Copyright
Grace Aguilar.

Spirit of Judaism; online

. (page 11 of 16)
Online LibraryGrace AguilarSpirit of Judaism; → online text (page 11 of 16)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


hours that the child looks up so clingingly and
fondly to his mother for amusement. Vividly
and interestingly might these narratives be
opened to the young and eager mind, till almost
insensibly he feels it a privilege, even at this



THE SPIRIT OF JUDAISM. 161

long lapse of years, to belong to a nation so
peculiarly blessed, so singularly the object of
God's gracious providence ; and that false shame,
now alas, but too familiar to the Hebrew, would
never flush the cheek, or lead the tongue to
falsehood. Never would manhood descend to
mean subterfuge, or weak evasion to conceal his
faith. If the path of ambition be confined, he
will not wish to enlarge it at the price of his
religion. It will be his pride to prove to the
nations the spirit of his faith, that even in our
captive and degraded state, we are still the
peculiar treasure of the Lord. He will not
throw off the bondage of our forms, he will not
condemn their dictates ; for he will trace their
minutest regulations to the same merciful Fa-
ther, whose love supports, whose arm sustains
him. He will not deem their restrictions hard-
ships, but hail them with delight, as proofs of
the obedience and willing service, his love urges
him to pay unto his God. He will feel to his
heart's core, that weak, corrupted as he is of
himself, it is by obedience alone, implicit, un-
questioning, untiring obedience, he can manifest
that in very truth he seeks to love his God ; and
therefore whatever he may fancy, of this he is
certain, that if he disobey, it is but spurious af-
fection that he feels he cannot love the Lord.
Much will the Hebrew mother have accom-
14*



THE SPIRIT OF JUDAISM,

plished, if she thus teach her children to love,
obey, and glory in the faith of the one and only
God. Yet this will not be quite enough ; she
must do more. She must relate the fearful apos-
tacy of Israel. Even as she sketched his glory
must she depict his sins, ingratitude, rebellion,
such as no other people knew. She must show
forth the retributive wrath of the Lord, and all
the wretchedness we drew down upon ourselves.
As her children increase in years and under-
standing, she might study with them the wri-
tings of the prophets, particularly marking those
passages relative to her subject ; and by inte-
resting references, both to past and present his-
tory, prove how literally and how completely
these awful threatenings have been fulfilled. It
would be a pleasing task to intelligent parents
to select passages from many standard works on
the prophecies, and fit them for the comprehen-
sion of their children. The Christians seize
with avidity the fulfilment of prophecies, parti-
cularly those relating to Edom, Egypt, Moab,
Ammon, Palestine itself, as proofs and evidences
of the truth of their religion. How easy would
it be to select portions from these very books
for the instruction of our children ; for the ful-
filment of these prophecies only proves the truth
and eternal nature of our law, of the whole
Book of Life, according to our belief.



THE SPIRIT OF JUDAISM. 163

By laying this foundation in childhood, care-
fully guarding against the very smallest approach
to bitterness or scorn towards any other creed :
we instill their religion with their growth ; con-
version cannot take place when released from
the parental yoke ; for the very weapons which
the Nazarene would use against them, have be-
come in their hands weapons of defence. Proofs
of the truth of Christianity are to the young
Hebrew, proofs of the truth of Judaism. Con-
version cannot take place on either side ; but
mutual esteem and charity will take the place
of such desire ; for if both religions appear to
have the same foundation, it is evident God
alone in His own good time can remove the veil
which each believes flung over the other.

There is yet another most important reason
for impressing carefully and deeply the awful
sins of Israel on the youthful Hebrew. He sees
the present degraded and wandering state of his
nation ; he perceives our condition is widely dif-
ferent from that of other kingdoms ; he is ready
to feel and acknowledge we are cast off from the
favour of the Lord, that His countenance is for
ever darkened towards us ; and if he have not
been instructed in the cause of this, if he have
not studied long and deeply the history of his
nation and read there, in our continued rebel-
lions, apostacy, transgressions as varied as they



164 THE SPIRIT OF JUDAISM.

are innumerable, disobedience to every given
law, the real and only origin of our dispersions
and fearful sufferings : he is quite prepared to
embrace the creed of the Christian, and believe
with him, that all our miseries originate in our
rejection of their messiah, that the Eternal has
cast us off because, according to the creed and
charge of the Christian, we crucified His son.*

