Skip to main content

Full text of "The Letter of Consolation of Maimun ben Joseph. English Translation"

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 by JSTOR. 

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 

62 The Jewish Quarterly Renew. 


It was, I think, Abraham Mendelssohn who said that, up 
to a certain period of his life, he was the son of his father, 
but afterwards he was the father of his son. The latter part 
of this happy remark might be applied, but with far less 
justice, to the subject of this paper. All who have any pre- 
tence to a knowledge of Hebrew literature know something 
about Maimonides, or more correctly Maimunides, but few 
have heard of his father. And yet his father deserves a 
niche in the history of his age and of Judaism. The letter, 
of which I publish the Arabic text 1 and an English transla- 
tion, bears evidence to his simple faith, to the warmth of his 
affections, to his enthusiasm, and his confidence in the future 
of Israel, and of Israel's religion. 

Of the life of Maimun 2 ben Joseph, we know but little. 
His name is Arabic, and is derived from the verb Yamana, 
and means Felix, Benedictus, a translation, perhaps, of the 
Hebrew Baruch. We must remember this when we meet 
with the name Maimun. It is not an unusual name, and 
several persons have borne it. Azariah de Rossi 3 speaks of a 
Maimun, the author of a commentary on the Astronomy of 
Alf ergani, but Steinschneider has shown that the author of 
this commentary was a certain Maimun of Montpellier. 4 I 
think I may say of our Maimun that he was a pupil of 
Joseph Hallevi Ibn Migash. His grandson, Abraham ben 
Moses Maimonides tells us this in his Kitab Alkifayah. 5 
Ibn Migash was head of the school at Lucena, and his 
pupil followed in his footsteps, for we find that he bore the 
title of Dayan, a title probably equivalent to Ab beth-Din. 

1 The Text and Appendix will appear in No. 6. 

2 Should be spelt with n in last syllable, not u. 

3 WW -I1ND (ed. Cassel), page 881. 4 ffamazcir, 1879, p. 110. 

5 Steinschneider Catalogue of Bodleian Coll., 1865, p. 55. Dr. D. Joel, in his 
Aberglanbe und die SteUung des Judenthums zu demsclben, ii. 63, throws 
some doubt as to the relations which existed between Ibn Migash and 

The Letter of Consolation of Maimun ben Joseph. 63 

That he was learned in Talmudical literature may be proved 
from the number of times he is quoted by his illustrious son. 1 
He wrote a commentary on the Pentateuch in Arabic, frag- 
ments of which are known to us from the commentary of his 
grandson on Genesis and Exodus, which fragments we 
publish in che Appendix. I trust that, perhaps, the pub- 
lication of these fragments may be the means of unearth- 
ing the commentary itself. Some of the comments are 
very beautiful. Noticeable, for instance, is Maimun's remark 
upon the prayer of Jacob, that his grandchildren might be 
called by the name of his fathers. " So long as they deal 
righteously," Maimun says, " they will be worthy to bear the 
name of their ancestors ; if they sin they will be called the 
princes of Sodom and Gomorrah." 2 We know, too, that he 
wrote in Arabic commentaries on the Dinim, concerning the 
ritual and the festivals. 3 

But his greatest work, because it is still complete, is the 
letter which he composed for his co-religionists who were 
suffering from the persecution of the "Unitarians" in Fez. 
Geiger was of opinion that this letter was identical with the 
Iggei-eth Hashemad which is generally attributed to Maimo- 
nides, and the opinion was supported by some words of 
Saadiah ben Maimun ibn Danan. 4 Graetz was distinctly of 
opinion that such an identification was impossible, basing his 
conclusion on the Hebrew marginal notes which are appended 
to the letter, and the Hebrew verses which are quoted in it. 5 
And Graetz's view was undoubtedly correct. There is not the 
slightest likeness in substance or in the manner of treatment 
between the " Letter of Consolation," by the father, and the 

1 Introduction to Commentary on Mishna : 
Bechoroth, viii. 7. 

Eduyoth, iv. 7. 
Eduyoth, i. 3. 

Shebuoth, vi. 7, a valuable passage, proving that Joseph Hallevi was the 
teacher of Maimun. 

Yad Hachazahah Hilchoth Shechita xi. 10, an interesting passage. 

2 Steinschneider refers (in his commentary on Hamazclr, vi. 1863, p. 114) to 
the fact of Maimun being quoted by his grandson. The passages commented 
on by Maimun, which, as we have said, are given in the Appendix, are the 
following : A long commentary in his own words on portions of Exodus 
xxxii. and xxxiii. ; Genesis xxi. 1C, 30, xxiii. 2, xxvi. 3, xxxiii. 17, xxxiv. 7, 
xxxv. 4, xxxviii. (the dream of Joseph, and his being sold to the Midianites), 
xli. 25, 34. xlii. 13, 22, xlviii. 16, xlix. 16, 1. 2 ; Exodus iv. 16, xiv. 8, 
xix. 22, xx. 24, xxi. 29, xxiii. 14, xxiv. 14, xxviii. 13, xxviii. 28, xxx. 7. 

3 Azulai Shem Haggedolim s. v. Maimun. Responsa Simeon Duran, 
I. 2. 

4 Geiger, Moses hen. Maimun, Anmerkung 17. 

s Graetz, Geschiehte der Juden, Vol. vi., 2nd edition, 293 ; Edelmann 
C/iemda Genuzah, Introduction lxxxiv. 

64 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

"Letter of Apostasy," which is assigned to the son. Nay 
more, there is no comparision possible between the minds of 
the father and son. The son was not unemotional, but he was 
a philosopher first of all. The father is all enthusiasm, full of 
faith, longing to dwell in the beautiful stories of Hagadah, not 
afraid of believing in angels, not desirous of making God an 
abstraction, or the apostle of God merely a deep thinker. We 
have been taught to appreciate the great religious revival in 
Islam which was brought about by the Almuwahhidun or the 
strict Unitarians, and for this better appreciation we must be 
grateful for the work done by Prof. Goldziher of Vienna in 
publishing the Paris MS. of the Mahdi Book of Ibn Tumart. 
But though the Unitarians brought about a great religious re- 
form, yet the fanaticism, which is almost inseparable from any 
deep religious feeling, caused much misery to non-Moslems who 
were dwelling in Moslem states. " In our country," said 
boastingly a great historian of the time, " there is no church 
and there is no synagogue." Maimun endeavoured to 
strengthen the faith of those who were wavering, and he sent 
an open letter to one of his brethren in the year 1160. In 
that year Maimun and his son Moses were in the " land of the 
West," and it is to the inhabitants of Fez that his letter 
applies. 1 In the year 1165 they left Africa for Palestine, and 
arrived on Sunday, May 16th, at St. Jean d'Acre. There they 
met Jephet ben Elijah, whom Benjamin of Tudela visited 
before the year 1173. Jephet seems to have accompanied 
them to Jerusalem, where they arrived on October 12th, 1165. 
Jephet ben Elijah returned to Acre, and Maimonides journeyed 
to Egypt. Whether Maimun accompanied him thither or 
remained in the Holy Land is doubtful. Geiger has published 
the letter which Maimonides wrote to Jephet ben Elijah, the 
Dayan, in which he speaks of his father's death, but we cannot 
glean from it where he died. All Maimonides says is this : 
" After we had parted a few months, my father died, and letters 
of consolation came to me from the extreme ends of the Magreb, 
even from Christian Spain, but thou didst give no heed." If 
we might make history, instead of telling the simple truth 
of history, we should let him die in the land to which he 
hoped that one day all nations would flow, believing in God 
and in God's apostle. 

I think I have now recounted all his works known to us. 
He may have written a commentary on the book of Esther. 
There is a reference to a comment on a verse in Esther in a 
Yemen Arabic manuscript referred to by Steinschneider ; 2 but 

1 Geiger, Moses ben Maimun, 20. * Hamazcir, 1880, 63. 

The Letter of Consolation of Maimun ben Joseph, 65 

his reputation must be based upon his letter. There is little 
need for me to give an abstract of it, as I have translated it 
in full ; but I cannot refrain from praising its simple style. 
There are parts where the reader who is but slightly 
acquainted with the beauties of the Arabic language, as the 
present translator, is carried away by it. He writes in parts 
as Jehudah Hallevi might have written. It has sometimes 
been asked why, if Maimonides wrote the Iggereth Hasshemad, 
did he not refer to his father's work ? The answer is that he 
could not. The objects aimed at by the two letters were dif- 
ferent. Perhaps the difference lay deeper still, as the father, 
to use the words of Maimonides, was one of those who for- 
bade, while the son was one of those who permitted. 1 I do 
not think that I should be wrong in asserting that, at any 
rate, when the Letter of Consolation was written, Maimun 
had no intention of embracing Islam, even in appearance. 

One point is striking in the reading of the letter : it is 
the very strong influence which Moslem phrases exercised 
upon Jewish theology. Maimun's perpetual insisting upon 
belief in God and his Apostle, and in that with which he 
was sent down, seems almost like an echo from the Quran. 
Abraham is called without hesitation the Mahdi of God, and 
perhaps the great stress which is laid upon the greatness of 
Moses may be intended as a set off to the greatness of Mo- 
hammed. At least this is clear, that there is much greater 
affinity theologically between the parent and the younger 
daughter religion than between the parent and its elder 
daughter. Imagine a Jew in Russia writing to his persecuted 
brethren and using terms identical with those of Christian 

Possibly the portion of the letter which will prove most 
interesting to some readers is the commentary on the 90th 
Psalm, with which the letter concludes. It will be interesting 
to find how this Psalm was applied, not so much to the short- 
ness of life as to the shortness of God's anger, and the ulti- 
mate deliverance from captivity. This Psalm apparently 
possessed great attractions for those who suffered calamities 
in the days of persecution. We are told that Judah Hadassi, 
the Karaite, wrote a commentary on it, which reminds the 
reader very strongly of the commentary of Maimun. 

Goldberg translated a great portion of the text into 
Hebrew, 2 but I trust that the letter in its English dress will 
be, to use the words of its author, " a source of consolation 
and of comfort" to those who are inclined to waver in faith, or 

1 Hilclwth Schechita, ad loc. cit. 2 Lebanon, 1872. 


66 The Jewish Quarterly Hevietv. 

to yield to difficulties ; and that something may have been 
done to place before the reader a man who has been almost 
unknown, but who was more than the mere father of his 

I cannot conclude without expressing my sincere thanks 
for the valuable assistance I have received from the distin- 
guished editor of the Book of Roots, and of the Catalogue of 
Hebrew MSS. at the Bodleian, Dr. Neubauer ; from Mr. S. 
Schechter, whose wonderful knowledge of the whole field of 
Rabbinical literature has been at my disposal ; and to Mr. 
Shaker Geohamy, of Mount Lebanon, from whom I have 
received invaluable aid in the editing of the Arabic text. 

L. M. Simmons. 

Maimun's Letter. — English Translation. 

In the name of the Lord, the God of the Universe, the letter 
of our teacher and our master, Maimun, the son of our teacher 
and our master, Joseph (the memory of the righteous for a 
blessing), which he composed in the town of Fez, in the year 
1471, of the Seleucid Era. The author sent this letter to one 
of his brethren, that it might be a source of consolation for 
himself, and of delight to many souls perplexed on account of 
the sorrows of captivity, and grieved by the delay in the fulfil- 
ment of divine promises, and by hopes long cherished being 
deferred, for day succeeded night, and night day, and still 
they Avere slain for their obedience to God, and for the fulfil- 
ment of his will. But the multitude of our troubles gives us 
hope that God will grant us that which he has bestowed upon 
us, and makes us expect the fulfilment of that which he has 
promised us. Surely the words which God has spoken in his 
own name are true (Isaiah xlv. 23), "By myself have I 
sworn," and there is no oath greater than my name, my 
memorial assures redemption. And the words which I speak 
are words from which there is no return, since I am exalted 
above return and beginning, for unto me bend the knees of all 
creatures, by me do all tongues swear in purity, and nought is 
sworn by me unless it is done ; how much more will the 
promise be fulfilled which is sworn by myself, and which 1 
swear to fulfil myself ! 

{End of Introduction.) 

The author of the letter writes as follows : — 
May God lead thee in the way he desires, and remove thee 
from that which he abhors. May he direct thee in the straight 

The Letter of Consolation of Maimun ben Joseph. 67 

path, and may he make the angels of his people an assistance 
for thee, assisting thee to do that which he desires, and which 
the law demands of thee in accordance with that which he has 
promised his saints by the hands of his prophets. " The Lord 
is good and upright, and therefore he shows sinners the way." 
(Psalm xxv. 8). 

