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בס"ד

Discourse

Delivered by the Rev. Jacob Rosenfeld, at the Consecration of the Orthodox Synagogue, Charleston, S.C., on Friday the 1st Day of Elul, 5607, 13th of August, 1847.

Prayer for the Congregation

Almighty God of Israel, Lord of Hosts, Father of all Creatures, King of all Kings, Thou who dwellest in infinite regions, whose footstool is the earth, Thou who art the Creator of myriads of worlds with innumerable creatures, who praise, reverence, and glorify thy holy and blessed Name! look down favourably from thy dwelling-place, the heavens, upon this house which we have erected to thy sacred Name, and which we now consecrate to thy holy worship. Accept our exertions in thy blessed cause as a sacrifice upon thy altar, and may our praises and thanksgivings ascend as a sweet savour before thy throne of glory. O Lord, most gracious and benign, there is none like unto Thee in heaven above or on the earth beneath. Thou didst keep the covenant with our ancestors and give unto them the land of thy choice. Thou didst make them prosperous and place them above the nations of the earth; yet, as they violated thy covenant, and transgressed against Thee, Thou didst scatter them over the face of the whole earth. The holy land is a wilderness, in the hands of other nations; the holy city desolate, and the temple, once thy dwelling-place, is razed to the ground. O Lord, what can we do to reconcile Thee? how can we serve Thee to atone for our sinfulness? We are but feeble mortals, neglectful of our duties, led <<326>>astray through our weakness; we entirely throw ourselves on thy mercy and unbounded compassion; for Thou wilt not abandon thine inheritance, nor forsake the children of thy covenant. O God of Israel, Thou hast not yet found us worthy of restoring our country to us, and rebuilding our Temple;—yet our hearts are anxious to worship Thee, and approach Thee in prayer and thanksgivings. We have therefore erected this house to thy Name, and we now consecrate it to thy worship.

We have no sacrifices to offer up to Thee; but, O Lord, we will endeavour to approach Thee with purified hearts and clean lips, with prayers deep and fervent, with praises and thanksgiving, to exalt and glorify Thee and thy holy Name. O Lord, mayest Thou be in our midst and bless us, and may thy divine שכינה ever rest in this house; mayest Thou hear the prayers and supplications of all who pray to Thee in this sanctuary. Console the afflicted, heal the sick, give food to the hungry, sustenance to the needy, forgiveness to the sinner, reflection to the wicked, and true repentance to the violators of thy sacred law. O most gracious God, shower thy heavenly blessings upon this congregation, who have erected this building to thy holy worship. May peace and union ever prevail among them; may the spirit of piety and true faith animate them ever to adhere firmly to thy holy law, and to act up to thy divine precepts; may a feeling of brotherly love and charity ever keep them united as members of one family, and assemble them in this sanctuary to praise Thee and thy holy and exalted Name. O Father, fill our hearts with humility and reverence; may true piety dwell in our midst; may we never become haughty and presumptuous, or forgetful of Thee. Remove sickness and other evils frorn our midst, and when we approach Thee in prayer and supplication, hear us, O God, most graciously. Hear the child that supplicates thy divine blessing in behalf of the beloved parent. Hear the mother when she prays for her children’s welfare. Hear the widow and the fatherless who look up to Thee alone for protection. Hear the old and decrepit, and give them strength to endure patiently the trials of life. Hear all who seek Thee in this sanctuary and assist them, in thy infinite goodness. Bless, O Lord, all those who have been zealous in the erection of this sanctuary; bless the president and trustees of this congregation with thy divine grace; inspire them with true piety and a devotional zeal to maintain our holy worship as we have inherited it from our ancestors, and guard us against innovation, or anything that may tend to disturb the harmony of this congregation. Bless, O Merciful Father, every individual member of this congregation with health, contentment and happiness. Bless <<327>>all this assembly, and all who love Thee and thy holy name. To Thee, O Lord, we hope; in Thee we put our trust; Thou art our only Saviour and God, and from Thee alone cometh salvation.—Amen.

