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as set forth in the Scripture. The God of the Bible is a God of eternal and immutable truth. One of his peculiar characteristics, that he keepeth covenant and mercy. A man, there
shall not himself profane his word in a way of levity, but that he shall go to a wise man and get absolution; let us then read the whole verse from which those words are taken.
איש כי ידור נדר ליהוה או השבע שבועה לאסר,fore, who breaks his word, and still more so
אסר על נפשו לא יחל דברו ככל היוצא מפיו יעשה :
a man who breaks an oath, is unlike God. Is it probable, then, that God would give a "If a man vow a vow unto the Lord, or religion with a special provision for making swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond, men unlike himself? Again, God is a God he shall not break his word, he shall do acof knowledge, and therefore knows that the cording to all that proceedeth out of his mouth." children of men are in a great degree the Now let any man of common sense and hocreatures of habit; he knows also that by nesty say, whether if it had been God's inhabit the evil propensities are strengthened, tention to forbid all absolution from oaths, and that there is in men a strong propensity He could have employed words more to the to shrink from their word, if it cause any purpose than these; or whether the plain trouble or damage is it likely, then, that simple grammatical meaning is not directly God would give a law, directly tending to opposed to the Rabbinic doctrine? God says, strengthen that evil propensity by forming a If a man swear, he shall not profane his habit of breaking one's word, even under the word. The rabbies say, he may profane his solemn circumstances of an oath ? Reason word. To prevent all mistake, God further decides that such a law cannot proceed from adds, " He shall do according to all that prothe God of Israel. Has it then any support ceeds out of his mouth." The rabbies say, in the written Word of God? It would be he need not do what proceeds out of his strange, indeed, if the Word of God should mouth; and yet they have the face to tell us, contain any thing contrary to reason. As that their doctrine is from Moses, and is the revealing the nature of Him who is incom- traditional interpretation of words which sigprehensible, it may contain things above our nify the very reverse of what they say. It is reason but that in giving laws for man it only wonderful that they should have referred should give him licence to do what his reason to this verse at all, and the fact can only be tells him is directly opposed to the character accounted for by the supposition that this of God, is altogether incredible. The rabbies verse was too plain to be got over, and therethemselves, however, do not endeavour to jus- fore they thought it best to take the bull by tify the doctrine by a reference to Scripture. the horns, by selecting this very verse as the They say in plain terms, "This matter has basis of their interpretation. That this verse no foundation whatever in the written law," in its grammatical construction is directly opand thus acknowledge that it is altogether a posed to the oral law no one can doubt, for matter of tradition, the argument against it, it forbids what the rabbies allow, and commands therefore, becomes doubly strong. Every one what the rabbies forbid. But the opposition knows, that a story loses nothing by passing is not found in this verse only. The other through many mouths, but that in the course verse to which the rabbies also allude is of its progress it gets so many additions and un-equally plain against it. The words, "Ye dergoes so many changes as at last to be scarcely shall not swear by my name falsely, neither recognisable. This circumstance makes all shalt thou profane the name of thy God. I oral tradition uncertain and unsatisfactory, am the LORD," plainly forbid that absolubut is particularly suspicious when it appears; tion from oaths which the rabbies teach not only opposed to the Scripture character not only as lawful, but as of Divine authority. of God, but also favourable to the evil pro- We know that the rabbies make a distinction pensities of man. scrupulous regard to truth and a willing submission to hardship and inconvenience for the sake of truth, then, as opposing the principles of self-interest, it would have been less suspicious; but when it actually tells men that to do what may save them from worldly trouble or personal disadvantage is a divine institution, one cannot help suspecting that it is an invention of men, who found it convenient occasionally to escape from the obligation of an oath. But after all, the great arbiter must be the written Word of God. The rabbies say, That it has been learned from Moses by oral tradition, that the words "He shall not profane his word" mean that a man
שבועת a false oath and a שבועת שקר If it had exacted a more |
rash oath; but the distinction, as made by them, is unfounded. A rash oath, according to their doctrine, is an oath concerning something which it is possible and lawful for a man to do or to leave undone; for as soon as it interferes with the fulfilment of a Divine command, it belongs to that class of oaths which they call