* Without the least intention of weakening 1 the force of the evil
depicted as arising from the want of a Jewish education, exhibited
in the text, I cannot help remarking that the non-adoption of our
system by no means opens the way for the embracing of Chris-
tianity. It is possible that there are some, for argument's sake I
will say many, who are so struck by the pretended fulfilment of
the gospel prediction with regard to our dispersion, as to admit
the truth of the dogmas embraced in the new testament. But for
a philosophical mind, or one well versed in Scripture, such a re-
sult must seem very singular. For, what is Christianity as under-
stood by nine out of every ten of its followers'? nothing but an
absolute belief in a plurality in the Godhead, and a faith in a for-
giveness of sin through the intervention of a mediator, and this a
being descended from an incarnation of the divine principle in the
body of a man. We will not discuss either of these points whether
they be possible in the nature of things or not ; but merely confine
ourselves to their contradiction of Scripture. Let us but view the
idea " The Lord is one," and what does it say 1 but that in the
Deity there is no division. " The Lord is long-suffering, forgiving
iniquity, transgression, and sin;" this too is a Bible doctrine;
where is here a mention of a mediator 1 Lastly, it says : " I the
Lord change not;" but is an incarnation not a change 1 ? Now even
assume that the Israelite on being questioned cannot account
satisfactorily for the dispersion of his people : it is almost impos-
sible that he will admit its being owing to the refusal of his fore-
fathers to give credit in the mission of one who assumed to be a
part of the Deity, a mediator between God and man, an incarna-



THE SPIRIT OF JUDAISM. 165

From this supposed connexion of cause and
effect, more converts have been obtained than
from any other. And why is this? simply be-
cause the true reason of our rejection has not
been taught ; because the history of the past has
never been brought forward to explain the pre-
sent and instruct us for the future. Then care-
fully indeed should the sad story of Israel's apos-

tion of an essence which admits of no change. Miss Aguilar no
doubt knows of instances where a conversion was the result of
reasoning based upon such insufficient grounds ; but if it were not
that some worldly advantage, real or imaginary, were connected
in their mind's eye with a casting off of ancestral opinions : few
Jews indeed could be found to do so from absolute conviction. I
do not mean to say that a conviction is impossible ; for the human
mind is at tunes strangely constituted, perverted judgment, accord-
ing to the views of many at least, is not so rare as to excite asto-
nishment; but this much we may assert without fear of offending
our Christian friends, or of asserting an untruth, that legitimate
convictions or where the converts can give a reasonable account of
the reasons which sway them for the abandonment of Judaism, are
very rare indeed ; or else we should not hear so frequently of re-
cantations, or returnings to the fold of Israel. I say again we need
not fear conversions as much as hypocrisy or indifference. Many
may pretend to a change of religion for the sake of a tangible ad-
vantage, such as office, high-standing, or an advantageous matri-
monial connexion ; but we have yet to learn that persons acquainted
with Scripture, who have enjoyed the benefits of a Jewish educa-
tion in ever so moderate a degree, could by any possibility be in-
duced to adopt the doctrine of a trinity with the accessory belief
in a mediator. We do not deny nor gainsay that Christians of late
have had a plentiful harvest of apostates ; but they were apostates
in very deed, apostates deniers of their God for worldly gain.
Solitary exceptions may perhaps be adduced ; but they will be
found to proceed from the individual's having been always under



166 THE SPIRIT OF JUDAISM.

tacy be taught her youthful followers ; carefully
and tenderly guarded against, yet prepared to
receive the connexion drawn by the Nazarene
between our present state and the rejection of
their messiah, and to answer it by the many
evidences presented in only too many pages of
the Jewish history of its fallacy.

