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Editorial Correspondence.

Letter From the Rev. Mr. Marks.

(Continued from issue #1.)

Mr. Carillon appears to have condemned our ritual on three grounds.

First. "The most beautiful hymns of the Portuguese liturgy were left out." This is a point verging on the question of taste, which I do not intend tend to discuss with the reverend gentleman. I wish merely to observe that the majority of the members of Burton Street congregation were for many years congregants of the best-conducted Portuguese Synagogue; and yet are they very far from sharing Mr. C.'s opinion. But what of this,—is it obligatory upon any Jewish community to adopt in its ritual any hymns or piyutim at all? If the absence of the most beautiful Portuguese hymns affects the orthodoxy of a prayer book, what must then be the fate of the German and Polish rituals, on which the majority of our brethren look with confidence? If the presence or absence of either German or Portuguese hymns can influence the religious character of a prayer book, what shall be said of the rituals used previously to the age of the Paitanim, by whom these hymns were composed, and who began to flourish only about the year 1000 of the vulgar era? If Mr. Carillon wish to injure the reputation of our ritual, he must, if possible, prove not indeed that we have left out the most beautiful Portuguese hymns; but rather that we have retained the most unmeaning of either the German or the Sephardim ritual. There would be some weight in such a reproach, if substantial.

Second. Mr. C. condemns any ritual emanating from our Synagogue, a priori, "because we have no Rabbi amongst us."* If this be meant as an assertion that there is no one amongst us paid for allowing himself to be called "Rabbi," we plead guilty to the impeachment, and our opponents are welcome to make the most of the admission. But should the reverend gentleman labour under the presumption, that we are without men acquainted with our holy law and with the ancient writings bearing on this important subject, he may procure himself an opportunity of correcting his erroneous impression, if he will appear before the world with a clear investigation into the acts of violations of essentials, attempted, as he appears to believe, by our body.

* See Mr. Carillon's Letter.

But what has the existence or non-existence of a so-called Rabbi among us to do with the orthodoxy of the prayers which we have compiled? Does Mr. C. really imagine that none but men invested with the semicha have a voice or a vote in Israel, that only such who are ordained by "imposition of hands"* ought to be listened to, in the discussion and settlement of questions relating to the ritual? He cannot surely hold so revolutionary an opinion; he would not, I am sure, attempt to unseat from his clerical chair, the very orthodox חכם Haham of Hamburgh,** one of the most influential congregations in the world—who considers himself, and is by others considered, to be endowed with no slight degree of authority in theological matters, although he is no Rabbi at all. He contemned the mock semicha, and would have nothing to do with the above mentioned rabbinical imposition of hands.

* We believe that Mr. Marks is wrong in supposing that Rabbis are ordained by the imposition of hands. Unless we greatly err, the term semicha is merely used figuratively, and only means the licensing of persons to decide questions of law, by those who hold the office of Rabbi. Competency and character are requisites for deciding religious questions, but not a formal ordination.—Ed. Oc.

** Again we believe Mr. M. mistaken. Mr. Bernays, the gentleman alluded to, is no doubt a Rabbi, and regularly licensed to decide, as well as all other heads of European congregations. But he probably calls himself Haham, which is usually applied to the Portuguese chiefs of congregation, because he prefers it to to the German appellation of Rebbay, Raf, or Rabbi. 'Besides, it is truly a Talmudic term.—Ed. Oc.

