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A CONSERVATIVE VIEW OF JUDAISM 



A CONSERVATIVE VIEW OF JUDAISM. 

A recent movement in the community, and a recent 
book by one of the Editors of this Review, have imported 
a flavour of party politics into the affairs of Anglo-Jewry. 
If it is not yet altogether true to say with Mr. Gilbert's 
hero that every little Jew or Jewess is born either a Liberal 
or a Conservative, it is at least apparent that these party 
names are acquiring a very real and a somewhat urgent 
significance in that small but influential section of Jewish 
thought which has its seat in this country. The Liberal 
case has been stated with singular lucidity and force in 
Mr. Montefiore's volume ; and if in these pages I attempt 
to state the Conservative point of view, it is partly because 
Mr. Montefiore asks it, and partly, too, because it has fallen 
to me in the business of communal life to defend certain 
views and opinions which I must try to justify to myself. 
The essay need not take the form of a criticism of 
Mr. Montefiore's book. I hardly know if the hospitality 
of this Review would be open to any such work. But 
something will have to be said of the views which that 
book expressed, and it will be convenient to quote them 
in Mr. Montefiore's own words. These do not, as he is at 
pains to remind us, commit any one else at all, either to the 
views themselves, or to the particular shape which he 
gives to them. At the same time, Mr. Montefiore will have 
found a number of people to agree with him, and most of 
them, it is fair to assume, will be willing to accept his lan- 
guage as an adequate expression of their thought. In this 
sense, and without violating Mr. Montefiore's claim to speak 
about " that particular and individualized form of Liberal 



IO THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

Judaism" which he himself happens to hold, Liberal 
Judaism, as he interprets it, may be taken as a definite 
conception corresponding to a definite set of opinions, 
which are shared by a definite section of the community. 

This means a good deal. It means all that is implied, 
in journalistic language, by a "parting of the ways" and 
a " crisis " in affairs. It means that the Jewish community 
of England is dividing itself into two camps, the orthodox 
and reform, or the Conservative and Liberal, or the old 
and the new, for the classification is strangely familiar, and 
the simplest forms of expression are the best. Can the 
old beliefs put on their new clothes ? Can the Jew who 
conscientiously rejects the tradition of the inspiration of 
the Pentateuch attend the same public worship as the Jew 
who conscientiously accepts it ? Nay more, can the same 
name " Jew " continue to include them both ? Or does the 
so-called New Criticism set a bar between Jew and Jew, 
leaving the traditionalists to defend a lost cause and 
a forsaken belief — on the side of the angels, it may be, 
but of angels who have been superannuated — and placing 
the Liberals or Liberationists at the head of a movement of 
reconciliation in which, as precedent ordains, the sword is 
the instrument of peace ? 

To many of us it will seem a pity if no via media is 
found. To many, again, it will seem imperative that no 
via media should be found, for the disputes of theologians 
are beyond the remedy of compromise. But with these 
opinions, and their consequences, the present paper has no 
concern. There will never be wanting the advocates of 
dissension and destruction. There will never be wanting 
those adherents to a creed who find their expression in 
a perpetual protest. Religion has always been the fruitful 
mother of conflict. Perhaps, as the deepest emotion of 
which the human race is competent, it is subject in a 
peculiar degree to the universal law of competition. 
Religion, like teeming earth, feeds on its own decay. It 
recalls to a vivid imagination the slaughterous and parri- 



A CONSERVATIVE VIEW OF JUDAISM II 

cidal habits of the gods in the old Greek myth. Orthodoxy 
produces Protestantism ; Protestantism, Dissent ; each 
devours, or is devoured by, its offspring — the martyrs of 
one generation are the tyrants of the next ; victor and 
victim there must ever be on the road to Zion, as to Eome. 
In any state of society which exists by internecine strife 
certain advantages attach inevitably to the winning side. 
This, again, is in accordance with natural law. Without 
the assured enjoyment of victory's fruits there would be 
no heart in the fighting ; and Protestants in religion have 
this, at least, on their side, that the brightness, the dash, 
the elan, the glamour of audacity and effect, are as 
necessarily and inalienably their perquisite as tail feathers 
adorn the peacock. " They prophesy falsely unto you in 
my name : I have not sent them* saith the Lord of Hosts." 
But against this bare, bald statement of a claim must be 
set the fascination of novelty, and daring, and revolt — 
a fascination which is hardly correctly described and dis- 
missed as meretricious, because it is an actual part of the 
natural process of development, and as such we must reckon 
with it and allow for it. In religious affairs, far more than 
in political, the Conservative case is severely penalized by 
nature. Changes which might frighten men in the conduct 
of the State, changes which might affect their purses, or 
unsettle their homes, or disturb their land-tenure, or other- 
wise touch their material interests, tend to attract them on 
the spiritual side by providing that grandest recipe for 
recreation — variety without responsibility. A certain per- 
sonal trouble is involved in taking a holiday for the body. 
But the soul can enjoy a change of diet, and leave the 
consequences to others. Our spiritual nature, so to speak, 
and so speaking for the majority of mankind, is endowed 
with a vicarious digestion. We sing the psalms, and the 
Church does the rest. Accordingly, if certain Church 
dignitaries come along with a new form of psalm-singing, 
the mere novelty of which is an attraction in itself, many 
of us are quite content to transfer the responsibility as 