Prayer for the Government

Great and glorious God or Israel, Thou art our stronghold and safeguard in time of need, our beloved Father and Protector in our wanderings through this vale of tears. In thy hand lieth the destiny of the world and its innumerable inhabitants, and before Thee nothing is hidden. We approach Thee in humility and reverence, we enter thy house with prayer and supplications, we step over thy threshold in filial love and gratitude; for Thou hast been most gracious and merciful towards us in granting us to consecrate this house to Thee and thy holy worship. O Lord, Thou knowest that our country has been wrested from us. Our holy city has become a prey to the barbarians, and we are dispersed and wandering strangers over all the earth. Thou knowest, O Lord, that we have borne thy chastisement in submission to thy holy will, as an atonement for our, and our ancestors’ sinfulness. Thou hast heard the voice of thy oppressed people when they cried unto Thee, and hast granted them thy heavenly aid; for Thou, O Almighty Father, hast in thy infinite wisdom aided the people of this country in throwing off the yoke of arbitrary power, and granted unto them to become a free nation. Here, on these shores of liberty, thy suffering people have found an asylum and a refuge; here they can serve Thee, without fear, in a manner most pleasing to Thee. O Lord, may thy watchful eye rest graciously on this beloved country; may thy protecting hand guard its Constitution, that liberty may ever prevail over oppression, enlightenment over bigotry and fanaticism, and liberty of conscience over arbitrary power. Bless, O Lord, the President of our beloved republic, and all those patriotic members of Congress who have the welfare of the country truly at heart; may wisdom prevail in their councils, and mayest Thou guide them in the true path which may ever lead to our country’s prosperity and welfare. Bless, O Lord, our fields and orchards with fertility and abundance. Remove famine and all evil diseases from this happy clime,—let internal peace prevail undisturbed, and grant us, we beseech Thee, thy divine grace. Bless, O Merciful Father, this our beloved State with thy gracious protection;—bless the produce of our soil and the labours of our hands;—bless the governor, senate, and representatives with wisdom, that our State may prosper by their administration. Shower thy heavenly blessing upon our fellow-citizens, and our beloved city;—may it flourish and increase.<<328>>Remove poverty from our midst, and protect it with thy grace, for Thou art gracious and full of compassion, Thou art the source of all happiness and blessing, and in Thee we trust.—Amen.

Address

Brethren—With feelings of deep emotion do I address you this day, for the first time, in this sanctuary which we have erected in the name of the Most High, and which we now consecrate to to Him and His holy worship. O my friends, if we reflect for a moment on the wonderful protection which the Lord has extended to our ancestors and ourselves, from the liberation from Egypt even unto this day, the innumerable benefits conferred on us as a nation, as well as individual members of the family of Abraham, and our hearts overflow with deep and fervent gratitude;—if we look around us with minds filled with that exalted admiration, which the wonderful works of creation inspire, and turn in reverence and filial love to the supreme and invisible Author of the whole: how poor and inefficient, my friends, are words to give expression to our feelings! It is thus we feel this day, assembled here with our wives and children,—youth, manhood, and old age, clad in festive garments, prepared to worship the Lord. It is indeed a pleasing and most interesting sight, to see the family of Jacob congregated for so noble and holy a purpose! To the true Israelite it affords an indescribable gratification to see the dispersed of Jacob still clinging to their God as their only refuge and hope, who has not forsaken them entirely, although they have caused his wrath to be kindled against them.