Third. The great reason, however, why the minister of St. Thomas set his face against the ritual of our congregation was, as he says, "because the Rev. Mr. Marks has dared to deny all Talmudic authority."‡ Now it might be supposed that the reverend gentleman would have sought to learn what our principles were, before he deliberately sat down to abuse them in a public journal; but that Mr. Carillon never read the consecration sermon, in which they are fully developed, is quite certain, (for I cannot believe that he would wilfully misrepresent them;) or he never would have penned such a sentence. Your editorial note, sir, to this passage of the gentleman's letter, exonerates me from the task of investigating farther, how much I am misrepresented by the minister of the St. Thomas Congregation. But is it not very astonishing that he should wax so wroth with me for having concurred in introducing certain alterations in our form of worship, while in the same breath he confesses "that we are at liberty to alter customs and to substitute prayers," nay, admits that "he has granted several alterations?" What greater liberty have we taken than that which the reverend gentleman claims for himself? What "essential points of our holy religion" have we touched, could we touch, if, on Mr. C.'s admission, he does not consider the alterations of customs and the substitution of prayers, to be infringements on the essentials of our faith? Or, are all these acts so many misdeeds because we have perpetrated them in this dark corner of Europe, and would they be the effusions of purity itself, if they had been brought to light under the tropical sun?

‡ See Mr. Carillon's letter.

The reverend gentleman throws the divine claim of the Talmud overboard with the exclamation, "The Talmud is not divine, so do I say." He is certain, however, that the authority of the Talmud must be upheld, strictly upheld. Nevertheless (says he) we are at liberty to make alterations in the prayers, in the customs, prescribed by those very Rabbis, by denying whose authority "we deny Holy Writ itself." Nevertheless "we must not touch the essential points of our religion." Nevertheless, Mr. C. "has granted several alterations," which are to be communicated hereafter.

Strange that a theologian rejoicing in so slippery a profession of faith, should bargain for consistency in other men! Whether I wear Thephillin and how I wear Tzitzith is the query with which Mr. C. seeks to drive me upon the horns of his dilemma. I would like to know if Mr. Marks lays Thephillin or how he wears the Tzitzith? if he does, then he contradicts himself, as it is only by rabbinical authority that we know how to obey these and most other commandments." It is a vulgar error, shared by Mr. C., that the adoption or retention of one talmudic observance or principle enforces, by the laws of consistency, adhesion to the whole mass of rabbinical ordinances. I concede that for him who finds in the Talmud the very word of God, to slight one command is to question the stability of the whole divine fabric. But those, who concur with the Rev. Mr. C. in denying the divinity of the Talmud, cannot surely be charged with inconsistency, for adopting from the doctrines of the Rabbis, such as are congenial to their religious feelings, while they reject such other rabbinical dicta as appear to their understandings impracticable or objectionable. I, for one, should feel sorry to recommend to my youthful flock, to get married, in pursuance of the rabbinical statutes, at thirteen years of age, certainly at sixteen; on pain of incurring the divine curse, (Kiddushin, 29. 2,) if after the completion of the twentieth year, they be still found bachelors. With the highest respect for the motives which induced the Rabbins to recommend early marriages, I deem myself at liberty to disregard their authoritative commands in this respect. When speaking of the important day of Purim, I abstain from exhorting my hearers to intoxicate themselves on the anniversary of the feast, till they become unable to distinguish between a curse on Haman and a blessing on Mordecai, although the Talmud (Megilla, 7. 2) literally prescribes this Bacchanalian excess.

I disregard as unauthoritative this ordinance of Raba, and gladly recognize the beauty of that other rabbinical apothegm: "These three the Lord loveth, him that is not given to anger, him that abstains from inebriety, and him that is not too much taken up with his own importance." I must say that I find it more in the spirit of consistency to select the homogeneous principle from the Talmud, than to set up the whole heterogeneous mass as one system.

In conclusion, I beg to apologize for claiming so much of your valuable space, in a matter which is so personal to myself, and on which, sir, I am well aware, your opinions and mine differ. Nothing, I assure you, is more fervently the wish of our pious congregation, than the preservation of the unity of Israel, the unity of love towards each other, of obedience to the divine law, under whose heavenly influence fresh life will even in our days be breathed into "the dried bones of Israel." Hitherto the Lord has been pleased to guide our infant flock with his paternal hand, to bless us with internal concord, and sincere zeal, and to protect us against the attempts of external adversaries. Our endeavour has been, and ever shall be, to conciliate all, and to offend none. And as the gracious providence of God has been vouchsafed to us, so do I fervently pray that his blessing may rest upon all your undertakings for the benefit of our brethren, and may He, in his own good time, hasten the day, "When the tear shall be wiped from off every cheek."