12 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

before, and to quicken our spiritual appetite by a change 
of diet and occupation. Then the Protestant leader is 
liable to commit the mistake of little great men, and to 
make an end of his means. The temptation to form a 
new sect, instead of reforming the old, is too often irre- 
sistible. Indeed, it would sometimes seem as if the 
universal church has to await the hour till it can come 
as a unanimous reaction against the multiplication of 
churches and the meticulous diversity of creeds. 

There are signs of this process in the Jewish community, 
and the most dangerous sign of all is the refusal to discuss 
it. Silent change is intolerable because it is so easy. The 
success of the corybantic method, as Huxley described it, 
will be increased tenfold if no sound is heard from without. 
Conservative Judaism must speak out, though it be only 
in self-defence. It cannot see its ranks depleted, and 
refrain from iterating the truth and the faith that are 
within it. The ram's horn should blow as loud a reveille" 
as any which is beaten on a drum. More than this is 
involved in the matter. One hears so frequently to-day that 
this or that feature of Judaism " does not appeal " to some 
seeker after spiritual rest that one tends to forget whose 
after all was the blame. This dispensation by default, 
this irresponsiveness in the worshipper, is not in itself 
a proof that the old creed is outworn. The cry for change 
finds an echo, and some may mistake the sound for an 
answer to their own prayers ; variety, too, is a safe tonic, 
and the satisfaction of the patient is not always a symptom 
of disease. At least, it may fairly be urged that before 
throwing over the old forms some effort should be made 
to discover the secret of their vitality, and to determine 
whether this complaint, this tedium of the synagogue and 
its consecrated usages, is an indication of spiritual strength 
and intellectual awakening, or is merely a by-product of 
the forces of ignorance. There is no more plausible weapon 
in the whole armoury of dialectic than the appeal to 
common sense. Common sense is the grandest demagogue, 



A CONSERVATIVE VIEW OP JUDAISM 13 

yet it is not to be trusted out of sight. The most excellent 
things in life — half its passions, and all its emotions — 
should listen to it, and pass by. The appeal from faith 
to reason, with the intellectual flattery it involves, is more 
often than not an appeal from light to darkness. Oemein- 
sinn is the cleverness of das Gemeine, and in affairs of 
the soul, as in affairs of the heart, common sense degrades, 
not exalts. There is only one thing more flattering than 
the appeal to common sense in a context of this kind, and 
that is the discovery of an unsuspected soul. Orthodox, or 
conservative, Judaism to-day has to counteract both these 
subtle perils. It has to meet the intellectual peril, and 
overthrow it ; it has to take account of the latent spiritual 
longing, and teach it to find satisfaction without prescribing 
invalid's food. In other words, it has to correct two rather 
morbid tendencies, the tendency to an undue respect for 
one's own intellectual doubts, and the tendency to an 
exaggerated care for the nice requirements of one's own 
soul. These tendencies it must show to spring from a 
defect of the intellect and an excess of the spirit. Judaism, 
as a religious system, demands in a high degree the quality 
of intellectual imagination, and it reduces nearly to a 
minimum the spiritual claims of the individual. There is 
no confessional in the synagogue ; salvation is administered 
in big doses ; and, mortifying as this may be to the self- 
esteem of the sickly soul, it yet seems to correspond to such 
imperfect observation as we are privileged to make of the 
Creator's relation to the world which he created for his 
praise. He does not interfere to save any one man among 
us from the consequences of his acts or from the exercise 
of his volition ; and public worship, if it express the homage 
of man to God must, one would think, be satisfied with the 
revelation of God to man. The attempt to establish in the 
synagogue a form of ritual which shall admit a more 
intimate and personal communion between the worshipper 
and the Deity seems to the conservative Jew to contain 
the elements at least of a morbid and a Romanizing inten- 



14 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

tion. It substitutes a private for a public purpose. It 
directly encourages the hysteria of the confessional. It 
eviscerates Judaism, leaving the empty husks of ceremony 
and tradition in the place of the living fruits offered on 
the altar of the sanctuary. And, more than this, it must 
be urged that the condonation of a service, adapted in its 
outward features to the practices of Gentile churches, is in 
itself a betrayal of the racial and religious separatism of 
which the Jews are trustees. 

