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בס"ד

The Cause of Indifference, and its Cure.

 

After ages of oppression, obloquy, and persecution, the Israelite is once more enabled to assert his manhood, and raising his brow to the pure light of heaven, to inhale, nearly everywhere, the first draughts of the sweet air of liberty.

But ages of oppression and shame, have not passed over his brow and left it unscathed; but there deeply written is the language of that gloomy past—when science was shut out from his gaze; when bigotry excluded him from the halls of art, and closed upon him the gates of polite learning; when the liberal professions were snatched from his grasp, and he was forced to toil (that he might gain his daily bread and provide for his cherished ones) in those occupations, the degrading tendencies of which were almost sufficient to blot out that bright intelligence, with which his Maker had so bountifully imbued his race.

What wonder is it then that he should view these who stood between him and happiness with scorn and dislike? Was it strange, that he should almost hate that knowledge, which even if acquired secretly, rendered him more feelingly sensitive to the contumely of those, who bowed before a different shrine? or that he should cling with greater tenacity to those observances, which caused the line of separation between himself and those of adverse creeds, to become more tangible?

Shut out then, in most countries from those studies which liberalize the mind, and strengthen the understanding, his only resource was to condense his energies, and apply them solely to the study of the law, or to wander through those vast tomes of erudition, that had descended as heirlooms from a past generation.

A mind capable of grasping the extent of this knowledge, and feeling the force and beauty of its spirit, perhaps, lost nothing by being debarred from threading the mazy paths of a worldly philosophy. But to many, whilst the shell was carefully polished, and watched over with a religious care, the kernel, the essence, for the preservation of which the shell was constructed, was allowed little by little, to disappear; till when dazzled by the <<344>>first glitter of a worldly knowledge, or a false glare of a world’s sympathy, they came to look upon their ancient observances, as so many hindrances to their worldly advancement. And imbibing some of those loose and floating ideas, which emanated from that atheistical school, which preceded and accompanied the first French revolution, which desecrated all that was ancient and holy, they thought that they could give no greater proof of their superiority over their ancestors, in mental acquirements and superior refinement, than by casting away those ancient safeguards, the wisdom of which ages had tested, and the strength of which no power without could overthrow.

Blinded and led astray by the new light so suddenly beaming forth, they did not stop to seek for the spirit, for the protection of which these observances had been called into existence; or to ask themselves if it was not possible, that when these laws were instituted, pious men might have inquired of the prophets, how these commandments were to be carried into effect; and having once learned how the wishes of the Omnipotent should be fulfilled, filled, had taught the same to their descendants, in meekness and purity.

But approaching the Bible with a sceptical spirit, they set aside without compunction, all that they, in their wonderful enlightenment, deemed of no farther consequence and utility.

Had these so-called reformers possessed any claims to superior piety, or superior knowledge of the subject which they investigated with a presupposition of its containing many incongruities; or had they become more pious and enlightened, by divesting themselves of those ceremonies which the majority of their brethren still continued to observe: some excuse might have been found for their rash endeavour; and those that loved the law more than the smiles of the proud, or the gifts of the great, might have made some relaxation in those practices suitable to the altered and progressive state of society. But, seeing innovators tread with a careless heel over ground that they deemed hallowed, they kept aloof, instead of devising measures which might direct, into a proper channel, this restless desire of change.

But the thinking power, when once called into action, cannot as easily be laid to rest, and the crude ideas which it is apt to gather in its eager researches, if not properly  directed, are not <<345>>such as will either strengthen the qualities of the mind or heart. It therefore becomes necessary to implant a principle in early life, which may become a touchstone, by which the truth may be tested, and a beacon that shall point out the hidden quicksands amid the shoals of existence.

It needs no argument now to prove, that the bias to the mind is given by education; and if one is surrounded in those early days when the mind takes its impress, from the objects with which it comes in contact by influences inimical to Judaism; when day by day the child hears his holy religion reviled, or its practices ridiculed, whilst his ignorance of the principles of his faith, will not enable him to combat successfully the sceptical and unbelieving: it cannot be supposed that at arriving at maturity, he will feel very strong veneration for that faith, which he knows little of, save in its forms.

What then is the duty of those who have the true interests of their people at heart? is it not to endeavour, by a unity of will to advance any object that should offer the advantage of a thorough education, joined to a religious and moral culture? And as thus the intellectual and moral training go hand in hand together, a character would be formed alike impervious to the world’s blandishments or its frowns. The sums now paid for educational purposes would amply supply the means. It requires but a singleness of heart among our co-religionists, and the undertaking is established upon a firm and unshaken basis.

None deny the evil under which we labour. All wish that purity and truth should reign supremely! but without faith, how can this be accomplished? and is faith a plant that flourishes in a soil planted with the seeds of self-interest, a love of gold, and the desecration of those institutions that alone point out to us the way to a blissful hereafter? “If I allow my land to lie fallow, until I am ready to put in the seed,” said an old farmer, “it is most likely that I shall first have to eradicate a large crop of weeds.” So it is with the mind. Faith and hope are the twin sisters of childhood! and with its love of truth and insatiable curiosity, it needs but a fostering care, and a pure example, to cause these germs to bud forth and to expand into such strong vitality, that the sunshine of prosperity shall have no power to wither them, or the frosts of adversity to do them harm; and <<346>>when they enter the gates of manhood, their character will command esteem, even from those who believe not as they do; for the three virtues which the world most commends, are probity, firmness, and consistency.

S. S.