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Loaned to the 









S. SCHECHTER, M.A., Litt.D. 

The Jewish Publication Society of America 






Copyright, 1896, 

Set up and electrotyped. Published April, 1896. Reprinted 
July, 1905; June, 191 x. 

Nortsool! iPre00 

J. B. Cashing Co. — Berwick & Smith Co. 

Norwood, Mass., U.S.A. 








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

In the transliteration of Hebrew names y I have given the 

familiar English forms of the authorised version. As 

regards post-Biblical nameSy I have with few exceptions 

followed Zedner's Catalogue of the Hebrew Books in the 

Library of the British Museum. A Hebrew word will be 

found here and there in the text ; I have purposely avoided 

bewildering devices for representing the actual sound of the 

wordy contenting myself with the ordinary Roman alphabety 

in spite of its shortcomings. 



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

S. S. 

Cambridge, February 1896. 



Introduction xi 

1. The Chassidim i 

2. Nachman Krochmal and the "Perplexities of the 

Time" 46 

3. Rabbi Elijah Wilna, Gaon 73 

4. Nachmanides 99 

5. A Jewish Boswell 142 

6. The Dogmas of Judaism 147 

7. The History of Jewish Tradition . . . .182 

8. The Doctrine of Divine Retribution in Rabbinical 

Literature 213 

9. The Law and Recent Criticism 233 

10. The Hebrew Collection of the British Museum . 252 

11. Titles of Jewish Books 270 

12. The Child in Jewish Literature 282 

13. Woman in Temple and Synagogue . . • .313 

14. The Earliest Jewish Community in Europe • . 326 

Notes 341 

Index 361 



The essays published in this volume under the title of 
Studies in Judaism have been written on various occasions 
and at long intervals. There is thus no necessary con- 
nection between them. If some sort of unity may be de- 
tected in the book, it can only be between the first three 
essays — on the Chassidim, Krochmal, and the Gaon — in 
which there is a certain unity of purpose. The purpose in 
view was, as may easily be gathered from the essays them- 
selves, to bring under the notice of the English public 
a type of men produced by the Synagogue of the Eastern 
Jews. That Synagogue is widely different from ours. Its 
places of worship have no claims to " beauty of holiness," 
being in their outward appearance rather bare and bald, 
if tfot repulsive; whilst those who frequent them are a 
noisy, excitable people, who actually dance on the " Sea- 
son of Rejoicing" and cry bitterly on the "Days of 
Mourning." But among all these vagaries — or perhaps 
because of them — this Synagogue has had its moments 
of grace, when enthusiasm wedded to inspiration gave 
birth to such beautiful souls as Baalshem, such fine scep- 
tics as Krochmal, and such saintly scholars as Elijah 
Wilna. The Synagogue of the West is certainly of a 
more presentable character, and free from excesses; 
though it is not devoid of an enthusiasm of its own which 


finds its outlet in an ardent and self-sacrificing philan- 
thropic activity. But owing to its practical tendency 
there is too little room in it for that play of intellectual 
forces which finds its extravagant expression in the saint 
on the one hand, and the learned heretic on the other. 

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

Some years ago when the waves of the Higher Criticism 
of the Old Testament reached the shores of this country, 
and such questions as the heterogeneous composition of 
the Pentateuch, the comparatively late date of the Leviti- 
cal Legislation, and the post-exilic origin of certain Prophe- 
cies as well as of the Psalms began to be freely discussed 
by the press and even in the pulpit, the invidious remark 
was often made : What will now become of Judaism when 
its last stronghold, the Law, is being shaken to its very 
foundations 1 

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

As a fact, the emergency did not quite surprise Judaism. 
The alarm signal was given some 150 years ago by an 



Italian Rabbi, Abiad Sar Shalom Bazilai, in his pamphlet 
The Faith of the Sages. The pamphlet is, as the title 
indicates, of a polemical character, reviewing the work 
of the Jewish rationalistic schools ; and after warming up 
in his attacks against their heterodox views, Bazilai ex- 
claims : " Nature and simple meaning, they are our mis- 
fortune." By "nature and simple meaning" Bazilai, who 
wrote in Hebrew, understood what we would call Natural 
Science and Philology. With the right instinct of faith, 
Bazilai hit on the real sore points. For though he mostly 
argues against the philosophical systems of Aristotle and 
his commentators, he felt that it is not speculation that 
will ever seriously endanger religion. There is hardly any 
metaphysical system, old or new, which has not in course 
of time been adapted by able dialecticians to the creed 
which they happened to hold. In our own time we have 
seen the glorious, though not entirely novel spectacle, of 
Agnosticism itself becoming the rightful handmaid of 
Queen Theology. The real danger lies in "nature" (or 
Natural Science) with its stern demand of law and regu- 
larity in all phenomena, and in the "simple meaning" 
(or Philology) with its inconsiderate insistence on truth. 
Of the two, the "simple meaning" is the more objection- 
able. Not only is it very often at variance with Tradition, 
which has its own code of interpretation, but it is con- 
stantly increasing the difficulties raised by science. For 
if words could only have more than one meaning, there 
would be no objection to reading the first words of Gene- 
sis, " In a beginning God evolved!' The difficulties of 
science would then be disposed of easily enough. Mai- 
monides, who was as bold an interpreter as he was a deep 
metaphysician, hinted plainly enough that were he as con- 


vinced of the eternity of matter as he was satisfied of the 
impossibility of any corporeal quality in the deity, he 
would feel as little compunction in explaining (figuratively) 
the contents of the first chapter of Genesis as he did in 
allegorising the anthropomorphic passages of the Bible. 
Thus in the end all the difficulties resolve themselves into 
the one great difficulty of the "simple meaning." The 
best way to meet this difficulty was found to be to shift 
the centre of gravity in Judaism and to place it in the 
secondary meaning, thus making religion independent of 
philology and all its dangerous consequences. 

This shifting work was chiefly done, perhaps not quite 
consciously, by the historical school which followed upon 
that of Mendelssohn and his first successors. The his- 
torical school, which is still in the ascendant, comprises 
many of the best Jewish writers who either by their 
learning or by their ecclesiastical profession as Rabbis 
and preachers in great communities have acquired some 
important position among their brethren. The men who 
have inaugurated this movement were Krochmal (1785- 
1841), Rapoport (i 790-1 867), and Zunz (i 794-1 886). 

It is not a mere coincidence that the first representa- 
tives of the historical school were also the first Jewish 
scholars who proved themselves more or less ready to 
join the modern school of Bible Criticism, and even to 
contribute their share to it. The first two, Krochmal 
and Rapoport, early in the second quarter of this century 
accepted and defended the modern view about a second 
Isaiah, the post-exilic origin of many Psalms, and the late 
date of Ecclesiastes ; whilst Zunz, who began (in 1832) 
with denying the authenticity of Ezekiel, concluded his 
literary career (1873) with a study on the Bible (Gesant- 


melte Schriften, i. pp. 217-290), in which he expressed 
his view ** that the Book of Leviticus dates from a later 
period than the Book of Deuteronomy, later even than 
Ezekiel, having been composed during the age of the 
Second Temple, when there already existed a well-estab- 
lished priesthood which superintended the sacrificial wor- 
ship." But when Revelation or the Written Word is 
reduced to the level of history, there is no difficulty in 
elevating history in its aspect of Tradition to the rank of 
Scripture, for both have then the same human or divine 
origin (according to the student's predilection for the one 
or the other adjective), and emanate from the same 
authority. Tradition becomes thus the means whereby 
the modern divine seeks to compensate himself for the 
loss of the Bible, and the theological balance is to the 
satisfaction of all parties happily readjusted. 

Jewish Tradition, or, as it is commonly called, the Oral 
Law, or, as we may term it (in consideration of its claims 
to represent an interpretation of the Bible), the Second- 
ary Meaning of the Scriptures, is mainly embodied in the 
works of the Rabbis and their subsequent followers dur- 
ing the Middle Ages. Hence the zeal and energy with 
which the historical school applied itself to the Jewish 
post-biblical literature, not only elucidating its texts by 
means of new critical editions, dictionaries, and commen- 
taries, but also trying to trace its origins and to pursue 
its history through its gradual development. To the work 
of Krochmal in this direction a special essay is devoted 
in this volume. The labours of Rapoport are more of a 
biographical and bibliographical nature, being occupied 
mostly with the minor details in the lives and writings of 
various famous Jewish Rabbis in the Middle Ages ; thus 


they offer but little opportunity for general theological 
comment. Of more importance in this respect are the 
hints thrown out in his various works by Zunz, who was 
just as emphatic in asserting the claims of Tradition as 
he was advanced in his views on Bible criticism. Zunz's 
greatest work is Die Gottesdienstlichen Vortrdge — an awk- 
ward title, which in fact means " The History of the Inter- 
pretation of the Scriptures as forming a part of the divine 
service." Now if a work displaying such wide learning 
and critical acumen, and written in such an impartial spirit 
can be said to have a bias, it was towards bridging over 
the seemingly wide gap between the Written Word (the 
Scriptures) and the Spoken Word (the Oral Law or Tra- 
dition), which was the more deeply felt, as most of Zunz's 
older contemporaries were men, grown up in the habits 
of thought of the eighteenth century — a century distin- 
guished both for its ignorance of, and its power of ignor- 
ing, the teachings of history. Indeed it would seem that 
ages employed in making history have no time for study- 
ing it. 

Zunz accomplished the task he set himself, by showing, 
as already indicated, the late date of certain portions of 
the Bible, which by setting the early history of Israel in 
an ideal light betray the moralising tendency of their 
authors, and are, in fact, little more than a traditional 
interpretation of older portions of Scripture, adapted to 
the religious needs of the time. Placing thus the origin 
of Tradition in the Bible itself, it was a comparatively 
easy matter for Zunz to prove its further continuity. 
Prophecy and Interpretation are with him the natural 
expressions of the religious life of the nation ; and though 
by the loss of Israel's political independence the voice of 

INTR OD ucriON X vii 

the prophets gradually died away, the voice of God was 
still heard. Israel continues to consult God through the 
medium of the Scriptures, and He answers His people by 
the mouth of the Scribes, the Sages, the Interpreters of 
the Law ; whilst the liturgy of the Synagogue, springing 
up at the time when Psalms were still being composed, 
expands in its later stages through the work of the Poets 
of the Synagogue into such a rich luxuriance "that it 
forms in itself a treasure of history, poetry, philosophy; 
and prophecy and psalms are again revived in the hym- 
nology of the Middle Ages." This is in brief the lesson 
to be learned from Zunz's Gottesdienstliche Vortrdge as far 
as it deals with the significance of Tradition ; and it is in 
the introduction to this work that Zunz expresses himself 
to the following effect : Indispensable is the free Spoken 
Word. Mankind has acquired all its ideal treasures only 
by Word of Mouth ; an education continuing through all 
stages of life. In Israel, too, the Word of Instruction 
transmitted from mouth to mouth was never silenced. 

The historical school has never, to my knowledge, offered 
to the world a theological programme of its own. By the 
nature of its task, its labours are mostly conducted in the 
field of philology and archaeology, and it pays but little 
attention to purely dogmatic questions. On the whole, its 
attitude towards religion may be defined as an enlightened 
Scepticism combined with a staunch conservatism which 
is not even wholly devoid of a certain mystical touch. 
As far as we may gather from vague remarks and hints 
thrown out now and then, its theological position may 
perhaps be thus defined : — It is not the mere revealed 
Bible that is of first importance to the Jew, but the Bible 
as it repeats itself in history, in other words, as it is 


interpreted by Tradition. The Talmud, that wonderful 
mine of religious ideas from which it would be just as 
easy to draw up a manual for the most orthodox as to 
extract a vade-mecum for the most sceptical, lends some 
countenance to this view by certain controversial passages 
— not to be taken seriously — in v/hich " the words of the 
scribes " are placed almost above the words of the Torah. 
Since then the interpretation of Scripture or the Second- 
ary Meaning is mainly a product of changing historical 
influences, it follows that the centre of authority is actu- 
ally removed from the Bible and placed in some living 
bocfyy which, by reason of its being in touch with the ideal 
aspirations and the religious needs of the age, is best able 
to determine the nature of the Secondary Meaning. This 
living body, however, is not represented by any section of 
the nation, or any corporate priesthood, or Rabbihood, but 
by the collective conscience of Catholic Israel as embodied 
in the Universal Synagogue. The Synagogue "with its 
long, continuous cry after God for more than twenty-three 
centuries," with its unremittent activity in teaching and 
developing the word of God, v/ith its uninterrupted suc- 
cession of prophets. Psalmists, Scribes, Assideans, Rab- 
bis, Patriarchs, Interpreters, Elucidators, Eminences, and 
Teachers, with its glorious record of Saints, martyrs, 
sages, philosophers, scholars, and mystics; this Syna- 
gogue, the only true witness to the past, and forming in 
all ages the sublimest expression of Israel's religious life, 
must also retain its authority as the sole true guide for 
the present and the future. And being in communion 
with this Synagogue, we may also look hopefully for 
a safe and rational solution of our present theological 
troubles. For was it not the Synagogue which even in 


antiquity determined the fate of Scripture ? On the one 
hand, for example, books like Ezekiel, the Song of Songs, 
and Ecclesiastes, were only declared to be Holy Writ 
in virtue of the interpretation put upon them by the 
Rabbis : and, on the other hand, it was the veto of the 
Rabbis which excluded from the canon the works that 
now pass under the name of Apocrypha. We may, there- 
fore, safely trust that the Synagogue will again assert its 
divine right in passing judgment upon the Bible when it 
feels called upon to exercise that holy office. It is " God 
who has chosen the Torah, and Moses His servant, and 
Israel His people." But indeed God's choice invariably 
coincides with the wishes of Israel; He "performeth all 
things " upon which the councils of Israel, meeting under 
promise of the Divine presence and communion, have pre- 
viously agreed. As the Talmud somewhere expresses 
itself with regard to the Book of Esther, "They have 
confirmed above what Israel has accepted below." 

Another consequence of this conception of Tradition is 
that it is neither Scripture nor primitive Judaism, but gen- 
eral custom which forms the real rule of practice. Holy 
Writ as well as history, Zunz tells us, teaches that the law 
of Moses was never fully and absolutely put in practice. 
Liberty was always given to the great teachers of every 
generation to make modifications and innovations in har- 
mony with the spirit of existing institutions. Hence a 
return to Mosaism would be illegal, pernicious, and indeed 
impossible. The norm as well as the sanction of Judaism 
is the practice actually in vogue. Its consecration is the 
consecration of general use, — or, in other words, of Cath- 
olic Israel. It was probably with a view to this com- 
munion that the later mystics introduced a short prayer to 



be said before the performance of any religious ceremony, 
in which, among other things, the speaker professes his 
readiness to act "in the name of all Israel." 

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

In this connection, a mere mention may suffice of the 
ultra-Orthodox party, led by the late Dr. S. R. Hirsch of 
Frankfort (i 808-1 889) whose defiance of reason and criti- 
cism even a Ward might have envied, and whose saintli- 
ness and * sublimity even a Keble might have admired. 
And, to take an example from the opposite school, we 
must at least record the name of that devout Jew, Osias 
Schorr (18 16-1895), in whom we have profound learning 
combined with an uncompromising disposition of mind 
productive of a typical champion of Radicalism in things 
religious. These men are, however, representative of two 
extremes, and their followers constitute mere minorities ; 
the majority is with the historical school. 

How long the position of this school will prove tenable 
is another question. Being brought up in the old Low 
Synagogue, where, with all attachment to tradition, the 
Bible was looked upon as the crown and the climax of 
Judaism, the old Adam still asserts itself in me, and in 



unguarded moments makes me rebel against this new 
rival of revelation in the shape of history. At times this 
now fashionable exaltation of Tradition at the expense of 
Scripture even impresses me as a sort of religious bimetal- 
lism in which bold speculators in theology try to keep up 
the market value of an inferior currency by denouncing 
loudly the bright shining gold which, they would have us 
believe, is less fitted to circulate in the vulgar use of daily 
life than the small cash of historical interpretation. Nor 
can I quite reconcile myself to this alliance of religion 
with history, which seems to me both unworthy and un- 
natural. The Jew, some writer aptly remarked, was the 
first and the fiercest Nonconformist of the East, and so 
Judaism was always a protesting religion. To break the 
idols, whether of the past or of the present, has always 
been a sacred mission of Judaism, and has indeed been 
esteemed by it as a necessary preliminary to the advent 
of the kingdom of God on earth. One of its daily prayers 
was and still is: "We therefore hope in Thee, O Lord 
our God, that we may speedily behold the glory of Thy 
might, when . . . the idols will be cut off, when the world 
will be perfected under the kingdom of the Almighty." 
It bowed before truth, but it had never made a covenant 
with facts only because they were facts. History had to 
be re -made and to sanctify itself before it found its way 
into its sacred annals. Nor did Judaism make a virtue of 
swallowing down institutions. Such institutions as crept 
into it in course of time had, when the Synagogue was 
conscious of their claims to form part of religion, to sub- 
mit to the laborious process of a thorough adaptation to 
prophetic notions before they were formally sanctioned. 
But when this process was deemed impossible or impracti 


cable, Judaism boldly denounced the past in such fierce 
language as the prophets used and as still finds its echo 
in such passages of the liturgy as "First our ancestors 
were worshippers of idols and now God has brought us 
near to His service " ; or *' But of a truth, we and our an- 
cestors have sinned." 

However, it would be unfair to argue any further 
against a theological system which, as already said, was 
never avowed distinctly by the historical school — a 
school, moreover, with which speculation is a matter of 
minor importance. The main strength of this school lies 
in its scientific work, for which Judaism will always be 
under a sense of deep gratitude. And living as we do in 
an age in which history reigns supreme in all departments 
of human thought, we may hope that even its theology, 
as far as it goes, will " do " for us, though I neither hope 
nor believe that it will do for those who come after us. I 
may, however, humbly confess that the sixth essay in this 
volume was written in a spirit of rebellion against this all- 
absorbing Catholic Israel, with its decently veiled scepti- 
cism on the one hand, and its unfortunate tendency with 
many people to degenerate into a soulless conformity on 
the other hand. There is, I am afraid, not much to be 
said in favour of this essay. It is deficient both in matter 
and in style. It proved to be a futile attempt to bring 
within the compass of an essay what a whole book could 
hardly do justice to. The Hebrew documents bearing 
upon the question of dogma which I have collected from 
various manuscripts and rare printed books, would alone 
make a fair-sized volume. I only venture to offer it to 
the public in the absence of anything better ; since, so far 
as I know, no other attempt has ever been made to treat 


the subject even in its meagrest outlines. I even venture 
to hope that, with all its shortcomings, it will contribute 
something towards destroying the illusion, in which so 
many theologians indulge, that Judaism is a religion with- 
out dogmas. To declare that a religion has no dogmas is 
tantamount to saying that it was wise enough not to com- 
mit itself to any vital principles. But prudence, useful as 
it may be in worldly affairs, is quite unworthy of a great 
spiritual power. 

Jewish mysticism in the Middle Ages and in modem 
times is represented in this volume by two essays (" The 
Chassidim" and " Nachmanides "). But in order to avoid 
mistakes which might be implied by my silence, I think it 
desirable to state that there are also to be found many 
mystical elements in the old Rabbinic literature. Mysti- 
cism, not as a theosophic system or as an occult science, but 
as a manifestation of the spiritual and as an expression of 
man's agonies in his struggle after communion with God, 
as well as of his ineffable joy when he receives the assur- 
ance that he has found it, is not, as some maintain, foreign 
to the spirit of old Rabbinic Judaism. There was no need 
for the mediaeval Rabbi to borrow the elements of such a 
mysticism from non-Jewish sources. The perusal of the 
old Homilies on the Song of Songs, and on the Lessons 
from the Prophets, or even a fair acquaintance with the 
Jewish liturgy would, in itself, suffice to refute such base- 
less assertions. Those who are at all familiar with old 
Rabbinic literature hardly need to be told that " the sea of 
the Talmud " has also its gulf stream of mysticism which, 
taking its origin in the moralising portions of the Bible, 
runs through the wide ocean of Jewish thought, con- 
stantly commingling with the icy waters of legalism, and 


unceasingly washing the desolate shores of an apparently 
meaningless ceremonialism, communicating to it life, 
warmth, and spirituality. To draw attention to this fact a 
humble attempt has been made in the ninth essay, "The 
Law and Recent Criticism," a subject which I have essayed 
to expound in a series of essays on " Some Aspects of 
Rabbinic Theology," now appearing in The Jewish Quar- 
terly Review. 

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

But I shall be better pleased if the more serious side of 
this volume — Jewish mysticism and Rabbinic theology — 
should attract the attention of students, and so draw some 
fellow-workers into a field which is utterly neglected. 
Notwithstanding the numerous Manuals and Introductions 
which all more or less touch on the subject of Rabbinic 
theology, there is, after nearly 250 years, not a single work 
among them which, either in knowledge of facts or in 
their interpretation, is a single step in advance of the 
Cambridge Platonist, John Smith, in his Select Discourses. 
But those who try so hard to determine the miraculous 
distance of Christianity by the eclipses in Rabbinism, 
should, if they wish to be just or prove themselves worthy 
scholars, also endeavour to make themselves acquainted 
with the numberless bright stars that move in the wide uni- 
verse of Jewish thought. We are often told that no creed 
or theological system which has come down to us from 
antiquity can afford to be judged by any other standard 


than by its spiritual and poetic possibilities : this indul- 
gence Judaism is as justly entitled to claim as any other 
religion. The great and saintly Franz Delitzsch who, born 
with an intellect of admirable temper, was also endowed 
by Heaven with a soul — and a beautiful soul it was — 
was one of the few theologians who, partly at least, ad- 
mitted this claim, and sought earnestly and diligently after 
these spiritual and poetic possibilities, and was amply re- 
warded for his labours. 


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

The Hebrew word " Chassidim " ^ merely means " the 
Pious," and appears to have been complacently adopted 
by the early apostles of the sect. But the thing — Chas- 
sidism — was, in its inception at all events, a revolt among 
the Jews of Eastern Europe against the excessive casu- 
istry of the contemporary Rabbis. It was in fact one 
more manifestation of the yearning of the human heart 
towards the Divine idea, and of its ceaseless craving for 
direct communion with God. It was the protest of an 
emotional but uneducated people against a one-sided 
expression of Judaism, presented to them in cold and 
over-subtle disquisitions which not only did they not 
understand, but which shut out the play of the feelings 


and the affections, so that religion was made almost 
impossible to them. 

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

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

As to my treatment of the subject, I confess that there 
was a time when I loved the Chassidim as there was a 
time when I hated them. And even now I am not able 
to suppress these feelings. I have rather tried to guide 
my feelings in such a way as to love in Chassidism what 
is ideal and noble, and to hate in it what turned out bad 
and pernicious for Judaism. How far I have been suc- 
cessful is another question. At least I have endeavoured 
to write this paper in such a spirit. But of one thing I 


must warn the reader — the desire to give some clear 
notion of the leading ideas of Chassidism has compelled 
me to quote some passages in which the Chassidim have 
spoken in very offensive terms of their opponents. In 
justice to these I must remark that unfortunately religious 
struggles are usually conducted on the most irreligious 
principles. Thus the Chassidim imputed to their antago- 
nists, the contemporary Rabbis, many vices from which 
they were free. Certainly, there was, as one can read in 
every history of Jewish religion, something wrong in the 
state of Judaism. But I know people who maintain that 
there is something very wrong in the present state of 
Judaism, and who despair of a regeneration. But surely 
this is a silly exaggeration. The Chassidim also exag- 
gerated. It would be better to take but little notice of 
their accusations and dwell more on that which was 
spoken in a kind and loving spirit. 

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

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

The founder of the sect was one Israel Baalshem,^ and 
the story of his parentage, birth, and childhood, and the 
current anecdotes of his subsequent career play a con- 
siderable part in Chassidic literature. But the authentic 


materials for his biography are everywhere interwoven 
with much that is pure legend and with much more that 
is miraculous. This was, perhaps, inevitable, and is cer- 
tainly not an unfamiliar feature in the personal histories 
of religious reformers as presented by their followers and 

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

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

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


to give evidence of an indifference to conventional re- 
straints and accepted ideals. 

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

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

As Eliezer had been greatly honoured in the community 
in which he lived, his orphan son was carefully tended 
and educated. He was early supplied with an instructor 
in the Holy Law. But though he learned with rare facil- 
ity, he rejected the customary methods of instruction. 
One day, while still quite young, his teacher missed him, 


and on seeking found him sitting alone in the forest that 
skirted his native village, in happy and fearless solitude. 
He repeated this escapade so often that it was thought 
best to leave him to follow his own bent. A little later 
we find him engaged as assistant to a schoolmaster. 
His duty was not to teach, but to take the children from 
their homes to the synagogue and thence on to the school. 
It was his wont while accompanying the children to the 
synagogue to teach them solemn hymns which he sang 
with them. In the synagogue he encouraged them to 
sing the responses, so that the voices of the children 
penetrated through the heavens and moved the Divine 
father to compassion. Satan, fearing lest his power on 
earth should thereby be diminished, assumed the shape 
of a werewolf, and, appearing before the procession of 
children on their way to the synagogue, put them to 
flight. In consequence of this alarming incident the chil- 
dren's services were suspended. But Israel, recollecting 
his father's counsel to fear naught, besought the parents 
to be allowed to lead the children once more in the old 
way. His request was granted, and when the werewolf 
appeared a second time Israel attacked him with a club 
and routed him. 

In his fourteenth year Israel became a beadle at the 
Beth Hammidrash.* Here he assiduously but secretly 
pursued the study of the Law. Yet, being anxious that 
none should know his design, he read and worked only 
at night, when the schoolroom was empty and the usual 
scholars had retired. During the daytime he slept, so 
that he was popularly believed to be both ignorant and 
lazy. Despite these precautions, however, his true 
character was revealed to one person. A certain holy 


man, the father of a young student at the college, had 
discovered some old manuscripts which contained the 
deepest secrets. Before his death he bade his son repair 
to Ukop, Israel's birthplace, telling him that he would 
find one Israel, son of Eliezer, to whom the precious 
documents were to be entrusted. They possessed, so the 
old man declared, a certain mystic and heavenly affinity 
with Israel's soul. The student carried out his father's 
instructions, and at last discovered the object of his 
search in the beadle of the Beth Hammidrash. Israel 
admitted him to his friendship and confidence on the 
condition of secrecy as to his real character. The student, 
however, paid dearly for this acquaintance with Israel. 
Contrary to Baalshem's advice, he entered upon a danger- 
ous incantation in the course of which he made a mistake 
so serious that it cost him his life. 

Upon the death of his friend, Baalshem left his native 
village and settled as a teacher in a small town near 
Brody. Here, although his true mission and character 
were still unknown, he became much respected for his 
rigid probity, and was frequently chosen as umpire in 
disputes among Jews. On one of these occasions he 
arbitrated with so much learning and impartiality that 
not only did he satisfy both parties, but one of them, 
a learned man of Brody, named Abraham, offered him 
his own daughter in marriage. Israel, to whom it had 
been revealed that Abraham's daughter was his predes- 
tined wife, immediately accepted the offer and the act of 
betrothal was drawn up. But wishing his true character to 
remain unknown he stipulated that Abraham, although a 
"Talmid Chacham " (student)^ himself and therefore pre- 
sumably desirous that his daughter should marry a scholar, 


should omit from the betrothal-deed all the titles of honour 
usually appended to the name of a learned bridegroom. 
While returning to Brody, Abraham died, and Gershon 
his son, a scholar still greater and more celebrated than 
his father, was surprised and shocked to find a deed of 
betrothal among his father's papers, from which it appeared 
that his sister was to wed a man with apparently no claim 
to scholarship or learning. He protested to his sister, 
but she declined to entertain any objections to a marriage 
which her father had arranged. When the time for the 
wedding was at hand, Israel gave up his post as teacher, 
and repaired to Brody. Disguised as a peasant he pre- 
sented himself before his future brother-in-law, who was 
then fulfilling some high judicial function. Gershon taking 
him for a beggar offered him alms, but Israel, refusing 
the money, asked for a private interview, stating that he 
had an important secret to reveal. He then, to Gershon's 
surprise and disgust, explained who he was and that he 
had come to claim his bride. As the girl was determined 
to obey her father's will the affair was settled and the day 
fixed. On the morning of the wedding Israel revealed to 
his bride his real character and mission, at the same time 
enjoining secrecy. Evil fortunes would befall them, he 
said, but a better time would eventually follow. 

After the wedding, Gershon, having in vain attempted 
to instruct his seemingly ignorant brother-in-law, decided 
to rid himself of his presence. He gave his sister the 
choice of being separated from her husband, or of leaving 
the town in his company. She chose the latter, and there- 
upon the two left Brody and began a life of hardship and 
suffering. Israel chose for his new home a spot on one 
of the spurs of the Carpathian Mountains. No Jews lived 


there, and Israel and his wife were thus separated from 
the society of their fellows in a life of complete and un- 
changing solitude. Israel dug lime in the ravines among 
the mountains, and his wife conveyed it for sale to the 
nearest town. Their life at this period seems to have 
been one of great privation, but the harder Israel's out- 
ward lot, the more he increased in spiritual greatness. In 
his solitude he gave himself up entirely to devotion and 
religious contemplation. His habit was to climb to the 
summit of the mountains and wander about rapt in spirit- 
ual ecstasies. He fasted, prayed, made continual ablu- 
tions, and observed all the customary outward and inward 
exercises of piety and devotion. 

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

From this point unfortunately the materials for a con- 
tinuous biography are wanting ; we next hear of Baalshem 
discharging the functions of an ordinary Rabbi at Mied- 
ziboz in Podolia, but for the remainder of his personal 
history we have to be content with detached anecdotes 


and fragmentary passages in his life, the sum total of 
which goes to show that he resided in Podolia and Walla- 
chia, teaching his doctrines to his disciples and " working 
Wonders." He does not seem to have figured as a public 
preacher, nor has he left behind him any written work. 
He appears rather to have used the method, familiar to 
students of Greek philosophy, of teaching by conversa- 
tions with his friends and disciples. These conversations, 
and the parables with which they were largely inter- 
spersed, were remembered and stored up by his hearers. 
By his neighbours the country folk, Baalshem was re- 
garded simply as "a man of God." He was allowed to 
pursue his course undisturbed by persecution of the 
serious character which his more aggressive successors 
provoked. Such of the Rabbis as were aware of his 
existence despised him and his ways, but the Rabbini- 
cal world was at that time too much occupied in the 
controversy between Eybeschiitz and Emden to concern 
itself with the vagaries of an obscure and apparently 
" unlearned " eccentric. Baalshem also took part in the 
disputes which were held in Lemberg, the capital of 
Galicia (1757?), between the Rabbis and the Frankists,^ 
who denounced the Talmud to the Polish Government 
and wanted to have all the Rabbinical books destroyed. 
Baalshem suffered from this excitement in a most terri- 
ble way. The abrogation of the Oral Law meant for 
him the ruin of Judaism. 

Baalshem, in forming the little band of devoted fol- 
lowers who were destined to spread a knowledge of his 
creed, travelled considerably about Wallachia. He at 
one time decided to make a pilgrimage to Palestine, but 
when he reached Constantinople he felt himself inspired 


to return and continue his work at home. He died at 
Miedziboz on the eve of Pentecost, 1761. 

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

Returning now to Baalshem the founder, it may be 
noted that his appearance as a teacher and reformer was 
accompanied and justified by a customary and adequate 
number of miracles. To one disciple he revealed secrets 
which could have become known to him only by divine 
revelation ; to another he appeared with a nimbus round 
his head. On the evidence of the Chassidim we learn 
that Baalshem performed all the recognised signs and 
marvels which have ever been the customary minor char- 
acteristics of men of similar type in similar environment. 
When Baalshem desired to cross a stream, he spread 
forth his mantle upon the waters, and standing there- 
upon passed safely to the other side. Ghosts evacuated 
haunted houses at the mere mention of his name. Was 
he alone in the forest on a wintry night, he had but to 
touch a tree with his finger tips and flames burst forth. 
When his spirit wandered through the angelic spheres, as 
was frequently the case, he obtained access to Paradise 
for millions of pining souls who had vainly waited with- 
out through long thousands of mournful years. These 
and other miracles need not be examined. Here, as in the 
case of other such blissful seasons of grace, they were the 


ephemeral though important accessories in establishing 
the inspired character of his utterances and the authority 
of his injunctions. It is not as a worker of miracles, but 
as a religious teacher and reformer, that Baalshem is 

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

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

Destroyed lies Zion and profaned, 
Of splendour and renown bereft, 
Her ancient glories wholly waned, 
One deathless treasure only left; 

Still ours, O Lord, 

Thy Holy Word. 

And this Divine Word it was, which a persecuted relig- 
ion has sought to preserve intact through so many cen- 
turies of persecution, and for the sake of which no labour 
seemed too severe, no sacrifice too large. " Bethink 
Thee, O God," exclaimed one of our Jewish sages who 
flourished about the same period, " bethink Thee of Thy 
faithful children who, amid their poverty and want, are 
busy in the study of Thy Law. Bethink Thee of the 
poor in Israel who are willing to suffer hunger and desti- 
tution if only they can secure for their children the know- 
ledge of Thy Law." And so indeed it was. Old and 



young, weak and strong, rich and poor, all pursued that 
single study, the Torah. The product of this prolonged 
study is that gigantic literature which, as a long unbroken 
chain of spiritual activity, connects together the various 
periods of the Jews' chequered and eventful history. All 
ages and all lands have contributed to the develop- 
ment of this supreme study. For under the word Torah 
was comprised not only the Law, but also the contri- 
butions of later times expressing either the thoughts or 
the emotions of holy and sincere men ; and even their 
honest scepticism was not entirely excluded. As in the 
canon of the Bible, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon 
found place in the same volume that contains the Law 
and the Prophets, so at a later time people did not object 
to put the philosophical works of Maimonides and the 
songs of Judah Hallevi on the same level with the Code 
of the Law compiled by R. Isaac Alfasi, and the com- 
mentaries on the Bible by R. Solomon b. Isaac.^ None 
of them was declared infallible, but also to none of them, 
as soon as people were convinced of the author's sin- 
cerity, was denied the homage due to seekers after truth. 
Almost every author was called Rabbi ("my master") 
or Rabbenu (" our master "),^ and nearly every book was 
regarded more or less as a contribution to the great bulk 
of the Torah. It was called Writ,^ and was treated with 
a certain kind of piety. But, by a series of accidents too 
long to be related here, sincerity ceased and sport took 
its place. I refer to the casuistic schools commonly 
known by the name of Pilpulists^^ (the " seasoned " or the 
" sharp " ones), who flourished in the last two centuries 
preceding ours. To the authors of this unhappy period, 
a few glorious exceptions always allowed, the preceding 


Jewish literature did not mean a "fountain of living 
waters," supplying men with truth and religious inspira- 
tion, but rather a kind of armoury providing them with 
juristic cases over which to fight, and to out-do each other 
in sophistry and subtlety. As a consequence they cared 
little or nothing for that part of the Jewish literature that 
appeals less to the intellect than to the feelings of men. 
In short, religion consisted only of complicated cases and 
innumerable ordinances, in which the wit of these men 
found delight. But the emotional part of it, whose root is 
the Faith and Love of men, was almost entirely neglected. 

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

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



provinces; in the wild ravines of Wallachia and the 
dreary steppes of the Ukraine." 

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

In the above estimate of the Polish Rabbis there 
undoubtedly lurks a touch of exaggeration. But it rep- 
resents the view which the Chassidim took of their oppo- 
nents. The whole life of Baalshem is a protest against 
the typical Rabbi thus conceived. The essential differ- 
ence in the ideals of the two parties is perhaps best illus- 
trated in those portions of their biographical literature 
where legend treads most closely upon the heels of fact, 


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

The hero of the Chassidim has a totally different educa- 
tion, and his distinctive glory is of another kind. The 
legendary stories about Baalshem's youth tell us little of 
his proficiency in Talmudic studies ; instead of sitting in 
the Beth Hammidrash with the folios of some casuistic 
treatise spread out before him, Baalshem passes his time 
singing hymns out of doors, or under the green trees of 
the forest with the children. Satan, however, says the 
Chassid, is more afraid of these innocent exercises than 
of all the controversies in the Meheram Shiff.^^ It was 
through external nature, the woods of his childhood, the 
hills and wild ravines of the Carpathians where he passed 
many of his maturer years, that Baalshem, according to 
his disciples, reached his spiritual confirmation. The 
Chassidic hero had no celebrated Rabbi for his master. 
He was his own teacher. If not self-taught, it was from 
angelic lips, or even the Divine voice itself, that he learned 
the higher knowledge. From the source whence the 
Torah flowed Baalshem received heavenly lore. His 
method of self-education, his ways of life, his choice of as- 
sociates were all instances of revolt ; not only did he teach 
a wholly different theory and practice, but he and his dis- 
ciples seem to have missed no opportunity of denouncing 
the old teachers as misleading and ungodly. Among the 
many anecdotes illustrating this feature, it is told how 
once, on the evening before the great Day of Atonement, 



Baalshem was noticed by his disciples to be, contrary to 
his usual custom, depressed and ill at ease. The whole 
subsequent day he passed in violent weeping and lamen- 
tations. At its close he once more resumed his wonted 
cheerfulness of manner. When asked for the explanation 
of his behaviour, he replied that the Holy Spirit had re- 
vealed to him that heavy accusations were being made 
against the Jewish people, and a heavy punishment had 
been ordained upon them. The anger of heaven was 
caused by the Rabbis, whose sole occupation was to invent 
lying premisses and to draw from them false conclusions. 
All the truly wise Rabbis of the olden time (such as the 
Tannaim, the Amoraim ^ and their followers, whom Baal- 
shem regarded as so many saints and prophets) had now 
stood forth as the accusers of their modern successors by 
whom their words were so grossly perverted from their origi- 
nal meaning. On this account Baalshem's tears had been 
shed, and his prayers as usual had been successful. The 
impending judgment was annulled. On another occasion, 
when he overheard the sounds of eager, loud discussion 
issuing from a Rabbinical college, Baalshem, closing his 
ears with his hands, declared that it was such disputants 
who delayed the redemption of Israel from captivity. 
Satan, he said, incites the Rabbis to study those portions 
of Jewish literature only on which they can whet the sharp- 
ness of their intellects, but from all writings of which the 
reading would promote piety and the fear of God he 
keeps them away. "Where there is much study," says 
a disciple of Baalshem, "there is little piety." "Jewish 
Devils "^^ is one of the numerous polite epithets applied 
to the Rabbis by the friends of Baalshem. "Even the 
worst sinners are better than they; so blind are they in 


the arrogance of their self-conceit that their very devotion 
to the Law becomes a vehicle for their sin." It will be 
found when we deal with the most positive side of Baal- 
shem's teaching that this antagonism to the attitude and 
methods of the contemporary Rabbis is further empha- 
sised, and it will readily be seen that his whole scheme 
of religion and of conduct in relation to God and man 
rendered this acknowledged hostility inevitable. In ap- 
proaching this part of our subject it should be remembered 
that, as stated above, Baalshem himself wrote nothing. 
For a knowledge of his sayings we are therefore depend- 
ent on the reports of his friends and disciples. And it is 
not unfrequently necessary to supplement these by the 
teaching of his followers, whom we may suppose in large 
measure to have caught the spirit of their master. Un- 
fortunately the original authorities are in a difficult He- 
brew patois which often obscures the precise meaning of 
whole passages. 

The originality of Baalshem's teaching has been fre- 
quently impugned, chiefly by the suggestion that he drew 
largely from the Zohar (Book of Brightness).^* This 
mystical book, "the Bible of the Cabbalists," whether we 
regard its subject-matter or its history and influence, is 
unique in literature. Its pretended author is Simeon ben 
Yochai, a great Rabbi of the second century, but the real 
writer is probably one Moses de Leon, a Spanish Jew, who 
lived eleven centuries later. The book is one of the most 
interesting literary forgeries, and is a marvellous mixture 
of good and evil. A passage of delicate religious fancy 
is succeeded by another of gross obscenity in illustration 
and suggestion ; true piety and wild blasphemy are 
Strangely mingled together. Baalshem undoubtedly had 



studied the Zohar, and he even is reported to have said 
that the reading of the Zohar had enabled him to see into 
the whole universe of things. But, for all that, Baalshem 
was no copyist; and the Zohar, although it may have 
suggested a hint to him here and there, was not the source 
whence his inspiration was drawn. 

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

Although there can be no real doubt of Baalshem's 
claim to originality, it should be borne in mind that his 
teaching is not only distinctively Jewish, but that for 
every part of it parallels and analogies could be found 
in the older Hebrew literature. Indeed it is not wonder- 
ful that in a literature, extending over 2000 years, of a 
people whose chief thoughts have been religion, and 
who have come in contact with so many external relig- 
ipus and philosophic influences, the germs can be dis- 


covered of almost every conceivable system, and the 
outline of almost every imaginable doctrine. 

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

All created things and every product of human intel- 
ligence owe their being to God. All generation and all 
existence spring from the thought and will of God. It 
is incumbent upon man to believe that all things are 
pervaded by the divine life, and when he speaks he 
should remember that it is this divine life which is 
speaking through him. There is nothing which is void 
of God. If we imagine for a moment such a thing to 
be, it would instantly fall into nothingness. In every 
human thought God is present. If the thought be 
gross or evil, we should seek to raise and ennoble it by 
carrying it back to its origin. So, if a man be suddenly 
overwhelmed by the aspect of a beautiful woman, he 
should remember that this splendour of beauty is owing 
to the all-pervading emanation from the divine. When 
he remembers that the source of corporeal beauty is 
God, he will not be content to let his thought abide 
with the body when he can rise to the inward contem- 
plation of the infinite soul of beauty, which is God. A 
disciple of Baalshem has said: Even as in the jewels 



of his beloved the lover sees only the beauty of her he 
loves, so does the true lover of God see in all the ap- 
pearances of this world, the vitalising and generative 
power of his divine master. If you do not see the 
world in the light of God you separate the creation 
from its Creator. He who does not fully believe in 
this universality of God's presence has never properly 
acknowledged God's Sovereignty, for he excludes God 
from an existing portion of the actual world. The word 
of God (to Baalshem, a synonym for God himself), which 
" is settled in heaven " and " established on earth," 
is still and always speaking, acting, and generating 
throughout heaven and earth in endless gradations and 
varieties. If the vitalising word were to cease, chaos 
would come again. The belief in a single creation after 
which the Master withdrew from his completed work, is 
erroneous and heretical. The vivifying power is never 
withdrawn from the world which it animates. Creation 
is continuous; an unending manifestation of the good- 
ness of God. All things are an affluence from the two 
divine attributes of Power and Love, which express 
themselves in various images and reflections. 

This is the doctrine of universality in Chassidism. God, 
the father of Israel, God the Merciful, God the All-power- 
ful, the God of Love, not only created everything but is 
embodied in everything. The necessity of believing this 
doctrine is the cardinal Dogma. But as creation is con- 
tinuous so also is revelation. This revelation is only to be 
grasped by faith. Faith, therefore, is more efficacious 
than learning. Thus it is that in times of persecution, the 
wise and the foolish, the sinner and the saint, are wont 
alike to give up their life for their faith. They who could 


render no answer to the questions of the casuist are yet 
willing to die the most cruel of deaths rather than deny 
their faith in the One and Supreme God. Their strength 
to face danger and death is owing to that divine illumina- 
tion of the soul which is more exalted than knowledge. 

We should thus regard all things in the light of so 
many manifestations of the Divinity. God is present in 
all things ; therefore there is good, actual or potential, in 
all things. It is our duty everywhere to seek out and to 
honour the good, and not to arrogate to ourselves the 
right to judge that which may seem to be evil. In think- 
ing therefore of a fellow-man, we should above all things 
realise in him the presence of the spirit of good. Whence 
we have the Doctrine that each of us, while thinking 
humbly of himself, should alway be ready to think well, 
and alway slow to think evil, of another. This explains 
the Chassidic attitude towards erring humanity/' Baalshem 
viewed human sin and infirmity in a very different light 
from that of the ordinary Rabbi. Ever conscious of the 
Divine side of Humanity, he vigorously combated the 
gratuitous assumption of sinfulness in man which was 
a fertile subject with contemporary preachers. They, 
among the Roumanian Jews as in other communities, 
delighted chiefly to dwell on the dark side of things, and 
found their favourite theme in elaborate descriptions of 
the infernal punishments that were awaiting the sinner 
after death. It is related how on one occasion Baalshem 
rebuked one of these. The preacher had been denouncing 
woe to an audience of whom he knew nothing whether for 
evil or for good. Baalshem, indignant at this indiscrimina- 
tive abuse and conceited arrogation of the divine office of 
judgment, turned on him in the following words : *' Woe 


upon thee who darest to speak evil of Israel ! Dost not 
know that every Jew, when he utters ever so short a 
prayer at the close of day, is performing a great work 
before which the angels in heaven bow down ? " Great, 
as it would seem, was the value set by Baalshem upon the 
smallest evidence of the higher nature in man, and few 
there were, as he believed, who, if their spirit was not 
darkened by pride, did not now and again give proof of 
the divine stamp in which God had created them. No sin 
so separates us from God that we need despair of return. 
From every rung of the moral ladder, no matter how low, 
let man seek God. If he but fully believe that nothing is 
void of God, and that God is concealed in the midst of 
apparent ruin and degradation, he will not fear lest God 
be far from him. God is regained in a moment of repent- 
ance, for repentance " transcends the limits of space and 
time." And he who leads the sinner to repentance causes 
a divine joy ; it is as though a king's son had been in cap- 
tivity and were now brought back to his father's gaze. 

Baalshem refused to regard any one as wholly irredeem- 
able. His was an optimistic faith. God was to be 
praised in gladness by the dwellers in this glorious world. 
The true believer, recognising the reflection of God in 
every man, should hopefully strive, when that reflection 
was obscured by sin, to restore the likeness of God in man. 
The peculiar detestability of sin lies in this, that man 
rejects the earthly manifestations of the Divinity and 
pollutes them. One of Baalshem's disciples delighted in 
the saying that the most hardened sinners were not to be 
despaired of, but prayed for. None knows the heart of 
man, and none should judge his neighbour. Let him who 
bums with zeal for God's sake, exercise his zeal on him- 


self, not others. Baalshem said, " Let no one think him- 
self better than his neighbour, for all serve God; each 
according to the measure of understanding which God 
has given him." 

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

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



But his love for the king has its reward; for the king 
loves him. 

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

This incident is perhaps the more noteworthy because 
it occurred in Brody, which was at that time a seat of 
learning and Rabbinic culture, — a place where, for that 
very reason, Chassidism was never able to gain a foothold. 
It is probable enough that Baalshem in his visits to this 
town kept aloof from the learned and the wise, and sought 
to gather round him the neglected and humbler elements 
of Jewish society. It is well known that Baalshem con- 
sorted a good deal with the innkeepers of the district, who 
were held in very low repute among their brethren. The 


following remark by one of his followers is very sug- 
gestive in this respect. Just as only superficial minds 
attach a certain holiness to special places, whilst with 
the deeper ones all places are alike holy, so that to them 
it makes no difference whether prayers be said in the 
synagogue or in the forest; so the latter believe that not 
only prophecies and visions come from heaven, but that 
every utterance of man, if properly understood, contains 
a message of God. Those who are absorbed in God will 
easily find the divine element in everything which they 
hear, even though the speaker himself be quite ignorant 
of it. 

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



with women, assigning to them not only social equality, 
but a high degree of religious importance. 

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

Above I have endeavoured to throw together in some 
order of sequence the doctrines and practical rules of con- 
duct which Baalshem and his early disciples seem to have 
deduced from their central idea of the omnipresence of 
God. This was necessary in order to give a connected 
idea of their creed, but it is right to say that nowhere in 
Chassidic literature have these deductions been logically 
co-ordinated. Perhaps their solitary attempt to formulate 
and condense their distinctive views is confined to a state- 
ment of their idea of piety or service of God, and an exam- 
ination of three cardinal virtues. Humility, Cheerfulness, 


and Enthusiasm. What the Chassidim held as to true 
service brings into relief Baalshem's characteristic manner 
of regarding the Law. 

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

Upon the continual and uninterrupted study of the 
Law, Baalshem lays but little stress. He accepted the 
ordinary belief that the Law (under which term are 
included not only the Pentateuch, but the whole Old Tes- 
tament and the major portion of the old Rabbinic litera- 
ture) was a revelation of God. But, as the world itself is 
equally a divine revelation, the Torah becomes little more 
than a part of a larger whole. To understand it aright 
one needs to penetrate to the inward reality — to the infi- 



nite light which is revealed in it. We should study the 
Law not as we study a science for the sake of acquiring 
knowledge (he who studies it so has in truth been con- 
cerning himself with its mere outward form), but we 
should learn from it the true service of God. Thus the 
study of the law is no end in itself. It is studied because, 
as the word of God, God is more easily discerned and 
absorbed in this revelation of Him than in any other. 
The Torah is eternal, but its explanation is to be made by 
the spiritual leaders of Judaism. It is to be interpreted 
by them in accordance with the Attribute of the age. 
For he regarded the world as governed in every age by a 
different Attribute of God — one age by the Attribute of 
Love, another by that of Power, a third again, by Beauty, 
and so on — and the explanation of the Torah must be 
brought into agreement with it. The object of the whole 
Torah is that man should become a Torah himself. Every 
man being a Torah in himself, said a disciple of Baalshem, 
has got not only his Abraham and Moses, but also his 
Balaam and Haman : he should try to expel the Balaam 
and develop the Abraham within him. Every action of 
man should be a pure manifestation of God. 

The reason why we should do what the Law commands 
is not to gain grace thereby in the eyes of God, but to 
learn how to love God and to be united to Him. The 
important thing is not how many separate injunctions are 
obeyed, but how and in what spirit we obey them. The 
object of fulfilling these various ordinances is to put one- 
self, as it were, on the same plane with God, and thus, in 
the ordinary phrase of the religious mystic, to become one 
with Him, or to be absorbed in Him. People should get 
to know, says Baalshem, what the unity of God really 


means. To attain a part of this indivisible unity is to 
attain the whole. The Torah and all its ordinances are 
from God. If I therefore fulfil but one commandment in 
and through the love of God, it is as though I have ful- 
filled them all. 
^OSE liave now briefly to refer to the three virtues to which 
the Chassidim assigned the highest place of honour. Of 
these the first is called in Hebrew " Shiphluth," ^^ and is 
best rendered by our word " Humility," but in Chassidic 
usage it includes the ideas of modesty, considerateness, 
and sympathy. The prominence given to these qualities 
is in sharp contrast to the faults of conceit, vanity, and 
self-satisfaction, against which Baalshem was never weary 
of protesting. He regarded these as the most seductive 
of all forms of sin. But a few minutes before his death 
he was heard to murmur, " O vanity, vanity ! even in this 
hour of death thou darest to approach me with thy temp- 
tations : * Bethink thee, Israel, what a grand funeral pro- 
cession will be thine because thou hast been so wise and 
good.' O vanity, vanity ! beshrew thee." " It should be 
indifferent to man," says the master, "whether he be 
praised or blamed, loved or hated, reputed to be the wisest 
of mankind or the greatest of fools. The test of the real 
service of God is that it leaves behind it the feeling of 
humility. If a man after prayer be conscious of the least 
pride or self-satisfaction, if he think, for instance, that he 
has earned a reward by the ardour of his spiritual exer- 
cises, then let him know that he has prayed not to God 
but to himself. And what is this but disguised idolatry ? 
Before you can find God you must lose yourself." The 
Chassidim treated Shiphluth from two sides: a negative 
side in thinking humbly of oneself, a positive in thinking 



highly of one's neighbour, in other words the love for our 

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

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

The reader will be prepared to learn that Baalshem, 
taking this cheerful view of things, was opposed to every 
kind of asceticism. Judaism, or rather Israelitism, it is 
true, was not originally much of an ascetic religion. But 
there can be little doubt that in the course of history there 
came in many ascetic doctrines and practices, quite enough 
at least to encourage such tender souls the bent of whose 
minds lay in this direction. To one of these, a former 
disciple, Baalshem wrote : " I hear that you think yourself 


compelled from religious motives to enter upon a course 
of fasts and penances. My soul is outraged at your deter- 
mination. By the counsel of God I order you to abandon 
such dangerous practices, which are but the outcome of a 
disordered brain. Is it not written * Thou shalt not hide 
thyself from thine own flesh } ' Fast then no more than 
is prescribed. Follow my command and God shall be 
with you." On another occasion Baalshem was heard to 
observe that it is a machination of Satan to drive us into 
a condition of gloom and despondency in which the small- 
est error is regarded as a deadly sin. Satan's object is to 
keep us away from the true service of God, and God can 
only be truly served from a happy and confident disposi- 
tion. Anxious scrupulosity in details is therefore to be 
avoided. It is the counsel of the Devil to persuade us 
that we never have done and shall never do our duty 
fully, and that moral progress is impossible. Such ideas 
beget melancholy and despair, which are of evil. 

The third virtue is called in the Hebrew Chassidic 
literature " Hithlahabuth," ^^ and is derived from a verb 
meaning "to kindle" or "set on fire." The substantive 
" Hithlahabuth," so far as I am aware, was first coined by 
Baalshem's followers. It is best rendered by our word 
" Enthusiasm." Every religious action, to be of any 
avail, must be done with enthusiasm. A mere mechanical 
and lifeless performance of an ordinance is valueless. A 
man is no step nearer the goal if he thinks, forsooth, that 
he has done his duty when he has gone through the whole 
round of laws in every section of the code. This essential 
enthusiasm is only begotten of Love. The service of 
fear, if not wholly useless, is yet necessarily accompanied 
by a certain repulsion and heaviness, which effectually 


prevent the rush and ardour of enthusiasm. The inspira- 
tion of true service is its own end. There is no thought 
of this world, and there is none of the world to come^ 
In the Talmud there is frequent reference to one Rabbi 
Elisha ben Abuyah, an apostate from Judaism, who, when 
urged to repent, replied that repentance was useless, and 
that for this mournful belief he had direct divine authority. 
For he had been told by a voice from heaven that even 
though he repented he would be excluded from sharing ' 
the happiness of the world to come. Of him it was said by 
one of the Chassidim, " This man indeed missed a golden 
opportunity. How purely could he have served God, know- \ 
ing that for his service there could never be a reward ! '* j 

From the conception of Enthusiasm springs the quality 
of mobility, suggesting spiritual progress, and commonly 
opposed by Baalshem and his followers to the dull re- ^^ 
ligious stagnation of self-satisfied contemporaries. Man 
should not imagine himself to have attained the level of 
the righteous ; let him rather regard himself as a penitent 
who should make progress every day. Always to remain 
on the same religious plane, merely repeating to-day the 
religious routine of yesterday, is not true service. There 
must be a daily advance^ in the knowledge and love of the 
Divine Master. Mere freedom from active sin is not 
sufficient ; such negative virtue may be but another word 
for the chance absence of temptation. What boots it 
never to have committed a sin if sin lies concealed in the 
heart? It is only the uninterrupted communion with 
God which will raise and ennoble your thoughts and *^ 
designs, and cause the roots of sin to die. The patriarch 
Abraham, without any command from God, fulfilled the 
whole Torah, because he perceived that the Law was the 


life of all created things. In the Messianic age the law 
will no longer seem to man as something ordained for him 
from without; but the law will be within the hearts of 
men ; it will seem natural and self-evident to them, 
because they will realise that God and life are manifested 
through the law. 

