Henry Abarbanel.

English school and family reader, for the use of Israelites, containing selections in prose and verse, historical accounts, biographies, narratives, notices, and characteristics on Judaism, past, present and future online

. (page 20 of 52)
Online LibraryHenry AbarbanelEnglish school and family reader, for the use of Israelites, containing selections in prose and verse, historical accounts, biographies, narratives, notices, and characteristics on Judaism, past, present and future → online text (page 20 of 52)
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of the religious laws, such as Sabbath, festivals and circumcision, quite
superiiuous. Such views caused many to feel indifferent toward
practical J udaism. This lukewarmness was opposed in word, deed
and Avriting by a man whose name ought to be known to every Jew —
Philo. In excehent, animated language he spoke of the continual
obligation of the law, and thus inspired his contemporaries with
fresh love for it. In decided and severe tones he expresses himself
against those who felt satisfied with the sublime sentiments met with
in the law, but who treated the law indifferently; he called them
frivolous and superficial. The Holy Law teaches us, indeed, to ele-
vate ourselves to a more sublime mode of thinking, but without
leaving anything undone of the rites and ceremonies. Should we,
he remarked, because we know the importance of the Sabbath, keep
the same no longer ? Should we cease with circumcision, because
we know its signification ? Then we should lose the law, and in the
end the sense thereof as well.

He descended from an eminent priestly family, and was a brother
to the Alabarch. Eve]-ything which at that time belonged to science
he had thoroughly studied from his earliest days, and he was con-
sidered the greatest scholar and most profound thinker of his time;
but only to Ju^daism, he remarked, belongs true wisdom. There-
fore he was continually absorbed in its Scriptural works, and the glori-
fication of the same he considered to be his life's task, for which pur-
pose he published his numerous works, which partly have been handed
down to us. He lived a temperate, plain and retired life; virtue he
esteemed as the highest ornament of man. Only for the sole pur-
pose of serving his brethren would he leave his studies. He was the
spokesman of the deputation sent to Caligula, and when an aged
man he traveled to Rome in behalf of the Alexandrian Jews. One
of his most important works is the refutation of Apian.

After the destruction of Jerusalem the zealots tried to renew the
rising against the Romans in Alexandria, but their plan was defeated.
Vespasian, the emperor, who was afraid Egypt would become the
hearth of fresh resurrections of the J ews, ordered them to close the


Onias temple, in order to deprive tliem of their relif^ious center.
All the sacred vessels went— like those of Jerusalem— into the im-
perial treasury, and the Ej^yptian sanctuary, after existing 233 years,
was closed forever in the yeai' 73.

Aborigines — The earliest inhabitants of a
To Absorb — To swallow ; to suck up.

Dr. Jost.

Philosopht — Knowledge, natural or moral.
Mythology — System of fables.


The gratification of the Alexandrian Jews at having disclosed
to their Greek neighbors their sacred monuments of literature,
awakened the iU-will of a sect which always was the irreconcilable
enemy of the Jews. There lived in northern Palestine a not very
numerous small nation, comprised of the remnants of the late king-
dom of the Ten Tribes and heathen emigrants from the other side
of the Euphrates, and caDed Samaritans, or Cuthim. Though in
most points adherents of the Jewish creed, yet, owing to reminis-
cences of old hostilities, they hated the Jews bitterly ; and the ill-
feeling was mutual. What chiefly offended the Jewish heart was
the existence of a rival temple with sacrificial ceremonies on the
mountain of Garizim, for the sacredness of which the Samaritans
claimed the authority of a Biblical verse.

This mutual antij^athy followed the adherents of Jerusalem and
of Garizim into foreign coiintries, where they continued their con-
test with that peculiar jealousy which stimulates religious com-
munities removed from home to watch over their domestic tra-

The translation of the Torah into Greek, favored as it was by
King PhHometar, appears to have given fresh food to their hatred.
It must, indeed, have deeply grieved the Samaritans to see the
sacredness of their temple impaired by the septuagints, since the
Greek text did not contain the verse, " And thou shalt build an altar
on the mo unt of Garizim," which they had smuggled into their
Bible. The Samaritans of Alexandria, it appears, protested against
the translation, which they alleged contained a forgery of the text;
and as probably some of them were well liked at the royal court,
their influence prevailed uj)on the mild monarch to arrange a re-
ligious disputation between the contesting sects for the sake of de-
ciding the question of superiority between the temples of Jerusa-
lem and Garizim.

