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Dr. Wiener's Treatise on the Jewish Dietary Laws is 
one of the most important books on the Jewish religion 
which has appeared during the last quarter of a century 1 . 
Is it characteristic of the times that, in England at least, 
it has made so little stir ? The orthodox party has perhaps 
tried to ignore it, and true reformers are far and few. 
Small, indeed, is the percentage of educated Jews in this 
country who observe the dietary laws, but smaller still is 
the percentage of the transgressors who trouble their heads 
for a moment about the justification of their own dis- 
obedience. Nevertheless, a great book like Dr. Wiener's 
must ultimately win its way and do its work. It is 
there, and it cannot be killed. 

Nor can it be refuted. It may have its mistakes, but it 
is a powerful indictment; the more impressive, perhaps, 
when we call to mind the man who drew it up. Dr. Wiener 
has passed beyond the range of praise or blame. But when 
he wrote and published his work he was already an octo- 
genarian, and could care but little for its effect upon himself. 
He had been for many years Rabbi of the Jewish Com- 
munity in the small Prussian town of Oppeln, and he was 
bound, when asked, to give ritual decisions on all the 
casuistic minutiae of the dietary laws in true accordance 
with the Code. It is wonderful, in reading his book, to think 
what wastes of ritualistic barrenness are still connected 

1 Diejiidischen Speisegesetze nach ihren verschiedenen Gesichlspunkten zum ersten 
Malewissenschaftlich-methodischgeordnet und kritisch beleuchtet, von Dr. A.Wiener 
(Breslau, 1895). 


with religion 1 . Charges of inconsistency could freely be 
brought against him. He had nothing to gain by his 
attack upon the dietary laws : he had, if anything, a good 
deal to lose. Some would say he was putting a weapon 
in the hand of the Anti-Semites, others that dirty linen 
must not be washed in public (which means that it must 
never be washed at all), while all the eager devotees 
of the Talmud and the Shulchan Aruch, all the neo- 
orthodox school, at present so rampant in Germany, partly 
through the dubious influence of the Seminary at Breslau, 
would empty their full-stored armoury of vituperation and 
abuse. The old man was moved to speak by higher 
considerations : love of Judaism, still so hampered by 
obsolete ritualism and oriental superstitions, would not 
suffer him to keep silence unto the end. 

Dr. Wiener's book deals with one of the two great evils 
in our modern Judaism : one of the two great barriers to 
internal progress and development, and to external influence 
upon the world beyond. 

The Jewish dietary laws are a mere survival. They are 
a bit of Asia in Europe, which can never prosper in their 
new environment; or rather they belong to a stage of 
religious custom which for all civilized persons has utterly 
passed away. The essential doctrines of the Jewish religion 
are precisely those which are most independent of place and 
of time. They are not more Asiatic than European : not more 
past than present. They are human and divine. It is these 
doctrines which lifted Judaism up and out of the Asiatic 
religions around it in the earlier stages of its career, and 
which marked it off from its neighbours. Its least charac- 
teristic element is its dietary code. Take up any com- 
mentary upon Leviticus and you will find parallels to the 
dietary laws of the Bible and of the Talmud in dozens 
of races and religions. The lower down you go in the 

1 Speisegesetee, p. 121, n. 2 ; 247, n. 1 : the latter note is of a very- 
curious and distressing character, but well worthy of the fullest 



scale of religions, the more rules and restrictions do you 
generally find. 

I spoke of two great evils : I referred to the Jewish 
laws about food, and to the Jewish laws about women. 
Both these unfortunate classes of laws partly rest upon 
certain primordial superstitions ; superstitions which would 
be scouted at the present day by all such educated per- 
sons as still observe these laws. But that they rest upon 
and grew out of these superstitions does not now admit 
of doubt. The science of comparative religion cannot be 
ignored. Certain things we know, and all the protests 
in the world will not make us again ignorant. We 
know, e. g., that the custom of avoiding blood, or of 
drinking it on certain solemn occasions, rests on a super- 
stition. We know that the basis of the prohibition in 
the Pentateuchal law ("for the blood is the life") is in 
itself a partial expression or embodiment of that super- 
stition, and we further know that a peculiar aspect of 
that superstition has had the most far-reaching effects in 
the relation of the sexes to each other, and still lives 
a shadowy life in certain enactments of the Jewish cere- 
monial law. These things we know, and no one can get 
out of them and of their implications, because he does not 
find them convenient, or even because they interfere with 
certain cherished observances. It interfered with some 
people's views of religion exceedingly when science asserted 
that the earth went round the sun, but the interference 
did not prevent the fact, and gradually people had to shape 
their religion more or less in accordance with the fact. 

The superstitions on which the fabric of the dietary 
laws has been reared I will not now indicate in detail. 
A determining superstition was this : that certain kinds 
of physical cleanness or uncleanness are of vast import- 
ance from the point of view of religion and personal 
safety. One point I may add further: the dietary laws. 
in their origin, and probably in their development, have 
had nothing whatever to do (except unconsciously) either 


with self-control or with sanitation. I emphasize the last 
three words : or with sanitation. I will do the founders 
and developers of the dietary laws the justice to say that 
they, at all events, did honestly, if mistakenly, institute 
and observe them from a religious intent. They did not 
confound religion with hygiene. 

