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Editorial Correspondence.

New York, Tishry the 12th, 5604.

To the Editor of the Occident,

It was a source of gratification to me to see in the last number of the Occident that some one has at last broached the subject of rabbinical authority. I am alluding to the Rev. B. C. Carillon's communication, without, however, sharing his sentiments, as you will perceive from the remarks which I beg to submit to your consideration. It appears to me that persons the most capable of handling the subject have hitherto been the most backward in doing so. The only reason I can assign for their silence is, that those denying or doubting the divine authority of the sages are not willing to avow their principles openly, for fear of subverting our from-time-immemorial-adopted system of worship and ceremonial observances. Others, who have implicit faith in what the rabbins taught us, prefer their inward belief to remain unknown, to incurring the risk of being considered hyper-orthodox. The time has now, however, arrived, that one ought to take a bold stand, and defend our long-cherished traditional faith against the invaders of our most sacred territory. Since the publication of the first number of your periodical, I anxiously watched to see if any one would undertake to argue the point. I was silent, for I said, "Let days speak, and multitude of years should teach wisdom." Besides, I feel my inability to do ample justice to such an important question. But as the Rev. B. C. Carillon has assumed a position which requires and demands refutation, I will exert my utmost endeavours to do so.

The reverend gentleman wishes to draw a line between the divine authority of the sages and that ceded to them by mankind on account of their superior wisdom and grammatical knowledge. Now, I am of opinion that no such distinction can be made. No law is binding to us unless it be divine; therefore, if the Talmud be not divine, it is not binding. If the question be asked, "Were the rabbins inspired or not?" I would unhesitatingly answer in the negative. Since after the destruction of the holy temple, prophecy and רוח הקודש have been taken away from Israel; but as regards traditional laws, they are most un­questionably divine, having been transmitted to our sages from Moses by the hands of Joshua, the elders, the prophets, &c., as we find in Aboth. Nor is it possible that the law of Moses should have been given to the Israelites without subsequent or simultaneous explanation. Since, to the majority of those blessed with the divine gift, it must have been wholly or partly unintelligible on account of their ignorance, (having just emerged from bondage, it is not to be supposed that they could have been sufficiently enlightened to understand the Word of God,) in consequence of which, when he commanded them והגית בו יומם ולילה, it would have been unreasonable to exact it from them, had he not provided them with a tradition, or oral law, which was ready to explain and interpret every item of that law, and which was only compiled and committed to writing at a time when the Jews began to be dispersed, and fears were entertained of its being entirely forgotten, or at least of its becoming corrupted. I could quote many an authority to substantiate what I here assert, but think it unnecessary, as these facts must be known to the majority of your readers.

The Rev. B. C. Carillon very ingenuously asks, "I would like to know whether Mr. Marks lays Tephillin?" Surely he ought to know that these reformers reject Tephillin altogether;* they dispense with that ceremony by spiritualizing the text.** Now, I am rather inclined to believe that when the law was given, "Thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thy hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes," the question must most assuredly have suggested itself to some one's imagination, whether it were to be fulfilled literally or spiritually? And an answer must have followed which caused this ceremony to be handed down from generation to generation, and to be observed even at the present day. If the answer had been "spiritually," no one would ever have dreamed of imposing a burthen upon ourselves which was not originally intended. The same I presume to have taken place in regard to the injunction לא תעשה כל מלאכה; as it is not defined in Holy Writ what is a מלאכה and what is not, a subsequent explanation was necessary; hence we have the thirty-nine אב מלאכות, the תולדות being mere analogous deductions. I could cite many more laws, which would be equally as unintelligible, were it not for the exposition of the Rabbis.

* Is our correspondent correct in his assertion?—Ed. Oc.

** If they dispose of מזוזות in the same manner, I cannot see the least common sense in it. If they take it literally, their inconsistency must then appear very apparent to every body.