Know then that it is clear and distinct through that which 
is proved from the writings of the prophets and the comments 
of the rabbis, that God is true, that the messages which he has 
sent to us are true, and that which generation after generation 
has handed down to us is true. In these there is no doubt, no 
defect, no lie, no deception. God knoweth that which exists 
before it came into existence, and all events pre-exist in his 
knowledge. He does not desire a thing and then change it ; 
he does not favour and then reject. It is only man, from 
whom the knowledge of the future is hidden, who desires a 
thing, and then when something happens which he did not 
anticipate, his desire is changed. But how can he, whose 
knowledge of every event precedes the happening of that 
event, and. who establishes every event in accordance with his 
will, how can he wish a thing and then change it ? how can 
he first distinguish a people and then reject them ? This is 
impossible for God, and so God spake to one who asserted its 
possibility, " God is not a man that he should lie " (Numbers 
xxiii. 19). And Samuel also said, " The strength of Israel will 
not lie " (1 Samuel xv. 29). And noAV that we have seen that 
God chose a people, and distinguished them, and inclined to 
them, and showed to them his favour, and drew near to them 
in a manner that he dreAV near to none of his creatures before 
or afterwards, we knoAv that God's knowledge of his people 
preceded his choice, and that he kneAV that they would have 
faith, and stand firm to his commandments in the beginning 
and at the end. I mean to say that all the events Avhich 
happened between the beginning and the end (God's choice of 
us, and his receiving us back into his favour) are unessential, 
Avithout stability, and Avithout permanence. We may compare 
the life of Israel to the life of a healthy man. At first he Avas 
young, and advanced from one thing to another; then he 
arrived at middle age, and remained for a long time in the 
best condition ; then diseases came upon him and maladies, and 
his health is undone, and his visage is marred, and it is as if 
he had never been healthy at all, and it is almost as if nought 
Avere left to him of his former appearance, for all is changed, 
and he is left for a time despaired of, until his condition 
improves, and the body begins to recover perceptibly ; it heals 
little by little, he returns to his health, and it is as if he had 
never been sick at all. So God kneAV beforehand Israel's firm- 
ness in obedience, and that they Avould turn neither to the 
right hand nor to the left, as it is said, " And all the people 
ansAvered with one voice " (Exodus xxiv. 3, 7), and God kneAV 


68 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

that the children of Israel would remain faithful even at the 
end of time, therefore he emphatically pronounced, " And also 
in thee they will believe " (Exodus xix 9). And God de- 
scribes the corruption of our condition between these two 
periods in the words, " And it shall come to pass if thou wilt 
not hearken " (Deut. xxviii. 15), and threatens Israel with 
every possible calamity and misfortune ; but he declares at the 
end that, in spite of their corruption and of his punishing 
them, he would not hate them, or cast them off, and that 
God's anger was but a chastisement and a punishment for 
disobedience, for scripture calls calamities corrections in the 
well-known verse, " As a man chastises his son " (Deut. viii. 5). 
Here the apostle says, Understand ye, and be firm, and know 
that God's punishment of you is not like his punishment of 
the nations, but the distinction between them and you is clear, 
in that the punishment of a rebel, who is a stranger to us, is 
not the same as the punishment of a child. For when a 
stranger is rebellious against us, we cause a heavy punishment 
to descend upon him, we are incensed against him, we desire 
to root him out ; but when a child is rebellious against us, we 
punish him in a gentle way, giving him instruction, inflicting 
pain upon him, the effect of which, however, will not be 
permanent, with a thong which gives pain, but leaves no trace, 
and not with a whip, which leaves a permanent mark, but 
with a rod, which indeed makes a mark for the time, but 
cleaves not the flesh, as it is said, " If thou beatest him with a 
rod, he shall not die " (Proverbs xxiii. 13). And it is said of 
him who was beloved by God above all his other creatures 
that when he was rebellious, he corrected him with a gentle 
punishment, or with such a trial as man could impose, which 
is no trial, as it is said, " If he commit iniquity, I will chasten 
him with the rod of men" (2 Sam. vii. 14). And God, the 
exalted One, proclaimed in this sense to his first apostle, and 
said, " And yet for all that, when they be in the land of their 
enemies, I will not cast them away, neither will I abhor them 
to destroy them utterly " (Leviticus xxvi. 44), and he also said, 
through those who came after the first apostle, "Though I 
make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, 
yet will I not make a full end of thee, but I will correct thee 
in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished " 
(Jeremiah xxx. 11), and if God had desired to hate us when we 
rebelled against him, he would have cast us off altogether, or 
have left some mark upon us as our enemies assert ; and if 
what they assert were true, they would have been presented 
with that which has been given to us, and they would have 
had assigned to them the position which was assigned to us. 
Dost thou not understand that when a king is angry with one 
of his favourites, he changes him for a second, rends his gar- 
ment, and gives his decorations to his successor, and places his 
successor in the same position with respect to himself as he 

The Letter of Consolation of Maimun ben Joseph. 69 

occupied ? And when a husband is angry with his wife, he 
changes her for a second, and gives the second one the position 
which had been occupied by the first, as it is said, " And he 
placed the crown of the kingdom on her head, and made her 
queen instead of Vashti " (Esther ii. 17) ? And where is the 
religion over which God has placed the protection of his 
clouds, placing his Shechina in the midst of its followers, 
apparent to all beholders, according to his word in the law, 
" And the glory of the Lord filled the sanctuary " (Exodus 
xl. 34). And so in several other passages, " For the glory of 
the Lord filled the house of the Lord." And what prophet is 
there like the greatest of the prophets ? and what clear signs, 
and miracles, and wonders, and supernatural appearances like 
those shown to us ? And also if God had brought them near 
to him, and had revealed to them our law, it would perchance 
have been said that God had changed us for an obedient 
people, in that we were disobedient. But our law is not like 
their law, desiring to-day that which it did not desire yesterday, 
and loving to-day those whom it hated yesterday. And if God 
had left us in dispersion, promising, threatening, and saying 
nought beyond (the promise holding good so long as we did 
his will, the threat being fulfilled when we disobeyed it), and 
uttering no explanation, even the restoration would have been 
possible, for God has a beneficent intention, which is proved 
by his not having changed us for another people, nor did he 
bestow on them any of our gifts. And he could not do so 
when he filled his book with many clear promises of what he 
would do for us after our misfortunes, using first the words, 
"If ye will not hearken," but afterwards, "Ye will surely 
hearken." The first prophet referred to all this in language 
brief, concise, and comprehensive, when he said, " (At the end of 
days) thou shalt return unto the Lord thy God, and shalt obey 
his voice. . . . then the Lord thy God will turn thy captivity, 
and have compassion upon thee, and will gather thee from all 
the nations whither the Lord thy God hath scattered thee. If 
any of thine be driven out unto the outmost part of heaven, 
from thence will the Lord thy God gather thee, and from 
thence will he fetch thee. And the Lord thy God will bring 
thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou 
shalt possess it, and he will do thee good, and will multiply 
thee above thy fathers. . . . For the Lord will again rejoice 
over thee for good, as he rejoiced over thy fathers" (Deut. 
xxx. 3). 

These verses can best be explained by the commentaries of 
later prophets, by such explanations as Isaiah, Jeremiah, and 
Ezekiel, the twelve minor prophets, and Daniel, who was the 
seal of all the prophets, assigned to them, as well as by the 
promises which are contained in the Book of Psalms. All 
later promises are an interpretation of those which had been 
uttered by the first prophet. We may make our meaning clear 

70 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

by the following illustration. A man speaks thus to his vizier, 
" Say to my subjects, The king will do you a favour, and will 
clothe you, and will honour you with positions of dignity." 
Then the king's vizier goes away, and in process of time other 
messengers arrive. Each new messenger speaks of the com- 
mands which his master had given him with reference to the 
promised favours, and tells his hearers that so and so many of 
them will partake of them. Then the souls of those who 
hear are refreshed, and filled with gladness. And again 
another messenger reports that there will be such and such a 
garment for every one who is present. But each new mes- 
senger describes how all these details were contained in the 
first declaration. Thus God sware by his holy name that he 
would confirm everything which those who had come from 
him had promised. And if there had been an earthly king 
who had promised and sworn to be faithful to his promises, 
those to whom the promises had been given would have 
rejoiced ; but such a joy is illusive, and doubtful in two 
respects ; first, the executing of the promise is assigned to 
another, and secondly, his own life is in the hand of another. 
If he live, he is often prevented from performing his promises 
through contingencies which had not been foreseen, or through 
unexpected obstacles ; or death, as we have said, may cut him 
off, or even he to whom the promise has been made may not 
live to see its fulfilment. But the Creator, in his greatness, is 
independent of all events. In his way there is no difficulty. 
He is not subject to death, or to space, or time. How then 
shall he not pay that which he has promised even without an 
oath, and how much less when he has promised with an oath ? 
Even an oath by the name of God compels one of his creatures 
to be faithful to his promise, as it is said, " He shall do accord- 
ing to all that proceedeth out of his mouth " (Numbers xxx. 3) r 
how much more must such an oath compel God himself ? And 
if he had sworn by any of the things he has created, since all 
these things come to an end, and all these things are in his 
power, it would have been said that there was no oath, but he 
sware by his own name, which passes not away, and changes 
not, and this is the meaning of the words of God, " By myself 
I have sworn, saith the Lord " (Genesis xxii. ll!). And the 
prophet said to God when he was angry, and wished to annihi- 
late Israel for what they had done, " Remember Abraham - 
Isaac and Israel thy servants, to whom thou didst swear by 
thine own self" (Exodus xxxii. 13). And he said, referring 
to his promises to us, " I have sworn by myself ; the word has 
gone out of my mouth " (Isaiah xlv. 23). And these are clear 
sentences, and self-evident truths, and enduring signB that God 
does not hate us, and that he will not cause to pass away from 
us the name of children, whether we please him, or anger him 
against us, whether we believe in him, or whether we turn 
away from him, in accordance with his words, "Ye are the 

The Letter of Consolation of Maimun ben Joseph. 71 

children of the Lord your God " (Deut. xiv. 1) ; " My son, my 
firstborn " (Exodus iv. 22) ; " Children in whom there is 
no faithfulness " (Deut. xxxii. 20) ; " Children that are cor- 
rupters " (Isaiah i. 4) ; " Sottish children " (Jeremiah iv. 22). 
And he promised to be gracious to us when he said, " It shall 
be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God " (Hosea 
ii. 1) ; " For I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my first- 
born " (Jeremiah xxxi. 9), and many other promises of the 
same character. And it is necessary that we should rely upon 
God, and believe in him, and not doubt his promises, just as 
we do not doubt his existence, nor should we doubt whether 
he will cast us off when he has promised to draw us near unto 
him, nor should the glorious condition of the nations terrify 
us, or what they assert, or what they hope for, because we 
confide in God, and have faith in his promises. And in spite 
of their gaining supremacy over us, and their being angered 
against us, and their conquering us, and the variation of our 
calamities with the variation of day and night, (in the day we 
fear their dealing treacherously with us, and that which may 
happen to us in the course of the hours through their taking 
counsel against us, and we hope that we may be to-day in the 
same condition as we were yesterday when we slept at rest ; 
and we say with the lengthening of the day, " that we could 
be at peace from them, to-day as we were yesterday ; no mis- 
fortune has happened to us," and when the night conies, we 
say, " Who knows to-night what may happen to us ? that 
this night could be like the day which has passed away," and 
it is this wherewith our prophet threatens us, " In the morning 
thou shalt say, Would God it were even, and at even thou shalt 
say, Would God it were morning" (Deut. xxviii. 67).), we 
must still reflect upon that which he has promised us, and 
upon that which we hope, and then the weary souls will have 
rest, and their fears be quietened, for there must needs be re- 
pose and healing after this unhappiness, there must needs be 
enlargement after this straitness. 