Christian tuition or exposed through ignorance to some unfortu-
nate influence of friends who took advantage of moments of weak-
ness to urge their views with a success which they themselves
could hardly have expected at another time. So well are Euro-
pean governments, anxious as they are from political purposes to
consolidate their empire over the minds of all their subjects no less
than their bodies, convinced of the uselessness of mere preaching,
that they attach political advantages in some shape or other as
bribes or bounties for conversions ; no doubt under the persuasion,
that though the parents will make bad Christians, the children
will be like those of other Christians, that is believers in the popu-
lar system from the ignorance of the principles and hopes of the
Jewish faith. Hence it is that, though we hear much of conver-
sions to Christianity in Prussia, Poland, and England, such events
are extremely rare in France, Holland, and America, and unheard
of in the Ottoman countries. In the catholic countries of Spain
and her former colonies, the Jew hides his religion ; under govern-
ments where he is free to act as he pleases he cares for no belief
if he values not his own. Let the experiment be made of treating
Jews and converts alike, and but few of the latter will ever be
obtained. Interest is a powerful stimulus, but conscientious con-
viction a thing of slow growth, too slow indeed to convert a Jew
into any thing else. The same is also the case with the re-
verse; Christians by education are not apt to see error in their
creed ; our views to the contrary notwithstanding. Hence Miss
A. says truly in urging mutual charity and forbearance whilst en-
forcing steadfastness in the path we have been pursuing from the
time of Moses to our own days. I. L.



THE SPIRIT OF JUDAISM. 167

The youthful mind, already touched by the
relation of the inexhaustible love and great for-
bearance of the Eternal, will feel, as this history
of iniquity and retributive justice is presented to
his view, overwhelmed with the magnitude of
sin and the awful nature of the Lord's power
and justice. Then is the favourable moment to
open to his heart and eye those glorious pro-
mises relating to our final redemption and re-
turn unto His favour. We might quote innu-
merable passages to elucidate our meaning, but
it is far better to refer to the fountain-head at
once ; and vain would be the attempt to tran-
scribe even a quarter of those beautiful verses
which Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos, Micah,
and Malachi, and indeed all the prophets con-
tain, those we have mentioned, abounding in
them, perhaps, the most.* Past and present ages
display the literal fulfilment of every threaten-
ing ; and wherefore then should Israel doubt the
future ? While therefore the young and bound-
ing heart deplores, it may not, cannot despair ;
for yet more powerfully, more appealingly, do
these passages enable it to cling and rejoice,
and trust in a God of truth and love !

The Eternal hath said Not for our sakes but



* See the sixtieth chapter of Isaiah to the end of his sublime
prophecies.



168 THE SPIRIT OF JUDAISM.

for His, even His own sake, He will do this great
thing; but while this extraordinary mercy is
impressed on the young heart, we must not
forget to instill how much depends upon our-
selves. A reference to the twenty-sixth chapter
of Leviticus would be a great assistance to this
instruction. There we read the blessing and the

O

curse ; and history shows the fulfilment of both.
And in the last seven verses we find that, un-
bounded and unfailing as is the mercy of the
Lord, He will not renew his covenant with us,
unless we confess our iniquities and the iniqui-
ties of our fathers, acknowledge that our present
captivity and dispersion are the punishment of
our sins, and humble our uncircumcised hearts
till we indeed find renewed favour in His sight.
If these prophetic verses be impressed on the
heart, and memory, and understanding of the
child : each year he will become more and more
sensible of his responsibility alike to his God,
his nation, and the world. To his God he will
evince and feel his consciousness of complete
unworthiness, his desire to bring down the
blessing and avert the curse, his yearning to-
wards that promised land, and that blessed state
of things, when all shall know and love the one
sole God. To his nation he will remember
that in our present scattered dwellings, the con-
duct of individuals is often the criterion by



THE SPIRIT OF JUDAISM. 169

which the whole nation is judged ; and therefore
the Hebrew must live not for himself alone, but
as the representative of a belied and hated body
whom his conduct will either depress or exalt.
To the world instead of seeking to deny his
lineage, which the finger of God upon our brows
will ever prevent, he will seek to be known, to
be recognized as a Hebrew, not by his counte-
nance and peculiar form alone, but by the supe-
riority of his social and domestic character,
emanating from a spirit of religion which can
only be divine.

