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בס"ד

The Duty of Israel.

 

We hasten to lay before our readers the following communication of a lady, who wishes, for the present at least, to remain unknown to our readers.* We, however, are well acquainted with her name and history, and feel sure that our readers, like ourself, will appreciate the extreme delicacy and firmness with which she has so ably warded off the insidious attacks of a female friend to induce her to abandon Judaism. Our correspondent is, alas! as she has herself said in her letter, not the only one of her family who has been subjected to these assaults, and hence the rebuke, though so mildly conveyed, comes with more withering effect from her well-stored mind. She clearly proves that she is not an Israelite merely by name, but from choice, and well has she chosen her portion, deriving strength to love it from her familiarity with the counsels of God.

* "An American Jewess" has been identified as Emma Mordecai of Virginia. --Webmaster.

The work “Judah’s Lion,” by Charlotte Elizabeth, which was the cause of the correspondence, we have never read, not having had as yet the inclination to peruse this new missionary production, as we did not deem it, in all likelihood, more powerful than other works of the same stamp. The arguments of Christians are repeated every now and then with such an air of triumph, as though some new, unheard-of weapons had at length been discovered to penetrate the hitherto impenetrable armour of Israel. But upon examination they are proved to be the self-same weapons, drawn from the ancient storehouse of polemics, only burnished up to look like articles of a modern date. Hence there is little occasion for an Israelite to become familiar with all the publications that relate to the difference between Jews and Christians, even if he has to be master of his subject. Nevertheless such works as Miriam, Judah’s Lion, and Maria, are calculated to mislead the unwary, they being in the shape of fiction, and thus able to convey impressions where they even fail to convince. Our opponents have therefore a means through them of imposing upon the ignorant by a show of argument under the guise of narrative, the views of which our people have always rejected. This, by the by, is one of the dangers of our position of which we would have spoken in an article under that name, if we had not extended it already to too great a length upon one subject. Still, no one can doubt that it is a danger, when skilfully handled by artful friends, in the moment of confidence, especially towards young boys and girls, who have not yet learned to know the hollowness of the pretensions of those who endeavour to gain proselytes at all hazards.—We can hardly express our contempt for those who thus betray the confidence which parents at times so unworthily repose in them; and yet they are commended by their spiritual advisers for their zeal. But can Christianity be strengthened by converts thus obtained? or is the pretended salvation of a Jewish soul of such vast importance as to legalize breaches of confidence and betrayals of friendship? We hardly think that the greatest zealot could defend such conduct if he reflects seriously; and yet men and women of the highest respectability have been guilty of the baseness we have just described.

We may be accused of using strong language; but not half so strong as the bitterness of our heart would lead us, to employ if we were to speak all we think, to so great an extent has the daringness risen with which some persons have invaded the sanctity of our domestic hearth, and among them are men who hold high offices in some of the churches. We are glad therefore that Miss —— has at length resolved to lay her reasons for being a Jewess before the world; and we trust that she will always consider the Occident as open for her whenever she wishes to address her Christian friends or her Jewish well-wishers.—Ed. Oc.

TO THE EDITOR OF THE OCCIDENT.

Reverend Sir,

The letter which you will find below, was written to a Christian friend of piety and intelligence, in consequence of her having expressed great concern for my spiritual condition. In the sincere hope of effecting a change in my opinions, and thereby rendering me an eternal service, she earnestly requested me to peruse a work by Charlotte Elizabeth called “Judah’s Lion,” and to inform her of the effect it might have on my opinions. As I know that this book has been presented to more than one of the daughters of Israel, with similar views, as one which, while it expresses great veneration for our religion and love for its followers, contains unanswerable evidences of our hopeless error in refusing to behold in Jesus of Nazareth, our promised Messiah, and convincing arguments of the necessity of our becoming Christians: it has occurred to me that the opposite views expressed on this subject in my answer to my truly kind and zealous friend, might be read with some interest and satisfaction by those who have been similarly assailed, and perhaps with some benefit by the wavering. If, therefore, you find this letter, to which I have subjoined a few deeply serious reflections and earnest aspirations, not belonging of course to the original, and intended exclusively for the perusal of my co-heirs in our glorious inheritance, worthy of a place in your valuable periodical, I would gladly see them published, in the hope that by their means, feeble though they be, an occasional inquirer may be led to the perception of the “wondrous things contained in our law.” I, too, would print some “footsteps on the sands of time”—

“Footsteps, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing may take heart again.”

With sincere wishes for the continued success of your laborious and enterprising work, I would gladly subscribe myself an humble fellow-labourer in the cause of Israel, though but an unknown

AMERICAN JEWESS.

