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בס"ד

Specimens of German Preachers.

No. III.
The Joys and Sufferings of the Time of the Messiah.

A Sermon preached at Dessau, on Sabbath Nahamoo,* 5599,

* The Sabbath after the fast of the ninth of Ab, so called from the first words of the fortieth of Isaiah read on that day, commencing with the words Nahamoo Nahamoo Ammie, “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people.”

by Dr. Samuel Hirsch.

From this day, brethren, it is becoming to us to preach of the Messiah and of his time. The sufferings which have been threatened to us have been fulfilled, will not the joys too which our heavenly Father hath promised us, be likewise fulfilled? Is not his word like the fructifying rain, like the protecting snow? “And as the rain and the snow fall from heaven, and return not thither, but water the earth and make it fruitful and cause it to bring forth, and give seed to the sower and bread to the eater; thus does not the word of the Lord return unto him void, but accomplishes what He wills, and prospers for what He has sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10, 11.) If the present be ever so comfortless, if pains and afflictions, trouble and dismay, shame and degradation strike us not only as individuals, but what cuts much deeper wounds, as members of the divine covenant with Israel: have confidence and take courage, for “in joy will ye go forth, in peace will ye be guided; the mountains and hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the fields shall clap hands. In plate of the thorn shall come up the fir-tree, and in place of the briar shall come up the myrtle; and it shall be unto the Lord for a name, an everlasting sign, which shall not be cut off." (Isaiah 55:12, 13.)

To proclaim the Messiah and his time, the time “when the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it, because the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it,” (ib. 40:5,) is from this day becoming unto us. The past is completed, and the festivals which recall to our memory its joys and sufferings are over, and we approach, with the divine aid, those festivals which are destined to sanctify the present, and to guide us towards a heavenly futurity; and should we not endeavour to place already, this day, this heavenly future as present before us? We shall soon hear the voice of the Shofar; and should we not feel impelled and admonished to prepare ourselves against that glorious day, “when the great Shofar will be sounded aloud, and they who are lost in the land of Ashur and they who are cast away in the land of Mitzraim, shall come and bow themselves down to the Lord in the holy mountain in Jerusalem?” (Isaiah 27:13.) Soon also will we celebrate the divine day, the Sabbath of Sabbaths, (שבת שבתון) the heavenly gift transmitted to us through Moses, in holy quiet and devotion, when the Lord will purify us from our sins, and we shall stand before Him clean and purified; and should not this remind us of that time “when the iniquity of Israel will be sought for, and it shall not be any more, and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found, because God will have forgiven all whom He will have left?” (Jer. 50:20.)

To speak of the Messiah and of our Messianic expectations is proper for us in these times in which we live. What erroneous views and confusion do not prevail with regard to this doctrine in Israel? And how can Israel exist without this doctrine? And how can we condemn the conduct of our brothers, who renounce their connexion with Israel, who will not be recognized as Israelites, who will not battle in our ranks, not strive with us, are not touched with our sorrow, and deem our joys as childish joys—how can we condemn such a mode of conduct and views like these, which we daily meet with among us, if we yield this doctrine? To preach the Messiah, and to declare in plain terms what doctrines we have on this point, is surely becoming in us at a time when Israel’s sons, no less than non-Israelites, pretend to discover in this doctrine grounds of accusation against us; at a time, when Israel’s sons are inclined to the senseless notion, that the holding fast on the Messianic hopes of Israel prevents them to choose that civil and moral vocation for which God has endowed them with powers and capacities, and when non-Israelites say, and say again, that this doctrine renders us incapable to love our present fatherland, and to be attached to it with all our soul.

For this reason, brethren, will we from this day endeavour, with confidence in the divine assistance, to give, in a series of pulpit lectures, not only our views of the nature and scope of our Messianic hopes, but to prove the necessity of never giving up these hopes, but to endeavour to find in them comfort and consolation for whatever may at any time cause us affliction.

It is, however, impossible to read to you all the sources whence we have to draw our hopes. The entire holy Writ is the source of this belief, the entire holy Writ leads to this belief; besides, the entire holy Writ must remain unintelligible if we do not hold fast to this belief. All the Haphtorahs* from now to the close of the year treat of nothing but this belief, all the prophets are imbued with this belief, refer only to it, and prophesy of nothing else but of this belief. I must therefore beg you earnestly, brethren, to read for yourselves the sources of this faith, at least to read the Haphtorah of each Sabbath section, which from to­day to the close of the year have been introduced in the Synagogue.