All this is negation and invective. But something of 
this point of view must be stated at the outset of a Conser- 
vative apologia. The most cherished feelings of the 
conservative Jew are outraged by such hypotheses as the 
following from Mr. Montefiore's volume : — ■ 

" The liberal Jew cannot regard the Law as the centre of 
Jewish belief and practice. If he were founding a public 
service de novo, he would not make the reading of the Law 
its central and most important feature. If he were building 
a synagogue, without reference to past custom, he would 
not put scrolls of the Law into an ark, and make that ark 
the most sacred part of the building. If he had such an 
ark, he would put in it the prophecies of Amos, Hosea, and 
Isaiah, rather than the Pentateuch, for the Prophets are 
more primary and more essential than the Law." 

" The prominent references to the Law in the liturgy can 
easily be given a new and different meaning by ' liberal ' 
worshippers. To them the Law is no longer the Penta- 
teuch, but the Moral Law, before whose majesty all men 
must bow. That is the Law to which they ask God to 
' open their hearts.' That is the Law which they trust 
may 'become pleasant in their mouths.' Or, again, the 
Law is the will of God. That we may know and do God's 
will we ask him to grant us ' understanding and discern- 
ment.' Or the Law is the Hebrew Scripture as a whole, 
which still remains the formal and constituent charter of 
Judaism, and of which we may truly say, ' Blessed art thou, 
O Lord, who hast given it to us.' In these various ways, 
which, because they are freely acknowledged, are not 
sophistic or insincere, we may adapt the language of the 
liturgy to our own beliefs and aspirations." 



A CONSERVATIVE VIEW OP JUDAISM 1 5 

"There are persons who want to maintain the Jewish 
race quite apart from any religious consideration. There 
are some who would even go so far as to speak of the Jews 
as a ' people ' or a ' nation,' and would desire to keep up, as 
they call it, the national idea. Such persons would object 
to intermarriage on purely ' racial ' or ' national ' grounds. 
There are others who combine these grounds with motives 
of religion. There are others, again, who, while by no 
means assenting to the theory that the Jews are a nation, 
have yet a sort of sentimental, unreasoned, atavistic feeling 
of race, and dislike the notion of intermarriage. With all 
these I am in disagreement. If it were not so, I should 
indeed be guilty of a contradiction when I desire the 
'denationalization' of Judaism, and support the counter 
theory of an 'Englishman of the Jewish persuasion.' 
A man can only belong to one nation at a time. But, 
heart and soul an Englishman by nation, one can also be 
heart and soul a Jew by religion. But by religion only. 
The mere race is unimportant ; it has no influence upon 
action." 

The basis of all this reconstruction, this readjustment 
of the spiritual compass to an altered mental horizon, is 
placed in the alleged incompatibility of modem knowledge 
with traditional Judaism. The " higher " criticism of the 
Bible puts a definite stop to the uncritical standards of 
former generations. It is no longer admissible to say, 
"What was true enough for my fathers is true enough 
for me." Reason forbids so pusillanimous a surrender to 
tradition and sentiment. It, proves that Moses never 
wrote the Pentateuch. At the touch of its analysis the 
fabric of the Mosaic Law crumbles into dust. Its new 
Bible is sprinkled with A's and B's and C's, like a kind 
of alphabetical index to its multiple authorship ; and, 
naturally enough, those who use this critical apparatus, 
or those more particularly who use it at second or third 
hand, think that their case is proved when they say, 
"How can we repeat, 'This is the Law which Moses set 
before the children of Israel,' when we know (1) that it is 
not the Law, and (a) that Moses did not promulgate it 1 " 



l6 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

Liberal Judaism concedes these objections, and repairs its 
tenement accordingly. Certain passages of the Pentateuch 
it omits, as wholly inamenable to reason. Certain others it 
modifies in order to adapt them to reason ; and others, again, 
it submits to a fresh interpretation, at the expense more often 
than not of their essential sap. By this process of selection 
and rearrangement it discovers ways round the Law, by 
which to evade or to transform its original obligations, and 
with the simple but ingenious device of stating that " Moral " 
is sous-entendu whenever the Liturgy says " Law,' ' it provides 
a ready escape from inconvenient fetters. But " Moral Law," 
we must all admit, is a phrase peculiarly susceptible of liberal 
interpretation ; and if loyalty to the Jewish race and obser- 
vances of the Jewish religion can be satisfactorily acquitted 
by obedience to the moral law, and if the injunction to obey 
it is recommended by a compliment to the mental powers of 
the rational disciple, then we may close our arks or furnish 
them with tracts on Utilitarianism, and hold up to the 
congregation of Israel the admirable and demonstrable 
truths of Bentham and the younger Mill. 

