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בס"ד

Questions,
Put By A Clergyman Of Ruan, And Answered By H. Saul Levy Mortiera.

(Concluded from p. 453.)

 (Communicated by J. R. Peynado, Esq., of Hackney, England.)

XX. “What valid excuse is there for Hebrews who return to Judaism, after having received and professed the Christian religion?”

With greater reason might it be asked, “What valid excuse can there be for the tyrants who forced the Jews, by intimidation and persecution, to embrace the Christian religion by such fierce and pitiless tyranny that the relation of the instances and circumstance would fill a large volume?” A single instance will suffice: The Bishop Osorio, in the first book of the Chronicles of Emanuel, King of Portugal, calls the manner in which he treated the Jews “wicked, cruel, unjust, and savage.” How then can it be asked if the Jews are justified in returning to their religion, when it appears that such violence and cruelty were employed to make them profess one they did not believe in, and to feign love to what they hated? With how much more reason might one ask, What excuse the Jews had to forsake the law of their fathers, which they received from the mouth of God the universal Father, given with such solemnity on Mount Sinai, for a perpetual obligation, which all the nations acknowledge to be true, and confess to be a peculiar privilege which no other nation in the world enjoys, since all the other religions are only believed by those who profess them? What excuse had they for receiving new rights and statutes, such as their fathers never taught? This indeed might be asked with propriety, and not the above question; for had it not been for the persecution and cruelty alluded to above, the case would have been reversed, which can be proved by the instances of Jethro, Ruth, and Naaman, who being Gentiles, and knowing the truth of the God of Israel, were converted, as all the Gentiles will be; as Jeremiah the prophet says (16:19): “Oh Lord, my strength and my fortress in the day of affliction; the Gentiles shall come unto thee from the ends of the earth, and shall say, Surely our fathers have inherited lies, vanity, and things wherein there is no profit. Shall a man make gods unto himself and they are no gods?”

XXI. “Whether Jews who are not circumcised, and who do not keep the law in other respects in countries where such is prohibited, and who act contrary to the laws and against their conscience in professing Christianity—adoring idols and attending mass, and denying Judaism, whilst they are Jews in their hearts, but conceal it—whether they can be saved?”

Of the persons alluded to above there are two classes: those who live in countries where  not only they are prevented from keeping the law, but where they are also forbidden to leave the country. These persons are criminal in not trying, even at the risk of life, to escape to a free country. The Lord expressly says (Deut. 6:5): “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might;” from which we see that every thing is to be subordinate to the love of God; and the example of Hananiah, Meshael, and Azariah, in Babylon, who offered themselves to the fiery ordeal rather than adore an idol, showeth the truth of the precept. Nevertheless the Lord being merciful and slow to anger, knowing the weakness of human nature, and how many ties and obstacles detain them in those countries, mitigates his rigour and favours them, seeing that their minds are disposed to his service, as experience has shown to us in many instances. The second class are they who inhabit countries which they are not prevented from leaving, and there is no obstacle to their going wherever they please. This class is entirely hated by the Lord and devoted to perdition; they are real worshippers of the golden calf, serving that for the vile purpose of accumulating wealth; they fancy they can deceive God for the sake of the world, and the world for the sake of God. They think that the will being good, they have fulfilled their duty, and do not consider that the Lord says (Deut. 30:14): “But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it;” wherein it is distinctly said, that to keep the law we must acknowledge it with our mouth, and believe it in our heart, and perform it with our might. It were better for them to be ignorant of the truth, than to know and deny it; for in the former case there is an excuse, which there is not in the other. This is taught by the prophet Isaiah (26:10): “Let favour be shown to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness will he deal unjustly, and will not behold the majesty of the Lord.” They ought to consider how ungrateful they are to their Creator, who hath delivered them from the flames of Sodom; and they, like Lot’s wife, instead of following the path which leads to salvation, turn back and remain in the mid-way, like a pillar of salt, deceived by the apparent prosperity of riches, not knowing the conditions of that prosperity, as shown by the psalmist (92:7): “When the wicked spring as the grass and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish, it is that they shall be destroyed for ever;” and Solomon says (Proverbs 1:32): “For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them.” To these may be added a third class, which resembles the first, and are those Israelites who being Christians* in their hearts, from dread of torture and loss of life confess themselves to be Jews; in which instance God has given them a clear proof of the falsehood of the decisions of the Inquisition, which shed so much innocent blood; for they see plainly that they can make persons confess against their conscience that which is not true, to which Ezekiel alludes (20:32): “And that which cometh into your mind shall not be at all, that ye say, We will be as the heathens, as the families of the countries, to serve wood and stones.”

*There is a great obscurity in this passage, probably owing to some misconception of the original.

XXII. “What has become of the ten tribes who were carried away by the Assyrians, and what is expected to befall them?”

The prophecies of Isaiah abundantly answer this question. He says (27:30): “And it shall come to pass in that day that the great trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come which were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and the outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall worship the Lord in the holy mount in Jerusalem.” The Hebrew says “lost.” He calls them lost who were carried away by the Assyrians, because it was not known what had become of them, and so they will remain until the season shall be appointed by the Divine Wisdom; in the same manner as Joseph was hid in Egypt twenty-two years, until it pleased God to discover him to his family. The words “and shall worship the Lord in the holy mount at Jerusalem,” reply to the second part of the question, where it is asked what will befall them; for the prophet clearly says they shall return to Jerusalem. The same is said by Hosea 1:11: “Then shall the children of Judah and the children of Israel be gathered together, and appoint themselves one head, and they shall come up out of the land, for great shall be the day of Jezreel.” Ezekiel largely describes the restoration of the ten tribes (37:22): “And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel, and one king shall be king to them all, and they shall be no longer two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all.”

XXIII. “Whether the Jews believe in the original sin in which we the all born; if not, why they do not?”

The Jews deny original sin with great reason; because sin is seated in the soul, and our souls do not proceed from Adam, but from God the creator; therefore the souls of the descendants of Adam could not participate in the sin of Adam; for sin is the act of the mind and soul, as is clearly expressed in the Scriptures (Numbers 15:31): “That soul shall be cut off; his iniquity shall be upon him;” whence we see that sin resides in the soul; and that souls are created by God, without the intervention of any agent, is proved by Isaiah 57:16: “For the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made;” this Ezekiel confirms, saying (18:4): “Behold all souls are mine, as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine; the soul that sinneth it shall die;” therefore the souls of the descendants of Adam could not partake in his sin. But the Jews acknowledge that all mankind are born subject to the punishment which was awarded to Adam for his sin, which being corporeal, attached to the bodies of his children as children of his body (as the children of a slave partake of the condition of their father), until the time promised by God, when he will restore the world to its former perfection, foretold by Isaiah 25:8: “He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the rebuke of his people shall be taken away from off all the earth, for the Lord hath spoken it. 9. And it shall be said in that day, Lo! this is our God; we have waited for him and he will save us; this is the Lord; we have waited for him; we will be glad, and rejoice in his salvation.”