THE JEW AND THE TALMUD
THE present chapter contains many an assertion which will make the expert Talmudist smile. It will, however, serve one most useful purpose—namely, to show what the Christians and Muslims of the East hold to be the belief of the Hebrew race and the practices of men dwelling within the same walls as themselves. That this hostility to the Eastern Jews is no mere unreasoning prejudice, but is founded in some sort on fact, the following brief survey of the Rabbinical and Talmudic writings will show. A people which has such a vindictive Oral Law is sure to excite the spirit of retaliation, for obviously the Law exists not merely in letter, but in the spirit.
In a notorious trial in Damascus within living memory, which roused the anti‑Jewish feeling in that city and indeed throughout Syria to a frenzy, certain learned doctors brought into court as evidence a number of manuscripts and printed books. It was remarked that the texts were full of lacunæ. This was explained by the fact that they are so
written, since Europe began to read the Rabbinical and Talmudic writings, for the purpose of concealing what might excite odium. The divines supply the omissions by inserting them in writing, or preferably by committing them to memory. Thus they suppress offensive sectarian words, such as Goi (plural Goyím), the wicked, the forgetful of God—that is to say, Gentiles in general, including Christians and Muslims; Miním, or Karaïte Jews; Kuthim, Samaritans; Nakhrím, strangers or infidels, corresponding with the Arabic Káfirin, or the Turkish Giaour; and Ndoyyím, or Mesúmedím, in Arabic Mahrúmín or Murtaddín, the excommunicated. And it is evident that they had good reasons for this prudence; the Seder Adarhout, for instance, enumerates with the object of refuting them many foul crimes attributed to the Jews.
The most important and pregnant tenet of modern Jewish belief is that the Ger, or stranger, in fact all those who do not belong to their religion, are brute beasts, having no more rights than the fauna of the field. Thus in Lucio Ferraris (Prompta Bibliotheca, Vol. III., sub lit. E and H, Order 4, Tract 8) we read: “Præcipitur omnibus Judæis ut Christianes omnes loco brutorum habeant, nec aliter eos tractent quam bruta animalia.” The argument from which this abominable belief is derived appears to be as follows: “When Abraham was ordered to offer up Isaac (Gen. xxii.), he saddled his ass, and
took two of his young men with him. But when he saw the place of sacrifice,1 he said unto his young men, ‘Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come, again to you.’” The Talmud declares that Abraham, who had seen God, asked his servants if they had likewise done so; and on their replying in the negative, he said to them, “Abide ye here with the ass,” meaning that they were animals like the ass. But this is by no means contrary to Scripture doctrine; for instance, Jeremiah (x. 8) calls the votaries of false religion “altogether brutish and foolish.” Thus the Law and the Prophets belong exclusively to the Jews; the Gentile reading or even buying a copy should be put to death. All the books of other faiths must be burnt, even though they contain the name of Jehovah; and if any but a Hebrew write the name of God in a Bible which is not a Jewish manuscript, the volume must also be burnt.
The Jew who does not keep the Sabbath (Saturday)2 according to Rabbinical Law must suffer
1 Mount Moriah (of appearance), afterwards the site of Solomon’s Temple. Certain modern writers, especially Mr. Mills (Nablous and the Samaritans), would identify Mount Gerizím of Shechem with Moriah; but the most superficial consideration of the distance to be marched and the time required proves the theory to be absurd.
2 This institution has even distinguished the Jew from the other civilized nations of antiquity, the Egyptians and Assyrians, the Hindus and Guebres, the Greeks and Romans, who ignored it. By this part of his cosmogony Moses evidently intended to inculcate the dignity of labour and the hygienic necessity of rest. But the Rabbis and Doctors exaggerate all things, and they have still, like
excision, be stoned to death, or incur the flogging of rebellion, that is, he must be “beaten until his soul go out,” like all those who transgress affirmative commandments. Some Rabbis hold that a Hebrew, hearing the sound of the trumpet, should stand or sit in the same position until the evening of the Holy Day. All manner of work is absolutely forbidden to the Jew: he is guilty of capital crime if he carry a snuff‑box or a pocket‑handkerchief; he may not light a fire to cook his meals, nor extinguish it to prevent his house being burnt down. Until the days of the Maccabees he could not defend his life against an enemy; and when Strabo informs us that Pompey (B.C. 63) stormed Jerusalem “by waiting for the day of fast, on which the Jews were in the habit of abstaining from all work,” he evidently alludes to the Saturday. The modern Jew in Syria and Palestine can walk only two thousand paces upon the Sabbath, except when traveling through the dangerous desert.1 He will not receive
the vulgar Hebrew, to learn that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. The Targum of Onkelos (Dr. Etheridge’s Translation. London: Longmans, 1862) makes the Creator rest and be refreshed in all points like a wearied human being. Dr. McCaul and a host of writers have enlarged upon the vexatious, barbarous, and inhuman Sabbatical ordinances engrafted by the Talmudists upon the Mosaic Law.
1 Usually the Sabbatical journey is reckoned at one Míl (mile); but it varies according to circumstances, the permitted extremes varying between seven furlongs and two miles. Probably the ancient Jews had a longer and a shorter measure, in the latter the pace being half of what it was in the former; the longer mile, equal to 2,000
money on that day, or transact any business, however profitable; it is moreover the fashion to keep a grave face, and to speak as little as possible. Yet he is not the strictest of Sabbatarians, and his women rather enjoy being called upon between the services1 in order to display their dresses and jewellery. Of course there are many “guiles,” technically so called, in order to elude restrictions which savour of the degrading spirit peculiar to the Oral Law, which is little more than the Rabbinical Criminal Code intended to raise and provide for an aristocracy of savants. For instance, most wealthy
paces, = 5,000 feet = 1,666 yards, or 98* yards shorter than the English statute measure, whilst the Roman was 142 yards less than ours.
1 The Sabbath services throughout the world are four—namely, (1) Prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings in the synagogue on Friday after sunset; (2) Saturday morning prayers, rather later than usual that men may take a longer rest; (3) Ha‑phatorah, the conclusion after the morning prayer, reading sections of the Law and the Prophets; and (4) Ha‑musaph, or the additional prayers, consisting of portions of the Pentateuch referring to the sacrifices of the Mosaic Dispensation which are now no longer lawful. The style of cantillation is complicated as the reading of the Koran, and would be called a “neuma”† in the mediæval music of the Christian Church. And the chant annotation, which is shown in every Old Testament, offers a host of difficulties. As a rule the services are the reverse of impressive. They are in a dead language “not understanded of the people”; they are hurried over with unseemly haste; and, as in most ceremonial faiths, the profuse outward observances contrast strangely with the apparent absence of religious feeling.
[* Sic Burton, but should be 94.]
[† The neumes, properly pneumes (Gr. πνεΰμα), i.e. the musical notations prevalent from the eighth to the twelfth century, are supposed by some to represent the ancient Nota Romana, though others hold them to be of Oriental origin.]
families, forgetting that he who hires a man to murder a third person is really the murderer, habitually keep Muslim servants, who can boil coffee and serve pipes to Gentile friends. And the latter must by no means join in honouring the day. According to the Talmud (chap. iv., Sanhedrin, of the fourth Mishnic Section, or order Seder Nezikin), the Gentile sanctifying the Sabbath must be put to death without asking questions, even as the Lord said to him, “Thou shalt not rest day nor night.”1
The Oral Law is superior in dignity to all others.2
1 “A Gentile who employs himself in the Law is guilty of death. He is not to employ himself except in the seven commandments that belong to the Gentiles. And thus a Gentile who keeps a Sabbath—though it be on one of the weekdays—if he make it to himself as a Sabbath, he is guilty of death.” And the measure of difference between Gentile and Jew is that, whilst the former has seven commandments, the latter has six hundred and thirteen.