My Dear Friend,

I have not forgotten the interest you expressed in me during the last hurried half-hour that we spent together, nor the promise I then made you to procure the book you recommended to me with such kind intentions; and I fear you have thought me ungracious, if not ungrateful, to have been so long silent on the subject; but after this long silence I hardly think you will feel disappointed when I tell you that though I got the book and possessed myself of its contents, it most signally failed in bringing about the result that you so much desired. If it had been the first work that I had ever looked into upon this great subject, it might possibly have had the effect of inducing me to look into the merits of the faith in which I have been born and reared, but as I am a Jewess not merely by birth and because my ancestors for so many hundred years have been Israelites, but by firm conviction, the result of impartial inquiry, study, comparison and meditation, a stronger than “Judah’s Lion” must be found to overcome this conviction.

It is not my intention to enter upon a criticism of this book. The author is evidently a great admirer of, or rather in the French acceptation of the word, at our nation, and I sincerely believe would rejoice did a portion of the ancient blood flow in her own veins; but the gross ignorance that she displays concerning us is astonishing, and the blunders into which this betrays her, must strike every Jewish reader, and some of the absurdities of the work could, I think, hardly pass unobserved by a reader of any denomination: such for instance as giving to a child of six years old an amount of biblical learning and proselyting zeal scarcely ever combined in men nine times his age. The author’s idea was, I suppose, to show that the bulwarks of our faith are so weak that even a little child could overthrow them. This the little child has, in my opinion, failed to do, although the author has most unnaturally bestowed on him the strength of the giant. Now let “Judah’s Lion” rest in peace.

My dear friend, I find in my religion all that is necessary to comfort human misery, to strengthen human virtue, to elevate and ennoble human nature—to raise the heart in love and adoration to its Maker, while with the deepest humility it confesses that these great privileges are to be procured only by profound and habitual obedience to His word. We cannot in the pride of our heart, exclaim, “I am great, for I have discovered or invented a system by which I may become holy!” God has left nothing for us to invent or discover. We must “ascribe unto the Lord the glory due unto His name.” In a system of laws unequalled in minuteness by that of any human legislator, He has pointed out to us, step by step, the road to holiness. All that we have to do, is to study and obey. Christian friends have sometimes said to me, “But your religion seems so difficult, God seems so terrible and so distant without the intervention of a mediator.” No, my friend, God is not distant: true He is represented as inhabiting the heavens, the floor of which is vulgarly imagined to be above the stars, with which its lower surface is adorned; but what are these unattainable heavens, where according to this idea God reigns concealed from all His creatures, but infinite space teeming with the operations of Infinite Power? The earth, with all its inhabitants, as in company with its sister planets it performs its appointed journey round the sun, is as surely in these heavens, as surely in the presence of its Creator, as is the most distant star that the power of the telescope can draw from its lurking-place in the seventh heaven. We on our terrestrial globe float in the essence of this all-pervading, almighty Spirit. This and much more of His nature does human science enable us to discover. But has this wonderful Being made no farther revelations of Himself to such of His intelligent creatures as He has given the earth for a habitation, than those He has afforded through man’s intellect operating upon His works? These are indeed great, but they are not sufficient for man’s necessities, nor for man’s desires. Yes! a Book is found among men. It is called The Book, because they esteem it to be filled with the revelations of God to man; more than this, as containing words spoken by the voice of God.

But how am I to know that this is indeed so, and that this Book is not of man’s invention?

Do you doubt? These audible words of God were spoken in the hearing of a whole nation, small indeed but entire, more than three thousand years ago; a nation which this same Book says, in the words of God, shall be preserved a distinct and peculiar people among the nations of the earth, as long as the heavens and the earth endure, as witnesses of God and of the truth of His word.

Show me then this nation after the lapse of so many ages, and I will no longer doubt.

You will find them scattered through all the nations of the earth; this too was predicted of them, in this Book that you would prove; and the more you examine their history, their customs, their opinions, the more firmly will you be convinced, not only of their own identity, but that all the revelations of God to man were made to them, and through them to all other nations who know Him rightly. Their existence alone is sufficient evidence of the truth of The Book. If they had ceased to be a nation upon the earth, this Book would not be true: when they shall cease to be a nation upon the earth, this Book can no longer be looked upon as the Book of Truth, for it will testify of that which is false. I, my dear Mrs. ——, am one of God’s witnesses; would you have me desert my high calling? Hear what a Christian divine, Bishop Watson, zays of us.