vain oaths. If, therefore, a man swears to do, what it is both lawful and possible for him to do, and afterwards draws back, and does it not, what man in his senses can doubt, that that individual, no matter what the pretext for not keeping the oath, is guilty of having sworn falsely? What is it to swear falsely, if voluntarily to
refuse to do what a man had previously sworn to do, constitute not that sin? A sinful falsehood is a wilful departure from truth; here there is that wilful departure: who, then, will dare to affirm, that such conduct is not contrary to the express command of God? Rabbinists sometimes say, that though the oral law sometimes commands more than is commanded in the Scriptures, it never allows what God has forbidden; but here we have a plain example of the contrary. Here the oral law allows false swearing, which God has positively forbidden. The doctrine of absolution from oaths teaches men to transgress three no negative precepts. The man who swears to do anything and then does it not, because he has got absolution, violates, first, the negative precept, "He shall not profane his word;" he violates, secondly, the negative precept, "Ye shall not swear by my name falsely ;" and, lastly, he violates a negative precept more important than either of the others; and that is, "Neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God." Any man, pretending to religion, who should act upon these principles, first swear and then obtain absolution from his oath, would expose his religion to the contempt and indignation of all honest men, and thereby do all that in him lies to profane the name of his God. Let, then, every Israelite who thinks that the negative precepts are more important than the affirmative, remember, that in this one instance the oral law teaches him to violate three such precepts; and let him reflect further, that the upholding such a law as this is to profane the name of the God of Israel before those who are ignorant of the Scripture.
But the Rabbinical doctrine does not stop at prospective absolution, it goes so far as to absolve from the guilt of perjury actually committed.
has commenced, he is exempt." (Ibid. 18.) In this Rabbinic decision there are two cases, and both contrary to the Word of God. First, we have the case of the man who has broken his oath ignorantly, and respecting whom God has decided in the following words: "If a soul swear, pronouncing with his lips to do evil, or to do good, whatsoever it be that a man shall pronounce with an oath, and it be hid from him; when he knoweth of it, then he shall be guilty in one of these. And it shall be, when he shall be guilty in one of these things, that he shall confess that he hath sinned in that thing: and he shall bring his trespass-offering unto the Lord for his sin, which he hath sinned, &c." (Levit. v. 4, &c.) Here God positively commands, first, that he should confess his sin, and secondly, that he should bring a sacrifice in order to obtain forgiveness; and, by the above law, the rabbies as positively declare that obedience to these commands is superfluous. A man need only say that he has changed his mind, and get a rabbi to absolve him, and then he can set the Word of God at defiance, he need neither confess his sin, nor bring the sacrifice. How can the men who profess such a religion pretend to have any regard for the law of Moses, or how can they with any consistency reproach Christians with the non-observance of the ceremonial precepts, when they themselves profess religious principles which unceremoniously subvert such plain commands? The second case is, however, far more flagrant. It supposes a man to have sworn that he would not do a certain thing, but afterwards wilfully to have done it-that is, it supposes a man to have been guilty of wilful perjury, and yet declares that he may be delivered both from the guilt and the punishment, by going to a rabbi and getting absolution. This oral law, which would flog a poor starving creature for eating Gentile food or meat and milk to
מי שנשבע שבועת בטוי להבא ושקר בשבועתו • gether, devises an expedient for delivering him | כגון שנשבע שלא יאכל פת זו ואכלה ואחר שאכלה -who is guilty of the grave crime of perjury | קודם שיביא קרבנו אם היה שוגג או קודם שילקה that is, though cruel to the poor, it is merciful | אם היה מזיד נחם ונשאל לחכם והתירה לו הרי זה פטור מן הקרבן או מן המלקות • ולא עוד אלא אפי' laws of God with a high hand, then we know not | כפתוהו ללקות ונשאל והתירו לו קודם שיתחילו
to the criminal. If this be not to violate the
"If a man swear a rash oath concerning the future, but lies in that which he has sworn, as, if he should swear not to eat this bread, and afterwards should eat it; and if, after he has eaten it, before he brings his sacrifice, in case he did it ignorantly, or before he is flogged, in case he did it presumptuously he repent and ask a wise man, and he absolve him, behold such an one is exempt from the sacrifice or from the flogging: and not only so, but if they had actually bound him in order to flog him, and he ask a wise man, and he absolve him before the flogging