And a man must strive his best secretly and publicly in 
whatever he has to perform of the law and obey of the com- 
mandments, whether those commands refer to the duties of the 
heart or to external duties, to lay hold of the cord of the law 
and not loosen his hand from it, for one in captivity is like 
one who is drowning. We are almost totally immersed, but we 
remain grasping something. Overwhelmed with humiliation, 
and contumely and contempt, the seas of captivity surround us, 
and we are submerged in its depths, and the waters reach our 
faces, and we are left in the worst condition, such a condition 
as David (peace with him) describes when he says, " Save 
me, God ; for the waters are come in unto my soul " (Psalm 
lxix. 2). The waters are overwhelming me, but the cord of 
the ordinances of God and his law are suspended from heaven 
to earth, and whoever lays hold of it has hope, for in the 

72 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

laying hold of this cord, the heart is strengthened, and is 
relieved from the fear of sinking to the pit and to destruc- 
tion. And he who loosens his hand from the cord has no 
union with God, and God allows the abundant waters to 
prevail over him, and he dies. And according to the manner 
of his taking hold of the cord is his relief from the fear of 
drowning. He who clings to it with all his hand, has, 
doubtless, more hope than he who clings to it with part of 
it, and he who clings to it with the tips of his fingers has 
more hope than he who lets go of it altogether. So none 
are saved from the toils of captivity except by occupying 
themselves with the Law and its commentaries, by obeying 
it, and cleaving to it, and by meditating thereon continually, 
and by persevering therein day and night in accordance with 
the words of David in Psalm cxix. 92. In this verse David 
says, "If thy law had not been my comfort, and the desire 
of my soul, I should have perished in the days of my afflic- 
tion." He foretold the state of Israel in captivity and their 
entanglement in its toils, and how, if they occupied them- 
selves with the law and obeyed it, they would be saved and 
would escape from the snares of the enemies amongst whom 
they had been driven into captivity. It is necessary that a 
man's intentions should be perfect, that his heart should be 
sincere, having faith in God, that God is true, and that his 
promises to us are true, believing in the first apostle and in 
that wherewith he was sent to us, confessing that God is the 
Lord, and that the message of his apostle is true, saying with 
a perfect heart free from deceit, free from doubt, " Moses is 
true and his law is true." And man should not follow his 
animal nature, or allow his natural dispositions to prevail 
over his intellectual, so that he destroy his religion and his 
life hereafter, and be deceived by this unstable world. For 
it is the love of this life wherein man is tried with two 
trials, which are the cause of his being overcome. The first 
of these trials is the love of women, the second is the love 
of this world and its hopes and its aims, with a desire which 
prevails over all men, a desire through which we were created, 
a desire which pervades everything, and none other than the 
prophets and saints are proof against it. And the world is 
like a beautiful woman whose appearance is pretty, whose 
features are fine, whose garb is attractive, whose perfumes 
diffuse their odour, whose gait deceives the lookers on, whom 
all men regard with loving desire, whose speech is pleasant 
and sweet, whom men are entranced to hear, so that their 
hearts are inclined to her by her words, she spreads her nets 
in the highway, and lays her snares on the high road, hunting 
those who desire and covet her, beguiling them until they 
fall, they go to her, coveting her, and while she flees from 
them they still covet and follow her, and they do not know 
what is under them. They are like birds descending in 

The Letter of Convolution of Maimun ben Joseph. 73 

freedom, the snare is laid for them, the grain is spread, and 
now they turn from it, now they incline towards it, they 
descend to gather the grain and the snare catches them and 
they are entangled in it, they desire to be free, but they are 
no longer able to fly away. Solomon compares this world 
to a woman (Proverbs vii. 14), and he describes woman's 
deceitful ways towards those who incline to her (Proverbs 
vii. 23). Beware, therefore, of the deception of this world 
and of seeking after your own earthly desires. 

And reflect upon the approach of death which comes between 
man and his desires, think of his departing from his place, and 
of his being cast away from his abode. Man is perpetually at 
unrest in the place where he ought to have rested, till he went 
forth from it, and till those who were near to him were re- 
moved, till those who were united with him were dispersed, 
and till he is left alone confined in his grave. Then he leaves 
everything which he has gained. Then he gives an account for 
every sin which he has committed, and the reckoning is made 
up, and he is doomed to punishment, punishment hidden from 
the eyes, not understood by men. But the prophets have made 
us understand it, and they who feared God have taught it us, 
and the saints have made us yearn for it, but the wicked give 
no thought to it. 

And he who is careful, does not lay stress upon the events 
of this world. If all goes well with him he is not overwhelmed 
with joy, and if things do not go well with him he is not 
afflicted, for he is without understanding who desires this world 
with a desire which destroys his position with God. What 
health can there be for him who is not whole with his Master ? 
What pleasure for him who is not warned by punishment ? 
And what rest for him who has no continued existence in the 
world ? And how can man hope for the attainment of his desires 
in a thing in which lies his own death ; or how can he hope to 
attain them by pursuing ends which stand as a separation be- 
tween himself and his Master ? 

And he who is cautious looks to his Master, and strives by 
means of union with God to be happy, cleaving to God, being 
contented in this world with a little, when it is difficult to 
attain much, at any rate being contented with a mere trifle. 
Should we however wish for plenty we should seek for it in the 
manner which God has impressed upon us, although the making 
of the limit is in our own heart. Therefore reflection and 
firmness are necessary, and that man should toil and strive for 
himself and not for anything else. 

And one of the strongest means of union between man and his 
Creator is his being faithful to the obligation imposed upon 
him of praying three times every day, in the morning out of 
gratitude to God for sending the dawn, in the mid-day the time 
of the declining of the sun from the east to the west, and also 
at the end of the day. And of this we find traces since the 

74 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

existence of day and night. And our Rabbis hand down tradi- 
tions 1 concerning the first fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, 
that they used to offer up these three prayers. Our father 
Abraham (peace be with him) used to lay stress on the morning 
prayer. He watched for the coming out of the sun, and then 
placed himself before God, as it is said, " And Abraham got up 
early in the morning " (Genesis xix. 27). And Isaac laid stress 
on the afternoon prayer. He used to watch for the beginning 
of the seventh hour of the day in order to pray, as it is said, 
" And Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide " 
(Genesis xxiv. 63), and Jacob laid stress on the evening prayer 
when the stars appeared, as it is said "And he lighted on a 
certain place, and tarried there all night " (Genesis xxviii. 11). 
But still all of them offered up the three prayers, for although 
every good man performs all the commandments of God, there 
is still some one upon which he lays special stress ; Abraham 
laid special stress on the morning prayer because he was the 
first of the true believers, and because it was he who as giver of 
light to the world, and Mahdi, was the means of bringing the 
dawn. And Isaac, the second of God's messengers, laid stress on 
the second prayer, and Jacob the third, on the third ; and the 
pious of our faith never neglect the three prayers, and he who 
is good prays the three, or two, or one at least as it happens to 
him, but no one ever desists altogether from uttering prayer, 
and when David knew the excellence of prayer he described 
himself and those who like him were diligent in prayer, seldom 
neglecting it, as follows, " Evening and morning, and at noon- 
day will I complain " (Psalm lv. 18). And Daniel (peace be 
with him) describes his own laying stress on these three 
prayers, when he says " And he kneeled upon his knees three 
times a day and prayed " (Daniel vi. 11), and he risked his life 
by praying when the Persians and the Medes prohibited all 
prayers on his account, hoping that he would fall, and he did 
fall, but God did not allow any harm to come to him. The 
King had given orders that none should pray for thirty days 
but that all should implore aid morning and evening from the 
King not from a god, and not from Allah, and Daniel risked 
his life and prayed in accordance with his wont. He was 
watched upon the roof, he was discovered, he was seized, and 
accused before the King, and it is understood that it was this 
which was aimed at by them, because Daniel was the King's 
Vizier, elevated above them all, and his rivals could find no 
other means of accusing him before the King except on 
grounds of his devotion to God. The attainment of the hopes 
of his rivals was painful to the King, and the Viziers (cursed be 
all of them) prevailed upon him to have Daniel thrown into a 
pit full of hungry lions, which the King had prepared for 
whomever he desired to punish with an evil death. And 

1 Talmud, Berachoth 26*. 

The Letter of Consolation of Maimun ben Joseph. 75 

Daniel was cast into the pit, and the King was grieved thereat, 
and Daniel spent the night therein, and a stone was placed at the 
mouth of the pit, and it was covered, and the King put his seal 
upon the place Avhere it was closed. They said to the King — 
" Take care lest the stone be away to-night so that Daniel come 
forth from the pit, or that any one tamper with it." And when 
the time arrived for Daniel to go down into the pit, Gabriel (peace 
be upon him) came and sat with him and shut the mouths of the 
lions, and bound them so that they did not move from their 
places or their dens, and he sat with him comforting him so 
that he should not be afraid ; and when the day dawned the 
King arose, for his slumber had fled from him all that night, 
and he did not break his fast, and no maiden came in unto him, 
and no jester, and he was covered Avith sadness ; then he arose 
as soon as the morning came, and he went covered with grief to 
the pit, every one following him who met him, and when he 
dreAv near to the pit, he exclaimed in a voice full of sorroAV, 
and said, " Daniel, servant of God, the living, the eternal 
God, tell thou me, has the God whom thou Avorshippest con- 
tinually the poAver to deliver thee from the lions ?" And Daniel 
ansAvered him from the pit Avhile it Avas still closed, and said, 
" My God sent an angel and closed the mouths of the lions, and 
they did not kill me as a reward for my deserving Avell at the 
hands of God. Moreover I have not disobeyed thy command, 
for had I been disobedient to thee I should not have found 
good favour in thy sight, for God has insisted upon obedience 
to the King and the limit of that Avhich God imposes upon 
men toAvards the King is obedience, and as for Avorship that 
belongs to God and not to thee, and he Avho does not render to 
thee obedience, rebels against God and against thee, and he Avho 
does not worship thee obeys God, and commits no sin against 
thee, and on this account I Avas delivered." 

And then Daniel Avas brought up from the pit in the presence 
of the whole cursed multitude and others Avho accompanied 
them, and his body was stripped, and it Avas seen to be pure and 
clean without a single Avound on it, for his faith had freed him. 
Then said the King, "Let every one be taken Avho has spoken 
against him to me." Then they Avere all brought into his pre- 
sence, they, their Avives, their children, and they Avere seized 
and cast into the pit and not one of them reached the ground, 
but the lions opened their mouths, caught them and tore their 
limbs, and made an attack upon those who Avere at the top of 
the pit, and if it had not been for his firmness in prayer Daniel 
would not ha\ r e risked his life ; nor did prayer in his heart 
Avhile he Avas sitting down in silence content him, but he 
prayed kneeling and prostrating himself according to custom, 
for the sake of shewing his obedience to God. 

And when prayer was in this state the three later prophets, 
Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi (peace be with them), with a 
hundred and twenty elders, arranged for us a prayer, in which 

76 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

the learned and the ignorant might be equal, the learned 
adding nothing to it, the unlearned omitting nothing from it, 
and this prayer is the " eighteen blessings " ; but this prayer is 
arranged for those who are in a condition of safety, but as for 
times and places of danger, they also arranged a short prayer 
that men might not be left without prayer entirely, and they 
made a difference between this latter prayer and the " eighteen 
blessings." The latter prayer is to be prayed towards the 
Qibleh, while the worshipper is standing, or sitting if there be 
an excuse to do so ; and with regard to the shorter prayer, it is 
to be prayed in places of danger, whether the worshipper is 
standing, sitting or walking, and towards any Qibleh, and this 
prayer may be uttered at any one of the fixed times; but 
should the worshipper arrive at a place of safety, having 
uttered the prayer three times, he need only repeat the evening 
prayer, not those of the morning or afternoon ; and if he 
reaches a place of safety in time for afternoon prayer, he 
should say that prayer before saying the " eighteen blessings " 
of the morning service. And he who does not know the whole 
prayer should pray the abridged one at the appointed time, and 
not remain without prayer altogether, for those who do not 
join the practice of prayer and those who separate themselves 
fromreligion altogether are alike. 

Moreover, he who stands up to pray without knowing what 
he says, does not pray at all. The only recognised prayer is 
that which our holy men composed, viz., the " eighteen bles- 
sings " for those who understand, or the abridged prayer for 
those who do not understand, or the still more abridged one. 
And he who is able should utter the abridged prayer in 
Hebrew, as follows, the whole first part " Lord, open thou 
my lips," till the end of " And thou art holy," and the last 
three blessings in full, but the middle blessings abridged, 
after the following reading of our Rabbis : l " Give us under- 
standing, Lord, to know thy ways, and mould our hearts to 
fear thee ; pardon us, that we may be redeemed. Keep us far 
from disease, and grant us the bounteous fruits of the earth ; 
gather our outcasts from the four corners of the earth ; they 
that stray from thy wishes shall be judged, and over the 
wicked wilt thou stretch thy hand ; the righteous shall rejoice 
in the building of thy city, and the establishing of thy temple, 
in the springing up of the house of David thy servant, and 
the reparation of the lamp of the son of Jesse thine anointed ; 
and thou wilt hearken to our prayers ; blessed (art thou) who 
hearest prayer." 

This is sufficient in time of necessity as a substitute for " And 
thou graciously bestowest knowledge," and the following 
blessings, and it may be uttered by the worshipper whether 

1 Berachoth,29a. Notice the reading in the accompanying text. Cf . Rab- 
binowicz, Varim Lectionei, ad loc; Maimon, Tejillah, III., 2. 

