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tury of the Christian era. The great reverse in the situation of the Jews since the time when Moses delivered the law,--the new connexions formed betwixt them and other nations,—the change in the various forms of society,—and the great improvement made in the sciences and the arts of life,--all gave rise to questions how far they might abstain from or indulge in many things and practices unknown to Moses. These points are discussed in the Mischna under six several beads. The Gemara, collected about one hundred years later, is a commentary on the Mischna. When the Jews were scattered from Palestine, many of them collected in Babylon, where the rabbins, about 500 years after Christ, made additions to the Mischna, and produced what is now used under the name of the Babylonian Talmud. The Mischna contains fewer absurdities than the Gemara. An abridgment of both, made by Maimonides in the twelfth century, is most esteemed by the more enlightened Jews, as many of the dreams and follies and improprieties of ihe Gemara are omitted.'--p. 17.
In no particular is the ceremonial character of Judaisin more strikingly indicated than in the costume which its professors are enjoined to observe.
• The first requisite for a Jew, if he conforms to the law, is the Arba Camphos, a kind of square mantle, which comes over the breast before, and over the shoulders behind, and is kept on by fringes of woollen thread. These fringes are called Zizzis, or Band of God. They consist of eight twisted double threads, which are connected with five buttons, in remem. brance of the five books of Moses, and hang down about a foot behind. They are designed to bring to recollection the commandments, and to guard against the commission of sin. The Jews derive the practice from the book of Numbers, chap. xv. verses 37 to 41.'-p. 19.
Several works of authority are referred to in these letters, (and the practice of old Moses is quite consistent with the imputation,) to shew that it is a tenet of the Polish Jews to believe that none but Jews are possessed of souls; they also believe that not only is it no harm, but that it is virtuous to cheat a Christian; and if a Jew find any thing belonging to a follower of Christ, he is under no obligation to restore it, but is forbidden to do so. The Szem Meszmiel, for instance, on the rights of Jews, lays down that.
• " The duty of loving our neighbour only extends to the Jews, not to those of other religions. The Jew is merely bound to live according to the commands of the law, and the professors of other religions are bound to supply all their wants.'
The minuteness to which the Jewish Priests carry their casuistry is not at all wonderful, when we consider that form is literally the substance of their religion. The attempt, however, to push their scrupulous distinctions into practical life, is not the less ridiculous in itself and degrading to those who make it. An injunction, it seems, in the Mosaic law, prohibits that a kid should be seethed in its mother's milk. The translator says, that the principle of this law operates even in some English Jews, so far as that they will not eat cheese after having eaten meat; and some of the more rigid will leave the
room at the close of dinner should cheese be placed on the table. Our business, however, now is with a case under this prohibition, which is thus gravely related by Moses to his correspondent Hirsch.
We have lately had under the consideration of our rabbins, some violations of the law, which required atonement and absolution.
Reuben, one of our brotherhood, had been eating some stewed meat, and had laid down his spoon on a basin of milk. Immediately after the act, it struck him that he had sinned, when he put on his garment of prayer, and repaired to the rabbin.'-pp. 78, 79.
The rabbin, however, unequal to so knotty a point, sent the applicant to a more experienced rabbin.
From the few letters which are written by Levi, the betrothed of Sarah, it would appear that whilst he rejected the immoral and anti-social tenets that prevailed amongst the Jews, he himself was not less a Jew. He even boasts that it is his faithful adherence to the Mosaic law that renders him impatient of what he calls 'the modern innovations, by means of which blind fanaticism has injured his religion.'
• The brotherhood, he says, in the most unjust manner, have assumed to themselves among other encroachments and abuses, the arrangement of whatever relates to the interment of the dead. In order to keep the ignorant people in subjection, they have made them believe, that unless they are buried within a few hours after death, they are not merely disgraced, but deprived of future salvatiop. These opinions and prejudices have been brought into full operation by the elders in the most frightful manner towards the hated Ephraim. Notwithstanding my representations and solicitations, four days had passed over, and the corpse of that true son of Abraham remained unburied.-pp. 83, 84.
Levi remonstrated much more warmly than prudently, and provoked the signal vengeance of the Elders. They met in a body, and, after convicting the unfortunate youth of divers blasphemies, concluded by cursing him with the curses of Niddui, of Cherem, and Schamatha,' the import of which terrific denunciations is explained by the editor.
