C. G. (Claude Goldsmid) Montefiore.

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property, about war, about slayes, about justice and so on. We
have also laws about ceremonial customs which had become
associated with religion, though many of them had been adopted
from outside or were quite loosely connected with those funda-
mental truths about goodness and God which make up Judaism.
They have therefore in many cases easily dropped off, without harm
to the religion itself. Many of the laws deal with sacrifices and
with the regulation of the Temple at Jerusalem. Sacrifices have
ceased to be offered since the destruction of this Temple, and we
may be perfectly certain that people will no more go back to the rite
of sacrifices than they will go back to the belief that the sun goes
round the earth. These laws, like the others mentioned before, are
therefore obsolete. They are of interest to those whose pleasure or
business it is to study the history and development of religious
ideas and customs, or to compare, e.g., the agrarian and penal code
of one nation with that of another. They have no present religious
worth for us to-day. Therefore, for my puipose in this book, there
are only two kinds of laws which are of real importance. The
first kind comprises the laws which speak of those religious insti-
tutions which still remain in force in our public worship to-day,
though sometimes in modified forms and with a different intention.
The second kind comprises those simple moral laws which are not
merely laws, but maxims and principles of morality.

§ 3. I will deal with the first kind first : the public religious
ceremonies that still constitute the outward worship of Judaism.

Of these by far the most important has already been stated and
discussed. I mean the Sabbath. Besides the weekly Sabbath
there are, as you know, fiYe yearly occasions on which we specially
assemble in synagogue for the worship of God. These five yearly
occasions are the Feasts of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles,
the Day of Memorial, and the Day of Atonement.

The first of these feasts I have already dealt with. But for the
sake of completeness I will add here part of the rule for its obser-
vance as we find it in the Retrospect.

Observe the month of Abib, and keep the passover unto
the Lord thy God : for in the month of Abib the Lord thy
God brought thee forth out of Egypt by night. Thou shalt
eat no leavened bread ; seven days shalt thou eat unleavened
bread, even the bread of affliction ; for thou earnest forth out
of the land of Egypt in haste : that thou mayest remember
the day when thou camest forth out of Egypt all the days
of thy life. And there shall be no leaven seen with thee in


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all thy land seven days. Six days shalt thou eat unleavened
bread : and on the seventh day shall be a solemn assembly to
the Lord thy God ; thou shalt do no work therein.

The Feast of Weeks, the second of the three festivals of rejoicing,
has a very different form and object now from those which it had
in ancient times. It is now regarded as a festival to commemorate
the giving of the Ten Words. But originally, and all through the
Biblical period, and for some time after it, the Feast of Weeks had
nothing to do with the Ten Words. It was a purely agricultural
festival and owed its origin to agricultural conditions of life. In
fact all the three great festivals of rejoicing were connected with
agriculture. They were festivals of rejoicing and of gratitude to
God the Giver. Even the first of the three, the Passover, had
its agricultural side, though this side was overshadowed by its
historical connexion and reminiscence. The Passover was a festival
of the beginning of summer, which in Palestine arrives much earlier
than in England. It was celebrated at the time when 'thou
beginnest to put the sickle to the standing corn.' The ' standing
com' here spoken of is barley. The harvest began with barley
and ended with wheat, and the beginning of the barley reaping
fell, and falls still in some parts of Palestine, as early as April,
which is the date of the Passover. There was an agricultural rite
connected with or celebrated during the Passover, which in an old
law, still preserved to us by a later writer, is thus described. It
consists, you will observe, in the offering of a sheaf of barley, as
the firstfruits of the coming harvest, in pious gratitude to God, the
Giver of all.

When ye be come into the land which God shall give unto
you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring
a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest : and
he shall wave the sheaf to be accepted for you: on the
morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it. And ye
shall eat neither bread, nor parched com, nor fresh ears,
until the selfsame day that ye have brought this offering
unto God : it is a statute for ever throughout your genera-
tions in all your dwellings.