Even if the religious instruction hinted above
should sometimes fail to bring forth such blessed
fruit: the Hebrew mother will yet have done
her duty ; and not on her head will fall the care-
lessness, disobedience, or apostacy, of her chil-
dren. She will stand absolved in the sight of
her God ; for He will have seen her struggles to
lead her offspring in the right way; and if earth
brings no reward, she will find it at His right
hand for evermore. Oh! let but the Hebrew
mother persevere, and far more likely is it that
she will find a sweet foretaste of heaven upon
earth in the conduct of her children, than that
her efforts will all be blighted. She has in-
structed them thus in obedience to the word of
God, to His commands found repeatedly in the
Pentateuch, and, nowhere more impressively,

15



1 70 THE SPIRIT OF JUDAISM.

than in the six last verses of the chapter which
contains the Shemang. The words " and ye
shall teach them to your children," are but a
repetition, a remembrance, of commandments con-
tinually given before ; and therefore the most
literal Hebrew cannot accuse us of taking too
enlarged a view or of spiritualizing its meaning.
We cannot read the Book of Life without per-
ceiving how intimately the spirit of religion was
to mingle with other instructions, how com-
pletely it was to be the first, the most precious
of all studies ; and if instruction in piety was so
necessary in the time of Moses, how much more
necessary is it now, when, unless learnt from a
parent's lips, it can never be learnt at all. And
oh ! will any mother expose her children, her
beloved, to the miseries attendant on living
without their God ? Can she think on the im-
mortal spirits, whose eternal blessedness or ever-
lasting death is, for the first years of their lives,
in her keeping, and yet not tremble ? Will she
not rather prostrate herself in daily humiliation,
daily prayer, to the God of love for blessing on
her arduous yet blissful task ? for aid, for
strength, to guide and assist her through her
path, however rugged it may seem ? Can she
think on the storms, the temptations, that will
assail her son on every side when he enters the
world, and yet make no effort to provide him



THE SPIRIT OF JUDAISM. 171

with an armour of proof, and a shield of de-
fence ? Can she reflect on the sorrows that must
encircle the lovely girl at her side ere this life
is past, and yet leave unopened the well of com-
fort, provided for the afflicted by our God Him-
self? Oh ! can she leave her, to seek it herself
when sorrows come, and risk her seeking it in
a stranger fold ? Can she think a moment, that
death is ever ready to snatch some beloved
away, yet shun the theme as if it were enrobed
in gloom ? Can she think on this fearful part-
ing, yet breathe no word of immortality ? of that
glorious world, where the loved that meet shall
never part again ? of that blest sojourn, where
those first called away await the arrival of each
one beloved ? of that bright mansion near our
Father's throne ? till those gone hence, are
looked on as departed, not as dead ?

Man needs religion to strengthen and to hum-
ble ; woman, to comfort and uphold : man, to
keep him firm, despite of temptation or of scorn ;
woman, to fill her yearning heart with love :
man, to moderate his pride, to keep him humble
in prosperity, and firm as the ocean-rock, when
the waves of misfortune beat around him ; wo-
man, to teach her her own dignity, her mission
in prosperity, her anchor of refuge, of hope, of
faith, in sorrow.

It may be, that in this world, man may con-



172 THE SPIRIT OF JUDAISM.

trive to live, ay, and be happy without religion,
till the hour of death awakens him to a con-
sciousness of a God and another world ; but
alas for that woman who knows it not ! There
are trials peculiar to her heart, not the less in-
tense in their anguish, because in many cases
they are unrevealed, too often unsuspected, and
therefore never open to the consolation and
sympathy of her fellows ; then, oh ! what must be
her agony if she know not Him whose love sur-
passeth the dearest, most precious, upon earth !
if she know not Him whose arms are open to
receive her sinking frame, whose love demands
her confidence, who will soothe and bless, if yet
awhile He will not heal even as she poureth
forth her sorrows on His breast ! How may she
go forth on her lonely and unblest path alone
to meet the trials, petty and great, the cares,
temptations, peculiar to her lot : if she feel she
have no Friend, if she know not the comfort, the
blessing of a Father and a Saviour's eye, of an
Arm of love around her ? How may she enter
on the sacred duties of a wife and mother, if
she know not God ? and oh how dare she love,
if she looks to this world only to perfect and re-
tain it ? how may she give her heart, her hap-
piness to the keeping of a mere mortal, whom
one little hour may lay in dust ? Surely surely
-"-reflection on this life as it is should urge a



THE SPIRIT OF JUDAISM. 173

mother to teach religion to her children, even if
she did not look on it in the light of obedience
to her God. Adherence to instituted forms will
not be sufficient of itself to make religion a
vital principle, or open to the youthful heart its
ever-springing fount of comfort and of love ;
but if the spirit of piety contained in that brief
command to love the Lord with heart, and soul,
and might, be inculcated in the minds of our
children : we obey every one of the precepts
comprised in the Shemang ; and in raising the
affections of our children to their gracious and
beneficent God, we cannot fail to strengthen
our own.