The Letter of Consolation of Maimun ben Joseph. 77 

standing or sitting, if there be an excuse to sit, but there is a still 
more abridged prayer for times of pressing danger in the well- 
known words of our Rabbis. 1 If we utter this prayer, we need 
not repeat either the first three or the last three blessings, and 
he who does not know it in Hebrew may pray it in Arabic, 
and such prayer is sufficient for him, because prayer is per- 
missible in any language, especially if the contents of the 
prayer are those prescribed by our Rabbis, but translated into 
Arabic. But to pray in Arabic without regard to the ideas 
prescribed by our Rabbis is not permissible. For instance, it 
is not permissible to offer up instead of an obligatory prayer 
such a prayer as this, " God, have mercy upon me, and grant 
me such and such a thing," even if the worshipper utters it 
after the manner of prayer, walking, lying down or sitting. 
And this is the context of the prayer of which we have already 
spoken as being permissible in times of danger, " God, our 
God, and the God of our fathers, behold thou knowest that 
our desires are great, and our speech is scanty. May it be thy 
will, God, to grant to each one of us our due necessities, 
and provide our bodies with sustenance, and accept our prayer, 
for it is thou who acceptest prayer. May thy great name be 
blessed." This is sufficient for him who is ignorant, so that 
he may not remain regularly without prayer. In the sight of 
God there is nought more powerful than prayer, for when the 
intention of a man is sincere, the heart pure, believing in God 
and his apostle, then his faith is sound, his belief correct, and 
he finds favour in the sight of God, and God averts from him 
misfortunes, and he obtains mercy from God, and consolation, 
and his end is assured him, and he escapes from the fire, and 
he is worthy of resurrection and the obtaining of a reward, and 
the beholding of divinely promised bliss. And this is true 
even if he were one who could not read and was ignorant. But 
for those who know and read the law, and occupy themselves 
with understanding its lessons, there are degrees and rewards. 
As he increases in goodness, his reward increases if, in addition 
to knowledge, there be religion and true faith in God. Dost 
thou know the dignity of him who was sent to thee, and of the 
message with which he was sent, for it is indeed great ? For 
if thou knew but a portion of the majesty which God bestowed 
on him, and how he favoured him above all mankind, thy 
faith in him would be sound, and through thy faith in him 
thou wouldest be fair in the sight of God. 

Moses was a prophet in whose creation there was the 
evidence of the strength of God, for God created him in the 
most beautiful form, as the Scriptures bear testimony, 2 " And 
she saw that he was a goodly child " (Kin 31D »3) (Exodus ii. 2). 
And the name of God is good (31t3), in accordance with his 
word, " The Lord is good to all " (Psalm cxlv. 9) ; " The Lord 

1 Beracltot, 29S. * Sotah, XII«. 

78 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

is good to them that wait for him " (1lp^> *♦ 31D) (Lamentations 
iii. 25) ; " Thou art good, and doest good " (Psalm cxix. 68). 
And the name of light is 31D, in accordance with the word, 
" I will make all my goodness (*31D) pass before thee " (Exodus 
xxxiii. li)) ; " I had fainted unless I had believed to see the 
goodness of the Lord " (Psalm xxvii. 13) ; " How great is thy 
goodness." And besides being created beautiful in form, the 
light of God was clear in his face from the very first, in accor- 
dance with God's words Sin 31D *3. Wherever he went, his 
light increased, till a great fire was kindled, and in the time 
that " the Lord passed by before him " (Exodus xxxiv. 0), the 
light of his face grew stronger than the light of the sun, but 
more brilliant than it, and it was impossible that the light of 
the sun should be like the light of his face, because the sun 
is created from a light which God created, whereas the light of 
the face of our master Moses was from the light of the glory 
of God, which is uncreated ; and that light was so terrible 
that no man was bold enough to approach it, and would only 
look upon him when he veiled his face, and nought but a part 
of the inside of his eyelids could be seen. How magnificent 
were the eyes which gave forth a light which not Michael, or 
Gabriel, or the holy chayoth could look upon. Over the face 
of Moses God had caused to pass the light of his splendour, in 
accordance with the words of Scripture, " I will make all my 
goodness pass before thee." 

Moses was a prophet whose body was purified till it became 
as the body of Michael and Gabriel, but stronger, for those 
were of light, not of flesh or of blood, or of sinew or matter ; 
but this mortal man entered among thousands and tens of 
thousands of angels of fire, one of whom would have put 
the earth in flames, how much more all of them ? And he 
entered amongst them in accordance with God's word (Psalm 
lxviii. 18). 1 The most exalted one revealed himself to Moses, 
accompanied by all these. He cleared his way amongst 
them, and ascended above them, and beheld the light of God 
in ways which if I were to describe even approximately no 
intellect could grasp. And to this God himself bears testimony 
in the words " And Moses drew near unto the thick darkness 
where God was " (Exodus xx. 21). 

And the hands of Moses were pure, for they took hold of 
the throne of God's majesty, for the holy chayoth were unable 
to carry the throne till God placed a partition between their 
heads and the feet of the throne, as God bears testimony. 
"And over the head of the living creature there was the 
likeness of a firmament, like the colour of the terrible crystal 
.... And above the firmament that was over their heads 
was the likeness of a throne " (Ezekiel i. 22, 26). The explana- 
tion of these verses is as follows : — Ezekiel says, " After God 

1 Pesikta Rabbathi xz. 

The Letter of Consolation of Maimun ben Joseph. 79 

revealed himself to me during the time of slumber and showed 
me the throne of his majesty, I saw those who carried the 
throne which apparently carried him. But it was the throne 
which was carried through the power of God. He carried 
the throne, but the throne did not carry him. And I saw 
above their heads a sky of pure crystal, terrible and fearful, 
and above this the form of a throne shining like a sapphire, 
and above it was the indescribable light of his majesty." Now 
that which the carriers of the throne could not bear, the hands 
of Moses bore, because God elevated him above all creation, 
above the angels, and certainly above mankind. And this 
is also sufficient proof for thee of the sublime position of 
Moses, that when Moses placed his hands upon the head of 
Joshua, God caused instantly to pass into his brain such deep 
knowledge of the law that he understood in six months (from 
the time of the imposing of the hands of Moses on the head 
of Joshua till the time of the departure of Moses from life was 
six months) more than those who had learnt from him during 
the previous thirty-nine years and six months. God bears 
testimony to this when he says, " And Joshua the son of Nun 
Avas full of the spirit of wisdom" (Dent, xxxiv. 9). And 
light passed into the face of Joshua from the hands of Moses, 
whom God appointed in succession to Moses, as it is said, 
"And thou shalt put of thine honour upon him" (Numbers 
xxvii. 20). And the congregation of Israel obeyed him in 
accordance with his words, "And the children of Israel 
hearkened unto him" (Deut. xxxiv. 9). And Scripture bears 
witness to this when it says, " And they feared him as they 
feared Moses " (Joshua iv. 14). 

The feet of Moses were pure, so that he was enabled to 
tread the clouds of sacred light, as God bears witness when 
he says, " And Moses entered into the midst of the cloud " 
(Exodus xxiv. 18). 

The body of Moses was strong, inasmuch as he dwelt among 
the angels, and the light of God surrounded him forty days 
and forty nights, and in like manner he stood afterwards 
another forty days, interceding for us with light surround- 
ing him, and the last of these forty days was the day 
of the Atonement fast, 1 that is the time described in Exodus 
xxiv. It was a great sight which Moses saw, for he saw that 
which it was impossible for an angel to see, much more for 
man to see, as God bears witness (Exodus xxxiii. 13), and 
also (Exodus xxxiv. 6), And the light of God passed over 
his face and God proclaimed to him, teaching him that he 
was the exalted one, and that there was no God beside 
him, that he was "gracious and compassionate," and the rest 
of the thirteen attributes by which the exalted one described 
himself, and which he included in this verse. And when 

1 Seder Olam vi. 

80 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

Moses saw what he saw, he knelt down worshipping before 
God, as it is said, "And Moses hastened to prostrate him- 
self" (Exodus xxxiv. 8). These are his attributes which 
are here related generally without each one being explained 

Moses was a prophet in whom was the strength of God. 
The stature of every ordinary human being is four cubits, 
measured in accordance with his arm, but the stature of 
Moses was ten cubits, as Scripture bears testimony when 
it says, " And he spread the tent over the tabernacle " (Exodus 
xl. 19), and the height of the sanctuary was ten cubits, as it 
is said, " Ten cubits shall be the length of a board " x (Exodus 
xxvi. 16). 

Moses was a prophet physically powerful, because he was 
able to remain without food one hundred and twenty days. 
During the first forty days, the first two tables were revealed 
to him ; during the second, he interceded with God that the 
destruction of the nation might be averted; and the last 
forty, he interceded that God might forgive those who were 
left of his people, and not take away his light from their 
midst, and God accepted his intercession. 

If any one doubted the apostleship of Moses his life was 
consumed, and he perished while his body remained untouched, 
as it happened to the erring Korah and his two hundred and 
fifty followers, "And fire came forth from the Lord, and 
devoured the two hundred and fifty men " (Numbers xvi. 35). 
Whoever, too, called him a liar was burnt even in life, and he 
went down to the fire of Gehenna even in life. Such were the 
two cursed unbelievers Dathan and Abihu, their children, their 
wives and their followers, and all those who doubted him, their 
number amounting to two hundred and fifty, who sank down 
into the earth and were burnt. And those who were left of 
the fourteen thousand and seven hundred, who doubted, but not 
in the same manner as the others, died by the plague on the 
following day, because they had called those who perished 
"the people of the Lord" when they were not "the people of 
the Lord." Only those are the people of the Lord who have 
faith in Moses, and the Scripture describes this when it says 
"And all the congregation of the children of Israel murmured" 
(Numbers xvii. 6). And the plague came down upon them as 
it is said, "And behold the plague is begun" (Numbers xvii. 11). 
And Moses helped them at the right time by saying to Aaron : 
" God is angry with the congregation ; go quickly, take the 
censer and put therein the fire of the altar, and put the incense 
which thou usest every day before God morning and evening ; 
behold God has taught me that incense taketh away the plague, 
and the angel of death 2 has acquainted me with this, and said 
to me, ' When the incense descends into the censer I shall be 

1 Sabbath 92a. 2 Sabbath, 89a. 

The Letter of Consolation of Maimun ben Joseph. 81 

driven away.' " Then Aaron made haste and did that which he 
was commanded. He stood between the living and the dead, 
while the angel stood up killing them in great numbers. Then 
Aaron said to the angel, ",Turn thou backwards, that I may 
place my censer here." But the angel replied, "God has com- 
manded me." Aaron answered, " But Moses commanded me, 
and the command of Moses is the command of God." Then 
the angel desisted, the censer was put down and the plague was 
stayed. And God said to him " The command of my apostle is 
my command," and it is said " And he stood between the dead 
and the living " (Numbers xvii. 13), and the number of those 
who perished amounted to fourteen thousand seven hundred, 
beside them that died in the matter of Korah. Consequently 
the apostleship of Moses was verified, and proof was established 
that the commands of Moses are from God, and that he who 
doubts Moses doubts God also. Those who sank down into the 
ground, cried from the bowels of the earth while they were 
descending " Moses is true and his Law is true," but their cry 
availed them nought. And if this had happened before the 
earth opened its mouth it would have availed them, for Moses 
foretold it, and threatened them with the greatness of God's 
punishment, but they withstood him obstinately and called 
him a liar. So Moses said " Know ye, children of Israel that if 
these people die the common death of all men, or if God judges 
them with the judgment of all men who die and are buried 
in the earth, whom God raises from the dead and judges, and 
causes those who deserve it to descend into the fire — if he 
does with these men after this manner and they die without 
your seeing anything extraordinary, then what they say is true, 
and I have not the authority of God for aught which I say to 
you, and what I say is an invention of my own as they 
assert ; but if God creates a new thing which has not been before 
and will not be afterwards, and these men are judged before 
they die and before the hour of resurrection, and the earth 
opens its mouth and swallows them, and they descend alive to 
the fire of the earth, to the place appointed by God, fixed as the 
place of punishment, then ye may know the truth of my 
word, and that he who denies me does not deny me, but denies 
God who sent me, and he himself bore testimony to me that it 
was he who sent me, and spoke to me and ye heard, and it was 
ye who said to me, ' We believe in thee in all that which thou 
bringest to us ' " and these thoughts are comprised in the words 
" If these men die the common death of all men .... then the 
Lord hath not sent me " (Numbers xvi. 29). And Moses did 
not finish speaking before the earth which was under the 
erring multitude was opened, and all Israel had just removed 
their tents from the spot which seemed to whirl round with 
them because the apostle had said to them " Depart, I pray you, 
from the tents of these wicked men " (Numbers xvi. 26), in 
accordance with that which had been commanded to him 

82 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

(Numbers xvi. 24), and they did thus, and they got up from 
the Tabernacle of Koran, Dathan and Abiram, and when they 
saw that they actually were in the jaws of the earth and that it 
was swallowing them gradually they cried out, but their cry 
did not avail them, just as confession will not avail on the day 
of reckoning, for God will cast down those who confess only 
then into a tire which burns everlastingly, for confession avails 
us only before calamity has happened to us, in accordance with 
the words of Solomon (peace be with him), "Whatever thy 
hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might" (Ecclesiastes ix. 