The dietary laws, and other customs of similar kind, 
resting on similar superstitions, were no essential element 
of that -unpopular religion, which was preached by Amos 
Hosea and Isaiah, and which constitutes the true basis 
of Judaism. The dietary laws were part and parcel of 
the popular religion, to which the prophets were opposed. 
They only became incorporated and adopted as part and 
parcel of the Jewish law because of the alliance between 
the priest and the prophet. The priest adopted some of 
the prophetic principles, but he retained some of his own 
priestly observances and conceptions. The people could 
only be won over to the doctrines of the prophets, or rather 
to some of them, by casting the aegis of orthodoxy over 
a mass of popular customs and superstitions. Hence the 
ceremonial law, as we have it in the Pentateuch. The 
original contributions which Judaism made to religion 
are precisely the highest and most spiritual elements in 
Pentateuch, Prophets and Psalter. About the dietary laws, 
or the laws about women (the swelling belly and the 
rotting thigh, e. g.), there is nothing characteristic or orig- 
inal whatever. Here, again, dispute is unavailing. It is 
not I, a nobody, who says so : it is science. 

It is a crying necessity of the time that at least the 
Rabbinic developments of the dietary laws should be 
authoritatively removed. People say, " they are dying 
a natural death as it is, there is no necessity to hurry the 
dissolution." But, as Dr. Wiener points out, such people 
forget that, in scores of cases, these laws are disobeyed not 
from conviction, but from indifference or carelessness or 
convenience. They forget that they are still regarded 
as an essential part of orthodox Judaism, and that every 

VOL. VIII. d d 


Rabbi is bound to say that they ought to be observed, 
©ven as he is himself bound to observe them. They forget 
that this divorce of theory and practice is of the gravest 
harm all round, harmful both to the influence of Judaism 
upon those within its pale and to its position and influence 
in the world beyond *. Is Judaism always to be regarded 
as an antiquarian, obsolete, oriental religion, made up of 
and constituted by strange and funny customs which even 
its own adherents, as soon as they are Europeanized, begin 
gradually to throw aside and disregard ? 

It may, indeed, be said that the superstitions on which 
the dietary laws were built up are now forgotten. It needs 
the investigations of scholars even to recall them. How, 
then, are we to regard them if we ignore their true and 
scientific origin ? We may suppose them to be arbitrary 
decrees of God, and this is a favourite point of view in 
the Talmud itself. By some odd coincidence the very 
same rules which in other nations grew up as customs, 
God decreed to the Israelites as immutable laws. The 
all wise and all good God revealed to Moses the exact 
details of Shechitah: the Talmud asserts this and even 
essays to prove it from the Bible. God himself told 
Moses how sheep and oxen and chickens were to be killed, 
and we must not inquire into the reasons of God's com- 
mands, we must simply obey them. But this point of 
view is hopeless for modern times. Who will believe 
in a God who reveals rules about slaughtering cattle, 
and solemnly ordains that milk must not be eaten with 
meat ? The whole thing seems to us now, at the best child- 
like and strange, at the worst unworthy and degrading. 

We can also regard the dietary laws as mere sanitary 
enactments. Well, even if they are this, let us observe 
them as such, and not injure religion by giving them 
a false religious wrapping or homage. Some of them, 
moreover, are not sanitary, but as Dr. Wiener shows, dis- 
tinctly the reverse. Or, you can say, whatever the origin 

1 Pp. 112, 426. 


of these laws, I choose to obey them now, because they 
are ascetic exercises, disciplinary rules in self-control and 
self-restraint. This point of view, unknown, I believe, 
to the Talmud 1 , is the best defence that can be made of 
them, but is of necessity temporary and transient. The 
son of a man who would only eat a chicken killed in one 
particular way, and who would never eat milk and meat 
together, because he believed that he was fulfilling a law 
of God, may continue to observe these enactments from 
the point of view of ascetic exercises and moral training, 
even although he believes that these customs were not 
divinely ordered at all, and that they are the outgrowth 
of purely human superstitions. But the son of the man 
who observes them from the point of view of self-control 
will hardly continue their observance. He will look at 
them as they are in themselves, at their origin and purpose, 
at their social effects, at their relation to his religious 
opinions, and to the society in which he moves and lives, 
at their influence upon Judaism in the present and as 
a whole — and so looking and so judging, he will, I think, 
feel bound or feel tempted — take whichever verb you will — 
to observe them no more. 

Dr. Wiener's book is on the dietary laws in general. But 
his real attack is on the dietary laws, not of the Pentateuch, 
but of the Babbis. Nor is this differentiation either irrational 
or surprising. For one of the great objections which attaches 
to the Babbinic laws, namely, their burdensome and re- 
strictive character, scarcely applies to the Pentateuchal laws 
at all. The Pentateuchal laws are fourfold : (a) the law not 
to eat blood; (6) the law not to eat an animal which has 
died of itself, or has been " torn " by a wild beast ; (c) the 
law not to eat fat ; (d) the law not to eat certain specific 
animals and birds and fishes. The first two laws in their 
real meaning no one would think of disobeying. The 
third would, I admit, if obeyed, prove burdensome and 

1 P- 35 s - It is most interesting to see how Isaak Arama attacked the 
hygienic point of view. 

D d 2 


circumscribing. The fourth is neither one nor the other. 
I was myself brought up to obey it, and out of respect for 
my mother I still do so. To my knowledge I have never 
partaken deliberately of pig, hare, lobster, and the rest 
of them ; but I have never found these abstentions either 
burdensome in themselves, or preventive of my free social 
intercourse with Christians. 