Thus a firstfruit sheaf of barley was brought to the Temple, and
the priest swung it to and fro according to an old sacrificial rite.
It was the firstfruit sheaf for the entire people. Till this sheaC
was brought, no produce of that year's harvest might be eaten.
Similar customs prevailed among the Greeks and Homans and


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other peoi3les of antiquity. The ' morrow after the Sahbath ' means
the morrow of the first Sabbath after the beginning of the harvest.
Seven weeks after that Sunday came the Feast of Weeks or
Pentecost. (The day of Pentecost means the fiftieth day. Pent^-
konta is fifty in Greek and Pentecostos is fiftieth.) Thus originally
the Feast of Weeks fell always on a Sunday. This is what we are
told about it.

And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the
sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave
offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete: even unto the
morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days ;
and ye shall offer an offering made of new meal unto God.
Ye shall bring out of your habitations two wave loaves ; of
two tenths of fine flour shall they be ; they shall be baken
with leaven, as firstfruits unto God. And the priest shall
wave the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering unto God.
And ye shall proclaim on the selfsame day, that it may be an
holy convocation unto you: ye shall do no servile work
therein : it shall be a statute for ever in all your dwellings
throughout your generations.

Thus the Passover begins the harvest ceremonies with a wave
offering of fresh barley. Pentecost completes them with a wave
offering of wheaten bread. Later on the Jews interpreted the
word * Sabbath ' in the phrase * on the morrow of the Sabbath ' to
mean the first day of the Passover festival, so that Pentecost comes
now just fifty days after the beginning of Passover. But it did not
mean this in the original law.

In the Eetrospect the Law of the Pentecost holiday is given

Seven weeks shalt thou number unto thee: begin to
number the seven weeks from the time thou beginnest to
put the sickle to the standing corn. And thou shalt keep
the feast of weeks unto the Lord thy God with the full
freewill offering which thine hand can give, according to the
measure of the blessing wherewith the Lord thy God hath
blessed thee : and thou shalt rejoice before the Lord thy God,
thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant,
and thy maidservant, and the Levite that is within thy gates,
and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are
among you^ in the place which the Lord thy God shall choose


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to cause his name to dwell there. And thou shalt remember
that thou wast a bondman in Egypt : and thou shalt observe
and do these statutes.

The Levite here is the priest above. In the code of the
Eeti*ospect not only is every priest a Levite, but every Levite is
a priest. Later on the priests were separated off from the mass
of Levites, who became the assistants of the priests. * The place
which the Lord thy God shall choose ' is Jerusalem. It was the
object of the code of the Retrospect to get the people to abandon
all offerings and sacrifices at the smaller sanctuaries and to con-
centrate them at the one central temple of Jerusalem. This was
done to avoid the idolatrous customs which grew up at the smaller
country sanctuaries. The worship at the central sanctuary was
purer and more under supervision and control.

§ 4. The third festival we know as Tabernacles. It was origin-
ally the feast of Ingathering. In the oldest code it is called ' the
feast of Ingathering, at the end of tlie year, when thou gatherest
in thy labours out of the field.' It celebrated the final close
of the agricultural year, and for many generations it was by far
the most popular and well observed of the three festivals of
rejoicing. It was especially connected with the ingathering of the
fruit and grape harvest, but also with the threshing out of the
gathered corn and wheat. For us who live in northern lands,
where all the harvest is late, and where Passover and Pentecost
have lost their agricultural connexion, Tabernacles is essentially
the harvest and nature festival of all the three.

In the law of the Retrospect it is thus described :

Thou shalt observe the feast of booths seven days^ after
that thou hast gathered in thy corn and thy wine : and thou
shalt rejoice in thy feast, thou, and thy son, and thy
daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and
the Levite, and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the
widow, that are within thy gates. Seven days shalt thou
keep the feast unto thy God in the place which he shall
choose: because the Ix)rd thy God shall bless thee in all
thine increase, and in all the works of thine hands, and thou
shalt wholly rejoice.

