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of those to which circumcision is preferred. | soul that doeth ought presumptuously, whether The command
כבד את אביך ואת אמך
he be born in the land or a stranger, the same reproacheth the Lord; and that soul shall be hath despised the Word of the Lord, and hath cut off from among his people. Because he broken his commandment, that soul shall be utterly cut off; his iniquity shall be upon him." (Numb. xv. 30, 31.) Here we see
"Honour thy father and thy mother," is an affirmative precept, and has a promise of long life in the land attached to it. It concerns our duty to those, to whom, under God, we owe our existence, and yet the oral law teaches that obedience to it is not so important God's commandments will be visited with the presumptuous transgression of any one of as to the precept concerning circumcision. same punishment denounced against the omisWe do not mean to deny the scriptural imsion of circumcision, so that the annexed portance of circumcision, nor of any other of threat is far from proving that this precept is the divine institutions, but we do mean to appeal to every Israelite of understanding to superior to all the other affirmative commandments. On the contrary, it shows that God judge, which of these commandments is of does not judge by the external act, but by the most importance. Can an Israelite, merely state of the heart, and that presumptuous disbecause he is circumcised, though he has no obedience of any commandment, as demonlove to his fellow-men, and no reverence for strating an utter want of love to him, will be his parents, be acceptable in the sight of God, visited with the severity of his wrath. It is or can he be more acceptable than a Gentile further alleged, "That Abraham was not who obeys these commands? But the sweep-called perfect until he was circumcised," ing declaration of the oral law, not only teaches men that circumcision is more valuable than love to man, but exalts it even above love
to God. The commandment, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with all thy heart, &c.," is an affirmative precept, and is consequently included amongst those which are stated to be inferior to circumcision. This conclusion seems so monstrous, that one is almost afraid of having misunderstood the sense; but Rashi, who must be acknowledged as an authority, goes still farther, and endeavours to prove that circumcision is equal in importance to all the other commandments put together.
שהיא שקולה כנגד כל המצות שבתורה
"It is equivalent to all the commandments which are in the law." (Nedarim, fol. 31, col. ii.) So that there can be no doubt that this is the doctrine of the oral law. Now just let the reader consider the nature of circumcision. It is, in the first place, an external act,-it is, in the second place, an act performed without the will of the infant, and at a time when he can exercise no act of moral responsibility, and yet the mere act is placed above the highest perfection of a created being, love to God and his fellow-creatures. But the oral law does not merely assert this doctrine, but gives its proofs, and the first is, that to the precept of circumcision the threat of excision is annexed. Of course, we admit the fact, for it is plainly said, "The uncircumcised man-child, whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.' (Gen. xvii. 14); but we deny the consequence. There is nothing peculiar to circumcision in the annexed threat of excision. God has pronounced the same threat against every presumptuous sin, as it is written, "But the
and this is proved in the Talmud, by the words, "Walk before me, and be thou perfect." But these words do not prove that, even after his circumcision, Abraham was called perfect; they are a command to be perfect, but not a declaration that he was circumcised he obeyed this command, and so; and it cannot be urged that by being thus became perfect, for this would open an easy way of attaining perfection to the most abandoned of mankind. Besides, it is easy given to the uncircumcision. Long before cirto prove that this word "perfect" is also cumcision was given, it was applied to Noah. "Noah was a just man, and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God" (Gen. vi. 9), where that which is only commanded to Abraham, is asserted to have been found in Noah. God commanded to Abraham to walk with him, and to be perfect; but he declares of the uncircumcised Noah, that he was perfect, and did walk with him. In this respect, therefore, even if the Rabbinic interpretation of the words were correct, circumcision has no superiority over uncircumcision. The next proof, namely, "That by the merit of circumcision a covenant was made with Abraham, respecting the giving of the land," is equally uninconclusive. Long before the covenant of circumcision God had promised the land to Abraham, and that repeatedly; and not only had promised it, but had actually made a covenant with him respecting the gift, as we read, "In the same day, the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates." (Gen. xv. 18.) This covenant was made before the birth of Ishmael; and when Ishmael was born, Abraham was eighty-six years of age; conse
quently, it was made at least fourteen years before circumcision, so that the assertion that the covenant respecting the land was made on account of the merit of circumcision is altogether false. God made the covenant, not because Abraham deserved it, but according to his own grace and mercy, when Abraham had no bodily mark to distinguish him from the surrounding nations. Here again, then, the oral law asserts what is false. But the rabbies were not contented with Scripture proof; they felt that the letter of Scripture was against them, and therefore had recourse to their own invention, and have devised the fable that "Circumcision delivers from the judgment of hell, for that Abraham sits at the door of hell, and does not suffer any one that is circumcised to be cast into it." That this is a regular and wilful falsehood, no one that has reason, and takes the Scripture to guide it, can possibly doubt. It implies that many who are circumcised deserve the punishment of hell, and are led to the very door, but that Abraham interferes, and delivers them from their just punishment. If