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

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

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


Above we have reviewed the essential doctrines of 
Baalshem and his immediate followers ; we have now to 
see how they fared at the hands of the sect which he 
founded. This is a sad part of our task, for the sub- 
sequent history of Chassidism is almost entirely a record 
of decay. As formulated by its founder the new creed 
amounted to a genuine Reformation, pure and lofty in 
ideal. After his death unhappily it was rapidly corrupted 
and perverted. This was due alm.ost exclusively to the 
dangerous and exaggerated development of a single point 
in his teaching. That point, the honour due to the 
divine in man, was relatively a minor article in the original 
creed. But the later Chassidism has given it a distorted 
and almost exclusive importance wholly out of proportion 
to the grander and more essential features of Baalshem's 
teaching, until the distinctive feature of the Chassidism 
of to-day is an almost idolatrous service of their living 
leaders. What little there is to say of the history of the 
sect after Baalshem's death would be unintelligible with- 
out some explanation of the origin and growth of this 
unfortunate perversion. 

It has been explained that Baalshem laid but little stress 
upon the study of the Law or the observance of its pre- 
cepts in themselves, but regarded them only as means to 
an end. The end is union with God. Man has to discover 
the presence of God in the Divine word and will. Now 
this mystical service of God, although perhaps sufficing to 
sensitive and enthusiastic natures, is scarcely plain or defi- 
nite enough for ordinary men. Few can realise abstrac- 
tions : and yet fewer can delight in them and find in their 
contemplation sufficient nurture for their religious needs. 
What then had Chassidism to offer to the ordinary major- 


ity who coiild not recognise God in all the plenitude of 
His disguise ? The want of something tangible whereon to 
fix the minds of the people, which has confronted the 
teachers of so many creeds, was also encountered by the 
Chassidim, and they unfortunately found their way out of 
the difficulty by relying on and developing their doctrine 
of man's position in the Universe. Man's ideal is to be a 
law himself ; himself a clear and full manifestation of God. 
Now, not only is he God's servant and child, but in high- 
est development he becomes himself a part of God, albeit 
in human shape, so that he may become wholly one with 
his divine Father. But if man may reach this highest 
level of holiness, he is virtually a kind of God-man, whom 
his fellow-men of lower levels perceive by reason of his 
manhood, but his essential office consists in raising them 
up to God by reason of his Divinity. 

The few chosen spirits who through the successful per- 
sistency with which they have sought God in all things have 
become, though yet on earth, absorbed in Him, are known 
in Chassidic literature by the name of the "Zaddikim." 
The Hebrew word Zaddik ^^ means "just" or "righteous," 
and the term was probably chosen in conscious opposition 
to the title of Rabbinic heroes, "disciples of the wise." 
For the Zaddik is not so much the product of learning 
as of intuition : his final consummation is reached by a 
sudden and direct illumination from God. The Zaddik 
not only resembles Moses, but, in virtue of his long 
communion with the Divine, he is also the true child of 
God. He is, moreover, a vivifying power in creation, 
for he is the connecting bond between God and his 
creatures. He is the source of blessing and the fount 
of grace. Man must therefore learn to love the Zaddik, 


SO that through the Zaddik he may win God's grace. 
He who does not believe in the Zaddik is an apostate 
from God. Here then we have the fatal exaggeration 
to which I have alluded, and here its logical conse- 
quence. The step to man-worship is short. 

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

Whether Baalshem named his successor is doubtful. 
But the lead after his death was assumed by his disciple 
Beer of Mizriez. This man's conversion to Chassidism 
was an important event for the new community ; his piety 
and learning were beyond dispute, and, whereas during 
Baalshem's life Chassidism had found its chief adherents 
among the lower classes of society, Beer managed to 
gather round him many of the most learned among his 
contemporaries. It was to these new and ardent disciples 
of Beer that the expansion of Chassidism was chiefly due. 
They came together from many quarters, and after Beer's 
death separated and preached the new doctrine far and 
wide. Many even went forth during the lifetime of their 
master, and at his command, to found fresh branches of 
the new sect. Like Beer himself, they directed their ef- 


forts mainly to winning over the educated sections of 
the Jews. The elder men paid little heed to their word, 
but the youths, just fresh from their casuistic studies, 
which had sharpened their wits and starved their souls, 
lent a ready ear and an eager heart to the new doc- 
trine. The uneducated were by no means excluded; to 
them Chassidism held out a deeper consolation and a 
grander hope than the current Rabbinism of the age; 
they therefore joined the young community in large num- 
bers without any special effort being necessary to gain 
them over. 

In their methods of Prayer the Chassidim most conspic- 
uously differed from the older communities. Laying as 
they did supreme stress on the importance and efficacy of 
prayer, they soon found it necessary to secede from the ex- 
isting synagogues and erect separate buildings for them- 
selves. The usual salaried Reader "with the beautiful 
voice and empty head," who naturally regarded his func- 
tion as a matter of business, was done away with and his 
place taken either by the Zaddik himself or by some other 
distinguished person in the community. The Chassidim 
also effected many changes in the liturgy. Instead of the 
German they adopted the Spanish ritual. They excised 
many prayers which, lacking the authority of antiquity, 
were cumbrous in form or objectionable in matter. They 
inserted new prayers and hymns of their own. They paid 
little regard to the prescribed hours at which public wor- 
ship should be held. Prayer began when they had got 
themselves into the proper devotional frame of mind. 
Frequent ablutions, perusal of mystical writings, intro- 
spective meditation were the means by which they sought 
to gain the befitting mood. The prayers themselves were 


accompanied by the usual phenomena of religious excite- 
ment. Some in the zeal of their devotion began to dance ; 
others were rapt in a motionless ecstasy; some prayed 
aloud; others in solemn silence. They justified their 
abrogation of fixed hours for prayer by saying that you 
cannot order a child when to speak with its father : such 
restraint were fit only for slaves. 

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


The meal was accompanied by the usual conversations as 
well as by hymns and prayers. 

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

It may easily be imagined that the innovations of the 
Chassidim provoked the wrath of the orthodox communi- 
ties. But in their detestation of the Rabbis the Chassidim 
returned in full measure all the hatred they received. 
The Zaddik is the Moses of his age : the Rabbis its Korah 
and Abiram. Where the Chassidic party in any commu- 
nity gained the upper hand, the Rabbi was deposed and a 
Zaddik, if that was possible, elected in his place. The 
issue of these bitter attacks upon the old nobility of the 
Jewish race was a rigorous persecution. In many places 



the Chassidim were excommunicated, in others their 
leaders were publicly scourged and put into the stocks. 
Their books were burnt and their synagogues forcibly 
closed. But persecution produced only the usual result of 
increasing the popularity and the numbers of the sect. 
The devotion of the Chassidim to each other and to their 
common cause was increased a hundred-fold by suffering. 
In one case a distinguished Zaddik was accused of trea- 
son, before the Russian authorities, and was thrown into 
prison. In Russia, however, the power of money is con- 
siderable, and on payment of a large ransom not only was 
the beloved Zaddik released but as an obvious consequence 
his reputation greatly profited : the day of his release was 
celebrated as a yearly festival, while his sufferings were 
regarded by his followers as a sin-offering that atoned for 
the iniquities of his age. From this time the government 
maintained a purely neutral attitude towards the new sect, 
and ere long the persecution by the orthodox ceased. 

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

It must not be supposed that these strictures apply to 
the whole class of Zaddikim. The greater number of 
Baalshem's leading disciples as well as Beer's were beyond 


question men of pure, unalloyed piety, who would have 
rejected with scorn any idea of making a trade of their 
sacred profession. Their motives and their zeal were 
alike ideal. Many gave up highly paid posts as Rabbis 
when they joined the new sect. Some emigrated to Pales- 
tine to lead a holy life on holy ground, others sought to 
become religious specialists, following out practically, 
although with some exaggeration, a favourite doctrine of 
the Founder, that he who observes but one commandment 
devotedly and lovingly, may reach the goal desired : the 
union with God. Thus one Zaddik made it his business 
never to tell the smallest falsehood, whatever the cost or 
the inconvenience of truth might be. It is related that 
the Russian Government, suspecting the Jews of his town 
of smuggling, consented to withdraw the charge if he 
declared his brethren innocent. Having no alternative but 
either to bring misfortune on his brethren or to tell an un- 
truth, he prayed to God to save him from this dilemma by 
sending death upon him. And lo ! when the officials came 
to fetch him before the law court they found him dead. 
Another, thinking that the commandment in Exodus xxiii. 
3, relating to the help that should be given to a neighbour 
or enemy when " his ass is lying under its burden," was 
practically unobserved, devoted himself to its fulfilment. 
He was continually to be seen in the streets, helping one 
man to load his waggon, and another to drag his cart out 
of the mire. A third made the service of the oppressed 
his religious speciality. It is said that one day his wife, 
having had a quarrel with her maid, was setting out to the 
magistrate of the town to obtain satisfaction. Noticing 
that her husband was about to accompany her, she asked 
him whither he was bound. He replied, "to the magis- 



trate." His wife declared that it was below his dignity to 
take any part in a quarrel with a servant. She could deal 
with the matter herself. The Zaddik replied, *'That may 
be, but I intend to represent your maid, who when ac- 
cused by my wife will find no one willing to take her 
part." And then, bursting into a passion of tears, he 
quoted Job xxxi. 13: "If I did despise the cause of my 
man-servant or of my maid-servant, when they contended 
with me, what shall I do when God riseth up .^ " 

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

For, apart from the obvious theological considerations 
already suggested, there are two points of inherent weak- 
ness in the cult of the Zaddik which naturally doomed it 
to perversion and failure. The necessary qualifications for 
" Zaddikship " are wholly undefined. We hear a great 
deal about what a Zaddik actually is, but we hear very 
little about what he should be. The Zaddik has many 
virtues, but we are nowhere told what are his indispen- 
sable qualifications. Moreover, the Zaddik is a being 
who can be comprehended by the understanding as little 
as an angel, or as God Himself. He is realised by faith, 


not conceived by thought. Hence there is no human test 
of a true Zaddik except the test of miracles; and every 
student of religious history knows the deceitful character 
of that test. 

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

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



Chassidim protested, that has put limits to the license of 
its modern false prophets. 

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



In her good-natured panegyric of mediocrity which is 
known under the title of Scenes of Clerical Life^ George 
Eliot remarked : " Let us hope that there is a saving 

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

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




other path to salvation than knowledge, and the deep 
search after truth. 

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

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

This spirit that renews the face of things is what I 
understand by " saving knowledge." As men of that 


saving knowledge we may regard Rabban Johanan ben 
7j2lZQ2S.^ and his disciples, who made it possible for Ju- 
daism to survive the destruction of the Temple, which 
some believed to involve the end of the religion. As such 
men we may look upon R. Saadiah Gaon and his fol- 
lowers, who worked at a time when Judaism was menaced 
in its inner life, namely in the tradition, by the attempts of 
the narrow-minded Caraites to convert it into a bookish 
religion.^ Such men were Maimonides and his successors, 
who came to the aid of religion when it had got into dog- 
matic troubles by reason of its coming into contact with 
various philosophical systems. And in order to approach 
the subject of the present essay, I venture to say that a 
man of such saving knowledge was also Nachman Kroch- 
mal, who lived and laboured in the first half of the present 
century, when Judaism had been terribly shaken by the 
scepticism of Voltaire, and the platitudes of the so-called 
Mendelssohnian school. 

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

Solomon was a man of considerable wealth, and he, 
therefore, endeavoured to give his son the best possible 
education. But as a respectable member of a Polish com- 
munity a hundred years ago, Solomon had to follow the 


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

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

It was then customary in Poland, and perhaps is so still, 
for the father of the bride to provide for the support of the 
young couple for some years after their marriage. In 
order to reduce the expense of this arrangement, the 
bridegroom had to reside in the same house as his father- 
in-law. Thus we see Krochmal removing from Brody to 
Zolkiew, the native town of his wife. Here Krochmal 
lived in the house of her father for many years, entirely 
devoted to his studies; and he certainly needed all his 
time for them. For he now began to expand the sphere 
of his education, to embrace subjects quite new to him. 
By his marriage Nachman seems to have gained a certain 
amount of independence, and the first use he made of it 
was to study the Guide of the Perplexed^ of Maimonides, 


the Commentaries of Ibn Ezra on the Bible,* and other 
more or less philosophical works written in the Hebrew 
language. His next step was to learn German ; but, as 
his biographers inform us, he was not able to follow this 
course without undergoing many struggles, and overcoming 
many obstacles. 

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



remained his favourite philosopher. In his later years 
he also became acquainted with the writings of Fichte, 
Schelling, and Hegel. But to the last he could not con- 
sole himself for having missed the advantages of a system- 
atic university education. 

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


ZMTii does not mention Rapoport at all in his account 
of our author. It seems to me that this relation may 
be most aptly defined by the Talmudic term " Talmid- 
Chaber," ^ " disciple-colleague." 

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

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



of his wisdom ; with his every word he conveyed a new 

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


of what people will say, what bigots will whisper, what 
crafty enemies will scheme — questions such as these can 
have but one effect, — to darken the intellect and confuse 
the faculty of judgment." 

So Krochmal continued his studies without interruption 
till 1 8 14, when the death of his wife's mother brought his 
period of ease and comfort to an end. His father-in-law 
seems to have died some time before, and Krochmal was 
forced to seek his own living. He became a merchant, 
but it is to be regretted that he did not prove as successful 
a man of business as he was a man of letters. He found 
it a hard struggle to earn a living. But the sever- 
est trial which he had to undergo was the death of his 
wife in 1826. In a letter, dating from about this time, 
to a friend who had asked him for assistance in his philo- 
sophical inquiries, Krochmal wrote — " How can I help 
you now t I am already an old man ; my head is gray, 
and my health is broken. In the last three years I have 
met with many misfortunes. My beloved wife died after 
a long illness. My daughter will soon leave me to get 
married, my elder son will depart to seek his livelihood, 
and I shall be left alone with only a child of ten years, the 
son of my old age. I will lift up mine eyes unto the 
hills : From whence shall my help come } " 

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

For the next ten years the works of Hegel and inqui- 
ries into Jewish history appear to have absorbed all the 



leisure that his mercantile occupation left him. We shall 
presently see what the result of these studies was. No 
fresh subjects were undertaken by Krochmal in the last 
years of his life; he had already acquired a fund of 
knowledge vast enough to engage all his thoughts. There 
are, however, some remaining points in his private circum- 
stances which it may not be uninteresting to mention. 

Krochmal, as has been already related, was not prosper- 
ous in his business. Things went from bad to worse, and 
he was compelled in 1836 to seek a situation. "There 
ought to be literary men poor," some writer has main- 
tained, "to show whether they are genuine or not." This 
test Krochmal successfully passed through. Even as a 
young man Nachman's strength of character was admired 
by his contemporaries not less than his rare learning. In 
his subsequent distress, he gave evidence of the truth of 
this judgment. Despite his poverty, his friends could not 
prevail upon him to accept the post of Rabbi in any Jewish 
community. "I am unwilling," he wrote to a friend, "to 
be the cause of dissensions in any Jewish congregation. 
I should prefer to die of hunger rather than become a 
Rabbi under present circumstances," He expressed his 
views on this subject even more decidedly on a later occa- 
sion when the Berlin congregation offered him the post of 
Chief Rabbi in that town. In a letter, conveying his re- 
fusal of this honourable office, he says : " I never thought 
of becoming the Conscience-counsellor (GewissensratJt) of 
men. My line of studies was not directed to that end, 
nor would it accord with my disposition and sentiments. 
The only post that I should care to accept would be that 
of teacher in the Jewish Theological Seminary, which, 
as I was informed, you were thinking of establishing in 


Berlin." The plan to found such an institution was not 
realised till forty years later, and in the interval Nachman 
had to look for his living in other regions than Jewish the- 
ology. Being in poor circumstances, and as his children 
and friends had left him, he felt very lonely at Zolkiew. 
" Nobody cares for me here," he writes, " and I am equally 
indifferent." His one desire was to obtain a situation at 
Brody, possibly as book-keeper with a salary of some thirty 
pounds a year, on condition that he would be expected to 
devote only half the day to his business duties, thus secur- 
ing for himself leisure for philosophical studies. 

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

I have tried in the foregoing remarks to give a short 
sketch of our Rabbi's life according to the accounts of 
Zunz, Rapoport, and Letteris. There is one other point 


to which I must allude, as it involves a consideration on 
which Letteris seems to lay much stress. This biographer 
appears to think that Krochmal was in his youth greatly 
influenced by the society in which he moved, consisting as 
it did of many learned and enlightened men. There is, 
too, the oft-quoted saying of Goethe : — 

Wer den Dichter will verstehen 
Muss in Dichters Lande gehen. 

And I am probably expected to give some account of the 
state of society in which Nachman grew up. I regret 
that I must ask to be excused from doing so. I cannot 
consent to take the reader to Krochmal's land. And if I 
might venture to give him my humble advice, I should 
only say, " By all means stop at home." Goethe may be 
right about the poet, but his remark does not apply to the 
case of the scholar. It may be true, as some think, that 
every great man is the product of his time, but it cer- 
tainly does not follow that he is the product of his coun- 
try. Nor could I name any other country of which Kroch- 
mal was the product. Many a city no doubt boasted itself 
a town full of " Chakhamim and Sopherim " ^ as the He- 
brew phrase is, or, as we would express it, " a seat of learn- 
ing," full of scholars of the ancient and modern schools. 
But neither these ancient scholars nor the modern were 
of a kind to produce a real scholar and an enlightened 
thinker like Krochmal. There were many men who knew 
by heart the whole of the Halachic works of Maimonides, 
the Mishnah, and even the whole of the Babylonian Tal- 
mud. This is very imposing. But if you look a little 
closer, you will find that with a few exceptions — such as 
the school of R. Elijah Wilna — these men, generally 


speaking, hardly deserve the name of scholars at all. 
They were rather a sort of studying engines. The steam- 
engine passes over a continent, here through romantic 
scenery, there in the midst of arid deserts, by stream and 
mountain and valley, always with the same monotonous 
hum and shriek. So these scholars went through the 
Talmud with never changing feelings. They did not 
rejoice at the description which is given in tractate Biccu- 
rim ^ of the procession formed when the first-fruits were 
brought into the Holy Temple. They were not much 
saddened when reading in tractate Taanith ^ of the un- 
happy days so recurrent in Jewish history. They were 
not delighted by the wisdom of Seder Nezikin^ which 
deals with civil law ; nor were they vexed of Seder Taka- 
roth}^ which treats of the laws of cleanliness and unclean- 
liness, that by their exaggeration gave cause to much 
dissension in the time of the Temple. The pre-Talmudic 
literature, such as the Sipkra, Siphri, and Mechilta^^ — the 
only existing means of obtaining an insight into the 
Talmud — were altogether neglected. All that these 
readers cared for was to push on to the end, and the 
prayer recited at the close was of more importance to 
them than the treatise they had perused. 

Not less melancholy was the spectacle presented by the 
so-called men of "Enlightenment" {Aufkldrung). They 
belonged chiefly to the rationalistic school of Mendelssohn, 
but they equalled their master neither in knowledge nor 
in moral character. It was an enlightenment without 
foundation in real scholarship, and did not lead to an ideal 
life, though again I must add that there were exceptions. 
These men were rather what Germans would term Schon- 
geister, a set of dilettanti who cared to study as little as 


possible, and to write as much as possible. They wrote 
bad grammars, superficial commentaries on the Bible, 
and terribly dull poems. Of this literature, with the 
exception of Erter's Watchman^ there is scarcely a work 
that one would care to read twice. Most of them 
despised Rabbinism, but without understanding its noblest 
forms as they are to be traced in the Talmud and later 
Hebrew literature. They did not dislike Judaism, but 
the only Judaism they affected was one " which does not 
oppose itself to anything in particular " ; or, as Heine 
would have described it, "Eine reinliche Religion." In 
one respect these little men were great: in mutual 
admiration, which reached such a pitch that such titles 
as "Great Luminary," "World-famed Sage," were con- 
sidered altogether too insignificant and commonplace. 

I will now pass to the writings of Krochmal. It must 
be premised that Krochmal was not a voluminous author. 
All his writings, including a few letters which were pub- 
lished in various Hebrew periodicals, would scarcely 
occupy four hundred pages. Krochmal used to call him- 
self " der ewige Student " (the perpetual pupil). He did 
not read books, nor study philosophical systems, with the 
object of writing books of his own on them. He read 
and studied in order that he might become a better and a 
wiser man. Besides, he did not think himself competent 
to judge on grave subjects, nor did he consider his judg- 
ment, even if he formed one, worthy of publication. He 
counselled his friends to be equally slow in publishing 
their views to the world. " Be not," he wrote to a corre- 
spondent, — " be not hasty in forming your opinions before 
you have studied the literature of the subject with care 
and devotion. This is no easy matter, for no man can 

6q studies in JUDAISM 

obtain any real knowledge of the Torah and philosophy 
unless he is prepared to give himself up in single-hearted 
devotion to his studies." Severe though he was to his 
friends, he was still more severe to himself. Though he 
had been collecting materials on subjects of Jewish history 
and philosophy from his early youth, it was not until he 
had endured much persuasion and pressure from his 
friends that he began to write down his thoughts in a 
connected form. We thus possess only one work from 
the pen of this author ; but that work is the Guide of the 
Perplexed of the Time}^ a posthumous book published 
in 185 1, eleven years after Krochmal's death. His work 
had been much interrupted by illness during the last years 
of his life, and as a necessary consequence many parts of 
his treatise finally remained in an unfinished state. Kroch- 
mal commissioned his children to hand over his papers to 
Zunz, who was to arrange and edit them as best he might. 
Zunz, who in his reverence for Krochmal went so far as 
to call him the man of God, gladly accepted the task, in 
which he was aided by Steinschneider. Unfortunately, 
the work was published in Lemberg, a place famous for 
spoiling books. Even the skill of these two great masters 
did not suffice to save Krochmal's work from the fate to 
which all the books printed in Lemberg seem inevitably 
doomed. Thus Krochmal's work is printed on bad paper, 
and with faint ink ; it is full of misprints and the text is 
sometimes confused with the notes. A second edition 
appeared in Lemberg in 1863 ; but, it is scarcely necessary 
to add, the reprint is even worse than the original issue. 

The work occupies some 350 pages, and is divided into 
seventeen chapters. The opening six treat of Religion 
in general. The author first indicates the opposite dan- 


gers to which men are liable. On the one hand, men 
are exposed to extravagant phantasy (Schwdrmeret)^ su- 
perstition and ceremonialism ( Werkheiligkeit). Some, on 
the other hand, in their endeavour to avoid this danger, 
fall into the opposite extreme, materialism, unbelief, and 
moral degeneracy as a consequence of their neglect of 
all law. He proceeds to say: Even in the ritual part 
of religion, such as the regulations of the Sabbath, the 
dietary laws and so forth, we find abstract definitions 
necessary, and differences of opinions prevalent. In the 
dogmatic aspects of religion, dealing as they do with the 
grave subjects of metaphysics, the mystery of life and 
death, the destiny of man, his relation to God, reward 
and punishment, the inner meaning of the laws, — in 
these spiritual matters, the difficulty of accurate defini- 
tion must be far greater and the opportunities for differ- 
ence of opinion more frequent and important. What 
guide are we to follow, seeing that every error involves 
the most dangerous consequences } Shall we abandon 
altogether the effort of thinking on these grave subjects t 
Such a course is impossible. Do not believe, says Kroch- 
mal, that there ever was a time when the religious man 
was entirely satisfied by deeds of righteousness, as some 
people maintain. On the contrary, every man, whether 
an independent thinker or a simple believer, always feels 
the weight of these questions upon him. Every man 
desires to have some ideal basis for his actions which 
must constitute his real life in its noblest moments. 
Krochmal here quotes a famous passage from the Mid- 
rash.^* The Torah, according to one of our ancient sages, 
may be compared to two paths, the one burning with fire, 
the other covered with snow. If a man enters on the 


former path he will die by the heat ; if he walks by the 
latter path he will be frozen by the snow. What, then, 
must he do? He must walk in the middle, or, as we 
should say, he must choose the golden mean. But, as 
Krochmal suggests, the middle way in historical and 
philosophical doubts does not consist, as some idle heads 
suppose, in a kind of compromise between two opposing 
views. If one of two contending parties declares that 
twice two make six, while his opponent asserts that twice 
two make eight, a sort of compromise might be arrived 
at by conceding that twice two make seven. But such 
a compromise would be as false as either extreme; and 
the seeker after the truth must revert to that mean 
which is the heart of all things, independently of all 
factions, placing himself above them. 

Having dealt with the arguments relating to the exist- 
ence of God as elaborated in the philosophical systems 
of his time, Krochmal leads up to his treatment of the 
History of Israel by a chapter on the ideal gifts be- 
stowed upon the various ancient nations, which, possessed 
by them through many centuries, were lost when their 
nationality ceased. We next come, in Chapter VII., to 
the ideal gifts of Israel. These are the religious gift 
and the faculty and desire for seeking the ideal of all 
ideals, namely, God. But Israel, whose mission it was 
to propagate this ideal, was, even as other nations, sub- 
ject to natural laws; and its history presents progress 
and reaction, rise and decline. Krochmal devotes his 
next three chapters to showing how, in the history of 
Israel, as in other histories, may be detected a triple 
process. These three stages are the budding, the period 
of maturity, and the decay. As the history of Israel is 



more a history of religion than of politics and battles, 
its rise and decline correspond more or less with Israel's 
attachment to God, and its falling away from Him. The 
decay would be associated with the adoption of either of 
the extremes, the dangerous effects of which have been 
already mentioned. But "through progress and back- 
sliding, amid infectious contact with idolatry, amid sur- 
vival of old growths of superstition, of the crude practices 
of the past; amid the solicitation of new aspects of life; 
in material prosperity and in material ruin," Israel was 
never wholly detached from God. In the worst times it 
had its judges or its prophets, its heroes or its sages, its 
Rabbis or its philosophers, who strove to bring Israel 
back to its mission, and who succeeded in their efforts 
to do so. Even in its decay traces of the Divine spirit 
made themselves felt, and revived the nation, which en- 
tered again on a triple course and repeated its three 
phases. The first of these three-fold epochs began, ac- 
cording to Krochmal's eighth chapter, with the times of 
the Patriarchs, and ended with the death of Gedaliah after 
the destruction of the first Temple. Next, in the follow- 
ing two chapters, Krochmal finds the second triple move- 
ment in the interval between the prophets of the exile 
in Babylon and the death of Bar-Cochba about 135 a.c. 
The author also hints at the existence of a third such 
epoch beginning with R. Judah the Patriarch, the com- 
piler of the Mishnah (220 a.c.),^^ and ending with the 
expulsion of the Jews from Spain (1492). This idea is 
not further developed by Krochmal; but it would be 
interesting to ask, by the way, in which phase of the 
three-fold process — rise, maturity, or decay — are we at 
the present time? 


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

The space of an essay does not permit me to give 



further details of Krochmal's book. I am conscious that 
the preceding outline is deficient in quality as well as in 
quantity. Yet, even from this meagre abstract, the reader 
will gather that Krochmal reviews many of the great 
problems which concern religion in general and Judaism 
in particular. Zunz somewhere remarks that Krochmal 
was inspired in his work by the study of Hegel, just as 
Maimonides had been by the study of Aristotle. I give 
this statement solely on the authority of Zunz, as I myself 
have never made a study of the works of the German 
philosopher, and am therefore unable to express an opin- 
ion on the question. 

Now there is no doubt that Krochmal's book is not 
without defects. The materials are not always well 
arranged, there is at times a want of proportion in the 
length at which the various points are treated, and the 
author occasionally seems to wander from the subject 
in hand. But we shall be better able to account for these 
and similar technical faults, as well as to appreciate the 
real value of the author's work, if we consider the fol- 
lowing fact. Nachman Krochmal's object was to elabo- 
rate a philosophy of Jewish history, to trace the leading 
ideas that ran through it, and the ultimate causes that led 
to its various phases. But, unfortunately, at the time 
when Krochmal began to write, there did not exist a 
Jewish history at all. The labours of Zunz were con- 
ducted in an altogether different field. Not to mention 
the names of the younger scholars then unborn, Graetz, 
the author of the History of the Jews^ and Weiss, who 
wrote a history of the Tradition, were still studying at 
college. Franker s masterly essays on the Essenes and 
the Septuagint, his well-known work, Introduction to the 


Mishnah, and the results of Geiger's most interesting and 
suggestive researches on the older and later Halachah, 
and on the Pharisees and Sadducees, had yet to be written. 
Rapoport's great treatise, Erech Millin}^ had not been 
published at that time, and Steinschneider was not yet 
working at his historical sketch of Jewish literature. It 
was not till six years after Krochmal's death (viz. in 1846) 
that Landauer's memorable studies on the Jewish mystics 
were given to the world. Even the bad books of Julius 
Fiirst, such as his History of the Canon, and his still worse 
History of Jewish Literature in Babylon, were then un- 
written. Neither the most charlatanic History of the 
Opinions and Teachings of All the Jewish Sects, by Peter 
Beer, the universal provider, nor Jost's most honest but 
narrow-minded and superficial History of the Jews, was 
of much use to Krochmal. Jost's more scholarly works 
were not published till long afterwards. Krochmal was 
thus without the guidance of those authorities to which 
we are now accustomed to turn for information. Except- 
ing the aid that he derived from the writings of Azariah 
de Rossi,2o Krochmal was therefore compelled to prose- 
cute all the necessary research for himself ; he had to 
establish the facts of Jewish history as well as to philoso- 
phise upon them. Hence, in the very midst of his philo- 
sophical analysis, the author was bound to introduce 
digressions on historical subjects, in order to justify as 
well as to form the basis of that analysis. He had to 
survey the ground and to collect the materials, besides 
constructing the plan of the edifice and working at its 
erection. Nevertheless, it is precisely for these historical 
excursuses that Krochmal has deserved the gratitude of 
posterity. He it was who taught Jewish scholars how to 


submit the ancient Rabbinic records to the test of criti- 
cism and the way in which they might be utilised for the 
purpose of historical studies ; he it was who enabled them 
to trace the genesis of the tradition, and to watch the 
inner germination of that vast organism. He even indi- 
cated to them how they might continue to connect their 
own lives with it, how they might derive nourishment from 
it, and in their turn further its growth. I may assert with 
the utmost confidence that there is scarcely a single page 
in Krochmal's book that did not afterwards give birth 
to some essay or monograph or even elaborate treatise, 
though their authors were not always very careful about 
mentioning the source of their inspiration. Thus Kroch- 
mal justly deserves the honourable title assigned to him 
by one of our greatest historians, who terms him the 
Father of Jewish Science. 

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

The answer to this question may, I think, be found in 
the title of Krochmal's book, the Guide of the Perplexed 
of the Time. It is indeed a rather unusual coincidence 
for the title of a Hebrew book to have any connection 


with its subject matter. The same merit is possessed 
by the Guide of the Perplexed of Maimonides, the title 
of which undoubtedly suggested that of Krochmal's 
treatise. There is, however, one little addition in 
Krochmal's title that contains a most important lesson 
for us. I mean the words ** of the Time." By these 
words Krochmal reminds us that, great as are the merits 
of the immortal work of Maimonides — and it would be 
difficult to exaggerate its value and importance — still it 
will no longer suffice for us. For, as Krochmal himself 
remarks, every time has its own perplexities, and there- 
fore needs its own guide. In order to show that these 
words are no idle phrase, I shall endeavour to illustrate 
them by one example at least. In the Guide of the 
Perplexed of Maimonides, Part II., Chapter XXVI., 
occurs a passage which runs thus : " In the famous 
chapters known as the * Chapters of R. Eliezer the 
Great,' 2^ I find R. Eliezer the Great saying something 
more extraordinary than I have ever seen in the utter- 
ances of any believer in the Law of Moses. I refer 
to the following passage: * Whence were the heavens 
created.? He (God) took part of the light of His gar- 
ment, He stretched it like a cloth, and thus the heavens 
were extending continually, as it is said (Ps. civ. 2): 
He covereth Himself with light as with a garment. He 
stretcheth the heavens like a curtain. Whence was 
the earth created 1 He took of the snow under the 
throne of glory, and threw it; according to the words 
(in Job xxxvii. 6), He said to the snow be thou earth.' 
These are the words given there (in the * Chapters of 
R. Eliezer the Great'), and I, in my surprise, ask, What 
was the belief of this sage } Did he think it impossible 



that something be produced from nothing? ... If the 
terms 'the light of His garment' and the *snow of 
glory * mean something eternal (as matter) they must 
be rejected. ... In short, it is a passage that greatly 
confuses the notions of all intelligent and religious per- 
sons. I am unable to explain it sufficiently." 

So far Maimonides ; and we are quite able to conceive 
his perplexity in dealing with this passage. On one side, 
Maimonides himself believed that Judaism is a dogmatic 
religion, and that one of its dogmas is the principle of 
Creatio ex nihilo. On the other side, he found R. Eliezer 
— one of the greatest authorities of the early part of the 
second century — apparently denying this dogma. The 
perplexity was indeed a serious one for Maimonides, but 
we find no difficulty whatever in extricating ourselves from 
it. In the first place, there are many who cling to the 
theory which holds that there are no dogmas in Judaism 
at all, and to them Maimonides' difficulty would have no 
relevance. Secondly, those who believe that there are 
dogmas in Judaism may regard such expressions as those 
quoted above from the " Chapters of R. Eliezer " in the 
light of mere poetical metaphors, or may call them fairy 
tales or legends, or include them in some other section of 
literature, known under the name of folklore, which is an 
excuse for every absurdity, the fortunate authors of which 
are responsible neither to philosophy nor to religion, and 
sometimes not even to common sense. But there is a 
third consideration that affords the best solution of the 
difficulty. The "Chapters of R. Eliezer," despite their 
pompous title, are not the work of R. Eliezer at all. 
Criticism has taught us to attach no importance to the 
heading of a chapter or the title-page of a book. We are 



now in a position to judge from the tone, style, and con- 
tents of the work, that the " Chapters of R. Eliezer " is a 
later compilation of the eighth century, and that its author 
could not have been R. Eliezer, the teacher of R. Akiba, 
in the second century. In this way, these particular diffi- 
culties of Maimonides solve themselves for us in a suffi- 
ciently easy way. But it is just these solutions that open 
up new difficulties and perplexities which did not exist for 
the generation of the great Spanish philosopher. Sup- 
pose that we accept the view that Judaism is not a dog- 
matic religion. But how are we to conceive a religion 
without dogmas, or, if you prefer the expression, without 
principles or bases of belief.? Or is Judaism, as some 
platitudinarians think, a mere national institute with some 
useful dietary and sanitary laws, but with nothing that 
makes for the sanctification of man, with no guidance to 
offer us in the great problems of our life, and in the great- 
est anxieties of the human soul.? On the other hand, 
granted that we may consider certain things as mere le- 
gend, how are we to discriminate between these and the 
things that must be taken seriously } Does it depend on 
the nature of the subject, or on the position of the book in 
the canon of Hebrew literature t In the thirteenth cen- 
tury symbolical meanings were given to certain difficult 
passages in the Talmud; but the process was carried 
further, and the Biblical narratives were subjected by phi- 
losophers to a like treatment. R. Solomon ben Adereth 
and his colleagues (in the thirteenth century) settled the 
question by indiscriminately excommunicating all young 
men who should study philosophy ; but this method is 
scarcely one to be commended for present use. 

The third, or the philological solution of difficulties, 



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

Have these perplexities, we must ask, and these puz- 
zles been solved by Krochmal and his coadjutors.? We 
may with all certainty answer : They have only pointed out 
the way, it is for ourselves to proceed by it. It would be 
unreasonable to expect that difficulties which have been 
accumulating during the course of thousands of years 
should be solved by the men of one or two generations. 
Again, we live in a century in which excavations and dis- 
coveries in other fields have added at once to our know- 
ledge and to our uncertainty. Each country, we might 
almost say, over and above the perplexities that trouble 
mankind in general, has its own special difficulties which 
are entirely unknown to those who dwell outside its 
frontiers. I am not disposed to discuss these difficulties 


in this place. Nor have I the ability to do so. But of 
two things I am perfectly certain : the first is, that for a 
solution of these difficulties which, in the language of 
Maimonides, "confuse the notions of all intelligent and 
religious persons," the only hope is in true knowledge and 
not in ignorance ; and secondly, this knowledge can only 
be obtained by a combination of the utmost reverence for 
religion and the deepest devotion to truth. The poor old 
Rabbis who have been so foully decried by their calumni- 
ators as hedonists, and so foolishly praised by sorry apolo- 
gists as materialistic optimists, strongly insisted that when 
a man woos the truth, his suit can only prosper if he is 
influenced by the purest and most single-hearted affection. 
** A man," says the Siphr6, " must not say : * I will study 
the Torah in order that I may attain the title of Rabbi or 
savant, or that I may become rich by it, or that I may be 
rewarded for it in the world to come.' He must study for 
love's sake." Such a knowledge, which is free from all 
taint of worldliness and of other-worldliness, a knowledge 
sought simply and solely for pure love of God, who is 
Truth, — such a knowledge is in the highest sense a sav- 
ing knowledge, and Nachman Krochmal was in possession 
of it. 



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

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



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

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

** Truth," said the old Rabbis, " is the Seal of the Holy 
One, praised be He." But Heaven has no Lord Chancel- 
lor. Neither men nor angels are trusted with the great 
Seal. They are only allowed to catch a glimpse of it, or 
rather to long after this glimpse. However, even the 


longing and effort for this glimpse will bring man into 
communion with God, and make his life divine. And the 
life of the Gaon was, as we shall see, one long effort and 
unceasing longing after the truth. 

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

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

R. Elijah was born at Wilna in the year 1720. His 
father, Solomon Wilna, is called by his biographers the 
great Rabbi Solomon, and is said to have been the de- 
scendant of R. Moses Rivkas, the author of a learned 
work, containing notes to the Code of the Law by R. 
Joseph Caro.2 

Having quoted the biographers, I must point out that 
there are only two biographies of the Gaon : the one by 
Finn, in his book Faithful City^ on the celebrities of 
Wilna, the other by Nachman of Horodna, in his book 
Ascension of Elijah.^ The former is a very honest account 
of the Gaon's life, but a little too short. The latter is too 
long, or rather too much intermixed with that sort of 
absurd legend, the authors of which are incapable of mark- 
ing the line which separates the monster from the hero. 

Even in the region of imagination we must not for a 
moment forget the good advice given to us by one of our 


greatest scholars who had to deal with a kindred subject : 
" He," says this scholar, " who banishes the thought of 
higher and lower from his study, degrades it into a mere 
means of gratifying his curiosity, and disqualifies it for the 
lofty task which it is called upon to perform for modern 
society." We shall thus cling to the higher and stop at 
the hero. 

Our hero was the first-born of five brothers. They 
were all famous men in their little world. According to 
the tradition in Wilna, Elijah was a lovely child, with 
beautiful eyes, and goodly to look at, or as it is expressed 
in another place, " as beautiful as an angel ! " The tradi- 
tion, or rather the legend, relates that as a child of six 
years he was already the pupil of R. Moses Margalith, the 
famous author of a commentary on the Talmud of Jerusa- 
lem. At the age of seven years he is said to have already 
perplexed the Chief Rabbi of his native town by his con- 
troversial skill in Talmudical subjects. At the early age 
of nine he was acquainted with the contents of the Bible, 
the Mishnah, the Talmud and its ancient commentaries ; 
and even the Cabbalistic works of R. Isaac Loria were no 
secret to the youthful scholar.^ At the age of twelve years 
he is said to have acquired the seven liberal arts, and to 
have puzzled the scholars of Wilna by his astronomical 
knowledge. At thirteen, when according to Jewish law he 
attained his majority, he was already the accomplished or 
" the great one " (Gaon) ; so far tradition. I am afraid that 
tradition is here, against all experience, too exact in its 
dates. But we may learn from it that the child Elijah 
showed many signs of the future Gaon, and was therefore 
considered as the prodigy of his age. Again it is likewise 
pretty certain that no man could boast of having been the 


master of Elijah. He was not the product of any school, 
nor was he biassed by the many prejudices of his time. 
He was allowed to walk his own way in his struggle after 

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

To indicate briefly in what this superiority consisted, I 
will premise here a few words from a Responsum by one 
of his great predecessors, the Gaon Rabbi Hai.^ Con- 
sulted by a student as to the meaning of certain mystical 
passages in the tractate Chagigah^ Rabbi Hai, in warning 
his correspondent not to expect from him a long philosoph- 
ical dissertation, writes as follows : " Know that it never 
was our business to palliate matters and explain them in a 
way of which the author never could have thought. This 
is fashionable with other people, but our method is to 
explain the words of this or that authority in accordance 
with his own meaning. We do not pledge ourselves that 
this meaning is * right rule' in itself, for there do exist 
statements made by the old authorities that cannot be ac- 
cepted as norm." Thus far the words of the Gaon of the 
tenth century, which speak volumes. The Gaon of the 
eighteenth century followed the same course. All his 


efforts were directed to this point; namely, to find out 
the true meaning of the Mishnah, the true meaning of 
the Gemara,^ the true meaning of the Gaonim, the true 
meaning of the great codifiers, and the true meaning of 
the commentators on the ancient Rabbinical literature. 
Whether this meaning would be acceptable to us mattered 
very little to him. His only object was to understand 
the words of his predecessors, and this he obtained, as 
we shall soon see, by the best critical means. This was 
the method of the Gaon ; that of other scholars (at least 
of the great majority) was dictated by entirely differ- 
ent considerations. They would not suffer the idea that 
the great man could be wrong at times. To them, all that 
he said was " right rule." Now suppose a great author 
like Maimonides had overlooked an important passage in 
the Talmud or any other statement by a great authority, 
the alternative remaining to them was either to explain 
away the passage of the Talmud or to give the words of 
Maimonides a strange meaning. This led originally to 
the famous method of the Pilpul (casuistry), a kind of 
spiritual gymnastic, which R. Liva of Prague in the six- 
teenth century, and many others condemned as most per- 
nicious to Judaism and leading to the decay of the study 
of the Torah. 

Now it is beyond doubt that the method of the two 
Gaonim is the only right one. But, in justice to the 
casuistic school, which includes many a great name, it is 
only right to remember that this impartiality towards ac- 
knowledged authorities as maintained by our hero is not at 
all such an easy matter as we imagine. We quote often 
with great satisfaction the famous saying. Amicus Plato ^ 
amicus SocrateSy sed magis arnica Veritas^ "Plato is our 


friend, so is Socrates, but Truth is, or rather ought to be, 
our greatest friend." This sounds very nicely, but let us 
only realise what difficulties it involves. To be a friend of 
Socrates or Plato means to know them, or in other words 
to have a thorough knowledge of the writings of the one 
and the recorded utterances of the other. But such a 
knowledge can with most men only be obtained by devot- 
ing one's whole life to the study of their works, so that 
there is not left much time for new friendships. And 
the few who are able to save a few years after long wan- 
derings with these Greek philosophers, seldom see the 
necessity of new friendships. For what else did those 
long courtships of Plato or Aristotle mean except that 
those who conducted them thought that thereby they 
would wed Truth } 

This impartiality is the more difficult when these friends 
are invested with a kind of religious authority where 
humility and submission are most important factors. The 
history of Lanfranc, the predecessor of Anselm of Can- 
terbury, gives a striking example of what this submission 
meant in the Middle Ages. One day, we are told, when 
he was still an ordinary monk, he was reading at the 
table and pronounced a word as it ought to be pronounced, 
but not as seemed right to the person presiding, who bade 
him say it differently ; " as if he had said docere, with the 
middle syllable long, as is right, and the other had cor- 
rected it into docere, with the middle short, which is 
wrong; for that Prior was not a scholar. But the wise 
man, knowing that he owed obedience rather to Christ 
than to Donatus, the grammarian, gave up his pronunci- 
ation, and said what he was wrongly told to say ; for to 
make a short syllable long, or a long one short, he knew 


to be no deadly sin, but not to obey one set over him in 
God's behalf was no light transgression."® 

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

As for the critical means to which I have alluded, the 
Gaon himself said somewhere that simplicity is the best 
criterion of truth, and this is the most characteristic feat- 
ure of all his literary career. The Gaon studied Hebrew 
grammar in order to obtain a clear notion of the language 
in which the Scriptures are written. He tried to attain 
to the knowledge of the Bible by reading the Bible itself ; 
and was not satisfied to become acquainted with its con- 
tents from the numerous quotations which are made from 
it in Rabbinical literature. Again, he studied mathemat- 
ics, astronomy, and philosophy, as far as they could be 
found in Hebrew books. Certainly the Gaon did not 
study these subjects for their own sake, and they were 
considered by him only as a means to the end, or as the 
phrase goes, as the " hand-maidens " of Theology, the 
queen of all sciences. But it may be looked upon as a 
mark of great progress in an age when Queen Theology 
had become rather sulky, continually finding fault with 
her hand-maidens, and stigmatising every attention paid 
to them as conducive to disloyalty. To these accusa- 
tions the Gaon answered that Queen Theology does not 
study her own interests. Knowledge of all arts and 
sciences, the Gaon maintained, is necessary for the real 


understanding ot tlie Torah which embraces the whole of 
them. From his own writings it is evident that he him- 
self wajr familiar with Euclid, and his Ayil Meshulash 
contains several original developments of Euclid. It was 
at his suggestion that a certain Baruch of Sclow trans- 
lated Euclid into the Hebrew language. 

Another way which led the Gaon to the discovery of 
many truths was his study of the pre-Talmudic literature, 
and of the Jerusalem Talmud. By some accident or other 
it came to pass that only the Babylonian Talmud was 
recognised as a guide in the practices of religious life. 
As the great teachers and their pupils cared more for 
satisfying the religious wants of their flocks than for 
theoretic researches, the consequence was that a most 
important part of the ancient Rabbinic literature was 
almost entirely neglected by them for many centuries. 
And it was certainly no exaggeration, when R. Elijah 
said that even the Gaonim and Maimonides, occupied as 
they were with the practical part of the law, did not pay 
sufficient attention to the Talmud of Jerusalem and the 
Tosephta.i^ The Gaon was no official head of any Jew- 
ish community, and was but little troubled by decisions 
of questions which concern daily life. He was thus in 
a position to leave for a little while the Babylonian Tal- 
mud and to become acquainted with the guides of the 
guide. I refer to Siphra, Siphr6, Mechilta, Tosephta, 
the Seder Olam,^^ the Minor Tractates,^^ ^nd above all 
the Talmud of Jerusalem, which, regarded from an his- 
torical and critical point of view, is even of more impor- 
tance than its Babylonian twin-brother. But by this means 
there came a new light upon the whole of ancient Rab- 
binic literature. The words of the Torah, the Midrash 



says, are poor in one place, but we shall find them rich 
in another place. The Gaon by his acquaintance with 
the whole of the Torah had no difficulty whatever in 
discovering the rich places. If there was a difficult pas- 
sage in this or that Tractate, he showed, by giving a 
reference to some other place, that it was wanting in 
some words or lines. Obscure passages in the Mishnah 
he tried to elucidate by parallel passages in the Tosephta. 
The too complicated controversies of the Babylonian Tal- 
mud he tried to explain by comparing them with the 
more ancient and more simple Talmud of Jerusalem. 

There is little to be told of the Gaon's private affairs. 
Even the date of his marriage with a certain Miss Anna 
of Kaidon is not mentioned by his biographers. But it 
may be taken for granted that, in accordance with the 
custom in Poland, he married at a very early age, say 
about eighteen years. It was also when a young man 
that he travelled for some years through Poland and 
Germany. It is rather difficult to say what his object 
may have been in making these travels — for the Gaon 
was not the man to travel for pleasure's sake. Perhaps 
it was to become acquainted with the great Rabbis of 
these countries. It is also possible, as others maintain, 
that the Gaon considered the many privations which a 
traveller had to endure a hundred and fifty years ago, 
as an atonement for his imaginary sins. Indeed we find 
in many ascetic books that travelling, or as they term it 
" receiving upon oneself to be banished into the exile," ^^ 
is recommended as a very successful substitute for pen- 
ance. At least it seems that the coachmen whom the 
Gaon employed on his journeys looked at it from this 
point of view, Qne of them went so far in adding to 


the privations of the Gaon as to run away with his car- 
riage when the Rabbi alighted from it in order to read 
his prayers. But the reading of the Eighteen Benedic- 
tions ^* must not be interrupted excepting in the case of 
danger ; and the Gaon did not consider it very dangerous 
to be left without money and without luggage. 

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

The position which the Gaon occupied in Wilna was, as 
already hinted, that of a private man. He could never be 
prevailed upon to accept the post of Rabbi or any other 
office in a Jewish community. I am unable to give the 
reason for his declining all the offers made to him in this 
direction. But it may be suggested here that it was in 
the time of the Gaon that there arose a bitter struggle 
between the Rabbi and the Jewish wardens of his native 
town, which ended in the abolition of the office of Rabbi. 
The history of the struggle is the more irritating, as it 
arose from the pettiest reasons imaginable. People act- 
ually discovered that there was no light in the house of 
the Rabbi after the middle of the night, which fact might 
lead to the conclusion that he did not study later than 
12 o'clock P.M. What an idle man! And this idleness 
was the less pardonable in the eyes of the community, as 
the Rabbi's wife was so unfortunate as not to have been 
polite enough to some Mrs. Warden. Under such circum- 
stances we must not wonder if the Gaon did not find it 
very desirable to meddle with congregational affairs in an 


official capacity. The relation of the Gaon to his contem- 
poraries resembles rather the position in the olden times 
of a Tanna or Amora,^^ who neither enjoyed the title of 
Nasin or that of Ab Beth Din.i^ Like R. Akiba, or Mar 
Samuel, the Gaon became influential among his contem- 
poraries only by his teaching and his exemplary life. 

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

It would lead me too far to name here all the Gaon's 
disciples. It seems as if all the great scholars in his coun- 
try considered themselves to be more or less his pupils. 
The Gaon used to give in the Beth Hammidrash, which he 
founded, public lectures on various subjects, and the stu- 
dents who attended these lectures also claimed the honour 


of being called his pupils. I shall mention here only his 
greatest disciple, R. Chayim Walosin, who, after the Gaon, 
influenced his countrymen more than any other scholar of 
that time. This R. Chayim also did not occupy any official 
post among his brethren. He was a cloth manufacturer 
by profession, and was very prosperous in his business. 
But it did not prevent him from being devoted to Hebrew 
literature, and he enjoyed a wide-spread fame as a great 
scholar. But as soon as the fame of the Gaon reached 
him, he left cloth manufactory and scholarship behind, 
and went to Wilna to " learn Tor ah " from the mouth of 
the great master. It must be noticed that even the giv- 
ing up of his claim to scholarship was no little sacrifice. 
All our learning, said some scholar in Wilna, disappeared 
as soon as we crossed the threshold of the Gaon's house. 
He made every disciple who came into close contact with 
him begin at the beginning. He taught them Hebrew 
grammar, Bible, Mishnah, and many other subjects, which 
were, as already mentioned, very often neglected by the 
Talmudists of that time. R. Chayim had also to go 
through all this course. Some would have considered such 
treatment a degradation. R. Chayim, however, became 
the more attached to his master for it. 

In such a way the life of the Gaon was spent, studying 
by himself or teaching his pupils. It must be understood 
that to learn Torah meant for the Gaon more than mere 
brain work for the purpose of gaining knowledge. To 
him it was a kind of service to God. Contemporaries who 
watched him when he was studying"* the Torah observed 
that the effect wrought on the personality of the Gaon was 
the same as when he was praying. With every word his 
countenance flushed with joy ; with every line he was gain- 


ing strength for proceeding further. Only by looking at 
matters from this point of view shall we be able to under- 
stand the devotion and the love of the Gaon for study. 

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

Nothing on earth could be more despicable to the Gaon 
than amateurs who dabble with ancient literature. To 


understand a thing clearly made him happy. He is said 
to have spent more than six months on a single Mishnah 
in the tractate Kilayim}^ and felt himself the happiest 
man when he succeeded in grasping its real meaning. 
Not to be able to go into the depth of a subject, to miss 
the truth embedded in a single passage, caused him the 
most bitter grief. A story told by his pupil, R. Chayim, 
may illustrate this fact. One Friday, narrates R. Chayim, 
the servant of the Gaon came to him with the message 
that his master wanted to see him as soon as possible. 
R. Chayim went instantly. When he came into the house, 
he found the Gaon lying in bed with a bandage on his 
head and looking very ill. The wife of the Gaon also 
reported to him that it was more than three days since 
her husband had taken any food, and that he had hardly 
enjoyed any sleep all this time. All this misery was 
caused by reason of not having been able to understand 
some difficult passages in the Talmud of Jerusalem. The 
Gaon now asked his disciples to resume with him their 
researches. Heaven, he said, might have mercy upon 
them and open their eyes, for it is written, "Two are 
better than one": and lo! Heaven did have mercy on 
them; they succeeded in getting the true meaning of 
the passage. The Gaon recovered instantly, and master 
and disciple had a very joyful Sabbath. 

He is also reported to have said on one occasion, he 
would not like to have an angel for his teacher who would 
reveal to him all the mysteries of the Torah. Such a con- 
dition is only befitting the world to come, but in this world 
only things which are acquired by hard labour and great 
struggle are of any value. The German representative of 
truth expressed the same thought in other words, which 


are well worth repeating here : " Did the Ali^ighty," says 
Lessing, " holding in His right hand Truth and in His left 
Search after Truth, deign to tender me the one I might 
prefer, in all humility and without hesitation I should 
select Search after Truth." 

