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The Communication of “Truth”


Had we known that the remarks of “Truth” would have excited a controversy in our pages, we would assuredly not have given it a place; not that we are unwilling to have a free discussion upon our conduct, but because matters merely personal to the Editor are, as we have occasionally said already, of but small interest to his readers; and even if they were, we candidly speaking do not think our own character and doings in such a precarious way as to require an excitement to keep them from neglect; and even if this were the case, we would not deem them worth the trouble of being revived. But, in sober earnest, “Truth” had a right to be heard, and so had those who replied to him; but as each reply provokes naturally enough a rejoinder, we shall never have done with the matter, if we permit the latitude of debating the personal merits or demerits of the Occident and its conductor, and occupy thereby valuable space, which had a thousand times be better employed with subjects more interesting to our readers. We have received rejoinders from “Truth” to all the three pieces which our friends sent us in our defence; and we will now insert a part of them, as the whole would demand more space than we can spare, and would lead to farther controversy, which we neither can nor will allow. We will welcome to <<205>>our pages all contributors who have anything to offer of interest to Judaism; but we must energetically decline, for the future, all articles which have merely a personal bearing; a monthly magazine is not a daily or weekly paper, and people forget, from month to month, what has been said on private affairs, or perhaps they do not read such papers at all, a procedure not the less reasonable for the mortification it inflicts on those who wish to “glorify themselves in the shame of their neighbour.” But, let “Truth” speak for the last time for himself.—Ed. Oc.

To the Editor of the Occident.

“I was not aware, in sending my communication signed אמת, that you would give it an insertion in your magazine, to show the community that I did try to injure your valuable periodical. If you had erroneously thought this to be my intention, and of the unsoundness of which view you might have convinced yourself, by examining the communication itself, you ought not to have made room for it; or else I must say it was done merely to show that we are not to be injured by such things, and this would look like a kind of pride יוהרא. You may be sure that my intention never was to injure you, or to undervalue your talents. My motive was to admonish you not to admit every article offered you for insertion, particularly not those papers which contain aught against the Mosaic law and Talmudical regulations; and at the same time to urge those persons who occupy the same position in this country which you do, to come forward to assist you, and to carry out your motto, ‘To learn and to teach,’ &c. Nor was it my object to hurt any one’s feelings by my observations; I objected to the word Pastor being applied to one of our Readers, as it is not the proper title by which we call our Synagogue officials, who are correctly styled חזן or שליח צבור, Superintendents, or Representatives of the Congregation, inasmuch as they are appointed to perform the offices in the Synagogue, in behalf and for the people. I object to new terms; and I am sure that the gentleman himself is also one who likes the old fashions, and is opposed to reform.

“In respect to the remarks of the learned Mr. E. Goldsmith, with regard to the word מתם, in which he is quite correct, since Rashi explains, and all others acquainted in the least with the Talmud must know, that תם means ארץ ישראל, I have simply to say that I did not translate the word at all, consequently the error is not mine.*

* This is the fact; it was the fault of the editor himself, who in reality did not know the derivation of the word, and so translated when revising for the press תם with “Tham,” as though it was the name of a particular place; not having a Talmud Betzah at hand. Our error, however, must be also somewhat excused, because it is not our forte to be famous as a Talmudist, and we have been a long while without much personal intercourse with gentlemen who are thoroughly versed in this giant study.—Ed. Oc.

<<206>>“Now, in reply to W.’s remarks, in regard to my ignorance, short-sightedness, &c., I will let follow a few questions in reference to the passage he cites from Rambam, who calls צור Nature, to which W. adds History. If I am not mistaken, Maimonides explains צור in his Moreh Nebuchim, ch. 16, viz.: first, צור ממש, ‘an actual rock;’ secondly, מה שחוצב ממנו ‘The Rock from which he was hewn,’ (his original ancestry;) and thirdly, ה׳ יתברך ‘The blessed Lord;’ and then says, וזהו ונצבת על הצור ר״ל תשמור על התחלה שהוא ה׳ יתברך שהוא סבת כל דבר ‘And this then is, “And thou shalt stand on the Rock,” meaning, thou shalt have due regard to the beginning of things, which is the Lord himself, for He is the cause of the existence of everything.