* The sections from the prophets read after the portions of the law. Those from the fast of Ab to the New Year all refer to the hope of the redemption promised to us through. the Messiah.

For our first pulpit lecture on this belief which is to depict the joys and sufferings of the time of the Messiah in general, we will take as text our to-day’s Haphtorah, and read it therefore entire, but only in our vernacular. It is contained in the fortieth chapter of the prophet Isaiah, and it is in the following words, from the first to the twenty-sixth verse:

“Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people, saith your God. Speak to the heart of Jerusalem and call out to her, for her appointed time of slavery is completed, her iniquity pardoned, for she has received from the hand of the Lord twofold for all her sins. A voice calls out: In the wilderness prepare ye a way for the Lord, make level in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain. Thus will be revealed the glory of the Lord, and all flesh together shall see it; for the mouth of God hath spoken it.

“A voice saith, Proclaim, and He saith, What shall I proclaim? All flesh is grass, and all its goodness like the flower of the field. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth, when the breath of the Lord bloweth upon it—surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth, but the word of our God will stand for ever.

“Upon the high mountain ascend thou, O Zion, that bringest good tidings! lift with might thy voice, O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings! lift it up, fear not, say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God. Behold, the Lord God cometh as a strong one, and his arm will rule for him; behold his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. Like a shepherd will he seed his flock; in his arm will he gather the lambs, and carry them in his bosom, lead gently those that are with young.

“Who hath measured in the hollow of his hand the waters, and meted out the heavens with the span, and comprehended in a measure the dust of the earth, and weighed in scales the mountains, and the hills in a balance? Who hath directed the spirit of the Lord, or being his counsellor hath taught him? With whom took he counsel that he should male him understand, and teach him the path of justice, and teach him knowledge, and show him the way of understanding? Behold,—nations are as a drop in the bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance; behold, he taketh up the islands as a very little thing. And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for burnt-offering. All the nations are as nothing before him, as less than nothing and vanity, are they counted to him.

“And to whom will ye liken God ? what likeness will ye compare unto him? The workman maketh a graven image, and the goldsmith spreadeth it over with gold, and casteth silver chains. He that is too poor to give oblations, chooseth a tree that will not rot, he seeketh a cunning workman to prepare a graven image that shall not be moved.

“Will ye not comprehend? will ye not hear? hath it not been told you from the beginning? have ye not understood from the foundation of the earth? It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in; that bringeth princes to nothing, maketh the judges of the earth as vanity. Not yet are they planted, not yet are they sown, not yet hath their stock taken root in the earth: when he bloweth upon them and they wither, and the whirlwind taketh them away as stubble. To whom then will ye liken me, that I should be equal to? saith the holy One. Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things. He that bringeth out their host by number; he calleth them all by names; by the greatness of his might and because he is strong in power not one faileth.”

And thou, our God and God of our fathers, who hast assisted us in all our necessities, and shielded us against all dangers, assist us also in the future which is impending. Enlighten our eyes that we may not fall into error, improve our heart, that we may willingly the hold of the truth and live in it, and remain faithful to Thee. Amen.

I.

“What are the joys and sufferings of the time of the Messiah?”