This absorption of all his being in the study of the 
Torah may also, I think, account for the fact that his 
biographers have so little to say about the family of the 
Gaon. Of his wife, we know only that she died in the 
year 1783. Not much fuller is our knowledge about his 
children. The biographers speak of them as of the family 
" which the Lord has blessed," referring to his two sons, 
Rabbi Aryeh Leb and Rabbi Abraham, who were known 
as great scholars and very pious men. The latter one is 
best known by his edition of a collection of smaller Mid- 
rashim. Mention is also made of the Gaon's sons-in-law, 
especially one Rabbi Moses of Pinsk. But this is all, and 
we are told nothing either about their lives or their call- 
ings. From his famous letter which he sent to his family 
when on his way to Palestine, we see that he was rather 
what one may call a severe father. He bids his wife pun- 
ish his children most severely for swearing, scolding, and 
speaking untruth. He also advises her to live as retired 
a life as possible. Retirement he considers as a condition 
sine qua non for a religious life. He even advises his 
daughter to read her prayers at home, for in the syna- 
gogue she may get envious of the finer dresses of her 
friends, which is a most terrible sin. The only tender 
feature in this letter is perhaps where he implores his 
wife to be kind to his mother on account of her being a 
widow, and it were a great sin to cause her the least an- 
noyance. From other passages we may gather that his 


family had at times to suffer hunger and cold by the ex- 
cessive occupation of their father with the study of the 
Torah and other religious works. In short, the Gaon was 
a one-sided, severe ascetic, and would never have deserved 
the title of a good father, a good husband, an amiable man 
or any other appellation derived from those ordinary 
"household decencies" which, as Macaulay informs us, 
half of the tombstones claim for those who lie behind 
them. But I am very much afraid that many a great man 
who has made his mark in history could never claim these 
household virtues as his own. I do not want to enter here 
into the question whether Judaism be an ascetic religion 
or not. But even those who think Judaism identical with 
what is called "making the best of this life," will not dis- 
pute the fact that Jewish literature contains within it 
enough ascetic elements to justify the conduct of our 
greatest men whose lives were one long-continued self- 
denial and privation. "The Torah," says the Talmud, 
" cannot be obtained unless a man is prepared to give his 
life for it," or as the Talmud puts it, in another place, " if 
it be thy desire not to die, cease to live before thou diest." 
This was the principle by which the Gaon's life was actu- 
ated. And as he did not spare himself, he could not spare 
others. We could not expect him to act differently. The 
Scriptures tell us : " Thou shalt love thy neighbour as 
thyself." But how is it with the man who never loved 
himself, who never gave a thought to himself, who never 
lived for himself, but only for what he considered to be 
his duty and his mission from God on earth } Such a 
man we cannot expect to spend his time on coaxing and 
caressing us. As to the charge of one-sidedness at which 
I have hinted, if the giving up of everything else for the 


purpose of devoting oneself to a scholarly and saintly life 
is one-sidedness, the Gaon must certainly bear this charge ; 
but in a world where there are so many on the other side, 
we ought, I think, to be only too grateful to Providence for 
sending us from time to time great and strong one-sided 
men, who, by their counterbalancing influence, bring God's 
spoilt world to a certain equilibrium again. To appease my 
more tender readers, I should like only to say that there is 
no occasion at all for pitying Mrs. Gaon. It would be a 
miserable world indeed if a good digestion and stupidity 
were, as a certain author maintained, the only conditions 
of happiness. Saints are happy in their sufferings, and 
noble souls find their happiness in sacrificing themselves 
for these sufferers. 

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

Excepting this incident, the Gaon never meddled with 
public affairs. He lived in retirement, always occupied 
with his own education and that of his disciples and 
friends. It is most remarkable that, in spite of his hard 
work and the many privations he had to endure, he 
enjoyed good health almost all his life. He never con- 


suited a doctor. It was not until the year 1791, in the 
seventieth year of his life, that he began to feel the 
decline of his health. But he was not much interrupted 
by the failure of his powers. As a means of recovery, he 
esteemed very highly the conversation of the preacher 
Jacob of Dubna, better known as the Dubna Maggid,^^ 
whose parables and sallies of wit the Gaon used to enjoy 
very much. On the eve of the Day of Atonement in the 
year 1797, he fell very ill and gave his blessing to his 
children. He died on the third day of the Feast of Tab- 
ernacles, with the branch of the Lulab^ in his hands. 
The Feast of Joy, relates a contemporary, was turned into 
days of mourning. In all the streets of Wilna were heard 
only lamenting and crying voices. The funeral orations 
delivered on this occasion in Wilna, as well as in other 
Jewish communities, would form a small library. His dis- 
ciples wept for their master, the people of Wilna for the 
ornament of their native town, and the feeling of the Jews 
in general was that "the Ark of God was taken away." 

After the foregoing sketch, the reader will hardly 
expect me to give an account of the Gaon's literary pro- 
ductions. The results of so long a life and such powers 
of mind devoted to one cause with such zeal and fervour, 
would furnish by themselves the subject of a whole series 
of essays. The tombstone set on his grave by his pious 
admirers bears the inscription, " The Gaon gave heed and 
sought and set in order" — that is to say, he wrote com- 
mentaries or notes on — "the Bible, the Mishnah, both 
Talmuds, the Siphr6, Siphra, the Zohar, and many other 
works." Inscriptions on tombstones are proverbial for 
exaggeration, and we all know the saying, " as mendacious 
as an epitaph.** But a glance at the catalogue of the 


British Museum under the heading of Elijah Wilna, will 
show that this inscription makes a praiseworthy exception. 
We will find that this list might be lengthened by many 
other works of great importance for Jewish life and 
thought. His commentary to the Code of R. Joseph 
Caro, in which one will find that in many cases he knew 
the sources of the religious customs and usages, put 
together in this work, better than its compiler himself, 
would have been sufficient to place him at the head of 
Halachic scholarship, whilst his notes and textual emenda- 
tions to the Tosephta and Seder 01am, to the restoration 
of which he contributed so much, would have sufficed to 
establish his fame as a critic of the first order. And this 
is the more astonishing when we consider that all this was 
done without manuscripts or any other aid, and by mere 
intuition. We cannot wonder that scholars who had 
the opportunity of visiting great libraries and saw how 
the emendations of the Gaon agreed sometimes with the 
readings given in the best manuscripts exclaimed very 
often: "Only by inspiration could he have found out 
these secrets." We have no need to go so far ; we shall 
simply say with the Talmud, " The powers of the real 
sage surpass those of the prophet." Nay, even had we 
possessed only his Gleanings^ which form a kind of obiter 
dicta on various topics of Jewish literature, the Gaon 
would have remained a model of clear thinking and real 
ingenuity for all future generations. 

However, a real appreciation of the Gaon's greatness as 
a scholar would only be possible either by a thorough 
study of his works, to which I have alluded, or by giving 
many specimens of them. The short space I am limited 
to makes such an undertaking impossible. I shall there- 


fore use what remains to me to say a few words on the 
salutary mfluence the Gaon had on his countrymen, the 
Russian Jews. 

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

So over violent or over civil, 

That every man with them is God or Devil. 

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


The focus, however, of all this spiritual life is the Yeshi- 
bah (Talmudical College) ^i in Walosin. I hope that a 
glance at its history and constitution will not be found 
uninteresting. The intellectual originator of this institu- 
tion which bears the name Yeshibah Ets Chayim (Tree of 
Life College),^ was the Gaon himself. Being convinced 
that the study of the Torah is the very life of Judaism, but 
that this study must be conducted in a scientific, not in a 
scholastic way, he bade his chief disciple, the R. Chayim 
already mentioned, to found a college in which Rabbinical 
literature should be taught according to his own true 
method. It would seem that, as long as the Gaon was 
alive, R. Chayim preferred to be a pupil rather than a 
teacher. When, however, the Gaon died, R. Chayim did 
not rest till he had carried out the command of his master, 
and in the year 1803 the College was opened in Walosin. 
The cloth manufacturer and disciple now became Rabbi 
and master. He began on a small scale, teaching at first 
only a few pupils. But even for the sustenance of a small 
number he had not sufficient means, and his pious wife 
sold her jewellery to help him in accomplishing his favour- 
ite plan. This is the best refutation of the French prov- 
erb Avare comme une Rabbine. The number, however, 
increased daily, and before he died (1828), he was fortunate 
enough to lecture to a hundred students. The number of 
students in the year 1888 amounted to 400, and the Rus- 
sian Jews are thus right in asserting that they have the 
greatest Talmudical College in the world. It is evident 
that no private charity by a single man, however great, 
could suffice to maintain such large numbers. Thus R. 
Chayim was already compelled to appeal to the liberality 
of his Russian brethren. The name of R. Chayim, and 


the still greater name of his master, were recommendation 
enough, and besides private offerings, many communities 
promised large sums towards supporting the students in 
Walosin. From time to time also messengers are sent out 
by the committee to promote the interests of the Yeshi- 
bah. The writers to whom I owe these data tell us that 
these messengers travel to all parts of the world to collect 
offerings for Walosin : so that it is a standing joke with 
the students that the existence of the mythical river 
Sambatyon^s may be questioned after all, otherwise it 
must long have been discovered by these messengers who 
explore the whole world in their journeys. But it would 
seem that this world is only a very small one. For the 
whole income of the Yeshibah has never exceeded the 
sum of about ;£i8oo. Of this a certain part is spent in 
providing the salaries of the teaching staff and proctors, 
and on the repairs of the building; whilst the rest is 
distributed amongst the students. Considering that no 
scholarship exceeds ;£i3 — it is only the forty immortals 
of Walosin who receive such high stipends — considering 
again that the great majority of the students belong to the 
poorer classes and thus receive no remittance from their 
parents, we may be sure that the words of the Talmud : 
" This is the way to study the Torah ; eat bread and salt, 
drink water by measure, sleep on the earth, and live a 
life of care," are carried out by them literally. But it 
would seem that the less they eat and the less they sleep, 
the more they work. Indeed the industry and the enthu- 
siasm of these Bachurim {alumni)'^ in the study of the 
Torah is almost unsurpassable. The official hours alone 
extend from nine in the morning until ten in the evening, 
while many of the students volunteer to continue their 


studies till the middle of the night, or to begin the day at 
three in the morning. 

As to the subject of these studies, it is confined, as may 
be imagined, to the exploration of the old Rabbinic litera- 
ture in all its branches. But it would be a mistake to think 
that the modern spirit has left Walosin quite untouched. 
It would be impossible that among 400 thinking heads 
there should not be a few who are interested in mathemat- 
ics, others again in philosophy or history, while yet others 
would conjugate the irregular verbs of some classical lan- 
guage when moving to and fro over their Talmud folios 
and pretending to **learn.'^ Indeed, almost all the writers 
who demand that these subjects should be introduced as 
obligatory into the programme of Walosin, belonged them- 
selves to this Yeshibah. And it is these writers who 
betray the secret how secular knowledge is now invading 
the precincts of Walosin, as well as of other Talmudical 
Colleges in spite of all obstacles and prohibitions. In 
conquering these difficulties seem to consist the pleasures 
of life of many Bachurim at Walosin. Look only at that 
undergraduate, how, after a heavy day's work he is stand- 
ing there in the street reading Buckle's History of Civili- 
sation in the moonlight ! Poor man, he is not so romantic 
as to prefer the moonlight to a cheerful, warm room, with 
the more prosaic light of a candle, but he has got tired of 
knocking at the door, for his landlady, to whom he has 
neglected to pay rent for the last three terms, made up 
her mind to let him freeze to-night. But still more cruel 
to him is his fellow-sufferer, who is also wandering in the 
streets with an overloaded brain and empty stomach ; he 
roughly shakes him out of his dreams by telling him that 
Buckle is long ago antiquated, and that he had better 


study the works of Herbert Spencer, who has spoken the 
last word on every vital subject in the world. Still these 
two starving and freezing representatives of English 
thought in Walosin form only an exception. The gen- 
eral favourites are the representatives of Jewish thought. 
That such books as the Guide of the Perplexed^ by Mai- 
monides, the Metaphysical Researches of Levi b. Ger- 
shom,2^ and other philosophical works of the Spanish 
school are read by the Walosin students it is needless to 
say. These books now form a part of the Rabbinic litera- 
ture, and it would be almost unorthodox to suspect their 
readers. But is worth noticing that even the productions 
of the modern historico-critical school, such as the works 
of Zunz, Frankel, Graetz, Weiss, are very popular with 
the Bachurim, being much read and discussed by them. 

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

I have very often, however, heard doubts expressed as 
to the continuance of this spirit when, as it is to be hoped, 
better times come for the Jews in Russia. Is it not to be 
feared that liberty and emancipation will render untenable 
ideas and notions which arose under entirely different cir- 
cumstances .? There is no need of entertaining such fears. 
Rabbi Jedaiah of Bedres^ concludes his philosophical 
work Examination of the World, with the following words : 
" The conclusion of the whole matter is, go either to the 
right, my heart, or go to the left, but believe all that R. 
Moses ben Maimon (Maimonides) has believed, the last of 
the Gaonim by time, but the first in rank." About five 
hundred years have passed away since these lines were 
written. Time, as we have seen, has brought another 



Gaon, and probably Time will favour us in future with 
still another. But times have also altered. The rebel- 
lious hearts of a liberal age are not likely to obey always 
the command, "believe all that the Gaon said." But the 
heart of man will in all ages retain idealism enough to 
love and revere the greatest of men and to follow what 
was best in them. 



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

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



Nachmanides who represented Judaism from the side of 
emotion and feeling, as Maimonides did from the side of 
reason and logic. 

R. Moses ben Nachman, or Bonastruc de Portas, as he 
was called by his fellow-countrymen, or Nachmanides, as 
he is commonly called now, was born in Gerona about the 
year 1 195. Gerona is a little town in the province of Cata- 
lonia in Spain. But though in Spain, Gerona was not 
distinguished for its philosophers or poets like Granada, 
Barcelona, or Toledo. Situated as it was in the North of 
Spain, Gerona was under the influence of Franco-Jewish 
sympathies, and thus its boast lay in the great Talmudists 
that it produced. I shall only mention the name of 
R. Zerahiah Hallevi Gerundi — so-called after his native 
place — whose strictures on the Code of R. Isaac Alfasi, 
which he began as a youth of nineteen years, will always 
remain a marvel of critical insight and independent re- 
search. Nachmanides is supposed by some authors to 
have been a descendant of R. Isaac ben Reuben of Barce- 
lona, whose hymns are still to be found in certain rituals. 
The evidence for this is insufficient, but we know that he 
was a cousin of R. Jonah Gerundi, not less famous for his 
Talmudic learning than for his saintliness and piety. 
Nachmanides thus belonged to the best Jewish families 
of Gerona. Various great men are mentioned as his 
teachers, but we have certainty only about two, namely 
R. Judah ben Yakar, the commentator of the prayers, 
and R. Meir ben Nathan of Trinquintaines. The mystic, 
R. Ezra (or Azriel), is indeed alleged to have been his 
instructor in the Cabbalah, and this is not impossible, as 
he also was an inhabitant of Gerona ; but it is more prob- 
able that Nachmanides was initiated into the Cabbalah by 



the R. Judah just mentioned, who also belonged to the 
mystical school. 

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

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


Sasportas, in the eighteenth century,* derived his pedigree 
from Nachmanides in the eleventh generation. 

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

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

The one was about the year 1232, on the occasion of 
the great struggle about Maimonides* Guide of the Per- 
plexedy and the first book of his great Compendium of 
the Law. The Maimonists looked upon these works 
almost as a new revelation, whilst the Anti-Maimonists 
condemned both as heretical, or at least conducive to 
heresy.^ It would be profitless to reproduce the details 
of this sad affair. The motives may have been pure and 
good, but the actions were decidedly bad. People de- 
nounced each other, excommunicated each other, and did 
not (from either side) spare even the dead from the most 
bitter calumnies. Nachmanides stood between two fires. 
The French Rabbis, from whom most of the Anti- 
Maimonists were recruited, he held in very high esteem 
and considered himself as their pupil. Some of the 
leaders of this party were also his relatives. He, too, 
had, as we shall see later on, a theory of his own about 
God and the world little in agreement with that of Mai- 
monides. It is worth noting that Nachmanides objected 



to calling Maimonides " our teacher Moses " (Rabbenu 
Mosheh),^ thinking it improper to confer upon him the 
title by which the Rabbis honoured the Master of the 
Prophets. The very fact, however, that he had some 
theory of the Universe shows that he had a problem to 
solve, whilst the real French Rabbis were hardly troubled 
by difficulties of a metaphysical character. Indeed, 
Nachmanides pays them the rather doubtful compliment 
that Maimonides' work was not intended for them, who 
were barricaded by their faith and happy in their belief, 
wanting no protection against the works of Aristotle and 
Galen, by whose philosophy others might be led astray. 
In other words, their strength lay in an ignorance of 
Greek philosophy, to which the cultivated Jews of Spain 
would not aspire. Nachmanides was also a great admirer 
of Maimonides, whose virtues and great merits in the 
service of Judaism he describes in his letter to the French 
Rabbis. Thus, the only way left open to him was to play 
the part of the conciliator. The course of this struggle 
is fully described in every Jewish history. It is sufficient 
to say that, in spite of his great authority, Nachmanides 
was not successful in his effort to moderate the violence 
of either party, and that the controversy was at last set- 
tled through the harsh interference of outsiders who well- 
nigh crushed Maimonists and Anti-Maimonists alike. 

The second public event in the life of Nachmanides 
was his Disputation, held in Barcelona, at the Court and 
in the presence of King Jayme I., of Aragon, in the year 
1263. It was the usual story. A convert to Christianity, 
named Pablo Christiani, who burned with zealous anxiety 
to see his former co-religionists saved, after many vain 
attempts in this direction, applied to the King of Aragon 


to order Nachmanides to take part in a public disputation. 
Pablo maintained that he could prove the justice of the 
Messianic claims of Jesus from the Talmud and other 
Rabbinic writings. If he could only succeed in convinc- 
ing the great Rabbi of Spain of the truth of his argument, 
the bulk of the Jews was sure to follow. By the way, 
it was the same Talmud which some twenty years pre- 
viously was, at the instance of another Jewish convert, 
burned in Paris, for containing passages against Chris- 
tianity. Nachmanides had to conform with the command 
of the king, and, on the 2ist of July, 1263, was begun 
the controversy, which lasted for four or five days. 

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

Besides, was there enough common ground between 
Judaism and thirteenth century Christianity to have jus- 
tified the hope of a mutual understanding? The Old 


Testament was almost forgotten in the Church. The 
First Person in the Trinity was leading a sort of shadowy- 
existence in art, which could only be the more repulsive 
to a Jew on that account. The largest part of Church 
worship was monopolised by devotion to the Virgin 
Mother, prayers to the saints, and kneeling before their 
relics. And a Jew may well be pardoned if he did not 
entertain higher views of this form of worship than Lu- 
ther and Knox did at a later period. It will thus not be 
worth our while to dwell much on the matter of this 
controversy, in which the essence of the real dispute is 
scarcely touched. There are only two points in it which 
are worth noticing. The first is that Nachmanides de- 
clared the Agadoth^ in the Talmud to be only a series 
of sermons (he uses this very word), expressing the indi- 
vidual opinions of the preacher, and thus possessing no 
authoritative weight. The convert Pablo is quite aghast 
at this statement, and accuses Nachmanides of heter- 

Secondly, — and here I take leave to complete the 
rather obscure passage in the controversy by a parallel 
in his book, The Date of Redemption^ quoted by Azariah 
de Rossi — that the question of the Messiah is not of that 
dogmatic importance to the Jews that Christians imagine. 
For even if Jews supposed their sins to be so great that 
they forfeited all the promises made to them in the Script- 
ures, or that, on some hidden ground, it would please the 
Almighty never to restore their national independence, 
this would in no way alter the obligations of Jews towards 
the Torah. Nor is the coming of the Messiah desired by 
Jews as an end in itself. For it is not the goal of their 
hopes that they shall be able again to eat of the fruit of 


Palestine, or enjoy other pleasures there; not even the 
chance of the restoration of sacrifices and the worship of 
the Temple is the greatest of Jewish expectations (con- 
nected with the appearance of the Messiah). What 
makes them long for his coming is the hope that they 
will then witness, in the company of the prophets and 
priests, a greater spread of purity and holiness than is 
now possible. In other words, the possibility for them 
to live a holy life after the will of God will be greater 
than now. But, on the other hand, considering that such 
a godly life under a Christian government requires greater 
sacrifices than it would under a Jewish king; and, con- 
sidering again that the merits and rewards of a good act 
increase with the obstacles that are in the way of execut- 
ing it — considering this, a Jew might even prefer to live 
under the King of Aragon than under the Messiah, where 
he would perforce act in accordance with the precepts of 
the Torah. 

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

The result of the controversy is contested by the dif- 
ferent parties; the Christian writers claim the victory 
for Pablo, whilst the Jewish documents maintain that 



the issue was with Nachmanides. In any case, *^ Der 
Jude wird verbrannt." For in the next year (1264) all 
the books of the Jews in Aragon were confiscated and 
submitted to the censorship of a commission, of which 
the well-known author of the Pugio Fidei^ Raymund 
Martini, was, perhaps, the most important member. The 
books were not burned this time, but had to suffer a 
severe mutilation ; the anti-Christian passages, or such as 
were supposed to be so, were struck out or obliterated. 
Nachmanides' account of the controversy, which he 
probably published from a sense of duty towards those 
whom he represented, was declared to contain blasphemies 
against the dominant religion. The pamphlet was con- 
demned to be burned publicly, whilst the author was, as 
it seems, punished with expulsion from his country. It 
is not reported where Nachmanides found a home during 
the next three years; probably he had to accept the 
hospitality of his friends, either in Castile or in the 
south of France; but we know that in the year 1267 he 
left Europe and emigrated to Palestine. 

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

Before proceeding to speak of his works, let us first 
cast a glance at his letters from Palestine, forming as 
they do a certain link between his former life and that 


which was to occupy him exclusively for the rest of his 
days. We have three letters, the first of which I shall 
translate here in extenso. 

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

" The Lord shall bless thee, my son Nachman, and thou shalt 
see the good of Jerusalem. Yea, thou shalt see thy children's 
children (Ps. cxxviii.), and thy table shall be like that of our 
father Abraham ! ® In Jerusalem, the Holy City, I write this 
letter. For, thanks and praise unto the rock of my salvation, 
I was thought worthy by God to arrive here safely on the 9th 
of the month of Elul, and I remained there till the day after the 
Day of Atonement. Now I intend going to Hebron, to the 
sepulchre of our ancestors, to prostrate myself, and there to dig 
my grave. But what am I to say to you with regard to the 
country ? Great is the solitude and great the wastes, and, to 
characterise it in short, the more sacred the places, the greater 
their desolation ! Jerusalem is more desolate than the rest 
of the country : Judaea more than Galilee. But even in this 
destruction it is a blessed land. It has about 2000 inhabitants, 
about 300 Christians live there who escaped the sword of the 
Sultan. There are no Jews. For since the arrival of the Tar- 
tars, some fled, others died by the sword. There are only two 
brothers, dyers by trade, who have to buy their ingredients 
from the government. There the Ten Meni<> meet, and on 
Sabbaths they hold service at their house. But we encouraged 
them, and we succeeded in finding a vacant house, built on pillars 
of marble with a beautiful arch. That we took for a synagogue. 
For the town is without a master, and whoever will take possession 
of the ruins can do so. We gave our offerings towards the repairs 
of the house. We have sent already to Shechem to fetch some 
scrolls of the Law from there which had been brought thither 
from Jerusalem at the invasion of the Tartars. Thus they will 
organise a synagogue and worship there. For continually people 
crowd to Jerusalem, men and women, from Damascus, Zobah 



(Aleppo)," and from all parts of the country to see the Sanctu- 
ary and to mourn over it. He who thought us worthy to let us 
see Jerusalem in her desertion, he shall bless us to behold her 
again, built and restored, when the glory of the Lord will return 
unto her. But you, my son, and your brothers and the whole of 
our family, you all shall live to see the salvation of Jerusalem and 
the comfort of Zion. These are the words of your father who 
is yearning and forgetting, who is seeing and enjoying, Moses 
ben Nachman. Give also my peace to my pupil Moses, the son 
of Solomon, the nephew of your mother. I wish to tell him . . . 
that there, facing the holy temple, I have read his verses, weeping 
bitterly over them. May he who caused his name to rest in the 
Holy Temple increase your peace together with the peace of the 
whole community." 

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

" A mournful sight I have perceived in thee (Jerusalem) ; only 
one Jew is here, a dyer, persecuted, oppressed and despised. At 
his house gather great and small when they can get the Ten Men. 
They are wretched folk, without occupation and trade, consisting 
of a few pilgrims and beggars, though the fruit of the land is still 
magnificent and the harvests rich. Indeed, it is still a blessed 
country, flowing with milk and honey. . . . Oh ! I am the man who 
saw affliction. I am banished from my table, far removed from 
friend and kinsman, and too long is the distance to meet again. 
... I left my family, I forsook my house. There with my 
sons and daughters, and with the sweet and dear children whom I 
have brought up on my knees, I left also my soul. My heart and 
my eyes will dwell with them for ever. . . . But the loss of all 
this and of every other glory my eyes saw is compensated by hay- 


ing now the joy of being a day in thy courts (O Jerusalem), visit- 
ing the ruins of the Temple and crying over the ruined Sanctuary ; 
where I am permitted to caress thy stones, to fondle thy dust, and 
to weep over thy ruins. I wept bitterly, but I found joy in my 
tears. I tore my garments, but I felt relieved by it." 

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

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

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

As to his works, we may divide them into two classes. 
The one would contain those of a strictly legalistic (Hala- 
chic), whilst the other those of a more homiletic-exegetical 
and devotional character (Agadic). As already indicated 
in the preliminary lines of this paper, I cannot dwell long 


on the former class of our author's writings. It consists 
either of Glosses or Novellae to the Talmud, in the style 
and manner of the French Rabbis, or of Compendia of 
certain parts of the Law after the model set by R. Isaac 
Alfasi or Maimonides, or in defences of the " Earlier Au- 
thorities " against the strictures made on them by a later 
generation. A few words must be said with regard to these 
defences ; for they reveal that deep respect for authority 
which forms a special feature of Nachmanides' writings. 
His Wars of the Lord, in which he defends Alfasi against 
R. Zerahiah of Gerona, was undertaken when he was very 
young, whilst his defence of the author of the Halachoth 
Gedoloth^^ against the attacks of Maimonides, which he 
began at a much more mature age, shows the same defer- 
ence "to the great ones of the past." Indeed, he says in 
one place, *' We bow before them (the earlier authorities), 
and though their words are not quite evident to us we 
submit to them " ; or, as he expresses himself elsewhere, 
" Only he who dips (deeply enough) in the wisdom of the 
* ancient ones' will drink the pure (old) wine." But it 
would be unjust to the genius of Nachmanides to repre- 
sent him as a blind worshipper of authority. Humble and 
generous in disposition, he certainly would bow before 
every recognised authority, and he would also think it his 
duty to take up the cudgels for him as long as there was 
even the least chance of making an honourable defence. 
But when this chance had gone, when Nachmanides was 
fully convinced that his hero was in the wrong, he followed 
no guide but truth. ♦** Notwithstanding," he says in his 
introduction to the defences of the Halachoth Gedoloth, 
" my desire and delight to be the disciple of the Earlier 
Authorities, to maintain their views and to assert them, I 


do not consider myself a * donkey carrying books.* I will 
explain their way and appreciate their value, but when 
their views are inconceivable to my thoughts, I will plead 
in all modesty, but shall judge according to the sight of 
my eyes. And when the meaning is clear I shall flatter 
none, for the Lord gives wisdom in all times and ages." 
But, on the other hand, there seems to have been a certain 
sort of literary agnosticism about Nachmanides which 
made it very difficult for him to find the "clear meaning." 
The passage in the Wars of the Lord to the effect " that 
there is in the art (of commenting) no such certain demon- 
stration as in mathematics or astronomy," is well known 
and has often been quoted ; but still more characteristic of 
this literary agnosticism is the first paragraph of the 
above-mentioned defences of the Halachoth Gedoloth. 
Whilst all his predecessors accepted, on the authority of 
R. Simlai,^* the number (613) of the commandments as 
an uncontested fact, and based their compositions on it, 
Nachmanides questions the whole matter, and shows that 
the passages relating to this enumeration of laws are only 
of a homiletical nature, and thus of little consequence. 
Nay, he goes so far as to say, ** Indeed the system how to 
number the commandments is a matter in which I suspect 
all of us (are mistaken) and the truth must be left to him 
who will solve all doubts." We should thus be inclined to 
think that this adherence to the words of the earlier Au- 
thorities was at least as much due to this critical scepti- 
cism as to his conservative tendencies. 

The space left to me I shall devote to the second class 
of his writings, in which Nachmanides worked less after 
given types. These reveal to us more of his inner being, 
and offer us some insight into his theological system. 



The great problem which seems to have presented 
itself to Nachmanides' mind was less how to reconcile 
religion with reason than how to reconcile man with 
religion. What is man ? The usual answer is not flat- 
tering. He is an animal that owes its existence to the 
same instinct that produces even the lower creatures, and 
he is condemned, like them, to go to a place of worm and 
maggot. But, may not one ask, why should a creature 
so lowly born, and doomed to so hapless a future, be 
burdened with the awful responsibility of knowing that 
he is destined "to give reckoning and judgment before 
the King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He " } It 
is true that man is also endowed with a heavenly soul, 
but this only brings us back again to the antithesis of flesh 
and spirit which was the stumbling-block of many a theo- 
logical system. Nor does it help us much towards the solu- 
tion of the indicated difficulty ; for what relation can there 
be between this materia impura of body and the pure in- 
tellect of soul.!* And again, must not the unfavourable 
condition in which the latter is placed through this uncon- 
genial society heavily clog and suppress all aspiration for 
perfection } It is " a house divided against itself," doomed 
to an everlasting contest, without hope for co-operation or 
even of harmony. 

The works The Sacred Letter and The Law of Man 
may be considered as an attempt by Nachmanides, if not 
to remove, at least to relieve the harshness of this antithe- 
sis. The former, in which he blames Maimonides for fol- 
lowing Aristotle in denouncing certain desires implanted 
in us by nature as ignominious and unworthy of man, 
may, perhaps, be characterised as a vindication of the 
flesh from a religious point of view. The contempt in 



which "that Greek," as Nachmanides terms Aristotle, 
held the flesh is inconsistent with the theory of the 
religious man, who believes that everything (including 
the body, with all its functions) is created by God, whose 
work is perfect and good, without impure or inharmonious 
parts. It is only sin and neglect that disfigure God's crea- 
tions. I cannot enter into any further details of this work, 
but I may be permitted to remark that there is a very 
strong similarity between the tendency of the Sacred 
Letter and certain leading ideas of Milton. Indeed, if 
the first two chapters of the former were a little con- 
densed and put into English, they could not be better 
summarised than by the famous lines in the Paradise 
Lost : — 

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

The second of these two works, the Law of Matty may 
be regarded as a sanctification of grief, and particularly 
of the grief of griefs, death. The bulk of the book is 
legalistic, treating of mourning rites, burial customs, and 
similar topics; but there is much in the preface which 
bears on our subject. For here again Nachmanides takes 
the opportunity of combating a chilling philosophy, which 
tries to arm us against suffering by stifling our emotions. 


" My son," he says, " be not persuaded by certain prop- 
ositions of the great philosophers who endeavour to 
harden our hearts and to deaden our sensations by their 
idle comfort, which consists in denying the past and de- 
spairing of the future. One of them has even declared 
that there is nothing in the world over the loss of which 
it is worth crying, and the possession of which would 
justify joy. This is an heretical view. Our perfect 
Torah bids us to be joyful in the day of prosperity and 
to shed tears in the day of misfortune. It in no way 
forbids crying or demands of us to suppress our grief. On 
the contrary, the Torah suggests to us that to mourn over 
heavy losses is equivalent to a service of God, leading 
us, as it does, to reflect on our end and ponder over our 

This destiny, as well as Reward and Punishment in 
general, is treated in the concluding chapter of the Law 
of Man, which is known under the title of The Gate of 
Reward}^ Nachmanides does not conceal from himself 
the difficulties besetting inquiries of this description. 
He knows well enough that in the last instance we must 
appeal to that implicit faith in the inscrutable justice of 
God with which the believer begins. Nevertheless he 
thinks that only the ** despisers of wisdom " would fail 
to bring to this faith as full a conviction as possible, which 
latter is only to be gained by speculation. I shall have 
by and by occasion to refer to the results of this specula- 
tion. Here we must only notice the fact of Nachmanides 
insisting on the bodily resurrection which will take place 
after the coming of the Messiah, and will be followed by 
the Olam Habba ^^ (the life in the world to come) of which 
the Rabbis spoke. 


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

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

But if even the body holds such a high position as to 
make all its instincts and functions, if properly regulated, 
a service of God, and to destine it for a glorious future of 
eternal bliss and rejoicing in God, we can easily imagine 
what a high place the soul must occupy in the system of 
Nachmanides. To be sure it is a much higher one than 
that to which philosophy would fain admit her. A beau- 
tiful parable of the Persian poet Yellaladeen (quoted by 
the late Mr. Lowell) narrates that " One knocked at the 
beloved's door, and a voice asked from within, *Who is 
there } ' and he answered, * It is I.' Then the voice said, 

* This house will not hold me and thee,* and the door was 
not opened. Then went the lover into the desert and 
fasted and prayed in solitude, and after a year he returned 
and knocked again at the door, and again the voice asked 

* Who is there 1 ' and he said ' It is thyself ' ; and the door 



was opened to him." This is also the difference between 
the two schools — the mystical and the philosophical — 
with regard to the soul. With the rationalist the soul is 
indeed a superior abstract intelligence created by God, but, 
like all His creations, has an existence of its own, and is 
thus separated from God, With the mystic, however, the 
soul is God, or a direct emanation from God. " For he 
who breathes into another thing (Gen. ii. 7) gives unto it 
something of his own breath (or soul)," and as it is said in 
Job xxxii. 8, " And the soul of the Almighty giveth them 
understanding." This emanation, or rather immanence — 
for Nachmanides insists in another place that the Hebrew 
term employed for it, Aziluth}^ means a permanent 
dwelling with the thing emanating — which became mani- 
fest with the creation of man, must not be confounded 
with the moving soul (or the Nephesh ChayaK)}^ which is 
common to man with all creatures. 

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

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

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



primaeval gentleness, and be reinstituted in their first 
rights. \ 

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

It is for this man, with a body so superior, and a soul so 
sublime — more sublime than the angels — that the world 
was created. I emphasise the last word, for the belief in 
the creation of the world by God from nothing forms, 
according to Nachmanides, the first of the three funda- 



mental dogmas of Judaism. The other two also refer to 
God's relation to the world and man. They are the belief 
in God's Providence and his YediahP^ Creation from 
nothing is for Nachmanides the keynote to his whole 
religion, since it is only by this fact, as he points out in 
many places, that God gains real dominion over nature. 
For, as he says, as soon as we admit the eternity of 
matter, we must (logically) deny God even " the power of 
enlarging the wing of a fly, or shortening the leg of an 
ant." But the whole Torah is nothing if not a record of 
God's mastery in and over the world, and of His miracu- 
lous deeds. One of the first proclamations of Abraham 
to his generation was that God is the Lord (or Master) of 
the world (Gen. xviii. 33). The injunction given to Abra- 
ham, and repeated afterwards to the whole of Israel (Gen. 
xvii. 2, and Deut. xviii. 1 3), to be perfect with God, Nach- 
manides numbers as one of the 613 commandments, and 
explains it to mean that man must have a whole belief 
in God without blemish or reservation, and acknowledge 
Him possessed of power over nature and the world, man 
and beast, devil and angel, power being attributable to 
Him alone. Indeed, when the angel said to Jacob, " Why 
dost thou ask after my name " (Gen. xxxii. 29), he meant 
to indicate by his question the impotence of the heavenly 
host, so that there is no use in knowing their name, the 
power and might belonging only to God. 

We may venture even a step further, and maintain that 
in Nachmanides' system there is hardly room left for such 
a thing as nature or "the order of the world." There are 
only two categories of miracles by which the world is 
governed, or in which God's Providence is seen. The 
one is the category of the manifest miracles, as the ten 


plagues in Egypt, or the crossing of the Red Sea; the 
other is that of the hidden miracles, which we do not per- 
ceive as such, because of their frequency and continuity. 
" No man," he declares, " can share in the Torah of our 
Teacher, Moses (that is, can be considered a follower of 
the Jewish religion), unless he believes that all our affairs 
and events, whether they concern the masses or the in- 
dividual, are all miracles (worked by the direct will of 
God), attributing nothing to nature or to the order of the 
world." Under this second order he classes all the prom- 
ises the Torah makes to the righteous, and the punish- 
ments with which evil-doers are threatened. For, as he 
points out in many places, there is nothing in the nature 
of the commandments themselves that would make their 
fulfilment necessarily prolong the life of man, and cause 
the skies to pour down rain, or, on the other hand, would 
associate disobedience to them with famine and death. 
All these results can, therefore, only be accomplished in 
a supernatural way by the direct workings of God. 

Thus miracles are raised to a place in the regular 
scheme of things, and the difficulty regarding the possi- 
bility of God's interferences with nature disappears by 
their very multiplication. But a still more important 
point is, that, by this unbroken chain of miracles, which 
unconditionally implies God's presence to perform them, 
Nachmanides arrives at a theory establishing a closer 
contact between the Deity and the world than that set 
forth by other thinkers. Thus, he insists that the term 
Skechinahy or Cabod^^ (Glory of God), must not be under- 
stood, with some Jewish philosophers, as something sepa- 
rate from God, or as gloty created by God. " Were this 
the case," he proceeds to say, "we could not possibly 


say, 'Blessed be the glory of the Lord from his place,' 
since every mark of worship to anything created involves 
the sin of idolatry." Such terms as Shechinah^ or Cabody 
can therefore only mean the immediate divine presence. ^ 
This proves, as may be noted in passing, how unphilo- 
sophical the idea of those writers is who maintain that the 
rigid monotheism of the Jews makes God so transcen- 
dental that He is banished from the world. As we see, 
it is just this assertion of His absolute Unity which not 
only suffers no substitute for God, but also removes every 
separation between Him and the world. Hence also 
Nachmanides insists that the prophecy even of the suc- 
cessors of Moses was a direct communion of God with 
the prophet, and not, as others maintained, furnished 
through the medium of an angel. 

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


it is said, ** Everything that is called by my name (mean- 
ing, chosen to promulgate God's name), for my glory have 
I created it." 

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

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


What Nachmanides meant by maintaining that all know- 
ledge and wisdom were " the fruits of the Torah, or the 
fruits of these fruits," will be best seen from his Comment 
tary on the Pentateuch. I have already made use of this 
Commentary in the preceding quotations, but, being the 
greatest of the works of Nachmanides, it calls for some 
special attention by itself. Its general purpose is edifica- 
tion, or as he says, " to appease the mind of the students 
(labouring under persecution and troubles) when they read 
the portion on Sabbaths and festivals, and to attract their 
heart by simple explanations and sweet words." The ex- 
planations occupy a considerable space. As Dr. Perles 
has shown in his able essay on this work of Nachmanides, 
our author neglected no resource of philology or archae- 
ology accessible in his age which could contribute to es- 
tablish the "simple explanations" on a sound scientific 
basis. The prominent feature of this Commentary, how- 
ever, is the " sweet words." Indeed, how sweet and sooth- 
ing to his contemporaries must have been such words as 
we read at the end of the ** Song of Moses " (Deut. xxxii.) : 
" And behold there is nothing conditional in this Song. It 
is a charter testifying that we shall have to suffer heavily 
for our sins, but that, nevertheless, God will not destroy 
us, being reconciled to us (though we shall have no merits), 
and forgiving our sins for his name's sake alone. . . . And 
so our Rabbis said. Great is this song, embracing as it 
does both the past (of Israel) and the future, this world 
and the world to come. . . . And if this song were the 
composition of a mere astrologer we should be constrained 
to believe in it, considering that all its words were ful- 
filled. How much more have we to hope with all our 
hearts and to trust to the word of God, through the mouth 


of his prophet Moses, the faithful in all his house, like unto 
whom there was none, whether before him or after him." 
A part of these sweet words may also be seen in the nu- 
merous passages in which he attempts to account for 
various laws, and to detect their underlying principles. 

For though " the Torah is the expression of God's simple 
and absolute will, which man has to follow without any 
consideration of reward," still this will is not arbitrary, and 
even that class of laws which are called chukkim '^ (which 
means, according to some Jewish commentators, motive- 
less decrees) have their good reasons, notwithstanding that 
they are unfathomable to us. " They are all meant for the 
good of man, either to keep aloof from us something hurt- 
ful, or to educate us in goodness, or to remove from us an 
evil belief and to make us know his name. This is what 
they (the Rabbis) meant by saying that commandments 
have a purifying purpose, namely, that man being purified 
and tried by them becomes as one without alloy of bad 
thoughts and unworthy qualities." Indeed, the soul of 
man is so sensitive to every impurity that it suffers a sort 
of infection even by an unintentional sin. Hence the in- 
junction to bring a Korban (sacrifice) even in this case ; 
the effect of the Korban, as its etymology QKaraby^ indi- 
cates, is to bring man back to God, or rather to facilitate 
this approach. All this again is, as Nachmanides points 
out, only an affluence from God's mercy and love to man- 
kind. God derives no benefit from it. " If he be right- 
eous what can he give thee 1 " And even those laws and 
institutions which are intended to commemorate God's 
wonders and the creation of the world (for instance, the 
Passover festival and the Sabbath) are not meant for His 
glorification, or, as Heine maliciously expressed it : — 


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

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

The lessons which Nachmanides draws from the various 
Biblical narratives also belong to these "sweet words." 
They are mostly of a typical character. For, true as all 
the stories in the Scriptures are, ** the whole Torah is," as 
he tells us (with allusion to Gen. v. i.), "the book of the 
generations of Adam," or, as we should say, a history of 
humanity written in advance. Thus the account of the 
six days of the creation is turned into a prophecy of the 
most important events which would occur during the suc- 
ceeding six thousand years, whilst the Sabbath is a fore- 
cast of the millennium in the seventh thousand, which will 
be the day of the Lord. Jacob and Esau are, as in the 
old Rabbinic homilies generally, the prototypes of Israel 
and Rome ; and so is the battle of Moses and Joshua with 
Amalek indicative of the war which Elijah and the 
Messiah the son of Joseph will wage against Edom (the 
prototype of Rome), before the Redeemer from the house 
of David will appear.^ Sometimes these stories convey 
both a moral and a pre-justification of what was destined to 
happen to Israel. So Nachmanides' remarks with refer- 
ence to Sarah's treatment of Hagar (Gen. xvi. 6): "Our 
mother Sarah sinned greatly by inflicting this pain on 
Hagar, as did also Abraham, who allowed such a thing to 
pass ; but God saw her affliction and rewarded her by a 


son (the ancestor of a wild race), who would inflict on 
the seed of Abraham and Sarah every sort of oppres- 
sion." In this he alluded to the Islamic empires. Nor 
does he approve of Abraham's conduct on the occasion of 
his coming to Egypt, when he asked Sarah to pass as his 
sister (Gen. xii.). " Unintentionally," Nachmanides says, 
" Abraham, under the fear of being murdered, committed 
a great sin when he exposed his virtuous wife to such a 
temptation. For he ought to have trusted that God would 
save both him and his wife. ... It is on account of this 
deed that his children had to suffer exile under the rule of 
Pharaoh. There, where the sin was committed, also the 
judgment took place." It is also worth noticing that, in 
opposition to Maimonides, he allows no apology for the 
attack of Simeon and Levi on the population of Shechem 
(Gen. xxxiv. 25). It is true that they were idolaters, im- 
moral, and steeped in every abomination ; but Jacob and 
his sons were not commissioned with executing justice on 
them. The people of Shechem trusted their word, there- 
fore they ought to have spared them. Hence Jacob's pro- 
test, and his curse against their wrath, which would have 
been quite unjustified had he looked on the action of his 
sons as a good work. 

Besides these typical meanings, the matters of the 
Torah have also their symbolical importance, which places 
them almost above the sphere of human conception ; they 
are neither exactly what they seem to be nor entirely what 
their name implies, but a reflex from things unseen, which 
makes any human interference both preposterous and dan- 
gerous. Of " the things called Tree of Life and Tree of 
Knowledge," Nachmanides tells us that their mystery is 
very great, reaching into higher worlds. Otherwise, why 



should God, who is good and the dispenser of good, have 
prevented Adam from eating the fruit (of the latter), whilst 
in another place he says : " And if thou wilt be worthy, and 
understand the mystery of the word Bereshith'^ (with 
which the Torah begins), thou wilt see that in truth the 
Scripture, though apparently speaking of matters here below 
(on earth), is always pointing to things above (heaven); " for 
"every glory and every wonder, and every deep mystery, 
and all beautiful wisdom are hidden in the Torah, sealed 
up in her treasures." 

It is very characteristic of the bent of Nachmanides* 
mind, that he is perhaps the first Jewish writer who men- 
tions the apocryphal book The Wisdom of Solomofiy which 
he knew from a Syriac version, and which he believed to 
be genuine. And when we read there (vii. 7-25), " Where- 
fore I prayed and understanding was given to me. I called 
upon God and the spirit of wisdom came upon me. . . . 
For God has given me unmistakable knowledge to know 
how the world was made, and the operations of the planets. 
The beginning, ending, and midst of the times, the alter- 
ations and the turnings of the sun, the changes of the 
seasons, the natures of the living creatures and the furies 
of the wild beasts, the force of the spirits and the reason- 
ings of men, the diversities of plants and the virtues of the 
roots. All such things that are either secret or manifest, 
them I knew" — the wise king was, according to Nach- 
manides(who quotes the passages which I have just cited), 
speaking of the Torah, which is identical with this wis- 
dom, a wisdom which existed before the creation, and by 
which God planned the world. Hence it bears the impres- 
sion of all the universe, whilst on the other hand when 
it is said, "The king brought me into his chambers," 


those secret recesses of the Torah are meant in which all 
the great mysteries relating to Creation and to the Chariot 
(Ezekiel i.) are hidden. 

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

Indeed Nachmanides himself, in the preface to the 
above-mentioned Commentary, gives us the kind advice 
not to meditate, or rather brood, over the mystical hints 
which are scattered over this work, "speculation being 
(in such matters) folly, and reasoning over them fraught 



with danger." Indeed, the danger is obvious. I have, 
to give one or two instances, already alluded to the theory 
which accepts the Torah or the Wisdom as an agent in 
the creation of the world. But the mystic pushes further, 
and asks for the Primal Being to which this Wisdom owes 
its origin. The answer given is from the great Nothing, 
as it is written. And the Wisdom shall be found from 
Nothing.2^ What is intended by this, if it means anything, 
is probably to divest the first cause of every possible 
quality which by its very qualifying nature must be limit- 
ing and exclusive. Hence, God becomes the Unknowable. 
But suppose a metaphysical Hamlet, who, handling words 
indelicately, should impetuously exclaim, To be or not to 
be, that is the question } — into what abyss of utter nega- 
tions would he drag all those who despair, by his terrible 

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

But the greater the dangers that beset the path of 
mysticism, the deeper the interest which we feel in the 
mystic. In connection with the above-mentioned warning, 
Nachmanides cites the words from the Scriptures, "But 
let not the priests and the people break through to come 
up unto the Lord, lest he break forth upon them " (Exod. 
xix. 24). Nevertheless, when we read in the Talmud the 
famous story of the four Rabbis ^^ who went up into the 
PardeSy or Garden of Mystical Contemplation, we do not 


withhold our sympathy, either from Ben Azzai, who shot 
a glance and died, or from Ben Zoma, who shot a glance 
and was struck (in his mind). Nay, we feel the greatest 
admiration for these daring spirits, who, in their passion- 
ate attempt to "break through" the veil before the 
Infinite, hazarded their lives, and even that which is 
dearer than life, their minds, for a single glance. And 
did R. Meir deny his sympathies even to Other One 
or Elisha ben Abuyah, who " cut down the plants " } 
He is said to have heard a voice from heaven, " Return, 
oh backsliding children, except Other One," which pre- 
vented his repentance. ' Poor fallen Acher, he mistook 
hell for heaven. But do not the struggle and despair 
which led to this unfortunate confusion rather plead for 
our commiseration } 

Nachmanides, however, in his gentle way, did not mean 
to storm heaven. Like R. Akiba, " he entered in peace, 
and departed in peace." And it was by this peacefulness 
of his nature that he gained an influence over posterity 
which is equalled only by that of Maimonides. "If he 
was not a profound thinker," like the author of the Guide 
of the Perplexedy he had that which is next best — "he 
felt profoundly." Some writers of a rather reactionary 
character even went so far as to assign to him a highei: 
place than to Maimonides. This is unjust. What a 
blank would there have been in Jewish thought but for 
Maimonides' great work, on which the noblest thinkers of 
Israel fed for centuries ! As long as Job and Ecclesi- 
astes hold their proper place in the Bible, and the Talmud 
contains hundreds of passages suggesting difficulties re- 
lating to such problems as the creation of the world, God's 
exact relation to it, the origin of evil, free will and pre- 



destination, none will persuade me that philosophy does 
not form an integral part of Jewish tradition, which, in its 
historical developments, took the shape which Maimonides 
and his successors gave to it. If Maimonides* Guide^ 
which he considered as an interpretation of the Bible and 
of many strange sayings in the old Rabbinic homilies 
in the Talmud, is Aristotelian in its tone, so is tradition 
too; even the Talmud in many places betrays all sorts 
of foreign influences, and none would think of declaring 
it un-Jewish on this ground. I may also remark in pass- 
ing that the certainty with which some writers deprecate 
the aids which religion may receive from philosophy is 
a little too hasty. For the question will always remain, 
What religion } The religion of R. Moses of Tachau or 
R. Joseph Jabez29 would certainly have been greatly 
endangered by the slightest touch of speculation, while 
that of Bachya,^ Maimonides, Jedaiah of Bedres, and 
Delmedigo undoubtedly received from philosophy its 
noblest support, and became intensified by the union. 

But apart from that consideration, the sphere of the ac- 
tivity of these two leaders seems to have been so widely 
different that it is hardly just to consider them as antag- 
onists, or at least to emphasise the antagonism too much. 
Maimonides wrote his chief work, the Guide, for the few 
elect, who, like Ibn Tibbon ^^ for instance, would traverse 
whole continents if a single syllogism went wrong. And 
if he could be of use to one wise man of this stamp, 
Maimonides would do so at the risk of "saying things 
unsuitable for ten thousand fools.". But with Nach- 
manides, it would seem, it was these ten thousand who 
formed the main object of his tender care. They are, as 
we have seen, cultivated men, indeed " students," having 


enjoyed a proper education ; but the happy times of 
abstract thinking have gone, and being under a perpetual 
strain of persecutions and cares, they long for the Sabbath 
and Festivals, which would bring them both bodily and 
spiritual recreation. They find no fault with religion, a 
false syllogism does not jar on their ears; what they are 
afraid of is that, being engaged as they are, all the six 
days of work, in their domestic affairs, religion may be 
too good a thing for them. "To appease their minds," 
to edify them, to make life more sweet and death less 
terrible to them, and to show them that even their weak- 
nesses, as far as they are conditioned by nature, are not 
irreconcilable with a holy life, was what Nachmanides 
strove after. Now and then he permits them a glance 
into the mystical world in which he himself loved to move, 
but he does not care to stifle their senses into an idle 
contemplation, and passes quickly to some more practical 
application. To be sure, the tabernacle is nothing but a 
complete map of the superlunar world; but nevertheless 
its rather minute description is meant to teach us "that 
God desires us to work." 

This tendency toward being useful to the great majority 
of mankind may account for the want of consistency of 
which Nachmanides was so often accused. It is only the 
logician who can afford to be thoroughgoing in his theory, 
and even he would become most absurd and even danger- 
ous but for the redeeming fact " that men are better than 
their principles." But with Nachmanides these "prin- 
ciples" would have proved even more fatal. Could he, 
for instance, have upset authority in the face of the ten 
thousand } They need to be guided rather than to guide. 
But he does not want them to follow either the Gaon or 


anybody else slavishly, " the gates of wisdom never having 
been shut," whilst on the other hand he hints to them that 
there is something divine in every man, which places him 
at least on the same high level with any authority. Take 
another instance — his wavering attitude between the 
Maimonists and the Anti-Maimonists, for which he was 
often censured. Apart from other reasons, to which I 
have pointed above, might he not have felt that, in spite 
of his personal admiration for Maimonides' genius, he had 
no right to put himself entirely on the side where there 
was little room for the ten thousand who were entrusted 
to his guidance, whilst the French Rabbis, with all their 
prejudices and intolerance, would never deny their sym- 
pathies to simple emotional folk } 

This tender and absorbing care for the people in gen- 
eral may also account for the fact that we do not know 
of a single treatise by Nachmanides of a purely Cabba- 
listic character in the style of the Book of Weighty by 
Moses de Leon, or the Orchard, by R. Moses Cordovora, 
or the Tree of Life by R. Isaac Loria.^ The story that 
attributes to him the discovery of the Zohar in a cave in 
Palestine, from whence he sent it to Catalonia, needs as 
little refutation as the other story connected with his 
conversion to the Cabbalah, which is even more silly and 
of such a nature as not to bear repetition. The Lilac of 
Mysteries ^ and other mystical works passed also for a 
long time under his name, but their claim to this honour 
has been entirely disproved by the bibliographers, and 
they rank now among the pseudepigraphica. It is true 
that R. Nissim, of Gerona, said of Nachmanides that he 
was too much addicted to the belief in the Cabbalah, and 
as a fellow-countryman he may have had some personal 


knowledge about the matter. But as far as his writings 
go, this belief finds expression only in incidental remarks 
and occasional citations from the Bahir,^ which he never 
thrusts upon the reader. It was chiefly when philosophy 
called in question his deep sympathies with even lower 
humanity, and threatened to withdraw them from those 
ennobling influences under which he wanted to keep them, 
that he asserted his mystical theories. 

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

Much of this activity was displayed in Palestine, "the 
land to which the providence of God is especially at- 
tached," and which was, as with R. Judah Hallevi, always 


"his ideal home." There he not only completed his 
Commentary on the Pentateuch^ but also erected syna- 
gogues, and engaged in organising communities, whose 
tone he tried to elevate both by his lectures and by his 
sermons. His career in Palestine was not a long one, 
for he lived there only about three years, and in 1270 
he must already have been dead. A pretty legend nar- 
rates that when he emigrated to Palestine his pupils asked 
him to give them a sign enabling them to ascertain the 
day of his death. He answered them that on that day 
a rift in the shape of a lamp would be seen in the tomb- 
stone of his mother. After three years a pupil suddenly 
noticed this rift, when the mourning over the Rabbi began. 
Thus, stone, or anything else earthly, breaks finally, and 
the life of the master passes into light. 