Hence omitting the law about fat (which was obviously 
a mere appanage of the obsolete system of sacrifices) the 
Pentateuchal dietary laws might at any rate continue for 
a time. Geiger notoriously thought otherwise. " Sint ut 
sunt aut non sint " was his maxim. Leave them as they 
are or abolish them altogether. In Germany, it may be 
observed, there is no via media in practice. Either people 
follow the entire Rabbinical code, or they eat hare as 
freely as they cook their chop in butter. But Dr. Wiener, 
while admitting the obsoleteness in religious principle 
both of the Biblical and of the Rabbinical dietary laws, 
thinks that a distinction can still be made. Let reformers 
at all events exert all their efforts to abolish the Rabbinical 
laws : the Biblical ordinances can be left for a space alone. 
For one thing they are neither burdensome nor restrictive, 
and for another the Bible is after all a greater and a more 
authoritative book than the Talmud or the Shulchan Aruch 1 . 

Dr. Wiener's work suffers a little from the garrulousness 
of age. But on the whole it is well and logically arranged. 
He begins with a short introduction, to which, however, is 
immediately added an epilogue, that might perhaps have 
been better allocated to the end. Then follows the treat- 
ment of the dietary laws themselves, in eight divisions. 
A summing up and two valuable appendices complete the 
whole. The eight divisions treat of (i) The sinew that 
shrank, (2) Milk and meat, (3) Fat, (4) Blood, (5 and 6) 
Nevelah and Terefah, (7) Unclean beasts, birds and fishes, 
(8) Mixtures. 

It is not my purpose to enter here into a full review and 
1 Cp. pp. 8 n. 2, 10 k, 418, 483. 


criticism of Dr. Wiener's admirable book. I still hope that 
some adequate scholar, who sees things much as Dr. Wiener 
saw them, may review his work in the pages of this 
Quarterly. I will only here notice a few of the points 
which the wise old Rabbi brings forward. 

First a word as to the sanitary wisdom of the dietary 
laws. It is commonly supposed that these laws, if 
nothing else, are at all events, whether by good luck or 
good management, admirable from the point of view of 
hygiene. Whereas the truth is that even here they are 
somewhat a failure. The law which the ingenuity of the 
Rabbis evolved out of the story of Jacob's wrestling with 
the angel rests to begin with, as Dr. Wiener shows, upon 
an anatomical impossibility. Let that, however, pass. The 
" porging " necessitated by this Rabbinic law removes from 
orthodox Jews "the best and most nutritive parts of the 
meat 1 ." Still less hygienic are the Rabbinic laws about 
salting and washing meat in order to drain it of every 
possible driblet of blood. Remember that these laws are 
still in force in every orthodox household, and that they 
are still part and parcel of orthodox Judaism. Now let 
us hear their hygienic effect. 

Dr. Wiener quotes medical authority to the following 
effect : 

Diseases of the intestines are exceedingly common among Jews 
of both sexes. The dietary laws are partly the cause of this. They 
make a meat diet less accessible to the poorer classes, and even 
of those animals which they may eat, the meat is divested by means 
of salting and washings of its nutritive elements, so doss kaum mehr 
als dasfaserige Gewebe dent Magen sugefiihrt werden kann\ 

Another authority, Dr. Niemann by name, gives similar 

evidence : 

Mit dem Wasser des Fleisches werden Eiweiss und Fleischstofi', 
die Milchsaure und Sake vom Kochsalze ausgezogen. Die ausfliessende 
Salzlake wird entfernt und mit ihr ein Theil der lOslichsten und 
wesentlichsten Stoffe des Fleisches 3 . 

1 P. 33. " P. 2!5. 3 P. 216. 


And a third medical man, Dr. Pappenheim, says : 

Das Salzen setzt den Nahrungsstoff des Fleisches erheblich herab, 
indem das Salz das Wasser aus demselben entzieht, mit diesem aber 
die grosse Menge der Phosphorsaure und des Kalis, beinahe alle 
Extractivstoffe, das lSsliche Eiweiss und einen grossen Theil des 
Fleisches extrahirfc 1 . 

Even the laws about slaughtering are by no means 
so hygienic and scientific as is commonly affirmed. 
The examination of the carcasses is often inadequate. 
Dr. Phillipson admitted that the distinguishing marks of 
"healthy" and "forbidden" laid down by the Rabbis can 
no longer hold water. In some directions they go too far, 
in others not far enough 2 . In any case, should a minister 
of religion decide when meat is or is not fit for human food, 
or a veterinary surgeon ? The relegation of such questions 
to a minister as a part of his religious duties would be 
farcical were it not so intensely sad. Ars longa ; vita brevis. 
And it is with endless details about slaughtering and 
" mixtures," and with pages on pages of casuistic dis- 
tinctions and difficulties, that the budding Eabbi has to 
fill his mind and occupy his time. The great thoughts 
and books of the world he has less leisure to learn and 
to read. 