Permit me, sir, to observe, that this letter has been called forth by the peculiar circumstances of my position with the Synagogue of St. Thomas; but I wish it to be particularly understood, that I have neither the inclination nor the leisure for entering upon controversies from which I cannot persuade myself that any practical benefit will arise. Besides which my time is wholly taken up in the discharge of my local duties.

I am, reverend sir,
With sentiments of high regard and profound respect,
Your obedient servant,
D. W. Marks.

The Rev. Mr. Marks's Second Letter.

London, January 8th, 1844.

To the Editor of the Occident.

Rev. and Dear Sir—It was to me a matter of no little surprise to find the draft of one of my sermons printed in your journal of Heshvan last.

I was at first at a loss to conjecture by what means it had found its way to your pages; but it subsequently recurred to me, that I had permitted a gentleman to take a copy of it some time since, to send to a relative at Philadelphia. It is true, a promise was made that no public use should be made of the manuscript, which was imperfect; but of this promise the gentleman seems to have been unmindful.

I will not conceal from you my sore regret at the publication of the MS. First, because it is not complete, nor is it free from those defects, which are likely to occur in an address fn the ear; but which a writer is always careful to amend, when he addresses the eye.

Secondly, and principally, because having quoted some authors who have written upon the subject, I should not have presumed to publish the sermon, without having acknowledged, as a matter of course, the sources to which I had been indebted.

Since I am obliged to trespass again upon your kindness, permit me, sir, to offer a word or two, in reference to a statement made by one of your correspondents, in a letter printed in the Occident of Heshvan. Mr. Henry Goldsmith, after making war with every one and with every thing, undertakes to dispose of some of the Rev. Mr. Carillon's queries in the most summary manner. "I would like to know (says the reverend minister of St. Thomas) whether Mr. Marks lays Thephillin?" To this, Mr. Henry Goldsmith unhesitatingly replies, "Surely he (the Rev. Mr. Carillon) ought to know that these Reformers reject Thephillin altogether." You, however, Mr. Editor, are not so rash nor so uncharitable as to pronounce judgment on a congregation upon mere hearsay; you do not therefore acquiesce in what you properly suppose, may be a calumny, and therefore append a note, questioning the correctness of what your correspondent aserts. In raising this question, sir, you have done us no more than justice; and of this you will be convinced, when I assure you that the precepts of מזוזות and תפילן are as rigidly observed by the members of the "West London Synagogue of British Jews" as by any other congregation.

Permit me, sir, to record my thanks, for this act of justice you have performed to my congregation. Again, apologizing for this intrusion upon your valuable space,

I am, reverend and dear sir,
Yours very respectfully,
David W. Marks.

Note by the Editor.—We do not mean at the present moment to enter the lists against Mr. Marks's views upon reform and the kindred subjects connected with it; but merely to give our reasons for publishing his sermon without his knowledge or authority. Our readers, by referring to page 102 of our first volume, will see that, at a missionary meeting for converting the Jews, it was publicly stated from the pulpit of a Christian church that the reform movement in London was an approximation to Christianity. In a note to the same page we called upon the reform gentlemen to disavow this false and injurious imputation. We knew it to be false from our personal knowledge of one of the chief leaders of the unfortunate movement which agitates now a part of the London congregation; but we wanted the authoritative contradiction of the reformers themselves to put down the slander once for all. Our appeal remained unattended to; why? The gentlemen can best tell themselves. Perhaps they meant that we should broach the subject of reform in a more direct manner; but our object is to teach general principles of Judaism, not to discuss what all ought to regard, and probably do regard, as admitted truths. How pleased were we then to obtain from a friend in this place, as a loan, the sermon on the "Sabbath of Consolation," delivered by the Rev. Mr. Marks before his own congregation. In it we saw Jewish principles, ay, the Advent of the Messiah, advocated in a Jewish manner and on Jewish grounds. Our friend had received no prohibition to make it public, and we told him that we meant to publish it, to which he did not object. Mr. Marks can hardly be greatly offended at the use we made of his sermon; he certainly has appeared in a company of which even he, were his station ever so high, need not be ashamed;   for however humbly any one may think of our labours and the contributions of our correspondents, they are at all events worth reading. As regards the unfinished state of Mr. M.'s   sermon, it is certainly a tolerably long sketch, about of the same length as the finished productions of other writers. But had we had the least intimation that it was disagreeable to the reverend gentleman to appear before the public with that production, we should have been the last to violate his implied wishes even. But Mr. M. must know that when one allows several transcripts of a sermon to find their way abroad, they become public property, and there is no breach of confidence to give them more publicity by means of the press.