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

Ere time began, ere ag'e to age had thrilled, 
I waited in his storehouse, as he willed ; 
He gave me being, but, my years fulfilled, 

I shall be summoned back before the King. 


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

Thou gavest me a light my path to guide, 
To prove my heart's recesses still untried ; 
And as I went, thy voice in warning cried : 

"Child ! fear thou him who is thy God and King !" 

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

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

Erring, I wandered in the wilderness, 

In passion's grave nigh sinking powerless ; 

Now deeply I repent, in sore distress, 

That I kept not the statutes of the King ! 

With worldly longings was my bosom fraught, 
Earth's idle toys and follies all I sought ; 
Ah! when he judges joys so dearly bought. 

How greatly shall I fear my Lord and King I 

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

Oh, be thy mercy in the balance laid, 

To hold thy servant's sins more lightly weighed. 

When, his confession penitently made. 

He answers for his guilt before the King. 


Thine is the love, O God, and thine the grace, 
That folds the sinner in its mild embrace ; 
Thine the forgiveness, bridging o'er the space 

'Twixt man's works and the task set by the King. 

Unheeding all my sins, I cling to thee ; 
I know that mercy shall thy footstool be : 
Before I call, oh, do thou answer me, 

For nothing dare I claim of thee, my King ! 

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


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

These are the regulations which I, Solomon, the son of the mar- 
tyr, Rabbi Isaac, the son of R. Zadok, of blessed memory, draw 
up for myself. That as long as I am in good health, and free 
from accident, and think of it, I shall not eat before I have studied 
one page of the Talmud or of its commentaries. Should I trans- 
gress this rule intentionally, I must not drink wine on that day, or 
I shall pay half a Zehuh ^ to charity. Again, that I shall every 
week read the Lesson twice in the Hebrew text, and once in the 
Aramaic version. Should I intentionally omit completing the 
Lesson as above, then I must pay two Zehubs to charity. Again, 
that I shall every Sabbath take three meals, consisting of bread or 
fruit. Should I omit to do so, I must give in charity half a Zehub. 


Again, in order to subdue my appetites, and not to enjoy in this 
world more than is necessary for the maintenance of my body, I 
must not eat at one meal more than one course of meat, and not 
more than two courses altogether; nor must I drink more than 
two cups of wine at one meal, apart from the blessing-cup (over 
which grace is said), except on Sabbath, Festivals, Chanukah (the 
Maccabean Dedication Feast), New Moon, and at other religious 
meals (for instance, wedding-dinners and similar festive occa- 
sions). Again, I must not have any regular meal on the day pre- 
ceding Sabbath or Festivals. I must not have during the day 
more than one course, so that I shall enter upon the holy day with 
a good appetite. Should I transgress this resolve intentionally 
I shall have to fast a day, or to pay two Zehubs. Again, that I 
shall not eat the fish called burbot^ if I think of it. Again, even 
on the above-mentioned days, I must not eat more than three 
courses at a meal, nor drink more than three cups of wine, exclu- 
sive of the blessing-cup. Again, ... I must not swear by God, 
nor mention the name of Heaven without a purpose, nor curse 
any man in the name of God. Should I, God forbid, transgress 
it, I must not drink more than one cup of wine on that day ex- 
clusive of the blessing-cup. Should I, however, transgress this 
after dinner, I must abstain from wine the following day. Should 
I transgress it, I have to pay half a Zehub. Again, that I shall 
get up every night to praise God, to supplicate for His mercy, and 
to confess. On those nights when confession is not to be said 
(Sabbaths and Festivals), I shall say hymns and psalms. This I 
shall do when I am in my house, and in good health, free from 
any accident. Should I transgress it, I shall drink not more than 
one cup of wine the following day, except the blessing-cup. I 
again take upon myself to give in charity the following proportion 
of my expenditure — from each dress which I shall have made for 
myself or for one member of my family, costing more than ten 
Zehubs, I must pay one Pashut ^ for each ten Zehubs. Again, if 
I should buy an animal, or a slave, or a female slave, or ground, 
that I shall also pay at the same rate. And if I shall buy clothes 
for sale, called fashas, I shall pay two Pashuts for each garment. 
As often as I have occasion to say the benediction of thanksgiv- 



ings for having escaped danger I shall pay a Zehub, except when 
I am travelling [also involving danger in those times!], in which 
case I shall have to pay a Zehub on my arrival, and two Pashuts 
daily during the journey. Again, from every kind of fish bought 
for me, costing more than a Zehub^ I shall pay a Pashut for each 
Zehub. And also, if I shall be deemed worthy by God to marry 
my children, and to be present at their wedding, to cause them to 
give to the poor from the dowry brought to them by their wives, 
whether in money or in kind, at the rate of one per cent. If God 
will find me worthy of having sons, I must give in charity accord- 
ing to my means at the time. 

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

I also command my children to take upon themselves as many of 
the above regulations as may be in their power to observe, and also 
to bind them {i.e. the regulations), from generation to generation, 
upon their children. And he who carries them out, and even 
adds to them, at pain of discomfort to himself, shall merit a spe- 
cial blessing. And this is the text of the will which I, the above- 
mentioned Solomon, draw up for my children, may God preserve 
them. That they shall pray thrice daily, and endeavour always 
to utter their prayers with devotion. Again, that this prayer 
shall be said in the Beth Hammidrash, or in the synagogue to- 
gether with the congregation. Again, that they shall apply all their 
powers to maintain the synagogues and the houses of study, which 
our ancestors have built, as well as to continue the endowments 
established by my ancestors and myself. They must always en- 


deavour to imitate them, so that goodness shall never cease from 
among them. Again, that they shall always have a chair on 
which a volume of the Talmud, or some other Talmudical work, 
shall lie ; so that they shall always open a book when they come 
home. At least, they shall read in any book they like four lines 
before taking their meal. Again, that they shall every week read 
the Lesson twice in the Hebrew text, and once in the Aramaic 
version. Again, to take three meals on the Sabbath . . . 

Again, that they shall be always modest, merciful, and chari- 
table, for these are the qualities by which the children of Israel are 
known. Let also all their thoughts and meditations be always di- 
rected to the service of the Lord, and be as charitable and benevo- 
lent as possible, for this is all that remains to man of his labour. 
They shall also endeavour to regulate their diet according to the 
rules laid down by Rabbi Moses (b. Maimon, or Maimonides), so 
as to fulfil the words of Scripture : " The righteous eateth to the 
satisfying of his soul." And let them always be careful not to take 
the name of God in vain, to be honest in all business transactions, 
and let their yea be always yea. They shall always be under the 
obligation to train their children to the Study of the Torah, but 
one shall devote his life exclusively to the study thereof. And 
it shall be incumbent upon his brothers to support this one, and to 
invest his moneys, and to provide for him that he and his family 
may live respectably, so that he be not distracted by worldly cares 
from his studies. Let also the elder love the younger brothers as 
their own children, and the younger respect the elder as a parent. 
Thus they may always bear in mind that they are of a God-fear- 
ing family. Let them love and honour scholars, thus to merit the 
honour of having scholars for their sons and sons-in-law. This 
will they shall themselves read weekly, and shall also make it in- 
cumbent upon their children, from generation to generation, to 
read weekly, in order to fulfil what is written (Gen. xviii. 19), 
" For I know him that he will command his children," etc., and 
also the words of Isaiah (lix.21), " And this is my covenant," etc. 
But as often as they shall read this will, they shall also read the 
two letters below written, which Rabbi Moses ben Nachman sent 
to his sons, with a view of being serviceable to them in many re- 



spects. Should, heaven forbid, they be by any sad accident pre- 
vented from fulfilling the injunctions above laid down, they must 
fine themselves by not drinking wine on that day, or by eating one 
course less at the dinner, or by giving some fine in charity. . . . 

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

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


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

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

Again, the fact that, in the language of the Rabbis, 
the term for studying the Law and discussing it is "to 



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

This was what the Jewish Boswell sought to do. His 
name was Rabbi Solomon, of St. Goar, a small town on 
the Rhine, while the name of the master whom he served 
was R. Jacob, the Levite, better known by his initials 
Maharil, who filled the office of Chief Rabbi in Mayence 
and Worms successively. The main activity of Maharil 
falls in the first three decades of the fifteenth century. 
Those were troublous times for a Rabbi. For the pre- 
ceding century with its persecution and sufferings — one 
has only to think of the Black Death and its terrible con- 
sequences for the Jews — led to the destruction of the 
great Schools, the decay of the study of the Law, and 
to the dissolution of many congregations. Those which 
remained lost all touch with each other, so that almost 
every larger Jewish community had its own Minhag or 
ritual custom.2 

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


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

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

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


derided me. Everything I wrote down, for such was the 
desire of my heart." 

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

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

As for the Jewish Boswell himself, we know very little 
about him. The only place in which he speaks about his 
own person is that in which he derives his pedigree from 
R. Eleazar ben Samuel Hallevi (died 1357), and says that 
he was generally called " Der gute (the good) R. Salman." 


He well deserved this appellation. In his Will we find 
the following injunction to his children : " Be honest, and 
conscientious in your dealing with men, with Jews as well 
as Gentiles, be kind and obliging to them ; do not speak 
what is superfluous." And wisdom is surely rare enough 
to render inappropriate a charge of superfluousness 
against the work of those who in bygone times spent 
their energies in gathering the crumbs that fell from the 
tables of the wise. 



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

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

It must again be premised that the subject, which occu- 
pied the thoughts of the greatest and noblest Jewish 
minds for so many centuries, has been neglected for a 
comparatively long time. And this for various reasons. 
First, there is Mendelssohn's assertion, or supposed asser- 
tion, in his yerusaleniy that Judaism has no dogmas — an 
assertion which has been accepted by the majority of 
modern Jewish theologians as the only dogma Judaism 
possesses. You can hear it pronounced in scores of 
Jewish pulpits ; you can read it written in scores of Jewish 
books. To admit the possibility that Mendelssohn was in 
error was hardly permissiblCy especially for those with 



whom he enjoys a certain infallibility. Nay, even the fact 
that he himself was not consistent in his theory, and on 
another occasion declared that Judaism has dogmas, only 
that they are purer and more in harmony with reason than 
those of other religions ; or even the more important fact 
that he published a school-book for children, in which the 
so-called Thirteen Articles were embodied, only that 
instead of the formula " I believe," he substituted " I am 
convinced," — even such patent facts did not produce 
much effect upon many of our modern theologians.^ 
They were either overlooked or explained away so as to 
make them harmonise with the great dogma of dogma- 
lessness. For it is one of the attributes of infallibility 
that the words of its happy possessor must always be 
reconcilable even when they appear to the eye of the 
unbeliever as gross contradictions. 

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

There is, besides, a certain tendency in historical studies 
that is hostile to mere theological speculation. ^ The his- 
torian deals with realities, the theologian with abstrac- 


tions. The latter likes to shape the universe after his 
system, and tells us how things ought to be^ the former 
teaches us how they are or have been^ and the explanation 
he gives for their being so and not otherwise includes in 
most cases also a kind of justification for their existence. 
There is also the odium theologicuniy which has been the 
cause of so much misfortune that it is hated by the his- 
torian, whilst the superficial, rationalistic way in which 
the theologian manages to explain everything which 
does not suit his system is most repulsive to the critical 

But it cannot be denied that this neglect has caused 
much confusion. Especially is this noticeable in England, 
which is essentially a theological country, and where 
people are but little prone to give up speculation about 
things which concern their most sacred interest and 
greatest happiness. Thus whilst we are exceedingly poor 
in all other branches of Jewish learning, we are compara- 
tively rich in productions of a theological character. We 
have a superfluity of essays on such delicate subjects as 
eternal punishment, immortality of the soul, the day of 
judgment, etc., and many treatises on the definition of 
Judaism. But knowing little or nothing of the progress 
recently made in Jewish theology, of the many protests 
against all kinds of infallibility, whether canonised in this 
century or in olden times, we in England still maintain 
that Judaism has no dogmas as if nothing to the contrary 
had ever been said. We seek the foundation of Judaism 
in political economy, in hygiene, in everything except relig- 
ion. Following the fashion of the day to esteem religion 
in proportion to its ability to adapt itself to every possible 
and impossible metaphysical and social system, we are 


anxious to squeeze out of Judaism the last drop of faith 
and hope, and strive to make it so flexible that we can 
turn it in every direction which it is our pleasure to fol- 
low. But alas! the flexibility has progressed so far as 
to classify Judaism among the invertebrate species, the 
lowest order of living things. It strongly resembles a cer- 
tain Christian school which addresses itself to the world in 
general and claims to satisfy everybody alike. It claims 
to be socialism for the adherents of Karl Marx and 
Lassalle, worship of man for the followers of Comte and 
St. Simon ; it carefully avoids the word " God " for the 
comfort of agnostics and sceptics, whilst on the other hand 
it pretends to hold sway over paradise, hell, and immortal- 
ity for the edification of believers. In such illusions many 
of our theologians delight. For illusions they are; you 
cannot be everything if you want to be anything. More- 
over, illusions in themselves are bad enough, but we are 
menaced with what is still worse. Judaism, divested of 
every higher religious motive, is in danger of falling into 
gross materialism. For what else is the meaning of such 
declarations as ** Believe what you like, but conform to 
this or that mode of life " ; what else does it mean but 
" We cannot expect you to believe that the things you are 
bidden to do are commanded by a higher authority ; there 
is not such a thing as belief, but you ought to do them 
for conventionalism or for your own convenience." 

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


by declaring it to be a kind of enlightened Hedonism, or 
rather a moderate Epicureanism. 

I have no intention of here answering the question, 
What is Judaism? This question is not less perplexing 
than the problem. What is God's world ? Judaism is also 
a great Infinite, composed of as many endless Units, the 
Jews. And these Unit-Jews have been, and are still, 
scattered through all the world, and have passed under an 
immensity of influences, good and bad. If so, how can 
we give an exact definition of the Infinite, called Judaism ? 
^But if there is anything sure, it is that the highest mo- 
tives which worked through the history of Judaism are the 
strong belief in God and the unshaken confidence that at 
last this God, the God of Israel, will be the God of the 
whole world ; or, in other words. Faith and Hope are the 
two most prominent characteristics of Judaism./ 

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

I begin with the Scriptures. 

The Bible itself hardly contains a command bidding us 
to believe. We are hardly ordered, e.g,., to believe in the 
existence of God. I say hardly, but I do not altogether 
deny the existence of such a command. It is true that we 


do not find in the Scripture such words as : " You are 
commanded to believe in the existence of God." Nor is 
any punishment assigned as awaiting him who denies it. 
Notwithstanding these facts, many Jewish authorities — 
among them such important men as Maimonides, R. 
Judah Hallevi, Nachmanides — perceive, in the first words 
of the Ten Commandments, " I am the Lord thy God," 
the command to believe in His existence.^ 

Be this as it may, there cannot be the shadow of a 
doubt that the Bible, in which every command is dictated 
by God, and in which all its heroes are the servants, the 
friends, or the ambassadors of God, presumes such a 
belief in every one to whom those laws are dictated, and 
these heroes address themselves. Nay, I think that the 
word "belief" is not even adequate. In a world with so 
many visible facts and invisible causes, as life and death, 
growth and decay, light and darkness ; in a world where 
the sun rises and sets ; where the stars appear regularly ; 
where heavy rains pour down from the sky, often accom- 
panied by such grand phenomena as thunder and light- 
ning ; in a world full of such marvels, but into which no 
notion has entered of all our modern true or false explana- 
tions — who but God is behind all these things.? "Have 
the gates," asks God, "have the gates of death been open 
to thee } or hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of 
death.? . . . Where is the way where light dwelleth.? 
and as for darkness, where is the place thereof? . . . 
Hath the rain a father .? or who hath begotten the drops 
of dew ? . . . Canst thou bind the sweet influences of 
Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion .? . . . Canst thou 
send lightnings, that they may go, and say unto thee. 
Here we are } " Qob xxxviii.). Of all these wonders, God 


was not merely the prima causa ; they were the result of 
His direct action, without any intermediary causes. And 
it is as absurd to say that the ancient world believed in 
God, as for a future historian to assert of the nineteenth 
century that it believed in the effects of electricity. We 
see them, and so antiquity saw God. If there was any 
danger, it lay not in the denial of the existence of a God, 
but in having a wrong belief. Belief in as many gods 
as there are manifestations in nature, the investing of 
them with false attributes, the misunderstanding of God's 
relation to men, lead to immorality. Thus the greater 
part of the laws and teachings of the Bible are either 
directed against polytheism, with all its low ideas of God, 
or rather of gods ; or they are directed towards regulating 
God's relation to men. Man is a servant of God, or His 
prophet, or even His friend. But this relationship man 
obtains only by his conduct. Nay, all man's actions are 
carefully regulated by God, and connected with His holi- 
ness. The 19th chapter of Leviticus, which is considered 
by the Rabbis as the portion of the Law in which the 
most important articles of the Torah are embodied, is 
headed, ** Ye shall be holy, for I the Lord your own God 
am holy." 'And each law therein occurring, even those 
which concern our relations to each other, is not founded 
on utilitarian reasons, but is ordained because the opposite 
of it is an offence to the holiness of God,; and profanes 
His creatures, whom He desired to be as holy as He is.^ 
vThus the whole structure of the Bible is built upon the 
visible fact of the existence of a God, and upon the belief 
in the relation of God to men, especially to Israel.^ In 
spite of all that has been said to the contrary, the Bible 
does lay stress upon belief, where belief is required. The 


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

We have now to pass over an interval of many centu- 
ries, the length of which depends upon the views held 
as to the date of the close of the canon, and examine 
what the Rabbis, the representatives of the prophets, 
thought on this subject. Not that the views of the 
author of the Wisdom of Solomon^ of Philo and Aristobu- 
lus, and many others of the Judaeo-Alexandrian school 
would be uninteresting for us. But somehow their influ- 
ence on Judaism was only a passing one, and their doc- 
trines never became authoritative in the Synagogue. We 
must here confine ourselves to those who, even by the 


testimony of their bitterest enemies, occupied the seat of 

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

In another place we read that the commission of a sin 
in secret is an impertinent attempt by the doer to oust 
God from the world. /But if unbelief is considered as 


the root of all evil, we may expect that the reverse of 
it, a perfect faith, would be praised in the most exalted 
terms. So we read : Faith is so great that the man who 
possesses it may hope to become a worthy vessel of the 
Holy Spirit, or, as we should express it,ythat he may hope 
to obtain by this power the highest degree of communion 
with his Maker. The Patriarch Abraham, notwithstanding 
all his other virtues, only became " the possessor of both 
worlds " by the merit of his strong faith. Nay, even the 
fulfilment of a single law when accompanied by true faith 
is, according to the Rabbis, sufficient to bring man nigh 
to God. And the future redemption is also conditional 
on the degree of faith shown by Israel.^ 

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

Still more important than the above cited Agadic pas- 
sages is one which we are about to quote from the trac- 
tate Sanhedrin. This tractate deals with the constitution, 


of the supreme law-court, the examination of the wit- 
nesses, the functions of the judges, and the different 
punishment to be inflicted on the transgressors of the 
law. After having enumerated various kinds of capital 
punishment, the Mishnah adds the following words: 
"These are (the men) who are excluded from the life 
to come :^He who says there is no resurrection from 
death; he who says there is no Torah given from 
heaven, and the Epikurus.""^ This passage was con- 
sidered by the Rabbis of the Middle Ages, as well as 
by modern scholars, the locus classicus for the dogma 
question. There are many passages in the Rabbinic 
literature which exclude man from the world to come 
for this or that sin. But these are more or less of an 
Agadic (legendary) character, and thus lend themselves 
to exaggeration and hyperbolic language. They cannot, 
therefore, be considered as serious legal dicta, or as the 
general opinion of the Rabbis. 

The Mishnah in Sanhedrin, however, has, if only by 
its position in a legal tractate, a certain Halachic (obliga- 
tory) character. And the fact that so early an authority 
as R. Akiba made additions to it guarantees its high 
antiquity. The first two sentences of this Mishnah are 
clear enough. In modern language, and positively speak- 
ing, they would represent articles of belief in Resurrection 
and Reveiation. Great difficulty is found in defining what 
was meant by the word Epikurus. The authorities of the 
Middle Ages, to whom I shall again have to refer, explain 
the Epikurus to be a man who denies the belief in reward 
and punishment ; others identify him with one who denies 
the belief in Providence ; while others again consider the 
Epikurus to be one who denies Tradition. But the paral- 


lei passages in which it occurs incline one rather to think 
that this word cannot be defined by one kind of heresy. 
It implies rather a frivolous treatment of the words of 
Scripture or of Tradition. In the case of the latter (Tra- 
dition) it is certainly not honest difference of opinion that 
is condemned; for the Rabbis themselves differed very 
often from each other, and even Mediaeval authorities 
did not feel any compunction about explaining Scripture 
in variance with the Rabbinic interpretation, and some- 
times they even went so far as to declare that the view 
of this or that great authority was only to be considered 
as an isolated opinion not deserving particular attention. 
What they did blame was, as already said, scoffing and 
impiety. ^We may thus safely assert that reverence for 
the teachers of Israel formed the third essential principle 
of Judaism.^^ 

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


ers of Israel, severed his connection with the Jewish nation, 
but that, for his crime, he was going to suffer the heaviest 
punishment. He was to be excluded from the world to 

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

But it must not be forgotten that it was not the habit of 
the Rabbis to lay down, either for conduct or for doctrine, 
rules which were commonly known. When they urged 
the three points stated above there must have been some 
historical reason for it. Probably these principles were 
controverted by some heretics. Indeed, the whole tone 
of the passage cited from Sanhedrin is a protest against 
certain unbelievers who are threatened with punishment. 
Other beliefs, not less essential, but less disputed, remain 


unmentioned, because there was no necessity to assert 

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

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

How far the predecessors of Hadasi were influenced by 
a certain Joseph Albashir (about 950), of whom there exists 
a manuscript work, " Rudiments of Faith," I am unable to 


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

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

^As is well known, Maimonides (i 130-1205), was the first 
Rabbanite who formulated the dogmas of the Synagogue^ 
But there are indications of earlier attempts. R, Saadiah 


Gaon's (892-942) work, Creeds and Opinions, shows such 
traces. He says in his preface, ** My heart sickens to 
see that the belief of my co-religionists is impure and 
that their theological views are confused." The subjects 
he treats in this book, such as creation, unity of God, 
resurrection of the dead, the future redemption of Israel, 
reward and punishment, and other kindred theological 
subjects might thus, perhaps, be considered as the essen- 
tials of the creed that the Gaon desired to present in a 
pure and rational form. R. Hannaneel, of Kairowan,^^ in 
the first half of the eleventh century, says in one of his 
commentaries that to deserve eternal life one must believe 
in four things : in God, in the prophets, in a future world 
where the just will be rewarded, and in the advent of the 
Redeemer. From R. Judah Hallevi's Cusari, written in 
the beginning of the twelfth century, we might argue that 
the belief in the election of Israel by God was the cardinal 
dogma of the author.^^ Abraham Ibn Daud, a contem- 
porary of Maimonides, in his book The High Belief}^ 
speaks of rudiments, among which, besides such meta- 
physical principles as unity, rational conception of God's 
attributes, etc., the belief in the immutability of the Law, 
etc., is included. Still, all these works are intended to fur- 
nish evidence from philosophy or history for the truth of 
religion rather than to give a definition of this truth. The 
latter task was undertaken by Maimonides. 

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


That Maimonides was quite conscious of the importance 
of this exposition can be gathered from the concluding 
words addressed to the reader : " Know these (words) 
and repeat them many times, and think them over in the 
proper way. God knows that thou wouldst be deceiving 
thyself if thou thinkest thou hast understood them by hav- 
ing read them once or even ten times. Be not, therefore, 
hasty in perusing them. I have not composed them with- 
out deep study and earnest reflection." 

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

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

The impulse given by the great philosopher and still 
greater Jew was eagerly followed by succeeding genera- 
tions, and Judaism thus came into possession of a dogmatic 
literature such as it never knew before Maimonides. Mai- 
monides is the centre of this literature, and I shall accord- 
ingly speak in the remainder of this essay of Maimonists 
and Anti-Maimonists. These terms really apply to the 
great controversy that raged round Maimonides' Guide of 


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

The Anti-Maimonists can be divided into two classes. 
The one class categorically denies that Judaism has dog- 
mas. # I shall have occasion to touch on this view when I 
come to speak of Abarbanel. Here I pass at once to the 
second class of Anti-Maimonists. This consists of those 
who agree with Maimonides as to the existence of dogmas 


in Judiasm, but who differ from him as to what these 
dogmas are, or who give a different enumeration of 
them. , 

/7\.s the first of these Anti-Maimonists we may regard 
Nachmanides, who, in his famous Sermon in the Presence 
of the King, speaks of three fundamental principles : Crea- 
tion (that is, non-eternity of matter), Omniscience of God, 
and Providence^ Next comes R. Abba Mari ben Moses, 
of Montpellier. He wrote at the beginning of the four- 
teenth century, and is famous in Jewish history for his 
zeal against the study of philosophy. We possess a small 
pamphlet by him dealing with our subject, and it forms 
a kind of prologue to his collection of controversial let- 
ters against the rationalists of his time.^^ He lays down 
three articles as the fundamental teachings of Religion : 
I. Metaphysical : The existence of God, including His Unity 
and Incorporeality ; 2. Mosaic : Creatio ex nihilo by God 
— a consequence of this principle is the belief that God 
is capable of altering the laws of nature at His pleasure ; 
3. Ethical: Special Providence — i.e. God knows all our 
actions in all their details. Abba Mari does not mention 
Maimonides* Thirteen Articles. But it would be false to 
conclude that he rejected the belief in the coming of the 
Messiah, or any other article of Maimonides. The whole 
tone and tendency of this pamphlet is polemical, and it is 
therefore probable that he only urged those points which 
were either doubted or explained in an unorthodox way by 
the sceptics of his time. 

Another scholar, of Provence, who wrote but twenty 
years later than Abba Mari — R. David ben Samuel 
d'Estella (1320) — speaks of the seven pillars of religion. 
They are: Revelation, Providence, Reward and Punish- 


ment, the Coming of the Messiah, Resurrection of the 
Dead, Creatio ex nihilo^ and Free Will.^^ 

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

In Portugal, at about the same time, we find R. David 
ben Yom-Tob Bilia adding to the articles of Maimonides 
thirteen of his own, which he calls the " Fundamentals of 
the Thinking Man." Five of these articles relate to the 
functions of the human soul, that, according to him, 
emanated from God, and to the way in which this divine 
soul receives its punishment and reward. The other eight 
articles are as follows : i. The belief in the existence of 
spiritual beings — angels; 2. Creatio ex nihilo ; 3. The 
belief in the existence of another world, and that this 
other world is only a spiritual one ; 4. The Torah is above 
philosophy; 5. The Torah has an outward (literal) mean- 
ing and an inward (allegorical) meaning; 6. The text of 
the Torah is not subject to any emendation ; 7. The 
reward of a good action is the good work itself, and the 
doer must not expect any other reward ; 8. It is only by 
the "commands relating to the heart," for instance, the 
belief in one eternal God, the loving and fearing Him, and 


not through good actions, that man attains the highest 
degree of perfection.^^ Perhaps it would be suitable to 
mention here another contemporaneous writer, who also 
enumerates twenty-six articles. The name of this writer 
is unknown, and his articles are only gathered from quo- 
tations by later authors. It would seem from these quota- 
tions that the articles of this unknown author consisted 
mostly of statements emphasising the belief in the attri- 
butes of God : as, His Eternity, His Wisdom and Omnip- 
otence, and the like.^^ 

More important for our subject are the productions of 
the fifteenth century, especially those of Spanish authors. 
The fifteen articles of R. Lipman Muhlhausen, in the pref- 
ace to his well-known Book of Victory '^^ (1410), differ but 
slightly from those of Maimonides. In accordance with 
the anti-Christian tendency of his polemical book, he lays 
more stress on the two articles of Unity and Incorpo- 
reality, and makes of them four. We can therefore dis- 
miss him with this short remark, and pass at once to the 
/^Spanish Rabbis. 

The first of these is R. Chasdai Ibn Crescas^/iwho com- 
posed his famous treatise. The Light of God, about 1405. 
Chasdai's book is well known for its attacks on Aristotle, 
and also for its influence on Spinoza. But Chasdai deals 
also with Maimonides' Thirteen Articles, to which he was 
very strongly opposed^ Already in his preface he attacks 
Maimonides for speaking, in his Book of the Command- 
me7its, of the belief in the existence of God as an " affirma- 
tive precept." Chasdai thinks it absurd; for every com- 
mandment must be dictated by some authority, but on 
whose authority can we dictate the acceptance of this 
authority? His general objection to the Thirteen Articles 


is that Maimonides confounded dogmas or fundamental 
beliefs of Judaism, without which Judaism is inconceivable, 
with beliefs or doctrines which Judaism inculcates, but the 
denial of which, though involving a strong heresy, does 
not make Judaism impossible.* He maintains that if 
Maimonides meant only to count fundamental teachings, 
there are not more than seven; but that if he intended 
also to include doctrines, he ought to have enumerated 
sixteen. As beliefs of the first class — namely, fundamen- 
tal beliefs — he considers the following articles : i. God's 
knowledge of our actions; 2. Providence; 3. God's om- 
nipotence — even to act against the laws of nature; 
4. Prophecy; 5. Free will; 6. The aim of the Torah is 
to make man long after the closest communion with God. 
The belief in the existence of God, Chasdai thinks, is an 
axiom with which every religion must begin, and he is 
therefore uncertain whether to include it as a dogma or 
not. As to the doctrines which every Jew is bound to 
believe, but without which Judaism is not impossible, 
Chasdai divides them into two sections: id) i. Creatio ex 
nihilo ; 2. Immortality of the soul ; 3. Reward and Pun- 
ishment; 4. Resurrection of the dead; 5. Immutability 
of the Torah ; 6. Superiority of the prophecy of Moses ; 
7. That the High Priest received from God the instructions 
sought for, when he put his questions through the medium 
of the Urim and Thummim ; 8. The coming of the Mes- 
siah, (h) Doctrines which are expressed by certain relig- 
ious ceremonies, and on belief in which these ceremonies 
are conditioned : i. The belief in the efficacy of prayer — 
as well as in the power of the benediction of the priests to 
convey to us the blessing of God ; 2. God is merciful to 
the penitent; 3. Certain days in the year — for instance, 


the Day of Atonement — are especially qualified to bring 
us near to God, if we keep them in the way we are com- 
manded. That Chasdai is a little arbitrary in the choice 
of his " doctrines," I need hardly say. Indeed, Chasdai' s 
importance for the dogma-question consists more in his 
critical suggestions than in his positive results. ^ He was, 
as we have seen, the first to make the distinction between 
fundamental teachings which form the basis of Judaism, 
and those other simple Jewish doctrines without which 
Judaism is not impossible. /Very daring is his remark, 
when proving that Reward and Punishment, Immortality 
of the soul, and Resurrection of the dead must not be con- 
sidered as the basis of Judaism, since the highest ideal of 
religion is to serve God without any hope of reward. Even 
more daring are his words concerning the Immutability 
of the Law. He says : " Some have argued that, since 
God is perfection, so must also His law be perfect, and 
thus unsusceptible of improvement." But he does not 
think this argument conclusive, though the fact in itself 
^the Immutability of the Law) is true. For one might 
answer that this perfection of the Torah could only be in 
accordance with the intelligence of those for whom it was 
meant; but as soon as the recipients of the Torah have 
advanced to a higher state of perfection, the Torah must 
also be altered to suit their advanced intelligence. , A 
pupil of Chasdai illustrates the words of his master by a 
medical parallel. The physician has to adapt his medica- 
ments to the various stages through which his patient has 
to pass. That he changes his prescription does not, how- 
ever, imply that his medical knowledge is imperfect, or 
that his earlier remedies were ignorantly chosen ; the vary- 
ing condition of the invalid was the cause of the variation 


in the doctor's treatment. Similarly, were not the Immu- 
tability of the Torah a "doctrine," one might maintain 
that the perfection of the Torah would not be inconsistent 
with the assumption that it was susceptible of modifi- 
cation, in accordance with our changing and progressive 
circumstances. But all these arguments are purely of a 
theoretic character; for, practically, every Jew, according 
to Chasdai, has to accept all these beliefs, whether he 
terms them fundamental teachings or only Jewish doc- 

Some years later, though he finished his work in the 
same year as Chasdai, R. Simeon Duran (i 366-1444,) a 
younger contemporary of the former, made his researches 
on dogmas. His studies on this subject form a kind of 
introduction to his commentary on Job, which he finished 
in the year 1405. Duran is not so strongly opposed to 
the Thirteen Articles as Chasdai, or as another " thinker 
of our people," who thought them an arbitrary imitation 
of the thirteen attributes of God. Duran tries to justify 
Maimonides; but nevertheless he agrees with "earlier 
authorities," who formulated the Jewish creed in Three 
Articles — The Existence of God, Revelation, and Reward 
and Punishment — under which Duran thinks the Thir- 
teen Articles of Maimonides may be easily classed. Most 
interesting are his remarks concerning the validity of dog- 
mas. He tells us that only those are to be considered 
as heretics who abide by their own opinions, though they 
know that they are contradictory to the views of the 
Torah. Those who accept the fundamental teachings of 
Judaism, but are led by their deep studies and earnest 
reflection to differ in details from the opinions current 
among their co-religionists, and explain certain passages 


in the Scripture in their own way, must by no means be 
considered as heretics. We must, therefore, Duran pro- 
ceeds to say, not blame such men as Maimonides, who 
gave an allegorical interpretation to certain passages in 
the Bible about miracles, or R. Levi ben Gershom, who 
followed certain un-Jewish views in relation to the belief 
in Creatio ex nihilo. Only the views are condemnable, 
not those who cherish them/ God forbid, says Duran, 
that such a thing should happen in Israel as to condemn 
honest inquirers on account of their differing opinionSj/ 
It would be interesting to know of how many divines as 
tolerant as this persecuted Jew the fifteenth century can 

We can now pass to a/ more popular but less original 
writer on our theme. I refer to R. Joseph Alboy the 
author of the Roots^ who was the pupil of Chasdai, a 
younger contemporary of Duran, and wrote at a much 
later period than these authors. Graetz has justly denied 
him much originality. The chief merit of Albo consists 
in popularising other people's thoughts, though he does 
not always take care to mention their names. And the 
student who is a little familiar with the contents of the 
Roots will easily find that Albo has taken yiis best ideas 
either from Chasdai or from Duran. As it is of little 
consequence to us whether an article of faith is called 
"stem," or "root," or "branch," there is scarcely anything 
fresh left to quote in the name of Albo. The late Dr. 
Low, of Szegedin, was indeed right, when he answered 
an adversary who challenged him — " Who would dare to 
declare me a heretic as long as I confess the Three Arti- 
cles laid down by Albo } " with the words " Albo himself." 
For, after all the subtle distinctions Albo makes between 


different classes of dogmas, he declares that every one 
who denies even the immutability of the Law or the com- 
ing of the Messiah, which are, according to him, articles 
of minor importance, is a heretic who will be excluded 
from the world to come. But there is one point in his 
book which is worth noticing. It was suggested to him 
by Maimonides, indeed; still Albo has the merit of having 
emphasised it as it deserves. Among the articles which 
he calls " branches " Albo counts the belief that the per- 
fection of man, which leads to eternal life, can be obtained 
by the fulfilling of one commandment. But this command 
must, as Maimonides points out, be done without any 
worldly regard, and only for the love of God. When one 
considers how many platitudes are repeated year by year 
by certain theologians on the subject of Jewish legalism, 
we cannot lay enough stress on this article of Albo, and 
we ought to make it better known than it has hitherto 

Though I cannot enter here into the enumeration of the 
Maimonists, I must not leave unmentioned the name of 
rR. Nissim ben Moses of Marseilles, the first great Mai- 
monist^ who flourished about the end of the thirteenth 
century, and was considered as one of the most enlight- 
ened thinkers of his age.^ Another great Maimonist 
deserving special attention is R. Abraham ben Shem-Tob 
Bibago, who may perhaps be regarded as the most promi- 
nent among those who undertook to defend Maimonides 
against the attacks of Chasdai and others. Bibago wrote 
The Path of Belief^ in the second half of the fifteenth 
century, and was, as Dr. Steinschneider aptly describes 
him, a Denkgldubiger. But, above all, he was a believing 
Jew. When he was once asked, at the table of King 


John II., of Aragon, by a Christian scholar, " Are you the 
Jewish philosopher ? " he answered, " I am a Jew who 
believes in the Law given to us by our teacher Moses, 
though I have studied philosophy." Bibago was such a 
devoted admirer of Maimonides that he could not tolerate 
any opposition to him. He speaks in one passage of the 
prudent people of his time who, in desiring to be looked 
upon as orthodox by the great mob, calumniated the 
Teacher (Maimonides), and depreciated his merits. Bi- 
bago's book is very interesting, especially in its contro- 
versial parts; but in respect to dogmas he is, as already 
said, a Maimonist, and does not contribute any new point 
on our subject. 

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

The last Spanish writer on our subject is R. Isaac 
Abarbanel. His treatise on the subject is known under 
the title Top of Amanah^^ and was finished in the year 
1495. The greatest part of this treatise forms a defence 
of Maimonides, * many points in which are taken from 
Bibago. But, in spite of this fact/ Abarbanel must not 
be considered a Maimonist. It is only a feeling of piety 
towards Maimonides, or perhaps rather a fondness for 
argument, that made him defend Maimonides against 
Chasdai and others. ^His own view is that it is a mistake 


to formulate dogmas of Judaism, since every word in the 
Torah has to be considered as a dogma for itself.; It was 
only, says Abarbanel, by following the example of non- 
Jewish scholars that Maimonides and others were induced 
to lay down dogmas. The non-Jewish philosophers are 
in the habit of accepting in every science certain indis- 
putable axioms from which they deduce the propositions 
which are less evident. The Jewish philosophers in a 
similar way sought for first principles in religion from 
which the whole of the Torah ought to be considered as 
a deduction. But, thinks Abarbanel, the Torah as a 
revealed code is under no necessity of deducing things 
from each other, for all the commands came from the 
same divine authority, and, therefore, all are alike evident, 
and have the same certainty. On this and similar grounds 
Abarbanel refused to accept dogmatic articles for Judaism, 
and he thus became the head of the school that forms 
a class by itself among the Anti-Maimonists to which 
many of the greatest Cabbalists also belong. But it is 
idle talk to cite this school in aid of the modern theory 
that Judaism has no dogmas. As we have seen, it was 
rather an embarras de riches se that prevented Abarbanel 
from accepting the Thirteen Articles of Maimonides. To 
him and to the Cabbalists the Torah consists of at least 
613 Articles^ 

Abarbanel wrote his book with which we have just 
dealt, at Naples. And it is Italy to which, after the 
expulsion of the Jews from Spain, we have to look chiefly 
for religious speculation. But the philosophers of Italy 
are still less independent of Maimonides than their pred- 
ecessors in Spain. Thus we find that R. David Messer 
Leon, R. David Vital, and others were Maimonists. 


Even the otherwise refined and original thinker, R. Eli- 
jah Delmedigo (who died about the end of the fifteenth 
century) becomes almost impolite when he speaks of the 
adversaries of Maimonides in respect to dogmas. "It 
was only," he says, " the would-be philosopher that dared 
to question the articles of Maimonides. Our people have 
always the bad habit of thinking themselves competent 
to attack the greatest authorities as soon as they have got 
some knowledge of the subject. Genuine thinkers, how- 
ever, attach very little importance to their objections.^^ 

Indeed, it seems as if the energetic protests of Del- 
medigo scared away the Anti-Maimonists for more than 
a century. Even in the following seventeenth century 
we have to notice only two Anti-Maimonists. The one 
is R. Tobijah, the Priest (1652), who was of Polish de- 
scent, studied in Italy, and lived as a medical man in 
France. He seems to refuse to accept the belief in the 
Immutability of the Torah, and in the coming of the Mes- 
siah, as fundamental teachings of Judaism.^^ HThe other, 
at the end of the seventeenth century (1695), is R. Abra- 
ham Chayim Viterbo, of Italy. He accepts only six 
articles y I. Existence of God ; 2. Unity; 3. Incorporeal- 
ity ; 4. That God was revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai, 
and that the prophecy of Moses is true; 5. Revelation 
(including the historical parts of the Torah) ; 6. Reward 
and Punishment, f As to the other articles of Maimonides, 
Viterbo, in opposition to other half-hearted Anti-Maimon- 
ists, declares that the man who denies them is not to be 

considered as a heretic ; though he ought to believe 

I have now arrived at the limit I set to myself at the 
beginning of this essay. For, between the times of 


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

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


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

Again, Maimonides undoubtedly knew that there may 
be found in the Talmud — that bottomless sea with its 
innumerable undercurrents — passages that are not quite 
in harmony with his articles ; for instance, the well-known 
dictum of R. Hillel, who said, there is no Messiah for 
Israel — a passage which has already been quoted ad 
nauseam by every opponent of Maimonides from the 
earliest times down to the year of grace 1896. Maimon- 
ides was well aware of the existence of this and similar 
passages. But, being deeply convinced of the necessity 
of the belief in a future redemption of Israel — in oppo- 
sition to other creeds which claim this redemption ex- 
clusively for their own adherents — Maimonides simply 
ignored the saying of R. Hillel, as an isolated opinion 
which contradicts all the consciousness and traditions of 
the Jew as expressed in thousands of other passages, and 


especially in the liturgy. Most interesting is Maimonides* 
view about such isolated opinions in a letter to the wise 
men of Marseilles. He deals there with the question of 
free will and other theological subjects. After having 
stated his own view he goes on to say : " I know that 
it is possible to find in the Talmud or in the Midrash 
this or that saying in contradiction to the views you have 
heard from me. But you must not be troubled by them. 
One must not refuse to accept a doctrine, the truth of 
which has been proved, on account of its being in opposi- 
tion to some isolated opinion held by this or that great 
authority. Is it not possible that he overlooked some 
important considerations when he uttered this strange 
opinion } It is also possible that his words must not be 
taken literally, and have to be explained in an allegorical 
way. We can also think that his words were only to be 
applied with regard to certain circumstances of his time, 
but never intended as permanent truths. ... No man 
must surrender his private judgment. The eyes are not 
directed backwards but forwards." In another place 
Maimonides calls the suppression of one's own opinions — 
for the reason of their being irreconcilable with the iso- 
lated views of some great authority — a moral suicide. 

By such motives Maimonides was guided when he left 
certain views hazarded in the Rabbinic literature un- 
heeded, and followed what we may perhaps call the 
religious instinct, trusting to his own conscience. We 
may again be certain that Maimonides was clear-headed 
enough to see that the words of the Torah : " And there 
arose no prophet since in Israel like unto Moses " (Deut. 
xxxiv. 10), were as little intended to imply a doctrine as 
the passage relating to the king Josiah, "And like unto 


him was there no king before him that turned to the Lord 
with all his heart . . . neither after him arose there any- 
like him " (2 Kings xxiii. 25). And none would think of 
declaring the man a heretic who should believe another 
king to be as pious as Josiah. But living among followers 
of the^* imitating creeds" (as he calls Christianity and 
Mohammedism), who claimed that their religion had super- 
seded the law of Moses, Maimonides, consciously or un- 
consciously, felt himself compelled to assert the supe- 
riority of the prophecy of Moses. And so we may guess 
that every article of Maimonides which seems to offer 
difficulties to us contains an assertion of some relaxed 
belief, or a protest against the pretensions of other creeds, 
though we are not always able to discover the exact neces- 
sity for them. /On the other hand, Maimonides did not 
assert the belief in free will, for which he argued so ear- 
nestly in his Guide. The common " man," with his simple 
unspeculative mind, for whom these Thirteen Articles were 
intended, " never dreamed that the will was not free," and 
there was no necessity of impressing on his mind things 
which he had never doubted.^ 

So much about Maimonides. As to the Anti-Maimon- 
ists, it could hardly escape the reader that in some of the 
quoted systems the difference from the view of Maimonides 
is only a logical one, not a theological.. Of some authors 
again, especially those of the thirteenth and fourteenth cen- 
turies, it is not at all certain whether they intended to op- 
pose Maimonides. Others again, as for instance R. Abba 
Mari, R. Lipman, and R. Joseph Jabez, acted on the 
same principle as Maimonides, urging only those teach- 
ings of Judaism which they thought endangered. One 
could now, indeed, animated by the praiseworthy exam- 


pie given to us by Maimonides, also propose some arti- 
cles of faith which are suggested to us by the necessities 
of our own time. One might, for instance, insert the 
article, '*I believe that Judaism is, in the first instance, 
a divine religion, not a mere complex of racial pecul- 
iarities and tribal customs." One might again propose 
an article to the effect that Judaism is a proselytising 
religion, having the mission to bring about God's king- 
dom on earth, and to include in that kingdom all man- 
kind. One might also submit for consideration whether 
it would not be advisable to urge a little more the prin- 
ciple that religion means chiefly a Weltanschauung and 
worship of God by means of holiness both in thought 
and in action. One would even not object to accept the 
article laid down by R. Saul, that we have to look upon 
ourselves as sinners. Morbid as such a belief may be, it 
would, if properly impressed on our mind, have perhaps 
the wholesome effect of cooling down a little our self- 
importance and our mutual admiration that makes all 
progress among us almost impossible. 

I But it was not my purpose to ventilate here the question 
whether Maimonides' articles are sufficient for us, or 
whether we ought not to add new ones to them, i Nor do 
I attempt to decide what system we ought to prefer for 
recitation in the Synagogue — that of Maimonides or that 
of Chasdai, or of any other writer. I do not think that 
such a recital is of much use. My object in this sketch 
has been rather to make the reader thinklzbovX Judaism, 
by proving that it regulates not only our actions, but also 
our thoughtv We usually urge that in Judaism religion 
means life ; but we forget that a life without guiding 
principles and thoughts is a life not worth living. At 


least it was so considered by the greatest Jewish thinkers, 
and hence their efforts to formulate the creed of Judaism, 
so that men should not only be able to do the right thing, 
but also to think the right thing. Whether they suc- 
ceeded in their attempts towards formulating the creed 
of Judaism or not will always remain a question. This 
concerns the logician more than the theologian. But 
surely Maimonides and his successors did succeed in 
having a religion depending directly on God, with the 
most ideal and lofty aspirations for the future ; whilst the 
Judaism of a great part of our modern theologians reminds 
one very much of the words with which the author of 
Maritis the Epicurean characterises the Roman religion 
in the days of her decline : a religion which had been 
always something to be done rather than something to 
be thought, or believed, or loved. 

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

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



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

This book, which is recognised as a standard work 
abroad, is, I fear, owing to the fact of its being written 
in the Hebrew language, not sufficiently known in this 
country. Weiss does not want our recognition ; we are 
rather in need of his instruction. Some general view 



of his estimate of Jewish Tradition may, therefore, be 
of service to the student. It is, indeed, the only work of 
its kind. Zunz has confined himself to the history of the 
Agadah. Graetz gave most of his attention to the politi- 
cal side of Jewish history. But comparatively little has 
been done for the Halachah, though Frankel, Geiger, 
Herzfeld, and others have treated some single points 
in various monographs. Thus it was left for Weiss to 
write the History of Tradition^ which includes both the 
Agadah and the Halachah. The treatment of this latter 
must have proved, in consequence of the intricate and 
intractable nature of its materials, by far the more diffi- 
cult portion of his task. 

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

Weiss' s standpoint with reference to the Pentateuch is 
the conservative one, maintaining both its unity and its 
Mosaic authorship. Those passages and accounts in the 
Bible in which the modern critic discerns traces of dif- 
ferent traditional sources, are for Weiss only indicative 
of the various stages of interpretation through which the 


Pentateuch had to pass. The earliest stage was a very 
crude one, as may be seen from the case of Jephthah's 
vow, for which only a misinterpretation of certain pas- 
sages in the Pentateuch (Gen. xxii. 2 ; Num. xxv. 4) could 
be made responsible. Nor was Jephthah, who felt himself 
bound to carry out his vow, acquainted with the provision 
for dissolving vows ^ that was sufficiently familiar to later 
ages. When, on the other hand, Jeremiah declared sacri- 
fices to be altogether superfluous, and said that God did 
not command Israel, when he brought them from the 
land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices 
(vii. 22), he was not in contradiction with Leviticus, but 
interpreted the laws contained in this book as a conces- 
sion to popular custom, though not desirable on their 
own account. This concession, whenever it was of a 
harmless nature, the prophets carried so far as to per- 
mit altars outside the Tabernacle or Temple, though 
this was against the plain sense of Deuteronomy. Elijah 
even bewailed their destruction (i Kings xix. 10). He 
and other prophets probably interpreted the law in ques- 
tion as directed against the construction and maintenance 
of several chief sanctuaries, but not against sacrificing in 
different places on minor occasions. This is evidently a 
free interpretation, or rather application, of the Law. 
Occasionally the conception as to when and how a law 
should be applied took a completely negative form. In 
this manner is to be explained the action of Solomon in 
suspending the Fast of the Day of Atonement before 
the festival he was going to celebrate in honour of the 
consecration of the Temple (i Kings viii. 65), the king 
being convinced that on this unique occasion the latter 
was of more religious importance than the former. Weiss 


thinks that the later custom of holding public dances in 
the vineyards on the loth of Tishri might have had its 
origin in this solemn, but also joyful, festival. Ezekiel, 
again, though alluding more frequently than any other 
prophet to the laws in the Pentateuch, is exceedingly 
bold in his interpretation of them, as, for instance, when 
he says that priests shall not eat anything that is dead 
or torn (xliv. 31), which shows that he took the verses 
in Exod. xxii. 30, and Deut. xiv. 20, to have been meant 
only as a good advice to the laymen to refrain from eat- 
ing these unclean things, but not as having for them the 
force of a real commandment. 

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


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

Secondly, as to the so-called laws given to Moses on 
Sinai!* Much has been said about these. The distinction 
claimed for them by some scholars, viz. that they were 
never contested, is not tenable, considering that there pre- 
vailed much difference of opinion about some of them. 
Nor is the theory that they were ancient religious usages, 
dating from time immemorial, entirely satisfactory. For 
though the fact may be true in itself, this could not have 
justified the Rabbis in calling them all Sinaitic laws, espe- 
cially when they were aware that not a few of them were 
contested by certain of their colleagues, a thing that would 
have been quite impossible if they had a genuine claim to 
Mosaic authority. But if we understand Weiss rightly 
these laws are only to be considered as a specimen of the 
whole of the Oral Law, which was believed to emanate, 
both in its institutional and in its expository part, from the 
same authority. The conviction was firmly held that 
everything wise and good, be it ethical or ceremonial in 
its character, whose effect would be to strengthen the 
cause of religion, was at least potentially contained in the 
Torah, and that it only required an earnest religious mind 


to find it there. Hence the famous adage that "everything 
which any student will teach at any future time was already 
communicated to Moses on Mount Sinai"; or the injunc- 
tion that any acceptable truth, even if discovered by an 
insignificant man in Israel, should be considered as having 
the authority of a great sage or prophet, or even of Moses 
himself. The principle was that the words of the Torah 
are "fruitful and multiply." 

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

Before we pass to the age of the Tannaim,^ the subject 
of Weiss' s second volume, we must take account of two 
important events which have greatly influenced the further 
development of Tradition. I refer to the destruction of 
the Temple and the rise of Christianity. With the former 
event Judaism ceased to be a political commonwealth, and 
if " the nation was already in the times of Ezra converted 
into a church," — an assertion, by the way, which has not ' 
the least basis in fact, — it became the more so after it had 
lost the last remains of its independence. But it was a 
church without priests, or, since such a thing, as far as 


history teaches us, has never existed, let us rather call it a 

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

The next cause that contributed to give a more deter- 


minate expression to the Law was the rise of Christianity. 
This is not the place to give an account of the views which 
the Rabbis entertained of Christianity. Suffice it to say 
they could not see in the destruction of the Law its ful- 
filment. They also thought that under certain conditions 
it is not only the letter that killeth, but also the spirit, or 
rather that the spirit may sometimes be clothed in a letter, 
which, in its turn, will slay more victims than the letter 
against which the loudest denunciations have been levelled. 
Spirit without letter, let theologians say what they will, is 
a mere phantasm. However, the new sect made claims to 
the gift of prophecy, which, as they thought, placed them 
above the Law. It would seem that this was a time of 
special excitement. The student of the Talmud finds that 
such marvels as predicting the future, reviving the dead, 
casting out demons, crossing rivers dry-shod, curing the 
sick by a touch or prayer, were the order of the day, and 
performed by scores of Rabbis. Voices from heaven were 
often heard, and strange visions were frequently beheld. 
Napoleon L is said to have forbidden the holy coat of 
Treves to work miracles. The Jewish legislature, how- 
ever, had no means of preventing these supernatural 
workings ; but when the Rabbis saw their dangerous con- 
sequences, they insisted that miracles should have no in- 
fluence on the interpretation and development of the Law. 
Hence the saying with regard to Lev. xxvii. 34, that no 
prophet is authorised to add a new law. And when R. 
Eliezer b. Hyrkanos (about 120 a.c.) thought to prove the 
justice of his case by the intervention of miracles, the 
majority answered that the fact of this or that variation, 
effected at his bidding, in the established order of nature, 
proved nothing for the soundness of his argument. Nay, 


they even ignored the Bath-KoP (the celestial voice), 
which declared itself in favour of R. Eliezer, maintaining 
that the Torah having once been given to mankind, it is 
only the opinion of the majority that should decide on its 
interpretation and application. Very characteristic is the 
legend connected with this fact. When one of the Rabbis 
afterwards met Elijah and asked him what they thought 
in heaven of the audacity of his colleagues, the prophet 
answered, " God rejoiced and said, my children have con- 
quered me." 