“Wherever we have a Jew on the surface of the earth, there we have a man whose testimony and whose conduct connect the present time with the beginning of all time. He now believes, and he declares that all his progenitors have constantly believed, the history contained in the hook of Moses to be a true history; he now obeys the laws which God gave to Moses above three thousand years ago; now practises the circumcision which God enjoined to Abraham; now observes the passover in commemoration of the mercy vouchsafed to his nation when God destroyed the first-born throughout the land of Egypt; now keeps holy the seventh day, on which God rested from the works of the creation. When nations institute rites to preserve the memory of great events, the uniform observance of the rite authorizes us to admit the certainty of the fact. The Jews have for thousands of years, (and the patriarchs before the Jews probably did the same,) observed a very significant rite in commemoration of the creation, and another in commemoration of their preservation from one of the plagues of Egypt. Why should we hesitate to admit the certainly of these events?—Adam lived with Methuselah two hundred and forty years, Methuselah lived with Shem, the son of Noah, ninety years, and Shem lived with Abraham one hundred and fifty years; what apprehension can we reasonably entertain that the account of the creation could either have been forged or misrepresented, when it passed through so few hands before reaching the founder of the Jewish nation? * * * Sceptical men will do well to consider the nature and weight of historic evidence, not only for the existence of God, but for His having made a revelation of Himself to the Jewish nation. Let them examine freely and fully, and I cannot but believe that they will come to the following conclusions: that the creation is a fact; that the peopling of the world by the descendants of Noah is a fact; that the Jewish theocracy is a fact; and that these facts may be established as all past transactions of great antiquity must be, by the authority of history, and especially by the history of the Jews, whom God appears to have constituted witnesses of His existence and providence, to all nations and in all ages. Of the Chaldeans, Egyptians, Tyrians, God has made or will make a full end, ‘but the seed of Israel shall not cease from being a nation before me for ever.’”

With these words of God I conclude my quotation from Bishop Watson, and I will now ask you, my dear madam, a simple question. Suppose for a moment, that the efforts of the societies for the conversion of the Jews to Christianity, and of individuals, actuated by the best, though I am bound to believe, mistaken motives, as yourself and Charlotte Elizabeth, and countless others, both in private and public; suppose these efforts, I say, to be crowned with success, and behold the Jews in all the lands where they are now fulfilling prophecy—in the land of the Chinese, the Hindoo, the Moslem, and throughout Christendom, with one accord yielding to the persuasions and arguments of the Christian missionary, who seeks them in all these lands, and abandoning the everlasting covenant that God made with their fathers; abandoning the observance of their time-honoured Sabbath, of their Passover, and all their other sacred and peculiar rites; intermarrying with the Christian and other nations, rearing their children in all respects like other Christian children; in the course of another century where would you seek for God’s witnesses? By the mingling of their blood with that of the gentile nations, even their physical peculiarities would have vanished; and that nation of whom God has said, “Ye shall not cease from being a nation before me for ever,” will be no where found except in history, and the truth of Scripture will have vanished with them. Do you not now perceive, my friend, that in endeavouring to convert Jews to Christianity, you are applying the axe to the root of your own religion? I am convinced that the redemption of the Jews is not to be effected by the efforts of Christian missionaries. Let God work His own will with His “chosen people.” Read the book of Deuteronomy, investing yourself for the time with the feelings and faith of a child of Israel, and you will then see what comfort we derive even from the sufferings that have followed our disobedience; you will then feel that they are a guarantee for the blessings that will surely follow our return to obedience. You will there find the promise made to the descendants of those who heard it, before we had yet reached the Promised Land, that our merciful Father, even after our sin awarded dispersion through the lands of the earth, will be “nigh unto us for all that we call upon Him for, if we seek Him with all our hearts, and with all our souls.” This promise was made to us, not to our fathers; it was made to us the children of the dispersion; to me as one of those children. Let me then, instead of abandoning, hold fast to the Banner of the Lord of Hosts, in spite of the example of deserters, “though they be those of my own household;” through the blandishments of friends and the persecutions of foes, in the true spirit of a Hebrew maiden, I will live and die by my inheritance; I will love the strangers, in obedience to the command of my God, as well as in accordance with the dictates of my own heart, but I cannot become as one of them.

Do not think, my dear madam, that I am not grateful for your kind intentions, and those of all my Christian friends who have acted as you have done. I do sincerely thank you for them, but I could not let this opportunity pass without attempting some vindication of my despised faith. There are many other reasons besides that mentioned above, for my refusing to become a Christian; but the argument that I have used is the only one that I thought necessary or even proper to lay before a Christian friend. Fear not for me. The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. * * * *