Another point which Dr. Wiener presses home is indeed 
so glaring that little knowledge is needed for its making. 
In order that a Biblical authority may be found for the 
Talmud's amazing mass of dietary enactments, the plain 
words of Scripture have to be twisted and perverted 
beyond recognition^ One wonders that any man who has 
learnt grammar and exegesis can still obey laws which 
have been devised on such a basis. 

Thus the odd custom to refrain from eating the " sinew 
of the hip," the mention of which a redactor most unfor- 
tunately appends to the legend of Jacob's wrestling with 
the angel (its real origin must be sought in very different 

1 P. 216. s P. 242, and especially pp. 501-504. 


connexions), is perverted by the Talmud into a law. 
This is done by mistranslating the words " Therefore the 
Israelites eat not of the sinew of the hip unto this day " 
into " Therefore the Israelites must not eat of the sinew 
of the hip for ever." Grammatically this is impossible ; 
historically it is absurd. If the law-makers of the Penta- 
teuch had desired to turn the custom into a law they 
would have included it in their codes. The probable 
truth is that this was one of the popular superstitions 
which they refused to sanction or to incorporate. 

Again, the Pentateuch is urgent against the drinking 
of blood, and I have already indicated that it here adopts 
a widespread and hoary superstition. But it also partly 
reacts against superstition : for blood being very holy and 
taboo, it was drunk on various solemn occasions for magical 
and idolatrous purposes. In any case, however, what the 
codes forbid is the absolute drinking of blood ; or again, 
the partaking of raw meat with the blood still in it. There 
is no thought of elaborately draining the meat of every 
particle of blood within it after the liquid blood has been 
removed. Nor is there any hint that the animal ought to 
be killed in one way rather than in another, in order that 
there may be a better chance that more blood may issue 
out of the meat, and less blood be left within it. Salting 
and Shechitah are pure figments and inventions of the 
Rabbis, without any Scriptural basis. What men in those 
ancient days either feared or desired to partake of was real 
liquid blood ; and it is only this which the Bible forbids 
the use of, partly because it stands on the level of its time, 
and does regard the blood as holy, and partly because it 
stands above the level of its time, and seeks to prevent 
the idolatrous superstitions and ceremonies in which the 
drinking of blood played a central and prominent part. 

More amazing still is the absolute inversion and bovle- 
versement which the Rabbis have made of the Biblical laws 
about Nevelah and Terefah. The Pentateuch says, as clearly 
as words can say it, first that the Israelites are not to eat an 


animal which is found dead. That is Nevdah. Secondly, 
they are not to eat an animal which has been "torn" by 
a wild beast. That is Terefah. If you find a dead bird, 
e.g. quite whole and uninjured, you must not eat it; it has 
"died of itself": it is "unclean." That is Nevdah. If 
you find a dead bird with its feathers scattered around 
and the mark of a talon upon its breast, you must not 
eat it any the more. It has been torn by a bird of prey. 
That is Terefah. All this is perfectly clear, and none of 
us would desire to transgress so moderate and wholesome 
a law. 

The Talmud, however, absolutely inverts the whole 
thing, and turns two simple commands which need no 
explanation into a mountain of oppressive and trifling 
enactments. According to orthodox Judaism, an animal is 
Nevelah which has not been killed according to all the 
minute and multitudinous laws of the Shechitah ; an animal 
is Terefah which, on examination, proves to be afflicted 
with any trace of a disease recognized as such, not by 
modern science but by mediaeval Eabbis ! So wholly 
has the natural sense of the Scriptural words disappeared 
from the minds of the Talmudic authorities, that they 
positively allow an animal which is found dangerously ill, 
but is killed before its actual death, to be freely eaten. 
Only the very pious and the very scrupulous, they say, 
refrain from such food 1 ! 

The Talmud asserts that God revealed to Moses all the 
rules of slaughtering animals. Now can anybody, I ask, 
in the year 1896, believe this? Does not the belief, or 
even the statement, verge close on the borders of irreverence 
and absurdity ? And how does the Talmud prove its point? 
In the Book of Deuteronomy the following passage occurs : 

When the Lord thy God shall enlarge thy border, as he hath 
promised thee, and thou shalt say, I will eat flesh, because thy soul 
longeth to eat flesh; thou mayest eat flesh, whatsoever thy soul 
lusteth after. If the place which the Lord thy God hath chosen 

* Pp. 241-343. 


to put his name there be too far from thee, then thou shalt kill 
of thy herd and of thy flock, which the Lord hath given thee, as 
I have commanded thee, and thou shalt eat in thy gates whatsoever 
thy soul lusteth after. Even as the roebuck and the hart is eaten, 
so thou shalt eat them : the unclean and the clean shall eat of them 
alike. Only be sure that thou eat not the blood : for the blood 
is the life ; and thou mayest not eat the life with the flesh. Thou 
shalt not eat it; thou shalt pour it upon the earth as water. 
Thou shalt not eat it ; that it may go well with thee, and with thy 
children after thee, when thou shalt do that which is right in the 
sight of the Lord. 