A pained surprise is sometimes expressed at the outer 
darkness in which we live, who have informed ourselves of 
the latest results of the researches of Biblical criticism, and 
who yet continue to uphold the authority of the Law, and 
to practise the religion of our forbears in the forms which 
it prescribes, as far as they are compatible with the conditions 
of modern life. The answer is that the two things have 
nothing to do with each other. It is the characteristic of 
liturgical language (conservative Judaism replies) to provide 
for emergencies of that kind. Liturgical language never 
pretends to scientific exactness, and when science comes 
along and proves it inexact, it readily admits the charge, 
but claims, as it has always claimed, the quality of a higher 
truth than the truth of scientific demonstration. The problem 
was stated and solved a generation ago, in Matthew Arnold's 
Essay towards a better Apprehension of the Bible. "The 
language of the Bible," he wrote, "is literary, not scientific, 



A CONSERVATIVE VIEW OP JUDAISM 17 

language ; language thrown out at an object of conscious- 
ness not fully grasped, which inspired emotion. Evidently, 
if the object be one not fully to be grasped, and one to 
inspire emotion, the language of figure and feeling -will 
satisfy us better about it, will cover more of what we seek 
to express, than the language of literal fact and science. 
The language of science about it will be below what we feel 
to be the truth." To weigh language of this kind in the 
crucible of science is to apply, as Sir Leslie Stephen puts it, 

" a totally inappropriate test The churches," as Sir Leslie 

continues, not without a touch of irony, "would escape 
a good many difficulties, and apologists a good deal of 
trouble, if they could boldly follow Arnold and say that they 
do not appeal to the reason, but to the imagination " (Studies 
of a Biographer, II, 118). The Jewish Church need not 
hesitate to follow Arnold to this extent. It may go 
further and say that the function of religion is to appeal 
to the imagination, and that a religious system which 
failed to make that appeal, and which could be approved 
unexceptionally by human reason, is a system which omits 
the Unknown. And the Jewish Deity possesses that awful 
attribute of unknowableness. Conservative Judaism prefers, 
in the full exercise of its intelligence, and with eyes and 
ears all open, to leave something to the imagination. It 
uses figurative language consciously — deliberately, one 
might say — and with a keen sense of the added power 
which is thereby lent to expression. In this way even the 
much abused opening verses of Genesis, which the higher 
criticism expunges as wholly unreasonable and unaccept- 
able, and which are omitted, accordingly, from the new 
Revised Version of its sensitive disciples, contain a truth 
and beauty distinct and distinguishable from the truth 
and beauty in their kind of the scientific theory of origins. 

It is no part of my purpose to attempt a defence of the 
imagination, but it is interesting at least to try, in quite 
untechnical language and doubtless very imperfectly, to 
describe what might be called the psychological process of 

VOL. xvi. 



l8 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

belief in the mind of a Jew, to whom the obvious inaccuracy 
of the first chapter of Genesis does not in any wise impair 
its spiritual appeal to his religious emotions. We must 
suppose him standing in the position of the psalmist : — 

" When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, 
the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained ; what is 
man, that thou art mindful of him 1 and the son of man, 
that thou visitest him ? " 

In other words, our Jew — our ideal synagogue-going Jew — 
is in a mood to realize the tremendous vastness of the 
universe, and his own immeasurable insignificance as a unit 
on the face of the world. Yet, oppressed and awestruck as 
he is, he recovers to a certain extent his failing sense of 
self-respect by means of the reflection, which inevitably 
suggests itself, of a purpose and an order which have been 
imposed upon, or are discernible in, the chaos. Light and 
darkness, water and earth, seed and fruit, these display 
a distinctness and regularity which even the infinitesimal 
unit — individual man — can plainly recognize and turn to 
his own uses. His terror is changing, accordingly, to 
a kind of wondering admiration, blent with which is the 
feeling that all this orderly procession on a scale hardly 
conceivable to a finite intelligence is designed for, or has 
led to, the growth of his own importance. Take the 
psalmist's reflection again: — 

" For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, 
and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou 
madest him to have dominion over the works of thy 
hands ; thou hast put all things under his feet : all sheep 
and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field ; the fowl of the 
air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through 
the paths of the seas." 