what sin is. Here both classes of the precepts, negative and affirmative, are treated with the same contempt; both equally trampled under foot. The guilty are absolved, not only from doing what God commands, but from the penalty of actual transgression. The rabbies presume not only to absolve a man from doing what he has sworn to do, but also to turn perjury actually committed into innocence. They have assumed the high prerogative of God, have abrogated his laws, and taught the guilty to set his threatenings at defiance. We verily believe that the mass of the Jewish people have been ignorant
and evil, but at a man's nation. Christianity who have practically forsaken Judaism, who teaches that true religion is that of the heart associate with Christians, eat Gentile food, and that at the day of judgment mercilessness will drink Gentile wine, and some of whom perhaps obtain no mercy, and that God is the God of even deal in it as an article of merchandize. the spirits of all flesh. Let then the lovers of Such persons, though Israelites by nation, are the oral law account for this fact, that not Jews by religion, at least according to that Christianity, which they call idolatry, teaches sense in which the word Jew has been used a doctrine that glorifies God and benefits all both by Israel and Gentile nations for the last men; whilst Judaism, which they say is the two thousand years. Such persons cannot truth, teaches a doctrine dishonouring to God, pretend to be professors of the Jewish persuaoppressive to the Jews, and degrading to all sion. Any one who is in the habit of drinking other nations. Some Jews will reply, that Gentile wine has practically forsaken Judaism, Christians are not idolaters; then we ask such just as much as if he had assumed the turban persons how they can pretend to profess and professed himself a Mahometan. It Judaism, which has asserted the contrary for becomes such persons especially to make a so many centuries, and also acted upon this stand against the oral law, and to declare pubprinciple, prohibiting all intercourse, as much licly what their religion is, and whether they as Moses did in the land of Canaan. Either have any fixed principles at all. They cannot Christianity is idolatry, or Judaism is false; be regarded as Christians, for they have not there is no alternative. Every Jew, therefore, been baptized; they cannot say that they are who asserts that Christians are not idolaters, Jews, for they have forsaken Judaism; they pronounces of Judaism that it is false. Let cannot assert that they have the religion of all such persons then deal honestly, let them Moses, for unless that religion be found renounce what they do not believe; and let amongst Christians, it does not exist. There them denounce to their brethren what they is no body of religionists to be found in this think it necessary to disavow before Christians. country who profess themselves Mosaists. In They are bound to do this, not only to re- the synagogue the oral law is professed; in nounce the injustice with which the oral law the Church Christianity is professed: but treats Christians, but to take away the cruel where is the place of worship frequented by and oppressive yoke which bows down their those who have forsaken Judaism without brethren the Jews. If Christianity be not embracing Christianity? Such persons appear idolatry, then all the laws concerning ", in a light that is not at all advantageous to "wine of libation," are utterly out of place in their principles. In private they profess to this country. Then poor Jews may accept of abhor the intolerance of the oral law, they vioChristian bounty, and the offices of kindliness late its precepts, and yet on the occasion of the and charity may be practised between Jew great Jewish fasts and festivals they are to be and Christian. Those Jews therefore who seen in the synagogue joining in the worship, profess to believe that Christians are not and observing the rites of the oral law. What idolaters are bound, by their obligations both then are we to believe concerning such to Jews and Christians, to protest against the persons? Are they indifferentists who have oral law, and publicly to disavow all belief in no religion at all? or are they secret admirers it. So long as they do not make such a public of the oral law, who, for worldly purposes, disavowal, their professions of love and charity deny it when occasion suits, and conform to it and respect for the religion of Christians must when the conscience is uneasy? We are far be looked upon as hollow and insincere. So from pronouncing them either one or the other, long as they make such professions, contrary but simply propose these questions for their to the oral law, and yet frequent the worship own consideration, remind them of the equiof the synagogue, which asserts the divinity vocal light in which they appear, and would of the oral law, they must be regarded either as give them advice similar to that of Elijah to persons who have motives for professing what their forefathers. If the oral law be true they do not feel, or who want moral courage religion, profess and practise it. If the oral to renounce what they disapprove. These law be erroneous, superstitious, and unchariremarks apply particularly to those Israelites table, renounce it openly and honestly.