2 Thus the Rabbinical saying is: “Every one is bound to divide the time of his study into three—one‑third to be devoted to the Written Law, one‑third to Mishnah, and one‑third to Gemara.” Thus he gives one‑half to the Old Testament, whilst double study is assigned to the Oral Law. The latter, which has some tangible points of resemblance with the traditions of the Roman Catholic Church and the Súnnat of the Muhammadans, is the unwritten code received by Moses on Mount Sinai and transmitted inviolate by word of mouth from generation to generation. Until after the last destruction of Jerusalem it was never committed to writing (see A Manual of Judaism, by Joshua Van Oven, Esq., M.R.C.S.L. London, 1835). It is held uninspired by all save the Jews, and one of its bitterest enemies was the Founder of Christianity, who, when attacking tradition, never failed to uphold the Law. One might smile at so prodigious an assumption as this legendary system in the total absence of historic proof. But only a few years ago a French Grand Rabbi published a learned work to prove that the facts can be accounted for only supernaturally. Also Dr. Adler, Orthodox Chief
In the Prompta Bibliotheca we find (p. 297, Order 4, Tract 4, Dist. 10): “Gravius plectendos esse qui contradicunt verbis Scribarum quam verbis Mosaicæ Legis, quibus qui coutradixerit, morte moriatur.” And he must die by the flogging of rebellion, a Rabbinical practice utterly unknown to the Pentateuch, which ordered forty stripes, whereas in the New Dispensation the offender must be flogged without intermission till he expires. Thus the Scribes and Pharisees still sit in Moses’ seat. The modern Jew follows the creed of Maimonides (twelfth century), which contains thirteen fundamental articles, the last being the resurrection of the dead. The ancient Jew obeyed the Twelve Commandments without a word about the resurrection. The sojourning proselyte who would be saved must become a Noahite, and obey the Seven Commandments assured to the Noachidæ; the Hakhám Abú’l Afiya gave them as follows:
1. Thou shalt not worship planets, stars, or idols.
2. Thou shalt not fornicate nor commit adultery.
3. Thou shalt not slay (man).
4. Thou shalt not steal.*
Rabbi of England, declared, in a sermon preached but a few years ago, the Written and the Oral Laws to be equally divine, and compared the reformers with the false mother in the judgment of Solomon. These things make us regret the total disappearance of the Sadducee or Rationalistic School.
[* The fourth, omitted by Burton, is, “Tu non ruberai” according to the Hakhám.]
5. Thou shalt not eat in the street the flesh of a lamb.
6. Thou shalt not castrate the sons of Abraham, mankind, or any other animal.
7. Thou shalt not join the several races of animals.1
More correctly speaking, this code given to the Noachidæ, or Noahites, commands them to abstain from the Seven Deadly Sins: (1) idolatry; (2) irreverence to God; (3) homicide; (4) robbery, fraud, and plunder—generally, not only of a co‑religionist; (5) adultery; (6) disobedience and misrule; and (7) eating part of an animal still living, or the blood of the dead. The latter was added (Gen. ix. 4) to the Six Sins forbidden to Adam—namely, idolatry, blasphemy, shedding of blood, incest, robbery, and injustice.
But the sojourning proselyte2 receives scant con-
1 Arubím, or mixtures, were forbidden by the Mosaic Law (Lev. xix. 19), and were greatly extended by the Oral Law, such as grafting, sowing different kinds of seeds in the same soil, wearing a garment of wool and linen mixed, and so forth. The subject is copiously treated in the nine chapters of Kilaim (Heterogeneous, or Things not to be Mixed), the fourth tract of the first order, Seder Zeraaim (the Order of Seeds).
2 The subject of proselytizing amongst the ancient Jews is full of difficulties, and the object seems mostly to have been the discouragement of converts, with a fair scheme on paper. The Proselytes of the Gate, generally called Gerim, or strangers (“the stranger that is within thy gates”) and properly Noachidæ (sons of Noah), were only half Israelites. The Proselytes of the Covenant or of Righteousness were perfect Israelites. They are still admitted under protest—men by circumcision and immersion in water, and
solation, as he may not be received when the Jubilee cannot be observed (Hilchoth Issure Biah, xiv. 7, 8); and this ceased after Reuben, Gad, and half Manasseh were led away captive, or in B.C. 884, according to common chronology. Add to this 1,873, and we have 2,757 years since the last feast of the kind, and we have twenty‑seven centuries and a half since any Gentiles were converted from the errors of idolatry to the religion of the sons of Noah.
Those who transgress any of the Commandments transgress them all.1 The goods of Gentiles who have not conformed to the Noahite code, that is to say, all now living, are lawful to the Hebrews. This right was first conferred by Jehovah during the Exodus from Egypt, and it was confirmed to the descendants of the wanderers by the Talmud (Baba Masiaah, or Middle Gate, second of the fourth order, and Abodah Zarah, eighth of the same).
Rabbinical religion is rampant in the kitchen. Blood first forbidden to Noah (Gen. ix. 4), and afterwards to all the sons of Abraham (Lev. iii. 17 and vi. 30)—because it was supposed to contain the vital principle which it does not—must be drained out of the meat before this can be eaten. The
women by the latter rite only. It is a question how far baptism was used in ante‑Christian times, and possibly John the Baptist merely adopted the old rite for a new purpose.
1 This again is Scriptural. “The doctrine of Moses is not that obedience to one command will compensate for disobedience to another, but that disobedience to one command will make obedience to others of none effect.”
usual practice is by macerating it in water for thirty minutes, and leaving it in salt for an hour. It is then taken out and washed again, a peculiar wooden tub and sieve being used for the purpose. In Morocco the Jews also pound the flesh till the fibre is broken, and thus it becomes more tender and less able to be kept—this, however, is a local practice unknown to the Jews elsewhere. The Talmud declares that there are two kinds of blood pleasing to the Lord—viz. (1) that of the Paschal holocaust; (2) that of circumcision. In the books of Moses we find that blood is used as a purifier. For instance, the Lawgiver (Exod. xxiv. 6‑8) took half of the blood drained from victims and put it in basins, with which he sprinkled the people to cleanse them from the abominations of the Egyptians, and the other half he sprinkled upon the altar. Human blood is not used by us in its pure state; nor can we* call it human, for the Gentiles are mere vermin, and of their daughters it is said, “Cursed be he that lieth with any beast.” It must also mostly undergo through manipulation a change of essence.1 Nor is it administered indiscriminately, but only to the most zealous. On the eve of the Passover the chief Scribe attends the oven, and mixes what he pleases with the cakes, which are then sent round to the congregation.
[* Sic Burton. The Hebrew scribe is supposed to be speaking.]