Nevertheless, I do not wish to advance that every word contained in the Talmud is of divine origin. Nay, far from it. Such as הגדות מדרשים and interpretations of passages in Scripture where no point of law is at issue, I do not consider to be authority. You will find Aben Ezra, Kimchi, Rashi, Maimonides, and many more of our principal commentators, to interpret passages in diametrical opposition to the Rabbis. I am alluding only to הלכות, and that is all which is claimed by them, or for them.

Should my opinions be attacked, you will always find me prepared to defend them to the best of my poor ability. I am yours very respectfully,


Letter From The Rev. Wm. Ramsey.

Mr. Editor—In looking over the pages of the "Occident" for October, I was not a little surprised to find that my name was inserted as one of the directors of the "Pennsylvania Society for Evangelizing the Jews." I wish you and your readers to understand that it was done, no doubt, through kind intentions, but wholly without my knowledge or approbation. It is, I believe, a customary thing in this city, in forming a society, to appoint as officers gentlemen who are known or supposed to be favourable to the objects of the society, even without their knowledge. But when this is done, it seems but right that, in the publication of the proceedings of the society, the fact should be mentioned. If this were done, there could be no misunderstanding in the case, and explanations would be needless.

I am willing to acknowledge that I do feel a deep and increasing interest in the children of Israel, and watch with no little anxiety the conduct of the nations of the earth towards them, and the dealings of Providence in their behalf. But I choose to manifest that interest in other ways than in forming a society specifically in reference to them. The gospel requires me to do good unto all men, as I have opportunity. Under this authority I endeavour to act; and hence it is that my prayers ascend daily to God; both for the Jew and for the gentile, that they may be saved. The Jew, as a man, is of no more importance, in my eye, than any other man: But the Jew, as a Jew, has an interest thrown around him which belongs to no gentile on the earth. He is a mystery to himself, as well as to the gentile. The great mass of the gentile world look upon him as an outcast from God, and a foe to his fellow-man, and a being who may be despised, abused, and robbed at pleasure. We need not go to the dark ages for confirmation of this statement. The nineteenth century furnishes us with ample proof. Witness the scenes of Damascus. The blood of the offenceless Jew is scarcely dry upon the sabre of the Turk, when the Emperor of Russia issues his ukase against the whole nation, and drives them, under the ban of imprisonment or death, from his territories. The sound of this iniquitous mandate had not yet died upon our ears, when the Vatican thunders forth its peals of compassion for the purse of the Jews of Ancona. We wait to hear what will be the end of these tender mercies of Rome for the defenceless Jew. No doubt they will be such as were manifested towards them in Spain in, the days of Ferdinand and Isabella. May the God of Abraham deliver them from the deadly embrace of the "Mother of Harlots."

In all countries you find the children of Israel, and "Yet they dwell alone, and are not reckoned among the nations." They have "become an astonishment [both to themselves and others], a proverb; and a by-word among all nations whither the Lord has led them."—Deut. 28.37. But few of the gentiles think it worth while to inquire into this subject, and there are still fewer that seem to have any light upon it. Some have, in their boldness and ignorance, dared to affirm that the providence of God has no more to do in perpetuating the Jewish race, than it has in perpetuating the family of drunkards. But they are wilfully ignorant of the fact, that the Lord has led them among all nations; and that "He that scattereth Israel will gather him, and keep him as shepherd doth his flock." That their present captivity is in consequence of their sins, no intelligent Jew will deny. And yet but few if any among them seem to have any idea of when it shall end. It has continued already nearly eighteen hundred years, and for aught that many know or care, it may continue eighteen hundred years longer. But we are not wholly without light on this subject. Moses says of Israel, "When thou shalt return unto the Lord thy God, and shall obey his voice, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, then the Lord thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion on thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations whither the Lord thy God hath scattered thee."—Deut. 30. 2, 3. We have additional light on this point in the New Testament. Paul informs us, "that blindness in part has happened to. Israel, until the fulness of the gentiles be come in."—Rom. 11. 25. Then "shall the Redeemer come to Zion, and to them that turn from transgression in Israel." This, the apostle tells us, is a mystery of which he would not have us ignorant, lest we gentiles should be wise in our oven conceits. The same idea is advanced in Luke 21. 24: "Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the gentiles, until the times of the gentiles be fulfilled." These times will be fulfilled, and this fulness will be brought in, when the gospels shall have been preached among all nations, for a witness unto them. Then shall the end come, i. e., the end of Israel's captivity; and the completion of this age or dispensation.