London:- Sold at the London Society's Office, 18, Exeter-hall, Strand; by James Duncan, Paternosterrow; and B. Wertheim, 57, Aldersgate-street. This publication may be had by applying at No. 5, No. 7, or No. 13, Palestine-place, Bethnal-green; also, at No. 10, New street, Bishopsgate-street.
עמדו על דרכים וראו ושאלו לנתבות עולם • ירמיה ו' טז'
"THE OLD PATHS."-JER. vi. 16.
FRIDAY, JANUARY 27, 1837.
MODERN Judaism, or the religion of the We have already shown of several such laws Jews, as it is professed by the majority of the that they are alike noxious to man and disnation scattered through the world, confessedly honouring to God, and think now to exhibit a consists of two parts. The first is composed similar result with regard to the laws concerning of those laws which are nn, i. e., which mourners for the dead. Of many of these it are either really found in the written law, or is confessed that they are not of God, but are supposed to be based upon some passage simply ordinances of the scribes: thus, of the of it. The second, of those laws which are command to mourn seven days, it is acknowDIDIT "T" of the words of the scribes," | ledged, that it is not to be found in the law.
ואין אבלות מן התורה אלא ביום ראשון בלבד | -and which are, therefore, mere human institu שהוא יום המיתה ויום הקבורה - אבל שאר השבעה | tions. Concerning those that were given by ימים אינו דין תורה :
"The only mourning commanded in the law is that on the first day, which is the day of the death and of the burial. But that of the rest of the seven days is not an ordinance of the law." (Hilchoth Avel., c. i. 1.) And thus with regard to the various things from which the mourner is to abstain during those seven days, it is acknowledged expressly that the command is altogether an ordinance of the
God, we readily grant that they can be changed
אלו הדברים שהאבל אסור בהן ביום ראשון מן | -have been repealed by the scribes and magis התורה ובשאר ימים מדבריהם • אסור לספר ולכבס | trates who succeeded them. And even then ולרחוץ : ולסוך ולשמש מטתו - ולנעול את הסנדל - | whenever they stood in opposition to the Word ולעשות מלאכה • ולקרות בדברי תורה : ולזקוף את
המיטה : ולפרוע את ראשו ולשאול שלום הכל :
of God, it was the bounden duty of the Jews to refuse obedience. For what reason then do the Jews of the present day still pay the same homage to the words of the scribes that they do to the Word of God? The scribes are not now the civil magistrates of the countries where the Jews reside; their words, therefore, carry with them no authority whatever. The Jews are now in different circumstances-are subject to other magistrates and lawgivers. The magisterial sanction, which the words of the scribes had before the dispersion, has long since been lost; and God nowhere commands the Jews in England to obey laws made by the civil magistrates of Palestine two thousand years ago. There is not a shadow of obligation remaining; and therefore the Jews of the present day have a full right to examine into their tendency and effects, and if they should be found injurious or unsuitable to present circumstances, to reject them. If the words of the scribes be not obligatory by virtue of divine authority, the only imaginable reason for observing them is the supposition that they are conducive to the welfare and happiness of Israel, but if it can be shown that this supposition is false, then both reason and religion would suggest the wisdom of rejecting them. I
"These are the things which the mourner is prohibited from doing, according to the law, on the first day, but according to the words of the scribes on the remaining days-shaving, washing the clothes, bathing, anointing, duty of marriage, putting on shoes, working, reading in the words of the law, elevating the chair, uncovering the head, asking after the peace of any one.' (Ibid., c. v.) As therefore the rabbies themselves do not pretend that abstinence from these things during those days of mourning is required in the law; and it is further a matter of fact, that this abstinence is not inculcated by the laws of the land, it naturally becomes a question, Why then do the Jews now observe these rites? Are they conducive to the happiness and welfare of Israel? We might doubt respecting several of them, but one is so obviously oppressive to the poor as to be almost beyond controversy; we mean the prohibition to work during the seven days' mourning. We do not mean to deny, that when death enters a family, it is a providential call to humiliation and serious reflection, and that therefore those who can should withdraw for a while from their every-day occu