The joys of this time are beautifully expressed in our text ונגלה כבוד ה׳ וראו כל בשר יחדו כי פי ה׳ דבר “Thus will be revealed the glory of the Lord, and all flesh together shall see it, for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” The glory of the Lord will be revealed, beloved brethren; this cannot mean, that God will become flesh and be visible with corporeal eyes; for we read in the verse almost immediately following: “To whom will ye liken the Lord? and what likeness, will ye compare unto him?” We read also farther in the text we cited: “To whom, then, will ye liken me, that I should be equal, saith the holy One?” Do we not read in our to-day’s section of the law: “Take especial care, that ye represent not God under the image of any creature, because you have seen no kind of similitude on the day the Lord spoke with you on Horeb from the midst of the fire?” (Deut. 4:15.) And how can we imagine the idea that God, who is מקומו של עולם “the place of the world” and not the world not his place, who creates the finite and temporal, and bears and preserves the same but is not borne and preserved by it—that He, the Omnipresent, should so enter into the finite and temporal that we could apply the name of God to the finite and temporal? In the time of the Messiah the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all flesh shall see it; that is to say, all flesh will acknowledge and deeply feel, all flesh shall know and reflect upon it in spirit, “that the Lord is God, in the heavens above, and upon earth beneath, and there is none else.” (Deut. 4:39.) In the time of the Messiah all flesh “will be closely united to the Lord our God, and then find in Him the true life,” (Ib. 4); then will all flesh love the alone Existing with all their heart, with all their soul and all their might; then will all flesh say, as it is expressed in our text: “A voice says, Proclaim,” and he saith: “What shall I proclaim?”—“All flesh is grass if it lives not in God, and all its goodness as the flower of the field. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth, when the breath of the Lord bloweth upon it. Truly the people which has not the Lord as its only God and its all in all, its life and that which prolongs life—truly such a people is like grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth, but in whomever the word of our God has become quickened unto life, will endure for ever.” God is in heaven above and on the earth beneath there is none else; in heaven, therefore, above, and on the earth beneath, nothing will be seen but divine life; in heaven above and on the earth beneath the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all flesh shall see it; for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it, and then we know that through the mouth of the Lord every thing has been called into being. As the heavens do nothing but “proclaiming the glory of the Lord” (Ps. 19: 2), thus shall the earth and all the creatures of the earth do nothing but proclaiming the glory of the Lord, and think of nothing but the praise of their Creator, and feel nothing but divine felicity. “All which the holy One, praised be He, has created in the world,” say the Proverbs of the Fathers (vi. 10), He has created only for his glory; for it is said (Isaiah 43:7) “Every one that is called by my name, I have created him for my glory, I have formed him, yea I have made him.”—Every thing, therefore, which is created in the world, will at that time redound to the glorification of the Lord, will praise his name, and utter hymns and songs of thanksgiving to his goodness.

Youth, the aim of thy striving, man, the aim of thy life, maiden, the aim of thy longing, mother, the end of thy seeking shall only be the glorification of God; and will in that time make public only the glorification of the Lord. The mouth of the Lord only spoke, and thus didst thou spring into existence; without the word of the Lord which endures for ever, thou wouldst only be withered grass; and whatever thou wouldst effect for thyself and others, and all thy goodness would only be a faded flower. But thou art created in the image of God, and thou art a son of the Lord, and a child of our heavenly Father; thou art able to lead a holy life, for thy heavenly Father is holy; thou art able to banish the desire for sin from thy heart, for with thy God no sin does dwell; thou art able to be a temple unto the Lord, thou art able to coerce thy evil passions, thy evil angel so that בעל כרחו יענה אמן he will feel himself compelled to answer AMEN, instead of teaching falsehood, בעל כרחו יטיף שבחו and praise thee before God instead of accusing thee before the Lord. Do, therefore, strive in thy whole life, and in every minute of thy life to remain an image of God, a holy child of thy heavenly Father. Let the Lord be praised through whatever thou doest, through whatever thou hast. Let the mouth of the Lord speak through the greatest and through the least, through the most important and through the most unimportant. For this is the glorification of the Lord, brethren, and only this is the being revealed of his glory, when in reference to God there is nothing small and nothing great any more with us; when through the smallest and through the greatest the mouth of the Lord speaks; when in the smallest and in the greatest God dwells and nothing but God dwells; when in heaven and on earth beatitude is to be found; when in heaven and on earth we adhere firmly to the Lord our God; when we live in God and He in us, when we love God and He loves us, and we think constantly of the Lord our God.

In that beautiful time, brethren, which is promised us as the time of the Messiah, all men shall live humanly, and therefore divinely, כל האליל כליל יחליף “and all idols will totally vanish,” (Isa. 2:18,) not alone the outward idols, but also their causes; not alone the idols which we see, but those too which we harbour in our hearts; not alone the fear of that what is vain, but the love also for the vanities of the earth. Every vanity shall vanish, and the word of our God alone will stand for ever, and through the word of our God every thing will emerge from its nothingness; and because God will then dwell in our heart, and because God only will then be enthroned in our heart, and because our heart will then be a temple consecrated to the Lord: all our wishes also will be divine, all our endeavours will also be to obtain noble objects only, and our goodness will therefore stand for ever. Is not God also upon the earth beneath? And does not every earthly thing serve for his glorification? The use, therefore, of earthly things and the striving after the goods of this earth can also be the worship of God, and be made the means of revealing his glory. “Say not, therefore, Zion, that the Lord hath forsaken thee, that the Eternal One thy God has forgotten thee; but rejoice in the Lord, gladden thy heart in thy God, for he clothes thee with the garments of salvation, and places around thee the mantle of righteousness.” (Isaiah 61:10.)