Ere we proceed to the remainder of this verse,
may we be permitted to hint on the importance
of making the Hebrew language familiar to
every Hebrew child. It cannot be considered a
dead language, for the nation to which it origi-
nally belonged continues to exist, and will exist
for ever. It is not indeed spoken as it would
have been, had we remained in our own land ;
yet it might still continue the link uniting the
sons of Israel wherever they may be. The so-
journers in England, France, Austria, Spain,
might be enabled to converse or to commune
with each other in their own native tongue,
though of the language of their respective homes
each might be ignorant.

15*



174 THE SPIRIT OF JUDAISM.

But this end cannot be attained if the Hebrew
child is merely taught to read and translate his
prayers, as was formerly the case, and his apti-
tude in the language judged according to his
proficiency in following the service of the Syna-
gogues. Why should Hebrew be the only lan-
guage which is never learnt grammatically ? Why
should it not be taught the infant Hebrew even
as the language of the land in which he is a
sojourner? Hebrew is scarcely more difficult
or complicated than English ; but the latter is
attained so gradually, we are so prepared for its
grammar when we arrive at it, that we are
never aware of the difficulties its acquirement
presents to a foreigner ; and in the same manner
the difficulties of Hebrew would vanish were
the child equally prepared to encounter them ;
and the gradual acquirement of familiar words
and sentences in this ancient language would
do this far better than charging the memory
with portions of prayer which only succeed in
divesting the sacred words from all holiness, and
cause the prayer-book to be regarded as a hated
task instead of being welcomed as the blessed
means of communion between man and his
Maker. Never may we hope for the perfect at-
tainment of this ancient and glorious language
till the present system has given place to one
more calculated to engage a child's fancy, till



THE SPIRIT OF JUDAISM. 175

the prayer-book is not the first which we place
in an infant's hands, till other than words so
sacred as prayer are the first we teach our
children to repeat. Our aim indeed should be
to enable them to address their Creator in the
language of their ancestors, to read His word
pure and unaltered, even as it came from hea-
ven ; but by placing it too early before them,
we frustrate our own desires.

We would think it strange if, as soon as a
child had acquired his letters in French or Italian,
the Henriade or Dante should be placed before
him, and he should be desired to learn passages
by rote with merely the assistance of a subjoined
translation. We would not hesitate to dismiss
a master who thus taught ; for we should know
the impossibility of his pupils obtaining either a
familiar or grammatical idea of the language.
How then can we expect to succeed in imparting
Hebrew, if this same plan be followed ? for the
poetry of Dante and Voltaire is not more diffi-
cult than the sublime strains of the Hebrew
poets. What are the Psalms which form our
prayers but poetry the most inspired, most diffi-
cult poetry ? and we might as well expect that
charging the memory with them will teach our
children Hebrew, as the making them repeat
Milton, as soon as they had learnt their English
letters, would teach them their native tongue.



176 THE SPIRIT OF JUDAISM.

Gradually and pleasantly we should pave the
way, that difficulties may be encountered and
overcome singly ; that, when they do approach
the sacred volumes, it may be to understand and
to enjoy them, to find new pleasures, new truths
in every page ; and not to fling them aside with
distaste and loathing, as soon as the chains of
the school-room are broken, and the young
aspirants are set free.

Liable as we are to religious arguments with
the Nazarene, it is absolutely necessary that
Hebrew should be part of the education we be-
stow on our children. The English Bibles are
translated by the Christian divines, and though
the text is generally correct, the heads of the
chapters are very likely to mislead. There are
also some passages which mysteriously written
in English may appear capable of a double
meaning ; and it is more than likely, the young
Israelites would refer to the head of the chapter
for the explanation of the text, and thus become
confused, and either waver, or throw aside the
sacred volume, as tending rather to destroy than
to give peace. A perfect knowledge of Hebrew
would banish this evil without interfering with
the solid comfort found in the perusal of English


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 11 13 14 15 16

Online LibraryGrace AguilarSpirit of Judaism; → online text (page 11 of 16)