of this gross contempt for the Mosaic law, or they could never have continued so long in such a system, nor so long have suffered the name of God to be profaned by the attempt to pass off such a religion as proceeding from Him. Now, then, we call on every reader of this paper to decide whether the oral law can really be from God? Has this doctrine of absolution from oaths any thing resembling the character of the Divine Being as a God of Truth? Is it possible that God should give an oral law directly subversive of that which he has given in writing; or will any one dare to say that the Almighty, when he wished to give a law permitting absolution from oaths, knew so little of the Hebrew language as to enunciate it in words which directly forbid it? Let no one misunderstand us, as if we applied the passages quoted from the oral law generally to the case of all oaths, or as if we attributed this doctrine of the oral law to all Israel. We do neither the one nor the other; in a future number we hope to consider the case of an oath between man and man, and at present our only intention is to show that the oral law is dishonouring to God, subversive of the commands given by Moses, and injurious to the best interests of the Jewish people; nay, that it is actually a libel on the children of Abraham; and that, therefore, if they have any love to God, any reverence for Moses, and any respect for themselves and their brethren, they are bound publicly to renounce the principles which it inculcates, and by which they have been deluded for so many centuries. It is possible to do one of two things-either to approve the doctrine of absolution from oaths, or to disapprove of it. Those who approve of it will, of course, endeavour to uphold it, and will thereby continue the profanation of God's name; and, so far as they can, stamp dishonour upon the religion of Israel. Those who disapprove the idea of a rabbi's absolving from a solemn oath, and think that oaths are not to be tampered with, are bound not only to protest against this particular abuse, but to reject the whole oral law. The rabbies
declare that this doctrine is not an ordinance of the Scribes, but an oral tradition from Moses; if then it be false, the rabbies are again convicted of passing off an invention of their own as an ordinance of God, and are therefore wholly unworthy of credit. The oral law depends altogether upon the validity of the testimony, and if the witnesses can be proved, in any one instance, to have spoken falsehood, the credit of the whole is destroyed. Now this is eminently the case, for not only have they said what is false, but have endeavoured to establish a principle subversive of all reverence for truth. It would be difficult for any man, who was known as one in the habit of getting dispensation from oaths, to find belief or credit in the world, and he would scarcely be admitted as a valid witness in a court of justice; but the man who propounds dispensation from oaths as a religious doctrine, and teaches it systematically as agreeable to the will of God, is a more suspicious person still, and such are the authors of the oral law. The former might be regarded as a deluded person, who only broke his oaths when he got dispensation, but the latter would be considered an artful underminer of principle, and a wilful despiser of truth; his testimony would, therefore, have no weight. Now, it is upon the testimony of such persons that the authority of the oral law entirely depends. It is confessed, that until the Mishna and Gemara were compiled, there was no written record of its contents, but that it was propagated from mouth to mouth. If, therefore, it appear that those who transmitted it were men whose love for truth was equivocal, we cannot be sure that they did not transmit a forgery. The doctrine which we have just considered, shows that they did not love truth, and that they have actually libelled the memory of Moses, the servant of God, by asserting that he taught them how to get absolution from oaths. is for the Jews to consider whether they will still be deluded by such incompetent witnesses, and still, even silently, uphold a doctrine so dishonouring to their religion.
London:-Sold at the London Society's Office, 16, Exeter-hall, Strand; by James Duncan, Paternosterrow; and B. Wertheim, 57, Aldersgate-street. This publication may be had by applying at No. 5, No. 7, or No. 13, Palestine-place, Bethnal-green; also, at No. 10, New-street, Bishopsgate street.