Note here how inevitable, to use a hackneyed word, is 
the psalmist's expression of his mood. Can any one, 
feeling those emotions, and seeking language to express 
them, speak more truthfully or more beautifully than 



A CONSERVATIVE VIEW OF JUDAISM IQ 

the author of this psalm? "The work of thy fingers" 
is imaginative language, but is it therefore untrue? Is 
it not the nearest approximation which an imperfect 
instrument can fashion to the conception which cries for 
utterance? Can science, learned in all tongues, suggest 
a satisfactory substitute for that thought in that mood'i 
It is the language of prayer, the language of adoring 
gratitude, in which the facts of observation, wherewith 
science is concerned, are transfigured by the light of 
imagination. And that light reveals a higher truth than 
the literal statement of the facts. It utters a truth which 
satisfies at once a more spontaneous, a more universal, 
and a more elevated demand of the mind than mere 
reason ever formulates. In the insoluble problem of the 
destiny of man, in which all speech is faltering, at least it 
reaches the level of what we feel to be the truth, below 
which, as Arnold says, the language of science falls. And, 
so reaching, it proves its own truth by its power to heal 
and to console. It is the expression which was sought for ; 
imagination can essay no higher flight. 

Now, assuming this mood, and using the sole form of 
speech which can even approximately express it, let us try 
to write the story of creation. Does it not necessarily 
fall into the moulds of the first chapter of Genesis? 
First the void, and the Spirit of God moving upon the 
face of the waters. Then the various types of order, 
ascribed by a figure of language, accurately fashioned by 
the aid of the highest human imagination, to the Presiding 
Idea, the designing finger — God. "And God called," "And 
God said," "And God set," "And God created "—surely 
Reason would pull Truth down from her magnificent emi- 
nence if it reformed these symbols in accordance with 
scientific fact. Surely these phrases remain the supreme 
and perfect expression of those facts as grasped by imagi- 
nation, and surely the language of science about them must 
altogether omit their emotional aspect with its claims on 
our adoration and our gratitude. Above all, the glorious 

C 3 



20 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

refrain, "And God saw that it was good," with its crescendo 
burst of music at the end, "And God saw everything 
that he had made, and, behold, it was very good," is an 
inseparable part of any account of creation which shall 
satisfy the emotions and the intellectual imagination of 
mankind. The burden of the universe can only be relieved 
in a religious mood by the fervid statement of the truth, 
the fervid confession of the belief, that what is, is good. 
Art and poetry describe it as the identity of truth with 
beauty ; science cancels it altogether, as irrelevant to 
demonstration ; but religion proclaims it from the first in 
language that carries its own conviction : " In the beginning 
God created the heaven and the earth. . . . And God saw 
everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very 
good." The days, as stages of this work, present no 
difficulty to belief. No one pretends that they are literal ; 
no one disputes their truth on the ground of scientific 
inaccuracy. Facts, after all, are imponderable things, and 
reason is a shifting standard. It changes from year to year, 
from one generation to another. Facts are very far from 
the last word which the intellectual emotions can state to 
spiritual faith. 

Whether the problem be attacked as one of verbal 
inspiration, or as one of the meaning of truth, it is equally 
illiberal, in my opinion, to presume to settle it on the spot. 
Transfer the argument for a moment to the less controversial 
field of classical scholarship. Virgil wrote a line : — 

"Sunt hie etiam sua praemia laudi; 
Sunt lacrimae rerum et mentem mortalia tangunt." 

This verse is rendered by Mr. Frederick Myers : — 

"Tears waken tears, and honour honour brings, 
And mortal hearts are moved by mortal things." 

Sir C. Bowen translates it : — 

"Tears are to human sorrow given, hearts feel for 
mankind." 



A CONSERVATIVE VIEW OP JUDAISM 21 

Wordsworth rewrote it: — 

"Tears to human suffering are due." 

Tennyson echoed it in his apostrophe to Virgil : — 

"Thou majestic in thy sadness at the doubtful doom 
of humankind." 

Dr. Henry, optime de Marone meritus, explains rerum as 
"the world," and writes on the text that it forms " a general 
reflection concerning human sympathy, viz. that tears are 
part of the constitution of nature, and to be met with 
wherever there are men." 

Professor Tyrrell declares that he is " not sure that all its 
meaning has yet been fully unfolded. . . . Surely in this 
famous verse Virgil meant more than Wordsworth in the 
Laodamia . . . Surely these words, which seem full of 
a natural magic, come to us with a diviner air and a 
grander message than this. . . . May not the words, which 
cannot but strike one as fraught with some new and 
exquisite fancy, bear a meaning far more definite, weighty, 
and distinguished? . . . E'en things inanimate (res, the 
material picture) can weep for us, and the works of men's 
hands (mortalia) have their own pathetic power." 