This was the first religious debate that ever was held before a
secular authority. It differed from those which subsequently were
of fi-equent occurrence in the course of Jewish history, in that the
arbiter was entirely impariial as to the pending question; and, ac-


cordingly, the contestants were at full liberty to bring forth their
arguments without restraint or reservation.

Each party selected its best scholars for spokesmen. Anclroni-
cus ben Messalem, otherwise unknown, pleaded for the Jews; while
the Samaritans were represented by two men, Sabbai and Theodo-
sius, who are not without learned reputation in Samaritan history;
the latter, whose name appears variably changed into Doi^itai, Dos-
lai and Dostan, being reported as the father of a Samaritan sect,
which, except as to the sacred character of Mount Garizim, very
nearly met the Jewish views, and which, under the name of Dosite-
ans or Dostans, held its ground against the old Samaritans for a
considerable length of time. In what manner the disputation was
conducted and how it resulted, the legendary character of the ex-
tant rejDorts makes it impossible to ascertain. As there was never a
tangible result arrived at in the way of religious disputations, so
in this case each party claimed the victory; and each in its reports
has exaggerated its success. According to the Jewish account, a
condition was laid down (which is certainly untrue) that the king
should have the right and the duty to execute the defeated dispu-
tants, and when, therefore, Andronicus had cited the long succes-
sion, from Aaron down to the present day, of High-priests who had
officiated in the Jerusalemic temples, and furthermore pointed out
the fact that the King of Asia had frequently enriched the same
temjile with costly votive ofl'erings, while the Garizim temj)le could
not boast of any similar honor, the defeat of the Samaritans was
j)ublicly proclaimed, and their execution performed in conformity
with the agreement.

The contrary reports, however, which are of a much later date,
and stiU obscurer nature, assign the victory to the Samaritans, who
advanced the argument that Moses, the law-giver, could not possi-
bly leave in abeyance a matter of such importance as the national
place of worship (Kiblah) ; it was therefore certain that in his last
benediction, when alluding to a mountain belonging to the tribe of
Joseph, he meant to distinguish the Mount Garizim, whereas no
proof could be adduced against them from the other Jewish writ-
ings, because they denied their sacred origin, and refused to acknowl-
edge their authors as prophets. By these arguments, the Samari-
tan reports say, convinced of the holiness of the Samaritan temple,
the king forbade the Jews, under penalty of death, from ascending
the mountain of Garizim. J. R.

[From a lecture by Rev. Dr. Jastrow, minister of " Rodef Shalom," Philadelphia.]

Antipathy — A natural repugnance against

Septuagint - The old Greek version of the
Old Testament.

Abbiter— A judge appointed by parties, to

whose determination they voluntarily submit.

Votive — Given by vow.

Abeyance— A fee or right in conaidsration
of the law.



In the dim twilight of the leafy woods,
Where the light zephyr stirs the cano-
And sways the foliage of dark forest
On the wild waste of waters, when the
Lift up their voices, and in grief

or glee
Still touch the heart with nature's

minstrelsy —
There, even there, let the soul turn
to Thee,
And thank Thee for the beauties of

this earth,
For all the glorious things to which
Thou gavest birth.

O'er the wild desert's sandy solitude.
Where the sirocco breathes its wither-
ing flame,
And the lone traveler treads with
wearied frame,
Thou bringest his heart to Thee, Giver
of Good;
There the oasis springs, leafy and


Like a sweet fairy isle, in slumber

Zephyr — West wind; any calm wind.
SiKGCCO — The southeast or Syrian wind.

Gladdening his heart when every hope
was past.

And every death-fraught moment seem-
ed his last.

Thou boldest the mighty thunder in
Thy hand,
And the frail leaflet of earth's mean-
est flower;
The writhing waves own and obey
Thy power,
And check their fury at Thy dread com-
Oh ! turn our hearts to such piety
As all inanimate creation bears;
Let that instruct us in our daily
And teach us how to raise our thoughts

to Thee,
In forest, desert, ocean, everywhere,
Turn Thou the heart to Thee, God !
in prayer.

Rebekah Hyneman.

Oasis— A fertile spot in a desert.