But now let me ask you in the words of our captive ancestors by the streams of Babel, איך נשיר את שיר יי על אדמת נכר “How can we sing the song of the Lord on strange ground?” Yes, my brethren, I call this “strange ground,” because this is not the consecrated spot which was dedicated by your ancestors in days gone by, to the worship of the Most High. This is not the spot endeared to you by early recollections. It is not here where your parents before you poured forth their devotion to the glorious, invisible, and omnipotent I AM, the Creator of heaven and earth. Why, therefore, I ask, do you sing the praises of the Lord on this strange spot? This question must necessarily call forth sad recollections within you. It must lead you back to the time<<329>>when the congregation of Israel in this city was united, all worshipping in the same sanctuary erected by your pious ancestors, all joining in that holy and genuine worship, inherited from them; the time when peace and harmony prevailed amongst you, and your congregation prospered. It will bring before your imagination that fatal day when your place of worship was consumed by fire, and you will recall to mind the unfortunate condition of the congregation after that period, when innovations began to creep in, and a desire for change grew so strong, that the admission of one was but the precursor of many; threatening the total destruction of all those sacred forms and rites, venerated by the congregation of Israel throughout the world, as a precious and sacred inheritance from their pious and wise ancestors. Yes, my friend, the spirit in which that reform was carried on plunged you in misery, banished you from the altars of your fathers, disunited the holiest ties, severed the bonds of affection and friendship, and from the hand where the olive branch should have come forth with gladness, a destructive firebrand was hurled amongst you; from the lips which should have proclaimed the pious words of the royal bard,הנה מה טוב ומה נעים שבת אחים גם יחד “How good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity,” words of strife and discord came forth, which brought disunion among you. Ah, my friends, if you reflect on all the wrongs and injuries which you have suffered, from the time this unhappy contest began up to this day, and the manner in which the holy religion of your fathers has been handled—a religion most ancient and divine, the superstructure of which has stood the shock of ages and the ravages of time,—if you reflect farther that you have succeeded in opposing that arrogant, baneful, and preposterous attempt of reforming a creed so purely divine as ours,—you should feel exceedingly happy, this triumphant day, that the Lord has opened your eyes, and assisted you in His benign goodness to be strong, and to resist firmly all the temptations which have beset you.

Let me, however, impress on your minds in this solemn hour, that feeling of true humility, charity, and benevolence, which becomes every true descendant of Jacob; that although you were sufferers in the struggle, by being driven from the inheritance of your fathers, you should harbour no ill feeling, hatred, or enmity<<330>>against those who deprived you of your rights. Remember, my friends, that they are nevertheless your brethren, members of the same family, and believers in the same God; and, although they differ with you in opinion concerning matters of religion, it is for God to judge, not for man. You should pray to the Lord of Mercy to fill their hearts with repentance; and you, bury the past from this day, for ever. My brethren, the question is fully and satisfactorily answered. You have preferred to relinquish your rights, and to sing the songs of the Lord on strange ground, rather than worship God in a manner not congenial with the feelings of a true Israelite. You have preferred this plain edifice to a magnificent temple, rather than be dictated to by men—how to worship your God. This day, therefore, is to us a day of gladness and triumph, an era in the history of our existence as a religious denomination in this happy clime—again has orthodoxy grappled with her foe—and prevailed. It is true the struggle was hard; your prospects were sad, your means little, and expectations few. Many of your members lacked that true zeal which could have levelled those mountains before you. Lukewarmness and indifference prevailed among many. Your opponents saw it and smiled in scorn; they beheld your emergency and predicted your downfall. Yet there was one stronghold that supported you, and pleaded in your behalf before the throne of Mercy, “the justice of your cause,” although men were leagued against you, shortsighted mortals endeavoured to injure your cause; yet, the Lord, who is the protector of the oppressed, sanctioned your actions, and carried you safely through your trials. Your congregation is established on a more lasting basis, and with gladness do I welcome you to this sanctuary, and say in the words of Mosesברוך אתה בבאך “Blessed art thou in thy coming in!” עד הנה עזרנו ה' “Thus far has the Lord supported us!” Great, almighty, and glorious is the Lord, full of justice and mercy; what can frail mortals effect against his divine will? can the counsels of man be accomplished if it be the will of God to frustrate them? I say the justice of your cause has gained you the especial protection of God.