II.

But before yon happy time commences, brethren, yon time when בלע המות לנצח “death, the spiritual death which prevails when man does not adhere to the Lord our God, shall cease for ever, before God will wipe the tear from every face,” (ib. 25:8): there will appear signs in heaven and on the earth—blood, fire, and clouds of smoke. The sun will be changed to darkness. and the moon be turned to blood, before the day of the Lord cometh, the great and fearful, so we read in Joel 3:3,4. In our text, also, allusion is made to that great and fearful day, “in which all nations shall be gathered to the valley of Jehoshaphat, where God will sit on his throne to judge all nations.” (Joel 4:2); that day “on which the Lord will cry from Zion, and lift up his voice from Jerusalem, and heaven and earth will quake,” (ib. 16); that day “on which the Lord will judge with pestilence and with blood, and will rain an overflowing rain, and great hailstones, fire and sulphur, upon the enemy, upon Gog of Magog, and upon his hosta, and upon the numerous people that are with him; and thus will the Lord prove himself great and holy, and be known before the eyes of many nations, that they may know that the Lord alone is God.” (Ezek. 38:22,23.) For so we read in our text: “Behold, the Lord God cometh as a strong one, and his arm ruleth for him; behold his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.”

Often already, brethren, especially in modern times, has our religion been reproached for this belief on the “Sufferings of the Messiah,” חבלי משיח as the Talmud calls that period of the fearful judgment of all the world. Often already have we been reproached, that we are cruel and revengeful, because we hold fast to the predictions of the prophets, because we believe firmly, “that all shall be ashamed and confounded who have injured us, that all the men shall be rendered as naught who have quarrelled with us, that the storm shall take them up, and the whirlwind scatter them, but that we shall then rejoice in the Lord and praise ourselves in the holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:11-16.) Some have said, that only a hard-hearted, unloving, and revengeful people, could believe of God that He could say: “And I will tread them down in my anger, and trample on them in my wrath, and their blood shall be sprinkled on my garment, and all my raiment will I stain: for a day of vengeance is in my heart and the year of my redeemed is come.” (Ibid. 63:3, 4.) But, brethren, were not the Israelites ever styled רחמנים בני רחמנים “merciful children of merciful parents?” And if the merciful ones hold fast to their belief in divine vengeance, such a belief must then needs be one of comfort to them and all who are merciful. Yes, we do believe in that great and fearful day, on that judgment of vengeance and punishment; for the time of the Messiah will be the time when the Lord will wipe away the tear from every face, when the death of the spirit will cease, and this is not possible without that judgment of vengeance and punishment.

The Lord only desires the good, brethren: “The Lord desires not the death of the wicked, but that he return from his evil way and live,” (Ezek. 33: 11;) but the Lord will not coerce us to be good, הכל בידי שמים חוץ מיראת שמים say our wise teachers “Every thing is in the power of Heaven, except the fear of Heaven.” In this respect man is free; it is left to him whether he will fear and love God, or whether he will bow down before the idol, before the work of the creature; whether he wishes to exist unto eternity in the word of our God, which itself will endure forever, or whether the earthly, and the vanities of the earth, withered grass and faded grass, shall fill his heart. But, brethren, this liberty thus granted us, to be or not to be, to live or to die, to yield to truth or falsehood, must not be permitted to frustrate God’s object in the creation of the human race, must not, for all that, be permitted to prevent the good from being acknowledged as the only truth, and the evil as falsehood. With this freedom, it must nevertheless not be denied, that the Lord is God alone, in heaven above and on the earth beneath, there is none else; that all, which is, can only be of God; that all which exists, can receive its existence only from God; that all which perishes, perished only through God.