Now, allow me to ask, what does W. understand under the second definition? Is it not referring to Abraham, who is called in Isaiah 1.1, ‘The Rock whence we were hewn?’ Is it not that we are there admonished to follow in his footsteps, and not turn to the right or the left? What does W. think of the passage in Deut. 32:18, ‘Thou forsookest the Rock who begat thee?’ Is not the latter an allusion to violent unnatural reforms, ‘new things which have sprung up of late,’ which some then have endeavoured to introduce among Israel, even here in this city, though such regulations are against our דינים? Was it not attempted to reform the manner of saying איש״ר. קדשת כתר. ברכו. אמן, and to compel strict Israelites to sit down while the Reader repeated the Eighteen Benedictions, as some writers have said that we should stand up during the first and latter three Blessings, whilst the vast majority maintain the necessity of standing up during the whole prayer? (See Orach Chayim, ch. 124., Laws of Prayer.) And well do I remember, how the placard containing the regulation was taken down speedily from the vestibule of the Synagogue, where it had been hung up for the information of the people.”

Our correspondent next vindicates himself, in respect to his not mentioning all the authorities referring to the second days of the festivals, as he put a וגומר in his copy, which we omitted in printing. We will do “Truth” ample justice in saying, that there are few indeed in this country, if there be any, who are better acquainted with ancient Hebrew literature; and that if they do not share his views, they cannot impugn his knowledge. But he must excuse us, if we cannot allow him <<207>>to use his reply to make an attack on persons whom he pointedly alludes to, in connexion with subjects to which his first letter to us did not refer. Still, he is right in asserting that the discussion about Citrons did not originate with him, but in the attempt to forbid the use of those brought from the West Indies by our congregations, which first called out Mr. Rice, of Baltimore, and afterwards Mr. Goldsmith, in reply. He also speaks of the term Kabbalah, which he employed, and defines it to mean, first, the regular tradition of the oral law, from קבל to receive, and therefore embraces the rules and doctrines which we have received from father to son, and teacher to scholar, from Moses downwards; for which, see the introduction to the Pirkey Aboth; and at last the mystic philosophy of the Jews, which was literally taught by word of mouth, because those acquainted with it would not reduce it to writing, so that it might never fall among those whose piety and enlightenment were not sufficiently elevated to be worthy of receiving it. “Truth” therefore asserts, that there is no occasion to ridicule the Kabbalah, in all respects, though one rejects the mystic portion of it, as the term includes the genuine tradition, or Talmudical laws and doctrines.

“Truth” maintains that the love of our fellow man is the great principle of the moral law, and it requires that we should assist all who need our services, whether we know them personally or not; and Rabbi Akiba calls it therefore כלל גדול “the great principle;” and Hillel taught it to the proselyte who wanted to be taught the law, while he would stand on one foot in the few words מה דסנא לך לחברך לא תעביד “what is disagreeable to thee, do not to thy neighbour.”

But the love of God is a special commandment, and proceeds not only from the motives that He provides us daily with food, clothing, health, but also from the blessing of rain, dew, &c., which no man can give us. The commandment, therefore, to love Him, is one which is based likewise in human reason. If now we love a man who is not always able to aid us, and who is not always with us; how much greater must our love be for Him who is always able and willing to bless us, who is always near us whenever we call on Him for aid.’ We are therefore taught to love man כמוך not only as one of our limbs, but as being flesh like us; whereas the love of God is ordained to be, in our holy law, and by our own reason, with all our heart and all our soul; and thus in truth the love for our fellows leads us to the higher and holier degree of serving, obeying, and following implicitly the Eternal God.

We would gladly give “Truth” a larger space in our present number, were it possible; but enough has been given to show that he has good reason on his side, and that were we able to understand each other <<208>>completely, neither he nor W., nor H. S., nor Talmid, and our other correspondents, would have any unpleasant thoughts of each other’s contributions to our work. We gladly absolve “Truth” from any desire to injure our circulation, and believe him sincere in his signature—

אמת ואמונה

He concludes with the following pretty lines:

כמה תאים נאים ופתחים כמה
יש לחכמה לבינה ודעת
יש לשכת הנסתר סודה נעלמה
יש חדר הנגלה אורה מיפעת
דינים ובחינם דת על כל נשלמה
מדרש ורמזים יש ובאר נובעת
אם אין לאיש מוסר מרפא כל צער
לא יראה אור. סגור יהיה השער׃

N. Y., Iyar 5608.