Salomon Maimon.

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cally determined by the effects. For the effects are
opposed to one another, and neutralise each other even
in the same object. If therefore we ascribed them all
to one and the same cause, the cause could not be
analogically determined by any.

The heatheyi religion, on the other hand, refers every
kind of effect to a special cause, which can of course be
characterised by its effect. As a positive religion the
Jewish is distinguished from the heathen by the fact,
that it is not a merely political religion, that is, a religion
which has for its end the social interest (in opposition to
true knowledge and private interest) ; but in accordance
with the spirit of its founder, it is adapted to the
theocratic form of the national Government, which rests
on the principle, that only the true religion, based on
rational knowledge, can harmonise with the interest of

An Autobiography. 117

the state as well as of the individual. Considered in its
purity^ therefore, it has no mysteries in the proper sense
of the word ; that is to say, it has no doctrines which,
in order to reach their end, men will not disclose, but
merely such as ca?i not be disclosed to all.

After the fall of the Jewish state the religion was
separated from the state which no longer existed. The
religious authorities were no longer, as they had been
before, concerned about adapting the particular institu-
tions of religion to the state ; but their care went merely
to preserve the religion, on which the existence of the
jiation now depended. Moved by hatred towards those
nations who had annihilated the state, and from anxiety
lest with the fall of the state the religion also might fall,
they hit upon the following means for the preservation
and extension of their religion.

1. The fiction of a method, handed down from Moses,
of expanding the laws, and applying them to particular
cases. This method is not that which reason enjoins, of
modifying laws according to their intention, in adaptation
to time and circumstances, but that wriich rests upon
certain rules concerning their literary expression.

2. The legislative force ascribed to the new decisions
and opinions obtained by this method, giving to them an
equal rank with the ancient laws. The subtle dialectic,
with which this has been carried on down to our times,
and the vast number of laws, customs and useless

1 1 8 Solomon Mainwn :

ceremonies of all sorts, which it has occasioned, may be
easily imagined.

The history of the Jewish religion can, in consequence
of this, be appropriately divided into five great epochs.
The first epoch embraces the natural religion^ from the
times of the patriarchs down to Moses at the exodus
from Egypt. The second comprehends the positive or
revealed religion, from Moses to the time of the Great
Synagogue {^Keneseth HaggedolaJi). This council must
not be conceived as an assembly of theologians at a
definite time ; the name applies to the theologians of a
whole epoch from the destruction of the first temple to
the composition of the Mishnah. Of these the first were
the minor prophets (Haggai, Zachariah, Malachi, etc.,
of whom 1 20 are counted altogether), and the last was
Simon the Just* These, as well as their forerunners
from the time of Joshua, took as their basis the Mosaic
laws, and added new laws according to time and
circumstances, but in conformity with the traditional
method, every dispute on the subject being decided by
the majority of voices.

The third epoch extends from the composition of the
Mishnah by Jehudah the Saint f to the composition of

* Highpriest about the time of Antiochus the Great, that is, the
first half of the third century before Christ. — Trans.

t Also named below Jehudah Hanassi or Hakades, died probably
in 219 or 220 A. D. — Trans.

An Autobiography. 1 1 9

the Talmud by Rabina and Rabassi. * Down to this
epoch it was forbidden to commit the laws to writing,
in order that they might not fall into the hands of those
who could make no use of them. But as Rabbi Jehudah
Hanassi, or, as he is otherwise called, Rabbenu Hakades
observed, that, in consequence of their great multiplicity,
the laws may easily fall into oblivion, he gave himself a
licence to transgress a single one of the laws in order to
preserve the whole. The law transgressed was that
against committing the laws to writing ; and in this
licence he defended himself by a passage in the Psalms,
''There are times, when a man shows himself well-
pleasing to God by transgressing the laws." f He lived
in the time of Antoninus Pius, was rich, and possessed
all the faculties for such an undertaking. He therefore
composed the Mishnah, in which he delivers the Mosaic
laws in accordance either with a traditional or with a
rational method of exposition. It contains also some
laws which form the subject of dispute.