• The great controul over the public mind lay in the awful sentence of excommunication. At the end of the appropriate period, and when the evidence had been exhibited, the solemn Niddui, or interdict, was pronounced, which, for thirty days, separated the criminal from the hopes and privileges of Israel. For more heinous offences and against contumaceous delinquents, the more terrific Cherem, or the still more fatal Shammata, or excommunication, was proclaimed. The Cherem inflicted civil death ; but on due repentance and reparation for the crime, the same authority which denounced, might repeal the Cherem: the absolved offender was restored to life. But no power could cancel the irrevocable Shammata. The sentence of excommunication was couched in the most fearful phrases. The delinquent was excommunicated, anathematised, accursed, -by the book of the law, by the ninety-three precepts, by the malediction of Joshua against Jericho, by that of Elisha against the children who mocked him,
and so on through all the terrific threatenings of the ancient law and his tory. He was accursed by the mysterious names of certain spirits of deadly power. He was accursed by heaven and earth, by the seraphim, and by
. the heavenly orbs, Excommunication inflicted a civil death. No one except his wife and children might approach the moral leper. All others must avoid him at the distance of a fathom. If there be a dead body in his house, no one enters it. If a child be born, the father must circumcise it. Public detestation was not appeased by death~no one mourned him who died excommunicated ; his coffin was stoned, and a heavy slab was placed over his remains, either as a mark of infamy, or to prevent him from rising again at the last day.'--pp. 92, 93.
The terms in which Levi was cursed are sufficiently strong, and they may be taken as another proof, added to the thousand which we already have, how very much being in earnest conduces to the selection of apt and forcible phrases.
""Thus may this Levi be cursed by the law and by the superior judges in the dwelling places of the Heathens ! May the plagues of famine and pestilence overtake him! May his house become the dwelling-place of dragons and scorpions, and may his star fall from heaven! May his enemies triumph over his fall, and his silver and gold be appropriated by them ! Cursed may he be: cursed by the tongues of Addirorona and Achlariels, by the tongues of Sandulphion and Haudrajel, by the tongues of Zafzafil and Hufhafil, and finally by the threefold elevated King of the seven thousand names ! May his race be rooted out like that of Korah !
May his soul depart from him under the struggles of misery and despair; whilst the wrath of God is crushing him! He shall be choked like Ahitophel, his end shall be like that of Gehazi; never shall he rise up from his troubles, nor shall his remains rest in the burial-place of the children of Israel !!! pp. 91--93.
It is very likely that most of the absurd ordinances in force amongst the Polish Jews have had their origin in the interested speculations of the Elders, for the observance of them may generally be suspended on conditions, which are very well calculated to enable that cunning priesthood to sustain such a system of good living and indulgence, as is always sure to thrive under corporate influence. But how these exactions,---for in fact exactions are the gist of the whole body of regulations,-operate on the humbler classes, may be seen from the complaints of Chaim, a person who had lived in the capacity of a servant to Moses. In a letter which he writes to Levi, under peculiar circumstances, he says
• The Elders only think of contriving an easy way of injuring us. Hence there are taxes imposed under various names and pretences, such as for new copies of the Talmud; for substitutes for recruits; and other objects to which I, a poor fellow, must contribute as much as those rich men Moses and Hirsch. One of the greatest impositions is that of the days of fasting. When it comes into the head of one of the Elders, for any reason, to make presents to a person of distinction, he ordains a three days' fast, which means that each family must contribute the amount of the cost of maintaining all the persons of which it is composed during
three days. I know not how the rich may fast on those days ; but I must do it in spite of my will, when I give up that which can alone support my wife and children, and have not a farthing left to buy them bread. Why must I and mine be starved? For the sake of our religion or Moses ? No! neither our religion nor our Lawgiver delivers any such commands. We are left to pine or to perish in hunger, that those speculators, Isaac or Schlaume, may have something to purchase the Sabbath lights, or to make contracts for raising recruits. Then again comes a fresh exaction. Under penalties of excommunication, we are ordered to contribute to some new work about to be printed. What is that to me, or what have I to do with it? I neither understand Hebrew nor Syriac; but keep the commandments of God, say my proper prayers, eat no swine's flesh, subsist by my honest labour, and do no man any wrong; and thus am I a better Israelite than the over-learned, who get blind by poring over books, which neither make them wiser nor better. We, the poor, begin to have our eyes opened to these matters.; and I fear some injury will be done to our religion, if our Elders continue longer to exercise their plans of fleecing and excommunicating. I may mistake; I may blaspheme; but your assistance, my honoured, virtuous, and yet, like me, suffering Levi, which I iinplore, will, I trust, lead me in the path of light. I will not sin; but I will not be a sacrifice to our Elders: I will not see my wife and children starve in rags, that our Elders may strut about in their furs, drink their wine, and be enabled to build houses which rival palaces.'pp. 120—122.
