A. P Mendes.

The influence of a good name : a funeral sermon, delivered at the Medrash of Ets Hayim, Sunday, 11th Kislev, 21st November, 5624, during a special service held in memory of the late Barnett Abrahams online

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Online LibraryA. P MendesThe influence of a good name : a funeral sermon, delivered at the Medrash of Ets Hayim, Sunday, 11th Kislev, 21st November, 5624, during a special service held in memory of the late Barnett Abrahams → online text (page 1 of 1)
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SUNDAY, llth KISLEV, 21st NOVEMBER, 5624,


gi Aerial Iwuitie held in JjRmorjj of









WE are met to pay a tribute of respect to departed
worth. The Eternal, in His wisdom, has summoned
from our midst a revered teacher, and so suddenly
has His will been done, that we are hardly yet
awakened to a sense of the loss which the com-
munity has sustained. We hear the plaint of the
widow, bewailing her husband gone from her ; we
hear the infant voices of children asking for their
father ; we hear the regretful accents of disciples
lamenting their instructor called away, and through
all ranks of our people there are men exclaiming to
their neighbours

: SKTO'I n?n nvn Ssj Sm TO ^ ijnn K^n

" Know ye not that a chief and a great man is
prostrate this day in Israel T

All are full of sorrow, rich man and poor, high
and lowly; and though the first period of ritual
mourning has reached its close JTDlS D^P! 73 13W1
1FYIN " all the people continue to weep for him."
But it is our province to restrain that grief to still
the voice of mourning by drawing instruction from

2071 s?r\


the judgment of the Lord, and by displaying those
lessons which none loved more to teach than the
departed 1lS Stf |IV Tim " so that the living may
take it to heart," and be comforted and improved.

nva ni&n on nits ppa DB>

"A good name is better than good oil, and the day
of death than the day of one's birth." (Eccl.vii. 1.)

In these words, brethren, the Preacher propounds
one of those doctrines so peculiar to him, doctrines
which startle by their apparent incongruity, but
which \vhen subjected to mature reflection, present
the very concentration of truth. lie is anxious to
celebrate the praises of a good name, and to establish
its pre-eminence above every thing besides; but he
compares it not with rich gems, or costly treasures,
or vast possessions, he simply compares it with good
oil, and declaring that it is superior thereunto, he
proceeds to the not less startling assertion, which
closes the text nSlH DVfc HlOn DVI " that the day of
death is better than the day of one's birth." Let us
devote to both these assertions, that deep reflection
which is demanded by their importance, and seek to
discover :

1. In what consists the excellence of a good name

above good oil.

2. What is tJie advantage of the day of death above

the day of one's birth.



A good name is a possession dear to the heart of
every man who fears God and respects society. It
is the prize for which the greatest of our kind con-
tend, the rich reward which impels the labour and
challenges the hopes and aspirations of all grades
and conditions of mankind. Ask the statesman
wherefore he sacrifices the ease and comfort of his
station to spend his energies in the senate of his
people, and waste his vital powers in the cares and
anxieties of public life. If his answer be the truth
he will say it is for the good name with which pos-
terity will reward him. See the soldier who woos the
field of danger, and risks both life and limb in foreign
climes to fight the foe. Regard him as he mounts
the ramparts of the enemy over the bodies of his fallen
comrades, heedless of the shafts that fly around him
winged messengers of death. Ask him what is
the source of his heroism, and he will tell you the
love of fame, another word for the good name which
will reward his deeds of daring. And rightly,
brethren, is a good name the prize among mankind.
It is our credential in the sight of God and man. It
proclaims in unmistakable accents that we have
done our duty as God appointed us to do it. It is a
foretaste on earth of the reward that awaits us here-


after. Possessed, then, of such excellence, how is
it that the sage compares it to what is apparently so
ignoble and valueless, good oil? Because good oil to
ancients was the best artificial means of illumination,
and it therefore formed a faithful type of all that is
instructing, all that is ennobling, all that is improv-
ing, in a word it symbolised light the light of
wisdom, the light of virtue, the light of religion.
And yet, my brethren, the sage says, a good name
is superior to it. Though wisdom, virtue, religion
can abstractedly teach mankind, and the light they
diffuse can cheer, encourage, comfort, and assist,
still they never attain so much efficacy, they never
achieve so much success as when they are presented
in the life of a great and good man, and shine forth
with the radiance of a good name. The living
example is the best light. To it men turn with
confidence, assured not only of warning and exhorta-
tion, but also of counsel, aid, and succour. The way-
worn traveller is attracted by the distant light which
promises shelter, rest, and comfort; but let his hope
remain unfulfilled let In'm meet inhospitality where
he looked for aid, and he will ever after shun the
light which attracted but cheered not, which invited
but welcomed not. Thus though the influence of
religion, virtue, and wisdom, as developed by the
teachings of sage and seer, invite the wander-
ing minds of men, unless they be received and


entertained, aided, and encouraged by the labours of
a good pastor who diffuses the radiance of a good
name, men will avoid as inhospitable the light shin-
ing from temple and from college which attracts
only to disappoint.