they did not deserve it, and were not liable to it, there could be necessity for Abraham's sitting in so unpleasant a situation. The guilt of these persons is, therefore, fully admitted, and yet the wise men say, that out of regard to the mere external token of the covenant, God gives up his attribute of justice, and acquits those who deserve punishment. But it implies further, that God does not deal thus to the Gentiles-that to them he exercises all justice, and shows no mercy. Abraham looks on with unconcern when a Gentile is brought to the place of the damned, feels no compassion and exercises none, and the Divine Being himself is made a party in this injustice, and want of compassion. Religion is misrepresented as a mere system of favouritism, and the Judge of all the earth as a doer of wrong. That this is the plain drift of the story is plain from what follows: "Circumcision is despised, for the Gentiles are reproached with it, as it is said, 'All the nations are uncircumcised.' Here the rabbies plainly tell us, that God despises the works of his own hands, that he disdains the overwhelming majority of his rational creatures, and that not because of their wickedness, or their cruelty, or their idolatry, or their profanity, but because they have not got a commandment which He never gave them. The rabbies themselves will admit that God never gave the Gentiles the commandment of circumcision, how then is it possible that he should blame them, or despise them, or treat them with unmitigated severity, because they have not got what he never gave them? If it had been offered to them, and they had refused, there would have been some ground for such a representation,
but at present there is none. It is not true that God reproaches the Gentiles in the words, "All the nations are uncircumcised;" on the contrary, he is reproaching Israel. The context is, "Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that I will punish all them which are circumcised with the uncircumcised; Egypt, and Judah, and Edom, and the children of Ammon and Moab, and all that are in the utmost corners, that dwell in the wilderness; for all the nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in the heart." (Jer. ix. 25, 26.) This is very different doctrine from that of the rabbies. God declares that the mere outward sign of circumcision shall not save from punishment; that he makes no difference whatever between the uncircumcised and the circumcised, but that he looks upon the heart, and deals out to all evenhanded justice. He says that he will punish the idolatrous nations, whom he has enumerated, but declares that he will punish the sinners of Israel along with them, and then to obviate the very objection which the oral law urges, and to take away all false confidence in circumcision, he adds, "The nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in heart;" as if he would have said, Do not deceive yourselves, thinking that your circumcision will save you: there is a worse uncircumcision than that of the flesh, the uncircumcision of the heart. This is doctrine worthy of the Divine Being, consistent with his attributes of justice and holiness, and consolatory and encouraging to all his rational creatures; whereas the rabbinic doctrine is dishonouring to God, and contemptuous to all the Gentile nations. If it were believed, no Gentile would have any motive to serve or honour the true God, from whom he could expect neither justice nor mercy. It is equally pernicious and destructive to the moral and spiritual welfare of the Israelites themselves. Iman who believes that his circumcision will save him from hell, will feel himself at liberty to violate other commands without fear. Why should he be holy, or chaste, or honest, or true? His father Abraham is sitting at the gate of hell waiting for him, and will deliver him from the just reward of his delinquencies. We do not mean to attribute such reasoning to all Israelites-far from it; but it is certain that on the minds of the ignorant and superstitious this doctrine must have this effect. Those who are acquainted with the Word of God, or know how to reason, must believe that it is false, but then it is their duty not only to disbelieve it in their hearts, but to renounce it publicly, and to teach the ignorant and uneducated that it is false. Israelites often feel justly indignant at the want of due appreciation which characterises public opinion with regard to the
nation, but let them reflect on the causes, and sign, which God never intended they should they will cease to wonder. Mankind in ge- have. Christianity proclaims that God is a neral does not distinguish between the Jews just Judge. It says, "Circumcision verily and Judaism, but erroneously attribute, with- profiteth, if thou keep the law; but if thou out any discrimination, the errors of the sys- be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is tem to the men; and how can they do other-made uncircumcision. Therefore if the unwise, so long as the oral law is still upheld as circumcision keep the righteousness of the law, a divine code of law? Let Israel renounce shall not his uncircumcision be counted for the errors publicly, and all the causes of mis- circumcision?" Judaism teaches that Abraconception will be removed. ham sits at the gate of hell to deliver even the wicked, if they be only circumcised. Christianity teaches that Abraham has no respect to the outward sign, unless it be accompanied by purity of heart. "There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: and there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores. it came to pass that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom : the rich man also died, and was buried: and in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed; so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. Then he said, I pray thee, therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house: for I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham said unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went to them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead." (Luke xvi. 19-31.) Let the reader compare this with the Rabbinic doctrine, and then explain why it is that where the oral law errs, God has given the truth in the New Testament.