This work is divided into six parts. The first contains
the laws relating to agriculture and horticulture; the

* Rabbina is a contraction for Rabbi Abina and Rabassi for
Rabbi Ashe. Maimon puts Abina first, but he was the younger of
the two. They both belonged to the fifth century.— T/a//^.

t This seems to be Psalm cxix., 126, rendered in our Authorised
Version:—" It is time for thee, Lord, to work ; for they have
made void thy law." See Mendelssohn's /.?r«ja/^///, Vol. ii., p.
iii., (Samuels' translation). — Trawj.

I20 Solomon Maimon:

second, those which refer to feasts and hoHdays. The
third part comprehends the laws which define the mutual
relations of the two sexes (marriage, divorce, and such
subjects). The fourth part is devoted to the laws which
deal with the teachers of the law ; the fifth, to those
which treat of the temple-service and sacrifices ; and the
sixth, to the laws of purification.

As the Mishnah is composed with the greatest precision,
and cannot be understood without a commentary, it was
natural, that in course of time doubts and disputes
should arise, regarding the exposition of the Mishnah
itself, as well as the mode of its application to cases
which it does not sufficiently determine. All these doubts
and their manifold solutions, controversies and decisions,
were finally collected in the Talmud by the above-
mentioned Rabina and Rabassi; and this forms the fourth
epoch of Jewish legislation.

The fifth epoch begins with the conclusion of the
Talmud, and extends down to our time, and so on for
ever {si diis placet) till the advent of the Messiah. Since
the conclusion of the Talmud the rabbis have been by
no means idle. 'Tis true, they dare not alter anything in
the Mishnah or the Talmud ; but they still have plenty
of work to do. Their business is to explain those two
works, so that they shall harmonise ; and this is no small
matter, for one rabbi, with a superfine dialectic, is always
finding contradictions in the explanations of another.
They must also disentangle, from the labyrinth of various

An Autobiography. I2i

opinions, expositions, controversies and decisions, the
laws which are applicable to every case ; and finally for
new cases, by inferences from those already known, they
must bring out new laws, hitherto left indeterminate in
spite of all previous labours, and thus prepare a complete
code of laws.

It is thus that a religion, in its origin natural and con-
formable to reason^ has been abused. A Jew dare not eat
or drink, lie with his wife or attend to the wants of
nature, without observing an enormous number of laws.
With the books on the slaughter of animals alone (the
condition of the knife and the examination of the entrails)
a whole library could be filled, which certainly would
come near to the Alexandrian in extent. And what shall
I say of the enormous number of books treating of those
laws which are no longer in use, such as the laws of
sacrifice, of purification, etc. ? The pen falls from my
hand, when I remember that I and others like me were
obliged to spend in this soul-killing business the best
days of our lives when the powers are in their full vigour,
and to sit up many a night, to try and bring out some
sense where there was none, to exercise our wits in the
discovery of contradictions where none were to be found,
to display acuteness in removing them where they were
obviously to be met, to hunt after a shadow through a
long series of arguments, and to build castles in the air.

The abuse of Rabbinism has, as will be seen, a twofold



122 Solomon Maimon:

1. The first is an artificial method of expounding the
Holy Scriptures, which distinguishes itself from the
natural method by the fact, that, while the latter rests
on a thorough k?iowledge of the language and the true
spirit of the legislator in view of the circumstances of the
time, as these are known from history, the former has
been devised rather for the sake of the laws passed to meet
existing emergencies. The rabbis look upon the Holy
Scriptures, not only as the source of the fundamental
laws of Moses, and of those which are deducible from
these by a rational method, but also as a vehicle of the
laws to be drawn up by themselves according to the
wants of the time. The artificial method here, Hke every
other of the same kind, is merely a means of bringing
the new laws at least into an external connection with the
old, in order that they may thereby find a better introduc-
tion among the people, be reduced to principles, divided
into classes, and therefore more easily impressed on the
memory. No reasonable rabbi will hold, that the laws,
which are referred in this way to passages of the Holy
Scriptures, render the true sense of these passages ; but
if questioned on this point, he will reply, "These laws
are necessities of the time, and are referred to those
passages merely for this reason."