1 Here the scribe does not explain himself. What he refers to is the supposed system of reducing the blood to ashes.
A Jew abandoning the faith of Israel must die the death; also he should be surely slain for all such breaches of the Law as committing adultery. All who admit the doctrine of the Trinity, whether they be Jewish perverts, Christians, Muslims, or Pagans; all Hebrews who have violated the secrets of the Synagogue;1 and all those especially who speak against or who injure a co‑religionist, have forfeited their lives. In these days minor offenders are usually excommunicated;2 but those who have been informers or who proved themselves hostile to Israel must be killed at all risks, either by the Jews themselves, or, better still, through the local authorities. This is an invariable rule.3
We read in the tract Sanhedrin (fourth of fourth order, p. 58) that the Gentile who strikes a Jew has committed a capital offence; this ordinance is as old as the sojourn of Moses in Egypt. He who strikes a Jew strikes the Deity. The “sons of Noah” may be slain by the sentence of a single Rabbi, or upon the
1 “Heretics and informers and Epicureans, who have denied the Law or the resurrection of the dead, . . . all such go down to hell, and are judged for ever” (Rosh ha‑Shanah, or Head of the Year, eighth tract of the second order).
2 There are three forms of excommunication—(1) the Nachri, or simple expulsion from the synagogue; (2) expulsion accompanied with Anathema; and (3) the same with Maranatha. The latter is composed of two Syriac words meaning “the Lord will come,” i.e. in judgment.
3 Hence, it may be added, the exceeding care of the Jews to propitiate all those having authority.
testimony of a solitary witness, although the latter be a relation. A descendant of the Hebrews who, learning the true God in the days of Abraham, thereby separated themselves from and exalted themselves above the rest of humanity, may not be put to death but by the decision of twenty Rabbis and on the testimony of two witnesses. A Gentile forfeits life if he cause a pregnant Jewess or her fruit to perish; a Jew is not to be punished capitally for such crime, but he must pay for the loss of the child (p. 57). The “son of Noah” who blasphemes the Holy Name, who has committed adultery with or who has slain a co‑religionist, ceases to merit death by becoming a sojourning proselyte; but he must not be suffered to escape if he has slain a Jew, or if he has committed adultery with a Jewess (p. 71). The Jew must not contract friendship with Gentiles, lest, an oath being necessary, he be compelled to swear by an idol (p. 63). He may not eat bread prepared by the heathen, for fear of undue intimacy being the result. Market bread may be bought and eaten, but on condition that it was made for sale, not for private use and then sold—it is usual to burn a bit of such bread before using it. A Jew may not eat victuals cooked by Gentiles, although vessels from a Jewish house were used in the presence of Jews—this extends even to a roasted egg.
The tract Abodah Zarah, before alluded to,
asserts (p. 4) that all the commandments kept by Jews1 shall bear friendly and favourable witness in heaven before all the assembled souls of men, and to the confusion of every other faith. Hebrews dwelling out of the four Holy Cities are as idol‑worshippers, but without blame. A Jew going to a Gentile marriage feast eats impure food, although the meats be cooked by Jews and served by Jews in the presence of Jews; he even commits a sin if he enters the house within thirty days of the coming ceremony (p. 8). Gentiles should be prevented as much as possible purchasing immovable property. It is not allowed to speak well of a Gentile, man or woman, and it is a sin to make a present to them (p. 20), to greet or to approach them; and the Jew becomes as ceremonially impure by handling anything touched by them, by drinking out of the same cup, or by sleeping under the same roof, as if eating with them. Hebrews should never tether their beasts in places not belonging to them, at least without locking them up, lest the heathen plunder or pollute them. Gentiles preferred the Jews’ beasts to their own women, because evil entered into Eve on the day when the serpent (demon) committed adultery with her. A Jewess may not live amongst the heathen,
1 A tenet which in the hands of the Arab has become a very poetical vision. The Muhammadan’s good deeds in this life, his works in fact, will meet him under the form of a beautiful woman, and will lead him over the terrible bridge El Sirat to the Gates of Paradise.
because possibly the latter do not hold adultery to be a sin; a Jew should also beware for fear of their killing him, as they probably will do. Israel was purified of every sin upon Mount Sinai; but the descendants of the peoples not present there preserve their perversity (p. 22). If a Hebrew wayfarer meet a Gentile armed with a sword (worn on the left), he should pass on the other’s right side, and vice versa if the stranger has only a staff, so that the arm can be seized before the weapon can be used; he must also name a distant place when asked his journey’s end, in order that the Gentile may defer slaying him till too late (p. 25).1 The better to prevent all intimacy, the Jew must not buy wine or vinegar from a Gentile, who also may perhaps have used it in pagan rites. If a Christian, a Muslim, or an idolater touch a cup containing wine, the Jewish owner must throw away the wine or sell it to the heathen, and cleanse the cup. The same is the case with grapes. The Law forbids the Israelites to marry the daughters of the Seven Tribes that held the land before the conquest—namely, the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. This, say the writers of
1 Dr. McCaul (Old Paths, No. 5) remarks upon these and other precautions which are numerous in the Hilchoth Rotsíh: “What an affecting picture does this present of the Jews under heathen domination!” We should rather ask: “What conduct on the part of the Jews must have led to this habitual treatment by those whom they branded with the name of idolaters?”
and commentators on the Talmud, arose from the fact of these women being impure from their childhood upwards. Others, however, whilst including all Gentiles in these Seven Tribes, assert that the prohibition was not on account of any special impurity, such women being vermin or brute beasts not subject to the normal feminine infirmities. Thus the learned restrain their weaker brethren who might suppose that an impure Gentile woman is pure to them and who might even extend it to the case of a Jewess. Hence again the deduction that only the Hebrews are human beings (p. 35).1
Tract Arubim (second of the second order, Seder Moed, Of Appointed Seasons) declares (p. 62) that if a Jew live under the same roof with a Gentile who breaks the Sabbath (Saturday),2 the former, lest he be robbed, should drive out the latter by hiring the whole house. But he may expel the heathen as he can or as he pleases; all tenements inhabited by others than Jews are dens of beasts which cannot
1 “It is unlawful to bake or to cook on a holy day, in order to feed Gentiles or dogs; for it is said (Exod. xii. 16), ‘That only may be done for you.’ ‘For you,’ and not for Gentiles; ‘for you,’ and not for dogs” (Hilchoth Yom Tov., c. i. 10). Some Rabbis go so far as to make the Am ha‑erits (son of earth, i.e. people of the land like the Seven Tribes), or unlearned Jew, an abomination, a beast, whose nostrils may be split, but who is too worthless to be slain (see Dr. McCaul, The Old Paths, pp. 6, 7).
2 Nothing is more striking to the Hebraist, or to one who has lived long among the Hebrews, than to hear unlearned Christians perpetually using the word (Sabbath) which can mean only Saturday to signify Sunday.
become householders. The “son of Noah” who steals even a farthing should be put to death—one of ten commandments given by God in His covenant with Noah—and he cannot be pardoned unless he restore the stolen goods. But God enjoined this restitution only upon Gentiles becoming Israelites (i.e. sojourning proselytes)—all other thieves must be instantly and pitilessly slain.
In tract Ohaleth (second of the sixth order, called Seder Taharoth, or Of Purification) we read (§ 6) that the graves of Gentiles cannot be held impure because they are not tenanted by human beings, and that when the law declares sitting upon tombs a cause of defilement it alludes only to those of Jews. Chapter Baba Bathra (third tract of the fourth order) declares (§ I, p. 10, also repeated in another part of the same tract) that all alms given by Jews are acceptable to God, whereas those of the Gentiles are so many sins because their objects are ostentation and the preservation of their children. If, however, the Jew declare that his alms‑deeds are meant to save his family and to win Paradise, still they are grateful to Jehovah—a privilege allowed only to the children of Israel. In the same tract we are also informed that Esau, the son of Isaac, sinned five times in one day, by committing adultery with a heathen, by slaying his neighbour, by profaning the name of his God, by insulting the resurrection of the dead at the coming of the Messiah,
and by degrading the rights of primogeniture.1 Rabbi Shalomon argues, from the fact of Ishmael laughing when his brother Isaac was born, that Sarah concluded therefrom, either that he held her to be an adulteress, or that she saw him commit a murder; thus he draws the deduction that Ishmael had broken the Seven Commandments, and that consequently his descendants cannot bear witness against Jews (p. 16).