I nowhere find it mentioned in the Scriptures that the Jews, as a nation, will, during this dispensation, believe that the Messiah has come, though many of them have believed in him. The contrary, however, is plainly revealed by Paul, in his epistle to the Romans, 11.30, 31. He there tells us that as we gentiles, in times past, did not believe God, but now have obtained mercy in consequence of the unbelief of the Jews, by the sovereign will of God, so also have these (the Jews) also now not believed in our [gentile day of] mercy, that they also may obtain mercy, not through our instrumentality, but through the sovereign mercy of God: for He hath concluded them all [both Jews and gentiles] in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon all. God has not honoured the Jewish church, as such, in reclaiming the gentile world thus far from idolatry; nor will he honour the Christian church, as such, in bringing back the captives of Israel, and in leading them to acknowledge their Messiah. That will be done by a higher power. That they ought to believe in him, I have no more doubt than I have that the gentiles should do so: but that either Jews or gentiles will, as a body, believe in Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah, and obey him, I have no well-grounded hope. But the time is not far distant when "Zion shall be redeemed with judgments, and her captives with righteousness." Then shall they acknowledge that the "rod out of the stem of Jesse, the branch out of his roots" (Is. 11. 1), is Adonai Tzidkenu, the Lord our Righteousness."—Jer. 23. 6. "And the man whose name is the branch shall build the temple of the Lord, and shall sit and rule upon his throne, and he shall be a priest upon his throne."—Zech. 6. 12, 13. Then "shall Judah be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely."

Entertaining the views I do on this interesting subject, I doubt not that if Christians would converse more with their Jewish brethren on those prophecies which refer to the character, office, work, and advent of the Messiah, and do it in the spirit of meekness and love, such as their divine Master exhibited, it would tend more to unite them in love than any other course that could be pursued. As I have already said, God's dealings towards the Jews is a mystery to us gentiles; and his dealings towards us is equally a mystery to them. If God is offended with them for their sins, He is no better pleased with us for ours. For He says, "I am very sore displeased with the gentiles that are at ease: for I was but a little displeased, and they helped forward the affliction."—Zech. l, 15. With the ardent prayer that the time may speedily come when "the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion;" and "when the Lord of hosts shall reign in Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before his ancients gloriously," I remain, dear Sir, yours very truly,

William Ramsey.

We lay the above letter from our valued friend before the public with much satisfaction, as it proves that he at least did not join in the unholy work against the peace of our people in this state. We have not time nor space this month to comment upon the Scriptural quotations which Mr. Ramsey adduces; but we shall probably revert to them, unless prevented by the constant accumulation of new matter. Our friend will easily understand that we read not the Bible as he does; nevertheless, we would be guilty of unpardonable offence against good breeding should this fact prevent us from giving him a space in our journal to define his position. We only wish that there might be many who with the sincere conviction in favour of his own religion, would combine, as Mr. Ramsey does, a sincere love for Israel with their faith. Mr. R. has seen our people on the coast of Coromandel, in the countries of the Ottomans and in America, and he was the one we alluded to in our last, as being of all the officers of the Pennsylvania Society alone acquainted with the wants of the Jews. We are, therefore, pleased to find that his name was placed among the list of officers without his consent, since he must know that a course of intermeddling can only irritate, without leading to any result at which the most bigoted conversionist could rejoice.—Ed. Oc.