What do the italicized words "as I have commanded 
thee" mean? The answer is simple. The Deuteronomic 
code, which for the first time enjoined that sacrifices were 
only to be offered in one central place, namely, at Jerusalem, 
allowed, as a necessary sequence, that meat might be freely 
partaken of without a sacrifice. That was a great innova- 
tion. Men had been accustomed to eat venison without 
a sacrifice, but not mutton, kid or beef. Hence the words 
" as I have commanded thee " refer back to the previous 
permission or injunction to eat meat, just as if it were 
venison (" as of the roebuck and the hart "), without 
a sacrifice. They refer back to this : 

Notwithstanding thou mayest kill and eat flesh in all thy gates, 
whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, according to the blessing of the 
Lord thy God which he hath given thee : the unclean and the clean 
may eat thereof, as of the roebuck, and as of the hart. Only ye 
shall not eat the blood ; ye shall pour it upon the earth as water. 

The Rabbis, however, evolve from these simple words, 
"as I have commanded thee," the singular interpretation 
that God had commanded Moses how animals were to be- 
slaughtered. " Thou shalt kill of thy herd as I have com- 
manded thee," i.e. kill them according to the rules of 
Shechitak which I have already explained to thee ! And 
this interpretation is, I believe, still solemnly maintained 
and supported by accredited representatives of orthodox 
Judaism. Once more: it would be ludicrous, if it were 
not so infinitely sad. Just as strained and as irrational 


is the Talmudic elicitation of the worst and most restrictive 
of all their dietary laws — the prohibition of eating or 
cooking milk and meat together — out of the simple and 
direct command of the Pentateuch, "Thou shalt not seethe 
a kid in its mother's milk." Let the reader peruse 
Dr. Wieners book and judge for himself 1 . 

The immense range and volume of the dietary discussions 
and laws in the Talmudic and Rabbinic literature are in 
themselves a mournful monument and evidence of human 
folly. How appositely does the learned Steinschneider 
speak of the endless printed matter devoted to this 
unedifying and unelevating subject, as of "a spiritual 
desert, in which occasional oases of acuteness displayed in 
technical distinctions and sub-distinctions alone reveal the 
indestructible power of thought." What is the reason of 
it, he asks ? I give the answer in his own pregnant German. 
It is as gentle and considerate as may be. 

Die Antwort liegt freilich ebenso nahe, dass jede einseitige Aus- 
spinnung des Gesetzes ohne sichtbaren Zusammenliang mit den 
innersten Triebfedern des G-eistes und ohne den belebenden Hauch 
allgemeiner Cultur zu solchen Erscheinungen fuhre, wie sie die 
judische Halacha nicht allein, wenn auch im ziemlichem Umfange, 
aufzuweisen hat, entsprechend der durch aussere Schicksale ver- 
ktimmerten Bildung und dem inneren Drang nach geistiger Tha- 
tigkeit 2 . 

Here is a philosophic excuse for these aridities in the 
past : but it is no longer valid for maintaining and studying 
them now. " The five simple words of Scripture, bwift vb 
1DK a?m ilJ, have grown in the Talmud into twenty-eight 
folio pages. The Shulchan Aruch has expanded the com- 
mand into eleven sections and sixty-two sub-sections, not 
to mention the legion of other writers and of responsa upon 
this same subject 3 ." " The three words of Scripture, 
1^DNn vh na"iD, have become fifty-nine folio pages in the 
Talmud. Maimonides draws up a list of seventy kinds 
of Terefah alone, without including the kinds of Nevelah. 

1 Pp. 41-rao. 2 P. 284, n. a. 3 P. 120. 


The writers on this subject are legion ; a fruitful, or better 
a fearful productivity has been displayed upon the dietary 
laws in general, and upon Terefak and Nevelah in 
particular 1 ." 

Young men, in the few precious years that they can 
give to study, are still, in Jewish colleges and seminaries, 
made to devote many hours of the week to Halachic 
lore. Compare the curriculum of an orthodox Jewish 
seminary for ministers with the curriculum, for example, 
which young divinity students undergo in the Unitarian 
Training College at Oxford. Which gives the more time to 
the reading of great books that still help forward and 
onward the thought and action of man? Which has the 
more time to spare for philosophy, for sociology, for the 
history of human thought and human civilization? Or 
will Tractate Chullin do a man more good than Lecky's 
Moralsl will Maimonides' Hilchotk Shechita be better for 
him than Spinoza's Ethics or Mill's Political Economy 1 Is 
it not hard that the students' time in the seminary should 
be largely occupied with a philosophy that is obsolete and 
sterile, and with laws that are childish and unedifying 1 ? 
It is all very well to boast that the methods of modern 
science are now applied to Jewish lore. But if the lore 
be often ethically and spiritually valueless, no degree of 
scientific application or of trained pedagogic imparting will 
make it educationally profitable. The will and the soul, 
and in the higher sense, the mind are alike starved. Instead 
of bread, the young and healthy appetite is offered a stone. 

Dr. Wiener does not scruple to point out that to the 
minute observation of the dietary laws there are, at any 
rate in Western Europe, grave ethical and religious dangers 

The German proverb is only too true, he says, in regard 
to religion as to other things : Im engen Kreis verengert 
sich der Sinn. " If average persons lay great weight on 
trivialities, the capacity to appreciate great truths or to 

1 P. 258. 


realize the great purposes of life fades away. Superficiality, 
mechanical observance, and an hypocrisy, which is real 
though often unconscious, gradually overmaster them V 

Moreover, the danger against which the prophets pro- 
tested so loudly must always exist so long as human nature 
is what it is. A scrupulous observance of dietary laws, 
and of other laws of similar kind, will always tend to be 
regarded by the average man as equivalent to religion. 
What does the word fromm mean in orthodox circles? 
It means a kosher household, a double or triple set of 
dishes, and so on. Is not this an instance of the degrada- 
tion of words which might have been included by Arch- 
bishop Trench in his famous little study? 