The explanation of this verse is as follows : — Solomon said, 
directing him whom God directs, ' All which thy hand findeth 
to do, do it with all thy might, striving to obey God, and 
repent at a time when repentance will avail, and work where 
work is possible, and render to thyself an account in whatever 
thou gainest or whatever thou losest, and know that which 
thou needest to know and to understand before thou go down 
to Sheol to meet the punishment of thy sins, because thou 
meritest to go down thither. "When thou art there thou wilt be 
able to attain naught wherewith to defend thyself, " for there 
is no work " (ib.) ; thou wilt be able to do no work there, nor 
wilt thou be able to reflect, or know, or understand when thou 
goest down into the earth, into Sheol whither descended all 
those who doubted or denied the best of creatures, the greatest 
of men, the noblest of apostles. Therefore awake, thou who 
slumberest in the flood of thy desires, for thou art in this 
world as one who slumbers dreaming of things delightful to 
him, dreaming that he possesses and does whatever he fancies ; 
but when he awakes he finds nothing of that which existed in 
his dreams, and so are the hopes of this world and the attaining 
of its desires. At the awakening of death and the hour of judg- 
ment thou wilt find naught of that which thou hast done in 
this world, and if its pleasures were permitted pleasures, they 
will all vanish and thou wilt find naught of that which thou 
didst treasure up. Pleasures are not good deeds that thou 
mayest find them ; and if the pleasures which thou hast 
treasured up in this world are prohibited, thou wilt be doubly 
affected with the calamities they bring. First, thou wilt find 
naught, and secondly bitter anguish will overtake thee on 
account of these pleasures. The body which takes pleasure in 
secret in those things which God does not desire, is cast down 
into a burning fire in the darkness of hell, which is fashioned 
in accordance with the will of God. Therefore awaken before 
thy death, and repent before thou leavest this world, and mend 
in the time of youth that which remainest to thee of old age ; 
and just as if thou loved him who loved thee not, and neglected 
a dwelling in which thou didst remain, and held possession 
of a dwelling which belonged not to thee, so thou lovest this 
world. For this world is hateful. It gnaws away thy life by 

The Letter of Consolation of Maimun ben Joseph. 83 

day and by night. When the day is passed thou rejoicest in 
the night in that which thou hast acquired for thyself, and 
when the night is passed thou rejoicest that thou art in posses- 
sion of another day in this world, and all the days and nights 
we pass do but diminish our life and shorten its duration, and 
no man of intellect would give predominance to that state in 
which thou art, to that life which thou hast wasted. Thou art 
in this world like one who is called to a feast, and who knoweth 
for a certainty that he will under no circumstances spend the 
night there, but that when the day is finished he will leave. 
And the intelligent man is he who is able to enjoy the pleasures 
of eating and drinking, but still thinks about his departure and 
still turns to his own abode. He lives at ease, and gives him- 
self at eventide no anxiety concerning that which exists ; he 
finds in himself strength for the rising, and when the night 
cometh he arrives home in health, and is at rest. And he who is 
light- witted cares too much about the feast and gets intoxicated, 
and oversteps the bounds of moderation, and continues to enjoy 
himself, and when the night cometh he is expelled by force in 
an unseemly condition, and is thrown outside into the lowest 
place. He is not left where he was, nor does he ever reach his 
abode. Lo ! how weak is such an intellect. Therefore in this 
world we must bear in mind whither we are tending and 
journeying, so that we are not deceived or beguiled by it in the 
manner in which we have been speaking. All that we have 
been saying refers to one who has been seeking lawful desires, 
striving to attain legitimate hopes, endeavouring not to waste 
his time in laziness ; how much more must this be the case with 
one who expects to attain these things by disobedience, and by 
finding pleasure in idleness. Therefore let naught deceive 
thee, and no temptation seduce thee.' 

Contemplate the prophet who was sent to thee, and that with 
which he was sent, and his position. And what was the aim of 
his message ? that he might be an apostle to thee, and urge thee 
to obedience. And if the law which he promulgated had to be 
believed merely on account of his own greatness, which we 
have already described, it would still have been necessary to 
believe it ; how much more must we believe it when that law 
contains the commands of the Creator and his ordinances. And 
gratitude and cleaving to God are necessary, on account of 
him who sent and him who was sent. And this love is a virtue ; 
so let not him whom God brings near make himself afar off, 
and let not him to whom Moses is the apostle neglect himself ; 
and in the greatness of the apostle thou mayest understand 
the dignity of him from whom he was sent. If thou art a 
great man, he sends unto thee a messenger like unto thee, and 
according to thy position with him who sends will be the posi- 
tion of the messenger. And none are greater in the sight of 
God than Israel, and he sent unto them an apostle like whom 
there is no other apostle, and owing to the greatness of God's 


84 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

love for Israel he made him an intercessor between him and 
them ; but in spite of his position before God and his nearness 
to him, he was the gentlest and most humble of mankind, as 
the Scripture bears testimony, when it says of him in the name 
of God, "Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the 
men who were upon the face of the earth " (Numbers xii. 3). 
And Moses was more jealous for Israel than he was for himself, 
and he loathed his own life on their account, and he would 
willingly have been blotted out of the company of the just on 
their account, since he said, ' God, my Lord, they have 
sinned a great sin, but thy forgiveness is greater ; if their sin is 
pardonable forgive them, but if thou wilt not forgive and wilt 
cut me off, then cut me off in this world and the next. Is not 
the great pre-eminence to which I am to attain, only on their 
account ? And if they are to cease to exist, then blot me, I pray 
thee, out of thy divine " Book of Life," for I do not wish to be 
left alive after them'; so the Scriptures repeat his words "and 
if not, blot me out of thy book " (Exodus xxxii. 32). And God 
was filled with pity, with compassion, and with mercy, for the 

And when the approach of death was announced to him, this 
did not terrify him, nor did he consider it a great calamity, but 
he devoted himself to his people and said to God, " Let me not 
die till thou appointest over them those who shall lead them, for 
I am jealous on their account, lest I should die and not know 
who shall be the leader to superintend their affairs." Then 
God said to him, " Appoint Joshua," and Moses appointed him, 
and he rejoiced thereat, for he knew his character, and he 
strengthened him and he presented him to the people, and 
began to charge him concerning them. 

And when the song (Deut. xxxii.) was revealed to him, and 
in it there was made known all that would happen to Israel in 
the long captivity, as it is said, "They shall be burnt with 
hunger and devoured with burning heat" (Deut. xxxii. 24), 
and all that God had threatened, " The sword without, and 
terror within shall destroy " (Deut. xxxii. 25), he was deeply 
impressed, and when he saw that at that time there would be no 
one to intercede, no one to pray, no one who would be fit to pray, 
and that no man of learning would be left among them, and 
that all would be equal in their wickedness, he was troubled. It 
was as God had described their condition when he said, " And 
he saw that there was no man" (Isaiah lix. 1G). The explana- 
tion of this verse is as follows : When he saw that there was no 
man amongst them who could avail to intercede for them, he 
was astonished ; and when he saw that there was no one to pray l 
for them he had mercy and assisted them. And God also said, 
When I shall see that there is no pious man amongst them, and 
there is no aid to be expected from these virtuous men, for they 

1 Double explanation of the verse. 

The Letter of Consolation of Maimun ben Joseph. 85 

have all perished, then they will be assisted. And when Moses 
knew their degraded condition, and it was said to him when he 
had recited his prophecy concerning Israel, " Go up to Mount 
Abarim and die there, then Moses (peace be with him) arose and 
prayed for all Israel who should be driven into captivity, and 
when he saw that there was no good man fit to bear the name 
" the man of God," he said (Psalm xc.) " The prayer of Moses, 
the man of God." He included in it a prayer for all the vicissi- 
tudes which should befall Israel from the beginning of the cap- 
tivity till its end, and a hope that God would deal gently with 
them, and cause their punishment to descend in gentleness and 
not in wrath, and that he would not root us out, nor let us pass 
away from him, but that he would forgive us, and return to us 
even as he was in times gone by, and that he would gladden our 
hearts and give us patience to bear our calamities during the 
length of the captivity, and that he would repel from us the evil 
the nations would inflict upon us, and the evils of every perse- 
cutor, and that he would still the waves of the seas which 
surround us, for the nations among whom we are dispersed 
encompass us about. And he included in this prayer a reference 
to all which had been, and all which was to be during the exist- 
ence of the world. If we consider attentively every verse of this 
prayer we shall find that all God's promises to us and all his 
prophecies are contained in it. And after God had accepted his 
intercession on our behalf he made every prophet who came 
after to prophesy the same prophecies, showing thereby that 
God had accepted his request, and he sent prophets to us telling 
us of those favours that Moses desired, and he promised that he 
would grant them. And this prayer refers to the greatest 
calamities, and it has been for us an assistance, a support and a 
refuge, a reliance upon which we could rely, a perfect protec- 
tion, an impregnable fortress to which we could escape in the 
hour of sorrow, for we are like a lamb which erred, which 
went astray amongst the thickets, or which forgot the place of 
its pasture, or was lost in the forests. And in these thickets there 
were a lion, a wolf, and a leopard, and they were hungry and 
ravenous, and they came forth all of them and they saw this 
lamb without a shepherd of whom they need be afraid, and that 
it had no power to rise, much less to run. Then they pricked 
their ears, they gazed intently, they ground their teeth greedy 
to devour it, for they had resolved to attack it. So God com- 
pared Israel when he said " Israel is a scattered sheep, the lions 
have driven him away" (Jeremiah 1. 17). And the interces- 
sion which the best of creatures interceded for us stood 
before God, therefore their limbs were fettered, their feet 
entangled, their mouths closed, and the attack against her was 

One day one of the kings of Rome 1 (cursed be all of them 

1 Midrash, Esther, x. 

86 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

except the distinguished Antoninus who lived in the days of 
Rabbi Jehudah the prince) said to Rabbi Joshua ben Chanan- 
yah, " How strange it is that a lamb sees lions and walks 
amongst them without fear, though Avithout a shepherd to help 
it " ; and the Rabbi said to him, " It is because of the strength 
of the unseen shepherd who fetters their limbs and breaks their 
teeth, and prevents them from attacking it, because David our 
prophet prayed and said, " Break their teeth in their mouth, O 
God" (Psalm lviii. 7). The explanation of this verse is as 
follows : "Behold, Lord, thou seest the beasts of prey that 
attack Israel ; break their teeth in their mouths, God, and 
shatter the grinders of all the lions, Lord." And God himself 
has said ; " Their redeemer is strong, the Lord of Hosts is his 
name " (Jeremiah 1. 34). 

