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Hebrew Authors And Their Opponents.

(Continued from p. 134.)

It is averred by historians,* as also by some most honourable Israelites, who spake with him, that R. David did undoubtedly petition the Pope that there should be given to him metal instruments of war for projecting missiles, and also expert workmen to forward them to Arabia Felix, so that they might thereby be enabled to overcome their enemies, as above stated; and that R. David, for his part, promised to the Pope many advantages, and that arrangements should be made for his rule in some of these places where are tellers of collections,† and where grew spices and many medical drugs. This was in order that the Jews there might assemble and unite themselves, and even pass over, subdue, and inherit the Holy Land, which is an everlasting inheritance to Israel. Now all this I have seen in authentic writings, and heard from honourable persons and men of veracity.‡ God, the Eternal, is the perfection of all truth; He lieth not, neither doth He deal deceitfully; and those who trust in Him shall not be put to shame, for truth proceedeth from Him, and he will ever act in accordance with this his attribute.§

* Gentile. Here again it is to be observed that R. Peritsol does not speak on his own authority, but on that of others. It is the latter, then, and not the Rabbi that ought to have been attacked.

† The words in the text are בעלי אסופות. Hyde translates them as Authores Collectionum, which he says means collectors or gatherers of all kinds of riches, merchandise, and all good things. The phrase occurs in Ecclesiastes xii. 11, and has been rendered in the Anglican version as “masters of assemblies.” But see a commentary on this scriptural passage by the writer of the present note.

See note 4, Oc. p. 40.

§ R. Abraham here evidently endeavours to show the probability of the messenger’s narrative being true, by reminding us of the immutability of the divine promises, and by his hint that the prophecy referring to the future reunion of Judah and Ephraim still remains unfulfilled, but which will undoubtedly be accomplished, notwithstanding that so many centuries have elapsed since the ten tribes were led into their dark captivity,—will surely be accomplished, since the promise emanated from “the perfection of all truth.” The existence somewhere of Ephraim, or the ten tribes, (he appears desirous to remind us,) is a necessary condition of its fulfillment. (See note 5, Oc. p. 40.)

At the present period, (being the year 285 of the sixth millennium, and the month Marchesvan,) we have heard certain persons affirm|| <<210>>that this Pope Clement, King of the Gentiles, did determine, and so decree, that R. David should be sent honourably away, in a spacious ship, laden with instruments of war, and accompanied by divers artisans; both Jewish and Christian. He was to go by way of Portugal, the king of which country was to show still farther kindness to him, by issuing such orders as should secure to him honourable treatment, respect, and the fulfillment of his wishes from every Christian nation (having friendly intercourse with the King of Portugal) through whose territory he might pass. Now as to all these things, whichever way they be, so (in the end) will they be established.*

|| Our author still refrains from advancing anything on his own authority, thus rendering the attacks of Hyde and Basnage the more unwarranted and unjust.

* This passage is a convincing proof that R. Abraham does not repeat this story as if he had accepted all its details as truths. It surely must have been overlooked by his opponents.

As for me, I do but propose to set down the way in which, according to my opinion, he might travel with the greatest safety,† supposing that historians have correctly affirmed in respect to his going to Portugal. From Portugal, then, they might proceed by sea, rounding the continent of Fes,‡ and leaving to seaward, on their right, the Insulae Fortunatae (now called Hispaniola); then extending§ their journey by Cape Verde, on land, they might proceed along Africa to their left, then (south) eastwardly to the great promontory called Cabo de Boa Esperança, passing the Barbary Gulf to find the straits of the Red Sea; and then, by land, to arrive at the desert of Chabor, wherever it be,|| and so proceed to the place of his destination,—all of which novel route we shall hereafter dwell upon more at length.

† With the greatest safety, though, perhaps, not with the greatest despatch. The former, however, is the consideration with our author, This is to be borne in mind when examining the route he lays down.

‡ The land of Fes, or the continent of which Fes forms a northwesterly portion.

§ By our author’s using the term וימשך which means to lengthen, to draw out, he shows us that he is conscious of there being a nearer route to Arabia; and when he speaks of the one laid down by him being the safest, he may mean in reference to the pirates, which even at this early period infested the Mediterranean.

|| See note 3, p. 40.

The appearance of this Jew, according to what was heard concerning him, may be thus described. He was of short stature, spare in flesh, but of very strong heart, (i.e. spirited and bold); he was constantly at his devotions, and afflicted himself with numerous fastings. Indeed, it is said by some writers,¶ that he once continued six consecutive days without tasting food of any description. He conversed chiefly in the sacred tongue, but occasionally he could not be clearly understood, as << 211>>though he had some impediment in his speech. Many honourable per­sons, and even cardinals, went to visit him in Rome, but he would not receive them. He rode through Rome on a mule, to see the novelties of the city, and entered, on this mule, the great church of St. Peter’s, i.e. as far as the great altar, not choosing to alight from the said mule. There were about ten Jews, and more than two hundred Christians running before him. The Eternal will yet declare favourably con­cerning Israel.