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

It would, however, be a mistake to think that the San- 


hedrin now spent their powers in " enforcing retrograde 
measures and creating a strange exegesis." I especially 
advise the student to read carefully that admirable chap- 
ter (VII., of Vol. II.) in which Weiss classifies all the Or- 
dinances, " Fences," Decrees, and Institutions, dating both 
from this and from earlier ages, under ten headings, and 
also shows their underlying principles. The main object 
was to preserve the Jewish rehgion by strengthening the 
principle of Jewish nationality, and to preserve the nation- 
ality by the aid of religion. But sometimes the Rabbis 
also considered it necessary to preserve religion against 
itself, so to speak, or, as they expressed it, " When there 
is time to work for the Lord, they make void thy Torah." 
This authorised the Beth Din^ to act in certain cases 
against the letter of the Torah. " The welfare of the 
World " was another great consideration. By " World " 
they understood both the religious and the secular world. 
From a regard to the former resulted such " Fences " and 
Ordinances as were directed against " the transgressors," 
as well as the general injunction to " keep aloof from what 
is morally unseemly, and from whatever bears any like- 
ness thereto." In the interests of the latter — the welfare 
of the secular world — they enacted such laws as either 
tended to elevate the position of women, or to promote 
the peace and welfare of members of their own commu- 
nity, or to improve the relations between Jews and their 
Gentile neighbours. They also held the great principle 
that nothing is so injurious to the cause of religion as 
increasing the number of sinners by needless severity. 
Hence the introduction of many laws " for the benefit of 
penitents," and the maxim not to issue any decree which 
may prove too heavy a burden to the majority of the com" 


munity. The relaxation of certain traditional laws was also 
permitted when they involved a serious loss of property, or 
the sacrifice of a man's dignity. Some old decrees were 
even permitted to fall into oblivion when public opinion 
was too strong against them, the Rabbis holding that it 
was often better for Israelites to be unconscious sinners 
than wilful transgressors. The Minhag, or religious cus- 
tom, also played an important part, it being assumed that 
it must have been first introduced by some eminent au- 
thority ; but, if there was reason to believe that the custom 
owed its origin to some fancy of the populace, and that it 
had a pernicious effect on the multitude, no compunction 
was felt in abolishing it. 

Very important it is to note that the Oral Law had not 
at this period assumed a character of such rigidity that all 
its ordinances, etc., had to be looked upon as irremovable 
for all times. With those who think otherwise, a favourite 
quotation is the administratory measure laid dawn in Trac- 
tate Evidences y^ I. 5, where we read that no Beth Din has 
the right of annulling the dicta of another Beth Din, unless 
it is stronger in numbers (having a larger majority) and 
greater in wisdom than its fellow tribunal. Confess with 
becoming modesty that the world is always going downhill, 
decreasing both in numbers and in wisdom, and the result 
follows that any decision by the earlier Rabbis is fixed law 
for all eternity. Weiss refutes such an idea not only as 
inconsistent with the nature of Tradition, but also as con- 
tradictory to the facts. He proves by numerous instances 
that the Rabbis did abolish ordinances and decrees intro- 
duced by preceding authorities, and that the whole concep- 
tion is based on a misunderstanding. For the rule in 
question, as Weiss clearly points out, originally only meant 


that a Beth Din has no right to undo the decrees of 
another contemporary Beth Din^ unless it was justified in 
doing so by the weight of its greater authority. This was 
necessary if a central authority was to exist at all. Weiss 
is indeed of opinion that the whole passage is a later inter- 
polation from the age of R. Simeon b. Gamaliel II., when 
certain Rabbis tried to emancipate themselves from the 
authority of the Patriarch. But it was not meant that the 
decision of a Beth Din should have perpetual binding 
power for all posterity. This was left to the discretion of 
the legislature of each generation, who had to examine 
whether the original cause for maintaining such decision 
still existed. 

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

With regard to these Patriarchs, I should like only to 
remark that Weiss defends them against the charge made 
by Schorr and others, who accuse them of having assumed 
too much authority on account of their noble descent, and 
who describe their opponents as the true friends of the 
people. Weiss is no lover of such specious phrases. The 
qualifications required for the leadership of the people 
were a right instinct for the necessities of their time, a fair 
amount of secular knowledge, and, what is of chief impor- 
tance, an unbounded love and devotion to those over whose 
interests they were called to watch. These distinctions, as 
Weiss proves, the descendants of Hillel possessed in the 


highest degree. It is true that occasionally, as for instance 
in the famous controversy of R. Gamaliel II. with R. 
Joshua b. Hananiah, or that of R. Simeon b. Gamaliel II. 
with R. Nathan and R. Meir, they made their authority 
too heavily felt ; "^^ but this was again another necessity of 
those troubled times, when only real unity could save 

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

Altogether it would seem that Weiss thinks R. Akiba 
more happy in his quality as a great saint than in that of 
a great exegete. What is most admirable is the instinct 
with which Weiss understands how to emphasise the right 
thing in its right place. As an indication of the literary 
honesty and marvellous industry of our author, I would 
draw attention to the fact that the sketch of R. Akiba 
and his school alone is based on more than two thousand 
quotations scattered over the whole area of the Rabbinic 
literature ; but he points in a special note to a sentence 
attributed to R. Akiba, which presents the whole man 
and his generation in a single stroke. I refer to that pas- 
sage in Tractate Joys}^ in which R. Akiba speaks of the 
four types of sufferers. He draws the comparison of a 
king chastising his children ; the first son maintains stub- 
born silence, the second simply rebels, the third suppli- 


cates for mercy, and the fourth (the best of sons) says : 
** Father, proceed with thy chastisement, as David said, 
Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity and cleanse me 
from my sin" (Ps. li. 4). This absolute submission to 
the will of God, which perceives in suffering only an ex- 
pression of His fatherly love and mercy, was the ideal of 
R. Akiba. 

The great literary production of this period was the 
Mishnah, which, through the high authority of its com- 
piler, R. Judah the Patriarch, his saintliness and popu- 
larity, soon superseded all the collections of a similar 
kind, and became the official text-book of the Oral Law. 
But a text requires interpretation, whilst other collections 
also demanded some attention. This brings us to the two 
Talmuds, namely, the Talmud of Jerusalem and the Tal- 
mud of Babylon, the origin and history of which form 
the subject of Weiss' s third volume. 
' Here again the first chapters are more of a preliminary 
character, giving the student some insight into the laby- 
rinth of the Talmud. The two chapters entitled "The 
instruments employed in erecting the great Edifice," and 
the "Workmanship displayed by the Builders," give evi- 
dence of almost unrivalled familiarity with the Rabbinical 
literature, and of critical powers of the rarest kind. Now 
these instruments were by no means new, for, as Weiss 
shows, the Amoraim employed in interpreting the Mish- 
nah the same explanatory rules that are known to us 
from the School of R. Ishmael as "the Thirteen Rules 
by which the Torah is explained," though they appear 
in the Talmud under other names, and are in reality only 
a species of Midrash. Besides this there comes another 
element into play. It was the exaggerated awe of all 


earlier authorities that endeavoured to reconcile the most 
contradictory statements by means of a subtle dialectic 
for which the schools in Babylon were especially famous. 
There were certainly many opponents of this system, and 
from the monographs which Weiss gives on the various 
heads of the western and eastern schools we see that not 
all followed this method, and some among them even con- 
demned it in the strongest words. However, it cannot be 
denied that there is a strong scholastic feature in the Tal- 
mud, which is very far from what we should look for in 
a trustworthy exegesis. Thus we must not always ex- 
pect to find in the Talmud the true meaning of the say- 
ings of their predecessors, and it is certain that a more 
scientific method in many cases has led to results the 
very opposite of those at which the later Rabbis have 
arrived. This fact was already recognised in the six- 
teenth century, though only in part, by R. Yom-Tob 
Heller and others. Only he insisted that in this matter 
a line must be drawn between theory and practice. But 
Weiss gives irrefragable proofs that even this line was 
often overstepped by the greatest authorities, though they 
remained always within the limits of Tradition. Indeed, 
as Weiss points out, not every saying to be found in the 
Talmud is to be looked upon as representing Tradition; 
for there is much in it which only gives the individual 
opinion or is merely an interpolation of later hands ; nor 
does the Talmud contain the whole of Tradition, this 
latter proceeding and advancing with the time, and cor- 
responding to its conditions and notions. As we read 
Weiss, the conviction is borne in upon us that there was 
a Talmud before, and another after The Talmud. 

Much space in this volume is given to the Agadah and 


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

" The unity of God is the keystone of dogmatic Judaism. 
The Rabbis give Israel the credit of having proclaimed to 
the world the unity of God. They also say that Israel 
took an oath never to change Him for another God. This 
only God is eternal, incorporeal, and immutable. And 
though the prophets saw Him in different aspects, He 


warned them that they must not infer from the visions 
vouchsafed to them that there are different Gods. *I 
am the first,' He tells them, which implies that he had no 
father, and the words, * There is no God besides me,' mean 
that he has no son. Now, this God, the God of Israel, is 
holy in every thinkable way of holiness. He is merciful 
and gracious, as it is said, * And I will be gracious to whom 
I will be gracious,' even though he who is the recipient of 
God's grace has no merit of his own. * And I will show 
mercy to whom I will show mercy,' that is, even to those 
who do not deserve it. His attributes are righteousness, 
loving-kindness, and truth. God speaks words of eternal 
truth, even as He himself is the eternal life. All that the 
Merciful One does is only for good, and even in the time 
of His anger He remembers His graciousness, and often 
suppresses His attribute of judgment before His attri- 
bute of mercy. But with the righteous God is more 
severe than with the rest of the world, and when His hand 
falls in chastening on His saints His name becomes awful, 
revered, and exalted. This God of Israel, again, extends 
His providence over all mankind, and especially over Israel. 
By His eye everything is foreseen, yet freedom of choice 
is given, and the world is judged by grace, yet all accord- 
ing to the works wrought. Hence, know what is above 
thee, a seeing eye and a hearing ear, and that all thy deeds 
are written in a book. 

" They [the Rabbis] believed that God created the world 
out of nothing, without toil and without weariness. This 
world was created by the combination of His two attri- 
butes, mercy and justice. He rejoices in His creation, and 
if the Maker praises it, who dares to blame it .? And if 
He exults in it, who shall find a blemish in it ? Nay, it is 


a glorious and a beautiful world. It is created for man, 
and its other denizens were all meant but to serve him. 
Though all mankind are formed after the type of Adam, no 
one is like his fellow-man (each one having an individuality 
of his own). Thus he is able to say, ' For my sake, also, 
was the world created * ; and with this thought his respon- 
sibilities increase. But the greatest love shown to man is 
that he was created in the image of God. Man is a being 
possessed of free will, and, though everything is given on 
pledge, whosoever wishes to borrow may come and borrow. 
Everything is in the gift of Heaven except the fear of 
God. In man's heart abide both the evil inclination and 
the good inclination ; and the words of Scripture, * Thou 
shalt not bow down before a strange god,' point to the 
strange god who is within man himself, who entices him 
to sin in this world, and gives evidence against him in 
the next. But the Holy One — blessed be He ! — said, * I 
have created the evil inclination, but I have also created 
its antidote, the Torah.' And when man is occupied with 
the Torah and in works of charity, he becomes the master 
of the evil inclination ; otherwise, he is its slave. When 
man reflects the image of God, he is the lord of creation, 
and is feared by all creatures ; but this image is defaced 
by sin, and then he has no power over the universe, and is 
in fear of all things. 

"Another principle of Judaism is the belief in reward 
and punishment. *I am the Lord, your God,' means, 
*it is I who am prepared to recompense you for your 
good actions, and to bring retribution upon you for your 
evil deeds.' God does not allow to pass unrewarded even 
the merit of a kind and considerate word. By the same 
measure which man metes out, it shall be meted out to 


him. Because thou drownedst others, they have drowned 
thee, and at the last they who drowned thee shall them- 
selves be drowned. Though it is not in our power to 
explain either the prosperity of the wicked or the affliction 
of the righteous, nevertheless know before whom thou 
toilest, and who thy employer is, who will pay thee the 
reward of thy labour. Here at thy door is a poor man 
standing, and at his right hand standeth God. If thou 
grantest his request, be certain of thy reward; but if 
thou refusest, think of him who is by the side of the 
poor, and will avenge it on thee. *God seeketh the 
persecuted ' to defend him, even though it be the wicked 
who is persecuted by the righteous. The soul of man 
is immortal, the souls of the righteous being treasured 
up under the throne of God. Know that everything is 
according to the reckoning, and let not thy imagination 
give thee hope that the grave will be a place of refuge 
for thee, for perforce thou wast formed, and perforce thou 
wast born, and thou livest perforce, and perforce thou wilt 
die, and perforce thou wilt in the future have to give 
account and reckoning before the Supreme King of kings, 
the Holy One, blessed be He. 

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

"Another main principle in the belief of the Rabbis 


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

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

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


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

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


wrapped in his gown with the fringes, and secretly com- 
mits sins, equally transgresses the command, * Thou shalt 
not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.' 

**God is gracious and merciful; therefore man also 
should be gracious and merciful. Hence, * Thou shalt 
love thy neighbour as thyself,' which is a main principle 
in the Torah. What is unpleasant to thyself, do not unto 
thy neighbour. This is the whole Torah, to which the 
rest is only to be considered as a commentary. And this 
love is also extended to the stranger, for as it is said with 
regard to Israel, *And thou shalt love thy neighbour as 
thyself,* so is it also said, * And thou shalt love him (the 
stranger) as thyself.' And thus said God to Israel, * My 
beloved children. Am I in want of anything that I should 
request it of you.? But what I ask of you is that you 
should love, honour, and respect one another.' Therefore, 
love mankind, and bring them near to the Torah. Let 
the honour of thy friend be as dear to thee as thine own. 
Condemn not thy fellow-man until thou art come into his 
place, and judge all men in the scale of merit. Say not 

* I will love scholars, but hate their disciples ; ' or even, 

* I will love the disciples, but hate the ignorant,' but love 
all, for he who hates his neighbour is as bad as a mur- 
derer. Indeed, during the age of the second Temple, 
men studied the Torah and the commandments, and per- 
formed works of charity, but they hated each other, a sin 
that outweighs all other sins, and for which the holy 
Temple was destroyed. Be careful not to withdraw thy 
mercy from any man, for he who does so rebels against 
the kingdom of God on earth. Walk in the ways of God, 
who is merciful even to the wicked, and as He is gracious 
alike to those who know Him, and to those who know 


Him not, so be thou. Indeed, charity is one of the three 
pillars on which the world is based. It is more precious 
than all other virtues. The man who gives charity in 
secret is greater even than Moses our teacher. An act 
of charity and love it is to pray for our fellow-man, and to 
admonish him. *Thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neigh- 
bour, and not suffer sin upon him' (Lev. xix. i8), means 
it is thy duty to admonish him a hundred times if need be, 
even if he be thy superior; for Jerusalem was only de- 
stroyed for the sin of its people in not admonishing one 
another. The man whose protest would be of any weight, 
and who does not exercise his authority (when any wrong 
is about to be committed), is held responsible for the whole 

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

"Another distinctive mark of Judaism is faith in God, 


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

"For repentance is the greatest prerogative of man. 
Better is one hour of repentance and good deeds in this 
world than the whole life of the world to come. The aim 
of all wisdom is repentance and good deeds. The place 
where the truly penitent shall stand is higher than that of 
the righteous. Repentance finds its special expression in 
prayer ; and when it is said in Scripture, * Serve God with 
all thy heart,' by this is meant, serve Him by prayer, which 
is even greater than worship by means of sacrifices. 
Never is a prayer entirely unanswered by God. There- 


fore, even though the sword be on a man's neck, let him 
not cease to supplicate God's mercy. But regard not thy 
prayer as a fixed mechanical task, but as an appeal for 
mercy and grace before the All-Present; as it is said, 
*For He is gracious and full of mercy, slow to anger, 
abounding in loving-kindness, and repenteth him of the 
evil.' " 

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

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


There is probably no work in which the Halachic or 
legalistic side of this sect is better described than in this 
volume of Weiss. I regret that I am unable to enter into 
its details. But I cannot refrain from pointing to one of 
the main principles of the Caraites. This was " Search 
the Scriptures." Now this does not look very dissimilar 
from the principle held by the Rabbis. For what else is 
the Talmud, but a thorough searching through the Bible 
for whatever was suggestive by time and circumstances ? 
The light which the Caraites applied to the searching of 
the Scriptures was the same which illumined the paths of 
the Rabbis' investigations. They employed most of the 
expository rules of the Tannaite schools. The fact is that 
they were only determined to find something different from 
what the Rabbis found in the Scriptures. They wanted 
to have gloomy Sabbaths and Festivals, and discovered 
authority for it in the Bible ; they wanted to retain most 
of the dietary laws which had their root only in Tradition, 
but insisted on petty differences which they thought might 
be inferred from the Scriptures, and they created a new 
** order of inheritance," and varied the forbidden degrees 
in marriage, in all which the only merit was that they were 
in contradiction to the interpretation of the Rabbis. They 
also refused to accept the Liturgy of Rabbinical Judaism, 
but never succeeded in producing more than a patch- 
work from verses of the Bible, which, thus recast, they 
called a prayer-book. There were undoubtedly among 
their leaders many serious and sincere men, but they give 
us the impression of prigs, as for instance, Moses Darai, 
when he reproaches the Rabbinical Jews for having an 
" easy religion," or Israel Hammaarabi, when he recom- 
mended his book on the laws regarding the slaughtering 


of animals, as having the special advantage that his deci- 
sions were always on the more stringent side. Those 
who made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land were by the 
Caraites canonised as ** mourners." The Rabbanite R. 
Judah Hallevi also visited the ruins of Jerusalem, but he 
did something more than ** mourn and sigh and cry," he 
became a God-intoxicated singer, and wrote the "Zion- 
Elegy." The novel terminology which they use in their ex- 
egetical and theological works, was only invented to spite 
the Rabbanites, and marks its authors as pedants. On 
the other hand, it is not to be denied that their opponents 
did not employ the best means to conciliate them. The 
Middle Ages knew no other remedy against schism than 
excommunication, and the Gaonim were the children of 
their time. Nor were the arguments which the latter 
brought forward in defence of Tradition always calculated 
to convince the Caraites of their error. When R. Saadiah, 
in his apology for the institution of the Second Day of 
the Festival, 13 went the length of assigning to it a Sinaitic 
origin, he could only succeed in making the Caraites more 
suspicious of the claims of Tradition than before. In a 
later generation one of his own party, R. Hai Gaon, had 
to declare his predecessor's words a " controversial exag- 
geration." The zeal which some of the Gaonim showed 
in their defence of such works as the Chambers and the 
Measure of the Stature i* was a not less unfortunate thing, 
for it involved the Rabbanites in unnecessary responsi- 
bilities for a new class of literature of doubtful origin, 
which in succeeding centuries was disowned by the best 
minds in Judaism. 

The Gaonic period, to which we also owe the rise of the 
Massorah and the introduction of points in the text of the 


Bible — of which Weiss treats fully in the twenty-third 
and twenty-fourth chapters of vol. iv. — comes to an end 
with the death of R. Hai. The famous schools of Sura 
and Pumbeditha, over which these two Gaonim presided, 
fell into decay, and Babylon ceased to be the centre of 
Judaism. To be more exact, we should say that Judaism 
had no longer any real centre. Instead of dwelling in one 
place for centuries, we now have to be perpetually on our 
journey, accompanying our authors through all the inhab- 
ited parts of the world — France, Italy, Spain, Germany, 
with an occasional trip to Africa and Russia. There we 
shall meet with the new schools, each of which, though 
interpreting the same Torah, occupied with the study of 
the same Talmud, and even conforming more or less to 
the same mode of life, has an individuality and character 
of its own, reflecting the thought and habits of the country 
which it represents. Thus "geographical Judaism" be- 
comes a factor in history which no scholar can afford to 
neglect. It is true that Judaism never remained entirely 
unbiassed by foreign ideas, and our author points in many 
a place to Persian, Greek, and Roman influences on 
Tradition ; still, these influences seem to have undergone 
such a thorough " Judaization " that it is only the practised 
eye of the scholar that is able to see through the transfor- 
mation. But it requires no great skill to discriminate 
between the work produced by a Spanish and that of a 
French Rabbi. Though both would write in Hebrew, 
they betray themselves very soon by the style, diction, 
and train of thought peculiar to each country. The 
Spaniard is always logical, clear, and systematising, whilst 
the French Rabbi has very little sense of order, is always 
writing occasional notes, has a great tendency to be 


obscure, but is mostly profound and critical. Hence the 
fact that whilst Spain produced the greatest codifiers of 
the law, we owe to France and Germany the best com- 
mentaries on the Talmud. What these codes and com- 
mentaries meant for Judaism the student will find in 
Weiss's book, and still more fully in his admirable essays 
on Rashi (Solomon b. Isaac), Maimonides, and R. Jacob 
Tam (published in his periodical, Beth Talmud^ and also 
separately). It is enough for us here only to notice the 
fact of the breadth of Tradition, which could include 
within its folds men of such different types as the sceptics, 
Maimonides, Solomon b. Gabirol, and Abn Ezra on one 
side, and the simple "non-questioning" Rabbenu Ger- 
shom, Rashi, and Jacob Tam on the other. 

The last three centuries, which occupy our author*s 
attention in the fifth volume, are not remarkable for their 
progress. The world lives on the past. The rationalists 
write treatises on Maimonides' philosophical works, whilst 
the German Talmudists add commentary to commentary. 
It is, indeed, the reign of authority, " modified by acci- 
dents." Such an accident was the struggle between the 
Maimonists and Anti-Maimonists, or the rise of the Cab- 
balah, or the frequent controversies with Christians, all of 
which tended to direct the minds of people into new chan- 
nels of thought. But though this period is less original in 
its work, it is not on that account less sympathetic. One 
cannot read those beautiful descriptions which Weiss gives 
of R. Meir of Rothenburg and his school, or of R. Asher 
and his descendants, without feeling that one is in an 
atmosphere of saints, who are the more attractive the 
less they were conscious of their own saintliness. The 
only mistake, perhaps, was that the successors of these 


" Chassidim or pious men of Germany " looked on many 
of the religious customs that were merely the voluntary 
expression of particularly devout souls as worthy of imita- 
tion by the whole community, and made them obligatory 
upon all. 

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

Nor do I know any modern author who is more in 
favour of strong authority than Weiss. His treatment of 


the Struggle between the Patriarch R. Gamaliel and his 
adversaries, which I have touched on above, proves this 
sufficiently. What Weiss really objects to, is a weak 
authority — I mean that phonograph-like authority which 
is always busy in reproducing the voice of others without 
an opinion of its own, without originality, without initiative 
and discretion. The real authorities are those who, draw- 
ing their inspiration from the past, also understand how to 
reconcile us with the present and to prepare us for the 



"Blessed be he who knows." These are the words 
with which Nachmanides, in his classical treatise, Gate of 
Rewardy dismisses a certain theory of the Gaonim with 
regard to this question; after which he proceeds to ex- 
pound another theory, which seems to him more satisfac- 
tory. This mode of treatment implies that, unsatisfactory 
as the one or other theory may appear to us, it would be 
presumptuous to reject either entirely, there being only 
One who knows the exact truth about the great mystery. 
But we may indicate our doubt about one doctrine by put- 
ting by its side another, which we may affirm to be not 
more absolutely true, but more probable. This seems to 
have been the attitude, too, of the compilers of the ancient 
Rabbinical literature, in which the most conflicting views 
about this grave subject were embodied. Nor did the Syn- 
agogue in general feel called upon to decide between these 
views. There is indeed no want of theodicies, for almost 
every important expounder of Job, as well as every Jewish 
philosopher of note, has one with its own system of retribu- 
tion. Thus Judaism has no fixed doctrine on the subject. 
It refused a hearing to no theory, for fear that it should 



contain some germ of truth, but on the same ground it 
accepted none to the exclusion of the others. 

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

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

If we were now to complement R. Ammi's view by add- 
ing that there is no happiness without some preceding 
merit — and there is no serious objection to making this 



addition — then it would resolve itself into the theory of 
Measure for Measure, which forms a very common stand- 
ard of reward and punishment in Jewish literature. 
Here are a few instances: — "Because the Egyptians 
wanted to destroy Israel by water (Exod. i. 22), they were 
themselves destroyed by the waters of the Red Sea, as 
it is said. Therefore I will measure their former work 
into their bosom (Is. Ixv. 7) ; " whilst, on the other hand, 
we read, " Because Abraham showed himself hospitable 
towards strangers, providing them with water (Gen. xviii. 
4), God gave to his children a country blessed with plenty 
of water (Deut. viii. i)." Sometimes this form of retri- 
bution goes so far as to define a special punishment to 
that part of the body which mostly contributed to the 
committing of the sin. Thus we read, " Samson rebelled 
against God by his eyes, as it is said, Get her (the Philis- 
tine woman) for me, for she pleases my eyes (Judg. xvi. 
21); therefore his eyes were put out by the Philistines 
(Judg. xviii. 9)"; whilst Absalom, whose sinful pride be- 
gan by his hair (2 Sam. xiv. 25), met his fate by his hair 
(2 Sam. xviii. 9).^ Nahum of Gemzo himself explained 
his blindness and the maimed condition of his arms and 
legs as a consequence of a specific offence in having neg- 
lected the duty of succouring a poor man. Addressing 
the dead body of the suppliant who perished while Nahum 
was delaying his help, he said, " Let my eyes (which had 
no pity for your pitiful gaze) become blind; may my 
hands and legs (that did not hasten to help thine) become 
maimed, and finally my whole body be covered with 
boils." * " This was the hand that wrote it," said Cranmer 
at the stake; "therefere it shall first suffer punishment." 
It is worth noticing that this retribution does not always 


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

Notwithstanding these passages, to which many more 
might be added, it cannot be denied that there are in the 
Rabbinical literature many passages holding out promises 
of material reward to the righteous as well as threatening 
the wicked with material punishment. Nor is there any 
need of denying it. Simple-minded men — and such the 
majority of the Rabbis were — will never be persuaded 
into looking with indifference on pain and pleasure ; they 
will be far from thinking that poverty, loss of children, 
and sickness are no evil, and that a rich harvest, hope of 
posterity, and good health, are not desirable things. It 
does lie in our nature to consider the former as curses and 
the latter as blessings; "and if this be wrong there is' 
no one to be made responsible for it but the Creator of 
nature." Accordingly the question must arise. How can 
a just and omnipotent God allow it to happen that men 


should suffer innocently? The most natural suggestion 
towards solving the difficulty would be that we are not 
innocent. Hence R. Ammi's assertion that affliction and 
death are both the outcome of sin and transgression ; or, 
as R. Chanina ben Dossa expressed it, " It is not the wild 
beast but sin which kills." ^ 

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


The most important passage in Rabbinical literature re- 
lating to the solution of this problem is the following : — 
With reference to Exod. xxxiii. 13, R. Johanan said, in the 
name of R. Jos6, that, among other things, Moses also 
asked God to explain to him the method of his Providence, 
a request that was granted to him. He asked God, Why 
are there righteous people who are prosperous, and right- 
eous who suffer ; wicked who are prosperous and wicked 
who suffer ? The answer given to him was, according to 
the one view, that the prosperity of the wicked and the 
suffering of the righteous are a result of the conduct of 
their ancestors, the former being the descendants of right- 
eous parents and enjoying their merits, whilst the latter, 
coming from a bad stock, suffer for the sins of those to 
whom they owe their existence. This view was suggested 
by the Scriptural words, " Keeping mercy for thousands 
(of generations) . . . visiting the iniquity of the fathers 
upon the children " (Exod. xxxiv. 7), which were regarded 
as the answer to Moses' question in the preceding chapter 
of Exodus. ^^ Prevalent, however, as this view may have 
been in ancient times, the Rabbis never allowed it to pass 
without some qualification. It is true that they had no 
objection to the former part of this doctrine, and they 
speak very frequently of the ** Merits of the Fathers " for 
which the remotest posterity is rewarded ; for this could 
be explained on the ground of the boundless goodness of 
God, which cannot be limited to the short space of a life- 
time. But there was no possibility of overcoming the 
moral objection against punishment of people for sins 
they have not committed. 

It will suffice to mention here that, with reference to 
Joshua vii. 24, 25, the Rabbis asked the question, If he 


(Achan) sinned, what justification could there be for put- 
ting his sons and daughters to death ? And by the force 
of this argument they interpreted the words of the Script- 
ures to mean that the children of the criminal were only 
compelled to be present at the execution of their father. 

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

It is hardly necessary to say that there is still some- 
thing wanting to supplement this view, for the given clas- 
sification would place the not entirely wicked on the same 
level with the perfectly righteous, and on a much higher 
level than the imperfectly righteous, who are undoubtedly 
far superior. The following passage may be regarded as 
supplying this missing something : — " The wicked who 
have done some good work are as amply rewarded for it 
in this world as if they were men who have fulfilled the 
whole of the Torah, so that they may be punished for 
their sins in the next world (without interruption) ; whilst 
the righteous who have committed some sin have to suffer 
for it (in this world) as if " they were men who burned the 
Law," so that they may enjoy their reward in the world to 
come (without interruption)." ^ Thus the real retribution 
takes place in the next world, the fleeting existence on 
earth not being the fit time either to compensate right- 


eousness or to punish sin. But as, on the one hand, God 
never allows "that the merit of any creature should be 
cut short," whilst, on the other hand. He deals very 
severely with the righteous, punishing them for the 
slightest transgression ; since, too, this reward and punish- 
ment are only of short duration, they must take place in 
this short terrestrial existence. There is thus established 
a sort of divine economy, lest the harmony of the next 
world should be disturbed. 

Yet another objection to the doctrine under discussion 
remains to be noticed. It is that it justifies God by 
accusing man, declaring every sufferer as more or less 
of a sinner. But such a notion, if carried to its last 
consequences, must result in tempting us to withhold 
our sympathies from him. And, indeed, it would seem 
that there were some non-Jewish philosophers who argued 
in this way. Thus a certain Roman official is reported 
to have said to R. Akiba, "How can you be so eager 
in helping the poor } Suppose only a king, who, in his 
wrath against his slave, were to set him in the gaol, and 
give orders to withhold from him food and drink; if, 
then, one dared to act to the contrary, would not the 
king be angry with him .? " ^^ There is some appearance 
of logic in this notion put into the mouth of a heathen. 
The Rabbis, however, were inconsistent people, and re- 
sponded to the appeal which suffering makes to every 
human heart without asking too many questions. With- 
out entering here into the topic of charity in the Rabbinic 
literature, which would form a very interesting chapter, 
I shall only allude now to the following incident, which 
would show that the Rabbis did not abandon even those 
afflicted with leprosy, which, according to their own 


notion, given above, followed only as a punishment for 
the worst crimes. One Friday, we are told, when the 
day was about to darken, the Chassid Abba Tachnah 
was returning home, bearing on his shoulders the baggage 
that contained all his fortune; he saw a leprous man 
lying on the road, who addressed him : " Rabbi, do me 
a deed of charity and take me into the town." The 
Rabbi now thought, " If I leave my baggage, where shall 
I find the means of obtaining subsistence for myself and 
my family.? But if I forsake this leprous man I shall 
commit a mortal sin." In the end, he allowed the good 
inclination to prevail over the evil one, and first carried 
the sufferer to the town.^* The only practical conclusion 
that the Rabbis drew from such theories as identify 
suffering with sin were for the sufferer himself, who 
otherwise might be inclined to blame Providence, or even 
to blaspheme, but would now look upon his affliction as 
a reminder from heaven that there is something wrong 
in his moral state. Thus we read in tractate Berachoth : ^^ 
*' If a man sees that affliction comes upon him, he ought 
to inquire into his actions, as it is said. Let us search and 
try our ways, and turn again to the Lord (Lam. iii. 40)." 
This means to say that the sufferer will find that he 
has been guilty of some offence. As an illustration of 
this statement we may perhaps consider the story about 
R. Huna, occurring in the same tractate.^® Of this Rabbi 
it is said that he once experienced heavy pecuniary losses, 
whereupon his friends came to his house and said to him, 
" Let the master but examine his conduct a little closer." 
On this R. Huna answered, " Do you suspect me of 
having committed some misdeed V His friends rejoined, 
" And do you think that God would pass judgment with- 


out justice?" R. Huna then followed their hint, and 
found that he did not treat his tenant farmer so gener- 
ously as he ought. He offered redress, and all turned 
out well in the end. Something similar is to be found 
in the story of the martyrdom of R. Simeon ben Gamaliel 
and R. Ishmael ben Elisha. Of these Rabbis we are 
told that on their way to be executed the one said to 
the other, " My heart leaves me, for I am not aware of 
a sin deserving such a death " ; on which the other an- 
swered, "It might have happened that in your function 
as judge you sometimes — for your own convenience — 
were slow in administering justice." ^^ 

But even if the personal actions of the righteous were 
blameless, there might still be sufficient ground for his being 
afflicted and miserable. This may be found in his relations 
to his kind and surroundings, or, to use the term now more 
popular, by reason of human solidarity. Now, after the 
above remarks on the objections entertained by the Rabbis 
against a man's being punished for the sins of others, it 
is hardly necessary to say that their idea of solidarity has 
little in common with the crude notions of it current in 
very ancient times. Still, it can hardly be doubted that 
the relation of the individual to the community was more 
keenly felt by the Rabbis than by the leaders in any other 
society, modern or ancient. According to the view given 
by an ancient Rabbi whose name is unknown, it would, 
indeed, seem that to them the individual was not simply a 
member of the Jewish commonwealth, or a co-religionist, 
but a limb of the great and single body " Israel," and that 
as auch he communicated both for good and evil the sen- 
sations of the one part to the whole. In the Midrash^ 
where a parallel is to be found to this idea, the responsi- 



bility of the individual towards the community is further 
illustrated by R. Simeon ben Yochai, in the following way : 
** It is," we read there, " to be compared to people sitting 
on board a ship, one of the passengers of which took an 
awl and began to bore holes in the bottom of the vessel. 
Asked to desist from his dangerous occupation, he an- 
swered, * Why, I am only making holes on my own seat,* 
forgetting that when the water came in it would sink the 
whole ship." Thus the sin of a single man might en- 
danger the whole of humanity. It was in conformity with 
the view of his father that R. Eliezer, the son of R. Simeon 
(ben Yochai) said, " The world is judged after the merits or 
demerits of the majority, so that a single individual by his 
good or bad actions can decide the fate of his fellow-creat- 
ures, as it may happen that he is just the one who con- 
stitutes this majority." ^^ Nor does this responsibility cease 
with the man's own actions. According to the Rabbis 
man is responsible even for the conduct of others — and 
as such liable to punishment — if he is indifferent to the 
wrong that is being perpetrated about him, whilst an ener- 
getic protest from his side could have prevented it. And 
the greater the man the greater is his responsibility. He 
may suffer for the sins of his family which is first reached 
by his influence ; he may suffer for the sins of the whole 
community if he could hope to find a willing ear among 
them, and he may even suffer for the sins of the whole 
world if his influence extend so far, and he forbear from 
exerting it for good.^^ Thus the possibility is given that 
the righteous man may suffer with justice, though he him- 
self has never committed any transgression. 

As a much higher aspect of this solidarity — and as may 
have already suggested itself to the reader from the pas- 


sage cited above from the anonymous Rabbi — we may 
regard the suffering of the righteous as an atonement for 
the sins of their contemporaries. "When there will be 
neither Tabernacle nor the Holy Temple," Moses is said 
to have asked God, " what will become of Israel ? " Where- 
upon God answers, " I will take from among them the 
righteous man whom I shall consider as pledged for them, 
and will forgive all their sins ; " the death of the perfect 
man, or even his suffering being looked upon as an expi- 
ation for the shortcoming of his generation.^^ 

It is hardly necessary to remind the reader of the affinity 
of this idea with that of sacrifices in general, as in both 
cases it is the innocent being which has to suffer for the 
sins of another creature. But there is one vital point which 
makes all the difference. It is that in our case the suffer- 
ing is not enforced, but is a voluntary act on the part of 
the sacrifice, and is even desired by him. Without enter- 
ing here on the often-discussed theme of the suffering of 
the Messiah, I need only mention the words of R. Ishmael 
who, on a very slight provocation, exclaimed, " I am the 
atonement for the Jews," which means that he took upon 
him all their sins to suffer for them.^^ This desire seems 
to have its origin in nothing else than a deep sympathy 
and compassion with Israel. To suffer for, or, at least 
with Israel was, according to the Rabbis, already the ideal 
of Moses. He is said, indeed, to have broken the Two 
Tables with the purpose of committing some sin, so that 
he would have either to be condemned together with Israel 
(for the sin of the golden calf), or to be pardoned together 
with them.22 And this conduct was expected not only from 
the leaders of Israel, but almost from every Jew. " When 
Israel is in a state of affliction (as, for instance, famine) one 


must not say, I will rather live by myself, and eat and drink, 
and peace be unto thee, my soul. To those who do so the 
words of the Scriptures are to be applied : And in that day 
did the Lord God of Hosts call to weeping and to mourn- 
ing, . . . and behold joy and gladness. . . . Surely this 
iniquity shall not be purged out from you till ye die " (Is. 
xxii. 12-14). Another passage is to the effect that, when a 
man shows himself indifferent to the suffering of the com- 
munity, there come the two angels (who accompany every 
Jew), put their hands on his head, and say, " This man who 
has separated himself shall be excluded from their con- 

We might now characterise this sort of suffering as the 
chastisement of love (of the righteous) to mankind, or 
rather to Israel. But we must not confuse it with the 
Chastisement of Love often mentioned in the Talmud, 
though this idea also seems calculated to account for the 
suffering of the righteous. Here the love is not on the 
side of the sufferer, but proceeds from him who inflicts 
this suffering. " Him," says R. Huna, " in whom God 
delights he crushes with suffering." As a proof of this 
theory the words of Is. liii. 10 are given, which are inter- 
preted to mean : him whom the Lord delights in He puts 
to grief. Another passage, by the same authority, is to 
the effect that where there is no sufficient cause for pun- 
ishment (the man being entirely free from sin), we have 
to regard his suffering as a chastisement of love, for it 
is said: "Whom the Lord loveth He correcteth" (Proverbs 
iii. 11). 2* To what purpose He corrects him may, perhaps, 
be seen from the following passage : " R. Eleazar ben 
Jacob says : If a man is visited by affliction he has to be 
thankful to God for it: for suffering draws man to, and 



reconciles him with God, as it is said: For whom God 
loveth he correcteth." ^5 

It is in conformity with such a high conception that 
affliction, far from being dreaded, becomes almost a 
desirable end, and we hear many Rabbis exclaim, " Be- 
loved is suffering," for by it fatherly love is shown to man 
by God; by it man obtains purification and atonement, 
by it Israel came in possession of the best gifts, such as 
the Torah, the Holy Land, and eternal life.^^ And so 
also the sufferer, far from being considered as a man 
with a suspected past, becomes an object of veneration, 
on whom the glory of God rests, and he brings salvation 
to the world if he bears his affliction with joyful submis- 
sion to the will of God.2^ Continuous prosperity is by no 
means to be longed after, for, as R. Ishmael taught, " He 
who has passed forty days without meeting adversity has 
already received his (share of the) world (to come) in 
this life."^ Nay, the standing rule is that the really 
righteous suffer, whilst the wicked are supposed to be 
in a prosperous state. Thus, R. Jannai said, " We (aver- 
age people) enjoy neither the prosperity of the wicked nor 
the afflictions of the righteous," ^^ whilst his contemporary, 
Rab, declared that he who experiences no affliction and 
persecution does not belong to them (the Jews).^ 

2. The second main view on Retribution is that re- 
corded by the Rabbis as in direct opposition to that of 
R. Ammi. It is that there is suffering as well as death 
without sin and transgression. We may now just as well 
infer that there is prosperity and happiness without pre> 
ceding merits. And this is, indeed, the view held by 
R. Meir. For in contradiction to the view cited above, 
R. Meir declares that the request of Moses to have 



explained to him the mysterious ways of Providence was 
not granted, and the answer he received was, " And I will 
shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy " (Exod. xxxiii. 
19), which means to say, even though he to whom the 
mercy is shown be unworthy of it. The old question 
arises how such a procedure is to be reconciled with the 
justice and omnipotence of God. The commentaries try 
to evade the difficulty by suggesting some of the views 
given above, as that the real reward and punishment are 
only in the world to come, or that the affliction of the 
righteous is only chastisement of love, and so on. From 
the passages I am about to quote, however, one gains the 
impression that some Rabbis rather thought that this 
great problem will indeed not bear discussion or solution 
at all. Thus we have the legend : ** The angels said to 
God, why have you punished Adam with death.? He 
answered. On account of his having transgressed my 
commandment (with regard to the eating of the tree of 
knowledge). But why had Moses and Aaron to die } 
The reply given to them is the words, Eccl. ix. 2 : * All 
things come alike to all ; there is one event to the right- 
eous and to the wicked, to the good and to the clean and 
to the unclean.' " ^^ Another legend records, " When 
Moses ascended to heaven, God showed him also the 
great men of futurity. R. Akiba was sitting and inter- 
preting the law in a most wonderful way. Moses said 
to God : Thou hast shown me his worth, show me also 
his reward ; on which he is bidden to look back. There 
he perceives him dying the most cruel of deaths, and his 
flesh being sold by weight. Moses now asks : Is this the 
reward of such a life } whereupon God answers him : 
Be silent; this I have determined."^ 


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

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

* * « * * 

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

Still, one might perhaps suggest that these passages 
when examined a little closer, not only contain a rebuke 
to man's importunity in wanting to intrude into the secrets 
of God, but also hint at the possibility that even God's 
omnipotence is submitted to a certain law — though de- 
signed by His own holy will — which He could not alter 
without detriment to the whole creation. Indeed, in one 
of the mystical accounts of the martyrdom of R. Akiba 
and other great Rabbis, God is represented as asking the 
sufferers to accept His hard decree without protest, unless 
they wish Him to destroy the whole world. In another 
place again, we read of a certain renowned Rabbi, who 
lived in great poverty, that once in a dream he asked the 
divine Shechinah how long he would have still to endure 
this bitter privation ? The answer given to him was : 
** My son, will it please you that I destroy the world for 
your sake .? " ^ It is only in this light that we shall be 
able to understand such passages in the Rabbinic litera- 
ture as that God almost suffers Himself when He has to 
inflict punishment either on the individual or on whole 
communities. Thus God is represented as mourning for 



seven days (as in the case when one loses a child) before 
He brought the deluge on the world ; He bemoans the 
fall of Israel and the destruction of the Temple, and the 
Shechinah laments even when the criminal suffers his just 
punishment. And it is not by rebelling against these 
laws that He tries to redeem His suffering. He himself 
has recourse to prayer, and says : " May it be my will 
that my mercy conquer my wrath, that my love over-rule 
my strict justice, so that I may treat my children with 
love." ^ If now man is equal to God, he has nevertheless, 
or rather on that account, to submit to the law of God 
without any outlook for reward or punishment; or, as 
Antigonos expressed it, " Be not as slaves that minister to 
the Lord with a view to receive recompense." ^ Certainly 
it would be hazardous to maintain that Antigonos's saying 
was a consequence of this doctrine ; but, at any rate, we 
see a clear tendency to keep the thought of reward (in 
spite of the prominent part it holds in the Bible) out of 
view. Still more clearly is it seen when, with reference 
to Ps. cxii., "Blessed is the man . . . that delighteth 
greatly in his commandments," Rabbi Eleazar remarks 
that the meaning is that the man desires only to do His 
commandments, but he does not want the rewards con- 
nected with them.^ This is the more remarkable, as the 
whole contents of this psalm are nothing else than a long 
series of promises of various rewards, so that the explana- 
tion of Rabbi Eleazar is in almost direct contradiction to 
the simple meaning of the words. On the other hand, 
also, every complaint about suffering must cease. Not 
only is affliction no direct chastisement by God in the 
way of revenge ; but even when it would seem to us that 
we suffer innocently, we have no right to murmur, as 


God himself is also suffering, and, as the Talmud expresses 
it, * It is enough for the slave to be in the position of his 
master.' " ^^ 

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

If we were now to ask for the attitude of the Synagogue 
towards these two main views, we should have to answer 
that — as already hinted at the opening of this paper — it 
never decided for the one or the other. R. David Rocca 
Martino dared even to write a whole book in Defence of 
Adam proving that he committed no sin in eating the 
fruit of the tree of knowledge against the literal sense of 
the Scriptures, which were also taken by the Rabbis 
literally.*^ By this he destroyed the prospects of many a 
theodicy, but it is not known to me that he was severely 


rebuked for it. It has been said by a great writer that the 
best theology is that which is not consistent, and this ad- 
vantage the theology of the Synagogue possesses to its 
utmost extent. It accepted with R. Ammi the stern prin- 
ciple of divine retribution, in as far as it makes man feel 
the responsibility of his actions, and makes suffering a 
discipline. But it never allowed this principle to be 
carried so far as to deny the sufferer our sympathy, and 
by a series of conscious and unconscious modifications, 
he passed from the state of a sinner into the zenith of the 
saint and the perfectly righteous man. But, on the other 
hand, the Synagogue also gave entrance to the very op- 
posite view which, abandoning every attempt to account 
for suffering, bids man do his duty without any hope of 
reward, even as God also does His. Hence the remarkable 
phenomenon in the works of later Jewish moralists, that, 
whilst they never weary of the most detailed accounts of 
the punishments awaiting the sinner and the rewards in 
store for the righteous, they warn us most emphatically 
that our actions must not be guided by these unworthy 
considerations, and that our only motive should be the love 
of God and submission to His holy will. 

Nor must it be thought that the views of the Rabbis 
are so widely divergent from those enunciated in the 
Bible. The germ of almost all the later ideas is already 
to be found in the Scriptures. It only needed the proc- 
ess of time to bring into prominence those features 
which proved at a later period most acceptable. Indeed, 
it would seem that there is also a sort of domestication 
of religious ideas. On their first association with man 
there is a certain rude violence about them which, when 
left to the management of untutored minds, would cer- 


tainly do great harm. But, let only this association last 
for centuries, during which these ideas have to be sub- 
dued by practical use, and they will, in due time, lose 
their former roughness, will become theologically work- 
able, and turn out the greatest blessing to inconsistent 



Professor Toy's work, Judaism and Christianity ^ gives 
an admirable conspectus of the results of the modern 
critical school in their bearing on the genesis of Chris- 
tianity. The author takes various important doctrines of 
Christianity, traces them back to their origin in Israeli- 
tism, pursues their course through their various phases 
in Judaism, until they reach their final development in 
the teaching of Jesus and His disciples, which, in the 
author's judgment, is the consummation of that which 
the prophets and their successors had to give to the 
world. Laying so much stress as Professor Toy does on 
the saying, "By their fruits shall ye know them," he 
ought also, perhaps, to have told us what, in the course 
of time, has become of these several doctrines. For 
when, for instance, with regard to the doctrine of origi- 
nal sin, he remarks that " in certain systems of Christian 
theology the human race is involved in the condem- 
nation of the first man" (p. 185, n. i); or that, in the 
New Testament, " the demand for a mediating power be- 
tween God and humanity is pushed to the farthest point 
which thought can occupy consistently with the mainte- 
nance of the absoluteness of the one Supreme Deity" 
(p. 121), he is rather evading a difficulty than answering 
it. Such elaboration would, however, have been outside 



the scope of Professor Toy's book, which claims only to 
be a sketch of the progress of thought from the Old 
Testament to the New. For his own solution of the 
indicated difficulty, Toy, to judge from his liberal stand- 
point, would probably refer us to Dr. Hatch's Hibbert 
lectures; the issue of such an appeal must, I imagine, 
remain for long doubtful and disputed. 

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



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

These and similar passages will suffice to show that 


Toy's estimate of the law is a very diflFerent one from that 
of Smend and his school. However, it must not be sup- 
posed that he is not on the look-out for the germs of the 
disease. He must find these germs somewhere, or else 
the progress, which his book is intended to illustrate, 
would be difficult to detect. And thus he repeats the old 
accusations, though not without modification. 

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

First, as to its theology, Toy's description of the law as 
an attempt to define all the beliefs of life — an assertion 
which is also made by Schiirer — is not wholly accurate. 
For such an attempt was never made by Judaism. The 
few dogmas which Judaism possesses, such as the Exist- 
ence of God, Providence, Reward, and Punishment — 
without which no revealed religion is conceivable — can 
hardly be called a creed in the modern sense of the term, 
which implies something external and foreign to man's 
own knowledge, and received only in deference to the 
weight of authority. To the Jew of the Christian era, 



these simpler dogmas were so self-evident that it would 
have cost him the greatest effort not to believe them. 
Hence the fact that, whilst there have come down to us 
so many controverted points between the Sadducees and 
Pharisees with regard to certain juristic and ritual ques- 
tions, we know of only one of an essentially dogmatic 
character, viz. the dispute concerning the Resurrection. 
It is thus difficult to imagine to what Professor Toy can 
be alluding when he speaks of the *' interest they (the 
Jews) threw into the discussion and determination of 
minutiae of faith" (p. 241). Discussions upon minuticB 
of faith are only to be read in the works of the later 
schoolmen (as Saadiah, Maimonides and their followers), 
in which such subtle problems as Creatio ex nihiloy the 
origin of evil, predestination, free will and similar subjects 
are examined; but this period is very distant from that 
with which Toy is concerned. The older schools and 
the so-called houses of Shammai and Hillel, most of whose 
members were the contemporaries of the Apostles, show 
very little predilection for such minutics. Their discus- 
sions and differences of opinion about ritual matters are 
very numerous, scattered as they are over the whole of 
the ancient Rabbinic literature, but I can only remember 
two of a metaphysical character, or touching upon the 
minuticB of faith. The one, dealing with the efficacy of 
certain sacrifices, discusses whether it only extends to 
the remission of the pending punishment for sins, or also 
includes their purification and washing away; the other 
considers the question whether it would not have been 
better for man not to have been created.^ But this latter 
controversy, which is said to have lasted for two years 
and a half, by no means led to any big metaphysical or 


theological system, but only to the practical advice that, 
as we have been created, we ought to be watchful over 
our conduct. It is, indeed, a noteworthy feature of Juda- 
ism that theological speculations have never resulted in 
the formulation of any imposing or universal doctrine, but 
usually in divers ceremonial practices. To give one illus- 
tration : according to Professor Toy (p. 210) the conclu- 
sion which the author of i Tim. ii. 1 1-14 draws from the 
fact that woman was the immediate agent of the introduc- 
tion of sin was the subordination of her sex. The Rabbis 
also noticed the same fact, and in their less abstract lan- 
guage speak of woman as having brought death and grief 
into the world ; but the conclusion which they drew was 
that since woman had extinguished the "light of the 
world," she ought to atone for it by lighting the candles 
for the Sabbath.^ Nor is Toy quite correct when he main- 
tains that the conception of the Memra as Creator and 
Lord, etc., and as " representative of the immediate divine 
activity," did not keep its hold on Jewish thought, hav- 
ing been discarded in the later literature (p. 104). For 
the Shechinah of the Talmud, the Metatron * of the Gaonic- 
mystical literature, the Active Intelligence of the philosoph- 
ical schools, as well as the Ten Sephiroth ^ (Emanations) 
of the Cabbalists, all owe their existence to the same theo- 
sophic scruples and subtleties in which the Logos of Philo 
and the Memra ^ of the Targums originated. Thus, they 
always kept — though under various forms — their hold 
on the Jewish mind. Judaism was always broad enough 
to accommodate itself to these formulae, which for the 
one may mean the most holy mysteries, and for the other 
empty and meaningless catchwords. The objection — in 
fact, the active opposition — of the Synagogue began when 



these possible or impossible explanations of the universe 
tended to transgress the bounds of abstract speculation, 
and, passing over into real concrete beings, to be wor- 
shipped as such. An instance from comparatively modern 
times might be found in one of the vagaries of the fol- 
lowers of the Pseudo-Messiah, Shabbethai Tsebi. For 
many generations the controversy had raged among the 
Cabbalists, whether the first of the above-mentioned Ten 
Emanations (called by some Original Adanty by others, 
Crown'^) is to be considered as a part of the Deity or 
as something separate, and so to speak, having a reality 
in itself. The danger of establishing a Being near the 
Deity, having an existence of its own and invested with 
divine attributes, could not have escaped the thoughtful, 
and there are indeed some indications to this effect. The 
Synagogue as such, however, remained during the whole 
controversy strictly neutral, and allowed these theosophists 
to fight in the air as much as they liked. But the moment 
that the sect of Shabbethai Tsebi identified the incarnate 
Original Adam with their leader, and worshipped him as 
a sort of God-Messiah, the Synagogue at once took up 
a hostile attitude against those who separated God from 
His world, and, declaring Shabbethai Tsebi and his fol- 
lowers to be apostates, excluded them from Judaism for 

Nor can it be proved that legalism or nomism has ever 
tended to suppress the spiritual side of religion, either in 
respect of consciousness of sin, or of individual love and 
devotion. With an equal logic quite the opposite might 
be argued. Professor Toy tells us himself that it is no 
" accident that along with this more definite expression of 
ethical-religious law we find the first traces of a more 


spiritual conception of righteousness in the *new heart* 
of Jeremiah and Ezekiel" (p. 235), whilst in another pas- 
sage we read that "a turning point is marked by the 
Deuteronomist Jeremiah and Ezekiel, who announce the 
principles of individual responsibility and inwardness of 
obedience " (p. 184). Now, two things are certain; first, 
that Ezekiel urges the necessity of the new heart as well as 
of individual responsibility more keenly than any of his 
predecessors ; secondly, that in Ezekiel the legalistic ten- 
dency is more evident than in Deuteronomy and Jeremiah. 
The logical conclusion would thus be that the higher ideals 
of religion are not only not inconsistent with legalism, but 
are the very outcome of it, and the so-called Priestly Code, 
by the very fact of its markedly legalistic tendency, 
should be considered as a step in the right direction. The 
latter assertion sounds like a paradox, but it will seem less 
so when the prevailing characteristic of this portion of the 
Pentateuch, as given even by Kuenen, who is by no means 
a champion of the Law, is borne in mind. " The centre 
of gravity," according to the great Dutch critic, " lies for 
the priestly author elsewhere than for the prophet ; it lies 
in man's attitude, not towards his fellow-men, but towards 
God ; not in his social, but in his personal life " {Hibbert 
Lectures y p. 161). It is here that we seem to strike the 
keynote of the Weltanschauung of the Priestly Legislation. 
In it man is more than a social being. He has also an 
individual life of his own, his joys and sorrows, his his- 
torical claims, his traditions of the past, and his hopes for 
the future — and all these have to be brought under the 
influence of religion, and to become sanctified through 
their relation to God. Hence, the work of the Priestly 
narrator and legislator opens with a cosmogony of his 


own, in which we find the grand theological idea of man 
being created in the Divine image; hence, too, his relig- 
ious conception of the history of the nation and the con- 
trol claimed by him over all the details of human life, 
which became with him so many opportunities for the 
worship of God. To him, God is not a mere figurehead ; 
He not only reigns, but governs. Everywhere, — in the 
temple, in the judge's seat, in the family, in the farm, and 
in the market-place, — His presence is felt in enforcing 
the laws bearing His imprimatur^ " I am the Lord thy 
God." By thus diffusing religion over the whole domain 
of human life — not confining it to the social institutions 
which are represented only by a few personages, such as 
the king, the princes, the priests, the judges or elders 
— they made it the common good of the whole people, 
and the feeling of personal responsibility for this good 
became much deeper than before. Thus it came to pass 
that whilst, during the first temple, the apostasy of kings 
and aristocracy involved the entire people, so that the 
words "And he (the king) did evil in the sight of the 
Lord," embrace the whole nation, during the second 
temple it was no longer of much consequence which side 
the political leaders took. Both during the Hellenistic 
persecutions, as well as afterwards in the struggles of 
some Maccabean kings with the Pharisees, the bulk of the 
people showed that they considered religion as their own 
personal affair, not to be regulated by the conscience of 
either priest or prince. It is true that this success may 
be largely ascribed to such contemporary religious factors 
as the Synagogue with its minimum of form, the Scribes 
with their activity as teachers, and the Psalmists with 
their divine enthusiasm; but the very circumstance that 


these factors arose and flourished under the influence of 
the Priestly Code would suffice to prove that its tendency 
was not so sacerdotal as some writers would have us 
believe. Jewish tradition indeed attributes the composi- 
tion of the daily public prayers, as well as of others for 
private worship, to the very, men whom modern biblical 
criticism holds responsible for the introduction of the 
Priestly Code. Now this fact may perhaps be disputed, 
but there is little doubt that the age in which these 
prayers were composed was one of flourishing legalism. 
Nor is there any proof that the synagogues and their 
ritual were in opposition to the temple. From the few 
documents belonging to this period, it is clear that there 
was no opposition to the legalistic spirit by which the 
Priestly Code was actuated. This would prove that legal- 
ism meant something more than tithes and sacrifices for 
the benefit of the priests. 