There is no people extant to whom even in the cradle the song of
endless wandering and dispersion had grown more familiar than the
Jews; and this awful cradle-song has reaUy become fulfilled to the
very letter of its frightful utterance. There was not a corner in the
two empires of Rome and Parthia where Jews did not reside, and
Avhere they had not grown into a religious community of their own.
The borders of the great basin of the Mediterranean Sea, and the
mouth of all the principal streams of the old world— Nile, Euphrates,
Tigris and Danube — were all populated by the Jews. Like an inex-
orable fatality, the sons of Israel were driven continually further
away fi'om their center.

But, however scattered the body may have been, its limbs were,
nevertheless, not loosened from another ; they had a point of union
in the Jerusalem Temple, as well as in the Sanhedrim of that place,
to which the dispersed ones clung with all their heart. To this
spot their attention was directed, thither their contributions went,
to enable them at least to participate in the sacrificial Avorshii).


Their religious and moral life was ruled by instructions received
from the Sanhedrim, and these were the more willingly observed,
inasmuch as they Avere not applied by force. The Sanhedrim sent
dejiuties from time to time to all parts, in order to acquaint the
people with their most important decrees. Even Jews not natives
of Palestine possessed their own places of worship in Jerusalem,
where they met for service. There were in the capital synagogues
for coreligionists from Alexandria, Cyrenaea, Sicily and other places.
It is said that the number of synagogues amounted to 380, and
this is probably no exaggeration, considering that during the Pass-
over festival there were often as man}^ as two millions of people
gathered together here fi'om all countries; and to form a proper
estimate of the great number of Jews of those times it is only neces-
sary to state that in Egyj)t alone, from the Mediterranean Sea to
the borders of Ethiopia, nearly one million of Jews resided.

In Syria, and especially in the capital, Antiochia, the princijial
part of the population were Jews. The congregation of Antiochia
had a beautiful synagogue, rich in costly gifts, all dedicated to the
service of God. In Rome, the metropolis of the world, they resided
in such great numbers that they even exercised some influence in
politics; and as those formerly resident there, as well as the ran-
somed prisoners, were entitled to vote in popular assemblies, they
often succeeded, by their unanimous, active, cool and dispassionate
conception of all affairs, and perhaps even by their power of mind,
in determining many a popular decree. In fact, they Avere possessed
of so much influence, that even the eloquent Cicero, in attempting
once to speak against the Jews, felt afraid to utter his hostile opin-
ions, in order not to incur their displeasure. Yet still larger than
in Europe, Syria and Africa Avere the number of Jcavs in the Par-
thian countries, the remaining portion of former exiles, who were
possessed of Avhole districts of land in Mesopotamia and Babylonia.
In the countries beyond the Tigris, in Media and Persia, many
Jewish congregations existed, and the president -of the Sanhedrim
issued to them also a missive, which has been preserved for us, and
runs as follows :

" To our brethren, the exiles in Babylon, Media, Greece, and to
all other exiles in Israel, greeting : We herewith make known to
you that the lambs of this year are still tender, doves have not
fledged yet, and the spring being retarded, it pleased myself and
associates to prolong the current year for thirty days."

The towns of Athens, Corinth, Thessalonia and Philippi had
Jewish congregations. It is also certain that Rome sent JcAvish
colonies westward, to the southern parts of France and Spain,
although we cannot exactly trace them in those countries previous
to the destruction of the Temple.

But this dispersion was a blessing as well as the work of an all-


wise Providence. The indelibleness of immortality of the Jewish
race was thus secured. In one country persecuted and crushed,
thej^ gathered in another, always forming fresh establishments for
the doctrine which continually became more and more endeared to
them. They were like scattered grains of seed appointed by Prov-
idence to transjDlant everywhere a true and pure knowledge of God,
as well as a more enlightened civilization. As the colonization of
the Greeks contributed toward awakening among different nations
an appreciation of art and science, as the settlements of the Romans
served to forward in many countries well arranged commonalities,
based upon principles of right and justice and established law, so
the widespread dispersion of the Jews had the indisputable, effect
of counteracting the false notions and the brutalizing vices of