Zu welcher Carrikatur, exclaims the dear old Rabbi, 
vnrd doch unser herrliches Judenthum durch die spatere 
Form und seliggesprochene ausgedehntesfe Kuchen-From- 
miglceit und Heiligkeit ! 2 

Dr. Wiener is especially emphatic upon the evil effects 
of the dietary laws on the character of Jewish women 
of the middle and lower classes. I quote his words, which 
are spoken from experience, in the original German : 

Wahrlich, nicht bios die unn6thigen, zwecklosen Entbehrungen 
und kleinen Qualereien bedauern und beklagen wir, es erfiillt uns 
noch mehr mit Unniuth, mit Schmerz, der Umstand, dass diese 
minutiosen Uebungen einen kleinlichen Geist erzeugen, bei dem 
weiblichen, ohnehin zum Kleinlichen geneigten Geschlecht einen 
hSheren Gesichtskreis verschliessen ; dieses fortwahrende Rechnen 
mit so kleinlichen Faktoren, die fur Grundpfeiler der Religion aus- 
gegeben werden, verOdet das Gemuth und lasst hohere Gedanken 
nicht aufkommen. Mittelmassige Naturen leiden Einbusse an idealem 
und ethischem Gehalt durch diese unerquickliche, minutiSse Kuchen- 
religiositat ; sie glaubten und glauben noch heute, der gewissen- 
haften Ausubung mancher weit wichtigeren Riten, ja, vielleichfc 
gar der sittlichen Pflichten weit weniger obliegen zu miissen, weil 
sie betreffs vieler ceremonieller Observanzen, speciell der Speisegesetze, 
eine peinliche Scrupulositat an den Tag' legen. Den schadlichen 
Einfluss dieser unntitzen, belastigenden, ubertriebenen, minuti6sen 

1 P. 425, &o. 

* P. 269. The note on the same page is too painful for me to transcribe. 


Observanzen muss auch das blCdeste Auge erkennen in der Praxis 
unserer Frauen bezuglich des Pessachrituals : wie geht da in ihnen 
die ganze, grosse herrliche Idee der Befreiung von agyptischer 
Knechtschaft so ganz unter! Da besuchen viele Frauen wfthrend 
der ganzen Pessachzeit kein Gotteshaus, da wird Gebet, Andacht, 
Belehrung ganz hintenangesetzt, weil ja zu Haus strenge Wacht 
gehalten werden musse, dass nur ja kein Atom des fingirten Chamez 
in die Kflche komme. So machen sie denn das Nebensachliche 
zur Hauptsache, diese aber — kaum zur Nebensache '. 

To a practical religious evil, which is directly due to 
the dietary laws, Dr. Wiener also calls attention. His 
words are, I believe, applicable not only to Germany but 
also to Great Britain. 

" The maintenance of a special butcher (who is, moreover, 
often wholly uncultivated, and causes the mockery and 
contempt of Christians) prevents the appointment, in poor 
communities, of an educated religious teacher." And this 
butcher is, in such cases, the religious minister of the 
community. Can it be wondered at if Christians find it 
difficult to understand that persons whose religion compels 
them to maintain such officials, either are or want to be 
real Europeans ? Dr. Wiener adds : 

In Folge der rabbinischen Casuistik, die weder auf biblischem 
Grande beruht, noch irgend einem guten Zweeke dient, ist der 
Schachter, oft ein naturalisirter polnischer Ignorant, der wichtigste 
Gemeindebeamte geworden, deni, wenn Interessen collidiren oder 
nur uber geringe Mittel verfiigt werden kann, Alles und jeder 
Andere zu weichen hat. Daher denn der ungenugende und ver- 
wilderte Religionsunterricht der Jugend und der geist- und gemuth- 
lose Schlendrian des Gottesdienstes in alien unbemittelten Gemein- 
den — abgesehen von der Missachtung und dem Hohn, den ein 
Schachter, der nur zu schachten versteht, auf sich selbst und auf 
.Tuden und auf Judenthum ladet 2 . 

And here we pass to another very important point : the 
influence of the dietary laws upon the relation of Judaism 
to the outer world. 

At present if any attempt is made within the Jewish 

1 P. 95, n. 1. Cp. pp. 216, n. 1, 217, 218, 424, n. 2, 425, n. 2. 
a P. 434. 


community to bring to light a religious evil, if any 
attempt is made to urge reform and progress, we are at 
once met by the rejoinder: "Hush! In the face of anti- 
Semitism, not a word must be said which could imply 
that all the Jews are not perfectly united, not a word 
which could imply that official Judaism has any shadow 
of fault ; every existing custom and rite must be defended 
and justified, and no grain of evil must be admitted 
to inhere in it." Any amount of laxity and indifference 
is of less consequence : every decade the number of those 
increases who, partly for lack of a religion which is in 
full accordance with the other aspects and sides of their 
mental, moral, and spiritual lives, drop off from active 
participation in communal work, and cease to have any 
true religion whatever. It is all of minor consequence 
to the one supreme end of "crying Peace, peace, where 
there is no peace," of ignoring and denying " the hurt of 
the daughter of their people." 