2. The second source of the abuse of Rabbinism is
to be found in the manners and customs of other nations,
in whose neighbourhood the Jews have lived, or among
whom they have been gradually scattered since the fall

An Autobiography. 123

of the Jewish state. These manners and customs they
were obliged to adopt in order to avoid becoming objects
of abhorrence. Of this sort are the laws, not to uncover
the head (at least in holy places and at holy ceremonies),
to wash the ha?ids (before meals and prayers), to fast the
whole day till sunset, to say a number of daily prayers,
to make pilgrimages, to walk round the altar, etc., — all
manifestly oi Arabian origin.

From hatred also towards those nations that destroyed
the Jewish state, an,d afterwards made the Jews undergo
manifold oppressions, they have adopted various customs,
and among others many religious usages which are
opposite to those of the Greeks and Romans.

In all this the rabbis had the Mosaic laws themselves
for a model, these being sometimes in agreement, some-
times in hostility, with the Egyptian laws which lie at
their root, as has been shown in the most thorough
manner by the celebrated Maimonides in his work, Moreh

It is remarkable, that, with all rabbinical extravagan-
cies in the practical department, namely the laws and
customs, the theoretical ^t^2.x\.mtvi\. of the Jewish theology
has still always preserved itself in its purity. Eisenmenger
may say what he will, it may be shown by unanswerable
arguments, that all the limited figurative representations
of God and His attributes have their source merely in an
endeavour to adapt the ideas of theology to the common
understanding. The rabbis followed in this the principle

124 Solomon Maimon :

which they had established in reference to the Holy
Scriptures themselves, namely, that the Holy Scriptures
use the language of the cojnmon people^ inasmuch as
religious and moral sentiments and actions, which form
the immediate aim of theology may in this manner be
most easily extended. They therefore represent God to
the common understanding as an earthly King, who
with His ministers and the advisers of His cabinet, the
angels, takes counsel concerning the government of the
world. But for the educated mind they seek to take
away all anthropomorphic representations of God, when
they say, " It was an act of high daring on the part of
the prophets, to represent the Creator as like His creature,
as when, for example, it is said in Ezekiel (i., 26), 'And
upon the throne was an appearance like man.' "

I have disclosed the abuses of the rabbis in regard to
religion without any partiality. At the same time however
I must not be silent about their good qualities, but do
them justice as impartially. Compare then Mahomed's
description of the reward of the pious with the rabbinical
representation. The former runs: — " Here (in paradise)
there are as many dishes as there are stars in heaven.
Maidens and boys fill the cups, and wait on the table.
The beauty of the maidens surpasses all imagination. If
one of these maidens were to appear in the sky or in the
air by night, the world would become as bright as when
the sun is shining ; and if she were to spit into the sea,
its salt water would be turned into honey, and its bitter

An Autobiography. 125

into sweet. Milk, honey, white wine will be the rivers
which water this delicious abode. The slime of these
rivers will be made of sweet-smelling nutmegs, and their
pebbles of pearls and hyacinths. The angel Gabriel will
open the gates of paradise to faithful Musselmans. The
first thing to meet their eyes will be a table of diamonds
of such enormous length, that it would require 70,000
days to run round it. The chairs, which stand around
the table, will be of gold and silver, the tablecloths of
silk and gold. When the guests have sat down, they
will eat the choicest dishes of paradise, and drink its
water. AVhen they are satisfied, beautiful boys will bring
them green garments of costly stuff", and necklaces and
earrings of gold. To every one will then be given a
citron; and when he has brought it to his nose to
feel its odour, a maiden of enchanting beauty will come
out. Every one will embrace his own with rapture, and
this intoxication of love will last fifty years without
interruption. Each couple will obtain an enchanting
palace for a dwelling, where they will eat and drink and
enjoy all sorts of pleasure for ever and ever.*" This
description is beautiful ; but how sensuous ! The rabbis,
on the other hand, say, " Above (in the blessed abode of
the pious) there is neither eating nor drinking, but the
pious sit crowned, and delight themselves with the vision
of the Godhead."

CharakUristik der Asiatischen Nationm, Theil ii., pp. 159-160.