But we would ask our readers to go a little farther, and compare the doctrines of Christianity on this subject with those of the oral law. They will find that where the rabbies have erred, the disciples of Jesus of Nazareth have taught the truth. St. Paul admits the importance and the privileges of circumcision. He asks, "What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?" And answers, "Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God." (Rom. iii. 1.) He does not undervalue God's mercy to Israel, but at the same time he honours God's justice and holiness, by declaring that "God will render to every man according to his deeds to them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory, and honour, and immortality, eternal life: but unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; but glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: for there is no respect of persons with God." (Romans ii. 6-11.) This exactly agrees with the words of Jeremiah, and with the character of God, as set forth by Moses and the Prophets, and must commend itself to the mind of every reflecting person. Let then those who reject Christianity account for the fact, that where the rabbies are wrong, the preachers of Christianity are right. If all truth come from God, and unassisted human reason must go wrong, how it is that God should have helped Christians to the truth, and left the Jews in deadly error for so many centuries?
Judaism teaches that the Gentiles are despised, simply because they have not got an outward
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.
עמדו על דרכים וראו ושאלו לנתבות עולם : ירמיה ו' טז'
"THE OLD PATHS."-Jer. vi. 16.
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 24, 1837.
THE great object of these papers has been to compare Judaism, as it at present exists, with the religion of Moses and the Prophets, and thus to ascertain whether the Jews of the present day walk in the good old paths pointed out to their forefathers. We have endeavoured to give our reasons for believing that the Jews have been imposed upon by the inventors of the oral law, and have now got a religion diametrically opposed to that which was revealed to them by God. More than a year has elapsed since the first of these papers was published, and yet no answer has appeared. This silence may be attributed to one of three causes. Either there has been a want of sufficient zeal on the part of those who profess Judaism—or, prudence has suggested that the system would not bear discussion-or, these papers have been thought unworthy of notice. It is for the Jewish people at large to consider, which of these three reasons have influenced the champions of the oral law. The Jews certainly have a right to some explanation from those, whose learning and station point them out as the natural defenders of Judaism. Every reflecting man must be staggered by the fact, that a strong case has been made out against the oral law that, contemporaneously with the publication of these papers, strong symptoms of dissatisfaction with certain parts of Judaism have been manifested in one of the most respectable synagogues in London -and yet, that nothing has appeared, either in the shape of defence or explanation. That this silence has not proceeded altogether from contempt is made probable by another fact,
which despises and insults the unlearned cannot be from God. The oral law does despise and insult the unlearned, for it commands its disciples not to marry the daughters of the unlearned on the ground that they are no better than beasts. Therefore the oral law cannot be from God. Secondly, a religion which makes the murder of an unlearned man lawful, cannot be from God. The oral law does make it lawful, for, as we showed in No. 1, Rabbi Eleazer says, That it is lawful, even on the most solemn day of the Jewish year, to kill an unlearned man without observing any of the technicalities of the Rabbinic art of slaughtering; or, as another says, to rend him asunder like a fish. Therefore the oral law cannot be from God. We now proceed to show why we still think that that line of argument is valid.
The first step is, to establish the meaning of the expression D Amhaaretz, which we translated" an unlearned man." The literal English of this expression is," People of the land," it might therefore signify the inhabitants of Canaan, but in the Bible it is more commonly used of the mass of the Israelitish people, as for instance :
וכל עם הארץ שמח ותוקע בחצוצרות :
"And all the people of the land rejoiced, and blew with trumpets." (2 Kings xi. 14. See also verses 18-20.) Here the expression is opposed to king and princes, and evidently means the mass of the population, or, as some would say, The common people." And, again, to give an example from the Prophets.