Tract Bechoroth (on Primogeniture, fourth of the fifth order, Seder Kodashim, Of Holy Things) gives (i. 17) the formula of the Scribes’ prayers, and tells us that there are two things which hinder men from keeping the law of God—the action of demons and dependence upon Gentiles. The Lord explains to the angels that usury is permitted only to the Hebrews, who, being ordered to give thanks after food, praise their Creator even when they have eaten only an egg or an olive (p. 20). A Jew may not pray before a naked Gentile, though the latter be in the category of a wild beast (p. 25). This tract relates that a Jew, beaten by a Scribe when detected in adultery with an Egyptian woman, complained to a Gentile ruler that the law had been taken into private hands. The Scribe pleaded
1 The Targum of Palestine says (chap. xxv.): “He had worshipped with strange worship, he had shed innocent blood, he had gone into a betrothed damsel, he had denied the life of the world to come (nowhere taught in the Law), and he had despised his birthright.”
that he had surprised the criminal with a she‑ass, and called the prophet Elijah to bear witness. “Why didst thou not slay him?” asked the magistrate. The reply was that, since the children of Israel had been driven from their own country, such a punishment could not be inflicted by them, but that the judge could do as he pleased. When both left the court, the Jew charged the Scribe with having called Elijah as a witness to a lie. “Wretch!” exclaimed the learned man, “and are they not the same as she‑asses?” But as the Jew was about to return and report this explanation, the Scribe slew him with his staff (i., p. 58). Hence it appears that this tenet is a religious secret whose violation merits death. When a Jew looks upon the grave of a brother Jew, he must say: “Blessed is He who hath created us by law, who has promised to raise us again by law, and who knoweth our number; blessed is He who revives the dead.” But if the tomb be that of a Gentile, he must say: “Shame upon thy mother, cursed be she that bare thee; for the end of the heathen shall be dry and desolate as the soil of the desert” (p. 58). It also explains earthquakes by the lamentations of the Lord, who bewails the miseries of the Jews (p. 59). If a Jew find an object lost, we will say, by a Muslim, he must not restore it, even though he knew the proprietor. Also, if a Gentile make any mistake in accounting with the Jew, or leave property in his
house, the latter, when not in fear of the authorities, must rob him. At all times, in fact, the Jew should spoil the Gentile as much as possible. If one Jew injure another, though even his personal enemy and the greatest villain in the world, especially if such injury be to the advantage of a Gentile, the Jew shall surely die (chap. 388 of the Khalehah Orah Haím Meshat, one of the most accredited parts of the Oral Law). All those present are bound to put the denouncer to death before he can do the deed; and if he has done it, they must remove him from this world, every Israelite in the place contributing to pay the assassin. The oath of a Gentile or a Samaritan cannot be taken in evidence against a Jew. If a dispute occurs between two Israelites, they must go before their own judge.1 It is sinful to have recourse to foreign tribunals, and all the decisions of the latter, when adverse to Jews, must be quashed. Although the heathen court pass sentence according to Hebrew Law, the plaintiff or denouncer becomes impious, sacri‑
1 The system of the Beth‑din (house of judgment) is kept up even in the British Islands. The Chief Rabbi is called Rab or Ab Beth‑din, and he nominates his two Dayaním, or associates. Its jurisdiction is civil, social, and religious; but its powers extend only to levying fines and to excommunicating recusants. In Damascus the jurisdiction is much more extended. The building is in the street of the Scribe called by courtesy Rabbi Yakúb Perez, and half the intrigues in the city are here hatched. The well‑known Khagal of the Russian Jews is a similar institution, not recognized by the Government, but exerting immense and injurious power over the people.
legious, and religiously excommunicated, whilst the Rabbi is bound to make him lose his cause by every possible contrivance, even by suborning false witnesses against him. And at last due punishment must be dealt out. The latter is not a Biblical command, but it results from the commentaries on the Talmuds. When these works were written Muhammadanism did not exist; Muslims therefore are now included amongst the Gentiles. They are not, however, like the Christian idolaters.
In tract Keritoth (or Excision, the seventh of the fifth order, Kodashim) the learned R. Moshe Meimunah, after describing a fight between two bulls,1 the one belonging to a Jew, the other to an Egyptian, declares (p. 36) that, in case of a dispute between men of these different races, the Hebrew, if in the right, should go to the local authority and say, “See, such is the Law!” But he must not do so if he prefer the Jewish tribunal. The Rabbi adds that no one should be astonished
1 Our modern versions which use the word “ox” in such places lead to error. The Hebrews did not castrate their cattle, and similarly their mules and their eunuchs were imported from Egypt and elsewhere. Nothing of this is hinted at about the bull in the most popular modern books; so, for instance, the article “Ox” in Smith’s Concise Dictionary of the Bible. And here it may be noted that if a bull killed a slave the owner of the former paid a fine of thirty shekels to the owner (Josephus, Ant. Jud., IV. viii. 36); hence possibly the sum offered to and accepted by Judas as the value of a bought servant.
at such a condition for all who do not keep the revealed commandments are not men, but beings whose sole purpose upon earth is to serve men. Tract Muad Katon (Little Feast, eleventh of the second order) forbids Jews to salute Gentiles unless in fear of them, and even then never twice. When it was observed to the author that many Scribes had so done, he replied that doubtless it was with some such mental reservation as this, “I salute thee, A., son of B.,” meaning the Rabbi who had taught the speaker to read the Scriptures (p. 62). El Ruzich, in his commentaries on the Talmudic tract Abodah Zarah, speaking of Hebrew accusers of Hebrews and eaters of flesh not ceremonially killed, declares their death to be a necessity.
At this point it may be advisable to offer a short view of the two Great Schools of the Holy Land which have influenced Jewish thought in Christian times. These are, first, that of Tiberias, whence issued the Talmud of Jerusalem, followed by the Talmud of Babylon; and, second, the School of Safed, which rendered itself remarkable by the extreme opinions of its commentaries and glossaries.1
We read in a Jewish writer (M. J. Cohen on the
1 For the other great centres of learning, see Jerusalem and Tiberias; Sora and Cordova: A Survey of the Religious and Scholastic Learning of the Jews. Designed as an Introduction to the Study of Hebrew Literature. By J. W. Longmans, M.A. (London: Longmans). It is curious to see how neglected has been the Safed School, which is most erroneously included in that of Tiberias.
authority of the Talmud, Archives Israëlites, 1841)1: “When after two hundred years of energetic struggles against an empire which was fated to be universal the Hebrew race found its political nationality in peril, the first want felt was to lighten, as much as possible, the bonds of personality, so as morally to preserve by identity of belief that unity which dispersion was about to dissolve. And the plan which at once suggested itself was to determine, by an invariable method, the principles of the Mosaic Law, to develop their sense, and to fix their interpretation.