Dr. Mackail, in his brilliant manual on " Latin Litera- 
ture," writes with a touch of mysticism : " In the most 
famous of his single lines he speaks of the 'tears in things'; 
just this sense of tears, this voice that always, in its most 
sustained splendour and in its most ordinary cadences, 
vibrates with a strange pathos, is what finally places him 
alone among artists." 

And so forth, and so forth. For the disputations of 
critics on this verse might be indefinitely quoted. Res 
may be rendered "human sorrow," or "the world," or 
" inanimate things," and Virgil's meaning in the verse may 
be totally different from our own. He may have intended 
a general reflection on the constitution of the universe, or 
a specific comment on Aeneas looking at a picture. But 
the point of the analogy is that the credit in either case is 



22 THE JEWISH QUAETEKLY REVIEW 

Virgil's. In the process of the suns a newer and a deeper 
meaning may have been read into his verse. He remains 
triumphantly its author. He drew it from the well-spring 
of truth ; its truth is his truth for ever. Though he may 
have been inspired with a message the full sense of which 
he did not understand, the verbal inspiration is unassailed. 
Similarly, if the Pentateuch contains verses which later 
ages invest with deeper meaning than they may originally 
have borne, it is still no falsehood to proclaim: "This is 
the Law which Moses set before the children of Israel." 
The hidden meanings which are revealed are also a part 
of inspiration. 

Let me take a homelier analogy to illustrate the problem 
of truth. I may say : " This umbrella was given to me by 
So-and-so in such-and-such a year." The stickler for facts 
comes along, and asks a series of questions. "Has your 
umbrella been re-covered ? " " Yes." " Have you had 
a new stick for it?" "Yes." "And a new frame?" 
"Yes." "And a new ferule?" "Yes." "And a new 
handle?" " Yes." So he writes his alphabetical appendix 
to my simple statement of the truth, and draws up a learned 
scheme of "Umbrella A," "Umbrella B," "Umbrella C," 
"Umbrella AB," and so forth, the while I continue to 
proclaim, with the pertinacity of Wordsworth's simple 
child, and the inconsequence of his boy from Kilve, that 
" This is the umbrella which So-and-so gave to me in the 
year such-and-such." I accept all his facts as true, but 
they do not in the least affect the higher truth of my 
statement, nor do they shake my faith in the essential 
identity of the umbrella, enriched by its traditions and 
associations, with that of the donor whom I name. Simi- 
larly, I may admit without demur the evidences of the 
higher criticism, and yet not relax my belief in the 
sovereign truth of the words: "This is the Law which 
Moses set before the children of Israel." It is a very 
shallow cleverness which confounds the exercise of the 
imagination with the condonation of a lie. 



A CONSERVATIVE VIEW OP JUDAISM 23 

Enough has perhaps been said to show how far from 
conclusive, in the opinion of the conservative Jew, is 
the appeal from faith to reason, or from the spirit to the 
word. One point only should be added, which the higher 
critics tend to overlook, or rather, which is immaterial 
to their argument, and which those who follow them 
do not realize. An inspired text is not necessarily a text 
which is inspired in every word. Conservative Judaism, 
I venture to think, is much more moderate than its 
opponents. It recognizes at least three elements in the 
inspired text, as we receive it. First, the message ; next, 
the interpreter ; lastly, the audience. The Deity chose 
human agents to communicate his will, and something 
doubtless was lost in this first process of transmission. 
Further, the transmitting agent had to make his com- 
munication to a heterogeneous audience, and that second 
process of removal from the original Voice involved a fresh 
adaptation of the message. The Pentateuchal formula is 
commonly: "And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 
Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them." 
Now, taking the thing quite literally, it is obvious that 
in any attempt to repeat to a large mixed class the words 
of a supreme authority, a certain admixture must take 
place. There is not only the mind of the transmitter, but 
the mind of the receivers to be considered. Each will 
colour the message on its way ; and there will be in the 
resultant text the element of Moses and the element of 
the children of Israel, as well as the original code. The 
recognition of this fact, which indeed, is nowhere disguised, 
by no means detracts from the inspiration of the Penta- 
teuch ; but it does, I venture to think, tone down the 
asperity of the dogma, as Mr. Montefiore states it on p. 95 : 
" The truth is that liberal Judaism has ceased to be 
a legal religion. In a legal religion the central feature is 
a belief in a perfect and God-given code, all the enact- 
ments of which must be scrupulously obeyed and fulfilled. 
Orthodox Judaism still declares that this belief, with 



24 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

all its implications, constitutes an essential dogma of the 
faith." 