But though this organized arrangement of silence serves 
the turn of the hyper-orthodox and neo-orthodox party, 
while, as Dr. Wiener complains, we, who yearn for a liberal 
and progressive Judaism, inwardly and outwardly in ac- 
cordance with our deepest convictions and ideas, bear 
the loss and the discredit, there would be far less ground 
of complaint if the end held out to us were really gained. 
And yet the policy of silence and stagnation, on the plea 
of putting no additional weapon in the reckless hands of 
anti-Semitism, though it has won over many who would 
otherwise be opposed to it, does actual harm to our 
position in the big outer world beyond our pale. No anti- 
Semite was ever converted from his anti-Semitism by the 
inspiring spectacle of Jewish orthodoxy, neglected in deed 
but maintained in word. On the contrary. Nothing suits 
his turn better than that the Jews should consist of two 
classes only; first, the very orthodox, whose religion is 
Asiatic and not European, secondly, the indifferentists who 
have no religion at all. Reform Judaism is a thorn in 


his flesh. For without it he can argue: the Jews are 
a people who either refuse to eat with us and pray for their 
restoration to Palestine, or who are arch-materialists with- 
out belief in the soul or in God. Dr. Wiener rightly 
maintains that with the exception of the Jewish method 
of slaughtering, the anti-Semite desires nothing better than 
that the Jews should differ in all their rites and usages 
as much as possible from their Christian fellow-citizens. 
The greater the difference, the more complete the marking 
off of Jew from Gentile, the better and more evident his 
case 1 . 

But not every Gentile critic of Judaism is an anti- 
Semite. Jews are far too ready to assume that this is 
the case. It is pleasant to avoid the unpleasant task of 
trying to find out whether there is any truth in any Gentile 
criticism, and it is so easy. Rishuss, anti-Semitism, we 
say, and the thing is done. But though the method be 
easy, it is perilous. 

Dr. Wiener, for example, points out that, more than 
perhaps any other of the dietary laws, the prohibition of 
cooking or eating milk and meat together provokes the 
satire and sarcasm of outsiders. He adds : " Ein Volk wird 
zum Theil nach dem innern Gehalte seiner religibsen Verord- 
nungen und Riten beurtheilt und geschatzt 2 ." John Spencer 
was, as he says, no anti-Semite, when he wrote on the 
milk and meat regulation: quin et eo stultitiae deventum 
est hodie, quod vasa duplicia, altera ad carries, altera ad 
cibos lactarios, coquendos comparent : cultros duos, unum 
ad cam em, alterum ad caseum, scindendum defer ant. 
Duo etiam in mensa salina habere solent, ne carries et 
lacticinia uno eodemque sale condiantur : duo etiam pro 
utrisque mantilia, notis aut Uteris distinctis inscripta, 
ne ab incautis permisceantur 3 . 

1 P- 10 h. 2 P. 116. 

3 De Legibus Hebraeorum ritualibus, Book II, chapter IX, section 2 (vol. I, 
p. 340, ed. 1727) ; Wiener, Speisegesetee, p. 118. Is the doable set of salt- 
cellars and table-napkins true or libellous ? 


In his remarkable work on Ethics, Prof. Paulsen, who 
seems somehow to touch upon everything in the world 
(and usually to illumine it), also touches upon the Jews. 
I do not think that he is an anti-Semite. On the other 
hand, I do not think that whatever he has said is true. 
But I do say that the conditions which he appends to his 
claim of complete civil and political rights for the Jews 
deserve the deepest and fullest consideration. They may 
sting, but at all events they open the eyes. They let us 
see ourselves as others see us, and the others are not 
necessarily our foes. Still more are they worthy of our 
consideration if a lingering remnant of the old prophetic 
desire still exists among us, that Judaism should exercise 
any influence whatever upon humanity at large. 

Zu fordern wird allerdings sein, dass wer als Gleichberechtigter 
angesehen werden will, sich auch ganz auf den Boden des Gemein- 
schaftlebens stellt ; wer von Religionswegen gehindert ist, mit Andern 
zu Tische zu sitzen oder in der Schule am Sonnabend die Feder 
anzuriibren, der schliesst sich selber aus, und es ist thoricht, unter 
dem Titel der Toleranz solche anmassliche Abschliessung gelten 
zu lassen, und dass eine Religion, zu deren Wesen eine bestimmte 
Verstummelung des KOrpers oder eine besondere Form der Totung 
des Schlachttiers gehort, Gleichstellung mit der Religion zivilisierter 
Volker beansprucht und durchsetzt, ist auch eine seltsame Thatsache. 
Wer durch solche Dinge sich selber ausserhalb stellt, der darf sich 
nicht beklagen, wenn er draussen bleibt ; wer aber entschlossen ist, 
sich der ganzen Lebensgemeinschaffc des Volks anzuschliessen, dem 
soil seine Herkunft und seine religiose Oberzeugung kein Hinderniss 
sein x . 

1 Paulsen, System der EtMk, vol. II, p. 493. The attitude towards the 
Jewish observance of Saturday seems to me unnecessarily severe. There is 
nothing "oriental" in the observance of the sabbath. But here again 
it is Jewish orthodoxy which is partly at fault. For from the orthodox 
point of view the objection is not so much to attendance at school in 
general, as to the act of writing when there. When I was at Oxford, 
some of my orthodox Jewish contemporaries would attend lectures and 
read their Demosthenes and Cicero on Saturday, only they would take 
and make no notes. It was this letter worship which their Christian 
fellow-students failed to understand. 