Thus, let me assure my Jewish readers, does the Doric Pillar of our faith continue to emerge before the mental and moral vision of its sincere followers, ever clearer and clearer from amidst the clouds that its mistaken adversaries have collected around it. The contemplation of its sublime and simple beauty fills the heart with adoration, and with gratitude, that this beautiful, imperishable monument is our own. On its summit reposes the glory of the one God without associate. Around it wind steps on which are deeply and plainly engraven the commandments, and statutes, and judgments, by observing which the willing and obedient heart may reach to the glory enthroned above, there to prostrate itself in blessed adoration. It is said that Antigonus of Socho, a president of the great Sanhedrin under the Asmonean dynasty, “taught the lofty doctrine of pure and disinterested love and obedience to God, without regard to punishment or reward.” To this “lofty doctrine” let the heart of every pure and enlightened Israelite respond, as that which it recognises in its inmost recesses. Not that I doubt God’s own word, so often repeated, of the fatal consequences of disobedience and the blessed ones of obedience; but let it not be alone the fear of the one nor the hope of the other that urges us to obey. Our faith being firmly established, that the Decalogue and all the other commandments were delivered to our fathers for their observance and that of their children to the latest generation, therefore may each child of Israel say, for my observance, proceeded from God; need we desire another motive for obedience? God commands—I obey.—And what does not obedience comprehend? and how little, how much too little is it understood, and inculcated, and insisted upon by most of our teachers of religion? Well may the Psalmist exclaim, “There is none that doeth good, no not one.” And if this was true in the days of David, how much more so in our own. So few is the number of those who fill themselves with the spirit of those commandments, which as a matter of habit are repeated without reflection, and observed without feeling; so few are those who make the word of God their study that their lives may be led by it. Yet it is the word of the same Eternal God who did communicate His will and manifest His presence to our ancestors. His protecting wing still hovers over Israel His first-born; and His presence is as surely with us now, as it was when we moved and sojourned by the pillar of fire and of cloud and were fed by the bread of Heaven. We have ample instruction, let us learn to apply it; and scattering every doubt, let us seek out, and cling to, and live by the plain and holy precepts laid down for our guidance, to conduct us, as the pillar of fire and cloud, through the wilderness of life to the Promised Land of everlasting happiness. God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, make perfect the faith of the children of the faithful. “Open our eyes that we may see wondrous things in thy law,” and let this be shown in our lives.

The book of our holy law, the Torah, though not considered as devotional as other parts of Scripture, richly abounds in materials for the most hope-inspiring and comforting prayer, and for a faith which will bring us into the closest communion with God that can possibly exist between corporeal man and his incorporeal Creator. Thus may every devout child of Israel who is rightly acquainted with this book, present himself before the God of his fathers; the pure stream of his devotion flowing from the unadulterated fountain struck by the rod of Moses, and issuing at the word of God. Yes, thus may he pray with well-founded hopes of obtaining an answer to his petition.—“Oh my God! Thou knowest that I depend upon Thee for the maintenance and growth of all goodness within me; Thou wilt permit goodness to displace evil; for Thou hast promised to thy people Israel, that if we pray from all lands where we are a living evidence of the truth of thy word, and where we are scattered few in number in consequence of our disobedience, still to be nigh unto us for all things that we call upon Thee for, if we turn unto Thee and seek Thee with all our hearts. I, oh God of my fathers! am a child of Israel; one of the scattered ones to whom this promise was made. With humble thanks to Thee, I may with truth assert that I do seek Thee with all my heart. The thing that I ‘call upon Thee for,’ is that I may live ever conscious of thy presence; that the fear of Thee and the love of Thee may influence the whole of my inward and outward life, my feelings and actions. Thou hast promised, ‘if from thence, (this distant and then perhaps unheard of land,) thou shall seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find Him, if thou shalt seek Him with all thy heart and with all thy soul.’ With this promise, in my Bible and in my heart, would it not be impious in me to doubt that my God will grant the thing that I call upon Him for? The fear of Thee, oh Lord, will preserve me from wilful disobedience. The love of Thee will not suffer me to be satisfied with this negative duty. It will seek to gratify itself and to testify itself in active obedience. Thy word will be sought that it may be obeyed; and so far from this obedience being irksome, each command, under the influence of heavenly love, will be read and pondered on with lively gratitude, that I am suffered to obey. Thus Oh Lord, will obedience consummate its own perfection; for when I shall; as Thou hast commanded, love Thee with all my heart and with all my soul, and with all my might, evil will be eradicated from my heart, for the love of Thee will fill all its lurking-places; and then shall I attain the summit and reward of obedience, for I shall, as Thou hast commanded (and Thou dost not command without enabling us to obey,) be holy, because the Lord my God is Holy.

Thus, in the devotions of the Israelite there need be no blind infatuation. His faith, while firm as rock, need never pass the bounds of reason. In the plain and unchanging word of the God of Israel, who has said, “I the Lord change not,” he may find a guarantee for his every act of devotion, a clear comprehension of the relations he bears to this great Being, and a sure foundation for all the hopes that he rests on Him. To conclude, I hesitate not to express it as my firm belief, that the life of a rational, devoutly obedient child of Israel, even now in our dispersion, would he crowned with all the blessings promised to obedience in our own God-given land; and that we see none so blessed is because by none is this grand and comprehensive doctrine of OBEDIENCE understood and practised. We may no longer offer sacrifices; but, “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken, than the fat of rams.”