Personally, though I do not pretend to obey every 
injunction in the code, it seems to me far more reasonable 
to take them as they stand, and to fulfil them, than to cry 
out that Judaism has ceased to be a legal religion because 
the "higher" critics have discovered by a roundabout way 
what the author of the Pentateuch states in every chapter 
of his work, that the Law was removed from the Legislator 
by a double process of transmission. It is not the business 
of the "higher" critics to point out the limitation of their 
arguments, but it is the business of Judaism to make sure 
how far the proof of contamination affects the claim to 
inspiration. On all grounds alike, I venture to think, 
the claim to inspiration can defend itself, without taking 
recourse to the noli me tangere of mere obstinate orthodoxy. 
By the substitution of imagination for reason, as the properer 
canon of judgment, by the recognition that the contents of 
expression are not exhausted by the intelligence of any one 
generation, by the perception of a substantial truth behind 
the shadowy appearances of facts, and by the humble 
realization of the Deity of Exodus xxxiii. 30 : " Thou canst 
not see my face, for there shall no man see me, and live " — 
in this spirit Biblical criticism may be greeted as a welcome 
guest in the mansion of Jewish faith. It will increase 
understanding where it dwells, and not disturb the peace 
of the household ; it cannot abuse the hospitality which it 
receives, for the utmost resources of its art do not touch 
the fringes of belief. It is not knowledge which is to 
be feared, but the inferences that ignorance may draw 
from it. 

There is little to be added to this survey. But this at 
least should be apparent, however imperfectly shown, that 
the conservative Jew will be far better equipped to meet 
attacks on his belief and temptations to apostasy than his 
liberal brother. The liberal Jew of Mr. Montefiore's book 



A CONSERVATIVE VIEW OF JUDAISM 25 

is everlastingly apologizing for himself. On p. 126, "he 
will not refuse to obey a law, or regard its public obser- 
vance as undesirable, merely because it is a ceremonial 
law, or merely because he can no longer believe that it 
was divinely revealed to Moses by God. Its observance 
may still be desirable from different motives." On p. 155 
he registers the general reflection that " it is impossible to 
create festivals to order. One must use those which exist, 
and charge them, where necessary, with newer meanings " ; 
and "providentially," he concludes, on p. 166, "the Sabbath 
and the Festivals, the Day of Memorial and the Day of 
Atonement — these can all remain. We can still use them 
fitly for religious and spiritual ends." To a reverent mind 
this kind of reconstruction is most objectionable. It 
suggests that Judaism is a bankrupt concern, with certain 
fixtures and furniture, which go with the lease of the 
premises, and that these must be taken over by the new 
tenant, pending, as Mr. Montefiore writes, on p. 133, 
"a modification of the Synagogue structure." The con- 
servative Jew, on the contrary, is happily reduced to no 
such humiliating makeshifts. He does not even subscribe 
to the ipse dixit of the liberal Jew : " We go to Synagogue 
not to hear a recital of laws or stories, but primarily to 
pray " (p. 133). The primary object of public worship, he 
would venture to maintain, is to rivet the links which bind 
the congregation together, and which bind together the 
congregations of Israel No link can ever be forged out 
of the personal prayers of individual members which shall 
resist, as Israel has resisted, the persecution of the centuries. 
Synagogue is a place for prayer, as is every other place— 
the open field or the bed-chamber — where man attunes his 
mind to communion with God. But Synagogue is first 
and foremost the place of public worship, a holy meeting- 
place and resting-place for the scattered congregations of 
the Jews. There they assemble to use, to display, and to 
assert their last common possession of religion, with the aid 
of a book of common prayer. Certain expressions in that 



26 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

book may or may not appeal to this or that member of the 
congregation. His feeling, however, may be disregarded, 
for the fault most probably lies in his own imperfect 
realization of the purpose which the Synagogue fulfils. 
Most probably he misses the sanction in history or tradition 
which attaches to the usage; and the remedy should first 
be sought in a careful study of the Prayer-book. Even so, 
it is inevitable that the forms of public worship will not 
exactly correspond to the needs of the individual soul. 
Public worship is bound in a certain degree to be crys- 
tallized by sentiment and made rigid by convention. Its 
" atmosphere," to use a stock phrase, is necessarily different 
from that of personal prayer, and any experiment which 
aims at a coalescence of the two must end in destroying 
the purpose for which the Synagogue exists. 