Nor is it true that the legal tendency aimed at narrowing 
the mind of the nation, turning all its thoughts into the one 
direction of the law. Apart from the fact that the Torah 
contained other elements besides its legalism, the prophets 
were not forgotten, but were read and interpreted from a 
very early age. It was under the predominance of the 
Law that the Wisdom literature was composed, which is 
by no means narrow or one-sided, but is even supposed by 
some critics to contain many foreign elements. In the 
book of Job, the great problems of man's existence are 
treated with a depth and grandeur never equalled before 
or since. This book alone ought partly to compensate the 
modern school for the disappearance of prophecy, which 
is usually brought as a charge against the Law. Then, 
too, the Psalms, placed by the same school in the post- 



exilic period, are nothing but another aspect of prophecy, 
with this difference, perhaps, that in the Prophets God 
speaks to man, while in the Psalms it is man who estab- 
lishes the same communion by speaking to God. There 
is no reason why the critical school, with its broad concep- 
tion of inspiration, and with its insistence that prophecy 
does not mean prediction, should so strongly emphasise 
this difference. If "it is no longer as in the days of 
Amos, when the Lord Yahveh did nothing without reveal- 
ing his counsel to his servants the prophets," there is in 
the days of the Psalmists nothing in man's heart, no ele- 
ment in his longings and meditations and aspirations, 
which was not revealed to God. Nay, it would seem that 
at times the Psalmist hardly ever desires the revelation of 
God's secrets. Let future events be what they may, he is 
content, for he is with God. After all his trials, he ex- 
claims, " And yet I am continually with thee ; thou hast 
taken hold of my right hand. According to thy purpose 
wilt thou lead me, and afterwards receive me with glory. 
Whom have I (to care for) in heaven ? and possessing 
thee, I have pleasure in nothing upon earth. Though my 
flesh and my heart should have wasted away, God would 
for ever be the rock of my heart and my portion " (Ps. 
Ixxiii. 23-26). How an age producing a literature contain- 
ing passages like these — of which Wellhausen in his Ab- 
riss (p. 95) justly remarks, that we are not worthy even to 
repeat them — can be considered by the modern school as 
wanting in intimate relation to God and inferior to that of 
the prophets is indeed a puzzle. 

Now a few words as to the actual life under the Law. 
Here, again, there is a fresh puzzle. On the one side, we 
hear the opinions of so many learned professors, proclaim- 


ing ex cathedrdy that the Law was a most terrible burden, 
and the life under it the most unbearable slavery, deaden- 
ing body and soul. On the other side we have the testi- 
mony of a literature extending over about twenty-five 
centuries, and including all sorts and conditions of men, 
scholars, poets, mystics, lawyers, casuists, schoolmen, 
tradesmen, workmen, women, simpletons, who all, from the 
author of the 119th Psalm to the last pre-Mendelssohnian 
writer — with a small exception which does not even de- 
serve the name of a vanishing minority — give unanimous 
evidence in favour of this Law, and of the bliss and hap- 
piness of living and dying under it, — and this, the testi- 
mony of people who were actually living under the Law, 
not merely theorising upon it, and who experienced it in 
all its difficulties and inconveniences. The Sabbath will 
give a fair example. The law of the Sabbath is one of 
those institutions the strict observance of which was al- 
ready the object of attack in early New Testament times. 
Nevertheless, the doctrine proclaimed in one of the Gos- 
pels — that the son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath — 
was also current among the Rabbis. They, too, taught 
that the Sabbath had been delivered into the hand of man 
(to break, if necessary), and not man delivered over to the 
Sabbath.^ And they even laid down the axiom that a 
scholar who lived in a town, where among the Jewish pop- 
ulation there could be the least possibility of doubt as to 
whether the Sabbath might be broken for the benefit of a 
dangerously sick person, was to be despised as a man neg- 
lecting his duty ; for, as Maimonides points out, the laws 
of the Torah are not meant as an infliction upon mankind, 
"but as mercy, loving-kindness, and peace." ^ 
The attacks upon the Jewish Sabbath have not abated 


with the lapse of time. The day is still described by 
almost every Christian writer on the subject in the most 
gloomy colours, and long lists are given of minute and 
easily transgressed observances connected with it, which, 
instead of a day of rest, would make it to be a day of 
sorrow and anxiety, almost worse than the Scotch Sun- 
day as depicted by continental writers. But it so happens 
that we have the prayer of R. Zadok, a younger contem- 
porary of the Apostles, which runs thus : " Through the 
love with which Thou, O Lord our God, lovest Thy people 
Israel, and the mercy which Thou hast shown to the 
children of Thy covenant, Thou hast given unto us in love 
this great and holy Seventh Day." ^^ And another Rabbi, 
who probably flourished in the first half of the second 
century, expresses himself (with allusion to Exod. xxxi. 13 : 
Verily my Sabbaths ye shall keep . . . that ye may know 
that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you) — "The Holy 
One, blessed be He, said unto Moses, I have a good gift 
in my treasures, and Sabbath is its name, which I wish 
to present to Israel. Go and bring to them the good 
tidings." ^^ The form again of the Blessing over the 
Sanctification-cup ^ — a ceremony known long before the 
destruction of the Second Temple — runs : " Blessed art 
Thou, O Lord our God, who hast sanctified us by Thy 
commandments, and hast taken pleasure in us, and in love 
and grace hast given us Thy holy Sabbath as an inheri- 
tance." All these Rabbis evidently regarded the Sabbath 
as a gift from heaven, an expression of the infinite mercy 
and grace of God which He manifested to His beloved 

And the gift was, as already said, a good gift. Thus 
the Rabbis paraphrase the words in the Scripture " See, 


for that the Lord hath given you the Sabbath " (Exod. xvi. 
29) : God said unto Israel behold the gem I gave you, My 
children I gave you the Sabbath for your good. Sanctify 
or honour the Sabbath by choice meals, beautiful garments ; 
delight your soul with pleasure and I will reward you (for 
this very pleasure) ; as it is said : " And if thou wilt call 
the Sabbath a delight and the holy of the Lord honourable 
(that is honouring the Sabbath in this way) . . . then 
shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord" (Is. Iviii. 13, 14).^ 
The delight of the Sabbath was keenly felt. Israel 
fell in love with the Sabbath, and in the hyperbolic lan- 
guage of the Agadah the Sabbath is personified as the 
"Bride of Israel," whilst others called it "Queen Sab- 
bath," ^^ and they are actually jealous of a certain class 
of semi-proselytes who, as it seems, were willing to ob- 
serve the Sabbath, but declined to submit to the cove- 
nant of Abraham. The Gentile Sabbath-keepers — who, 
like all the nations of the world, envy Israel their Sab- 
bath — the Rabbis considered as shameless intruders de- 
serving punishment.^^ No, it was Israel's own Queen or 
Bride Sabbath whose appearance in all her heavenly 
glory they were impatiently awaiting. Thus we are told 
of R. Judah b. Ilai that when the eve of the Sabbath 
came " he made his ablutions, wrapped himself up in his 
white linen with fringed borders looking like an angel of 
the Lord of Hosts," thus prepared for the solemn recep- 
tion of Queen Sabbath. Another Rabbi used to put on 
his best clothes, and arise and invite the Sabbath with 
the words : " Come in Bride, come in." ^^ What the Bride 
brought was peace and bliss. Nay, man is provided with 
a super soul for the Sabbath, enabling him to bear both 
the spiritual and the material delights of the day with 



dignity and solemnity.^'' The very light (or expression) 
of man's face is different on Sabbath, testifying to his 
inward peace and rest. And when man has recited his 
prayers (on the eve of the Sabbath) and thus borne tes- 
timony to God's creation of the world and to the glory 
of the Sabbath, there appear the two angels who accom- 
pany him, lay their hands on his head and impart to 
him their blessing with the words: "And thine iniquity 
is taken away and thy sin purged" (Is. vi. f)}^ For 
nothing is allowed to disturb the peace of the Sabbath; 
not even "the sorrows of sin,'* though the Sabbath had 
such a solemn effect on people that even the worldly 
man would not utter an untruth on the Day of the Lord. 
Hence it was not only forbidden to pray on Sabbath for 
one's own (material) needs, but everything in the liturgy 
of a mournful character (as for instance the confession 
of sin, supplication for pardon) was carefully avoided. It 
was with difficulty, as the Rabbis say, that they made 
an exception in the case of condoling with people who 
had suffered loss through the death of near relatives. 
There is no room for morbid sentiment on Sabbath, for 
the blessing of the Lord maketh rich, and He addeth 
no sorrow with it (Prov. x. 22).^^ The burden of the 
Sabbath prayers is for peace, rest, sanctification, and joy 
(through salvation) and praise of God for this ineffable 
bliss of the Sabbath. 

Such was the Sabbath of the old Rabbis and the 
same spirit continued through all ages. The Sabbath 
was and is still celebrated by the people who did and 
do observe it, in hundreds of hymns, which would fill vol- 
umes, as a day of rest and joy, of pleasure and delight, 
a day in which man enjoys some foretaste of the pure 


bliss and happiness which are stored up for the righteous 
in the world to come. Somebody, either the learned 
professors, or the millions of the Jewish people, must 
be under an illusion. Which it is I leave to the reader 
to decide. 

It is also an illusion to speak of the burden which a 
scrupulous care to observe six hundred and thirteen com- 
mandments must have laid upon the Jew. Even a super- 
ficial analysis will discover that in the time of Christ 
many of these commandments were already obsolete (as 
for instance those relating to the tabernacle and to the 
conquest of Palestine), while others concerned only cer- 
tain classes, as the priests, the judges, the soldiers, the 
Nazirites, or the representatives of the community, or 
even only one or two individuals among the whole popu- 
lation, as the King and the High- Priest. Others, again, 
provided for contingencies which could occur only to a 
few, as for instance the laws concerning divorce or 
levirate marriages, whilst many — such as those concern- 
ing idolatry, and incest, and the sacrifice of children to 
Moloch — could scarcely have been considered as a prac- 
tical prohibition by the pre-Christian Jew; just as little 
as we can speak of Englishmen as lying under the 
burden of a law preventing them from burning widows 
or marrying their grandmothers, though such acts would 
certainly be considered as crimes. Thus it will be found 
by a careful enumeration that barely a hundred laws 
remain which really concerned the life of the bulk of 
the people. If we remember that even these include 
such laws as belief in the unity of God, the necessity of 
loving and fearing Him, and of sanctifying His name, 
of loving one's neighbour and the stranger, of providing 


for the poor, exhorting the sinner, honouring one's 
parents and many more of a similar character, it will 
hardly be said that the ceremonial side of the people's 
religion was not well balanced by a fair amount of 
spiritual and social elements. Besides, it would seem 
that the line between the ceremonial and the spiritual 
is too often only arbitrarily drawn. With many com- 
mandments it is rather a matter of opinion whether they 
should be relegated to the one category or the other. 

Thus, the wearing of Tephillin^ or phylacteries has, 
on the one hand, been continually condemned as a mean- 
ingless superstition, and a pretext for formalism and 
hypocrisy. But, on the other hand, Maimonides, who 
can in no way be suspected of superstition or mysti- 
cism, described their importance in the following words: 
"Great is the holiness of the Tephillin; for as long as 
they are on the arm and head of man he is humble and 
God-fearing, and feels no attraction for frivolity or idle 
things, nor has he any evil thoughts, but will turn his 
heart to the words of truth and righteousness." The 
view which R. Johanan, a Palestinian teacher of the 
third century, took of the fulfilment of the Law, will 
probably be found more rational than that of many a 
rationalist of to-day. Upon the basis of the last verse 
in Hosea, "The ways of the Lord are right, and the 
just shall walk in them, but the transgressors shall fall 
therein," he explains that while one man, for instance, 
eats his paschal lamb with the purpose of doing the 
will of God who commanded it, and thereby does an act 
of righteousness, another thinks only of satisfying his 
appetite by the lamb, so that his eating it (by the very 
fact that he professes at the same time to perform a relig- 


ious rite) becomes a stumbling-block for him.^ Thus all 
the laws by virtue of their divine authority — and in this 
there was in the first century no difference of opinion 
between Jews and Christians — have their spiritual side, 
and to neglect them implies, at least from the individual's 
own point of view, a moral offence. 

The legalistic attitude may be summarily described as 
an attempt to live in accordance with the will of God, car- 
ing less for what God is than for what He wants us to be. 
But, nevertheless, on the whole this life never degenerated 
into religious formalism. Apart from the fact that during 
the second temple there grew up laws, and even beliefs, 
which show a decided tendency towards progress and 
development, there were also ceremonies which were popu- 
lar with the masses, and others which were neglected. Men 
were not, therefore, the mere soulless slaves of the Law ; 
personal sympathies and dislikes also played a part in 
their religion. Nor were all the laws actually put upon 
the same level. With a happy inconsistency men always 
spoke of heavier and slighter sins, and by the latter — 
excepting, perhaps, the profanation of the Sabbath — they 
mostly understood ceremonial transgressions. The state- 
ment made by Professor Toy (p. 243), on the authority of 
James (ii. 10), that "the principle was estabUshed that he 
who offended in one point was guilty of all," is hardly cor- 
rect; for the passage seems rather to be laying down a 
principle, or arguing that logically the law ought to be 
looked upon as a whole, than stating a fact. The fact 
was that people did not consider the whole law as of equal 
importance, but made a difference between laws and laws, 
and even spoke of certain commandments, such as those 
of charity and kindness, as outweighing all the rest of the 


Torah. It was in conformity with this spirit that in 
times of great persecution the leaders of the people had 
no compunction in reducing the whole Law to the three 
prohibitions of idolatry, of incest, and of bloodshed. Only 
these three were considered of sufficient importance 
that men should rather become martyrs than transgress 

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


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

All sorts of legends circulate amongst them about the 
" millions " of books which belong to the " Queen of Eng- 
land." They speak mysteriously of an autograph copy of 
the Book of Proverbs, presented to the Queen of Sheba on 
the occasion of her visit to Jerusalem, and brought by the 
English troops as a trophy from their visit to Abyssinia, 
which is still ruled by the descendants of that famous lady. 
They also talk of a copy of the Talmud of Jerusalem 
which once belonged to Titus, afterwards to a Pope, was 
presented by the latter to a Russian Czar, and taken away 
from him by the English in the Crimean war ; of a manu- 



script of the book Light is Sown} which is so large that 
no shelf can hold it, and which therefore hangs on iron 
chains. How they long to have a glance at these pre- 
cious things ! Would not a man get wiser only by looking 
at the autograph of the wisest of men ? 

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

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

Alte Mumien, ausgestopfte, 
Pharaonen von yEgypten, 
Merowinger Schattenkon'ge, 
Ungepuderte Periicken, 

Auch die Zopfmonarchen China's 
Porzellanpagodenkaiser — 




Alle lernen sie auswendig, 
Kluge Madchen, aber, Himmel! 

Fragt man sie nach grossen Namen, 
Aus dem grossen Goldzeitalter 
Der arabisch-althispanisch 
Judischen Poetenschule, 

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

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

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

The Hebrew collection in the Museum may be divided 
into two sections : Printed Books, and Manuscripts. The 
number of the printed books amounted in the year 1867, 
in which Zedner concluded his catalogue, to io,i(X) vol- 
umes. Within the last twenty-eight years about 5000 
more have been added. 

This enormous collection has grown out of very small 
beginnings. The British Museum was first opened to the 
public in the year 1759. Amongst the 500,000 volumes 
which it possessed at that time only a single Jewish work, 
the editio princeps of the Talmud (Bomberg, Venice, 1520- 



1523) was to be found on its shelves. According to an 
article by Zedner in the Hebrdische Bibliographie (ii. p. 
88), this copy of the Talmud once belonged to Henry 
VIII. But very soon the Museum was enriched by a 
small collection of Hebrew books, presented to it by Mr. 
Solomon da Costa, surnamed Athias, who had emigrated 
to England from Holland. The translation of the He- 
brew letter with which the donor accompanied his pres- 
ent to the Trustees of the Museum was first published in 
the Gentleman 5 Magazine ^ February 1760, and was after- 
wards republished by the Rev. A. L. Green, in an article 
in the Jewish Chronicle ^ 1859. ^ shall only reproduce 
here the passage relating to the history of this collection. 
After expressing his gratitude to the "crowning city, the 
city of London, in which he dwelt for fifty-four years in 
ease and quietness and safety," and telling us that he 
bequeaths these books to the British nation as a token of 
his gratitude, Da Costa proceeds to say that they are 180 
books, which had been gathered and bound for Charles 
II., with valuable bindings and marked with the king's 
own cipher. These books were intended as a present 
from the London Jewish community to Charles for certain 
privileges which he had bestowed on them. The sudden 
death of the king seems to have frustrated the intention 
of the first donors. The books were scattered, and Da 
Costa had to collect them again. 

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

Of still greater importance is the Michaelis collection. 



It consists of 4420 volumes, and was bought by the Trus- 
tees of the Museum in 1848. Other successive acquisi- 
tions, especially the purchase of a large number of printed 
books from the Almanzi collection, brought the Museum 
into possession of one of the most complete and one of 
the largest Hebrew libraries in the world. 

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

1. Bibles 1260 

2. Commentaries on the 

Bible 510 

3. Talmud 730 

4. Commentaries on the 

Talmud 700 

5. Codes of Law .... 1260 

6. Decisions 520 

7. Midrash 160 

8. Cabbalah 460 

9. Sermons 400 

10. Liturgies 1200 

1 1 . Divine Philosophy . . 690 

12. Scientific works ... 180 

13. Grammars, Dictionaries 450 

14. History, Geography . 320 

15. Poetry, Criticism . . 770 

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



excluded). We in England are a pious, devotional people, 
and leave the thinking to others. 

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

Another advantage is the fact that these early editions 
escaped the hand of the censor, whose office was not intro- 
duced till a comparatively late date. The same advantage 
is also possessed by the Hebrew books published at Con- 
stantinople, Salonica, and other Mohammedan cities. Only 


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

It may perhaps be interesting to learn that Jews some- 
times imitated their bitter enemies in this work of mutila- 
tion. Thus in the later editions of the Book of Genealogies 
by Abraham Zacuto,^ a passage was left out reproducing 
the evidence given by the widow of Moses de Leon to the 
effect that the cabbalistic work, the Zohar, was a forgery 
manufactured by her poor dear husband. Another omis- 
sion of this kind is to be found in the Code of R. Joseph 
Caro, mentioned above. Here the earliest editions declare, 



in the heading of section 605, " a certain religious usage " 
to be "a custom of folly." In the republications, the last 
three words were left out. From such nonsensical omis- 
sions and changes only the earliest editions, which are 
abundant in the Museum, were exempt. 

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


why should not Casaubon obtain for once the dignity of a 
Rabbi ? 

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

As to the history of the collection, it has grown out of 
small beginnings just as that of printed books. The col- 
lection of Dr. Sloane, which laid the foundation of the 
Museum Library, contained only nine Hebrew MSS. 
Later acquisitions, as the Harleian collection, the Cot- 
tonian collectio'n, the Royal collection, and many other 
smaller collections marked as Additional up to 1854, in- 
creased the number of the Hebrew manuscripts to 232. 
Of much more importance was the Almanzi collection, 
bought by the trustees of the Museum in 1865, and con- 
sisting of 335 MSS. Of succeeding acquisitions I shall 
mention here only the Yemen MSS., which were brought 


to this country by the famous Shapira. The number of 
Hebrew MSS. at the present day is said to exceed one 
thousand. But we must not forget that many MSS. con- 
tain more than one work ; in some cases even three or 
four, so that the number of Hebrew works is far greater 

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

Thus the Babylonian Talmud is to be found only in two 
MSS. (Harl. 5508 and Add. 25,717) both of them includ- 
ing 1 1 Tractates, hardly a third part of the whole work. 
Indeed poor " Rabbinus Talmud " had to go to the auto de 
// on so many occasions that one cannot wonder if only 
disjointed limbs are to be found of him in libraries. The 
only complete MS. copy which escaped this vandalism is 
that in the Royal Library in Munich, from which Mr. 
Rabbinowicz has edited his monumental work, Variae 
Lectiones of the Talmud. 

All other libraries, Oxford included, have to be satisfied 
with fragments. Still worse, as it is seen, fared the Jeru- 
salem Talmud, and excepting the well-known copy in 
Leyden from which the Venice edition was prepared, not 


even fragments of this Talmud are to be found in the 
majority of libraries. To my knowledge it is only the 
British Museum which can boast of the Jerusalem Talmud 
in MS. extending over Order of Seeds and one tractate of 
Order of Festivals *(0r. 2122-24) with commentaries of R- 
Solomon Syrillo, the first few pages of which were edited 
by Dr. Lehmann of Mayence. The Museum also pos- 
sesses a great part of the Tosephta extending over 14 
Tractates (Add. 27,296). Of Midrashim we find in the 
Museum two excellent manuscripts of the Genesis Rabbah^ 
one of the Leviticus Rabbahy and one of the Siphra and 
the Sip hr^ {Add. 27,169 and 16,406), besides two copies 
of the Midrash Haggadol and other Aagadic collections 
brought from Yemen. The Midrash by Machir b. Abba 
Mari to the minor prophets included in the Harleian col- 
lection (5704) is unique. Of Liturgies, besides a great 
number of MSS. representing the most peculiar rites, I 
shall mention the Machzor^ Vitri (Add. 27,2CX>-i) com- 
posed by the disciples of R. Solomon b. Isaac, and form- 
ing in itself almost a small library. For, apart from the 
prayers for festivals and week days which gave it its title, 
it includes, besides the Sayings of the Fathers with a large 
commentary, three of the Minor Tractates of the Talmud, 
many responses by German and French Rabbis, and a 
whole series of religious hymns by German and Spanish 
authors, and many other literary pieces. Cabbalah is rep- 
resented by various valuable writings of the pre-Zoharis- 
tic time (see for instance Add. 15,299) and the works of 
R. Moses de Leon and R. Abraham Abulafia. Of Poetry, 
I shall point here to the Tarshish of R. Moses Ibn Ezra, 
the Makames by Judah Al Charisi (Add. 27,122), and the 
Divan of R. Abraham of Bedres(Add. 27,188). Of works 


relating to grammar and lexicography, I may refer to a 
Codex (Add. 27,214) which contains the lexicon of R. 
Menahem ben Saruk, which is considered as the oldest 
Hebrew MS. in the Museum, dating from the year 1091. 
Of historical works, I mention the chronicle of R. Joseph 
the Priest (Add. 27,122) and the letter of R. Sherira Gaon 
(Arundel 51), the oldest existing copy of this work (1189), 
which was edited by Dr. Neubauer in his Mediceval Jewish 

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

I ought now to say a few words as to the value of this 
collection of manuscripts. Now, if the work contained in 
a MS. has never been edited, as for instance the Machzor 
Vitri ^ and so many others, its value is established by the 
mere fact of its existence. For those who published MSS. 
were not always guided by the best literary motives. And 
while they published and republished many books of 
which one edition would have been more than enough, 
many other works of the greatest importance for Jewish 
literature and history remained in manuscript. As an 
instance, it will suffice to mention here the Zohar, which 
has passed through twenty-four editions since the six- 
teenth century, whilst the earliest Jewish Midrash, the 
Pessikta de Rab Kahana, had to linger in the libraries till 
the year 1868, when it was edited by Mr. S. Buber. Thus 
there are still many pearls of Jewish literature which exist 
only in MS. Likewise most publishers were careless in 
their choice of the manuscript from which our editions 


have been prepared. Almost the whole of Jewish litera- 
ture will have to be re-edited before a scientific study of it 
will be possible. But such critical editions can only be 
obtained by the aid of the MSS. not yet made use of, in 
which better readings are to be found. From this fact 
even those MSS. the contents of which have been several 
times reprinted, as for instance the MSS. of the Midrash 
Rabbahy gain the greatest literary importance. And the 
more MSS. the editor of a work has at his disposal, the 
more certain is he of being able to furnish us with a good 

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

To be sure, some of these copyists were curious folk. 


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

Speaking of this Machzor I should like to remark that 
it forms one of the greatest ornaments of the Museum. 
Besides including the whole of the Pentateuch, the above- 
mentioned Tarshish by R. Moses Ibn Ezra, and many 
other smaller literary pieces which would require a small 
volume to describe them properly, this MS. is most richly 
illuminated, and contains very many illustrations. The 
subjects of these illustrations are biblical, sometimes also 
apocryphal, such as — Adam and Eve in Paradise, Noah 
in the Ark, Abraham meeting the angels, Sarah behind 
the door listening to the conversation of her husband with 
his guests, Moses with the rod in his hands dividing the 
Red Sea, Samson riding on the back of a lion, Solomon 
on his throne, Daniel in the lion's den, the king Ahasuerus 
holding out the golden sceptre to Esther, Judith address- 
ing Holof ernes, the Leviathan, the mythical bird Bar 
Yochni, and many other similar subjects. In passing I 
recommend these illustrations and illuminations to the 
attention of the artist as the most worthy examples of 
Jewish ecclesiastical art, — if there is such a thing as a 


special Jewish art. The artist will find the Museum best 
suited for this purpose, its collection being considered as 
the richest of the kind. Besides this Machzor I must also 
allude to the illuminated Bible (Or. 2226-28) written in 
Lisbon for R. Judah Alchakin — it is said to be one of the 
finest specimens of such works — and the illuminated 
Mishneh Torah of Maimonides, executed for R. Joseph of 
the famous Yachya family, also thought to be most artisti- 
cally done. The liturgies for the Passover Eve service 
will also offer to the artist a rich harvest, especially Codex, 
Add. 27,210, which the wealthy Lady Rosa Galico pre- 
sented to her son-in-law on his wedding-day, and Codex, 
Add. 14,762, even the binding of which is considered as 
an artistic curiosity. 

Leaving now these marvels to the appreciation of the 
artist, the greatest wonder which suggests itself to us is 
how the Jews could maintain such a cultured taste in such 
unhappy times, and get the means of satisfying it. These 
reflections about the owners present themselves the more 
strongly to our mind when we meet with one of those old 
Jewish prayer-books, which in many cases formed the 
whole religious and literary treasure of the family. In 
their fly-leaves, in which the births and deaths of succes- 
sive generations are very often registered, the spiritus 
familiaris seems to be still haunting the pages. When 
you turn them over and see the service for Passover Eve, 
are you not bound to think of the anxiety with which these 
poor creatures engaged in this ceremony lest they might 
be attacked suddenly by a fanatic mob t must you not ask 
how they could bear life under such circumstances .? And 
when you turn a few more pages and arrive at the prayers 
read for the dead, must you not ask how did they die } 


Were they perhaps burnt alive ad majorem Dei glorianty 
or torn to pieces by a " saintly mob " ? Take again the 
illuminated copies of the Bible and the Mishneh Torah, 
both of which were finished only a few years before the 
great expulsion of the Jews from Spain and Portugal, times 
when the earth already " burnt under their feet, and the 
heaven was also very unkind to them." And nevertheless 
Jews were still, as these MSS. show us, cultivating science 
and art. Another instance of such a devotion to science 
in spite of the unfavourable times may be seen from a 
colophon to Codex Or. 39. It contains the book Ntssiffty 
a philosophical treatise on the fundamental teachings of 
Judaism, together with a philosophical commentary on the 
Pentateuch by R. Nissim of Marseilles, a contemporary 
of R. Solomon ben Adereth in the thirteenth century. 
The Museum copy was written by R. Jacob, the son of 
David, who also added some annotations to the book. 
At the end he says : " I have copied this book Nissim for 
my own use, that I may study in it, I and my children and 
my grandchildren. ... I have finished it to-day, Sunday, 
the 28th of Ab, 5333 (1573), at Venice, in the year of the 
expulsion which befell us on account of our sins." Now, 
only observe this poor R. Jacob, who has to go through all 
these horrors, yet is still occupied in copying MSS. for his 
own pleasure, and in meditating on the most complicated 
problems of philosophy and religion. 

But it is not always stories of this heroic nature that 
the MSS. tell us. They betray also very much of the 
instability of human affairs and their weakness. You 
find in many copies the words that they must not 
" be sold or given in mortgage." But scarcely a genera- 
tion has passed away, and they are already in the posses- 


sion of a new owner, who writes the same injunction to 
be broken again by his children in their turn. In Codex 
27,122, we find commendatory letters for a worthy poor 
man, who is so unhappy as to have two grown-up daugh- 
ters, and not to have the means of supplying them with 
marriage portions. Indeed, he must have been very poor, 
not possessing even a book in his house, or else his 
troubles could not have been so great. For in Codex 
Harl. 5702, we find the owner saying: "To eternal 
memory that I have acquired this Third Book of Avicena 
from the hands of my father-in-law, R. Jekuthiel, as a 
part of my dowry." 

As a sign of human weakness I give the following two 
instances. There lies before me a cabbalistic Codex (Add. 
27,199), which acquired some notoriety from the fact of 
its having been copied by the famous grammarian, R. 
Elijah Levita, for his pupil Cardinal Aegidius. At the 
end of this MS. we read : " I (Levita) have finished (the 
copying of) this book on Wednesday, the day of Hoshana 
Rabba,^ 5277(1516), on which day I have seen my head 
in the shadow of the moon. Praised be God (for it), for 
now I am sure not to die in the following year." These 
words relate to a well-known superstition, according to 
which, when a man is going to die in the course of the 
next year his shadow disappears from him on the preced- 
ing Hoshana Rabba. But is it not humiliating to see 
that the great Levita, who was superior to many preju- 
dices of his time, and taught Christians Hebrew, and who 
denied the antiquity of the vowels in the Bible, which was 
considered by the great majority of his contemporaries 
as a mortal heresy — is it not humiliating to see this 
enlightened man trembling for his life on this night, and 


anxiously observing his shadow? Another Codex lies 
before me (Add. 17,053), containing the Novellae to three 
tractates of the Talmud. Its owner must accordingly 
have been a learned man. But in the fly-leaf of this MS. 
we read the following words: "Memorandum — Thurs- 
day, the 25th of Sivan, 5295 (1535), I have taken an oath 
in the presence of R. David Ibn Shushan and R. Moses 
de Castro, etc., not to play (cards) any more." I might 
perhaps suggest on this occasion that in our days when 
all sorts of Judaisms are circulating, a cooking Judaism, 
a racing Judaism, a muscular Judaism, and so many 
Judaisms more — it would be interesting to take up also 
the subject of playing Judaism, and to write its history. 

In conclusion I shall mention the colophon to Codex 
Harl. 5713, which may have some interest for the English 
reader. It runs : " I have written it in honour of the 
noble and pious, etc., Humphrey Wanley, the noble Libra- 
rian of my Lord Treasurer. May his glory be increased. 
In the year 5474 (i 714) in the holy community of London, 
under the reign of the noble and happy Queen Anne. 
May the Lord increase her splendour and glory." The 
signature of the copyist is "Aaron the son of Moses, 
born in the city of Navaschadok in Poland." By the way, 
we learn from this signature that the immigration of Polish 
Jews into this country had already begun in the time of 
Queen Anne, and perhaps still earlier. 

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



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

The titles of the books contained in the Bible need not 
be discussed here ; information concerning them is to be 
found in every critical introduction to the Old Testament. 
The Rabbinical works dating from antiquity also offer 



little opportunity for reflection on their titles. The Tal- 
mud, as a work, has no title at all ; for Talmud simply 
means "teaching" or "study." Sometimes it is termed 
ShaSS, an abbreviation of Shisha Sedarim} meaning the 
Six Orders or divisions contained in the Mishnah. This 
last word means, according to some authors, " Repetition." 
Other Tannaitic collections of laws or expositions of the 
Scriptures are called " the Book " (Siphra), " the Books " 
(Siphr6), or "Additions" (Tosephta to the Mishnah). 
The word Baraitha^ means the external Mishnah that 
enjoyed less authority than the Mishnah of R. Judah the 
Patriarch. Some approach to titles we find in the names 
given to the different tractates included in the Mishnah, 
as Berachothy because it treats of Benedictions, Peah^ 
(Corner) which contains the particulars concerning the 
law in Lev. xix. and so forth. Of the few works quoted 
in the Talmud it will suffice to mention the Seder Olanty 
the Order of the World, the name of which is very suita- 
ble to the chronological contents of the book. In general, 
I may observe that as long as the law which prohibited 
the writing down of the Oral teachings was in force, there 
hardly existed Jewish books. But where there are no 
books there is also no need for titles. The few titles, 
however, which can be proved to be historical are simple 
and to the point. It is not till about the beginning of the 
Middle Ages, when this prohibitive law had, for reasons not 
to be explained here, been abolished, that we can speak of 
Hebrew books. But here also the Title-confusion begins. 
In order that we may have some general view of the 
thousands of titles that are catalogued by the Jewish 
bibliographers, it will perhaps be well to arrange them 
under the following six classes : — 


I. Simple titles ^ that have no other object than that of 
indicating the subject matter of the book. These are, as 
we have just seen, the only kind of titles known to antiq- 
uity. The few books which the Gaonim left us bear 
such simple titles as could have served as models to later 
generations. Among them may be mentioned the Hala- 
choth or collection of Laws, Creeds and Opinions, by R. 
Saadiah Gaon, the Book on Buying and Selling, by R. 
Hal Gaon, containing the laws relating to commercial 
transactions. It may be noticed that this last book is 
one of the best arranged in Jewish literature, and dis- 
plays more systematising powers than even the Code of 
Maimonides. The greatest part of the literary activity 
of the Gaonim consists in their Responsa, in which they 
gave decisions on ritual questions, or explanations of dif- 
ficult passages in the Talmud. The titles borne by the 
various collections of those Responsa belong to a period 
later than the author's. The great majority of the books 
produced by the Franco-German school may also be in- 
cluded in this class. They are termed " Commentaries," 
"Additions" or "Glosses," "Novellae," or "Confirming 
Proofs," and similar modest titles which show both their 
relation to, and dependence on, another older authority. 
The largest collection of Midrashim we possess bears the 
simple title " Bag." * Many of the Responsa satisfy them- 
selves with the words " Questions to, and Answers by." 

II. Titles taken from the first word with which the book 
begins, or from the first word of the Scriptural verse occur- 
ring first in the book. This class is strongly represented 
by the Midrashim. Thus the Midrash to the Song of 
Songs is also quoted as the Midrash Chazitha,^ " Midrash, 
Seest thou " (the first text with which this Midrash deals 


being Proverbs xxii. 28). The Midrash to the Psalms is 
called Midrash Shocker Tob^ " Midrash, He that dili- 
gently seeketh the good" (Prov. xi. 37). The Midrash 
containing the legendary story of the wars of the sons of 
Jacob with the Canaanites is quoted as Midrash V'yisseu^ 
" Midrash, And they journeyed," as the story begins with 
the verse from Gen. xxxv. 5. And this is the case with 
the titles of many other Midrashim. Whether the work 
cited under the strange name of Meat on Coals did not 
begin with those words, containing some law relating to 
the salting of meat, I do not venture to decide. Under 
this class we may also arrange those books that are called 
after a phrase which is often used in the book, e.g.^ the 
Midrash Yelamdenu (He may teach us), or the Vehizhir^ 
"And He commanded us," almost every paragraph in 
these books beginning with the phrases mentioned.^ 
Probably all the books belonging to this class received 
from the hands of their authors or compilers no titles at 
all. The student who had to quote them gave them 
names after the phrase or word which first caught his eye. 
In later centuries this class disappears almost entirely (see, 
however, Ben-Jacob's Treasure^ p. 201, No. 827). 

HI. Pompous titles. The largest contributions to this 
class were made by the mystical writers. Books which 
profess to know what is going on in the heavens above 
and the earth beneath cannot possibly be satisfied with 
modest titles. Thus we have the " Book of Brightness " 
(Zohar), "the shining book" (Bahir), "the Confidential 
Shepherd" (Moses).^ The books which the Zohar 
quotes bear such titles as the Book of Adam, the Book of 
Enoch. The only excuse for the Zohar is that the manu- 
facturing of such books with pseudo-epigraphical titles 


had already begun in antiquity. It is not, however, till 
the Gaonic period that a whole apocryphal literature sud- 
denly emerges which perplexes the Gaonim themselves. 
No one is spared. Angels, patriarchs, and martyrs are 
called upon to lend their names to these books. What 
one resents most is that history came within the range of 
the forger's activity. There is, for instance, the Josippon, 
which professes to be written by Josephus, the well-known 
Jewish historian of the first century. But in spite of all 
the care taken by the author to disguise himself in the 
garb of antiquity, the Josippon is a forgery of the ninth 
or tenth century. Of a similar kind is the Book of Jasher, 
containing legendary stories relating to Biblical person- 
ages. It pretends to be identical with the Book of Jasher 
quoted in Joshua x. 13 and 2 Sam. i. 18. Some sixty 
years ago a certain Mr. Samuel of Liverpool had the mis- 
fortune to make himself ridiculous by maintaining the pre- 
tensions of this book; for, indeed, it does not require 
much knowledge of the Agadic literature to see that the 
Book of Jasher is only a compilation of comparatively late 

IV. Titles suggested by other Titles. As an instance of 
this we may take Maimonides' great Code of Law, which 
bears the title Mishneh Torah. The importance of the 
book made it the object of study for hundreds of scholars, 
who wrote their commentaries and glosses on it. Among 
the titles of the commentaries such Title-genealogies may 
be discovered as Maggid Mishneh, Mishneh Lammelech ; 
which last word again suggested such titles as Emek ha- 
Melechy Shaar hd^-Melech, and so on.^^ 

The same process may be observed in other standard 
works, the importance of which made them a subject of 


investigation and interpretation as the " Prepared Table," 
one of the glosses to which is called Mappah, "Table- 
cloth," whilst others provided it with the Shewbread and 
with New Fruit. 

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

VI. Titles taken from the Bible^ or Fancy Titles. This 
is the largest class of all, though it was utterly unknown 
in antiquity. It will be, perhaps, convenient to arrange 
this class of titles under the following sub-divisions, {a) 
Titles taken from the Bible, but also fulfilling the purpose 
of indicating the name of the author. For instance, 
" Seed of Abraham " (Ps. cv. 6), is the title of nine differ- 
ent books, the name of whose authors happened to be 
Abraham; "And Isaac entreated" (Gen. xxv. 21), is by 
Isaac Satanow on the Prayers; "Then Isaac sowed" 
{ibid. xxvi. 12), edited by R. Isaac Perles, contains an 
index to the Zohar. "Jacob shall take root" (Is. xxvii. 
6) is the name of a book on Grammar and Massorah 
by R. Jacob Bassani. R. Joseph of Posen left two col- 
lections of sermons and commentaries on the Penta- 
teuch, of which the one is called "And Joseph nour- 
ished" (Gen. xlvii. 12), the other "And Joseph gathered" 
(ibid. 14). Authors with the name of Judah are repre- 
sented among others by such titles as "And this of Judah" 


(Deut. xxxiii. 7), a treatise on the laws concerning the 
killing of animals; or "Judah shall go up" (Judges i. 2), 
a pamphlet containing a collection of prayers to be said 
on a journey. " Moses began " (Deut. i. 5) forms the title 
of three different books on various subjects, the authors 
of which had the name Moses. " Moses shall rejoice," 
a phrase occurring in the morning prayer for Sabbaths, 
is also the title of two books, the authors of which were 
named Moses. The "Rod of Aaron" enjoyed, as it seems, 
a goodly popularity; there are four bearing this name, 
not to speak of a fifth, " The Rod of Aaron brought forth 
buds " (Exod. xvii. 23), which is the name of a collection 
of Responsa by R. Aaron ben Chayim. But other Rods 
also were fashionable; there are, besides the five Rods 
of Moses, also Rods of Ephraim, Dan, Judah, Joseph, 
Naphtali, and Manasseh. By authors of the name of 
David we find books with the title " And David said," or 
a " Prayer of David," and other phrases occurring in the 
Psalms relating to David ; whilst the '* Tower of David " 
became the stronghold of other writers, and the ** Shield 
of David " protected as many as nine more. The " Chariot 
of Solomon" (Cant. iii. 9) adorns the title-pages of five 
books by authors named Solomon. The Caraite Solomon 
Troki was so fond of that title that he called his two 
polemical treatises " He made himself a chariot," while 
R. Solomon of Mir's collection of sermons has the title, 
"This Bed which is Solomon's" (Cant. iii. 7). As to 
family names, there were not many authors in the enjoy- 
ment of that luxury (especially among the German Jews), 
but we find them indicating the fact of their being Priests 
or Levites. Among such books are the collection of 
Responsa, by R. Raphael Cohen, which has the title 


"And the Priest shall come again" (Lev. xiv. 39), and 
the Cabbalistic treatise by R. Abraham Cohen, of Lask, 
with the title "And the Priest shall reckon unto him" 
(Lev. xxvii. 18). Probably the author deals with num- 
bers. R. Hirsch Horwitz, the Levite, called his Novellae 
to the Talmud "The Camp of Levi." The title "The 
Service of the Levite" (with allusion to Exodus xxxviii. 
21) is borne by five other books by authors who were 
Levites. And there may be found hundreds of books 
with titles suggesting the Priestly or Levitical descent of 
their authors. Most anxious is Joseph Ibn Kaspi (Joseph 
the Silvern, so called after his native place Argenti^re, in 
the south of France) to provide most of his numerous 
books with some Biblical titles combined with silver, as a 
"Bowl of Silver" (Numb. vii. 13), or "Points of Silver" 
(Song of Songs i. 11), or "Figures of Silver" (Prov. xxv. 
10), and other similar phrases. On the other hand Azulai 
manages to indicate at least one of his three Hebrew 
names, Chayim Joseph David, in most of his works, of 
which the number exceeds seventy, as Chayim Shaal,^^ 
" He asked Life " (Ps. xxi. 4), or " The knees of Joseph " 
(alluding to Gen. xlviii. 12), and "Truth unto David" 
(Ps. cxxxii. 11). 

{h) The Tabernacle with its furniture was also a great 
favourite with many authors. There are not only six tab- 
ernacles (two on Cabbalah, two on grammar, and two on 
Talmudical subjects), but also three "Arks of the Testi- 
mony," two "Altars of gold," two "Tables of Shewbread," 
four "Candlesticks of the Light," two "Sockets of Silver," 
and two " Pillars of Silver." Others again preferred the 
vestments of the priests as the " Plate of Judgment," the 
" Robe of the Ephod," the " Mitre of Aaron," the " Plate 


of Gold," the "Bell and Pomegranate," " Wreathen Chains," 
and the ** Arches of Gold." Many of these books were 
written by authors claiming to be priests, {c) But be- 
sides the canonical, other costumes were also fashionable. 
R. Mordecai Yafeh composed ten books, every one of them 
bearing the name of some garment or apparel, as "Apparel 
of Royalty," "Apparel of Blue," "Apparel of White," and 
so the whole suit with which Mordecai went out from the 
presence of the king (Esther viii. 15). These ten works 
range from codifications of the law and occasional sermons 
to philosophy, astronomy, and Cabbalah. By other writers 
we have three " Coats of many colours " (Gen. xxxvii. 4), 
one " Bridal Attire," and the " Thread of Scarlet " is not 
missing, {d) The ingredients for incense as well as other 
articles used in the Tabernacle or in the Temple were also 
fancied by some authors, and we have two books with the 
title of " Principal Spices," two " Pure Myrrh," three 
"Arts of the Apothecary," one "Oil of Holy Ointment," 
five " Meat Offerings mingled or dry," three or four " Flour 
of the Meat Offering," and also one " Two Young Pigeons" 
(Bene Yonah) by R. Jonah Zandsopher. But the appetite 
of the authors did not stop at these holy things. It ex- 
tended also to such lay articles as " Spiced Wine," " Juice 
of Pomegranate " (Cant. viii. 2), " Forests of Honey," the 
" Book of the Apple," and " Seven Kinds of Drink." 

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

The specimens given for every class may with very little 
trouble be doubled and redoubled. But it is not my inten- 


tion to reproduce here whole catalogues. Reggio thinks 
all such titles, which do not correspond with the context 
of the book, absurd and confusing. He suggests that 
the Jews followed in this respect the Arabic writers. There 
is no doubt that Reggio is not altogether wrong in his 
complaint. Almost all the titles included in class vi., as 
the reader might have observed, never indicate to the 
student the subject of which the books treat. How can 
one guess that the Responsa, the Dance of Mahanaim 
(two companies), is of a polemical nature against the ten- 
dencies of reform ? This list may be lengthened by hun- 
dreds of titles. But even these incomprehensible titles 
are better than the Chad Gadyah Lo Israel (One Kid No 
Israel),^ the un-Hebrew title of a pamphlet trying to prove 
the un- Jewish origin of the well-known folk-song sung on 
Passover Eve. But, on the other hand, it must not be 
overlooked that even this class has, though not always, 
something suggestive and even practical about it. The 
" Choice of Pearls " is undoubtedly more attractive than 
the prosaic ** Collection of Proverbs and Sayings," which 
is what the book contains. " Understanding of the Sea- 
sons" (i Chr. xii. 32), sounds also better than the simple 
"Collection of Sermons on different occasions." "The 
Lips of those who Sleep " recommends itself as a very 
suggestive title for a catalogue, especially when one thinks 
of the Agadic explanation given to Cant. vii. 10, according 
to which the study of the book of a departed author 
makes the lips of the dead man to speak. Such titles as 
" Bunch of Lilies " for a collection of poems are still usual 
with us. Such a title as the " Jealousy Offering," or the 
" Law of Jealousies," in polemical literature is very appro- 
priate for its subject. R. Jacob Emden, who named one 


of his pamphlets " Rod for the fool's back " (Prov. xxvi. 3), 
will be envied for his choice by many a controversialist 
even to-day. Wittily devised is the pun-title, "City of 
Sihon " for a mathematical book by R. Joseph Tsarphathi, 
alluding to Numb. xxi. 27, " For Hesbon (reckoning) is 
the City of Sihon." 

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

There is also another objection to these titles. It is 
that they seem sometimes not quite consonant with our 
notions of modesty. Thus we have " Desirable and 
Sweet" on astronomy, "Sweeter than Honey" or "He 
shall comfort us," and many others of this kind. But it 
must not be thought that we have a right to infer from 
the title to the author. There is, indeed, an anecdote 
that three authors were rather too little careful about 
the choice of their titles, namely Maimonides in calling 
his Code Mishneh Torah (which is the traditional title of 
the Book of Deuteronomy), R. Moses Alshech in call- 
ing his homiletical commentaries Torah of Moses, and 
R. Isaiah Horwitz in calling his book Skene Luchoth ha- 


Berith (The Two Tables of the Covenant). These authors, 
as the story goes, had for their punishment that their 
works are never quoted by the titles they gave to them, 
the former two being usually cited as Rambam or 
Alshech, whilst the last is more known by its abbre- 
viated title of SHeLa^^ than by its full name. 

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

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



" I SAW a Jewish lady only yesterday with a child at 
her knee, and from whose face towards the child there 
shone a sweetness so angelical that it seemed to form a 
sort of glory round both. I protest I could have knelt 
before her, too, and adored in her the divine beneficence 
in endowing us with the maternal storg^ which began with 
our race and sanctifies the history of mankind." These 
words, which are taken from Thackeray's Pendennis^ may 
serve as a starting-point for this paper. The fact that the 
great student of man perceived this glory just round the 
head of a Jewish lady rouses in me the hope that the small 
student of letters may, with a little search, be able to dis- 
cover in the remains of our past many similar traces of this 
divine beneficence and sanctifying sentiment. Certainly 
the glimpses which we shall catch from the faded leaves 
of ancient volumes, dating from bygone times, will not be 
so bright as those which the novelist was so fortunate as 
to catch from the face of a lady whom he saw but the pre- 
vious day. The mothers and fathers, about whom I am 
going to write in this essay, have gone long ago, and the 
objects of their anxiety and troubles have also long ago 
vanished. But what the subject will lose in brightness, it 
may perhaps gain in reality and intensity. A few moments 



of enraptured devotion do not make up the saint. It is a 
whole series of feeUngs and sentiments betrayed on differ- 
ent occasions, expressed in different ways, a whole life of 
sore troubles, of bitter disappointments, but also moments 
of most elevated joys and real happiness. 

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

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

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


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

These legends are chiefly based on the notion of the 
pre-existence of the soul on the one hand, but on the 
other hand they are a vivid illustratiori^ of the saying 
of the Fathers, " Thou art born against thy will." Thus 
the soul, when it is brought before the throne of God, 
and is commanded to enter into the body, pleads before 
Him : " O Lord, till now have I been holy and pure ; 
bring me not into contact with what is common and un- 
clean." Thereupon the soul is given to understand that 
it was for this destiny alone that it was created. Another 
remarkable feature is the warning given to man before 
his birth that he will be responsible for his actions. He 
is regularly sworn in. The oath has the double purpose 
of impressing upon him the consciousness of his duty to 
lead a holy life, and of arming him against the danger 
of allowing a holy life to make him vain. As if to ren- 
der this oath more impressive, the unborn hero is pro- 
vided with two angels who, besides teaching him the 
whole of the Torah, take him every morning through 
paradise and show him the glory of the just ones who 
dwell there. In the evening he is taken to hell to wit- 


ness the sufferings of the reprobate. But such a lesson 
would make free will impossible. His future conduct 
would only be dictated by the fear of punishment and 
hope of reward. And the moral value of his actions 
also depends, according to Jewish notions, upon the 
power to commit sin. Thus another legend records : 
"When God created the world, He produced on the 
second day the angels with their natural inclinations to 
do good, and the absolute inability to commit sin. On 
the following days again He created the beasts with their 
exclusively animal desires. But He was pleased with 
neither of these extremes. If the angels follow my will, 
said God, it is only on account of their impotence to act 
in the opposite direction. I shall therefore create man, 
who will be a combination of both angel and beast, so that 
he will be able to follow either the good or evil inclination. 
His evil deeds will place him beneath the level of animals, 
whilst his noble aspirations will enable him to obtain a 
higher position than angels." Care is therefore taken to 
make the child forget all it has seen and heard in these 
upper regions. Before it enters the world an angel strikes 
it on the upper lip, and all his knowledge and wisdom 
disappear at once. The pit in the upper lip is a result of 
this stroke, which is also the cause why children cry when 
they are born. 

As to the origin of these legends, the main features of 
which are already to be found in the Talmud, I must refer 
the reader to the researches of Low and others.^ Here 
we have only to watch the effect which these legends had 
upon the minds of Jewish parents. The newly born child 
was in consequence looked upon by them as a higher 
being, which, but a few seconds before, had been convers- 


ing with angels and saints, and had now condescended 
into our profane world to make two ordinary mortals 
happy. The treatment which the child experienced from 
its parents, as well as from the whole of the community, 
was therefore a combination of love and veneration. One 
may go even further and say that the belief in these 
legends determines greatly the destination of the child. 
What other destination could a being of such a glorious 
past have than to be what an old German Jewish poem 
expressed in the following lines : — 

Geboren soil es wehren 
Zu Gottes Ehren. 

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

Now, regarding almost every infant as a predestined 
priest, and thinking of it as having received a certain 
preparation for this calling before it came into this world, 
we cannot wonder that the child was supposed to show 
signs of piety from the days of its earliest existence, and 
even earlier. Thus we read that even the unborn children 
joined in with the chorus on the Red Sea and gang the 
Song (of Moses). David, again, composed Psalms before 
perceiving the face of this world. On the Day of Atone- 
ment they used to communicate to the unborn child, 


through the medium of its mother, that on this great day 
it had to be satisfied with the good it had received the day 
before. And when a certain child, afterwards named 
Shabbethai, refused to listen to such a request, R. Johanan 
applied to it the verse from the Psalm, " The wicked are 
estranged from the womb." Indeed, Shabbethai turned 
out a great sinner. It will perhaps be interesting to hear 
what his sin was. It consisted in forestalling the corn in 
the market and afterwards selling if to the poor at a much 
higher price. Of a certain child the legend tells that it 
was born with the word enteth (truth) engraved on its fore- 
head. Its parents named it Amiti,^ and the child proved 
to be a great saint. 

The priest, however, could not enter into his office with- 
out some consecration. As the first step in this consecra- 
tion of the child we may consider the Covenant of Abraham. 
But this was prefaced by a few other solemn acts which 
I must mention. One of the oldest ceremonies connected 
with the birth of a child was that of tree-planting. In 
the case of a boy they planted a cedar, in that of a girl 
a pine ; and on their marriage they cut branches from 
these trees to form the wedding-canopy. Other rites fol- 
lowed, but they were more of a medical character, and 
would be better appreciated by the physician. In the 
Middle Ages superstition played a great part. To be sure, 
I have spoken of saints ; but we ought not to forget that 
saints, too, have their foolish moments, especially when they 
are fighting against hosts of demons, the existence of 
which is only guaranteed by their own over-excited brains. 
Jewish parents were for many centuries troubled by the 
fear of Lilith,^ the devil's mother, who was suspected of 
stealing children and killing them. The precautions they 


took to prevent this atrocity were as foolish as the object 
of their fear. I do not intend to enumerate here all these 
various precautions. Every country almost has its own 
usages and charms, one more absurd than the other. It 
will suffice to refer here to the most popular of these 
charms, in which certain angels are invoked to protect 
the child against its dangerous enemy Lilith. But of 
whatever origin they may be, Judaism could do better 
without them. The only excuse for their existence among 
us is to my mind that they provoked the famous Dr. Erter 
to the composition of one of the finest satires in the 
Hebrew language. 