“But in those times, if I may so speak, the lights of Israel were eclipsed; ages had elapsed since the voices of the prophets had delivered to this people the Oracles of God; and divine inspiration, the heightening of the national faculties by supernatural means, seemed to have returned to its home in heaven. Moreover, after the destruction of Jerusalem and the expulsion of the Jews, all authority had disappeared with national power, and, social organization no longer existing, man could not magisterially impose his opinion upon others. The only rational step in this state of things was to assemble all the Israelites, or those who represented them, and to form a sovereign synod.”
1 Most of these remarks are taken from the Introduction to the Traité des Berakhoth (Benedictions) du Talmud de Jérusalem et du Talmud de Babylone, traduit pour la première fois en Français par Moïse Schwab, attaché à la Bibliothèque Nationale (Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, MDCCCLXXI.).
The Jewish Senate, Sanhedrin (Συνέδριον),1 or national council, was first transferred from the ruins of the Holy City to Javneh, and after many removes to Saffúríah,2 the Sephores which in the days of Josephus was ever faithful to the Romans. Finally, about the middle of the second century, during the reign of Antoninus Pius (A.D. 138—161), it was transferred to Tiberias, another city of Galilee. Rabbi Yahúda, universally known as ha‑Kodesh, or the saint, was the Nashi (Prince) of his nation and the President of the Sanhedrin. He lived at Saffúríah, where there is a cave through which the Roman
1 The word clearly shows the immense effect of the Hellenic Conquest. There were two forms of Sanhedrin—the Greater, numbering seventy‑one souls; and the Lesser, consisting of twenty-three. Both were composed of the three orders Priests, Levites, and common Israelites. The Greater Council claimed, and would again claim, supreme jurisdiction over the king, the high priest, the prophets, and the people, and “strangulation was the mode of execution for any learned man who rebelled against their words” (Hilchoth Mamrun, i. 2). Anti‑Talmudic writers strongly object to this upstart aristocracy, when Moses (Deut. xvii.) ordained a supreme council consisting of the “Priests the Levites” (not the Priests and the Levites), together with the judge, or chief civil governor; the ecclesiastical element remaining in the family of Aaron, whilst the magistracy fell to the lot of Joshua. But when they assert, “It is quite absurd, and if the subject were not so grave it would be ludicrous, to hear the Rabbinists exclaiming that the Law of Moses is unchangeable, when they themselves have changed all its main provisions and made an entirely new religion,” the Jew may fairly retort that the Pauline modifications extending to radical changes had the same effect upon Christianity.
2 According to the system of Sir William Jones, this name would be written Saffúriyeh, but not, as travellers generally do, Saffúreh or Saffuriyyeh.
Emperor, whose reign in history is almost a blank, used to visit him from Tiberias; this tunnel is now blocked up. The modern Jews residing in Galilee are not agreed whether the Great Rabbi died at Saffúríah, or at Túrean, a neighbouring village, where two large caves exist; but neither of them shows traces of a tomb. When this Prince of Israel died, it was Friday evening, and the sun stood still whilst his corpse was carried to its distant grave, lest even the body might break the Sabbath.1
“The work of this Sanhedrin consisted in committing to paper that which had before been entrusted to memory and had perpetuated itself by tradition—the jurisprudence of the Jews, the various interpretations of the Law by the principal doctors, and the rules of man’s duty; in other words, all that was called the Oral Law. Thus the Synod began by transgressing a principle of Israelitism, which until those days had decreed that the supplementary code should never be written, and hence indeed its vulgar name. In this point the Œcumenical Council followed the
1 The sun has often stood still in history; but how often did the historian understand what the sun standing still really means? As Spinoza remarked, “Not even in their dreams had they ever thought of parhelia”; and one of his editors quotes the French drummer‑boy in Switzerland, “Nous sommes ici au bout du monde! Ici on touche le soleil de la main!” In the twelfth century Rabbi Benjamin of Tudela found the grave of Rabenu Hakkadosh (R. Yahúda) near “Suffurieh, the Tsippori of antiquity,” and evidently never heard the legend, “They are buried in the mountain, which also contains numerous other sepulchres.” In his day Tiberias contained only fifty Jews.
example of Hadrian (A.D. 117—138), the adopted father of Antoninus Pius, who also commanded the jurist Salvius Julianus to draw up the Edictum Perpetuum, or fixed code, and the Responsa Prudentium, which before his time formed an unwritten corps of doctrine embodying legal decisions and precedents. The book, which was compiled by R. Yahúda, with the adhesion of the Jewish majority, received the name of Mishnah, ‘doubling,’ or repetition of the Law, and its principles became obligatory upon all men.” The great work was completed, according to some, about A.D. 119; David Ganz prefers A.D. 219, or a short time before the compiler’s death; whilst others contend that R. Yahúda collected the principles of the code, and that the nation accepted it by order of Gamaliel, his son, and successor in the princely dignity of Nashi and presidency of the Sanhedrin;1 “and others again make it of still later date. At all events, it is the most ancient composition known to the Jews after the Law and the Prophets.”
By almost imperceptible degrees the notes and commentaries upon this text grew to formidable proportions, and became a special science, whose technical name, found in the Book of Chronicles (2 xiii. 22 and xxiv. 27), is Midrash, from darash; in Arabic, dars, a lesson. Of the innumerable methods of studying these Holy Writs, the three principal are
1 See Cérnach David, Editio princeps (Prague, 1592), fol. 43.
embodied in the Persian Paradís, the Arabic Firdaus, and the Greek Παράδεισος, written Semitically without vowels PRDS, and the mysterious letters were assumed mneumonically as the initial of a technical word. Thus P (Peshat, the simple rendering of words) recorded the elementary law of Talmudic exegesis, “No verse of Scripture practically admits any sense but the literal sense,”1 although in a different or familiar signification it may be explained in a host of ways. R (Remiz, the Arabic Ramz, a secret, intimation, insinuation, or suggestion of meaning) illustrates certain letters and signs apparently superfluous and explained only by tradition; in a more general manner, it gave rise to a memoria technica and a stenography resembling the Roman Notaricon. Points and notes were added to the margins of manuscripts, and thus was founded the Massorah (tradition), or diplomatic conservation of the text, intended to preserve its purity. D (Derush, illustration) was the familiar application of historical,
1 Similarly the Mormons “pointedly condemn those who make the contents of the Bible typical, metaphysical, or symbolical, ‘as if God were not honest when He speaks with man, or uses words in any other than their true acceptation,’ or could ‘palter in a double sense.’” This return to Hebrew lines of thought is not a little curious, and it may be remarked that every fresh branch put forth by the tree of “Protestantism,” as it is called, invariably reverts more and more to the old type. Indeed, whenever in these days we hear of a new “religion” having been born into the world, we may determine, à priori, that it is more Jewish than its predecessors. And traces of the same operation may be found amongst the Hindu Sikhs and the Muslim Babees.
traditional, anecdotical, allegorical, and prophetical sayings to the actual state of events; it was a sermon aided by ethics, logic, poetry, parable, proverb, apologue, and the vast mass of legendary lore known as the Hagadah (plural Hagadoth), as opposed to the Halakah,1 or dogmatic part—perhaps it was suggested by the New Testament. Finally, the fourth and last, S (Sod, secret, mystery), included the mystical and esoterical sciences of theosophy, metaphysics, angelology, and a host of supernatural visions, brilliant and fantastic. It borrowed with impartial hand from the magic of Egypt, the myths of Hermes Trismegistos, the works of the Platonists and NeoPlatonists, and the labours of the Christian Gnostics. Few were initiated into “the Creation,” or “the Chariot,” as it was called, alluding to the vision of Ezekiel; yet its attractions were such that at last “Paradise” was confined to this special branch of esoteric science, even as later in Gnosticism it came to signify the Spiritual Christ.