And I have for many years taken upon myself the duty of 
reading every day "The prayer of Moses, the man of God" 
(Psalm xc.) before the reading of the hundred blessings before 
the prayer nDNE> ina, thereby drawing near to God in the very 
words used by the best of creatures, and imploring a blessing 
from him in his very language, and uniting myself to God in 
the very prayers used by the best of those who were ever born. 
And I used to reflect why this prayer came to be inscribed in 
the Book of Psalms, and how it came to be handed down from 
generation to generation, even to the days of David, who gave 
it a place in the book of praise with the prophecies of the ten 
elders, some of whom were his predecessors, some his contem- 
poraries — for instance, the sons of Korah, who lived in the 
time of Moses, and they were Asir, Elkanah, and Abiasaph, of 
whom our Rabbis have handed down that because they fled 
from the error of their fathers, and followed the righteous 
apostle, they were inspired, and made to speak. Hence it is 
said, A Psalm of the sons of Korah, and Heman, and Jeduthun, 
and Maschil, and Ethan, and Asaph, and others. And I did 
not know why this prayer should tie taken from the remaining 
prayers of the apostle, and placed in the Book of Psalms even 
till our day. And I commented on the portion of Haazinu 
(Deut. xxxii.), in accordance with that which I found handed 
down by our Rabbis, that when Moses came to the words, " For 
the Lord shall judge his people " (Deut. xxxii. 36), then he 
uttered " The prayer of Moses, the man of God," in which occur 
the words, " Return, Lord, how long yet " (Psalm xc. 13). 
Then I considered the whole of the Psalm, and its secret was 
made clear to me that Moses had uttered it for the time of 
captivity, and that David had placed it in the Book of Psalms, 
that it might be a source of comfort and consolation to the 
followers of our faith. Then I commented on the whole of 
the Psalm, through God's help and guidance, and I placed it in 
the volume of my composition, upon the portion Haazinu, with 
which our commentary on the Torah concluded. And I said 
at the end of this Psalm that there was no doubt that he 

The Letter of Consolation of Maimun ben Joseph. 87 

uttered it on the day of his death, and left it as a legacy to 
Israel, and I did not know this as a matter of fact, but only 
as a conjecture, but after a while, when I commented upon the 
portion ri3"on riNtl (Deut. xxxiii., xxxiv.), I found this conjecture 
fully verified by the words of our Rabbis, for in Sifre, 1 at the 
end of the commentary on the Torah, they say eloquently that 
our master on the day of his death uttered this prayer, and 
afterwards blessed Israel, and that he said riDnan JlKtl, with the 
conjunctive wav, because this wav signifies something pre- 
ceding it, and that that which preceded was " The prayer of 
Moses, the man of God." Then I rejoiced greatly, because I 
was led to a true conjecture of that which was handed down 
by our Rabbis amongst other traditions, and I rejoiced also to 
find the contents of all this prayer in the declarations of the 
prophets, and I have commented on it in order that it may be 
a source of comfort to the souls which are desolate in the 
desolation of captivity, and it is also a source of contentment 
to weary hearts which are wasted by the intense fear of the 
nations, and a correction of knowledge, and a strengthening of 
faith to the pious, and the steadfast, and the repentant, and 
those who have trust, and those who grasp the strong cord 
which unites them to God through their faith in our honoured 
apostle, elected above all mankind. 

And the following is a commentary on the well-constructed 
words of his prayer, peace be upon him and upon the Rabbis 
who received the traditions from the prophets, and they in 
their turn from their master and the master of all mankind, 
peace be upon him. How nobly did he speak when he 
stood and offered this prayer for us. 

"A prayer of Moses the man of God." The man dis- 
tinguished by God. God has in this world no other since 
him. And every prophet, great in his own age, who arose 
after Moses and resembled him in possessing one or more 
of his characteristics was called, "The man of God," and 
they were ten, the first of them was the master of all man- 
kind, and the last of them was Elijah, and these are they : 
Moses, Elkanah, Samuel, David, Shemaiah, Iddo, Elisha, 
Micah, Amoz, Elijah. 2 

O Lord thou hast been our refuge. God, our God, thou 
art our refuge to which we fly, generation after generation, 
because when we have been conquered and dispersed amongst 
our enemies, and when misfortune overtakes us, and there 
is no king to order our affairs, and no adviser to guide us, 
and no fortress in which we can be intrenched, and no place 
of safety whither we can flee, and no army wherewith we 
may be protected, and no provision and no power even to 
speak, for we are deprived of every resource, the victories of 
our enemies and our inability to answer them have made us 

' Sifre, Friedman, 342. ' Sifre, ibidem. 

88 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

dumb. We are silent as if we were speechless. We are 
unable to open our mouths. And so David describes us 
(Psalm xxxviii. 14), "I am as if I were deaf, that I could 
not hear," etc. And when all resources are cut off and all 
our hopes are frustrated, there is no protection but with thee. 
We call and thou assistest ; we cry and thou answerest, 
for thou art our refuge, as it is said, "0 Lord, thou hast 
been our refuge." 

And here Moses describes the reasons why God accepts 
our prayers and answers them. These reasons are repentance, 
obedience and confession to God, and if we possess these 
merits he assists us. And when God knew that we should 
sin, and that we should be overcome by the inclination to 
evil which was to be created in man, he ordained, even 
before he created man, amongst the seven things to be 
brought into being before the creation of the world, that 
repentance should be accepted. 1 The first of these seven 
things was the law, the last was Messiah, the son of David. 
And amongst these was repentance, because it is conducive 
to the happiness of the world. And our apostle had repentance 
in view, when he described our captivity, and desired it for 
us, as he said, "Before the mountains were brought forth 

thou didst turn man to contrition and say, Return, 

ye children of men." The meaning of this is : Before and 
after thou didst create the mountains, and form the earth 
and the world, thou wert from eternity to eternity, and 
then thou didst desire repentance when thou didst say, 
"Return, ye children of men," and if we repent, then thou 

And that which necessitates our remaining in captivity is 
the fact that a thousand years, though many for us, are 
but few for thee. "For a thousand years in thy sight are 
but as yesterday, which is passed." The explanation of this 
verse is as follows: Behold a thousand years in thy sight 
are as yesterday which has passed, or like a watch which is 
the third of the night. And when the period of the captivity 
is completed, we shall be as one who had slept one third of 
the night and then awoke. And in spite of its length, when 
its torrents have flowed and passed, it is as if it had never 
been. And so he said, Vfi* nje> Dnoir, "Thou carriest them 
away as in a torrent, they are as in a sleep." Dnoir is derived 
from mt, which means torrent ; and so the nations are com- 
pared to a torrent in the words, "As a torrent of hail, as a 
torrent of mighty waters overflowing " (Isaiah xxviii. 2), and 
it is said, " The nations shall rush like the rushing of many 
waters" (Isaiah xvii. 13). The meaning of this last verse is 
that when the nations are united against Israel they rush 
upon them like mighty waters when they receive an addi 

1 Pesachin, 54a. 

The Letter of Consolation of Maimun ben Joseph. 89 

tional torrent. But in great tempests some regions often 
remain unscathed, the most weakly constructed building or 
the most fragile object will be saved, while walls will be 
overturned or stones carried away. In the same way captivity 
will crush and shatter powerful batteries and destroy strong 
walls, but God saves the weak and feeble nation, for the 
storm does not carry them away, and when the waves of the 
sea of captivity are agitated God calms them. If this were 
not so they would overwhelm us so that no trace of us would 
be left. Dost thou not see the abounding waters of the 
waves, black in colour, uplifted to their very height, ad- 
vancing rapidly so that thou wouldst imagine that if they 
reached a ship they Avould sink and wreck it, or if they 
reached the dry land they would desolate it ? Then thou 
seest one wave broken and multitudes follow continually, 
but still they are obedient to the command of God and do 
not pass the bounds he has assigned to them. Thus arise 
the mighty waves of distress in captivity, so that thou sayest, 
"None can now escape"; but at last thou seest how God stills 
them, and calms them, and delivers us from them ; and thus 
spake David, "Which stilleth the roaring of the seas, the 
roaring of their waves, and the tumult of peoples" (Psalm 
lxv. 8). The explanation of this verse is as follows: thou 
who stillest the tumult of the peoples when they rush over 
Israel. And when the period of the captivity is over, and 
when the waves have been poured forth and are arrested, 
it is as if it were the sleep of the slumberer in the words 
of the Apostle, " Thou carriest them away as with a torrent, 
they are as in a sleep." 

" In the morning it flourisheth and groweth up " (Psalm xc. 
6). The meaning of this verse is as follows. In the morning 
deliverance cometh after the night of captivity. He compares 
the darkness of captivity to the darkness of the night, and the 
morning of help to the dawn which brightening gradually, 
refresheth souls distressed by the anxieties of the night. He 
compares our position to that of a man who, like one who is 
blind, is lost in a desert, and the darkness of the night comes 
upon him, and he walks in dread of every possible calamity. 
Noav he walks securely, now he is covered in darkness, now he 
has to be on his guard, for ditches are beneath him and 
precipices surround him. He knows not where he may fall, 
and if he be safe in his walking, then he is not secure from the 
injury of Avild beasts which might seize him, or of the enemies 
lying in ambush for him on the road. Alas ! in what sad 
straits is he, in Avhat sore perplexity. The night drags on till 
the daAvn ascends, till the light appears and men's minds are a 
little at rest, till the light bursts forth, and the sun is seen and 
light is given to the Avorld, then the sorrow flies aAvay, the 
eye of the traveller discerns the country around him, and he 
sees Avhere to Avalk and Avhither he is going. David said, 

90 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

referring to this, "Weeping may tarry for the night but joy 
cometh in the morning " (Psalm xxx. 6) ; and also, " It shall be 
as the light of the morning when the sun riseth " (2 Sam. xxiii. 
4) ; and with the light of the day of our deliverance the sun of 
our dynasty shall arise as Isaiah promised us, "Then shall 
thy light arise in darkness " (Isaiah lviii. 10) ; and another 
prophet says, " But unto you that fear my name, shall the sun 
of righteousness arise with healing in his wings ; and ye shall 
go forth and gambol as calves of the stall " (Malachi iii. 19). 
And Avhen our light breaks forth the nations will covet our 
position and will come against us in the manner described 
by the prophet, "For I will gather all nations against Jeru- 
salem to battle " (Zechariah xiv. 2) ; and this is the war of 
Gog and Magog and their followers, which has been described 
by all the prophets. There is no prophet who has not fore- 
told it. 

But when they covet our position, and an opportunity 
presents itself to them of harming us, and Ave fear their attacks, 
God. will bring their affair to naught, and they will be as if 
they had never been. God compares their position to that of a 
man who dreams that he has eaten and drunk and is satisfied, 
but when he awakes he is still hungry and thirsty. Thus are 
all the nations. They see that the city is surrounded by the 
peoples of the earth, desiring to swallow us, and we are be- 
sieged and the city is conquered and half of us are taken 
captive, and at that moment God grows angry and is enraged 
against all of them, as it is said, " My fury shall come up in my 
nostrils" (Ezekiel xxxviii. 18). And God will cause a great 
shaking through which the mountains shall be thrown down, 
and buildings and walls shall fall, and the wild beasts shall die 
through fright, even the fishes of the sea shall tremble and flee. 
And a voice shall come forth from God saying, "Your own 
swords shall pierce you," therefore will every one turn his 
sword against his neighbour, and heads and corpses shall fall, 
and the horses and their riders shall be annihilated, the rider 
struggles on, his eyes fail, his tongue cleaves to his mouth ; he 
is seen but sees not ; and so it is declared and explained by all 
the prophets. So the nations are as grass, the verdure of which 
just begins to be seen, and it is then dried up and withers. 
All which we have said is included in the one verse " In the 
morning they are like grass which groweth." In this very 
manner God foretold and said that the nations should be like 
unto grass ; still not like the grass of the earth which has roots, 
branches and soil, moisture and other materials, which, although 
it is unstable, still has material and roots. But they shall be as 
the grass on the roof tops which has no roots to supply it, and 
no soil to nourish it, but it is blasted and immediately withers. 
So says the Psalmist, " They shall be as the grass on the roof 
tops," W tp& ntnpc? (Psalm cxxix. 6). The meaning of these 
last words is, " Before it is drawn forth from its covering it 

The Letter of Consolation of Maimun ben Joseph. 91 

withereth." Then Isaiah the prophet of God spoke in the 
same sense (Isaiah xl. 6-8). The meaning of these verses is thus, 
A voice came to me saying, " Cry," and I said " What shall I 
cry." The voice said " Cry that all mankind is in my sight as 
grass, and their works, and that which in their opinion is their 
excellence, is but as the flower of the field which will mature 
into no frnit or seed. At one moment it seems beautiful to 
you, but it has no permanence ; the grass withereth, the flower 
fadeth, but the word of our God and his promises stand for 

" On the high mountain " (Isaiah xl. 9). ' thou prophecy, 
which bringest good tidings to Zion, upon a high mountain lift 
up thy voice with strength ; thou prophecy, that bringest good 
tidings to Jerusalem, raise thy voice, fear not, say to the cities 
of Judah, " Behold your God." ' And our apostle, referring to 
these matters, exclaims *pni )»»x» ~\p22. On the morrow this one 
will blossom and will produce new sprouts, but in the evening 
it will be annihilated and withered. And so will those be who 
arise in the morning to fight against us ; God will darken their 
days as it is said, "A day of darkness and gloominess" 
(Zephaniah i. 15), and it is also said that it will be a day which 
is neither day nor night (Zechariah xiv. 7). "And darkness 
and gross darkness shall cover the earth" (Isaiah lx. 2), and 
they will fight against us, and there will be a great slaughter- 
ing amongst them from midday, and all of them shall perish, 
and at the approach of the evening the day shall brighten, 
as it is said " The Lord shall arise upon thee " (Isaiah lx. 2), 
and with respect to this, it is also said, " At the time of the 
evening there shall be light " (Zechariah xiv. 7), and at 
eventide not one of them will be left alive, as our first 
prophet said, " In the evening it shall be cut down and wither " 
(Psalm xc. 6). 