Here, however, brethren, there blazed a light, now
unhappily extinct for ever, which used to cheer 9
more than it attracted, which warmed and comforted
even beyond its promise. The teacher whom God
in His wisdom has summoned hence, shone among
us in every sense a light, diffusing knowledge, teach-
ing religion, and exemplifying virtue, in his deeds,
and thoughts, and feelings. As a teacher of men,
he was remarkable for the earnestness and burning
zeal which impressed his every word. He cultivated
not the graces of oratory, nor sought to charm the
ear with the music of his periods, but was terse and
vigorous in his teachings, and endeavoured in homely
language, to plant the truth in the very hearts of
his auditory. As a teacher of youth, he was patient,
kind, and gentle, and though the turbulent and un-
reasoning might have abused his mild authority, his
pupils loved him for his forbearing goodness. But
not only to the Synagogue and the school, were his
labors restricted. Here, in these precincts he came
to teach, a labor of love and piety. Collecting
around him those who longed for the waters of the


living spring of truth, he brought them here to
drink, and as the guardian placed

y -pi

11 To keep the way of the TREE OF LIFE*" he taught
them of his wisdom, and showed them how to live.
And when at length, his arduous work completed, he
sought his home, it was not to share in the sweets
of his household joys, not to join in the amenities of
social communion, but still to teach, to teach with
his fertile mind and his ready pen ; to speak to the
humble child of toil, to cheer and comfort, enlighten
and instruct him by the tracts his industry supplied.
Thus it was, that while his good life was closing in
and his soul was yet hovering on the brink of
eternity, perhaps at the very moment his spirit was
soaring to his God in heaven, his beautiful lesson
was being read, the last lesson he was to give
us the lesson which inculcated self-control as the
source of godliness by showing how it was N HJ
71 TJD |H " that Noah found grace in the sight of
the Eternal." II

But who can describe how he taught by the light

* The institution of Heshaim, " The Tree of Life," under which
the " Medrash" is established.

" The Jewish Association for the Diffusion of Religious Know-
ledge," was founded by the Rev. B. Abrahams, who was also one of
the greatest contributors to its valuable publications.

II The text of the Tract published on the 14th November, which
was the day the Rev. Dayan died.


of example, who shall tell how his inner life pre-
sented the holy calm, "which only the pious know ;
how, innocent as a babe, he scarcely knew the
semblance of guile and falsehood, when they came
before him, but drew all men to his capacious heart
and taught himself to love them. For the truthful-
ness of this portraiture, let the sorrow of the whole
community be guarantee; let the tears which copiously
flow from the eyes of all ranks and conditions record
their unerring testimony, and proclaim the worth of
the departed.

There are a widow, orphans, and kindred, mourning
for a loss irreparable, the loss of loving husband
tender father affectionate relative. There isa
whole community mourning for a national loss ; the
bereavement of one who was at once a chief, an
ornament, and an honour to their institutions. There
are the wise and learned mourning, because they
have lost a friend and an associate whom they loved
and valued. There are disciples sorely grieved,
because God has recalled a teacher, to whom they
were attached by the bonds of affection. And there
are the poor and needy mourning, because they have
lost an advocate in the day of adversity, a help in the
dark hour of sorrow, to whom they looked for comfort,
and counsel, and succour. All this universal grief,
my brethren, is only an emphatic confirmation of the


first assertion contained in the text, that " A good
name is better than good oil."


But we have also to discover the advantage of the
day of death over the day of one's birth. We have
called the proposition startling, and so it really is.
Think of the day, when in our happy homes it is
proclaimed 1j? T?V *!T " that a child is born unto
us ; " think of the gladness of heart and the thank-
fulness of spirit, of the loud merriment and the
joyous festivity, with which we welcome a new
claimant to our affection, and contrast with these the
solemn stillness of the house of death, the anguish
of spirit and the bitter sorrow, the wail of woe and
the groan of misery, which mark the presence of the
destroyer. Then ask how can the day of death be
deemed better than the day of our birth. The reply
will be simple : that in the moral world indi-
vidual feelings are absorbed in the general
advantage. Judged by this standard, when a child
is ushered into the world, what benefit accrues to
society ? what lesson can that birth originate ? how
can it improve and instruct ? The child must
become a man, ere society can draw advantage from
his life. But when that man has reached the day
of death, when his deeds arc before us to warn or to


direct, to admonish, or to cheer, by the influence
of his example, for good or evil, it is then that
he becomes a teacher in the great school of the
world. It was in this spirit that the sages taught