Of a less revolting character was the so-called ceremony 
of the "Reading of the Shema."* It consisted in taking 
all the little children of the community into the house of 
the newly-born child, where the teacher made them read 
the Shema, sometimes also the ninety-first Psalm. The 
fact that little children were the chief actors in this cere- 
mony reconciles one a little to it despite its rather doubt- 
ful origin. In some communities these readings took 
place every evening up to the day when the child was 
brought into the covenant of Abraham. In other places 
they performed the ceremony only on the eve of the day 
of the Berith Milah^ (Ceremony of the Circumcision). 
Indeed, this was the night during which Lilith was sup- 
posed to play her worst tricks, and the watch over the 
child was redoubled. Hence the name "Wachnacht," or 
the " Night of Watching." They remained awake for the 
whole night, and spent it in feasting and in studying 
certain portions of the Bible and the Talmud, mostly re- 
lating to the event which was to take place on the follow- 
ing day. This ceremony was already known to Jewish 


writers of the thirteenth century. Nevertheless, it is con- 
sidered by the best authorities on the subject to be of 
foreign origin. Quite Jewish, as well as entirely free from 
superstitious taint, was the visit which was paid to the 
infant-boy on the first Sabbath of his existence. It was 
called "Shalom Zachar,"^ probably meaning "Peace- 
boy," in allusion to a well-known passage in the Talmud 
to the effect that the advent of a boy in the family brings 
peace to the world. 

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

Its popularity began, as it seems, in very early times. 
The persecutions which Israel suffered for it in the times 
of Antiochus Epiphanes, "when the princes and elders 
mourned, the virgins and the young men were made 
feeble, and the beauty of women was changed, and when 
certain women were put to death for causing their chil- 
dren to be circumcised," are the best proof of the attach- 
ment of the people to it. The repeated attempts against 
this law, both by heathen and by Christian hands, only 
served to increase its popularity. Indeed R. Simeon ben 
Eleazar characterised it as the law for which Israel 
brought the sacrifice of martyrdom, and therefore held 
firmly by it. In other words they suffered for it, and it 
became endeared to them. R. Simeon ben Gamaliel de- 
clares it to be the only law which Israel fulfils with joy 
and exultation. As a sign of this joy we may regard the 
eagerness and the lively interest which raised this cere- 
mony from a strictly family affair to a matter in which the 
whole of the community participated. Thus we find that 
already in the times of the Gaonim the ceremony was 


transferred from the house of the parents to the syna- 
gogue. Here it took place after the prayers, in the 
presence of the whole congregation. The synagogue 
used to be specially illuminated in honour of the event. 
Certain pieces of the daily prayer, of a rather doleful 
nature, such as the confession of sins, were omitted, lest 
the harmony of the festival should be disturbed. As a 
substitute for these prayers, various hymns suitable for 
the occasion were composed and inserted in the liturgy 
for the day. As the most prominent members among 
those present figured the happy father of the child and 
the medical man who performed the ceremony, usually 
called the Mohel or Gozer,"^ both wearing their festal 
garments and having certain privileges, such as being 
called up to the Reading of the Law and chanting certain 
portions of the prayers. It is not before the tenth century 
that a third member suddenly emerges to become almost 
as important as the father of the child. I refer to the 
Sandek or Godfather. In some countries he was also 
called the Baal Berith (Master of the Covenant). In Italy 
they seemed to have had two Sandeks. This word was 
for a long time supposed to be the Greek word avvhtKOf;. 
But it is now proved beyond doubt that it is a corruption 
of the word crvvreKvo^ used in the Greek church for god- 
father. In the church he was the man who lifted the 
neophyte from the baptismal waters. Among the Jews, 
the office of the Sandek was to keep the child on his 
knees during the performance of the rite. The Sandek's 
place was, or is still, near the seat of honour, which is 
called the Throne of Elijah, who is supposed to be the 
angel of the covenant. Other angels, too, were believed 
to officiate at this rite. Thus the "angel Gabriel is also 


sard to have performed the office of Sandek to a certain 
child. According to other sources the archangel Meta- 
tron himself attended. Probably it was on this account 
that later Rabbis admonished the parents to take only 
a pious and good Jew as Sandek for their children. 
Christian theologians also declared that no good Christian 
must render such a service to a Jew. The famous Bux- 
torf had to pay a fine of 100 florins for having attended 
the Berith of a child, whose father he had employed as 
reader when editing the well-known Basel Bible. The 
poor reader himself, who was the cause of Buxtorf's 
offence, was fined 400 florins. Of an opposite case in 
which a Jew served as godfather to a Christian child, we 
find a detailed account in Schudt's Merkwurdigkeiten der 
Juden, a very learned and very foolish book. When the 
father was summoned before the magistrate, and was 
asked how he dared to charge a Jew with such a holy 
Christian ceremony, he coolly answered, because he knew 
that the Jew would present him with a silver cup. As 
to the present, I have to remark that with the Jews also 
the godfather was expected to bestow a gift on the child. 
In some communities he had to defray the expenses of 
the festival-dinner, of which I shall speak presently. In 
others, again, he had also to give a present to the mother 
of the child. 

Much older than the institution of the Sandek is the 
festival-dinner just alluded to, which was held after the 
ceremony. Jewish legend supplies many particulars of 
the dinner the patriarch Abraham gave at the Berith of 
his son Isaac. This is a little too legendary, but there is 
ample historical evidence that such meals were already 
customary in the times of the Second Temple. The 


Talmud of Jerusalem gives us a detailed account of the 
proceedings which took place at the Berith dinner of 
Elisha ben Abuyah, who afterwards obtained a sad celeb- 
rity as Acher. Considering that Elisha' s birth must have 
fallen within the first decades after the destruction of the 
Temple, and that these sad times were most unsuitable for 
introducing new festivals, we may safely date the custom 
back to the times of the Temple. The way in which the 
guests entertained themselves is also to be gathered from 
the passage referred to. First came the dinner, in which 
all the guests participated ; afterwards the great men of 
Jerusalem occupied one room, indulging there in singing, 
hand clapping, and dancing. The scholars again, who 
apparently did not belong to the great men, were confined 
to another room, where they employed themselves in dis- 
cussing biblical subjects. In later times special hymns, 
composed for this festival, were inserted in the grace after 
dinner. After the dinner, sermons or speeches used also 
to be given, the contents of which were usually made up 
of reflections on biblical and Talmudical passages relat- 
ing to the event of the day. Sometimes they consisted of 
a kind of learned puns on the name which the child re- 
ceived on this occasion. 

With this meal the first consecration of the child-priest 
was concluded. In some places they used to come to the 
father's house on the third day after the circumcision with 
the purpose of making inquiries after the child's health. 
In the case when the child was the first-born the ceremony 
of " redeeming the child " ^ in accordance with Exodus xiii. 
used to take place. The details of this ceremony are to 
be found in almost every prayer-book, and there is nothing 
fresh to add. But perhaps I may be allowed to draw 


attention to another distinction that the first-born received 
in the Middle Ages. I refer to an account given by the 
author of the book, The Ordinance of the Law? who 
flourished in the thirteenth century. He says : Our pred- 
ecessors made the rule to destine every first-born to God, 
and before its birth the father had to say, " I take the vow 
that if my wife presents me with a son, he shall be holy 
unto the Lord, and in His Torah he shall meditate day and 
night." On the eighth day after the Berith Milah they 
put the child on cushions, and a Bible on its head, and 
the elders of the community, or the principal of the col- 
lege, imparted their blessings to it. These first-born sons 
formed, when grown up, the chief contingent of the Yes- 
hiboth (Talmudical Colleges), where they devoted the 
greatest part of their lives to the study of the Torah. In 
later centuries the vow was dropped, but from the abun- 
dance of the Yeshiboth in Poland and elsewhere it seems 
as if almost every child was considered as having no other 
calling but the study of the Torah. Indeed, the growing 
persecutions required a strengthening of the religious 

With these ceremonies the first act of consecration 
ended in the case where the new-born child was a boy. 
I will now refer to the ceremony of the name-giving, which 
was common to males and females. In the case of the 
former this ceremony was connected with the Berith 
Milah. The oldest formula, which is already to be found 
in the Ritual Rab Amram Gaon^ is composed in Aramaic. 
It is, like many prayers in that language, a most beautiful 
composition, and very suitable for the occasion. Our 
present Hebrew prayer is far less beautiful, and dates 
from a much later age. In some countries the ceremony 


of naming was repeated in the house of the parents. It 
took place on the Sabbath, when the mother returned home 
from her first visit to the synagogue after her recovery. 
Here the friends and relatives of the family assembled, 
and after arranging themselves round the cradle of the 
child they lifted it three times, shouting the new name at 
every lifting. This name was the so-called "profane" 
name, whilst the name it received in the synagogue was 
the " sacred " or Hebrew name. The ceremony con- 
cluded with the usual festival-dinner. By the way, there 
was perhaps a little too much feasting in those days. The 
contemporary Rabbis tried indeed to suppress some of 
the banquets, and put all sorts of restrictions on dinner- 
hunting people. But considering the fact that, as Jews, 
they were excluded from every public amusement, we 
cannot grudge them the pleasure they drew from these 
semi-religious celebrations. For people of an ascetic 
disposition it was, perhaps, the only opportunity of enjoy- 
ing a proper meal. In the same way, in our days, the 
most severe father would not deny his lively daughter the 
pleasure of dancing or singing charitably for the benefit 
of suffering humanity. The ceremony described was known 
to the authors of the Middle Ages by the name of Holle 
Kreish. These words are proved by Dr. Perles to be of 
German origin, and based on some Teutonic superstition 
into the explanation of which I cannot enter here. 

Of much more importance was the ceremony of name- 
giving in the case of a girl, it being the only attention the 
female child received from the synagogue. The usages 
varied. In some countries the name was given on the 
first Sabbath after the birth of the child. The father 
was "called up to the Reading of the Law," on which 


followed the formula, " He who blessed our ancestors 
Abraham," etc, " may He also bless," etc., including the 
blessing and announcement of the child's name. After 
the prayer the congregation assembled in the house of 
the parents to congratulate them. In other countries the 
ceremony took place on the Sabbath when the mother at- 
tended the synagogue after the recovery. The ceremony 
of Holle Kreish seems to have been especially observed 
in the case of a girl. 

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

More difficult is it to say wherein the other signs of 
loyalty to the little prince consisted; as, for instance, 
whether Jews possessed anything like lullabies to soothe 
the little prince into happy and sweet slumber. At least 
I am not aware of the existence of such songs in the 
ancient Jewish literature, nor are they quoted by mediaeval 
writers. The '* Schlummerlied," by an unknown Jewish 
bard, about which German scholars wrote so much, con- 
tains more heathen than Jewish elements. From the 
protest in The Book of the Pious, against using non- 
Jewish cradle-songs, it seems that little Moshechen was 


lulled to sleep by the same tunes and words as little 
Johnny. The only Jewish lullaby of which I know, is 
to be found in the work of a modern writer who lived 
in Russia. How far its popularity goes in that country 
I have no means of ascertaining. This jingle runs as 
follows: — ^^ i.i..'. 

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

But naturally the holiday atmosphere I spoke of was 
very often darkened by clouds resulting from the illness 
of the child. Excepting small-pox, the child was subject 
to most of those diseases which so often prove fatal to 
our children. These diseases were known under the col- 
lective name of ** the difficulties (or the pain) of bringing 
up children." These difficulties seem to have been still 
greater in Palestine, where one of the old Rabbis ex- 
claimed that it was easier to see a whole forest of young 
olive trees grow up than to rear one child.^ To avoid 
so mournful a subject, I refrain from repeating the touch- 
ing stories relating to the death of children. The pain 
was the more keenly felt since there was no other way 
of explaining the misfortune which befell the innocent 
creature than that it had suffered for the sins of the 
parents; and the only comfort the latter had was that 


the child could not have lost much by its being removed 
from this vale of tears at such an early period. A re- 
markable legend describes God Himself as giving lessons 
so many hours a day to these prematurely deceased 
children.13 Indeed, to the mind of the old Rabbis, the 
only thing worth living for was the study of the Law. 
Consequently the child that suffered innocently could 
not have a better compensation than to learn Torah from 
the mouth of the Master of masters. 

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

Certainly Jewish legends can boast of a whole series of 
prodigies. Thus a certain Rabbi is said to have been so 
sharp as to have had a clear recollection of the mid-wife 
who made him a citizen of this world. Ben Sira again, 
instantly after his birth, entertains his terrified mother 
with many a wise and foolish saying, refuses the milk she 
offers him, and asks for solid food. A certain Nachman 
was born with a prophecy on his lips, predicting the fate 
of all nations on earth, as well as fixing the date for the 
advent of the Messiah. The youngest of seven sons of 
Hannah, who became martyrs under the reign of Antio- 


chus Epiphanes, was according to one version aged two 
years, six months, six hours, and thirty minutes. But the 
way in which he defied the threats of the tyrant was 
really worthy of one of seventy. R. Judah de Modena is 
said to have read the lesson from the prophets in the 
synagogue at the age of two years and a half. A famous 
Cabbalist, Nahum, at the age of three, gave a lecture on 
the decalogue that lasted for three days. The Chassidim 
pretended of one of their Zaddikim that he remembered 
all that he had been taught by the angels before his birth, 
and thus excused their Zaddik's utter neglect of studying 
anything. Perhaps I may mention in this place a sen- 
tence from Schudt, which may reconcile one to the harm- 
less exaggerations of the Chassidim. It relates to a case 
where a Jewish girl of six was taken away by a Christian 
with the intention of baptising her, for he maintained that 
this was the wish and pleasure of the child. Probably 
the little girl received her instruction from the Christian 
servant of the house, as has happened many times. 
Schudt proves that this wish ought to be granted in spite 
of the minority of the child. He argues : As there is a 
maxim, " What is wanting in years may be supplied by 
wickedness," why could not also the reverse be true that 
" What is wanting in years can be supplied by grace " } 
Of a certain R. Meshullam, again, we know that he 
preached in the synagogue at Brody, at the age of nine, 
and perplexed the chief Rabbi of the place by his deep 
Talmudical learning. As the Rabbi had a daughter of 
seven, the cleverness exhibited by the boy Rabbi did not 
end without very serious consequences for all his life. 

Happily all these prodigies or children of grace are 
only exceptional. I say happily, for the Rabbis them- 


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

But these children must be taught. Now, there is the 
well-known advice of Judah ben Tema, who used to say 
that the child at five years was to be taught Scripture, 
at ten years Mishnah, at thirteen to fulfil the Law, etc. 
This saying, incorporated in most editions in the fifth 
Chapter of the Sayings of the Fathers ^ is usually con- 


sidered as the programme of Jewish education. But, 
like so many programmes, this tells us rather how things 
ought to have been than how they were. In the times of 
the Temple, the participation of the youth in religious 
actions began at the tenderest age. As soon as they 
were able to walk a certain distance with the support 
of their parents, the children had to accompany them 
on their pilgrimages to Jerusalem. In the Sabbatical 
year they were brought to the Temple, to be present at 
the reading of Deuteronomy by the king.^* The period 
at which the child's allegiance to the Synagogue began 
is still more distinctly described. Of the many Talmudi- 
cal passages relating to this question, I shall select the 
following quotation from a later Midrash, because it is 
the most concise. In allusion to Leviticus xix. 23, 24, 
concerning the prohibition of eating the fruits of a tree 
in the first three years, this Midrash goes on to say: 
"And this is also the case with the Jewish child. In 
the first three years the child is unable to speak, and 
therefore is exempted from every religious duty, but in 
the fourth year all its fruits shall be holy to praise the 
Lord, and the father is obliged to initiate the child in 
religious works." Accordingly the religious life of the 
child began as soon as it was able to speak distinctly, 
or with the fourth year of its life. As to the character 
of this initiation we learn from the same Midrash and 
also from other Talmudical passages, that it consisted in 
teaching the child the verses, " Hear, O Israel : the Lord 
our God is One " (Deut. vi. 4), and " Moses commanded 
us a Torah, the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob " 
(Deut. xxxiii. 4). It was also in this year that the boys 
began to accompany their parents to the synagogue, car- 


rying their prayer-books. At what age the girls first 
came out — not for their first party, but with the pur- 
pose of going to the synagogue — is difficult to decide 
with any degree of certainty. But if we were to trust a 
rather doubtful reading in Tractate Sopherim}^ we might 
maintain that their first appearance in the synagogue was 
also at a very tender age. I hope that they behaved there 
more respectfully than their brothers, who played and 
cried instead of joining in the responses and singing 
with the congregation. In some communities they proved 
so great a nuisance that a certain Rabbi declared it would 
be better to leave them at home rather than to have the 
devotion of the whole congregation disturbed by these 
urchins. Another Rabbi recommended the praiseworthy 
custom of the Sephardim,^^ who confined all the boys 
in the synagogue to one place, and set a special over- 
seer by their side, with a whip in his hands, to compel 
them to keep quiet and to worship with due devotion. 

A strange custom is known among the Arabian and Pal- 
estinian Jews under the name of Chalaka. It means the 
first hair-cutting of the boy after his fourth birthday. As 
on this occasion loyalty to the Scripture is shown by not 
touching the "corners " (Lev. xix. 17), the whole action is 
considered a religious ceremony of great importance. In 
Palestine it usually takes place on the second day of the 
Feast of the Passover when the counting of the seven 
weeks begins. On this day friends and relatives assemble 
at the house of the parents. Thither the boy is brought, 
dressed in his best garments, and every one of the as- 
sembly is entrusted with the duty of cutting a few hairs, 
which is considered a great privilege. The ceremony is as 
usual followed by a dinner given to the guests. The Jews 


in Safed and Tiberias perform the ceremony with great 
pomp in the courtyard surrounding the (supposed) grave 
of R. Simeon ben Yochai, in one of the neighbouring 

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

I pass now to the second great consecration of the boy, 
— the rites performed on the day when the boy went to 
school for the first time. This day was celebrated by the 
Jews, especially in the Middle Ages, in such a way as to 
justify the high esteem in which they held the school. 
The school was looked upon as a second Mount Sinai, and 
the day on which the child entered it as the Feast of Reve- 
lation. Of the many different customs, I shall mention 
here that according to which this day was fixed for the 
Feast of Weeks. Early in the morning, while it was still 
dark, the child was washed and dressed carefully. In 
some places they dressed it in a "gown with fringes." 
As soon as day dawned the boy was taken to the syna- 
gogue, either by his father or by some worthy member of 
the community. Arrived at their destination, the boy was 
put on the Almemor, or reading-dais, before the Scroll of 
the Law, from which the narrative of the Revelation (Exod. 
XX. 2-26) was read as the portion of the day. From the 
synagogue the boy was taken to the house of the teacher, 
who took him into his arms. Thereupon a slate was 
brought, containing the alphabet in various combinations, 


the verse, *' Moses has commanded," etc. in Deut. xxxiii. 4, 
the first verse of the Book of Leviticus, and the words, 
" The Torah will be my calling." The teacher then read 
the names of the letters, which the boy repeated. After 
the reading, the slate was besmeared with honey, which the 
boy licked off. This was done in allusion to Ezekiel iii. 
3, where it is said : " And it (the roll) was in my mouth 
as honey for sweetness." The boy was also made to eat 
a sweet cake, on which were written passages from the 
Bible relating to the importance of the study of the Torah. 
The ceremony was concluded by invoking the names of 
certain angels, asking them to open the heart of the boy, 
and to strengthen his memory. By the way, I am very 
much afraid that this invocation was answerable for the 
abolition of this ceremony. The year in which this cere- 
mony took place is uncertain, probably not before the fifth, 
nor later than the seventh, according to the good or bad 
health of the child. 

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


from I Samuel xxviii. 3, "And Samuel died.'* This was 
accepted by him as a hint given by Providence that all 
was over with his friend. 

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

Another point to be emphasised is that the boys were 
not confined all day long to the close air of the school- 
room. They had also their hours of recreation. This 
recreation consisted chiefly, as one can imagine, in play- 
ing. Their favourite game was the ball, boys as well as 
girls being fond of this form of amusement. They did 
not deny themselves this pleasure even on festivals. 
They were also fond of the kite and games with nuts, in 
which their mothers also took part. Letter-games and 


riddles also occupied their minds in the recreation hours. 
The angel Sandalphon,^^ who also bears in the Cabbalah 
the name of " Boy," was considered by the children as 
their special patron, and they invoked him in their plays, 
addressing to him the words : " Sandalphon, Lord of the 
forest, protect us from pain." Speaking generally, there 
are very few distinctively Jewish games. From the re- 
searches of Zunz, Giidemann, and Low on this subject, it 
is clear that the Jews always adopted the pastimes of the 
peoples among whom they dwelt. 

But it must not be thought that there was too much 
playing. Altogether, Jewish education was far from spoil- 
ing the children. And though it was recommended — if 
such recommendation were necessary — to love children 
more than one's own soul, the Rabbis strongly condemned 
that blind partiality towards our own offspring, which ends 
in burdening our world with so many good-for-nothings. 
The sad experience of certain biblical personages served 
as a warning for posterity. Even from the quite natural 
behaviour of Jacob towards his son Joseph, which had the 
best possible results in the end, they drew the lesson that 
a man must never show to one of his children marks of 
greater favour than to the others. In later times they 
have been even anxious to conceal this love altogether, 
and some Rabbis went so far as to refrain from kissing 
their children. The severity of Akabya ben Mahalaleel 
is worth mentioning, if not imitating. When this Rabbi, 
only a few minutes before his death, was asked by his 
son to recommend him to his friends and colleagues, the 
answer the poor boy received was : " Thy conduct will 
recommend thee to my friends, or will estrange thee from 
them." Another Rabbi declared (with reference to Pro v. 


xxviii. 27) that it is life-giving to a youth to teach him 
temperance in his diet, and not to accustom him to meat 
and wine. R. Judah, the Pious, in the Middle Ages, gives 
the advice to rich parents to withdraw their resources 
from their sons if they lead a disorderly life. The strug- 
gle for their existence, and the hardship of life, would 
bring them back to God. When the old Rabbi said that 
poverty is a most becoming ornament for Israel, his re- 
mark was probably suggested by a similar thought. And 
many a passage in the Rabbinic literature gives expression 
to the same idea as that in Goethe's divine lines : — 

Wer nie sein Brot mit Thranen ass, 

Wer nie die kummervoUen Nachte 

Auf seinem Bette weinend sass, 

Der kennt Euch nicht, Ihr himmlischen Machte. 

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

I have now to speak of the time when childhood is 
brought to a conclusion. It is, as I stated above, in the 
case of a girl at the beginning of the thirteenth year, and 


in that of a boy at the beginning of the fourteenth year. 
As a reason for this priority I will reproduce the words of 
R. Chisda, who said that God has endowed woman with 
a greater portion of intelligence than man, and therefore 
she obtains her maturity at an earlier period than man 
does. A very nice compliment, indeed ; but like all com- 
pliments it is of no practical consequence whatever. It 
is not always the wiser who get the best of it in life. 
Whilst the day on which the girl obtained her majority 
passed unnoticed either by her or by her family, it was 
marked in the case of the boy as the day on which he 
become a Son of the Law,^^ and was signalised by various 
rites and ceremonies, and by the bestowing on him of 
beautiful presents. I miss only the wig, which used to 
form the chief ornament of the boy on this happy day. 
Less known, however, is the origin of this ceremony, 
and the reason for fixing its date. It cannot claim a very 
high antiquity. I may remark that in many cases centu- 
ries elapse before an idea or a notion takes practical shape 
and is crystallised into a custom or usage, and still longer 
before this custom is fossilised into a law or fixed institu- 
tion. As far as the Bible goes, there is not the slightest 
indication of the existence of such a ceremony. From 
Lev. xxvii. 5, and Num. xiv. 29, it would rather seem that 
it was not before the twentieth year that the man was con- 
sidered to have obtained his majority, and to be responsi- 
ble for his actions. It was only in the times of the Rabbis, 
when Roman influence became prevalent in juristic mat- 
ters at least, that the date of thirteen, or rather the puber- 
tasy was fixed as giving the boy his majority. But it would 
be a mistake to think that before having obtained this 
majority the boy was considered as under age in every 


respect. Certainly the law made every possible effort to 
connect him with the synagogue, and to initiate him in his 
religious duties long before the age of thirteen. 

We have seen that the boy's first appearance in the syn- 
agogue was at the beginning of the fourth year. We have 
noticed the complaints about his troublesome behaviour. 
But how could we expect the poor child to be attentive to 
things which quite surpassed the intellectual powers of his 
tender age } There was no better reason for this attend- 
ance either in the Temple or in the synagogue than that 
the parents might be rewarded by God for the trouble of 
taking their children there. These cares, by the way, fell 
most heavily upon the women. The mother of R. Joshua 
enjoyed this burden so much that she carried her boy, 
when still in the cradle, to the " House of Study of the 
Law," in order that his ears might be accustomed to the 
sound of the Torah. In later times there was another ex- 
cuse for taking the little children to the synagogue. They 
were there allowed to sip the wine of the Sanctification 
Cup,^ which was the exclusive privilege of the children ; 
an easy way of worshipping, but, as you can observe, it is 
a method that they enjoy and understand most excellently. 
They did not less enjoy and understand the service with 
which they were charged on the day of "The Rejoicing of 
the Law." 21 Qn this feast they were provided with flags, 
which they carried before the bearers of the Torah, who 
feasted them after the service with sweets. Another treat 
was that of being called up on this day to the Torah, a 
custom that is still extant. In the Middle Ages they went 
in some countries so far as to allow these little fellows who 
did not wear caps "to be called up" to say the blessings 
over the Law bare-headed. A beautiful custom was that 


every Sabbath, after finishing the weekly lesson and dress- 
ing the Scroll of the Law, the children used to come up to 
the Almemor and kiss the Torah. Leaving the synagogue 
they kissed the hands of the scholars. At home the initi- 
ation began with the blessing the child received on every 
eve of the Sabbath, and with its instruction in " Hear O 
Israel" and other verses as already mentioned. Short 
prayers, consisting of a single sentence, were also chosen 
for children of this age. The function of the child on the 
eve of the first day of Passover is well known. Besides 
the putting of the four questions for the meaning of the 
strange ceremony (Exod. xiii. 14), the boy had also to 
recite, or rather to sing, the ** Praise."^ But I am afraid 
that they enjoyed better the song of '* One Kid," which 
was composed or rather adapted for their special enter- 
tainment from an old German poem. 

Within three or four years after entering the syna- 
gogue, and with the growth of intellect and strength, 
the religious duties of the boy increased, and became of 
a more serious character. He had not only to attend 
the school, which was troublesome enough, but he was 
also expected to attend the services more regularly, and 
to gain something by it. Yet the Rabbis were not so 
tyrannical as to put unjust demands on the patience of 
the child. The voice of God on Mount Sinai, the Rabbis 
said, was adapted to the intellect and powers of all who 
witnessed the Revelation — adapted, as the Midrash says, 
to the powers of old and young, children and women. It 
was in accordance with this sentiment that the Rabbis 
suited their language to the needs of the less educated 
classes. Thus we read in the Tractate Sopherim that 
according to the law the portion of the week, after hav- 


ing been recited in Hebrew, must be translated into 
the language of the vernacular for the benefit of the un- 
learned people, the women, and the children. Another 
consideration children experienced from the Rabbis was 
that at the age of nine or ten the boy was initiated into 
the observance of the Day of Atonement by fasting a 
few hours. Lest, however, this good work might be over- 
done, and thus endanger the child's health, the sage R. 
Acha used to tell his congregation after the Addition- 
Prayer " My brethren, let every one of you who has a 
child go home and make it eat." In later centuries, 
when the disease of small-pox became so fatal, some 
Rabbis declared it to be the duty of every father to 
leave the town with his children as soon as the plague 
showed itself. The joy with which the Rabbis hailed 
Dr. Jenner's discovery deserves our recognition. None 
of them perceived in vaccination a defiance of Provi- 
dence. R. Abraham Nansich, from London, wrote a 
pamphlet to prove its lawfulness. The Cabbalist Buzagli 
disputed Dr. Jenner's priority, but nevertheless approved 
of vaccination. R. Israel Lipschiitz declared that the 
Doctor acquired salvation by his new remedy. 

With his advancing age, not only the boy's duties but 
also his rights were increased. An enumeration of all 
these rights would lead me too far, but I shall mention 
the custom which allowed the boy the recital of " Magni- 
fied "^3 and "Bless ye "2* in the synagogue. Now this 
privilege is restricted to the orphan boy. It is interest- 
ing to hear that girls were also admitted to recite the 
Magnified in the synagogue, in cases where their parents 
left no male issue. I have myself witnessed such a case. 
In some countries the boy had the exclusive privilege of 


reading the prayers on the evenings of the festivals and 
Sabbaths. R. Samson ben Eleazar, in the fifteenth cen- 
tury, received his family name Baruch Sheamar^^ from 
the skill with which he recited this prayer when a boy. 
He chanted it so well that he was called by the members 
of the community Master Baruch Sheamar. As to the 
question whether the boy, while under age, might law- 
fully be considered as one of the Ten when such a quo- 
rum was required, or one of the three in the case of 
grace after meals, I can only say that the authorities 
never agreed in this respect. Whilst the one insisted 
upon his having obtained his majority, the other was 
satisfied with his showing such signs of intelligence as 
would enable him to participate in the ceremony in ques- 
tion. Here is an instance of such a sign. Abaye and 
, Raba, the two celebrated heroes of the Babylonian Tal- 
mud, were sitting at the table of Rabbah. Before say- 
ing grace he asked them, " Do you know to whom these 
prayers are addressed } " Thereupon one boy pointed 
to the roof, whilst the other boy went out and pointed 
to the sky. The examiner was satisfied with their answer. 
The privilege of putting on the phylacteries forms now 
in most countries the chief distinction of "The Son of 
the Law " ; in olden times, however, every boy had claim 
to it as soon as he showed himself capable of behaving 
respectfully when wearing the holy symbol. It even hap- 
pened that certain honours of the synagogue were be- 
stowed on boys, though under age. We possess a copy 
of a Jewish epitaph dating from about the third century, 
which was written in Rome for a boy of eight years, who 
is there designated as archon. The fact is the more curi- 
ous, as on the other hand the Palestinian R. Abuha, who 


lived in the same century, maintained that no man must 
be elected as Warden before he has achieved his fiftieth 
year. That boys were admitted to preach in the syna- 
gogue I have already mentioned.^ 

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


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

The earliest allusion to women's participation in public 
worship, is that in Exodus xxxviii. 8, to the women who 
assembled to minister at the door of the "tent of meet- 
ing," of whose mirrors the lavers of brass were made (cf. 
I Sam. ii. 22). Philo, who is not exactly enamoured of 
the emancipation of women, and seeks to confine them to 
the " small state," is here full of their praise. " For," he 
says, "though no one enjoined them to do so, they of 



their own spontaneous zeal and earnestness contributed 
the mirrors with which they had been accustomed to deck 
and set off their beauty, as the most becoming first-fruits 
of their modesty, and of the purity of their married Ufe, 
and, as one may say, of the beauty of their souls." In 
another passage Philo describes the Jewish women as 
"competing with the men themselves in piety, having 
determined to enter upon a glorious contest, and to the 
utmost extent of their power to exert themselves so as not 
to fall short of their holiness." 

It is, however, very difficult to ascertain in what this 
ministry of women consisted. The Hebrew term "Zo- 
beoth " ^ would suggest the thought of a species of relig- 
ious Amazons, who formed a guard of honour round the 
Sanctuary. Some commentators think that the minis- 
try consisted in performing religious dances accompanied 
by various instruments. The Septuagint again speaks 
"of the women who fasted by the doors of the Taber- 
nacle." But most of the old Jewish expositors, as well as 
Onkelos, conceive that the women went to the tent of 
meeting to pray. Ibn Ezra offers the interesting remark, 
"And behold, there were women in Israel serving the 
Lord, who left the vanities of this world, and not being 
desirous of beautifying themselves any longer, made of 
their mirrors a free offering, and came to the tabernacle 
every day to pray and to listen there to the words of 
the commandments." When we find that in i Sam. i. 
12, " Hannah continued to pray before the Lord," she 
was only doing there what many of her sisters did 
before and after her. We may also judge that it was 
from the number of these noble women, who made relig- 
ion the aim of their lives, that the " twenty-two " heroines 



and prophetesses sprang who form part of the glory of 
Jewish history. Sometimes it even happened that their 
husbands derived their religious inspiration from them. 
Thus the husband of the prophetess Deborah is said to 
have been an unlettered man. But his wife made him 
carry to the Sanctuary the candles which she herself had 
prepared, this being the way in which she encouraged 
him to seek communion with the righteous. 

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


woman is quicker in recognising the worth of a stranger 
than man." 

The great woman, or women, continued to pray and to 
join in the public worship also after the destruction of the 
first Temple. Thus Esther is reported by tradition to 
have addressed God in a long extempore prayer before 
she presented herself before the throne of Ahasuerus to 
plead her people's cause ; and women were always en- 
joined to attend the reading of the Book of Esther. When 
Ezra read the Law for the first time, he did so in the pres- 
ence of the men and the women (Neh. viii. 3). In the 
Book of the Maccabees we read of " The women girt with 
sackcloth . . . and the maidens that ran to the gates . . . 
And all holding their hands towards heaven made suppli- 
cation." In the Judith legend, mention is also made of 
** Every man and woman . . . who fell before the Temple, 
and spread out their sackcloth before the face of the Lord 
. . . and cried before the God of Israel." In the second 
Temple, the women, as is well known, possessed a court 
reserved for their exclusive use. There the great illumi- 
nations and rejoicings on the evening of the Feast of Tab- 
ernacles used to be held. On this occasion, however, the 
women were confined to galleries specially erected for 
them. It was also in this Women's Hall that the great 
public reading of certain portions of the Law by the king, 
once in seven years, used to take place, and women had 
also to attend at the function. On the other hand, it is 
hardly necessary to say that women were excluded from 
performing any important service in the Temple. If we 
were to trust a certain passage in the "Chapters of R. 
Eliezer," we might perhaps conclude that during the first 
Temple, the wives of the Levites formed a part of the 


choir, but the meaning of the passage is too obscure and 
doubtful for us to be justified in basing on it so important 
an inference. Nor can the three hundred maidens who 
were employed for the weaving of the curtains in the Tem- 
ple, be looked upon as having stood in closer connection 
with the Temple, or as having formed an order of women- 
priests or girl-devotees (as one might wrongly be induced 
to think by certain passages in Apocryphal writings of the 
New Testament). But on the other hand, it is not im- 
probable that their frequent contact with the Sanctuary of 
the nation produced in them that religious enthusiasm and 
zeal which may account for the heroic death which — ac- 
cording to the legend — they sought and found after the 
destruction of the Temple. It is to be remarked that, 
according to the law, women were even exempted from 
putting their hands on the head of the victim, which 
formed an important item in the sacrificial worship. It is, 
however, stated by an eye-witness, that the authorities per- 
mitted them to perform this ceremony if they desired to do 
so, and that their reason for this concession was " to give 
calmness of the spirit, or satisfaction, to women." 

Still greater, perhaps, was " the calmness of spirit " 
given to women in the synagogue. We find in ancient 
epitaphs that such titles of honour were conferred upon 
them as "Mistress of the Synagogue," and "Mother of 
the Synagogue," and, though they held no actual office 
in the Synagogue, it is not improbable that they acquired 
these titles by meritorious work connected with a religious 
institution, viz. : Charity. There was, indeed, a tendency 
to exclude women from the synagogue at certain seasons, 
but almost all the authorities protest against it, many of 
them declaring such a notion to be quite un-Jewish. Some 


Jewish scholars even think that the ancient synagogues 
knew of no partition for women. I am rather incUned to 
think that the synagogue took for its model the arrange- 
ments in the Temple, and thus confined women to a place 
of their own. But, whether they sat side by side with 
the men or occupied a special portion of the edifice, there 
can be no doubt that the Jewish women were great syna- 
gogue-goers. To give only one instance. One Rabbi asks 
another: Given the case that the members of the syna- 
gogue are all descendants of Aaron, to whom then would 
they impart their blessing } The answer is, to the women 
who are there. 

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

The prayers they said were the Eighteen Benedic- 
tions which were prescribed by the Law. But it would 
seem that occasionally they offered short prayers com- 
posed by themselves as suggested by their personal feel- 
ings and needs. Thus, to give one instance, R. Johanan 
relates that one day he observed a young girl fall on her 
face and pray : ** Lord of the world. Thou hast created 
Paradise, Thou hast created hell. Thou hast created the 
wicked. Thou hast created the righteous ; may it be Thy 
will that I may not serve as a stumbHng-block to them." 



The fine Hebrew in which the prayer is expressed, and 
the notion of the responsibility of Providence for our 
actions, manifest a high degree of intelligence and reflec- 
tion. It would also seem that some women went so far 
in their religious sensibility as to lead a regular ascetic 
life, and, according to the suggestion of some scholars, 
even took the vow of celibacy. Of these the Rabbis did 
not approve, and stigmatised them as the " destroyers of 
the world." Perhaps it was just at this period that Juda- 
ism could not afford to give free play to those morbid 
feelings, degenerating into religious hysterics, which led 
some to join rival sects, and others to abandon themselves 
to the gross immorality we read of in the history of 
the Gnostics. 

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


died, and she then married a cruel usurer, and kept his 
accounts for him. 

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

One privilege was left to women — that of weeping. 
In Judges xi. 40, we read of the daughters of Israel that 
went yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah ; while in 
2 Chronicles xxxv. 25, we are told how "all the singing 
men and the singing women spake of Josiah in their 
lamentations." Of this privilege they were not deprived, 
and if they were not allowed to sing any longer, they at 
least retained the right to weep as much as they pleased. 
Even in later times they held a public office as mourning 



women at funerals. In the Talmud fragments of composi- 
tions by women for such occasions are to be found. In- 
deed, woman became in these times the type of grief and 
sorrow. She cannot reason, but she feels much more 
deeply than man. Here is one instance from an old 
legend : Jeremiah said, " When I went up to Jerusalem 
(after the destruction of the Temple) I lifted my eyes and 
saw there a lonely woman sitting on the top of the moun- 
tain, her dress black, her hair dishevelled, crying, * Who 
will comfort me.^' I approached her and spake to her, 
* If thou art a woman, speak to me. If thou art a ghost, 
begone.' She answered, * Dost thou not know me .? . . . 
I am the Mother, Zion.* " 

In general, however, the principle applied to women 
was : The king's daughter within the palace is all glorious 
(Psalm xlv. 14), but not outside of it. In the face of the 
" Femina in ecclesia taceat," which was the ruling maxim 
with other religions, Jewish women could only feel flat- 
tered by this polite treatment by the Rabbis, though it 
meant the same thing. We must not think, however, 
that this prevented them from attending the service of the 
synagogue. According to the Tractate Sopherim^ even 
" the little daughters of Israel were accustomed to go to 
the synagogue." In the same tractate we find it laid 
down as " a duty to translate for them the portion (of the 
Law) of the week, and the lesson from the prophets " into 
the language they understand. The " King's daughter ** 
occasionally asserted her rights without undue reliance on 
the opinion of the authorities. And thus being ignorant 
of the Hebrew language women prayed in the vernacular, 
though this was at least against the letter of the law. 
And many famous Rabbis of the twelfth and thirteenth 


centuries express their wonder that the " custom of 
women praying in other (non- Hebrew) languages ex- 
tended over the whole world." It is noteworthy that 
they did not suppress the practice, but on the contrary, 
they endeavoured to give to the Law such an interpretation 
as would bring it into accord with the general custom. 
Some even recommended it, as, for example, the author 
of The Book of the PiouSy who gives advice to women to 
learn the prayers in the language familiar to them. 

At about the same period a lengthy controversy was 
being waged by the commentators of the Talmud and the 
codifiers, about woman's partaking in the fulfilment of the 
laws for special seasons, from which, as already remarked, 
they were exempted. To the action itself there could not 
be much objection, but the difficulty arose when women 
also insisted on uttering the blessing. Now the point at 
issue was whether they could be permitted to say, for 
instance, " Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, etc., who 
hast sanctified us by Thy Commandments, and hast com- 
manded us, concerning the taking of the Palm branch," 
since in reality the women had not been commanded to do 
it. To such logical and systematic minds as Maimonides 
and R. Joseph Caro, the difficulty was insurmountable, 
and they forbade women to use the formula; but with 
the less consistent majority women carried their point. 
Rather interesting is the answer received by R. Jacob, of 
Corbeil, with regard to this question. This Rabbi is said 
to have enjoyed the mysterious power which enabled him 
to appeal in cases of doubt to the celestial authorities. 
Before them he put also this women's case for decision. 
Judgment was communicated to him in the verse from the 
Scriptures, ** In all that Sarah saith unto Thee, hearken 


unto her voice" (Gen. xxi. 12). Nor was it unknown for 
a pious Jew to compose a special hymn for his wife's use 
in honour of the Sabbath. 

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

It is also worth noticing that the manuals on the 
" Three Women's Commandments " (mostly composed in 
German, sometimes also in rhymes), contained much more 
than their titles would suggest. They rather served as 
headings to groups of laws, arranged under each com- 
mandment. Thus the first (about certain laws in Lev. xii. 
and XV.) becomes the motto for purity in body and soul ; 
the second (the consecration of the first cake of the 
dough) includes all matters relating to charity, in which 
women were even reminded to encourage their newly 
married husbands not to withhold from the poor the 


tithes of the bridal dowry, as well as of their future yearly 
income ; whilst the third (the lighting of the Sabbath 
lamp) becomes the symbol for spiritual light and sweet- 
ness in every relation of human life. 

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

An earlier translator of the prayer-book addresses him- 
self directly to the " pious women " whom he invites to buy 
his book, " in which they will see very beautiful things." 
Recent centuries seem, on the whole, to have been dis- 



tinguished for the number of praying-women they pro- 
duced. The virtues which constituted the claim of women 
to religious distinction were modesty, charity, and daily at- 
tendance at the synagogue morning and evening. In the 
memorial books of the time hundreds of such women are 
noticed. Some used also to spin the " Fringes," which 
they presented to their friends ; others fasted frequently, 
whilst "Old Mrs. Hechele " not only attended the syna- 
gogue every day, and did charity to poor and rich, but also 
understood the art of midwifery, which she practised in the 
community without accepting payment for her services. 
According to R. Ch. J. Bachrach women used also to say 
the ** Magnified" prayer in the synagogue when their 
parents left no male posterity. 

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



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

Still, if there is anything eternal in the " eternal city," 
which was neither reconstructed by the Caesars, nor im- 
proved upon by the Popes, it is the little Jewish commu- 
nity at Rome. It has survived the former ; it has suffered 
for many centuries under the latter, and, partaking in the 
general revival which has come upon the Italian nation, 
it may still be destined for a great future. Indeed, the 
history of the relation of Israel to Rome is so old that it is 
not lacking even in legendary elements. On the day on 
which King Solomon married the daughter of Pharaoh, 
the Rabbis narrate, there came down the angel Gabriel. 
He put a reed into the sea, which, by means of the slime 
that adhered to it, formed itself, in the course of time, 
into a large island, on which the city of Rome was built — 
an event with which the troubles of Israel began. These 



were the evil consequences of the first misalliance. Even 
more unfortunate for Israel (and it is not impossible that 
this is the meaning of the legend) were the results of that 
spiritual mixed marriage between Judaism and paganism 
which took place at a much later period, whereat a blunt 
soldier, who sympathised with neither, and " who dealt in 
salvation as he dealt in provinces," acted as best man. 
As a fact, the parties concerned never understood each 
other properly. The declaration of love, and the final 
proposal, were made in an Alexandrine jargon, strange to 
both, the obscurities of which only grew with the com- 
mentaries each successive generation added to them. 
Under such circumstances, a happy union was not to be 
expected, and the family quarrel which fills the annals of 
civilised Europe soon broke out. Judaism, more particu- 
larly Roman Judaism, witnessed this struggle from the 
beginning, and its fortunes were greatly dependent on 
the chance which of these two elements, the Jewish or the 
pagan, won the ascendency. 

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

Now I do not think for a moment that we Jews should 
have a point of view of our own for looking at things and 
men in this paradise of Europe. It would be as silly to 


have a Jewish Baedeker as to thmk of orthodox mathe- 
matics or an ecclesiastical logic or a racial morality — 
though unfortunately there exist such things. But on the 
other hand, if we have not, like the fox in the fable, left 
our heart at home, let us not do violence to our feelings by 
passing over everything Jewish, over sights which might 
remind us of our history, with a certain indifference which 
would be affected on our part. We are not all little 
Goethes, nor even little Ruskins, and our artistic enjoy- 
ment is hardly so intense as to shut our hearts against 
impressions which force themselves upon us either by 
the way of remembrance of the past, or even as a living 
contrast in the present. 

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

One should be, like the angel of death in the legend, 
full of eyes, properly to see all the wonders of art and 
marvels of architecture at which human genius and piety 
laboured busily through centuries, in adorning the grand- 
est of sacred buildings in the world. But there is Bae- 
deker or Murray serving at least as a pair of good specta- 
cles to the layman, and it was by their aid that I made my 
round in St. Peter. But lo, whilst you are observing the 
celebrated Piet^ by Michael Angelo, and, according to 
the instruction of your guides, admiring both the grief 
of the Mother and the death of the Son, you notice in its 
vicinity a little column, surrounded by rails to which the 
pilgrims approach with a certain awe ; f or " Tradition 
affirms it to have been brought from Jerusalem." Natu- 
rally, one is instantly reminded of the report, given by the 


famous traveller of Tudela, of the curiosities of Rome, 
which among other things records, "That there are also 
to be seen in St. Giovanni in Porta Latina (probably 
meant for Lateran) the two brazen pillars, constructed 
by King Solomon of blessed memory, whose name, 
Solomon, the son of David, is engraved upon each ; of 
which he was also told that every year about the 9th 
of Ab (the anniversary of the destruction of Jerusalem), 
these pillars sweat so much that water runs down from 
them," So far Benjamin of Tudela in the twelfth cen- 
tury. In our days pillars weep no longer, and even of 
men it is considered a special sign of good breeding to 
behave pillar-like; but a sigh is still permissible at the 
sight of this temple-column, which in its captivity sym- 
bolises, not less than the Piet^, the grief of a whole 
people. Of course, not possessing on the spot either 
the Itinerary or even Urlick, one is unable to establish 
the connection between these two traditions and their 
claim to authenticity. Perhaps one may even comfort 
oneself on the same ground on which the famous cur6 
tried to appease his flock who were sobbing bitterly at 
his telling them the Passion story. He exclaimed : " My 
children, do not weep so much; it happened long ago, 
and even perhaps is not quite true.'* 

However, the Vatican is the last place in the world to 
exercise your critical faculties ; you are so deeply absorbed 
in seeing, that you have no time to think. So on I went, 
from aisle to aisle, from niche to niche, from chapel to 
chapel, looking, staring, and admiring, till of a sudden my 
eyes were struck by a large statue, on which the words, 
" Thou shalt have no other God before me," are engraved. 
There I stood before a question of exegesis, where one is 


permitted to use his right senses without any regard to 
the aesthetic side. Yet not all the manifold expositions 
of the Decalogue, nor all the talk about the subjective- 
objective, the absolute and the real, with which metaphy- 
sicians have tried to confuse the notion of the Unity of 
God, will reconcile one to the meaning which Mediaeval 
Art has impressed upon the Ten Commandments. The 
truth has to be sought elsewhere, and thus my thoughts 
were turned to the synagogue, and thither I went. 

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

But, by the way, are our own times much better } As 
I write these lines (October 1893) I hear that a Bill has 
been brought into the German Diet, asking that the Tal- 
mud should be submitted to a Commission (which en pas- 
santt has been sitting in unbroken session in that country 
since the days of Pfefferkorn in the fifteenth century) 
with the purpose of examining its contents, while in the 
Vatican the very pupils of Loyola are offering every con- 


venience and comfort to the student who should care to 
devote his time to Rabbinic literature. Does not the work 
of a great number of our poets, historians, theologians, 
and so-called seers in this blessed century of ours, in many 
respects prove but a strained effort to destroy the few 
humanitarian principles which were established a few 
generations ago, as well as to deify every brutal warrior 
who was successful in his day? Again, is the national 
idea so much sublimer, so much grander, than that of a 
universal religion, that we would willingly permit the 
former to employ the means which have been denied to 
the latter as inhuman and barbarous ? Every age has its 
own idolatry, and the eternal wandering Jew will always 
be the chosen victim of the Moloch in fashion. 

Let us, however, return to the synagogue, which with- 
stood many a cruelty, both ancient and modern. The 
place where the synagogue stands is near the Ghetto, 
now called Piazza di Scuola. It is, besides a few other 
communal houses, the only building left there, — all those 
narrow, dirty, and typhoid-breeding streets which formed 
the old Ghetto having been demolished by a sage and 
humane government, which by this action wiped out the 
last stain from its history. There, on this vast blank is 
the synagogue, a comparatively small, insignificant build- 
ing, laden with heavy age and looking down on her 
children whom she has been nursing, consoling, and pro- 
tecting for centuries, but who, now grown old, have for- 
saken her and scattered to all the ends of the city. Of 
all her former acquaintances there appears to be left 
only father Tiber, who would seem to be murmuring to 
her many an old tale of the times before she was called 
into existence. And if he listened to the special prayers 


recited within her walls by the deputies of the Jewish 
communities, when preparing themselves to go to the 
court of the Pope, the Tiber heard many a sigh and 
cry, wrung out from the heart of a Jewish captive who, 
preferring death to slavery even under the masters of 
the world, found his last repose in its waters. But insig- 
nificant as this synagogue appears, she proved the spirit- 
ual bulwark against all the attacks of the time, and you 
admire her brave resistance all the more when you look 
at that multitude of churches and cloisters in the closest 
vicinity of the Ghetto, impressing you as so many in- 
trenchments, all directing their missiles and weapons 
against this humble, defenceless building, threatening it 
with death and destruction. One of these churches, 
probably founded by some Jewish convert, who gained 
in it both salvation and a good living, bears on its gates 
in Hebrew letters the inscription : " I have spread out 
my hands all the day unto a rebellious people, which 
walketh in the way that was not good, after their own 
thoughts. A people that provoketh me to anger con- 
tinually to my face" (Isaiah Ixv. 2, 3). Menace is fol- 
lowed by persuasion, the cited verses being accompanied 
by the Latin words : " Indulgentia plenaria quotodiana 
perpetua pro vivis et defunctis." Theologians who like 
to quarrel most about things they can know least, have 
for ages discussed the question, whether prayers for the 
dead are of any use; here the matter is decided by a 
simple advertisement. It is not to be denied that one 
would enjoy the fortunes accumulated by one's late sin- 
ner of an uncle all the better for being sure that a few 
pennyworths of prayer enable the legatee to make one's 
benefactor in Hades comfortable and happy. 


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

I ought to have spoken of Roman synagogues, since 
the building in the Ghetto to which I have been constantly 
alluding comprises four prayer-houses devoted to Spanish 
and Italian rites. It says much for Roman Judaism, that 
they did not consider ritual differences of such importance 
as to prevent them from forming one community for all 
charitable and congregational purposes. In Verona and 
in Modena some congregations even retained the German 
rite, which their ancestors who immigrated from the Rhine 
provinces brought with them, whilst they accepted the 
Spanish pronunciation. I wish that the Anglo-Jewish 
community could see their way to imitate their example. 
Not that I think for a moment that the Spanish pronun- 
ciation is more correct than the German. Each system 
has its own mistakes and corruptions; and it is more 
than probable that the prophet Isaiah, or even the author 
of Ecclesiastes, would be as little able to follow the 
prayers in Bevis Marks as in Duke's Place. But since 
the non- Jewish scientific world has, though only by pure 


accident, accepted the Spanish way of reading the Hebrew, 
I should hke to see this trifling difference of ^^ruch over 
^«ruch at last disappear, by pronouncing the camets-vowel 
a instead of o, and accepting similar little changes, which 
are of no real importance to us. 

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


It is not uninteresting to notice that the Roman syna- 
gogue, in spite of its old traditions, did not entirely shut 
itself against modern reforms. Among them there is that 
of " calling up the people to the Torah " by the simple for- 
mula, "Let the Priest" (or "the Levite") "step forth," 2 
and so on, not mentioning either names or titles, which I 
should like to recommend most strongly to our congrega- 
tions. I hope that no man will suspect me of such heresy 
as that of questioning the wisdom of the Synagogue Reg- 
ulations. But I am inclined to think that the business of 
conferring the degrees of Rabbi^ "Associate" or " Master," 
does not exactly fall within the sphere of activity of the 
Wardens. The matter could only be decided by a proper 
Board of examination. As the Council is not provided 
with such a Board, nor is every aspirant to this honour 
prepared to undergo the examination required, the wisest 
course would be to give up titles altogether, calling up all 
people alike in the way indicated. 

The robes the ministers wear (somewhat similar to those 
of the Greek clergy), are probably also an innovation of 
modern date, — the old orthodox Rabbis looking at any 
special vestment for the Preacher or Reader with the same 
feeling of disgust which the old Puritans entertained for 
surplice or mitre. But the principle of " The Beauty of 
Holiness" proved too strong for resistance, and it was 
only a pardonable vanity when the reformers applied it 
to their own persons ; " Vanity of vanities," saith the 
preacher, so often, that he gets rather to like it. This 
vanity is greatly redeemed by the fact that the preacher 
does not grudge his uniform to his humbler brother, the 
beadle, who is in most cases to be distinguished from the 
officiating ministry only by the brass-plate on his breast, 


on which the word *' Servant " is engraved. Considering 
the great confusion arising from the meaningless " Rever- 
end " and the universal white neck-tie, such a label, indi- 
cating the proper office of the bearer, might, perhaps, 
prove as useful among the English Jews as it is among 
the Jews of Rome. 