Now, my friends, the dedication of this house to the service of the Most High is indeed a most pleasing and gladsome task. The Lord has favoured us with his divine sanction by which<<331>>we have been enabled to accomplish this holy work, and we have this day assembled to pour forth the incense of grateful hearts. In the dedication of this Synagogue you may see established the sublime truth:—1st. That the Lord assists those who are zealous in this cause; 2d. That the schism of your Synagogue has been for the wise purpose of arousing you from your lethargy, to guard your religion and public worship from innovations, and of bringing back to the fold those who were indifferent or astray. This, my friends, we have all experienced,—and this conviction should encourage us to hold firmly and adhere religiously to the divine precepts, which have been given to our ancestors on Horeb, as an inheritance of the house of Jacob.

This conviction should make us, as true Israelites, cling to our God,—united among ourselves as members of one family, destined to accomplish some glorious end, devised by God for the happiness of all mankind. It should finally impress on us solemnly the promise made to our fathers that the Lord will not forsake his chosen people, but gather them from the four corners of the globe, and re-establish them in the Holy Land, when all the nations of the earth shall acknowledge that the Lord is one and his name One.

My brethren! the obstacles are surmounted, the taunts and scorn of your opponents silenced, the cavils of the discontented amongst you hushed. You have, with the help of God, accomplished your holy undertaking. I need not tell you, my friends, the design of this building; you all know it is a Synagogue, a substitute for that sanctuary which the Lord commanded Moses to build in the wilderness, and Solomon to erect in Jerusalem, in order that Israel might worship the Lord in a manner most acceptable to Him.

It is in lieu of that temple which was destroyed through our ancestors’ sinfulness, when the curse of the Lord rested heavily upon his chosen, but disobedient people. From that time of affliction and wo in Israel up to the present moment, the worship of the Most High, as commanded in Holy Writ, has ceased, our priests and Levites have lost their dignity, our burnt, peace, and daily offerings are no more; our pilgrimages to Jerusalem on Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles have been discontinued. The question is now, my brethren, How should Israel, under such circumstances, worship the Lord most acceptable to Him? This<<332>>question has caused in modern times great excitement among the descendants of Jacob. As for ourselves, we are firm in our adherence to what we have inherited from our ancestors; and we will endeavour to answer it, based upon the following passage, Deut. chap. 5:13: את ה' אלהיך תירא אתו תעבד ובשמו תשבע “Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God; Him thou shalt serve, and in his name thou shalt swear.” 1st. In our thoughts. 2d. In our actions. We will first take a general view of the subject, and then apply it particularly to our own case.

After the Lord had, in six days, created the heaven and earth and all their host, He lastly completed his stupendous work by creating man, the masterpiece of creation, endowed with a divine soul, so as to enable him to enjoy the inestimable gifts and beauties of nature, to acknowledge the glory, greatness, and majesty of his Maker, and appreciate his goodness and mercy. This world, therefore, was not created for its mere existence’ sake, but for that glorious purpose of having in it beings, able to comprehend the sublime design of creation, and to adore Him who spoke and the world stood firm. Man, the noblest creature of God, was destined to accomplish that great end. From Adam the first man, to Abraham, the faithful patriarch, who first knew the Lord, and promulgated his holy name on earth, the world was wrapped in total darkness. Having no true conception of an only, invisible Creator and yet urged by that celestial part within them, the soul, that there must exist a being superior to man, able to create this immense universe, mankind worshipped the constellations of heaven, or beings of their own imagination. Through Abraham’s faithful oeyng the Lord, he was promised that his descendants should be that chosen nation appointed by the Lord to accomplish the great design of creation, viz.: to establish his unity over the whole earth. The Lord, ever true to his promise, miraculously delivered our ancestors from the Egyptian bondage, after a thraldom, of 430 years, by the agency of his faithful servant Moses. This was the first event of importance that affected the fate of mankind. The tyrant’s power was, for the first time, crushed before the will of God; the bondmen triumphed over their cruel taskmasters, and Israel became a free and independent nation, of which no human power can deprive them. Liberty was then established on earth, for in Israel all nations of the earth shall be blessed; the fate<<333>>of Israel, and that of the rest of mankind are closely and indissolubly connected. Israel having then witnessed their miraculous deliverance, and seen their foe dead before them on the sea shore, were seized with fear and veneration for their deliverer, and inspired with faith in God and his servant Moses.