126 Solomon Maimon :

Eisenmenger seeks, in his Entdecktes Judenthiim
(Theil I., Kap. 8), by a crass exposition to throw ridicule
on the Platonic doctrine of reminiscence, which the
rabbis maintain ; but what may not be made ridiculous in
the same way ? He also makes sport, with equal in-
justice, of other rabbinical teachings. With the Stoics,
for example, the rabbis call wise men Kings ; they say,
that God does nothing without previously taking counsel
with his angels, that is, Omnipotence works upon nature
not immediately, but by means of the natural forces ;
they teach, that everything is predestined by God, except
the practice of virtue. These are the subjects of Eisen-
menger's mockery ; but does any reasonable theologian
find in these anything ridiculous or impious ? I should
be obliged to write a whole book, if I were to answer all
the unjust charges and jeers which have been brought
against the Talmudists, not by Christian writers alone,
but even by Jews who wished to pass for illuminati.

To be just to the rabbis it is necessary to penetrate
into the true spirit of the Talmud, to become thoroughly
familiar with the manner in which the ancients generally,
but especially the Orientals, deliver theological, moral^
and even physical truths in fables and allegories, to
become familiar also with the style of Oriental hyperbole
in reference to everything that can be of interest to man.
Moreover, the rabbis should be treated in the spirit in
which they themselves excused Rabbi Meir who had a
heretic for his teacher, — the spirit expressed in a passage

A?i Autobiography. 127

already quoted. If justice is thus dealt to the rabbis,
the Talmud will certainly not show all the absurdities
which its opponents are disposed too readily to find.

The rabbinical method of referring theoretical or
practical truths, even by the oddest exegesis, to
passages in the Holy Scriptures or any other book in
general esteem, as if they were truths brought out of such
passages by a rational exegesis, — this method, besides
procuring an introduction for the truths among common
men, who are not capable of grasping them on their own
merits, and accept them merely on authority, is also to
be regarded as an excellent aid to the memory ; for since,
as presumed, these passages are in everybody's mouth,
the truths drawn from them are also retained by their
means. Consequently it very often occurs in the Talmud,
when the question concerns the deduction of a new law
from the Holy Scriptures, that one rabbi derives the law
from this or that passage, while another brings the
objection, that this cannot be the true meaning of the
passage, inasmuch as the true meaning is this or that.
To such an objection every one is wont to reply, that it
is a new law of the rabbis, who merely refer it to the
passage mentioned.

As it is therefore universally presupposed that this
method is familiar, the Talmudists regard it as unneces-
sary to inculcate it anew on every occasion. A single
example will suffice to illustrate this. One Talmudist
asked another the meaning of the following passage in

128 Solomon Maivion : '

the Book of Joshua (xv., 22), Kinah Vediinonah Vead-
adah* The latter repHed, " Here are enumerated the
then famihar places of the Holy Land." " Of course ! "
rejoined the other. " I know very well that these are

names of places. But, Rabbi knows how to bring

out of these, besides the proper meaning, something use-
ful, namely this : — ' (Kinah) He to whom his neighbour
gives occasion for revenge, (Vedimonah) and who yet,
out of generosity, keeps silence, taking no revenge,
(Veadadah) to him will the Eternal execute justice.'"
What a fine opportunity this would be for laughing at
the poor Talmudist, who derives a moral sentence from
particular names of places, and besides makes in an
extraordinary manner a compound out of the last name,
Sansannah,\ if he had not himself explained that he is
seeking to know, not the true meaning of the passage,
but merely a doctrine which may be referred to it.

Again, the Talmudists have referred to a passage in
Isaiah the important doctrine, that in morals the princi-
pal object is, not theory, but practice, by which theory
receives its true value. The passage runs as follows : —
"The expectation of thy happiness " — that is, the happi-

*"And Kinah and Dimonah and Adadah " in the English
Authorised Version. — Trans.

t Here apparently Maimon makes a slip. He seems to forget the
passage he had selected for illustration ; and his eye, if not his
memory, glances at the last word in verse 30, instead of verse 22.
— Trans.

An Autobiography. 129

ness promised by the prophet — " will have for its conse-
quence strength, help, wisdom, knowledge, and the fear
of God." * Here they refer the first six subjects to the
six Sedarim or divisions of the Mishnah, which are the
foundation of all Jewish learning. Emunath (Expecta-
tion) is Seder Seraim ; Etecho (Happiness) is Seder
Moad, and so on. That is to say, you may be ever so
well versed in all these six sedarim : yet the main point
is the last, the fear of God.