The feast of * Booths.' In Hebrew Succoth. In Latin iaber-
ruicuUi : hence our Tabernacles. Tabemaculvm means a little
hut, or tent, or booth. It is etymological ly the diminutive of
tabemay which means a ' hut.' What is called in the oldest code


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the feast of Ingathering is here called the feast of Booths. The
name is best explained from the custom of camping out in the
autumn among the vineyard hills in booths or huts of improvised
and rustic material. We shall see how a custom is turned into
a law in the next form of the Tabernacle festival, in which it
is connected with the Exodus from Egypt and the panderings in
the Desert, and to live in booths is transformed from a national
custom into a ceremonial law.

But first let me mention another ceremony which is connected in
the code of the Retrospect with the feast of Tabernacles.

In tliat code there is a law about the firstfruits of each indi-
vidual's land which are to be given to the priests, and brought
to Jerusalem. This was in all probability done at the Feast of
Tabernacles, and the following ceremony is enjoined for it :

And it shall be^ when thou art come in unto the land
which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance, and
possessest it^ and dwellest therein ; that thou shalt take of
the first of all the fruit of the earth, which thou shalt bring
in of thy land that the Lord thy God giveth thee ; and thou
shalt put it in a basket, and shalt go unto the place which
the Lord thy God shall choose to place his name there.
And thou shalt go unto the priest that shall be in those
days, and say unto him, I profess this day unto the Lord
thy God, that I am come unto the country which God sware
unto our fathers to give us. And the priest shall take the
basket out of thine hand, and set it down before the altar of
the Lord thy God. And thou shalt answer and say before
the Lord thy God, A wandering Aramaean was my father,
and he went down into Egypt, and sojourned there with but
a few ; and he became there a nation, great, mighty, and
populous : and the Egyptians evil entreated us, and afflicted
us, and laid upon us hard bondage : and we cried unto the
Lord God of our fathers, and he heard our voice, and looked
on our affliction, and our labour, and our oppression: and
God brought us forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand,
and with an outstretched arm, and with great terribleness, and
with signs, and vrith wonders : and he bath brought us into
this place, and hath given us this land, a land that floweth
with milk and honey. And now, behold, I have brought the
firstfruits of the land, which thou, O God, hast given me.
And thou shalt set it before the Lord thy God, and worship
before the Lord thy God: and thou shalt rejoice in every


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good thing which the Lord thy God hath given unto thee, and
unto thine house^ thou^ and the Levite, and the stranger that
is among you.

Now we come to the third and latest form of the Tahemacle

On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when ye have
gathered in the fruit of the land, ye shall keep the feast of
booths seven days : on the first day shall be a rest, and on
the eighth day shall be a rest. And ye shall take you on the
first day the fruit of goodly trees, branches of palm trees,
and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook ; and
ye shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days. And
ye shall keep it a feast unto God seven days in the year : it
shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations : ye
shall celebrate it in the seventh month. Ye shall dwell in
booths seven days; all that are Israelites born shall dwell
in booths : that your generations may know that God made
the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when he brought
them out of the land of Egypt.

Here you notice that the dwelling in booths, which to the writer
of the ^Retrospect was merely a custom which gave the festival its
name, has now been turned into an ordinance. Moreover the
festival which ended before with the seventh day is now extended
to eight days, and the first and eighth days are made days of rest,
of which we hear nothing in the Retrospect. We have continued
to observe the festival in this, the latest form of it, but most of
us no longer dwell in booths. There is still, however, a Booth
or Tabernacle attached to every synagogue daring the week of the

§ 5. I have already spoken about the Passover and its celebration.
A few words may be added here about Pentecost and Tabernacles.