This great end once gained, the Lord found it necessary to give them a law by which they should he governed as a nation; a religion by which they should be guided individually, in faith and piety; and morals, to make them socially happy and prosperous. That giving of the law was the most important event on earth since the creation, and tended to ameliorate the degraded condition of mankind; for the law of Israel was destined to become, in part, the religion of the world, and render millions of human beings happy through its divine precepts. On Mount Sinai did the Lord give his people commandments, statutes and judgment, and elevated them to be his treasured and priestly nation. The law, containing 613 commands, principally concerns our nation; for the Lord, having created man in his own image, desired his actions to be in consonance with the celestial part within him. When Moses, therefore, admonished the nation to fear the Lord, he meant we should fear to displease the lord by actions contrary to his divine commands; we should fear Him as a Creator and Master of our destiny, who demands our entire submission to his will; we should fear to disobey his commands, as our King, who governs us in justice, and through whose protection we enjoy life and all its blessings. But as He is omnipotent, penetrating our most secret thoughts, good actions must necessarily be accompanied by pious thoughts to render acceptable.את ה' אליהך תירא אתו תעבד איזהו עבדה זה עבדה שבלב “Thou shalt serve the Lord thy God; what is meant by service, but the service of the heart?” our thoughts must be entirely with Him,  that is, we must have faith in Him, and his holy word; we must have faith in his power, holiness, mercy, and justice; we must have faith in the fulfilment of his promise.ואיזהו עבודה שבלב זו תפלה By the service of the heart is also meant prayer, that devout communing with the Lord, as children with their beloved parents, either to thank Him for goodness, or to conciliate his anger.

The erection of this house being an act of piety emanating from pious thoughts, has consequently had for its design that<<334>>twofold purpose: 1st, as a house of prayer, בית תפלה, wherein to purify our thoughts by a communion with God, to pray within these sacred walls in a manner inherited from our ancestors in the holy language in which the Lord revealed his holy will to his servants the prophets, and to maintain this mode of worship unimpaired; 2d, as a place where the law of God is to be espoused, בית תפלה, that we may understand it and meditate on the word of God, and walk in the path of righteousness  as worthy descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

As orthodox Jews and champions of the holy cause, you are expected to act up to orthodox principles on all occasions, in your daily pursuits, in your private dealings, and in your mode of living at home and abroad. If, in your intercourse with your fellow-beings, you have been just and upright; if you have not wronged them in any manner, but done unto them as you would wish to be done by; if, when the holy Sabbath approaches, you throw of the yoke of slavery of this material world, and prepare yourselves to commune with your Maker; if you have examined the internal sanctuary, the heart, and with a clear conscience you behold in every fellow-being a brother and friend: then, my brethren, bend your steps to this sanctuary, and enter this house with humility and reverence. You have no high priests nor sacrifices, it is true; but you have a pure heart and clean lips, ונשלמה פרים שפתינו“And we will render the calves of our lips.” Pray, my friends, to your God, that He may open your eyes in his law; pray that He may guide your steps in uprightness and virtue, that He may assist you in his wisdom to resist the temptations of this temporary life; pray like true descendants of Abraham, true followers of Moses, in that holy tongue in which they prayed. Here at his holy shrine thank Him for his goodness, implore his mercy. If you have fulfilled your duties towards your God; if you keep the Sabbath and festivals holy, and abstain from the food which the Lord pronounced abominable and unclean; if you have not taken his name in vain, nor worshipped worldly gods besides Him;—if in short, my friends, your faith is founded upon those sound principles of piety and belief which have ever been the safeguard and stronghold of your orthodox ancestors in those gloomy days of persecution and slaughter, when fanaticism raged, threatening to exterminate our race, and you feel thankful to the Almighty for his gracious protection:<<335>>then, my friends, this house opens its portals to welcome you; then step over this threshold in love and devotion, open your thankful hearts in prayer to Him who dwelleth in infinite regions among the cherubim, and whose footstool is the earth. Pour forth those feelings of gratitude which fill your heart; prostrate yourselves before Him. Ah! you must then feel happy, for your thoughts are with God; no misfortune can make you falter, no argument can make you doubt; joyfully do you shout forth the שמע ישראל, and you feel you are descendants of Israel, the chosen ones of God!