Dr. Wiener, on the Jewish side, says somewhat to the 
same effect. 

"Separation and isolation were the watchwords of the 
Middle Ages. The motto for the present time must be 
union and attachment. And, therefore, so far as they 
are not based upon the pure and clear doctrine of Judaism, 
all those partition walls and boundary lines must be re- 
moved which prevent a close and sympathetic union with 
our fellow-citizens of other creeds 1 ." 

Isolation and separation in matters of food and drink 
are especially calculated, says Dr. Wiener, to make the 
Jews disliked and misunderstood. 

Exclusiveness on one side leads to exclusiveness on the other. 
It is right and proper to endure mockery, misery, and even death, 
for the sake of God, the truth, and our country. But to ascribe 
a great importance to immaterial rites, and by their eccentric obser- 
vance to isolate oneself, and thereby to provoke dislike and intoler- 
ance, is neither religious nor rational 2 . 

What a wise, and clear-eyed octogenarian he was ! And 
if we think of the past as well as of the present, we shall, 
I think, also see his wisdom in the following : 

Mixed marriages and conversions will take place whether the 
dietary laws are observed or not. Das Herz. der Ehrgeiz, die Eitel- 
keit, die Gewinnsucht, der Schwachmuth, die Peigheit lassen sich 
nicht vom rituellen Kuchenzettel beherrschen s . 

Is there any hope that in the Jewish communities of 
western Europe the dietary laws of the Talmud may be 
formally and authoritatively abolished ? Dr. Wiener urges 
that to expect the Rabbis themselves to move is out of 
the question. They are either too conservative or too 
nervous. Can then nothing be done? Are we simply to 
see, decade after decade, a larger and larger proportion 
of educated Jews openly violating laws which are still 
supposed to be an inherent part of their religion, and which 
all their religious teachers unanimously obey? Is it to 

1 P. 480. a P. 456- ' P- 452. 

VOL. VIII. e e 


become more and more impossible because of the yoke 
of the dietary laws for any educated person to become 
a Jewish minister? Nothing is so likely to make people 
drop away from Judaism altogether as the assumption that 
it is largely made up of a number of obsolete customs, 
which no " man of the world " can possibly obey. As to 
any influence of Judaism upon the outer world, any active 
witnessing to God, that is impossible, so long as its pure 
doctrine is overshadowed and overcrusted by a mass of 
oriental, restrictive, and in their origin superstitious obser- 

Dr. Wiener believed that the only possible remedy would 
be a synod called together by a number of intelligent lay- 
men, to which the Rabbis would then also be invited 1 . 
Is the idea purely visionary ? It is not religion or reli- 
giousness which would prevent its accomplishment. No ; 
it is a mixture of indifference, apathy, laziness and timidity. 
And so Judaism languishes, and the hour of its purification 
is dangerously delayed. 

But, perhaps, it will be argued that there is a restraining 
motive at work to which I have been wilfully blind. 
Many persons who openly disobey the dietary laws of 
the Talmud, and perhaps even some persons who disobey 
the dietary laws of the Pentateuch (especially as to fat), 
will nevertheless disapprove of this article. They will 
use what Daniel Deronda so aptly called the logic of the 
roasting-jack, that must go on to the last turn, when it 
has been once wound up. They will say, if you once 
formally allow any rite to be repealed or abolished, you 
will set the fatal jack in motion, and every distinguishing 
characteristic of Judaism will gradually be destroyed. It 
is the thin edge of the wedge. This argument seems to 
me to show a lack of faith in Judaism and in God. It 
assumes in the first place that what is characteristic of Juda- 
ism is just that part of it which is separative, oriental, 
ritualistic. It makes Judaism a fetish, as if there were 

1 P. 4 8i. 


any good in the preservation of it apart from its religious 
and ethical truths, or over and above them. It seems 
to assume that there is some reason and value in the 
existence of Judaism outside and beyond the diffusion 
through the world of its essential doctrines. As if Judaism 
were a sort of family or archaeological curiosity that must 
be preserved in the world's museum of religious oddities ! 
But there is still worse behind. 

The argument holds that Judaism is so feeble and 
flaccid a religion that it can only be kept together by 
a large integument of ritualistic and unspiritual customs 
in direct and pointed opposition to the social instincts 
and ethical feelings of its educated adherents and of the 
outer world. It assumes that Judaism needs the crutch 
of oriental customs, wholly out of touch and out of keeping 
with our Western civilization. It assumes, therefore, that 
Judaism can never take its place as a European or uni- 
versal religion. The argument is, therefore, a reductio ad 

And, finally, the argument, though meant to be religious, 
betrays a want of faith in God. If God be the God of 
truth, can he be served by the propagation and main- 
tenance of eiTor? If God has entrusted Judaism with 
a certain work to do, need we fear that he will be unable 
to accomplish his purpose ? It is for us to make Judaism 
as true and pure and serviceable as we can ; it is for God 
to preserve it. If it has no more work to do, the object 
of its life is ended. But if it have, it is our duty to make 
it as fitted for that work as possible. Beyond that it is 
not ours to go. The future we commit to God. 


E e a