¶ Our author still quotes authorities for what he advances.

Extracts From The “Shalsheleth Hackabbalah,” Referred To In The Preceding Notes.

“In the year 5294 of the creation, (i.e. 1466 years after the de­struction of the second temple,) there came from remote regions a Jew, whose name was R. David, the Reubenite. He arrived at Rome, and conferred with Pope Clement, who received him favourably. Concerning himself, he affirmed that he was captain of the host of the King of Israel. He was of short stature, black, as an Ethiopian, and apparently of about forty-five years of age. He also spake with the King of Portugal, but by means of an interpreter, as he could only converse in Hebrew or Arabic. He informed this monarch that the Kings of Israel beyond Halach, Habor, and Gozan, had sent him to ascertain whether his majesty was willing to combine with them against their enemies, and provide them with battering-rams, in which case they would be able to subdue their said enemies. The king promised that this should be done.”

R. Ghedaliah then proceeds to state; that during the “many days” of R. David’s stay in Portugal, “the Lord stirred up the spirit” of a young man, one of the king’s scribes, who became a convert to R. David, and publicly preached many wondrous things concerning the written and oral laws. R. Joseph Hacohen makes a similar assertion, observing that this Solomon [Molka] (the name of the young man) was of Jewish descent. For the long and interesting address made by the proselyte to the Hahamim of the period, as also for other information respecting him, the reader is referred to R. Cohen’s דברי הימים, p. 90, b., and R. Ghedaliah’s של״ הק״, p. 34, b., Amst. eds. R. Ghedaliah continues to observe: “This R. David once fasted six days consecutively; and I have heard one R. Judah Deblenes, a person quite worthy of credit, asseverate that, when at Rome, and an attendant on this man, he did not at all partake of food during the time just stated.”

With the above extracts from the work of R. Ghedaliah, we conclude <<212>>our review of the fourteenth chapter of R. Abraham Peritsol’s “Cosmo­graphy.”

Our design has been to show the injustice of the attacks leveled more particularly against this portion of the book; and it is, of course, for the reader to decide how far we have succeeded. Still, we cannot but flatter ourself that we have fully disproved the charge of Basnage and Hyde, that the circumstance of which this chapter treats is an invention and impudent falsehood of Peritsol himself; and also that we have shown the discrepancies with which our author has been taxed by his annotator, to be in reality not such. We have shown, in our notes, that R. Abraham is particularly careful to make no direct assertion of his own, but advances all on the authority of others, and is thus exempt from all responsibility. He certainly does say “we ourselves have seen R. David;” but this can be understood as either meaning himself, or his countrymen. As he gives a description of the appearance of the messenger, “according to what was heard in this respect,” (לפי הנשמע) which no doubt he would not have done, had he himself seen him, we would be inclined to believe that it is his countrymen he means, the more especially as at the commencement of the chapter he speaks of himself in the singular number.

Notwithstanding, giving to his antagonists the benefit of the doubt, we have endeavoured to show the extreme probability of such a person as R. David having actually visited Rome, and of his having represented himself to be messenger sent from the ten tribes.*

* As to R. David’s assertion that the remnant of the ten tribes were then still to be found in Arabia, we offer no opinion, as not being called on to do so. It might be no difficult task, however, to show the possibility of his having actually come from the country lying between the Tigris and Lake Ooroomiah, a tract occupied by the Nestorian Christians and many Jews, both of whom claim a descent from the ten tribes, and of the latter of which people he night have spoken.

Peritsol nowhere expresses his conviction that the messenger was actually so, but always speaks with the greatest  uncertainty and reserve. To determine the messenger an imposter, or otherwise, he does not seem to consider his province. He gives the sense of some of his countrymen, and leaves his readers to form their own conclusions. Thus, then, the only charges that his opponents could bring against him, would be that he retails what appears to them as improbable stories, and that he says either he or his countrymen have seen a man whom they do not believe ever existed. But, as before said, we have shown how extremely probable it is that such a personage did really visit Italy and Portugal and if our readers will only agree with us that we have as much reason to believe this one fact as to reject it, then we shall have succeeded in clearing these Hebrew authors from <<213>>some of the groundless and somewhat illiberal charges of the opponents.

A. D. S.
Montreal, Iyar 5609.