jjT'naa TTYP jnjvan D'pnx o^nn "the righteous

are greater at their death than in their lives/' Those
sages knew that the spectacle of a pious man going
to his rest of peace, is one that will not fade quickly
from the recollection. They knew that after death
every foible in the character of a good man disappears
from view, eclipsed by his transcendent merits. And
they knew too, that all who loved and valued him
in life, would continue to cherish his memory by
perpetuating the lessons he taught, by accomplishing
the work he wrought. Thus, brethren, though the
example of the departed chief and master, for whom
we are mourning, is no longer before us; though we
cannot now see wisdom, virtue, and religion as deve-
loped in his daily life D'H^N ^HIK ftth ^ "because
God has taken him," yet let us ask shall his influence
terminate with death ? Not so, my friends. Though
gone from us he is not lost to us. His body has returned
to dust, but his spirit lives, and lives among us, too, in
his past teachings and in his past labours. D^*J
D^H I M np JJlJVtoi " The righteous even in death
are regarded as living.'' So ean he live, so will he
live in our memory, continuing to instruct and edify,
to improve and enlighten. But for this you must


keep his example before you always. Like him
practise a pure, simple, and unostentatious piety,
and make your rule of life the golden admonition

"p^s oy roS roSm ion ranKi tDSpa rwy

"to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly
with your God." Brethren, you all know what he
was to the poor, and what he did for them, how his
benevolent heart was touched with sympathy at
every tale of distress, and how his ready hand was
open to share his last shilling with the needy.
When, then, you thus remember his charity a
charity that hid itself from the gaze of men try to
imitate and delight to do as he did not only to give,
but also to comfort not only to assist but to deliver,
cheer, and support likewise. And while you thus
remember him as he shone with the light of religion
and the light of virtue, do not forget him in con-
nexion with the light of knowledge. Brethren, we
have already seen that he loved education. He
laboured for it, we may almost say he died for it, since
it was in that great and holy work his vital powers were
expended. Thus he felt a holy pride in rearing to
the study of the law the most promising of these
\Y) JV3 hw filpwri " the sucklings nurtured in the
school of the sages. " Brethren, do not suffer that good
and pious work to fail. Let the seed which he planted
and which, sprung up into healthy life, has surrounded
this court with vigorous saplings, be tended and


nurtured. In other words, let not these children
upon whom he spent such care be neglected, for-
saken; but let their education become an institution
that shall at once ennoble your community, exalt
the character of your poor, and furnish a glorious
monument to the memory of him who commenced
the work in piety, and while he lived, conducted it
with zeal, and truth, and faithfulness.

And you too, my children, have lost a very
dear friend and benefactor. You, too, owe something
to the memory of the good man who has gone from
us. He has left you a legacy in his example. Your
duty is to receive it, to cherish it, to value it while
you live. It is a glorious example for you to imitate,
for you to emulate. Our revered teacher was once
a child like you, craving for knowledge that seemed
beyond his reach. He came here to the D"P1 T*J?
fed on the tree of life, and grew and rose to eminence
above us. He accomplished this first by his industry,
his love of learning, and his devotion to study;
secondly, by his virtuous and religious conduct, his
fear of God and love of man. You cannot all rise to
the same eminence, but you can all acquire the
learning he possessed, you can all become as good
and as religious as he was* Try to do all this and
you will succeed, provided you are faithful to what
he taught you by his precept, and what he shewed
you by his example. So shall you deserve the rich


blessings of your God. and win the approbation of
your fellow men ; and by the moral influence you
will attain and exercise in your sphere you will learn
the truth which the wisest of men once taught, and
which the whole experience of the world confirms
}1tt |WD CB? lift " that a good name is better than
good oil."

Eternal God jwai TV&B " who causest death and
reanimatest," SjH SlNB> THIS " who bringest down
to the grave and raisest up,' 5 we humbly pray thee
to remember in love and mercy the spirit of thy
servant whom thou hast summoned to thy presence.
Forgive, Lord, the transgressions of his life, and
regard not errors that belong to frail humanity, but
receive his soul with grace and favour for the zeal
with which he laboured in thy cause, for the piety
with which he strove to serve thee. Let his good
works be arrayed before thee as a pure sacrifice, and
let their sweet savour win for him the treasure of thy
tender mercy, so that thy angels may welcome him
to thy courts of bliss, there to enjoy HX rflnot
*pS " abundance of joys in thy presence "
H3 "]y/bl " everlasting pleasures at thy right hand."

Upon the mourners, Lord, we also invoke Thy
compassion. Be with them in this bereavement,
which Thy hand hath inflicted, to pour into their
hearts Thy comforting Spirit, that they may bow
with meek and pious resignation to Thine all-wise


decree. Let them find sweet consolation in Thy
sacred word, and lead them to the path of religion,
where humility bends the knee before thy will, and
amid all suffering proclaims nHK DH " that Thou
art just."

And upon all of us, Father, upon all Thy house of
Israel, send a spirit of wisdom and understanding, so
that we, like the departed, may here cultivate the
duties which are pleasing in Thy sight, and become
inheritors of the blessing, the peace, and the felicity
YK*vS rO *)fc?N "which Thou hast reserved for
them that fear Thee.'' Amen.





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Online LibraryA. P MendesThe influence of a good name : a funeral sermon, delivered at the Medrash of Ets Hayim, Sunday, 11th Kislev, 21st November, 5624, during a special service held in memory of the late Barnett Abrahams → online text (page 1 of 1)