Yet the Talmudic authors lay down the principle that their decisions are in no wise absolute, but can always be modified by a power equal to that which lay them down.2 Their sole object was to
1 Hagadah, from Hagah, to declare or describe, to invent or imagine, is applied to any illustration, historical or fabulous. Halakah, from Halak, to walk, is a rule of conduct, anything prescriptive of the peculiarities of Jewish life.
2 See the Mishnah, fifth part, tract Edonyoth, i., §§ 5 et seq. This is a fair answer to the host of contradictions and the general charge of inconsistency levelled by anti‑Talmud writers against
fix the sense and the rules of Written Law; for as Moïse de Coucy says in his S'mag, or Great Book of Precepts: “If the interpretation of the Oral Law had not been added to the Written Law, the whole code would have been obscure and unintelligible, because Holy Writ is full of passages which seem to oppose and contradict one another.” Rambáni Maimonides of Cordova declares (Introduction to his Guide, Vol. I., p. 29): “Thus we find continually written in the Talmud, ‘The beginning of the chapter differs from the end’; and the explanation is given, ‘Because the first part emanates from such‑and-such a doctor, and the last from another.’ Furthermore, we read, ‘Rabbi Yahúda the Holy approved the opinion of that doctor in that case,’ and merely records the opinions of this doctor in this case, without even naming him.” The following formulas are also frequent: “To whom belongs this anonymous assertion?” R. “To A. B., the doctor!” and, “To whom belongs our paragraph of the Mishnah?” R. “To such‑and‑such a person!”
To resume the history of the Talmud.
Some years after the publication of the Mishnah in the third century (A.D. 230—270), R. Yochanan, who for eighty years had been President of the
the Oral Law, and it enables the modern Rabbi to make almost any assertion that he pleases concerning disputed points. Thus one will find in the Talmud that Christians should be put to death, the other that they should be treated like brothers. This is certainly very convenient.
Sanhedrin, undertook a commentary on the text like the Sharh, which accompanies the Arabic Matu. Aided, it is said, by Rab and Samuel, the disciples of Gamaliel, son of R. Yahúda, he produced about A.D. 390 a book which, united with the Mishnayoth, received the title Talmud (doctrine or learning) of Jerusalem, though written at Tiberias. The product of the Schools of Palestine, it was composed in the West Aramæan tongue; and it calls the Mishnic text by the simple name of Halakah (rule), or dogmatic part. The School of Tiberias flourished apparently in the days of St. Jerome, and passed into oblivion during the fourth and early fifth centuries.
In A.D. 367 Askhi, President of the Babylonian Sanhedrin, whilst teaching the Mishnah, annually commented upon two tracts of that work, which, being concise, and as it were axiomatic, like all books that announce legislative principles, required explanation of the author’s exact intention. He was aided by the opinions of many doctors omitted in the Mishnah, either those who died before R. Yahúda the Holy had finished his labours, or the many who followed during the ensuing years. In order that his learning might not be lost to the world, he compiled and transcribed thirty‑five tracts, and died A.D. 427. His son Mar and Marimon his disciple continued the work, and after seventy-three years appeared the Gemara, complement or
conclusion. It was written in the Eastern Aramæan tongue, and it corresponds with the Hasheyah of Arabic standard works.
The Mishnah and the Gemara, now forming a single code, became known to history as the Talmud Babli (of Babylon); and when the Talmud is mentioned, the second work, being the fuller and the more minute, is always meant.1 Presently the Talmudists separated into two great and rival schools in ante‑Christian times: that of Hillel,2 remarkable for his learning, his humility, and his charity, extending even so far as to forbid usury (Tract Baba Metzin, folio 17b); and that of Shammai, inflexible in principles and often inclining to severity.
Both of these voluminous compositions are essentially a corpus juris, to be compared with the Edictum Perpetuum and Responsa Prudentium, with the Pandects, the Novellæ,* and the Institutes. They
1 It is still a disputed point whether the two Targums (versions or translations of the Pentateuch) on the Pentateuch, attributed to the proselyte Onkelos, or Ankelos, and to the Jew Jonathan bin Uzzul, were written by contemporary students in the Rabbinical Schools of Jerusalem within the half‑century before Christ, or were worked out like the Septuagint by the Babylonian Maturgemanin (interpreters) of the fourth century. The later the date the better in order to account for such Græcisms and Latinisms as Ardiphene (Rhodaphne, oleander), Polimarkín (Пολέμαρχος), Sapuklatoría (Speculatores), and Oktaraia (Octariones, præfecti militares). In the Targum of Jerusalem we read “a band of Saracens.”
2 Vie de Hillel, par M. le Grand Rabbin Trínel (1867).
[* The Novellæ or Novel Constitutions were so called because they were posterior in time to the Institutes and other digests of the Roman Emperors, especially Justinian.]
form an encyclopædia of Judæan Law, divine and human, national and international, laical and ecclesiastic, civil and criminal; a doctrinal, judicial, and sentential digest, dealing in exegesis and hermeneutics; a huge compilation of what Muslim divines call Fatwá, or decisions upon legal subjects; and a thesaurus of ceremonial observances borrowed from the Oral Law and the traditions of the heads of schools from Rabbi Gamaliel downwards.1 Composed in the East, that classic land of the supernatural, they abound in Hagadistic matter, wild and picturesque legends sometimes inculcating moral lessons, like the four nocturnal spectres Lilíth, Naama, Aguerith, and Mahala,2 at other times puerile tales of the great angels Patspatsiah, Tashbach, Hadarniel, Enkatham, Pastam, Sandalphon, Shamsiel, and Prasta. Its historical, topographical, ethnographical, and geographical information must be
1 Rabbi Gamaliel the Elder flourished about the end of the first century. Some suppose that he added a nineteenth prayer to the Shamunah Ashara, the “eighteen” composed by Ezra and the men of the Great Congregation, and which is still used by the British and other Jews. Others attribute it to Rabbi Samuel the Lesser, a disciple of Gamaliel, whilst others make it of even more modern date.
2 The derided myth has been amply vindicated by the Rev. John Mills (The British Jews, p. 409) and by N. M. Schwab (Introduction, p. xxviii). The latter writer would be valuable, if he could only be impartial. Unfortunately he writes with all the animus of a Hebrew (pp. xxxviii and xxxix), and not a few of the prejudices of a Frenchman (p. xxvii). This is the more regrettable, as the reading public will be wholly in his hands and he can make the Talmud say what he pleases.
received with the greatest reserve, coming from authors of different ages and of several values. For instance, the Gemara (Sanhedrin, vi. 2) informs us that our Lord, having vainly endeavoured during forty days to find an advocate, was sentenced, and on the 14th of Nisan was stoned and afterwards hanged. It is a storehouse of curious allusions to the products of various countries, the occupations of races, agriculture, gardening, professions and trades, arts and sciences, connubial relations, manners and customs, the interiors of houses, and even dress. It portrays the cosmopolitanism and the luxury of Rome in her later days, thereby filling up the somewhat meagre sketches of the post‑classical school. We find in the Mishnah allusions to the fish of Spain, the apples of Crete, the cheese of Bithynia, the zythus,* lentils, and beans of Egypt, the citrons of Greece, the wines of Italy, the beer of Media, the garments of India and Pelusium, the shirts of Cilicia, and the veils of Arabia.