As far as rabbinical morals in otlier respects are con-
cerned, I know in truth nothing that can be urged
against them, except perhaps their excessive strictness in
many cases. They form in fact genuine Stoicism, but
without excluding other serviceable principles, such as
perfection, universal benevolence, and the like. Holi-
ness with them extends even to the thoughts. This
principle is, in the usual fashion, referred to the follow-
ing passage in the Psalms, " Thou shalt have no strange
God in thee " ; t for in the human heart, it is argued, no
strange God can dwell, except evil desires. It is not
allowed to deceive even a heathen either by deeds or by
words — not even in cases where he could lose nothing
by the deceit. For example, the common form of cour-
tesy, " I am glad to see you well," is not to be used, if it
does not express the real sentiments of the heart. The

* Probably Isaiah xxxiii., 6. — Trans.
+ Psalm, Ixxxi., 9. — Trans.

130 Solomon Maimon:

examples of Jews who cheat Christians and heathens,
which are commonly adduced against this statement,
prove nothing, inasmuch as these Jews do not act in
accordance with the principles of their own morals.

The commandment, " Thou shalt not covet anything
that is thy neighbour's," is so expounded by the Tal-
mudists, that we must guard against even the wish to
possess any such thing. In short, I should require to
write a whole book, if I were to adduce all the excellent
doctrines of rabbinical morals.

The influence of these doctrines in practical life also
is unmistakable. The Polish Jews, who have always
been allowed to adopt any means of gain, and have not,
like the Jews of other countries, been restricted to the
pitiful occupation of Schacher or usurer, seldom hear the
reproach of cheating. They remain loyal to the country
in which they live, and support themselves in an honour-
able way.

Their charity and care for the poor, their institutions
for nursing the sick, their special societies for burial of
the dead, are well enough known. It is not nurses and
grave-diggers hired for money ^ but the elders of the people^
who are eager to perform these acts. The Polish Jews
are indeed for the most part not yet enlightened by
science, their manners and way of life are still rude ; but
they are loyal to the religion of their fathers and the
laws of their country. They do not come before you
with courtesies, but their promise is sacred. They are

An Autobiography. 131

not gallants, but your women are safe from any snares
with them. Womnn, indeed, after the manner of the
Orientals in general, is by them not particularly es-
teemed ; l)ut all the more on that account are they re-
solved on fulfilling their duties towards her. Their
children do not learn by heart any forms for expressing
love and respect for their parents — for they do not keep
French de??ioiselles ; — but they show that love and re-
spect all the more heartily.

The sacredness of their marriages, and the ever fresh
tenderness which arises from this, deserve especially to
be mentioned. Every month the husband is wholly
separated from his wife for a fortnight (the period of
monthly purification in accordance with the rabbinical
laws) ; they may not so much as touch one another, or
eat out of the same dish or drink out of the same cup.
By this means satiety is avoided ; the wife continues to
be in the eyes of her husband all that she was as maiden
in the eyes of her lover.

Finally, what innocence rules among unmarried per-
sons ! It often happens that a young man or woman of
sixteen or eighteen years is married without knowing
the least about the object of marriage. Among other
nations this is certainly very seldom the case.

132 Solomon Mawion:


Jewish Piety and Penances.

In my youth I was of a somewhat strong rehgious dis-
position ; and as I observed in most of the rabbis a good
deal of pride, quarrelsomeness, and other evil qualities,
they became objects of disHke to me on that account.
I sought therefore as my model only those among them,
who are commonly known by the name of Chasidim^ or
the Pious. These are they who devote the whole of
their lives to the strictest observances of the laws and
moral virtues. I had afterwards occasion to remark that
these on their part do harm, less indeed to others, but
all the more to themselves, inasmuch as they root out
the wheat with the tares ; * while they seek to suppress
their desires and passions, they suppress also their
powers and cramp their activity, so much so as in most
cases by their exercises to bring upon themselves an un-
timely death.

Two or three instances, of which I was myself an eye-
witness, will be sufficient to establish what has been said.

* In the original, '* Das Kind mit dem Bade ausschiitten." — Trans,

An Atitobiography. 133

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