If you have fulfilled your duty towards God and man, and are in peace with your own conscience,—if fortune smiles on you, and the blessings of God follow your footsteps; if you are surrounded by a happy family, your wealth increases, honours shower down upon you on all sides, and you feel happy,—forget not, my friends, Him who is the Author of your happiness; but repair to this house, sing praises and hallelujahs to his holy Name, for the manifold benefits bestowed on you; humble yourselves before Him, and acknowledge that you are but dust, and honour and glory come from Him alone. Yet, my friends, if in a moment of weakness yon have forsaken your God, disregarded his commands, and violated his laws; if the chastising hand of God is upon you, and you are overtaken by misfortune; if poverty enters your dwelling, and your families are in want and destitute; if sickness brings desolation in your once happy home; if your dearest on earth, the beloved partner of your joys, is snatched from you in the prime of life and usefulness, or your children, once so lovely and bloorning, are drooping like flowers that fade and wither,—and you feel so lonely, so forsaken—the world appearing to you desolate and full of misery, and life is a burden to you:—in such hours of despair, when all human aid is naught, and in the anguish of heart you ask מאין יבא עזרי, “Whence shall come my help?” bend your steps to this sanctuary, my poor afflicted friends; for here, you will find a refuge! Prostrate yourselves before your God in penitence; pray with an humble and contrite heart to Him who declared that He does not desire the death of the wicked, but that he return unto Him and live. Here, within these sacred walls, you will find consolation in disburdening your afflicted heart. Pray fervently, my friends, as our ancestors did, and the Lord, Israel’s<<336>>God, who stood by them in time of need, will surely not forsake you in your affliction.

Yes, my brethren! this sanctuary which you have erected, and this day dedicated to the Lord and his holy worship, shall become the corner stone of your happiness, an asylum for those who are wretched, the school where you and your children shall be taught the way to heaven, the standing evidence of your struggle to preserve your holy religion and its observances unimpaired, and above all the temple in which “Peace” שלום shall be the motto; peace with our God in obeying his commands, peace with our fellow-beings in doing unto them as we would wish them to do unto us, and peace among ourselves as members of one family, believers in one God, and adherers of one creed. Can you have accomplished anything nobler? Can you have been zealous in a cause holier and more acceptable to your God? No, indeed not; for the latest generation will bless your memory, and this Synagogue shall be a witness between you and them to guard carefully the religion of your fathers, the most precious gem ever inherited, to preserve it pure and to adhere rigidly to its tenets, and strenuously to oppose all that may tend to cause a schism in the family of Jacob.

In conclusion, my brethren, I hail you in the words of Moses,ברוך אתה בבאך וברוך אתה בצאתך, “May you be blessed in your coming in, and blessed in your going out.” Blessed with health and contentment, blessed with devotion and fear of the Lord, blessed with peace and union, blessed with true piety and love of God. In short, my friends, blessed with moral courage and religious zeal to resist the temptations of the wicked, and to serve your God in truth. And now, my brethren, be courageous and strong, neither be terrified nor dismayed, for the Lord is with you whither you go. Amen!