And after the apostle finished describing the events which 
had taken place, which would take place, and that to which these 
events would lead, he again prophesies and laments over our 
condition in captivity when he says, " For we are consumed in 
thine anger " as thou hast threatened ; and it is said " Ye shall 
be left few in number (Deut. iv. 27) ; and it is also said, describ- 
ing our condition, " For we are left but a few of many" 
(Jeremiah xlii. 2), and there are many other such descriptions. 
So we are consumed in the anger of God, and we who are left 
are amazed in that we are cast into captivity in accordance 
with that which is said, " And we are consumed in thine 
anger." And the prophet describes that which necessitated 
this, " Behold all this is on account of our sins." When they 
multiply God places them before him, and looks at them, and 
according to their sins he punishes, as it is said, " Thine iniquity 
is marked before me " (Jeremiah ii. 22), and whatever we do 
secretly or openly is before his light. Naught is hidden from 
him, as it is said, " Can any hide himself in secret places that I 

92 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

shall not see him " (Jeremiah xxiii. 24). Can any hide himself 
in secret places and rebel against me, so that I see him not ; 
doth not my light fill my heavens and my earth. For I exist in 
every place, and no place is void of me, and that which will be 
is not hidden from me, and whither can one flee from me ? 
And when God knew and saw he decided and pronounced sen- 
tence, thereby confirming in truth the description of our apostle, 
" Thou hast placed our iniquities before thee, our hidden sins 
before the light of thy countenance." " For all our days," etc. 
(Ps. xc. 9). Behold all our days vanish in the heat of thine anger, 
our years pass away like a word which is spoken. A word is 
spoken and is finished. And so in captivity it is said, " A son 
or daughter is born to such a one," and while the father hopes 
that the child will grow up, it dies ; and we hear naught else 
than that a little child is dead as thou hast threatened, " Thou 
shalt beget sons and daughters, but they shall not be thine" 
(Deut. xxviii. 41), and it is said, " Though they bring up their 
children, yet will I bereave them that there be none left " 
(Hosea ix. 12). But some will be excepted who will live, and 
in this manner our number decreases daily. And the prophet 
wept for this when he said " For we are consumed by thine 
anger." We desire perchance that deliverance may come in 
our days, though the lives of all of us vanish like a spoken 
word, and if some do live, how long do they live ? The limit 
is seventy years, the extreme limit is eighty years. And so 
Moses said, " The days of our years are seventy years." Moses 
meant of our captivity ; in short the sorrows of the heart, in 
addition to paucity of help, and want of strength, and cutting 
off of hope, make the heart sick, weaken our powers, shorten 
our lives, and bring death near, and we are all of us in this 
sad plight. 

And those of us who exceptionally are in happier circum- 
stances, gain naught except after great difficulties, and when 
we attain that which we strive for, means are found of taking 
it from us unjustly and with enmity. The prophet said, describ- 
ing all this : " And their increase is but labour and sorrow," 
and even when we attain that which we strive for, it comes to 
us only with difficulty, because by attaining worldly goods man 
does not gain power over his own life, and even when we attain 
them, injustice will find causes for depriving us of them, as 
God decreed at the very first, " And I will hide my face from 
them, and they shall be devoured " (Deut. xxxi. 18), and it is 
also said nDIWl t?*n TJ '3, " For we are soon cut oft' and we fly 
away." TJ '3 Behold it shall be cut off quickly, and that which 
is in our possession shall fly away, for we have no endurance, 
no stability. 

Then the prophet is again perplexed and amazed at the 
darkness of our captivity, which is distressing, which is 
obscure, which is severe, without any opportunity for Israel, 
and without anj- information as to its length, either from 

The Letter of Consolation of Maimun ben Joseph. 93 

useful analogy, or by means of correct calculation, or by 
means of clear proof, without good tidings, and without near 
hope. And we are perplexed, like a man who is sleeping in 
the middle of the sea, or on the top of a mast, and how can his 
sleep be comfortable when the roaring of the sea disturbs him ? 
how can he be still when the water shakes that upon which he 
is lying ? How can life be pleasant to him that is on the top 
of a mast, which is a very narrow and confined position, with 
the winds blowing vehemently, and terror and assured death 
beneath him ? Such is the life of all of us in captivity. And 
Solomon said, " Yea, thou shalt be as he that lieth down in the 
midst of the sea, or as he that lieth upon the top of a mast " 
(Proverbs xxiii. 34). The Hebrew word ?an is a mast. And 
we are in this plight. And if the length of our captivity were 
determined, and we knew from what time the calculation 
began, there would be some relief for us. You see that the 
captivity of Egypt lasted four hundred years, but with respect 
to that captivity there is also doubt as to the date from which 
we are to begin the calculation. Is it from the covenant between 
the parts, or from the birth of Isaac, or from the hour when 
Israel went down into Egypt ? God calculated it from the 
birth of Isaac to amount to four hundred years, and from the 
time of the covenant between the parts it amounts to about 
four hundred and thirty years, and had God desired to increase 
our captivity, it would have begun from the date of our 
entering Egypt. But God dealt gently with us, and left us in 
Egypt but two hundred and ten years, and then hinted at it in 
the words spoken to Jacob not? m (Genesis xlii. 2), " Go down 
thither," for the number contained in the letters of the word 
TO is two hundred and ten. 1 And as regards the captivity in 
Babylon, it is said to be seventy years, and this is subject to 
doubt. Is it to commence from the beginning of the Baby- 
lonian dynasty, or from the captivity itself ? Between the 
two there is a difference of twelve years. The matter was 
obscure except to Daniel, who said, " There remains a little 
time before the dynasty of Elam shall be completed, then 
Media shall follow, and deliverance will be at hand," 2 and this 
was so, and the seventy j'ears were completed. But with 
regard to the present captivity, which is foretold to last many 
days, the apostle said until when, and the signs which were 
given to Daniel were obscure, and when he asked for an expla- 
nation, God said, " Go thy way, Daniel, for the words are shut 
up and sealed till the time of the end " (Daniel xii. '.)). When 
deliverance cometh, thou wilt understand all that God said in 
the Book of Daniel. And when Asaph perceived this great 
darkness, he wept, and said, " We see not our signs, there is 

1 Seder Olam, Cap. III. and parallels. 

2 The author seems in error in referring to Daniel. See Isaiah, Cap. xxi., 
Meguillah, 11 J. 

94 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

no more any prophet, neither is there among us any that 
knoweth how long " (Psalm Ixxiv. 9). And when the best of 
mankind saw by means of the wonderful inspiration which 
was granted him, and by means of his magnificent powers the 
innermost meaning of things, but still was unable to compre- 
hend the captivity, he exclaimed, " Who knoweth what will 
be the power of thine anger, and just in proportion as man 
should fear thee, so is thy anger ? " And when we shall be sunk 
in the deep mire, do not cut us off entirely. The knowledge 
that our chastisement is fixed is enough for us, this is sufficient 
sorrow. Therefore do not deprive us of the light of thy law, 
and give us wisdom as a substitute for a prophet, who shall 
prophesy unto us, and supply us with a wise heart, whereby 
we may understand thy law, and be at rest in it. The apostle, 
summing up all these prayers, said, " Teach us to number 
our days " riDSn 23!? KU31, " and a heart of Avisdom for a 

And God so decreed it. The wisdom of our Rabbis and that 
knowledge to which each one of them attained are sufficient for 
thee, and the subjects they spoke about, and their books and 
their compositions are matters which we can understand 
through the study of many years only. I mean to say for 
instance that the Mishna and the commentary of the Talmud 
thereon, and the books of Midrashim are works which require 
a year or more in order to read even one of them ; how much 
more time would be required to understand them ? "We can but 
employ ourselves for the rest of our lives with a few pages of 
their easiest works in accordance with the command of Moses 
nosn 33 1 ? NU31. Owing to that which has been read and taught 
in the days of our Rabbis in the days of captivity there is no 
less knowledge to be gained of the Torah now than in the days 
of the prophet himself. 

"Return, Lord, how long?" (verse 12). God, when thy 
mercy is turned to us, it is enough. How long yet ? In these 
words "how long" David implored for aid on behalf of Israel 
in captivity. " Lord, how long shall the wicked, how long 
shall the wicked triumph, having naught to perplex them, how 
long shall the workers of iniquity utter vain things and boast " 
(Psalm xciv. 3). God decreed that as a recompense for the 
night when we rebelled against him, the night of the spies, the 
night of the ninth of Ab, that we should implore for aid with 
the words " How long yet ? " When God was angered against us 
and said, "How long shall I bear with this evil congregation"' 
(Numbers xiv. 27) he determined to cast upon us the worst 
of calamities, on a similar night, the night of the ninth of 
Ab, and that we should be in sore distress and implore for de- 
liverance from that distress with the words "how long yet ? " 
And David made clear to us that we should use the words "how 
long yet" by repeating four times the words "how long" 
(Psalm xiii.) in correspondence with the similar expression 

The Letter of Consolation of Maimun ben Joseph. 95 

used four times by God " How long do you refuse ? " (Exodus 
xvi. 28). " How long will this people provoke me?" (Numbers 
xiv. 11). " How long will they not believe in me ? " {ibid.) 
" How long shall I bear with this evil congregation ?" (Numbers 
xiv. 27), and by using the expression four times God showed 
that he would cast us into captivity and disperse us in four 

And when the thought of the long period of the captivity 
was too sad for Moses, he exclaimed "Return, Lord, how 
long ? " " Turn away thine anger from us " as if God were 
a man who repented on account of that which happened to a 
beloved one against whom God was angered, and so God 
promised us by the mouth of his apostle, " For the Lord shall 
judge his people and repent himself for his servants" (Deut. 
xxxii. 36), and Moses relying upon this promise prayed "And 
let it repent thee concerning thy servants." 

"Satisfy us in the morning" (verse 14). God, satisfy us 
in the morning of the dawn of our deliverance, and favour 
us with thy grace. For God is "abundant in mercy," and 
he favours us as he has promised, "With everlasting kind- 
ness will I have mercy on thee" (Isaiah liv. 8). And it is 
also said, " How precious is thy lovingkindness, God " 
(Psalm xxxvi. 8), and also, "The mercy of the Lord is from 
everlasting" (Psalm ciii. 17). And it is also said of the 
Messiah, " And my mercy shall not depart from him " 
(2 Sam. vii. 15). And it is also said, " The sure mercies 
of David " (Isaiah lv. 3). Therefore the Apostle prayed, 
"Satisfy us in the morning with thy mercy, that we may 
rejoice and be glad all our days." And it is said, " Rejoice, 
ye righteous, in the Lord " (Psalm xxxiii. 1), and also, " Then 
our mouths shall be filled with laughter " (Psalm cxxvi. 2), 
and Isaiah said, " Break forth into joy, sing together " 
(Isaiah lii. 9). And a prophet said, " Sing with gladness 
for Jacob " (Jeremiah xxxi. 6). Therefore Moses exclaimed, 
" Make us glad according to the days wherein thou hast 
afflicted us" (verse 15). God, cause us to rejoice in 
accordance with the days of our punishment. This the 
prophet sought from his Lord, and all men were ignorant, 
I mean the men of our own age and the men of preceding 
ages, as to the meaning of his request. It is impossible that 
Moses, our master, should pray that our days of joy should 
be in accordance with the number of our days of calamity. 
"We do not find in preceding captivities this slight compensa- 
tion, nor has God given any hints that he compensates in 
this slight measure. Job suffered in his body, in his wealth, 
in his children. No one maltreated him. He was not 
despised, or sold, or enslaved, and his punishment endured 
only twelve months, 1 and he was rewarded by receiving 

1 Seder Olam II. ; Mishna Edyot II. 10. 

96 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

twice as much as he had before in money and in children, 
and he lived a hundred and forty years. Since he received 
of all things twice as much as he had before, it seems as 
if he were seventy years of age at the time his trial began, 
therefore his whole life lasted two hundred and ten years. 
And as for us who have been slain, and taken captive and 
ruled over by our slaves, and our lives made miserable, and 
we and our children sold, and held in bondage eleven hun- 
dred years and more, not knowing how long that bondage 
will still continue, would our prophet who was filled with 
solicitude for us, and who stood so near to God as to reply 
to him when he said, "Michael should alone go with us" 
(there are the same letters in 'OK^D and ^fO'D), "If thy 
countenance go not with us, bring us not up hence" — 
would he have prayed to his Master for so slight a com- 
pensation as that contained in the words, "Make us re- 
joice according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us." 
For if this prayer were granted, what would happen after- 
wards ? Shall we again return to misfortune ? No, for 
God has sworn, "For this is as the waters of Noah unto 
me" (Isaiah liv. ( J), and he also said, "The Lord hath 
sworn by his right hand and the arm of his strength" 
(Isaiah lxii. 8). 