The thrill and the glamour remain. The force which, 
as Mr. Montefiore writes, draws a number of non-observant 
Jews to Synagogue once a year, on the Day of Atonement, 
is not, I venture to believe, to be explained and contemned, 
as he contemns it. Their attendance does not prove that 
"they are silly enough to think that by this annual rite 
they may ward off some of the consequences of misspent 
lives and evil deeds" (p. 163). This is a harsh saying, 
which entirely misdescribes the lives and deeds of many 
who are faithful to the annual rite, and to no other Jewish 
ceremonial. The true explanation, it seems to me, is in the 
magnetic attraction of traditional Judaism. On some it 
acts more powerfully than on others, but the framers of the 
ancient ordinances of the Jews wrought more surely than 
they knew. The bonds by which they ri vetted a rebellious 
people to the Law prove their strength by this phenomenon. 
Once a year at least even indifferent witnesses come to the 
congregation of Israel, and claim their place with the rest. 
Once a year at least they testify to the living Law, and are 
drawn within its fold by the force that is in it. Would 
a Day of Atonement, stripped of its tradition and cere- 
monial, denuded of its historical associations, make anything 



A CONSERVATIVE VIEW OP JUDAISM 27 

like the same appeal ? Mr. Montefiore writes : " The modern 
Day of Atonement is purely spiritual. It is true that most 
Jews still fast for twenty-four hours, but no one ascribes 
any efficacy to the fast. It is an old custom, which does 
no particular harm, and is an exercise in self-control. It 
has some disciplinal and ascetic value. . . . The fast is, 
however, a minor and subsidiary feature. In every other 
respect the day has only to do with fundamental religious 
ideas, with the conceptions of sin, repentance, reconciliation, 
and atonement. Such a day is absolutely fitted and useful 
for every human soul" (p. 163). But Judaism, before it 
concerns itself with the requirements of the human soul, is 
concerned with the public expression of religious belief. 
The fast is very much more than " an old custom which 
does no harm." The fast is the outward sign, the symbol 
of a common worship ; its roots are set in human nature 
itself. It acts as the trumpet-call of the Synagogue, to 
draw the congregation together. Atonement is not fasting, 
for the greater does not contain the less ; but a public 
system of religion, as distinguished from private con- 
fessionals, would hardly survive its foundation if it neg- 
lected men's bodies in providing for their souls. It was 
the weakness of mediaeval Judaism, when transported to 
modern surroundings, to care for the body overmuch, to 
forget the Law in its symbols. Against this, the Protestant 
movement in England, of 1842, was a healthy reaction; 
but a new movement of Dissent, which would abolish the 
symbols altogether, or relegate them at least to a more 
subsidiary place, and pack away the ark in the lumber- 
room, is a very different thing. To put it at its highest, 
it trusts too much to unassisted spiritual needs. 

If I were preaching a sermon, for which I have neither 
the wish nor the right, the question of discipline in religion 
would require to be discussed. If this were a treatise on 
ethnology, it would consider the problem of race, and from 
both points of view a strong case could be made out for 
conservative Judaism. But my object in writing this 



28 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

paper has been at once more modest and more difficult. 
I have been trying to show how the forms of public 
worship, as practised by the majority of Jews, may still 
retain their hold on Jews who do not ignore the results of 
Biblical criticism. One can speak only for oneself in 
a context of this kind, and personally, at least, I feel 
no sense of insincerity, no impulse to set myself right with 
the critics outside, when I repeat the consecrated formula, 
with all that it implies: "This is the Law which Moses 
set before the children of Israel." When I echo Solomon's 
prayer — surely the most perfect expression of the longing 
of the human soul — " What prayer or supplication soever 
be made by any man, or by all thy people Israel, which 
shall know every man the plague of his own heart, and 
spread forth his hands towards this house ; then hear thou 
in heaven thy dwelling-place, and forgive, and do, and 
give to every man according to his ways, whose heart thou 
knowest" — I deliberately prefer, on spiritual grounds, to 
preserve the "environment" of Solomon, who "built an 
house for the name of the Lord God of Israel," and " set 
there a place for the ark, wherein is the covenant of 
the Lord, which he made with our fathers, when he brought 
them out of the land of Egypt" (i Kings viii. 30-31). 
All this to the conservative Jew is not merely true, but 
vital. It helps to make a difference between his public 
and his private worship. It has the essence of commonalty ; 
it is a part of the constitution of Israel, it transcends the 
life of individuals, and passes into the possession of the 
race which cannot fail. Granting a share of comparative 
sanity to these views, the practice of the Jewish religion 
gains enormously by holding them. Warmth, romance, 
and imagination ; immediateness and directness ; tradition 
sentiment, and association : these qualities which appeal to 
children, and to the eternal child in man, are added at 
once to the colder lights of a "purely spiritual" faith. 
The object-lessons of belief are added to the abstract 
teachings of morality. And for the searchings of reason, 



A CONSERVATIVE VIEW OF JUDAISM 29 

with which human curiosity concerns itself, surely the 
whole philosophy of conduct is contained in a verse of 
Deuteronomy : — 

"The secret things are for the Lord our God; but the 
revealed things are for us, and for our children, for ever, 
that we may perform all the words of this Law." 

Laueie Magnus.