading. And yet a study of the living 
world will furnish the preacher with by far the most 
valuable materials he can possibly obtain. He has to 
play on that most difficult of all instruments, the human 
heart. Observation of men and affairs will help him to 
understand its character and its compass, to master the 
secret of its melody, to awake its diverse tones at his will. 
But it is possible to mix with the world, and yet to be 
none the wiser. 

There are not a few who, though they diligently 

138 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

ponder human nature, have yet to confess that they do 
not understand it. Therefore the preacher needs not only 
opportunities for studying human life and character, but 
the very power to observe, and the ability, moreover, 
rightly to interpret, moral phenomena. He needs eyes to 
see and ears to hear — ^in a word, insight. But this is a 
faculty which no acquaintance with homiletical rules can 
give — one which experience may develop, but cannot 
create ex nihilo. It is a veritable gift of God. Thus the 
true preacher is born, not made. A minister may be a 
walking encyclopaedia, an elegant writer, a fluent speaker. 
He may be all three combined. But unless he is a man 
as well, endowed with a fine sympathy, not merely for 
the sufferings, but for the needs, the feelings, the ideas 
of his kind, gifted with a second sight that pierces the 
mystery of other hearts and other lives, he will not be a 
preacher. If this clairvoyance were more general, effective 
sermons would not be so few and far between. As for the 
solecisms that set the hearers' teeth on edge the preacher's 
innate discernment would make them impossible. Bad 
taste and want of tact in the pulpit, as elsewhere, are the 
symptoms of an unsympathetic nature. To say the right 
thing at the right time is one of the preacher's most 
elementary obligations. But it is an obligation which is 
too often disregarded, because the insight that is needed to 
distinguish the seasonable thing from the unseasonable is 
not always present. The want of this sixth sense is often 
attended by bizarre results. Dr. Maybaum cites the in- 
stance of the Eabbi who, at a wedding, improved the occa- 
sion by gravely reminding the bride of her duty to wear a 
wig. But we can all furnish examples from our own ex- 

It is clear that the preacher's office is one that demands 
a remarkable combination of qualities. It requires an 
almost poetic insight, the power of literary and oratorical 
expression, and deep enthusiasm — all, of course, in addi- 
tion to theological scholarship. Enthusiasm it requires, 

About Preaching. 139 

indeed, in common with every other vocation, but in a 
greater degree. For it is the essential condition of a 
preacher's success that he should be able to inspire others, 
and this is manifestly impossible unless he is himself 
inspired. The minister, then, must possess the various 
gifts and attainments of the scholar, the poet, the man of 
the world, the man of letters, and the public speaker. 
Crown all this by saying that he must needs be a 
thoroughly good man — which is absolutely essential for 
eminence in no other vocation — and the exacting character 
of his office stands out in bold relief. No wonder that 
there are so few good preachers, Jewish or otherwise. But 
is it not true that the system prevailing in our community 
seems to have been expressly contrived to prevent us from 
obtaining our proper share of the number ? We appear to 
have made up our minds that the ideal preacher, so rich 
and rare are the ingredients needed to produce him, is a 
wholly impossible being, and that therefore we must needs 
be content with mediocrity in the pulpit, and be thankful 
it is not something worse. Are we doing our best to 
attract the most talented men into the profession ? Or are 
we not rather doing our best, or worst, not only to keep 
them out of it, but to drive those out who are already in ? 
The Anglo-Jewish pulpit has made great strides during the 
past five-and-twenty years, but the progress has been 
achieved in the teeth of the most unfavourable conditions. 
To put the matter bluntly, the preacher is shamefully 
underpaid. He is expected to be a man of ability and high 
character ; he is weighted with the heaviest responsibilities ; 
yet in point of emolument his place is somewhere between 
a carpenter and a confidential clerk. The Anglo- Jewish 
ministry has two or three prizes, which, of course, only 
two or three men can enjoy at the same time ; but even 
these plums of the profession are not for a moment to be 
compared in value with the average income of a fairly 
.successful solicitor, or engineer, or medical practitioner. 
When they are contrasted with the earnings of distin- 

140 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

guished members of the learned professions, the disparity 
becomes more glaring still. The consequences are only too 
patent. Young men of ability, who have some pecuniary 
resources, decline to study for a vocation whose worldly 
advantages are in inverse proportion to its responsibilities. 
Those who do study for it are chiefly youths of slender 
means, whose very poverty is an a priori disability, inas- 
much as it is seldom found in combination with the good 
breeding which is so desirable in a minister. The scarcity 
of the raw material tends, moreover, to keep down the 
intellectual standard. Men of no particular aptitude for 
the ministry pass muster owing to the lack of more pro- 
mising recruits. But this is not all the evil. The dearth of 
candidates throws open the profession to men who have 
not even training to recommend them. Besides beinsc 
devoid of natural aptitude for the vocation, they lack 
theological knowledge. They have taken to preaching 
because they have failed at everything else. Into such 
hands does the office sometimes fall, which should be 
administered by the very elect of the earth ! 