The first impression which Judaism made upon heathen nations
was of a repulsive nature ; the Jews appeared to them, in reference to
their jDeculiar mode of life, customs, and in all their religious views, a
somewhat singular, enigmatical and mysterious race. They were
unable to fathom them, and looked upon them now with profound
aversion, and then again with the utmost irony. The antithesis
between Judaism and heathenism was so decidedly put forward
that it became manifest in every act. Whatever was holy to the
heathen, was to the Jews abomination; and whatever the former
considered as a matter of indifference, became to the latter an object
of piety. The separation of the Jews fi'om the common dining-
table, their aversion to intermarrying with heathens, their absti-
nence from hog's flesh, and also their objection to make use of wai-m
food on the Sabbath day, aD these matters the heathen considered
perverse doctrines, and the restrictions in regard to social inter-
course as misanthropy. The covenant of circumcision was to the
heathen a special object of astonishment and derision. Even the
seriousness of the Jews, who wovdd never take part in the childish
amusements of the theater and its bloody combats, seemed to them
the effect of a gloomy temper, which finds no pleasure in such beau-
tiful pastimes. Therefore all superficial minds considered Judaism
a barbarous superstition, which teaches mankind nothing but un-
charitableness; while the more profound looker-on, in contem-
plating the pure adoration, free from all idol worship, of the only
One God, as well as the other attachments and sympathies prevail-
ing among the Jews, together with their chastity, temj)erance, and
firmness, readily confessed his admiration for the many excellencies
which characterized them.

The penetrating and moral minds among the Greeks and Romans
soon came to this conviction, turning away in disgust from a religion
which, besides its unworthy representation of a divinity, seemed to
justify even a vicious life according to the model of theii' idols. The



want of religion, which was much felt among the peoj^le of the an-
cient world, causdtt many a heathen, who sought alter religious and
moral truths, to embrace Judaism, the nature of which became
more apparent to them by their intercourse with intelligent Jews,
partly through the Greek translation of the religious system of Ju-
daism, and partly also through the Greek- Alexandrinean literature.
During the latter part of the century previous to the decline of the
Jewish realm, more proselytes existed than at any other period, all
of whom embraced Judaism, not for the sake of worldly advantages,
but entirely from pure conviction. In Judaism they found ease of
mind for all their doubts, and food for their spiritual and temporal
welfare. Philo states that, fioni personal experience in his father-
land, he is able to testify as to the alteration of conduct of all the
heathens who embraced Judaism. They led a life of virtue, mod-
eration, benignity and humanity ; and especially the women were
attracted by the fihal yet sublime representations of the Bible. In
Damascus almost all the heathen women embraced Judaism. In
this manner Judaism found access to all the Asiatic courts, and the
royal members remained true followers of the Jewish faith during

H. Gkaetz.

several generations

iNBXoKABtE Not to be moved by entreaty.
Fatality Decree of fate.
Sanhedbim — Seveuty elders of the Chief
Council of the Jews.
Missive — A letter.
Counteract — To hinder.
Enigmatic— Obscure.

Antithesis— Contrast.
Misantheopt — Hatred of mankind.
SuPEKFiciAL— Shallow; without learning.
Chas-tity — 1-urity of body.
Vicious— Given to vice.
Benignity Actual kindness.


When the storm-shattered vessel is
toss'd by the gale,
And each billow speeds on, bearing
havoc and death ,
Till the courage grows weak and the
strength waxes frail,
With the wild sky above, and the
wild waves beneath;

When the young heart is crushed 'mid
its early delights,
And the soul is bowed down with a
weight of despair,
And we turn from a treacherous world,
that requites
Our warmest heart- treasures with
anguish and care;

When the one whom we cherished
turns coldly away,
And we weep o'er the dream that has
cheated our youth,

And mourn that no longer one love-
beaming ray
Will return to illumine our pathway
with truth;

Then ! then in our anguish we fly unto
When the false world is fading like
dreams of the night,
And the idols to whom we liave bended
the knee
Have fallen to earth, and are hid from
our sight.

And Thou ! oh ! Thou hearest the sup-
pliant's voice.
Whether tossed on the ocean, or
wrecked on the earth;
And Thy mercy can cause the sad heart
to rejoice,
Tho' surrounded by perils and storms
from its birth.

Rebekah Hyneman.