ועתה חזק זרבבל נאום יהוה וחזק יהושע בן יהוצדק | and that is, That it is confidently asserted הכהן הגדול וחזק כל עם הארץ:
that a public answer was given orally to the first number, and that this answer was satisfactory to those who heard it. It is much to be regretted that the answer was not made known generally, so as to afford the same satisfaction to others. For ourselves, we should have been most happy, if convinced of error, to have retracted any erroneous charge. We have, in the interval, frequently considered the subject which is said to have been answered; and now consider it our duty, before closing this series, to make known our reasons for still believing, that that one topic is in itself sufficient to prove that the religion of the oral law is a system of error. Our arguments were simply these. A religion
"Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the Lord; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land." (Hag. ii. 4.) Here, also, the expression is opposed to the governor of Judah and the high priest, and plainly signifies the mass of the population. In the oral law, it has much the same signification; it stands for those who are not counted amongst the learned, nor the great men of the time, nor the almoners, nor the schoolmasters, as appears in the extract given in page 3, col. 2, with this difference, that in the oral law the want of learning is a prominent idea, and the expression may therefore be applied to a high
"The cause of the disciple of a wise man takes precedence of the cause of an Amhaaretz." (Hilchoth Sanhedrin, c. xxi. 6.) Again,
an alms-fund. One is not to bear them company in the way. And some say, that if they have lost any thing, and it is found, no public notice is to be given respecting it." (Pesachim, fol. 49, col. 2.) Here, then, the unlearned are branded as liars, whose word is not to be depended upon-as rogues, unfit to be trusted with property-as murderers, with whom it is unsafe to walk by the way-side. Can contempt or insult add more? Yes; Rabbinic contempt had one insult more galling than these, and that was to put them on a level with Gentiles, and this it has done by forbidding public notice to be given, if any thing which they had lost should be found. Now,
וכן אסור לו לנהוג בהן קלות ראש אע"פ שהן עמי we fear not to assert, that this one passage is | הארץ ולא יפסיע על ראשי עם הקדש • אע"פ שהן .fatal to the claims of the oral law | הדיוטות ושפלים בני אברהם יצחק ויעקב הם :
"In like manner, it is unlawful for an elder not a particle of resemblance in it to the merto behave with levity to the congregation, ciful and just religion made known by Moses. even though they be Amharatzin. Neither It is the effusion of a mind intoxicated with let him behave haughtily to the holy people, self-conceit and arrogance. The authors of for although they be common and humble the oral law were determined, so far as they persons, they are children of Abraham, Isaac, could, to lay it down as a maxim, not only and Jacob." (Ibid., c. 25.) Again, that no wisdom, but no truth, no honesty, and no humanity, was to be found, except amongst
לפיכך כשמלמדין את הקטנים ואת הנשים וכלל עמי
themselves, and their disciples; they wished הארץ אין מלמדין אותן אלא לעבוד מיראה וכדי לקבל
"Therefore, when children and women, and the whole genus of Amharatzin, are instructed, they are to be taught to serve God only from the motive of fear, and the desire to receive a reward until, &c." (Hilchoth T'shuvah, c. x. 5.) In these passages, and many, many more, may be added, Amhaaretz plainly signifies an unlearned man, and it does not appear from any one, that there is any crime to be laid to his charge. He may appear as suitor in a court of law; he is considered as a son of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; he is put on a level with the children and the women of Israel. The only disparagement is, that he has not been brought up at the feet of a learned rabbi, and, therefore, cannot be reckoned amongst the disciples of the wise men.
The next thing to be established is, that the oral law despises and insults those whose misfortune it is to be unlearned; and here, in addition to the compliment paid to their wives and daughters, noticed in No. 1, we bring, as a proof, the general rule which is given respecting their treatment.
to have the monopoly of all moral virtue, as well as of all learning. We ask both the learned and the unlearned, whether it be possible that such a law could have emanated from the God of Israel? But there is not only excessive arrogance, there is also gross injustice in their law. It is ordained, first, that in a court of law, the cause of the learned is to be heard before the cause of the unlearned; this is in itself most unjust, but is not to be compared with what follows. The oral law forbids the appointment of an unlearned man as guardian to orphans; can any thing be more oppressive? Suppose that an unlearned man, on his death-bed, thinks of a guardian for his orphan children, and looks to a brother, or an intimate friend, as unlearned as himself, but whose worth, and honesty, and affection, he has long known and valued; the oral law forbids him to make such an appointment; and if he has no learned friend-and how, where such a law exists, is it ever possible that the learned and the unlearned should be friends ?-he must die with the agonising thought, that his children must be left to the guardianship of a perfect stranger. Is it possible to conceive any thing more
תנו רבנן ששה דברים נאמרו בעמי הארץ אין oppressive, unjust, or cruel ? But the oral | מוסרין להן עדות ואין מקבלין ממנו ערות ואין מגלין law is not content with this ; it will not permit | להן סוד ואין ממנין אותן אפיטרופו' על היתומי' ואין ממנין אותן אפיטרופוס על קופה של צדקה ואין recover property that has been lost. Whoever | מתלוין עמהן בדרך וי"א אף אין מכריזין על אבידתו :
"Our rabbies have handed' down as a tradition, that six things are said with respect to Amharatzin. Testimony is not to be given to them, nor received from them. A secret is not to be revealed to them. They are not to be appointed as guardians to orphans, nor to
an unlearned man, even in his lifetime, to
finds it may keep it. The law for other people is, that if any thing be found, the finder is to have proclamation made in the city, or, if the majority of the inhabitants be Gentiles, in the synagogue, that the loser may hear of it. But the poor Amhaaretz is excluded from