Nor does the difficulty lie only in getting good men, but 
in retaining them. If the ministry is a pis aller with some, 
it is merely a pied a terre with others. Owing to the in- 
adequacy of his remuneration, the minister is often tempted 
to abandon his profession for a more lucrative calling ; and 
as the temptation naturally presents itself only to the most 
capable, the pulpit is always in danger of losing the men it 
can spare least. Hardly has a minister gained the expe- 
rience that alone can fertilise his learning and his endow- 
ments, before, at the bidding of self-interest, he may be 
impelled to throw all the work of years to the winds, and 
strike out for himself a totally different career. Nor ought 
he to be very severely blamed. That enthusiasm for his 
sacred mission ought to save him from such disloyalty is a 
beautiful theory. But when poverty comes in at the door 
enthusiasm is apt to fly out at the window, and it is hard 
for a man to go on living for an idea, and almost living on 

About Preaching. 141 

it, too, when his children's needs are tugging at his heart- 
strings. The pastor has too often a redoubtable antagonist 
in the father. Lepere defamille est capable de tout — even of 
exchanging a pittance for a competence. No, we must see 
that we saddle the right shoulders with the blame. It 
must be put, not on the renegade, but on the community, 
which looks on and tacitly acquiesces in his defection. No 
one seems to realise the harm it inflicts on the pulpit and 
on the spiritual interests that the pulpit has to promote. 
" The Rev. Mr. So-and-so, one of our most able and zealous 
pastors, has been appointed to the post of Controller of the 
Sealing-wax Department at H.M. Stationery Office. We 
congratulate both the rev. gentleman and the community." 
So runs the journalistic formula. Not a word about the 
serious injury that has been done to our corporate religious 
life by the unnatural translation ; not a word of condolence 
with the bereaved pulpit. 

The remedy is obvious, of course ; but something else is 
needed besides increasing stipends. The ministry must no 
longer be the appanage of a class. It must offer a career 
to talents, whatever their social environment. " The 
Torah," it was declared long ago, " goeth forth from the 
poor " ; but even in the days that gave birth to the saying, 
the lips of the affluent were also wont to teach the Divine 
doctrine. The Rabbis and preachers of the Talmud were 
drawn from every social grade, not excluding the highest. 
We may be sure that the discourses of R. Jehudah the 
Prince were no less, but all the more, effective because of 
the grandeur of his worldly position.^ To-day especially 
must the old system be revived. Let our gilded youth be 

1 Highly significant is the beautiful passage in Ketuboth 104ffl ; When 
"Eabbi " was at the point of death, he lifted his hands towards Heaven 
and prayed : " Sovereign of the Universe, Thou kaowest that I have 
laboured with both hands for the Torah, yet the breadth of my little 
finger ia greater than the wordly pleasure I have enjoyed through life. 
May peace be with me where I go." Thereupon a Voice was heard pro- 
claiming " Let him enter into peace." 

142 The Jeicish Quarterli/ Revieic. 

taught to regard the preacher's office as one even more 
worthy of their abilities and their enthusiasm than the 
Bar, or Medicine, or the Stock Exchange, and the pulpit 
will gain an influence which cannot fail to leave a deep 
impress for good on the religious life of the community. 
The Church provides an honoured calling for members of 
the best Christian families. Why should not the same 
state of things prevail among us ? Why should the Jew 
consider it beneath his dignity to be a minister of God ? 

But the pulpit needs the best minds we have, and they 
are not to be found exclusively among the wealthy. There 
are many able men who might be secured for it if it only 
promised freedom from anxiety as to mere ways and 
means. That a minister should know nothing of the rex 
angusta domi is but just, seeing how heavy are the cares 
that are inseparable from his office. The pulpit, then, 
must be far more liberally endowed than it is at present. 
The community must face the necessity of largely increas- 
ing the emoluments of its preachei^s. Those congregations 
that can bear the burden must tax themselves for this 
purpose. Those that are not able to bear it must get 
others to tax themselves in their stead. The Provincial 
Ministers' Fund has done good work already ; but its 
usefulness might be very greatly extended if its resources 
were larger. Certainly the principle on which the Fund is 
based ought to receive much wider application. There 
can be no question whatever that it is just the little coun- 
try congregations, consisting, perhaps, of a handful of 
Polish tailors or glaziers, that most require pastors of 
ability to guide them. As matters are arranged at present, 
either the least competent ministers are thought good 
enough for them, or, worse still, they are left prac- 
tically without spiritual direction, unless we are to dignify 
the ministrations of the Shochet with that title. No one 
is responsible for this state of things but the community. 
Those who pay the piper have the right to call the tune ; 
but those who pay him badly have only to thank their own 

About Preaching. 143 

niggardly and short-sighted policy if the music is ugly. 
It may seem a regrettable anomaly that even the work of 
religion cannot prosper without the aid of hard cash ; but 
no amount of lamentation will get rid of the fact. Those 
who think that there ought to be sufficient earnestness 
and zeal among English Jews to make preaching a work 
of love, have a fine opportunity of bringing about that 
ideal state by initiating it themselves. " Let the assassins 
commence," was the retort with which the proposal to 
abolish capital punishment was once met. Similarly, 
those who hold that ministers should be free from sordid 
motives, can inaugurate the ideal clerical order by enrolling 
either themselves or their sons. But, pending the conclu- 
sion of this eminently fair arrangement, it would be well, 
so as not to lose time, to make sure of getting able men 
for our pulpits by the reliable, if paradoxical, expedient of 
offering them adequate pay. 