[37 B.] •

Antipater had left four sons and one daughter, all of whom sur-
passed him in effi'ontery; and especially one, Herod, whom history,
as if in mockery, surnamed the G-reat, proved an evil demon for the
Jewish nation. Like his intriguing father, he sought at any price
to gain the honor of the Romans, and he despised no means, how-
ever bad, if they only led to this object. He knew well how to cringe
and to flatter, and to extort money, in order to corrupt with it. Yet
fortune seemed to favor him amazingly, so that from all difficulties
he always emerged with still greater power. His life offers a pic-
tui'e of audacity from the first, as this incident in his early days

A small troop of Aristobulus' army had succeeded in keeping their
ground in the Galilean mountains, and were only waiting for a favor-
able opjDortunity to hoist the flag against the enemies of their father-
land. They were considered by the Romans a band of robbers, and
their leader, Ezekias, was termed a captain of robbers; while the
Jews looked upon them as avengers of their honor and liberty. In
order to gain the favor of a foreign government, Herod undertook
an expedition against them, made Ezekias prisoner, and had him
executed without trial. This was a great violation of the law, for
whether Ezekias was innocent or not, the right over life and death
belongs to a court of justice only. Some men of high standing,
indeed, appealed to the weak-minded Hyrkauus not to permit any
longer that Idumseans should deride the law in this manner; and,
however reluctantly this weakling felt, he was at length obliged to
order that the audacious Herod be summoned before the Sanhedrim,
over which Shammai and Abtalion presided. But how did he ap-
pear ? In purple and in arms, and surrounded by a body-guard, he,
the descendant of a prisoner of war, clad in princely garments ! This
deprived the judges of their courage, and only Shammai took heart
to say, " Does not the jmsoner who stands accused of murder ap-
pear before you, as if ready to put us to death, should we declare him
guilty '? But I am almost inclined to attach less blame to him than
to you and the king, that you suffer justice to be thus abused. Know,
then, that the man at whose presence you now tremble will, one
day, deliver you all to the axe of the executioner." These spirited
words roused the judges, who now threatened to pass sentence upon
the accused. But Hyrkanus ordered the trial to be adjourned, and
he thus gave Herod a chance to make his escape.

When the power of Herod began to increase, and found the nation
daily more oppressed and weak, Antigonus, son of the unfortunate
Aristobulus II., succeeded in raising a strong army, entered vipon
alliance with the Parthians, Rome's most powerful enemies, and then
advanced on Jerusalem. Phasael, Herod's brother, and Hyrkanus


fell into their hands; the former committed snicide in prison, and
the latter had his ears cut off, to make him unlit for the office of
High-priest, and, mutilated in this manner, the Parthians took him
prisoner to Babylon; while Herod fled, and the curses of the whole
nation followed him. Thus Antigonus, who bore the HebreAV name
of his great grandfather, Mattathias, was again ui:>on the throne of
the Asmoneans; Judea cleared of foreign troops; and, after a hard
struggle of thirty years, they could venture upon enjoying momentary
repose, having thus regained independence.

But it was only a dream, a short dream, for Antigonus was no
match for Herod, either in intellect or energy. In his flight, de-
prived of all means, he traveled through the wilderness, and, after a
stormy sea voyage, at length arrived in Rome. Here they acknowl-
edged that he deserved the respect of Rome, and j^romised to assist
him in his troubles. The Roman Senate declared Antigonus an
enemy of the Roman Empire, and made Herod King of Judea ; in
gratitude thereof, Herod sacrificed upon the Capitol to the Roman
tutelar-idol Jupiter. In returning, however, he was obliged to con-
quer first his kingdom, carrying on war for seven years, aided by
Roman troops. Jerusalem was besieged, and upon a Sabbath it was
occupied. The Romans entered the city and the Temple, cutting
down all unsparingly without regard to age or sex, and even the
priests at the sacrificial altar shared the same fate. Antigonus was
made prisoner, and upon Herod's urgent request the Roman general
led him to the stake, an ignominious death, opj)osed to law and cus-
tom, and causing, even among the Romans, the utmost indignation.
He was the last of the eight princely High-priests belonging to the
house of the Asmoneans, who at first, for twenty-six years, governed
Judea with splendor and renown, but in disgrace and misery after-
ward. Herod, or as the people styled him, the Idumcean slave, liad
now reached the goal of his ambition, and his opponents had to feel
his vengeance. By crowds the followers of Antigonus were massacred,
among whom were forty-five families of the highest standing. The
Sanhedrim, who, twelve years before, were on the point of passing-
sentence of death upon him, were all executed, with the exception
of their chiefs, Shammai and Abtalion, who had been opposed to
Antigonus. All the property of those who were condemned he con-
fiscated for his treasury, and the accumulated wealth thus obtained

Online LibraryHenry AbarbanelEnglish school and family reader, for the use of Israelites, containing selections in prose and verse, historical accounts, biographies, narratives, notices, and characteristics on Judaism, past, present and future → online text (page 20 of 52)