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

The feelings crowding upon one, when entering that 
part of the ancient city which probably was in the mind 
of the Rabbis when they spoka of "Guilty Rome," are 


of a conflicting nature. Every stone and every brick 
there saw the humiliation of Israel, in every theatre and 
every circus the Jew served as a comic figure, and was 
held up to ridicule, whilst there was, perhaps, hardly a 
single lane or gate through which those who resented 
the yoke of the ** anti-Semites of Antiquity " did not pass, 
in order to "be butchered to make a Roman holiday." 
What concerns a Jew most in this perished world of 
ruins, and at the same time causes him the deepest grief, 
is the triumphal arch of Titus, "commemorating the de- 
feat of the Jews, and dedicated to him by his successor, 
Domitian." Enough has been said and written about it 
both by antiquarians and theologians, the former admir- 
ing the workmanship of the reliefs, the latter perceiving 
in it a proof of the fulfilment of the well-known passages 
in the New Testament about the destruction of the Tem- 
ple, which came to pass in spite of the efforts made by 
Titus to save it. Those who have read Bernay's essay on 
the " Chronik des Sulpicius Severus " know that the be- 
haviour of "the delight of the human species " on that 
occasion is rather open to doubt, and it is more probable 
that, instead of trying to rescue it, he commanded that 
it should be set on fire. Josephus, who witnessed the 
shame of his compatriots and co-religionists, has left us 
a full account of the triumphal procession. Only a 
flunkey like Josephus could maintain that calm indiffer- 
ence with which he describes the events of the "bitter 
day," the perusal of which makes one's blood boil. His 
description fairly agrees with the famous relief on the 
arch, showing that part of the procession in which the 
table with the shewbread, the candlestick with the seven 
lamps, and the golden trumpets figure as the chief ob- 


jects. The only thing which we miss is the " Law of 
the Jews," which, according to Josephus, was carried in 
the triumph as "the last of all the spoils." Was it only 
an oversight of the artist, or had he no place for it, or is 
it Josephus who committed the error, mistaking some 
other object for the Scroll of the Law? I dearly hope 
that this last was the case, and that Heine was under the 
impulse of a true and real and poetic inspiration when he 
wrote (speaking of the Holy Scripture to which he owed 
his conversion): "The Jews, who appreciate the value 
of precious things, knew right well what they did when, 
at the burning of the second temple they left to their fate 
the golden and silver implements of sacrifice, the candle- 
sticks and lamps, even the breastplate of the High Priest 
adorned with great jewels, but saved the Bible. This 
was the real treasure of the temple, and, thanks be to 
God ! it was not left a prey to the flames, nor to the fury 
of Titus Vespasian, the wretch, who, as the Rabbi tells us, 
met with so dreadful a death." 

However, there were others who brought the glad tid- 
ings of the Old Testament to Rome long before there 
existed a New one. And this is, on the other side, what 
makes Rome a sort of Terra Sancta even to the Jew. It 
is true that we have not to look for the footprints of the 
prophets, for whom even tradition never claimed " the gift 
of missionary-travelling." But might not the ground there 
have received a sort of consecration by the fact that it was 
traversed by the ambassadors of Judas Maccabaeus (about 
i6i B.C.) " to make a league of amity and confederacy " 
with the Roman Senate } Of the embassy of Simon the 
Maccabee (about 140 b.c.) there is actual historical evi- 
dence that they began to propagate in Rome the Jewish 


religion. Some seventy or eighty years later the Jews 
had already their own quarter in Rome, with their own 
synagogues, which they were in the habit of visiting, 
" most especially on the sacred Sabbath days, when they 
publicly cultivate their national philosophy." That many 
of the oldest teachers of Israel, the Tannaim, went to 
Rome as deputies, and that one of them (R. Mathia ben 
Chares) founded a school there early in the second cen- 
tury, is also an authenticated fact. One would like to 
know what they taught, and in what way they expounded 
their national philosophy. Most of all one would like to 
know what were the spiritual means they employed in 
their proselytising work, in which they were, according to 
the testimony of history, so successful. Did they preach 
in the streets } Or did they hold public controversies } 
Or did they even send out Epistles which, in form at least, 
served as a model to apostles of another creed } How 
many a problem would be solved ; how many a miracle 
would disappear ; how many a book would become super- 
fluous, if we could obtain certainty about these points ! 
The Talmud tells us little, almost nothing, about these 
important things, whilst we get from the Roman writers 
only sneers and raillery. To these respectable Romans 
the Jews were only a mob of unlettered atheists. Indeed, 
to a good orthodox heathen, a religion without images and 
statues, with a God without a pedigree and without a 
theogony, was an impossible thing. Those poor meta- 
physicians ! 

However, why dwell so long on a past world.? A 
famous Rabbi once exclaimed : " If a man would ask thee, 
' Where is thy God } ' answer him : * In the great city of 
Rome.' " The underlying idea was the mystical notion 


that wherever Israel had to migrate, they were accom- 
panied by the Divine presence. And Rome was, in the 
times of the Rabbis, the point to which the streams of 
Jewish migration from the Holy Land chiefly converged. 
But now, instead of to Rome, might we not point to Lon- 
don and New York as centres of Jewish migrations ? 



I. Subjoined is a List of selected Authorities on the Sub- 
ject OF the Chassidim. — Historical and Bibliographical Works: 
Graetz (xi. including the polemical literature quoted in the Appendix), 
Jost, Peter Beer, M. Bodek (cnnn nnnn mo, Lemberg, 1865), A. Wal- 
den (irnnn o^Snjn db', Warschau, 1864), Finn (hjdxj nnp, Wilna, i860), 
D. Kahana (Saw pN in the periodical -intyn, iv.), Zederbaum {r\v\r\':i nno, 
Odessa, 1868). Essays and Satires: T. Erter (ncixn, Wien, 1858), 
S. Szantd {Jahrbuch fur Israeliten, p. 108-178, 1867), A. Gottlober 
(in his periodical nis np)3n, iii.), L. Low (Ben Chananjah, ii.), Ruder- 
mann (intyn, vi.), Rapoport (min> nSm, Lemberg, 1873, P- 'o)j Frohlich 
(^mD^, Warschau, 1876, p. 63 seq.), S. Maimon {Autobiographies 
Berlin, 1792). Compare also the Hebrew novels by P. Smolensky, 
L. Gordon, M. Brandstatter, A. Gottlober and B. Horowitz (German). 
Occasional references to the liturgy or the system of the Chassidim in 
the "Responses" of R. Ezechiel Landau, Moses Sopher, E. Flekeles 
and T. Steinhart, and in the works of Israel Samostsch, Salomon 
Chelma and Chayim Walosin. Compare also Zunz {Goitesdienstliche 
Vortrdge, p. 477) and L. Low {Mannheimer Alburn^ Wien, 1874), 
Senior Sachs (n>nnn, i. 61) and B. L. Zeitlin (ncp nvn, Paris, 1846). 
The best book on the whole subject is E. Zweifel's work Sx-itr^ Sy diSb» 
(Zitomyr 1868, three parts), which I strongly recommend to students. 
The books written by the Chassidim would amount to more than 200. 
They are catalogued by Bodek and Walden. I shall only draw the 
attention of the student to the works of Beer, Salomon Ladier, and 
Mendel Witipsker on one side, who developed the theory of the 
Immanence, and those of Nachman Braslaw and Melech Liezensker, 
who, on the other hand, carried the theory of Zaddikism to its utmost 
consequences. The student will find a fair collection of sayings and 
sentences arranged according to theological subjects in the books t^t 
on^Dn and o^Don \yih (Anon., Lemberg, 1876). 



2. D>TiDn, "pious ones" (Ps. xxxvii. 28, Ixx. 2, etc.). The reader 
is probably acquainted with the term from the Maccabean history 
(i Mace. ii. 42, vii. 13), in which the strict party, opposed to all 
Hellenistic influence, are called "Assideans" [R.V. " Hasidaeans "], 
Gr. 'AcnSaioi. 

3. DB' Sp3, "The Master of the Name," a term usually applied to 
exorcists, who cast out devils and performed other miracles through 
adjuration by the name of God (or angels). The unbelieving Rabbis 
maintained indeed that in his exorcisms Baalshem employed " impure 
names" (of devils), whilst the Chassidim, on the other hand, declared 
that their Master never used " names " at all, his miracles being per- 
formed by the divine in Baalshem to which all nature owes obedience. 
Occasionally the Chassidim call him 3^t3 at:' S^i (The Man of Good 
Name), in allusion to Eccles. vii. i, shortened by some into Besht. 

4. ^)hr^'or\ no — " House of Research " or of " study " (of the Law), 
but in which also divine service is held thrice a day. 

5. ODH n^oSn — "Disciple of the Wise," the usual title of a scholar 
or student. 

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

7. The works of Maimonides or Moses b. Maimon (i 135-1204) are 
too many to be enumerated here. The most important are the Guide 
of the Perplexed (0012 j n-^m) and his Compendium of the Law (nj^'D 
mm). Judah Hallevi or Abul Hassan flourished in the first half of the 
twelfth century. He is well known as a poet by his Divan and as a 



deep religious thinker by his Cusari. The former contains also many 
songs of a secular nature. Isaac Alfasi (died 1103) is best known by 
his Compendium of the Talmud, which was so greatly admired by his 
contemporaries that they declared it could never have been composed 
"without the aid of the Holy Spirit." R. Solomon b. Isaac, also 
called by his initials Rashi (1040-1105), is well known by his com- 
mentaries on the Bible and the Talmud. 

8. Iran, on. 

9. ncD, Sepher. 

10. The Hebrew word is V^oSb, meaning subtle discussion and sharp 
distinction. The word is closely related to hrhii or vh^'-m^ which means 
" pepper " or " seasoning." 

11. ts^^ onnn = R. Meir Shiff, whose novellcB on the Talmud are of a 
very subtle kind, and were very popular with the students of this work. 

12. o^NniDK — o>N3n, " The Repeaters," and " The Interpreters." The 
sayings and statements of the former are embodied in the Mishnah, a 
work compiled by R. Judah the Saint about 220 A.c, and covering a 
period of about 250 years (30 B.C.-220 A.c). The latter occupied 
themselves mainly with the interpretation of the Mishnah, and their 
discussions and controversies are incorporated in the Talmud of Jeru- 
salem and that of Babylon, and extend over the period from 220-500 
A.c. The Talmud of Jerusalem is mostly the product of the schools 
of Palestine. The Talmud of Babylon is a growth of that country. 
The authorities of this latter Talmud being far away from the place 
where the first great Rabbis lived and laboured, their traditions are 
naturally not so historically reliable as those of the Talmud of Jerusa- 
lem. The authorities of Palestine were also simpler in their method 
of interpretation. These again are followed by the Babylonian schools 
of new interpreters (of the Talmud) . 

13. r«nin> pitf, an expression that goes back as far as to the Zohar. 

14. -inv, "Brightness." Cf. Dan. xii. 3, — the authors of "The 
Brightness" pretending to be the Maskilim or "Wise Ones" men* 
tioned in this verse. 

15. mW. 

16. rwxiiV. 

17. nnn'ynn. 

18. pinx, pi. o^pnx. 



1. R. Johanan b. Zaccai was a contemporary of the Apostles, and 
died about no a.d. He belonged to the peace party in opposition to 
the Zealots, and obtained permission from the Roman government to 
establish the school of Jamnia, which, after the destruction of the 
Temple, became the centre of Jewish religious life. See also p. 

2. R. Saadiah Gaon was born in Egypt in 892, and died as the 
head of the school of Sura in Babylon in 942. He is known by his 
translations of and commentaries on the Bible, and many other works, 
especially his philosophical treatise Creeds and Opinions. He was 
also a great controversialist. Most of his polemical writings are di- 
rected against the Caraites (o^Nnp) or " Scripturalists," a Jewish sect 
founded by Anan in the eighth century. They protested against the 
Oral Law, and denied Tradition. On the title " Gaon," see note i to 
Elijah Wilna. 

3. D^anj n-MD, Moreh Nebuchim^ generally considered to be the 
greatest philosophical work by any Jewish thinker. 

4. R. Abraham Ibn Ezra, who spent some time in London, died 
about 1 161. He is best known by his commentaries on the Bible. He 
was the first writer who doubted the unity of the book of Isaiah. 

5. nanToSn. 

6. onoDi D^DDH ns'ya n>i;, meaning " sages " and " scribes," but used 
by later writers in the sense given in the text. 

7. D"»-ii33, dealing with the laws relating to the firstfruits which were 
brought to the temple (Ex. xxiii. 19). The processions formed by the 
pilgrims are very vividly described after the said tractate by Delitzsch 
in his Iris^ p. 190 sq. (English ed.). See also by the same author, 
Judisches Handiverkerleben zur Zeit Jesu, p. 66 seq. 

8. r»jpn, "Fast," or nvjpn, « Fasts." 

9. ]''p'>u n"iD, " Order of Damages," treating of the civil law of the 
Jews, the procedure of courts of justice, and kindred subjects. This 
Order also includes the tractate nns, Aboth or "Sayings of the 
Fathers," which is very important for the study of Rabbinic doctrine 
and ethics. 



10. nnno ino, " Order of Purities," dealing with the laws regarding 
Lcvitical purity. 

11. N->oD (or D>jn3 mm), neD, NnS^ao. These three works form the 
oldest Rabbinic commentary on Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deu- 
teronomy. The authorities cited in these commentaries all belong to 
the period of the Tannaim. See above, note 12 to the Chassidim. 
Constituting as they do, to a certain extent, one of the sources used by 
the Gemara^ they are naturally indispensable for a scientific study of 
the Talmud. 

12. ni3«n, ^^ Hatsophe,^'' a spirited satire against the orthodox and 
especially against the then prevailing belief in the transmigration of 
souls taught by the mystical schools. The book is written in the 
purest biblical Hebrew. 

13. ]'Q^r\ >3iaj nnic. 

14. t5>-nc, pi. D^ifiiD {Midrashim), "Research," "Researches," a 
name usually applied to the homiletical part of the Rabbinic literature. 
The most important collection of this kind is the Midrash Rabbah to 
the Pentateuch. The usual way of quoting it is Genesis Rabbah^ Exo- 
dus Rabbahy and so on. 

15. See above, note 12 to the Chassidim. 

16. D>rD, " Heretics," applied to the first Christians, and more so to 
certain Gnostic sects. 

17. >rDD nu'DS noSn, see below, p. 186 and note. 

18. ry-Mry or mjN — 7\:hn, " rule," " method," — " narrative." The for- 
mer deals with the legal side of the Scriptures, and is thus more of a 
juristic nature; the latter represents a collection of homilies having 
mostly as their text the historical and exhortatory parts of the Bible, 
and is thus more of an edifying character. The theological side of 
Judaism, as well as its ideal aspirations and Messianic hopes, find their 
expression in the Agadah. The two words are also used as adjectives, 
as Halachic (legalistic, juristic, and obligatory) and Agadic (poetic, edi- 
fying, and hyperbolic) . 

19. i>Sd -|-iy, a sort of encyclopaedia to the Talmud, of which only 
the first letter appeared. 

20. Menahem Azariah de Rossi, an Italian Jew who flourished in 
the first half of the sixteenth century. His great work, D^rj; niND, Meor 
Enayintj " Light of the Eyes," is the first attempt made by a Jew to 


submit the statements of the Talmud to a critical examination, and to 
question the value of tradition in its historical records. 

21. nt^'?^< ""^"1 ''P"<o« 

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


1. pNj, "The Great One." The authorities of the Babylonian 
schools after the sixth century were also called the Gaonim (d>jikj), 
" [their] Eminences." The title was also given afterwards to great 
Rabbis distinguished for their learning. 

2. R. Joseph Caro (1488-1575) lived in Safed. The title of his 
code is in;? \rbv^ Prepared Table. This is a code of the Oral Law 
compiled from the Rabbinic literature. 

3. njDNj r\>'\p, containing an account of the Jewish worthies of that 

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

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

7. r\y^)ir\y treating of the voluntary offerings brought by the pilgrims 
to Jerusalem. 

8. N-\Dj, " Perfection or Supplementary Explanations." By this is 
understood the interpretation given to the Mishnah by the schools in 
Palestine and Babylon. See above, note 12 to the Chassidim. 

9. See Dean Church's St. Anselm, from which this story is taken. 

10. NncDm, "Addition" (to the Mishnah), but also containing only 
the sayings and discussions of the period of the Tannaim. 

1 1 . dSiv -no, " Order of the World," dealing with the Chronology of 
the Bible, and dating from about the end of the second century. 

12. These "Minor Tractates" include, among others, treatises on 
proselytes, on the laws concerning funerals, the writing of the Law, 

NOTES 347 

and the like. Others are more of an edifying nature, treating of good 
manners, conduct, etc. 

13. niSj nS^p. 

14. rssv^ njiDtt', "Eighteen." They are recited thrice a day, and 
form the original germ of the prayers, from which a very rich liturgy 
developed in the course of time. 

15. The titles of the old authorities from 70 B.C. to 500 a.c. See 
above, note 12 to the Chassidim. 

16. pn r^i 3N, N>B':, "Prince," or "Patriarch," religious head, of the 
Jews (not political), and "Father (or president) of the Court of 

17. mnjD, Din:3i, "Sacrifices," "Offerings." They treat of the laws 
relating to sacrifices and meal-offerings. 

18. d^nS^, the laws relating to diverse seeds and garments of diverse 
sorts. Cf. Deut. xxii. 9-1 1 . 

19. Tijc, " Teller," a sort of travelling preacher. 

20. aSiS, " palm branch." Cf. Lev. xxiii. 40. 

21. na^e'^, "High School," or "Academy," in which the Rabbinic 
literature is studied. 

22. cin y^ nj"''^''. 

23. p-'toacD, a mythical river which is supposed to stop its course on 

24. omna, sing, nina, " Young man," by which term the Jews usu- 
ally understand the alumni of their Talmudical schools. 

25. Levi b. Gershom (i 286-1344) is generally regarded as the 
greatest successor of Maimonides. Besides his rationalistic commen- 
taries on the Bible, he wrote various treatises on metaphysics, mathe- 
matics, astronomy, medicine, etc. 

26. dSi;; njina. 


I. In Steinschneider's Catalogue of the Bodleian Library^ under the 
name of Moses Nachmanides, pp. 1947-1965, all the works which are 
ascribed to this author are put together, and also discussed as to their 
authenticity. There are only to be added the new edition of the 
Derasha by Jellinek (Vienna, 1872), in which the variants from 
Schorr's MS. (v^Snn, viii. 162) are already incorporated; a new edi- 


tion of the ni3M, and the commentary to Is. lii.-liii. by Steinschneider 
(Berlin, i860) ; a Sermon for the New Year, ed. by H. Berliner {Liba- 
nofiy V. 564); and another Sermon at a wedding (?), ed. by Schorr 
{Hechaluzy xii. 3). For the literature on Nachmanides, besides the 
references given by Steinschneider, in his Catalogue^ and the Addenda, 
p. cxviii. (cf. also the pedigree in the Catalogue 2305), see also Graetz, 
Geschichte, vii., pp. 1 12-143, ^^^ P- ^47 ^^^-i Michael, o>^nn niN, 
No. 1 125, and Weiss, vvf•\r^^ in in, v. 4 seq.; Perles' Monatsschrift, 
i860, p. 175 ; Zomber, ibid. 421 ; and Z. Frankel, ibid. 1868, p. 449, 
and The Jewish Quarterly Review^ iv. 245 seq. For Nachmanides' 
disputation we have to add M. Loeb in the Rtvue des Etudes Juives, 
XV. I seq.f and xviii. 52 (about Abner), and Dr. Neubauer's Essay on 
Jewish Controversy in the Expositor, vol. vii. (third series), p. 98 seq., 
with the references given there. See also his article on the Bahir and 
the Zohar in The Jewish Quarterly Review, iv. 357. With regard to 
Nachmanides' mystical system see the references to S. Sachs (whose 
remarks are most suggestive), Krochmal, and Jellinek in Steinschnei- 
der, col. 1949 and 1964, Perles' Monatsschrift, 1858, p. 83 seq., and 
Steinschneider in the Heb. Bibliographie, i. 34. See also Professor 
Kaufmann's Die Geschichte der Attributenlehre, and the references 
given in the index under this name. The Novellce by his son R. 
Nachman, alluded to in the text, are in the University Library, Cam- 
bridge (Add. 1187, 2). The rhy^'^rs yp is extant in the British Museum, 
MS. Add. 26,894, and the passage quoted by De Rossi is to be found 
on p. 163^, but a few words are erased by the censor. As to the poem 
given at the end of this paper, see Zunz, Synagogale Poesie, p. 478 ; 
Landshut, Amude ha-Abodah s.v., the references in Sachs' Religiose 
Poesie der Juden, and Luzzatto in the Ozar Nechmad, ii. 27. Compare 
also Professor Cheyne's The Origin of the Psalter, p. 421. 

2. New Year's Day, on the first of Tishri. It is in autumn. 

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

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

5. The main objections of the opponents of Maimonides were di- 
rected against his rationalistic notions of Revelation, and his allegoris- 

NOTES 349 

ing interpretation of the Scriptures, which amounted in some places to 
a denial of miracles. He was also suspected of having denied bodily 
resurrection. A history of Jewish rationalism is still a desideratum. 
I am certain that it would prove at least as interesting as Reuter's 
Geschichte der religi'dsen Aufkl'drung im Mittelalter (Berlin, 1845-60). 

6. HB'D 1J>31. 

7. nnjN, " Homilies." See above, p. 64 and note. 

8. nSiNjn f p, " The end of the Redemption," that is the time when 
the advent of the Messiah is to be expected. 

9. This patriarch is famous in Jewish legend for his hospitality. 
See Beer's Leben Abrahams^ pp. 37 and 56. 

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

11. By Zobah, or Aram Zobah^ the Jews of the Middle Ages usually 
understood Aleppo. See Benjamin of Tudela's Itinerary, i. 88, ii. 124 
(London and Berlin, 1840-41). 

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

13. TshrM nwSn, a compendium of the Law, dating from the ninth 
century, by R. Simon Caro. 

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

15. ViDjn -ii;iy, " Treatise on Reward (and Punishment).'* 

16. Nan oSp. 

17. Ps. cix. 4 ; nSfln uxi. 

18. ni'y^xN. 

19. n>n 8»fij. 

20. n;;>n^, " Knowledge," " Foreknowledge," " Omniscience.** 

21. "1133, nr3J8>. 

22. nSwD. See Exod. xix. 5 

23. o>pn. 

24. 3ip, p-ip. 

25. According to a Jewish tradition (the date of which is uncertain) 
the advent of the Messiah, the Son of David, will be preceded by that 
of the Messiah, the Son of Joseph. The latter will perish in the battle 


against Gog and Magog (the Antichrist of Jewish literature), but will 
soon be brought back to life on the appearance of the former. Cf. G. 
H. Dalman's Der leidende und der sterbende Messias der Synagoge 
(Berlin, 1881). 

26. n^ifNna, " In the beginning," Gen. i. i. 

27. pnd; Job xxvii. 12. 

28. Chagigah 14^. The activity of these four Rabbis falls chiefly 
in the second century. R. Akiba died as a martyr in the Hadrianic 
persecution (about 130). Elisha b. Abuyah, the apostate, was usually 
called nnN, Acher, " the other one." 

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

30. Bachya wrote in the eleventh century a famous book called 
niaaSn main, The Duties of the Heart. For the others see above, p. 13 
and note, p. 49 and note, p. 102 and note, p. 97 and note, p. 71 and 
note. They all belong to the rationalistic school. 

31. A younger contemporary of Maimonides, who translated the 
Guide from Arabic into Hebrew. 

32. Spt^on nsD. See above, p. 18. R. Moses Cordovora, the author 
of the Dnnc, lived in Safed in the sixteenth century. For R. Isaac 
Loria, the author of the o-i^nn -^^^ see above, note 5 to Elijah Wilna. 

33. nniD iB'itt'. 

34. -yr^'irs nijD, a forgery by a Proven9al Jew of the thirteenth cen- 
tury, who attributed it to a Rabbi of the first century. 

35. This hymn is now incorporated in her excellent little book, 
Songs of Zion, pp. 13-15. 

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

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

38. towB, a smaller coin than the Zehub. 

39. j?DB', "Hear," the verses from Deut. vi. 4-9, xi. 13-21, and 
Num. XV. 37-41, recited twice a day by the Jews. 

NOTES 351 


1. Sabbath, 2,0b. 

2. jnjc, pi. D^jnjD {Minhagitn)^ applied usually to those ritual cus- 
toms and ceremonies for which there is no distinct authority in the 
Scriptures or even in the Talmud. 


1. Jerusalem^ in Mendelssohn's Sdmmtliche Werke (Vienna, 1838), 
especially from p. 264 onwards, and a letter by him published in 
Frankel-Graetz's Monatsschrift, 1859, P- '73- ^^r Mendelssohn's 
position, see Graetz's Geschichte^ xi. 86 seq.^ especially p. 88 and 
note I ; Kayserling, Leben und Werke of M., 2d ed., p. 394; Stein- 
heim, Moses Mendelssohn (Hamburg, 1840), p. 30 seq,] Holdheim, 
Moses Mendelssohn (Berlin, 1859), p. 18 seq. ; Leopold Low's pam- 
phlet, Jiidische Dognien (Pesth, 1871). 

2. See the Commentaries on Maimonides' mxnn nco, especially R. 
Simeon Duran's 'i>\>-\7\ nmt ; cf. also ancient and modern commentaries 
on Exod. XX. 2. 

3. See Siphra (ed. Weiss), pp. 86(5, 93^. 

4. Baba Bathra^ 14^; cf. Fiirst's Kanon, p. 15. 

5. See Sanhedrin, 38^, and Pseudo-Jonathan to Gen. iv. 8. 

6. Mechilta, 33^. 

7. Dnip^oN, Lat. Epicurus. 

8. See Mishnah, Sanhedrin, x. e, § i, and Talmud, ibid, cpa and b, 
and Rabbinowicz's Variae Lectiones, ix. p. 247 notes. Besides the 
ordinary commentaries on the Talmud, account must also be taken of 
the remarks of Crescas, Duran, Albo, and Abarbanel on the subject. 
Cf. also Kampf in the Monatsschrift (1863), p. 144 j<?^. ; Oppenheim, 
ibid. (1864), p. 144; Friedmann in the Beth Talmud^ i. p. 210 seq. 
See also Talmudical Dictionaries, s.v. onipiaN. The explanation I 
have adopted agrees partly with Friedmann's and partly with Oppen- 
heim's views. 

9. Sayings of the Fathers, iii. § 9, and iv. § 22. 
10. See in^Sx nmx (Jovslow, 1835), p. 48. In my exposition of the 
dogmas of the Caraites I have mainly followed the late Dr. Frankl's 


article "Karaiten" in Ersch u. Gruber's Encyclopadie (sec. ii. 
vol. xxxvi. pp. 1 2- 1 8). See also his Ein mutazilitischer Kalam 
and his Beitrage zur Literaturgeschichte der Karder (Berlin, 1887) 
on Bashazi. Cf. also Jost's Geschichte^ ii. c. 13. 

1 1 . Kairowan was one of the greatest centres of Jewish learning in 
North Africa during that period. 

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

13. HDn njiDN, Emunah Ramahy pp. 44 and 69; cf. Gulmann, 
Monatsschrifty 1878, p. 304. 

14. For the various translations of the Thirteen Articles which were 
originally composed in Arabic, see Steinschneider, Cat. Bodl. col. 1887. 
Cf. Rosin, Eihik des MaitnonideSy p. 30 ; Weiss, Beth Talmudy i. p. 330, 
and Ben Chananjahy 1863, p. 942, and 1864, pp. 648 and 697, and 
Landshut, n-na^Ji hid;;, p. 231. 

15. niNjp nnjD. See pp. 1-16. 

16. See Hammaskiry viii. pp. 63 and 103. 

17. See Steinschneider, Cat. MuncheUy No. 210. 

18. See the Collection o^nan nan, by Ashkenazi, pp. tfib seq. 

19. See Albo, c. iii. Probably identical with the author mentioned 
by Duran, i^b. 

20. pmj -icD, " Sepher Nizzachon." 

21. See 'n -iin (ed. Johannisburg), preface, and pp. 20a, 44^, 59^, 
and elsewhere. The style of this author is very obscure. Cf. JoePs 
pamphlet on this author (Breslau, 1874). 

22. See the first pages of the nnK pn (Leghorn, 1758), and his 
DDB'D anw, pp. i^seg. 

23. onpp, Ikkariffty " Fundamentals." 

24. See Ikkarinty i. c. 23, and Maimonides' Commentary on the 
Mishnah (end of tractate Maccoth). On Albo compare Schlesinger's 
Introduction and notes to the Ikkarim, JoePs pamphlet, p. 82 ; Paulus, 
Monatsschrifty 1874, p. 463, and BniU's Jahrb. iv. p. 52. 

35. I know his work £-om a MS. in the British Museum, Orient. 39. 



26. njiDN T(i, Derech Emunah. Cf. Steinschneider, Monatsschrift^ 
1883, p. 795^^. 

27. See pn3t> m>pj;, gate 55. 

28. See his njioNn niD> and nnnKn noNo. 

29. njDN cNn. 

30. See mn nj-'na, ed. Reggio, p. 28. 

31. See n^aitfl rw^Xi (Venice, 1707), i6a and 23a. His language is 
very vague. 

32. See the Collection by Ashkenazi (as above, note 18), p. 29^. 

33. See his ^^'\ a-iDtfa, p. 331. 

34. See Weiss's admirable monograph on Maimonides, published 
in the Beth Talmud^ i. 


1. The Hebrew title of the work is vB'nni nn nn. 

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

3. The ten Rabbis who are named as the bearers of tradition during 
the period between 170 and 30 B.C. The "pair" in each case is sup- 
posed to have consisted of the president and the vice-president of the 
Sanhedrin for the time being. See, however, Kuenen, Gesammelte 
Schriften^ p. 49 seq. 

4. DiVnj D>j8'm. 

5. >rDD rwdi niaSn. They amount, in the whole of Rabbinic litera- 
ture, to about forty, of which more than ten concern the preparation of 
the phylacteries, whilst others relate to the libations of water at the 
Feast of Tabernacles and similar subjects. 

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

7. S^p nj. 

8. rn n>3, lit. " Court of Justice," as above, note 16 to Elijah Wilna, 
but it means also a sort of permanent Synod, in which of course justice 
was also administered as a part of religion. 

9. ninp, "Evidences given by Witnesses." The tractate consists 



mostly of a number of laws attested by various Rabbis as having come 
down to them as old traditions. 

10. The family of Hillel, which was supposed to be descended from 
the house of David, supplied the Jews with patriarchs for many gen- 
erations. Gamaliel II. flourished about 120 a.c, whilst Simon b. 
Gamaliel's activity as Patriarch falls about 160 A.c. 

11. ninDB>, Semachoth. It is a euphemistic title, the tractate dealing 
with the laws relating to funeral ceremonies and mourning. 

12. >Nni3D, " Elucidators " or "Explainers." The heads of the 
schools in Babylon during the fifth and sixth centuries were so 

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

14. HDip nip>r, mS^^n, " Chambers (of Heaven) " and the " Measure 
of the Stature," mystical works in which occasionally gross anthropo- 
morphisms are to be found. Their authorship is unknown. 


1. Sabbath^ 55^7. 

2. Sayings of the Fathers (ed. C. Taylor), v. 12-15. See also 
Sabbath^ yiseq.^ and MechiUa (ed. Friedman), 95^. Arachin, i6a. 

3. See Mechi/ta, 25a, 32^. Gen. Kabbah^ ch. 48, and Tossephta 
Sotahf iv. 7, and parallels. 

4. Taaniih, 2\a. 

5. Sayings of the Fathers^ iv. 5. 

6. Baba Bathra, 9^. 

7. Yonta^ 39^z. 

NOTES 35^ 

8. Berachoth, 33^. 

9. Sabbath, 13^. 

10. Berachoth, ja. 

11. See J/^<:M/tf, 68/^, and parallels. Siphra^ 112b. PessiktaoiK. 
Kahana, 167^. Cp. Sanhedrin, 44a. 

12. Abot/i de R. Nathan, 40^, 59^, and 62^. 

13. ^aba Bathra, loa. 

14. Eccles. Kabbah, ix. 7. 

15. Sflt. 

16. 7^. 

17. See Mechiltaj 95^, and parallels. 

18. See Kiddushin, 40^. Mechiltay 63^. Zw. Rabbah, iv. 

19. See Sabbath, 54^. 

20. Exodus Rabbah, c. 35, and parallels. 

21. See iV<?^^/w, ii. I. 

22. £!r(?^. Rabbah, c. 46. 

23. Taanith, iia. 

24. See Berachoth, $a. 

2$. Tanchuma, Nsn >r, § 2. Cp. Mechilta, 72b. 

26. Sz'phri, 733, and parallels. 

27. Taanith, Za, 

28. Arachin, i6b. 

29. Sayings of the Fathers, iv. 15. 

30. See Chagigah, 5a. 

31. Sabbath, 55^. 

32. Menachothf 29/^. 

33. Taanith, 25^. 

34. Gen. Rabbah, xxv\\.\ Pessikta, 136^; Sanhedrin, \\. 5; 5^r<j- 
^^/?M, 7^. 

35. Sayings of the Fathers, i. 3, p. 27, ed. Taylor. See also note 8. 

36. Abodah Zarah, iga; Siphr^, 79^. 

37. Berachoth, 58^. 

38. See £";ir<7</. i?., 30, and parallels. 

39. See HDDn n^iyNi, i. 9. 

40. See D-ifiix oinD"^, 33^. 

41. See Sabbath, 55^, and Siphra, 27a. 



1. Judaism and Christianity y a Sketch of the Progress of Thought 
from Old Testament to New Testament ^ by C. H. Toy, Professor in 
Harvard University. London, 1890. 

2. See Pessikta of R. Kahana, 61^, and parallels, and Erubin, 

3. Tal. Jer., Sabbath^ 5*. 

4. jnBtOD, the name of an angel, already found in the Talmud, but 
playing a more important part in the Book of Chambers^ where he is 
identified with Enoch. The etymology of the word is doubtful, some 
authors considering it to be of Persian origin (^Mithra) ; others again 
deriving it from the Greek /Acra rvpawov, or ^cra Opovov. 

5. nn>£3D. 

6. NnD>D, "The Word," sometimes substituted for God. See J. 
Levy's Chalddisches Worterbuch, s.v. 

7. ino, |imp onN. 

8. Mechilta, 104^. 

9. See Tal. Jer., Yoma, 45^. Cf. Maimonides, Mishneh Torah^ 
f7\ 3"i) natf maVn, 

10. Tosephta Berachoth, iii. 7. 

11. Sabbathy 10b. The name of the Rabbi is not given, but the 
fact that R. Simeon b. Gamaliel (160 a.c.) already refers to this inter- 
pretation makes it clear that its anonymous author must have lived at 
least a generation before. 

12. tj'np Stt' DID. 

13. See Midrash to the Psalms xcii. and Deut, Rabbah iii. The 
Rabbis perceived in the words jjp T\-y<th T\\r\p\ (Isa. Iviii. 13), a command 
to make the Sabbath a day of pleasure, whilst the word ixon was under- 
stood by them to mean " needs," " wants," or " business " {not " pleas- 
ure"). Cf. Sabbathy 113a and b. 

14. See Gen. Rabbah, xi. (and parallels), and Sabbath, iiga. 

15. See Maaseh Torah (ed. Schonblum) and Deut. Rabbah, i. 

16. Sabbath, 2$b and 119^;. 

17. Betsah, 16a. Cf. Baer's notes in his Prayer-Book, p. 203 j^^. 

18. See Sabbath, iigb, and Gen. Rabbah, xi. 

NOTES 357 

19. See Sabbath, lob, and Gen. Rabbah^ ibid* 

20. \hQT\. 

21. Nazir^ 2^b, 


1. j?nr niK by R. Isaac b. Moses of Vienna (thirteenth century), 
mostly on legal subjects. 

2. ponr, Yuchasin. 

3. Sbo, Miklal. 

4. o^nt, nyic, the former treating of the agricultural laws of the 
Bible, the latter of those relating to the Sabbath, Passover, and other 

5. nvnc, " Cycle," containing the liturgy for the festivals. 

6. Since then edited by the Mekize Nirdamim. 

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


1. onno 7WV, u"v. 

2. Nn>na. 

3. riNu. 

4. \a\ph\ Yalkut. 

5. nnn. 

6. aw -nw. 

7. lyDM. 

8. nvnim, uidS\ 

9. NjD>nD N>pn. 

10. iSnn por, iSdS nji8>D, hjjpd i^jd, mm njB>D, ^'?Dn njw. 

11. Skc o"n. 

12. '?»■»«'> nS «n:> nn. 

13. nnan mm'? ^jts'. 7h"v, 



1. The main authorities on the subjects of this essay are Die 
Lebensalter^ by Dr. Leopold Low ; The Jewish Rite of Circumcisiofiy 
by Dr. Asher; an article by Dr. Perles in the Graetz Jubelschrifty 
p. 23 seq. ; Merkwurdigkeiten der Juden, by Schudt ; the d^j.-ijch ^•^^pla 
and other works on ritual customs ; Gudemann's Geschichte des Erzie- 
hungswesens und der Cultur der Juden ; and Das Kind in Branch 
und Sitte der Volker, by Dr. Ploss. 

2. '•noN, ncN. 

3. n'h'h, Is. xxxiv. 14. 

4. See above, note 39 to Nachmanides. 

5. rh^TQ nn3, "Covenant of Circumcision." This is the usual 
expression in Hebrew literature for the rite of circumcision. 

6. "\3T mSc. 

7. nm, VniD. 

8. pn fine. 

9. minn npn, on educational matters. 

10. minD, "business," or "wares." 

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

12. Bereshith Rabbahy chapter xx. For another reading see n>»'«n 
noan (ed. Cracow), p. 374. 

13. Abodah Zarah, 3^. 

14. This is the way in which "Deut. xxxi. 10-12 was explained. 

15. onoiD, "Scribes"; treating of the regulations concerning the 
writing of the Law, but containing also much liturgical matter. 

16. Dn-icD, by which name the Jews of the Spanish rite are desig- 

17. \v> PTO3, a controversial work published by Wagenseil. See 
above, p. 203, for another victory. 

18. poSnjD, who is probably known to the English reader from 
Longfellow's poem. 

19. nixD 13. 

20. cn^-?, " Sanctification " — " benediction " — on the eve of Sab- 
bath, which is pronounced over a cup of wine. 

21. mm nncc, on the 23rd of Tishri, when the last portion from the 
Pentateuch is read. 



22. SVn, "Praise," i.e. Ps. cxiii.-cxviii. 

23. ifi-ii?, the name of a prayer commencing rnpriM Snjn^, "Magnified 
and sanctified be," etc. 

24. Prayer beginning una, " Bless ye," etc. 

25. nDNtt' in3, beginning of a prayer, " Blessed be He," etc. 

26. See SchUrer's Die Gemeindeverfassung der Judtn in Rom, 
p. 24. Cf. Hebrdische Bibliographies xix. p. 79. 


1. nKjjjf. 

2. nunn. 



1. pa^ na;;D. 

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


This Index contains the most important names of persons, titles of books, 
technical terms and Hebrew words occurring in the text. In the notes to 
the text, commencing with p. 413, the Hebrew words are for the most pari 
given also in Hebrew characters. 

Abarbanel, Isaac, 173, 174 

Abaye, 311 

Ab Beth Din, 84, 347 

Abba Mari b. Moses, 165, 179 

Abba Tachnah, the Chassid, 221 

Abraham, Baalshem's father-in-law, 7 

Abraham, son of Elijah Wilna, 88 

Abraham of Bedres, 262 

Abraham Abulaphia, 262 

Abraham Ibn Daud, 162 

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

314, 344 
Abraham b. Shem — Tob Bibago, 1 72, 

Abtalyon, i86 
Abuha, 311 
Acha, 310 
Acher, 292, 350 
Adam, Primal, 239, 356 
Agadah, pi. Agadoth, 64, 105, 183, 

I97» 345 
Agadic, no, 156, 157, 193, 262, 279, 

Ages of Man, if^'i^ 
Akabyah b. Mahalaleel, 305 
Akiba, 70, 84, 130, 188, 190, 194, 220, 

227, 228, 234, 350 
Almemor, 302 
Ammi, 214, 217, 226, 231 
Amora, pi. Amoraim, 17, 84, 195, 343 
Amram Gaon, 293 

Anna of Kaidon, wife of Elijah Wilna, 

Anselm, St., of Canterbury, 79 
Antigonos of Socho, 229 
Anti-Maimonists, 133 
Aristotle, 79, 167 

Aryeh Leb, son of Elijah Wilna, 88 
Ascension of Elijah, 75, 346 
Asher b. Jechiel, 210 
Assideans, 64, 342 
Ayil Meshulash, 8 1 

Azariah de Rossi, 66, 71, 105, 333, 345 
Aziluth, 117, 349 
Azulai, 277 

BAALS HEM, Israel, 3-12, 14-35, 

73, 342 
Bachrach, Ch. J., 325 
Bachur, pi. Bachurim, 95, 97, 347 
Bachya, 131, 35^ 
Baraitha, 271, 357 
Baruch Sheamar, 31 1, 359 
Bashazi, 161 
Bath-Kol, 190, 353 
Beer of Mizriez, 11, 37 
Beer, Peter, 66 
Ben Azzai, 130, 216, 319 
Benjamin of Tudela, 329 
Ben- Jacob, 259 
Ben Sira, 297 
Ben Zoma, 130 




Bereshith, 127, 350 

Berith Milah, 288, 292, 293, 358 

Berliner, A., 327 

Bernays, Isaak, 337 

Beth Din, I9i-i93» 354 

Beth Hammidrashy 7, 16, 84, 1 39, 

Beth Talmud, 210 
Biccurim, 58, 344 
Bloch, Samson, 51 
Bodek, A., 51 

Book of Brightness (see Zohar) 
Book of the Fious, 295, 322 
Book of Victory, 167, 352 
Book of Weight, 133, 350 
Boswell, 142, 197 
Buckle, 96 
Burbot, 138, 350 
Buzagli, the Cabbalist, 310 

Cabbalah, Cabbalists, 99, 128, 129, 

133, 210, 283, 315 
Cabod, 120, 121 
Caraites, 48, 160, 161, 207, 208, 344, 

Casaubon, Isaac, 259 
Chagigah, *i'j, 346 
Chakhamim, 57, 344 
Chambers, the, 208, 355 
Chanina b. Dossa, 217 
Chanukah, 138 
Chapters of R. Eliezer the Great, 68, 

69» 316, 346 
Chasdai Ibn Crescas, 167-173, 180 
Chassidim, Chassid, Chassidic, Chas- 

sidism, 1-4, 11, 12, 14-16, 21, 22, 

25-27, 30, 33» 35-41, 43-45, 53, 

73, 90, 298, 341, 342 
Chayim Vital, 99 
Chayim Walosin, 85, 87, 94 
Chisda, 307 
Chukkim, 124, 349 
Code of the Law, by Caro, 75, 92, 206, 

Collectanea, 144 
Commentary on the Pentateuch, by 

Nachmanides, 107, 108, 123, 135 

Creeds and Opinions, by Saadiah Gaon, 

162, 344 
Crown, 239, 356 
Cusari, 162, 343 


David Rocca Martino, 230 
David Messer Leon, 174 
David b. Samuel d'Estella, 165, l66 
David b. Yom-Tob Bilia, 166 
Defence of Adam, 230 
Delmedigo, 71, 131, 175, 346 
Disputation, by Nachmanides, 103 
Dukes, L., 260 


Eleazar, 229 
Eleazar b. Jacob, 225 
Eliezer, father of Baalshem, 5 
Eliezer b. Hyrkanos, 189, 319 
Eliezer b. Samuel Hallevi, 145 
Eliezer b. Simeon, 223 
Elijah Levita, 268 

Elijah Wilna, 57, 73-77, 81-92, 96, 97, 
Elisha b. Abuyah, 33, 130, 292 
Emden, Jacob, 10, 259, 342 
Epikurus, 157, 351 
Erech Millin, 66, 345 
Erter, Isaac, 51, 59, 288 
Essenes, 64, 185 

Examination of the World, 97, 347 
Eybeschiitz, J., 10, 342 
Ezra, or Azriel, the mystic, 100 

Faithful City, the, 75, 346 
Fichte, 51 
Finn, 75 

Ford Jabbok, -i^ZZ, y^9 
Frankists, 10, 342 
Frankl, Z., 65, 97 
Fiirst, J., 66 

Gamaliel I., 234 
Gamaliel II., 194, 212, 354 



GaoUy pi. Gaonim, 73, 76-78, 97, 98, 
206, 208, 209, 289, 312, 346 

Garden of Mystical Contemplation^ 

Gate of Reward, 115, 213, 349 

Geiger, A., 66 

Gemara, 78, 346 

Gershon, brother-in-law of Baalshem, 

Ghetto, 326, 331-333 
Gnostics, 64 

Goethe, 57, 73, 306, 328 
Gozer, 290, 358 
Graetz, 65, 97, 99, 183 
Great Interpreters, 186, 353 
Green, A. L., 255 
Guide of the Perplexed, 49, 68, 97, 

102, 130, 131, I79» 342,344 
Guide of the Perplexed of the Time, 

60, 67, 345 

Hadasi, Judah, 160, 161 

Hai Gaon, 77, 208, 209, 272, 346 

Halachah, pi. Halachoth, 64, 66, 183, 

Halachic, 57,92, no, 157, 193, 207, 

Halachoth Gedoloth, in, 112, 349 
Hannaneel of Kairwan, 162 
Hegel, 51, 54, 64, 65 
Heine, 59, 124, 254 
High Belief 162, 352 
Hillel the Great, 185, 186, 188, 193, 

Hillel, R., 177 
History of Jewish Tradition, 65, 182, 

Hithlahabuth, 32, 343 
Holle Kreisch, 294, 295 
Huna, 221, 225 

Isaac Alfasi, 13, 100, loi, in, 312, 

Isaac Aramah, 1 73 
Isaac Loria, 76, 133, 350 
Isaac b. Ruben, 100 
Ishmael, 188, 190, 224 

Ishmael b. Elishah, 222, 299 

Israel Baalshem {see Baalshem, Israel) 

Jacob of Corbeil, 322 

Jacob Dubna, 91 

Jacob the Levite, or Maharil, 143, 

Jacob Sasportas, loi, 102 
Jacob Tam, 210 
Jannai, 226 

Jedaiah of Bedres, 97, 131 
Jerusalem, by Mendelssohn, 147, 351 
Johanan, 249, 287, 303, 318 
Johanan b. Zaccai, 48, 188, 344 
Jonah Gerundi, 100, loi 
Jonah, son of Nachmanides, loi 
Jose, 218, 219 
Joseph Albashir, 160 
Joseph Albo, 171, 172 
Joseph Caro, 75, 92, 206, 211, 322, 

Joseph Jabez, 131, 173, 179, 350 
Joshua b. Hananiah, 194, 299, 304, 

Jost, M., 66 
Judah Alcharisi, 262 
Judah Hallevi, 13, 34, 152, 1 62, 208, 

342, 352 
Judah b. Ilai, 246 
Judah Messer Leon, 333 
Judah de Modena, 298 
Judah the Patriarch, 63, 195, 343 
Judah the Pious, 306 
Judah b. Tema, 299 
Judah b. Yakar, 100 

Karab, 124, 349 

Kilayim, 87, 347 

Kimchi, D., 145 

Korban, 124, 349 

Krochmal, Nachman, 44, 46, 48-68, 

Kuenen, 240 

Law OF Man, 113-115 

Laws unto Moses on Mount Sinai, 
64. 345> 353 



Lessing, 73 

Letteris, M., 56, 57 

Levi b. Gershom, 97, loi, 171, 347 

Light of God, 167, 352 

Lilac of Mysteries, 133, 350 

Lilith, 287, 288, 358 

Lipman of Miihlhausen, 167, 179 

Liva of Prague, 78 

Lowell, R., 116 

Low, L., 171, 285, 305 

Lucas, Mrs. Henry, 135, 358 

Macaulay, 89 

Maggid, 19, 347 

Magnified, 310, 359 

Maimonides, or Moses b. Maimon, 
13, 48, 49, 68, 70, 78, 97, 100, 102, 
103, III, 126, 130, 133, 140, 161- 
168, 170-181, 2IO, 211, 249, 274, 
280, 281, 312, 322, 342 

Maimonists, Anti-Maimonists, 163- 
165, 173, 210 

Mar Samuel, 84 

Mathia b. Chares, 339 

Measure of the Stature, 208 

Mechilta, 58, 81, 193, 345 

Meheram Schiff, 16, 343 

Meir, 130, 194, 226, 318 

Meir b. Nathan of Trinquintaines, 100 

Meir of Rothenburg, 210 

Memra, 238, 356 

Men of the Great Synagogue, 64, 185 

Menachoth, 86, 347 

Mendelssohn, Moses, 48, 58, 73, 147, 

I5i» 176,351 
Metatron, 238, 356 
Midrash, pi. Midrashim, 61, 64, 71, 

81, 193, 195. 222, 262, 272, 273, 

304. 345 
Milton, 114 

Minhag, pi. Minhagim^ 143, 192, 351 
Minim^ 64, 345 
Minor Tractates, 81, 346 
Mishnah^ 57, 64, 66, 76, 78, 82, 85, 

87, 91, 157, 190, 193. I95» 271, 343 
Mistress of the Synagogue, 317 
Moses Cordevora, 133, 350 

Moses Ibn Ezra, 262 

Moses de Leon, 18, 133, 258, 262 

Moses of Tachau, 131 

Mother Zion, 321 

Nachman, son of Nachmanides, loi 
Nachmanides, or Moses b. Nachman, 

99-141, 213 
Nahum of Gemzo, 215 
Nasi, 84, 347 
Nathan, 194 

Nephesh Chayah, 117, 349 
Neubauer, Dr. A., 263 
Night of Watching, 288 
Nissim of Gerona, 133 
Nissim of Marseilles, 267 

Olam Habba, 115 
Old Victory, 304, 358 
Oral Law, 10 
Orchard, the, 133, 350 
Ordinance of the Law, 293, 358 

Pablo Christiano, 103, 105, 106 

Pairs, the, 185, 353 

Paradise Lost, 114 

Pardes, 129 

Pashut, 138, 350 

Path of Belief 172, 353 

Perles, J., 99, 123, 294 

Pharisees, 64, 185, 237, 24I 

Philo, 52, 64, 154, 238 

Pilpul Pilpulist, 13, 78, 343 

Plato, 78 

Pugio Fidei^ 107 

Raba, 311 

Rabbanan Saburai, 206, 354 

Rabbah, 311 

Rabbenu, 13, 343 

Rabbenu Mosheh, 103, 349 

Rabbinowicz, R. N. N., 261 

Raimund Martini, 107 

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

Reggio, Isaac, 270 

Roots, the, 171, 352 

Ruskin, 328 



Saadiah Gaon, 48, 162, 208, 272, 344 

Sacred Letter y 113 

Sadducees, 64, 185, 237 

Salman the Good, 145 

Sambatyon, 95, 347 

Sanctijication-cupf 245, 356 

Sandalphon, 305 

Sandek, 290 

Sanhedrin, the, 188, 190, 191 

Saul Berlin, 176, 180 

Sayings of the Fathers^ Aboth^ 262, 

Schelling, 51 
Schiller, 73 
Schlummerliedy 295 
Schorr, O., 193 
Schudt, 291, 298 
Sechorahy 296, 358 
Seder Nezikin, 58, 344 
Seder Olam, 81, 92, 346 
Seder Taharoth^ 58, 345 
Segulah, 122, 349 
Sephardim, 301, 358 
Sephery 13, 343 
Sephiroth, Ten, 238, 356 
Sermon in the Presence of the King, 

by Nachmanides, 165 
Shabbethai Tsebi, 134, 239, 348 
Shalom Zachar, 289, 358 
Shammai, 185, 188, 237 
Shechinah, 120, 121, 228-230, 349 
Shema, reading of the, 141, 288, 350 
Shemaiah, 186 
Shemariah of Crete, 166 
Sherira Gaon, 263 
Shiphluth, 30, 343 
Simchah, 31, 343 
Simeon Duran, loi, 170, 171, 348 
Simeon b. Eleazar, 289 
Simeon b. Gamaliel, 222 
Simeon b. Gamaliel II., 193, 194, 

Simeon b. Yochai, 18, 223 
Simlai, 112, 349 

Siphra, 58, 81, 91, 193, 262, 345 
Siphri, 58, 81, 91, 193, 262, 345 
Solomon b. Adereth, 70, 267 

Solomon b. Gabirol, 210 
Solomon of St. Goar, 143-145 
Solomon b. Isaac, Rashi, 13, 210, 343 
Solomon b. Isaac b. Zadok, 137 
Solomon Ladier, 43, 341 
Solomon Portaleone, 323 
Solomon, son of Nachmanides, 1 10 
Solomon Syrillo, 262 
Solomon Wilna, 75 
Son of the Law, 307, 312, 358 
Sopherim^ 64 
Spencer, Herbert, 97 
Steinschneider, M., 99, 172 

TAANITHy 58, 344 

Talmid Chaber, 52, 344 

Talmid Chakam, 7, 342 

Talmud (of Jerusalem or Babylon), 
16, 19, 33, 49, 5a, 57-59, 64, 76, 78, 
81, 82, 86, 87, 89, 91, 92, 96, loi, 
104, 105, III, 129, 131, 140, 151, 
155, 158, 195, 196, 206, 207, 209, 
210, 238, 252, 254-256, 261, 262, 
271, 272, 277, 343 

Tanna, pi. Tannaim^ 17, 84, 187, 
342, 343 

Tephillin, 249, 357 

Thackeray, 282 

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

Thirteen Rules (pi Interpretation), 

Tobijah, the Priest, 175 
Tosephta, 81, 82, 92, 262, 271, 346 
Toy, Prof., 233-239, 251 
Tractate Berachoth, 221, 271 
Tractate Evidences, 192, 353 
Tractate Joys.^ 194, 354 
Tractate Sanhedrin, 156, 157, 159 
Tractate Sopherim, 301, 312,321,358 
Tree of Life, the, 133 
Troki, Solomon, i6l 

mud), 261 
Viterbo, Abraham Chayim, 175, 176 
Vorsttgerin, 324 




Watchman, the, 59, 341, 345 

Weiss, T. H., 65, 97, 99, 182, 183, 

185-187, 191-197, 206, 207, 209- 

Wellhausen, 243 
Wisdom of Solomon^ 127, 154 
Woilkennivdicke, 324 

Yediah, 119, 349 

Yeshibah, pi. Yeshiboth, 94*^6, 293, 

Yom-Tob Heller, 196 

Z ADD IK, pi. Zaddikim (Zaddikism), 

36-44, 53, 298, 343 
Zadoc, 245 
Zebachim, 86, 347 
Zedner, 254-256 
Zehub, 137-139, 350 
Zerahiah Hallevi of Gerona (or Ge- 

rondi), 100, loi, ill 
Zion-Elegy, 208 
Zobeothy 314, 359 

Zohar, 18, 19, 71, 91, I33, 258, 343 
Zunz, Leopold, 44, 52, 56, 60, 65, 73, 

97, 183, 270, 305 

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