Yet another criticism, and I have done. Our ministers, 
as a rule, take upon themselves the full burden of their 
responsibilities too early. It is at once ludicrous and 
pathetic to find Dr. Maybaum laying down the rule that 
before the pastor enters upon the discharge of his duties 
he ought to have passed the crisis in his religious develop- 
ment. In other words, he ought to have arrived at some- 
thing like fixity of conviction as regards the main principles 
of his creed. So he ought. But how is he to do it under 
a system which sends men direct from the class-room to 
the pulpit, and which sets them to minister to others before 
they understand themselves ? What sort of influence can 
the pulpit wield, what degree of respect can it command, 
when it becomes the throne of inexperience ? What but 
disaster can happen when an army is led by cadets ? Our 
system urgently needs alteration. Only experienced pastors 
should be appointed to incumbencies, however small the 
congregations concerned. The inexperienced men must 
be content to serve as curates. It will be time enough 
to promote them when they have won their spurs, when 

144 The Jetcish Quarterli/ Eeview. 

they have gained some practical acquaintance with life, 
some insight into their own religious condition. Seeing 
that the young minister has so much to learn, how can 
the task of teaching men and women be safely entrusted to 
his unaided efforts ? His congregation nominally submit 
themselves to his guidance, though some of them with 
their wide knowledge of the world, and their mature 
religious views, are well fitted to be his instructors. Is 
it not clear that his inexperience is sufficient to discount 
the value of his homilies ? that his exhortations must 
offer to those that hear them food for criticism rather 
than the bread of life ? Those who tolerate such a 
system forget that the pulpit owes most of its influence to 
the personality of the preacher, and that if its potency, as 
a religious force, is to increase, the congregation must feel 
more often that they are listening, not merely to a speaker, 
but to a man. 

It may be said that I have throughout invested the pulpit 
with an exaggerated importance, and that preaching is by no 
means the whole duty of a minister. But it is unquestion- 
ably the chief part of it. The sermon is the sole point of 
spiritual contact between the preacher and the majority 
of his congregation. Outside the synagogue they part 
company, and the minister's opportunities for exercising 
a religious influence over his flock are practically restricted 
to those i-are occasions when the stream of some individual 
life has reached a turning-point. The Jewish householder 
tolerates no " director," nor are our elderly spinsters in the 
habit of inviting their pastor home with a view to enjoying 
tea and edification simultaneously. Whether it would be 
better for our religious interests if we were able to borrow 
such customs from our neighbours is a problem I have 
never been able to solve. Nor do I forget or undeiTate the 
minister's " parish " work — his labours among the poor, 
his instruction of the young, his visitation of the sick. But 
are not the qualities needed for such ministrations the very 
essentials of success in the pulpit ? We need only to look 

About Preaching. 145 

around us in order to see that our most zealous ministers 
are our most capable preachers. It must necessarily be 
so. The most effective pulpit orator is he who throws his 
whole heart into his work — he whose discourses derive 
their chief power from his character and his life. The 
pulpit has its charlatans, no doubt, like every other pro- 
fession ; but they are soon found out. The Rev. Charles 
Honeyman flourishes but for a day. To be a truly success- 
ful preacher, trusted and honoured — a preacher whose 
words lind hearts already open to receive and to cherish 
them — a man must be conspicuous for enthusiasm and 
goodness. But possessed of these endowments he cannot 
fail to shine in every department of his pastoral work. 
Increased efficiency in the pulpit, and a high standard of 
ministerial effort, are but synonyms. To aim at the one is 
to pave the way for the other. 

But in truth it is hardly possible to lay undue emphasis, 
on the necessity of a vigorous pulpit in an age whose cha- 
racteristic note is materialism in both senses of the word. 
Preaching, powerful and convincing, that appeals both to 
the heart and the intellect, is the one sure means of 
vitalising the religious sentiment, the most effective ally of 
the soul that is struggling to hold its own. In the pulpit 
the living voice and the personal example of the preacher 
combine with the solemn associations of the House of 
Prayer to enforce the message of the inspired Word, to 
intensify the call of conscience. Faith and duty teach 
their lessons under the most impressive conditions. 

" God is not dumb, that He should speak no more ; 
If thou hast wanderings in the wilderness, 
And find'st not Sinai, 'tis thy soul is poor." 

But for many a wanderer the pulpit may haply be the 

Guide and the Lawgiver. Again, the hesitating feet are 

led to the Mount of God ; the Divine reveals itself anew, 

and the responsive cry of obedience rings out as in the 

days of yore. 

MoRKis Joseph.