As it is impossible to believe that any man of common understanding, to say nothing of natural feelings, could for a moment surrender his mind to such a shocking code as that which appears to govern the conduct of the Polish Jews, so do we find that amongst the more enlightened of those who bear the name, there are persons who have not hesitated to denounce the grossness and corruption which they say have been insidiously engrafted on their religion, and which they have made attempts to remove. It is gratifying then to find that the general faith of the children of Israel does not include those demoralizing principles which are imputed, with too good reason, we fear, to the Polish Jews; but that those principles, we may hope, are no more than local innovations, which the extreme ignorance of the Jewish inhabitants of Poland allowed their designing masters to establish. The zeal which is displayed by a rational Jew, who makes one of the dramatis personæ for the restoration of true religion amongst this people, is a proof, at all events, that there is a true religion to be restored : and the standard which he puts forth for the guidance of those who still have the power along with the inclination to reform Judaism in Poland, is such as is consistent with the soundest ethics. Abraham, the person to whom we allude, seems to take a just and penetrating view of the causes which perpetuate the blindness of the Polish Jews.
Our rabbins and elders have chiefly busied themselves in endeavouring to exclude from our youth all such information as might reach them, and in propagating among our young people such degrading views and prin
ciples as were most favourable to their own influence. Even at three years of age our children's heads are filled with stories of ghosts and apparitions. At four years the idea of a god is imparted to them, and at the same time it is inculcated that the Jews alone are His people, and that all others are despicable and accursed. At five years the boy is sent to a school, where he reads the books of Moses; but he learns at the same time the commentaries filled with explications of them, containing a multitude of injurious prejudices. He is then taught Hebrew, and if he is either stupid or timid, blows are applied. His head becomes confused, and he learns by rote, for even the teacher scarcely ever understands the language. In his eighth year, being without any knowledge of the country or the inhabitants, he is taught that the Jews are a great nation, and the Christians are to be hated, because they stand in the way of the Jews
do not adhere to the traditions of the elders- eat swine's flesh--do not observe the sabbath-and above all, are not circumcised. Early in the morning the pupil must wash his hands, not for purposes of cleanliness, but to drive away the unclean spirits, who, during the night, fix themselves on the nails of his fingers. When he passes by a church and hears the sound of the organ or the singing, he must stop his ears, lest such sound should pollute his soul; and in this way he becomes persuaded, that whoever is not a Jew, is worse than a demon. In the same year he begins to learn the Talmud, and is, though a child, lectured on marriages and divorces, on the cleanness and uncleanness of females, and of the wars of animals. These lessons are continued from morning to night, are often accompanied by chastisement, such as may poison in the spring of life the minds of the young. As their years increase, the education proceeds, and if the parent perceives his son to be a diligent student, all his care and ambition are directed to make him a distinguished Talmudic scholar and a rabbin, in order that he may be able to marry advantageously.'---pp. 180 —182.
Still, in all the schemes for the amelioration of their brethren which are proposed by Jews, even those the most intelligent, learned, and liberal, we find the one unfailing aspiration breathing through them-an aspiration after the land of Judea, which they seem to be assured will one day be their country. The work is calculated to raise the Polish author very highly in our estimation, for it is written with unabåted spirit, and rises sometimes to a noble eloquence, the merit of which is perhaps shared by the translator. We think the disclosures made in it respecting the possible influence to which Jews in all countries may be subject, will induce the English public to turn their attention, more than they recently did, to the political claims of those of that persuasion who sojourn amongst us; for those claims, we understand, will be again brought forward. If they should be renewed, we hope that Parliament will assume, as they have the most ample motives for doing, that a prima facie case exists against the competency of Jews to discharge the duties of complete subjects and citizens in this country, to justify the appointment of a Committee of Inquiry into their principles and practice.