“At five years of age,” says the Mishnah, “let the child begin to study the Scriptures; let him continue so doing till the age of ten, when he may begin to study the Mishnah; at the age of fifteen let him begin the Gemara” (T. Aboth, chap. v.). This passage in the “vast work or ocean of learning,” as some call
[* It is the ζΰθος or Egyptian beer mentioned by Herodotus, ii. 77. Later the term was extended to the cerevisia and other beers of European nations; hence the obsolete word zythepsary (ζΰθος, and έψω, to boil), a brewery.]
it, could not but be distasteful to Christianity. The tone adopted in speaking of the Almighty is anthropomorphic and anthropocentric in the extreme.1 God spends a fourth part of the day in studying the Law. At every watch of the night He sits and roars like a lion, saying, “Woe is Me that I have laid desolate My house and burned My sanctuary, and sent My children into captivity among the nations of the world” (Berachoth). He plays for three hours every day with the leviathan. And bear in mind there are far more objectionable representations than these in the writings of the Rabbis. It revels more than any known faith in the degradation of women; the Rabbinic court declares women “disqualified by the Law from giving testimony”; the Talmud excludes them from the public worship of God, and teaches that they are under no obligation to learn the revealed will of their Creator,—peculiarly antipathetic doctrines to those who believe in an Immaculate Virgin and in a St. Mary Magdalen. Moreover, the large space given to cursing the Jew and the non-Jew, and to the unhallowed practices of magic and
1 Here, however, we can hardly find the Talmud alone guilty. Its anthropopathisms are merely exaggerations of what is found in the books of Moses when the Creator is subject to wrath, sorrow, repentance, jealousy, and other human passions of the baser kind. In fact, it would be difficult to detect in the Rabbinical ordinances anything which is not built upon the Mosaic text; they have greatly added to the Law, which, methinks, is their great sin in the eyes of Christians, and they have in many cases carried it out to absurdity—corruptio optimi fit passima.
necromancy, the summoning and conversing with devils and spirits, the advocacy of astrology, charms, and philters, served as a pretext for Pope and Inquisition to attack it. In A.D. 553 Justinian proscribed it by Novella 146 as a “tissue of puerilities, of fables, of iniquities, of insults, of imprecations, of heresies, and of blasphemies”; it was destroyed by Gregory IX. in A.D. 1230; it was burnt in Paris by Innocent IV. (A.D. 1244); and it was proscribed by Clement IV., by Honorius1 IV., and by John XXII. The first printed edition (Venice, 1520) saved it, and not until the third had appeared (Basle, 1578) did it come under the eye of the censor.
In 1553 and 1555 Julius III. promulgated a proclamation against what he called grotesquely the Talmud Gulnaroth; and this proceeding was repeated by Paul IV. in 1559, by Pius V. in 1566, and by Clement VIII. in 1592 and 1599.
A well‑known anti‑Talmudical writer remarked in 1836: “The promised German translation of the Talmud, if ever completed, must without any discussion overthrow Talmudism. Its exhibition in any European language is the most fatal attack that
1 This Pope in A.D. 1286 wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury directing him to have a care lest any one read a book from which all evils flow. Pope Pius IV., when authorizing a new edition, expressly stipulated that it should be published without the title of Talmud, which appears to have been a kind of Shibboleth, “Si tamen prodierit sine nomine Talmud, tolerari deberet.” Such was the terror which it inspired in the ecclesiastical mind.
can be made on its authority.” This is utterly unphilosophical; the Book of Mormon, with all its Americanisms and its internal evidences of futile forgery, confirmed instead of destroying Mormonism. The Mishnah was translated into Latin by Surenhusius (Amsterdam, three vols. 40) as early as 1698—1703, and into German by the Chaplain J. J. Rabi (Onolzbach & Ansbach, first to sixth part, 40) in 1760—1763. Without any knowledge of Hebrew or Aramæan, those who read Latin, French and Italian, German and English, will find in any great library—that of the British Museum for instance—a translation of almost every part, and they may be assured that the small remnant still untranslated contains nothing of importance. The modern verdict is that the Talmuds are a “spotted orb,” and that they contain two distinct elements—the sacred light in the true interpretation of the word of God, and the purely human darkness in its folly and infirmity. But it does not confirm the following assertion of the Initiation of Youth (Rabbi Ascher): “The Talmudical writers enjoin upon us to treat Christians as our own brethren in every social matter.”1
The second great Rabbinical School arose at Safed, also a city of Galilee, and rising within sight of Tiberias. Benjamin of Tudela (A.D. 1163) visited
1 An ad captandum vulgus verdict. It is thus modified by the next sentence: “All the latter Gavním [luminaries of the Jewish Law] agree that Christians are reckoned as our own brethren, and are not included in the term Nakhrím [strangers].”
the tombs of Hillel and Shammai, “Dear Merún, which is Maron,” supposed to be the Beth‑maron of the Talmud; but he says nothing about Jews being in Safed, then a fortress held by the Templars. “The city set upon a hill” is also ignored by travellers of the next three hundred years, and appears in history only about the sixteenth century.1 It then became the great centre of Jewish learning—in fact, another Jerusalem. The children of Israel dwelt there in great numbers, and had a vast Khan, a square lead-roofed fortress, where many of them lived, and which contained a fine synagogue. Besides the schools in which the sciences were taught, they counted eighteen synagogues, distinguished by the names of the several nations which possessed them, as the Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, and others. The printing‑press, of which there are remnants at the north‑eastern village Ein el Zeitún, issued many volumes, now becoming exceedingly rare because so much in request amongst European bibliophiles. The College (Madrásh) of the Rabbis still remains, a two‑arched hall, of which no part is ancient except the eastern side. All the rest has been shaken down by earthquakes, which are supposed to destroy the city as each Sabbatical year comes round. In the cemetery below the settlement are the whitewashed graves of Joseph Caro, of Shalomon Alkabez, and of other notables.
The peculiar ferocity of the Safed School resulted
1 Dr. Robinson, Biblical Researches in Palestine, iii. 331.
partly from the domination of the sons of Ishmael, which, however mild, is everywhere distasteful to the children of Israel.1 If “Esau hateth Jacob because of the blessing wherewith his father blessed him,” Jacob returns the hate with at least equal heat, adding fear and contempt—he would willingly, to use the words of Rashi, “blot out Esau and his seed.” But doubtless the harshness and cruelty which distinguished its doctors must be explained by the nature of the place and its surroundings. Situated in the bleak and windswept, the stony and barren highlands of Upper Galilee, shaken by earthquakes, and exposed to terrible storms, Safed is one of the least amene sites in the whole of Syria. The climate is ever in extremes, the water is hard and full of constipating lime, the earth is cold and fruitless, and the people are crafty and cruel as Simeon and Levi. After a few days’ residence, strangers complain of sickness, cramps, and malaise, and their only desire is to escape from the gloom and seclusion of this town upon the hillside. Even the Muhammadans contrast the facile manners of their own women at soft and low‑lying Tiberias with the asperity and the violence of those who inhabit the upland settlement. “Safad fasad” (Safed ever giveth trouble) is the jingling saw of the neighbourhood, and it contains abundant
1 After the second expulsion of the Templars, Sultan Bibars repeopled Safed with a colony from Damascus, and local tradition asserts that of these many were Kurds.
truth. The amount of intrigue and plotting is excessive even in a Syrian settlement, the charges bandied about by men against one another are atrocious—this doctor is a murderer, that scribe is an adulterer, and the third is a swindler and a thief. If the visitor were to believe half what he hears, he would find himself in a den of brigands. That not a few of these charges are founded on fact may be gathered from what travellers have printed concerning certain sons of this Holy City, some of which are too revolting for publication. The rich divines are accused of shamelessly embezzling the Halúkah, large sums sent from Europe for the maintenance of the community; and the poor are ready with complaints upon the most trivial occasions—the breaking of a hen’s leg sends them on a hurried official visit to their Vice‑Consuls. It is not too much to say that if Safed again produced a theological school, it would rival in its narrow bigotry and peculiar ferocity that which disgraced the sixteenth century.