The first of these is no longer for us an agiicultural or nature
festival : from post-Biblical times it has commemorated the giving
of the Ten Commandments. It is now the festival which year by
year celebrates the promulgation and excellence of these ten funda-
mental words of religion and morality. It is the festival which
celebrates a great cardinal dogma of Judaism, namely the necessary
union of religion and morality with each other, that is, that God is
for ever associated with goodness and that goodness must ever be
associated with God. One God, and he the God of righteousness —
that is the keynote of the Pentecost. Goodness for ever rooted in


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God even as God is goodness. The love of God shown in the love
of man, and the love of man based upon, and culminating in the
love of God. Again the Pentecost is the festival of the family.
For it declares that the basis of social wellbeing is the honour
of parents and the sanctity of the home. Then too, the Pentecost
is the festival of law, and law is a great and noble element in
human life which will always play its part and maintain its
worth. Lastly the Pentecost is the festival which through law
bids us in a sense transcend (or get beyond) law, for we call
to mind not merely the legal sixth and the legal eighth and ninth
words but also the super-legal tenth word. Quench the source of
evil which is withio, cut down desire and lust at their roots within
the soul, and leaving the negative commands of prohibitory law, we
advance to the culminating, positive commands of morality and
religion, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, Thou ehalt love
the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with
all thy might. Pentecost is therefore a great festival of religion
and morality, a day, moreover, be it well remembered, suited for
the worship not of one people only, but of anybody of whatever
race, who chooses to join us in its celebration.

Last of the three comes the festival of Ingathering or Taber-
nacles. Alone of the three. Tabernacles still maintains and preserves
its original character as a festival of nature. It is the harvest
festival of rejoicing and thankfulness. It is. the festival of grati-
tude to God, the giver of our daily bread. It bids ns remember
all that in the last resort we owe to the soil. Just as the essence
of character is goodness and not wisdom, so the basis of our life
is not the work of brain, but the work of muscle and hand. Life
in cities depends upon life in the fields. It was once said that
man made the town, but God made the country. The saying is
not quite accurate, but there is some truth in it. Now that we
have quite got over the danger of worshipping any part of creation
instead of creation's creator, we must not run into the opposite
extreme of error, and forget to remember the divine creator him-
self. We must not empty nature of God, because we no longer
believe that any part of nature is itself divine. We run no risk of
worshipping the stars any longer, but let us not forget to look at
them, and to adore the one divine spirit — all wise and all good —
who is through all, in all, and over all. More especially for the
Jews who have been so long, and are many of them still, forced to
live in cities and to gain their livelihood by barter and trade and
conmierce, the festival of Tabernacles is not the least important
of the three. It should not only awaken in us gratitude to God
the giver, not merely remind us that we owe our daily bread in


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a hundred ways rather to God than to oni selves (for he is author
and cause, and we are mere instruments and receivers), not merely
exhort us to those virtues of modest simplicity and cleanly strength
which are associated with the tilling of the soil, hut it should
induce us to remember that the primal and fundamental daily
labour of man is labour in the fields. Agriculture is the first and
the greatest of the arts of man. No people is in a healthy state of
which a certain proportion is not tillers of the soil. I am by no
means sure that the same may not be said of a religious brotherhood
or community. If, then, ^here are, at any rate in Western Europe,
so few Jews who are agriculturists, it is the more necessary for us
all to learn to love nature, and to teach our children to love nature,
and to know a little, even if it be only a very little, about her ways
and her laws and her creatures. An out-of-door life is a good
foundation for goodness and religion. We must learn, if we can,
to love nature religiously, looking upon her as the creation or as
the raiment of Gud, and seeking from and finding in her all the
comfort and the strength which we can. It is also incumbent
upun us to do what we can that those children who are pent up in
cities, and whose parents have nut the means to give them a good
holiday in the country, shall be enabled to enjoy happy country
visits from time to time. The Children's Country Holiday Fund
is a charity which should especially appeal to us, and at no more
fitting time can we recall and remember its claims than at the
great nature festival of Tabernacles*

§ 6. In addition to the three festivals of Irejoicing, the latest
code added two others to the yearly cycle of a totally different

The first of these is described and enjoined as follows :

In the seventh months in the first day of the month^ shall
be a solemn rest unto you^ a day of memorial by the blowing
of trumpets^ an holy convocation. Ye shall do no servile
work therein.