Sin is not in God, nor with God, nor through God; but it endeavours to be beyond God and without God. Its being can, therefore, only be appearance, shadow, nothingness; and it must therefore be proven as vain and powerless, if it is ever to be overcome, if the truth is ever to hold sole dominion. Therefore, brethren, we behold the eternal law, instituted by God from the beginning, that sin can only bring forth death, that sin always and every where destroys ITSELF. And this law (let us be thankful to God for it) we can trace in the life of individuals, and we firmly believe that it is ruling also in the life of nations. When the individual sins, and be it even in the most secret and the darkest, and the remotest chamber of his house,—God sees him, the curse of Cain pursues him. Never can he say: “Do I know where my brother is? Am I his keeper?” For this is interdicted to him by the voice of his own heart, which calls out to him: Thou knowest where thy brother has been put, for thou hast murdered him. And this voice is the voice of God; it will also encourage the obdurate sinner to level in the desert of his soul a way for our God, for God wills not the death of the sinner, but that he return from his evil way and live. This voice will admonish him, that, whilst he sought happiness beyond God and without God, he could find nothing but withered grass and faded flowers.

But when he heeds not this admonishing voice of his conscience, when he perseveres to sin in SECRET, when he will eat at both tables, when he before the world serves God, and in the privacy of his chamber is the slave of his passions: then will God compel him to commit a public sin, as God hardened the heart of sinful Pharaoh; so that the punishment of a public contumely be made the recompense of his deeds, so that the nothingness of sin be made publicly known, and all the world understand, that the word of God alone can stand forever.

Thus also is it in the life of nations, beloved brethren. In the life of nations also, can sin bring only death, and fear of God alone bring life. Here also sin cannot remain concealed, it cannot continue in private to spread the seeds of destruction; but its fruit must be brought to the light of day, and the ripe products of sin are always called “death and corruption,” “evil and unhappiness,” “withered grass and faded flowers.” Sin hates the good, death hates life, corruption hates salvation, falsehood hates truth; and the sin of the individual, as well as that of entire nations, must reveal this hatred, pregnant with death, in such a manner before the light of day, that it cannot be any longer misunderstood; and this law is the law imposed upon sin by the Lord for our salvation and its destruction, and this is the pit which it digs for itself, and this is the evil which reverts back on its own head. And when will sin be compelled to display this hatred to the good more clearly than at the time when the good shall rule alone? When will it desire to dig a deeper pit for virtue, than at the time when the glory of the Lord is to be revealed before the eyes of all flesh?

This divine law, brethren, that sin must exhibit itself as sin, so that it may be recognized in all its hideousness; that sin is to be compelled to show before the light of day what it broods over in the heart, so that its vanity and powerlessness shall no more remain a secret to any one; so that all men may know that, because “it travelleth with iniquity and hath conceived mischief, it can only bring forth falsehood” (Ps. 7:15):—this divine law is ordained for our salvation and its destruction, that it may be acknowledged that all its fury is a poison fang directed against itself, that its war of extermination against the truth can only exterminate itself; and surely the belief in this law cannot be made a matter of reproach against us Israelites. Only he who hates correctly can love correctly; only he who proclaims: אין שלום אמר אלקי לרשעים “There is no peace to the wicked, saith my God,”—only he can make a true and everlasting peace with what is good.

Yes, brethren, let us ever hate the bad, let us hold fast to the belief that God hateth violence, especially when it assumes the cloak of religion, (Isaiah 61:8;) let us hold fast to the belief, that the evil cannot always creep about in secrecy, but that it must openly produce fruits, and that these fruits must be like the mothers, and must ultimately devour the mother and destroy then itself no less than its mother; let us hold fast to the belief, that the evil will be judged on the day of the Lord; that it then will exert all its strength, and yet remain powerless; display all its power, and still appear as vain; let us hold fast to the hope in the joys of the time of the Messiah, the time, when God alone, and nothing but divine things, will be recognizable every where; when God will be ALONE, and his name will be One; when God will rule alone, not merely in heaven above, but also upon the earth beneath, not alone in nature but also in our hearts; when man will not only love God, but love nothing but God; when man will not only serve God, but serve nothing but God, in the works of his hands no less than in the hymns of his mouth; in the thought of the heart no less than in the exertion of the body; in acquisition no less than in enjoyment; in the taking no less than in the giving.

This belief, brethren, alone has power to comfort the sufferer, to raise him that is bowed down, to encourage the despairing, to hold up him that is sinking, “to comfort the mourners for Zion, to give them beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, garments of praise instead of a troubled spirit, so that they shall be called אילי הצדק מטע ה׳ להתפאר  “oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord that he might be glorified.” Amen.

Note by the Editor.—We give in the above, the first sermon on the Messiah, by the Rabbi of Luxemburgh, and we may hereafter give several more on this subject from this learned divine. We are only deterred from promising the whole series on account of the great length of the different sermons, since the above is, we think, the shortest in the whole collection.