The captivity in Egypt lasted two hundred and ten years, 
but of these years not many more than a hundred were spent 
in servitude, humiliation, and punishment. Yet the recom- 
pense for this was eight hundred and ninety years. And 
the captivity in Babylon lasted seventy years, and our happi- 
ness after that four hundred and twenty years, what then 
should recompense us for a captivity of eleven hundred 
years and more, perhaps hundreds of years more ? How 
could Moses pray, " Make us rejoice according to the days 
wherein thou hast afflicted us." He prayed to God to grant us 
days of happiness corresponding to days of misery, measured 
by such days as are days in God's sight. And God compared 
the period of our captivity to a moment, as it is said, "For 
a small moment have I forsaken thee" (Isaiah liv. 7). "In 
overflowing wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment" 
(Isaiah liv. 8). " Hide thyself for a little moment " (Isaiah 
xxvi. 20). "There is but a moment in his anger" (Psalm 
xxx. 6). All these verses are clear examples that the period 
of the captivity is a moment, and a moment is one part out 
of many hundred parts of an hour. So Moses prays to God to 
grant us hours and days, months and years, according to the 
length of the captivity in moments, so that for each moment 
there might be bestowed upon us a thousand years or more, and 
how many these will amount to God alone is able to tell. 
Thousands and myriads of years God will give us, for it was 
he who said a year will contain thousands and thousands 
of years, as it is written, " I will gather thee with great 

The Letter of Consolation of Maimun ben Joseph. 97 

mercies, and with everlasting mercy will I have compassion 
on thee " (Isaiah liv. 78). And it is also said, " To eternity 
and to eternity" (Daniel vii. 18), that is to say, a person 
who lives will live thousands of years, he will build buildings 
which will crumble to dust, while he exists, as the Prophet 
says, " And my chosen shall wear out the work of their hands " 
(Isaiah lxv. 22). 

And I am firmly persuaded that when Isaiah said "For as 
the days of a tree shall be the days of my people " (Isaiah lxv. 
22), he meant by tree the tree of life which was in the midst of 
the garden. God had given an assurance that every one who ate 
of the tree would live eternally, and God would not create any- 
thing in vain, and since Adam was driven forth from Paradise 
without eating the fruit, there is no doubt that it will be eaten 
at some future time, and the reason why the time seems 
delayed is that God does not wish that man should become 
thoroughly righteous till the end of time, as he himself has 
promised. " For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of 
the Lord as the waters cover the sea " (Isaiah xi. 9), and it is also 
said " They shall all call upon the name of the Lord, and serve 
him with one consent " (Zephaniah iii. 9). Since it is proved 
that no created being, as the world is now, is created perfect, it 
follows that when the new heavens and the new earth are 
made, that the influences of the heavens and the nature of the 
earth will be totally changed, and that there will be a light 
which will eclipse the light of the sun and the moon, and then 
those of Israel who are worthy will eat of the tree of life, as it 
is said, " He will eat and live for ever." And this is the inten- 
tion of that which David said of the Torah, " It is a tree of life 
to those who take hold of it " (Proverbs iii. 18). And he 
did not exaggerate, for the word of God is the exact truth ; and 
if we had seen that any one who had studied the Torah had 
lived for ever, it would at once have been clear that God's word 
was truth, but since we have seen that Moses the master of all 
the prophets died, and do the prophets live for ever ? (Zecha- 
riah i. 5), we ask where is the tree of life ? But the words are 
meant here with reference to the distant future only, according 
to the words " Which if a man shall do, he shall live in them " 
(Ezekiel xx. 11) in the future, and therefore the author of the 
Targum, who knew the secrets of the word of God, translated 
the words " He shall live by them to all eternity," and David 
meant that for those who took hold of the Torah it would be a 
tree of life, and through it they would find favour in the sight 
of God, and through it they would become worthy to see the 
fulfilment of the divine promises, and merit to partake of the 
tree of life and live for ever. And the verse " Make us rejoice 
according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us," is an 
evident Biblical authority for all the assertions which have 
been made by those who explain the Scripture after the manner 
of a Midrash, including the verse in Daniel (xii. 3), " And they 


98 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

that turn many to righteousness shall be as the stars for ever 
and ever." 

And the prayer of Moses was answered. Moreover God made 
the following declaration by his prophets in answer to the 
prayer of Moses, "Let thy work appear unto thy servants 
openly and publicly." " They shall see eye to eye when the 
Lord returneth to him " (Isaiah lii. 8). " And ye shall see it, 
and your heart shall rejoice" (Isaiah lxvi. 14). "And your 
eyes shall see and ye shall say, The Lord be magnified " 
(Malachi i. 5). " And nations shall see thy righteousness and 
all kings thy glory" (Isaiah lxii. 2). And God, who is the 
most faithful of promisers, himself said, " And all the nations 
of the earth shall see that thou art called by the name of the 
Lord" (Deut. xxviii. 10). And with respect to the words 
B!V33 ^V "l"nm they may be rendered thus, " Let thy beauty 
be upon the face of their children." It is to be noticed that 
the condition of a generation to whom deliverance came in 
their own days, was in no manner changed, except in respect to 
their bodily strength, their form and their bodies remained as 
they were heretofore, as it is said, " Then shall the lame man 
leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall sing." But 
with regard to the generation which shall grow up after the 
future deliverance, God will increase their stature, as it is said, 
riVDOIp DSrm "l^xi, 1 I will lead you riVODip. Our Rabbis 
explain this verse to mean double the stature which Adam had 
when he was driven forth from the Garden of Eden, that is to 
say, one hundred cubits. And God will strengthen their forms 
so that the strength of God will be apparent in their faces, as it 
is said " And their seed shall be known among the nations " 
(Isaiah lxi. 9). This is the meaning of the prayer of the 
prophet "May God and his favour be with us." And this also 
was the prayer for the accomplishment of which David strove 
all the days of his life, namely, that God might purify him to 
see the great good with which the souls of the pious are 
refreshed, and that through them he might attain the know- 
ledge of the Law, when he said, " One thing have I asked of the 
Lord, that will I seek after ; that I may dwell in the house of 
the Lord," etc. (Psalm xxvii. 4). So we should read and pray 
that we may be purified to see the light of God, and to hasten 
to his temple early in the morning. Here "ip3? in this verse 
means to visit early in the morning, being derived from ">PJl 
morning, not from the word which means " to distinguish, to 
search " as it is used in the verse, " He shall not search, whether 
it shall be good or bad " (Leviticus xxvii. 33). Therefore God 
assured him, and announced to him the good tidings that he 
should live and return to the House of God continually and for 
many years, and so David said joyfully, " Surely goodness and 
mercy shall follow me all the days of my life " (Psalm xxiii. 6). 

1 Sanliedvhi, 100a. 

The Letter of Consolation of Maimun ben Joseph. 99 

I shall not be missing at the house of God during the whole of 
my life, and I shall sit again and again in the house of God, to 
the utmost length of days, that is to say days without number. 
The Hebrew word »rOE>1 means, "And I shall return." And 
it occurs twice in Scripture in this sense, namely D^>B>3 *rDB>1 
"And I shall return in peace " (Genesis xxviii. 21), and in the 
verse we are now considering. And David means to say that 
he will live in this world during his natural life, having en- 
joyed the goodness of God and his favours, that he will then 
pass from it to the next world, and that then again he will 
return to the House of God at the resurrection, dwelling in it 
and visiting it early in the morning to the utmost length of 
time (Psalm xxiii. 6). " Lord, to the utmost length of time " 
(Psalm xciii. 5). And the pious men of Israel will live in the 
House of God to the utmost length of days, and in like manner 
God promised those who read his book, " Length of days and 
years of life and peace, they shall add unto thee " (Proverbs 
iii. 2). 

"And establish thou the work of our hands upon us." In 
this world. Because if the help of God is granted to the pious 
he improves his work in obedience to him. For if man inclines 
to obedience God and his angels will assist him, and if he turns 
to evil, God permits evil to come to him, and will not turn him 
from it, 1 and if God is pleased with his servants, he assists them 
in doing good. And if man does one good action God causes 
that action to bring forth for him many rewards which he did 
not expect, and if perchance the SHH "W should once overcome 
him, God will make difficult for him the opportunities of rebel- 
ling against him, and he will defend him against it, and he will 
deliver him just as he delivered Joseph, and Boaz, and Paltiel 
ben Laish, and many others like them. It was in this sense 
that the prophet prayed and said, " Establish thou the work of 
our hands upon us" that we may be proved worthy to receive 
the promise contained in the words, " He has established the 
work of our hands upon us." God has guaranteed to us that 
when he shall be pleased with us after the redemption he will 
correct our manners, establish our religion, and direct us in 
obeying the law, as it is said, " I shall put my spirit among you " 
(Ezekiel xxxvi. 27), and with regard to the knowledge of the 
law, God guarantees " I will put my law in their inward parts, 
and in their hearts I will write it " (Jeremiah xxxi. 32, 33). In 
these verses God says, " I will put my Torah in the heart of each 
one of them, and it shall be written in their hearts so that no 
one will teach his neighbour how God is to be worshipped, but 
they shall all know me, from the least of them even unto the 
greatest," and this is what our great prophet prayed for on our 
behalf before his death. And when we say his "death " we must 
not liken it to the death of other mortal men. His corpse remained 

1 Josua xxxviii.b. 

100 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

pure even in death. His eye did not grow dim, and its moisture 
did not abate. He was as if he were in a sleep, for God appeared 
to him as usual. The light of God kissed the pure mouth with 
which he had so often been addressed and the pure words of 
which he made binding even upon himself. He thereby made 
our prophet a light to teach us his words. His spirit was taken 
from him in such a manner as God willed, not as the spirit is 
taken from the bodies of other men, but without the bitterness of 
death, and it was at once united with the angels, and clothed with 
the body of angels like Michael and Gabriel, and he in his turn 
sang praises and thanksgiving to God even as they did. And 
even when he was amongst the angels his power was not less 
than theirs. It was not less when he was clothed in bodily 
form, surely it was not less when he was clothed in the form of 
angels. This too is what our Rabbis say who realised the 
mission of Moses, and how correct was their opinion when 
they said, " There are some who say that Moses our master is 
not dead but standeth and serveth God in heaven." x And 
this too is our opinion. And after he presented his intercession 
on our behalf he recited his blessings, and when he finished 
them, he said farewell to Israel and ascended heavenwards, and 
his Creator hid him till a time shall come when he shall be 
pleased with this world, 2 and then he will send him back to it, 
to assist the king who is to reign in the strength of God, that 
beloved one of God to whom testimony is borne in the verse 
"Thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee " (Psalm ii. 7). 
And this intercession has smoothed for us all the rugged ways 
of captivity, and it is the strong fortress in which we can take 
refuge in the time of misfortune until the time shall come 
which God has appointed for our deliverance, for the fulfil- 
ment of his promises to us. 

Therefore reflect upon our letter, and what it teaches. May 
thy faith be perfected. May thy knowledge be corrected. The 
fundamental truths which we have placed before thee are suffi- 
cient for thee to rely upon. Reflect, then, upon what they demand 
of thee, so that thou mayest become righteous in the sight of 
thy Creator. It iB necessary that this prayer which I have 
commented upon should be treasured up by thee, and that thou 
shouldest read it before IDNB* TH2, seeking a blessing for thyself 
in its pure words, and uniting thyself to God by means of the 
prayer which was offered up by the best of men and the 
greatest of prophets, and there is no prayer better than it. And 
if men had only known its contents, and the fundamental 
truths which God has established in it for the strengthening of 
our religion and the correcting of our faith, they would have 
made it obligatory upon themselves every day, just as they did 

' Sotah, 26*. 

8 See Targum, Jerushalmi, to Song of Moses, MS. (British Museum), 
additional 18,690, p. 219a. 

The Letter of Consolation of Maimun ben Joseph. 101 

the reading of the Shema. I have therefore briefly made clear 
to you its contents, so that you may be guided in that which I 
have pointed out to you, and that you may imitate that which 
I have made clear to you, and may God guide all of us to under- 
stand its contents and to know his wishes ; and may he cause 
his redemption to draw near in our days, and establish in our 
time that which he has promised us, and may he enlighten our 
darkness as he has assured us, and his assurance is indeed 
faithful. " The Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall 
be seen upon thee " (Isaiah lx. 2). And so may it be God's 

This was written by Emanuel, the son of Rabbi Yechiel 

1 " His soul shall dwell at ease, and his seed shall inherit the land " (Psalm 
xxv. 14).