And elsewhere it says :

And in the seventh month, on the first day of the month,
ye shall have an holy convocation : ye shall do no servile
work therein : it is a day of blowing of trumpets unto you.

Of the meaning and object of this festival we are not further
informed. Afterwards the Jews called it not merely the Day of
Memorial but the New Year. They dated the beginning of the



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year from it. How could this be, you will ask, seeing that it is
said to fall not in the first month but in the seventh month 1 The
facts are these. In old times, before the Babylonian exile, of which
we shall hear later (it took place some 2; 500 years ago), the new
year of the Hebrews fell in the autumn. The festival of Taber-
nacles was the close of the year. The Day of Memorial and the
Day of Atonement did not exist. The Babylonians, on the other
hand, began their year in the spring, and the Jews adopted the
same custom. Abib^ or as it was afterwards called Nisan, became
therefore the first month, and Ethanim, or as it was afterwards
called Tishri, the month in which Tabernacles falls, became the
seventh. But there arose a tendency, as regards the reli<i;ious year,
to revert to the older practice. Consequently the religious new
year was made to begin in the seventh month, and naturally the
first day of the new year was made to fall upon the first day of
that seventh month^ so that the Day of Memorial became the
new year.

But as we now reckon our New Year not according to the
Jewish calendar, but according to the European calendar, and
start the new year on January ist, we can no longer easily
regard the Day of Memorial as our New Year. It has now gone
back to its probable first meaning : a day of reflection and remem-
brance; a day of summons and preparation for the holy Day of
Atonement which is to follow. It ushers in, and bids us prepare
ourselves for, that great day. Forewarning, preparation, * collection '
in its beautiful religious sense {Samrrdung the Germans call it):
these are the ideas which now cluster round the Day of Memorial.
Between it and the Day of Atonement lie the so-called eight
penitential days, during which we may fitly continue the trains
of thought and meditation which we have begun in our worship
upon the Day of Memorial.

§ 7. The second of the two festivals added in the latest code
to the original three, and first obsei'ved after the return from the
Babylonian exile, is the Day of Atonement. What we read about
it in the law of its institution gives a very different idea of the
day from what we know and think about it at the present time.
It is not too much to say that the true Day of Atonement has
come into being since its own foundation.

This is practically all that we are told about it in the code, for
the sacrificial customs and rites no longer concern us :

On the tenth day of the seventh month is the day of
atonement : it shall be an holy convocation unto you^ and ye


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shall afflict your souls. And ye shall do no manner of work
in that same day : for it is a day of atonement, to make an
atonement for you before the Lord your God. Ye shall do no
manner of work: it shall be a statute for ever throughout
your generations in all your dwellings. It shall be unto you
a sabbath of rest, and ye shall afflict your souls : in the ninth
day of the month at even, from even unto even, shall ye
celebrate your sabbath.

And it shall be a statute for ever unto you : in the seventh
month, on the tenth day of the month, ye shall afflict your
souls, and do no work at all, whether it be one of your own
country or a stranger that sojoumeth among you: for on
this day shall atonement be made for you, to cleanse you;
from all your sins shall ye be clean before God. It is
a sabbath of rest unto you^ and ye shall afflict your souls ; it
is a statute for ever.

In order to explain fully and clearly what the Day of Atonement
meant to the writers of the short Biblical passages which I have
just quoted, I should have to dwell on many matters which do not
concern us now and are foreign to the purpose of this book. Thus
much only will I say.

In the eyes of the ancients, a people or a community formed
a more real and living unity than it does at present. The people
as a whole was more thought of; the individual, as a separate
unit, less. They thought, for example, more of Sparta, less of the
individual Spartan. The English people to-day is made up of all

Online LibraryC. G. (Claude Goldsmid) MontefioreThe Bible for home reading → online text (page 16 of 63)