The Talmud had spoken its last upon the interpretation of the Torah, it had closed the discussions which arose from the sacred text, and it had exhausted the traditional lore and the rules established by the Rabbis of Palestine and Babylon till the fifth century after the Christian era. Still, the Talmud itself required after the course of ages to be interpreted, and this gave rise to a variety of mediæval abridgments and to a vast series of glosses
and commentaries. The more modern Rabbis especially resolved that no uncertainty should rest upon the Halakah, or doctrinal part of the work, and they strictly applied themselves to codify the whole body of the Talmud.
To cite only the best‑known names. We have to begin with Rabbi Ishaz al Fasi, who first resumed the Talmud, and who had the boldness to expel from the text everything not strictly bearing upon the discussion. Then came the celebrated Maimonides of Cordova (A.D. 1150), whose Yad ha‑Hazaka (Hand of Power) is a compendium of Talmudic lore valued almost as highly as the original. He was followed by Ascheri, a powerful dialectician, who knew how to conciliate with the Talmudic argument the observations of the Tossaphists, or Glossarians, represented before and after him by Rashi, Rabbenu Tam, Coucy, and a host of others. His son succeeded him, and made a new attempt at a codification, in which the opinions of Ascheri naturally occupied the place of honour.
About this time rose the Safed School. The first and greatest commentator was the Rabbi by some called Rabanu Jacob Be‑Rab, an exile from Spain, and subsequently Chief Rabbi of Fez and Safed, where, after long teaching, he died in A.D. 1541. This Baal ha‑Turim (Lord of the Books), as he is called, wrote four works, which, being considered in the light of “religious laws,” were
known as the Diním. The first of the Arbah Turim, Orach Chaüin (Urah ha‑Yiim, the Way of Life), treats of observances enjoined upon the Jews. The second is Joré Déah (Yurah daab, the Teacher of Knowledge); it describes the ceremonious observances of butchering, eating, making vows, circumcising, and so forth. The third is Eben ha-Azar, the Stone of Assistance (to mankind). And in the fourth, Hoshen Mishpat (Breastplate of Judgment), law, civil and criminal, is discussed.
The School of this commentator was kept up by Moses of Trani in Apulia, who lectured during fifty‑four years to A.D. 1580, the year of his death. The next name of repute was R. Joseph Karo, or Caro, a Jew of Spanish descent, born at Constantinople, who died in A.D. 1575. He was a voluminous writer. In the Shoulkhan Aroukh, a code of religion adopted universally by the Israelites, he analyzed and resumed the opinions of his predecessors. His magnum opus is the Beth Yúsúf (House of Joseph), in four folios, first printed at Venice, and repeatedly republished; it consists of commentaries upon the four Diním of Rabanu Jacob, on the Talmudic writings of the R. Ishaz al Fasi, and on the labours of Rabbino Yakúb ben Rosh, not to be confounded with Rashi the glossarian. The fourth great name is R. Shalomon Alkabez, also of Constantinople, who wrote in A.D. 1529, and who was still living in A.D. 1561. This theologian has left the worst
name amongst the Christians, whom he seems to have hated from his very heart. A pupil and colleague of Caro and Alkabez was Moses of Cordova, the most famous Cabalist since the days of Simeon ben Jochai; he died Chief Rabbi of Safed in A.D. 1570. Moses Galanté, a native of Rome, was somewhat later, dying in A.D. 1618. But the academy was not indebted for its fame to strangers alone; Samuel Oseida and Moses Alsheikh, both natives of Safed, contributed to its celebrity during the sixteenth century. The latter died between A.D. 1592 and 1601.
Of the mediæval Rabbis and their successors generally, it may be observed that the later the school the more prominent became its bigotry and violence. This is easily explained. Anna Comnena* describes the Crusades, which were guided by a giant and a goose, with truly Eastern relish, as having left a “very admirable mound of bones, high, deep, and broad.” But they left something more—a tradition which presently enabled the Christians to recover power in the Holy Land, and their abomination of the Jew inspired him with kindred sentiments. Nor can we wonder that the later and more fanatical writings are preferred by the Israelites to those of the earlier schools. Religious exclusiveness and the ambition of being a peculiar people, set apart from and raised above the rest
[* The Empress of Constantinople.]
of humanity, appeal to the heart of every man through the sure channel of his passions. And thus in the youngest faith of the world we find the same phenomenon as in one of the most ancient—the Book of Doctrines and Covenants is read at Salt Lake City whilst the Book of Mormon is neglected.
R. Jacob Be‑Rab, in the second part of his Joré Déah (Yurah daah), asserts that it is unlawful to draw a Gentile out of a well into which he may have descended or fallen. He also declares that the scrupulous Jewish physician who thoroughly conforms to Talmudic Law will not attend a Gentile without honorarium, because this will be his sole reward. He may do so gratuitously, if he wishes to study medicine by that means; but he should usually kill such patients whilst pretending to cure them. This, however, must be attempted only when there is no chance of detection. R. Joseph Caro of Safed, one of the most pestilent of that School, in his commentary upon the Way of Knowledge, enables the doctor to do additional harm by calling Gentile fees Kashmad, that is to say, the wages of sin—a term applied to the price of a woman’s honour; and in speaking especially of Christians, he declares that if the Jewish physician takes his fee without poisoning them it is as the gift to the wicked woman. On the other hand, should the mediciner be unwilling to be paid, he must absolutely poison
his patient. He also forbids the doctor who has not thoroughly studied the healing art to attend one of his own faith, lest his ignorance cause death;1 but he may practise amongst all others, because if he kill them it is lawful and no matter (commentary of Gittin, the sixth tract of the third order). Others declare that the Hebrew physician must not treat a stranger even for fees; but if he fear the Gentile, and the latter know him to be a Jew, he may do so for money. Rubbi argues the question by reference to the Gittin, in which it is related that R. Richmi bin Askhi had prepared a dose for a stranger; he explains that the drug may have been given by way of experiment, or for the purpose of study.
The Safed School continued its labours into the seventeenth century, and Quasimus (writing about A.D. 1625) speaks of it [Safed] as inhabited chiefly by Hebrews, who had their synagogues and schools, and for whose sustenance contributions were made by the Jews in other parts of the world. After that it gradually sank under the oppression of the Muhammadans, who probably took the place by degrees.
1 The treatment of the Jewish sick, even in these degenerate days, is very scrupulous. When the patient is evidently moribund, not a drop of medicine or even a drink of water must be given to him unless he ask for it himself, lest such act hasten dissolution, and make the giver guilty of having caused the death of a brother Hebrew.