After all, we are glad that we have proved by Mr. Marks's own words that he is a member of the family of Israel in faith and deeds; it is a triumph over the assertions of those who seek to destroy us that, divided as we may be in sentiment, we are still undivided upon the fundamental principles of our faith. We do sincerely deplore the step which the Burton Street congregation have taken to divide off from the general body of Israelites in London; but we cannot permit any one to imagine that they have ceased to be Jews. We will therefore view them as brethren who have committed a great error in establishing a worship unknown elsewhere; and always cherish the hope that one day, not far distant, they may become reunited to the ancient fold never more to form "two families again." We have a great deal more to say, but we forbear at the present.

Letter From Mr. H. Goldsmith.

New York, Shebat 19, 5604.

To The Editor Of The Occident:

Rev. Sir—When a person who is considered a spiritual leader openly pronounces an opinion regarding our faith, contrary to what we have been in the habit of believing for ages past, and which is calculated to promote scepticism and irreligion: some means ought to be employed to inform those not thoroughly versed in those matters, that such is not the opinion of the generality of our co-religionists, but merely confined to an isolated few, in order to check the pernicious influence to which the propagation of such ideas might tend.* This was the cause that prompted me to make some remarks on the Rev. B. C. Carillon's letter, which appeared in the Occident of October. The reverend gentleman there says: "Now denying the divine claim of the Talmud or its authority are two different cases;" from which I inferred that he denies the divine claim of the Talmud, but acknowledges its authority. This called forth my remark that no law is binding unless it be divine; and I say again, if we do not believe a law to be the divine will, I do not see the obligation or the sense in observing it.† I then attempted to prove by logical deductions the divine authority of the Talmud. I quoted לא תעשה כל מלאכה  and וקשרתם לאות על ידיך to substantiate my argument that the laws as they are written absolutely required an oral explanation from the legislator, without which they would indeed have been a dead letter. The quotation of the passage והגית בו יומם לילה was intended by me to prove the same result. What I mentioned about Aboth was not (as Mr. Carillon endeavoured to make out I did) in evidence of the truth of the Talmud, but merely to describe the links that connect the chain of tradition together, from Moses down to the Sages. I did not attribute any qualities to the latter which might assimilate them to those who were inspired by the Almighty; nor did I ascribe to them the power of making laws not based upon divine authority. It appears, however, from Mr. Carillon's subsequent communications, that he either did not or would not understand me. To say that my proofs are few and insignificant, is not the way to hold a controversy. We can surmount any difficulty by reasoning in this manner.

* I wish to be distinctly understood that I have the highest opinion of the sincerity of the Rev. B. C. Carillon's motives, and the influence to be dreaded is certainly involuntary on his part.

† Feasts and fasts and ceremonies, observed in commemoration of occurrences which happened after the dispersion of our people, are certainly exceptions.

Should my proofs, however, not be sufficient, I refer him to Neh. 8, 7 and 8,

וישוע ובני וכו׳ והלוים מבינים את העם לתורה והעם על עמדם׃ ויקראו בספר בתורת האלהים מפרש ושם שכל ויבינו במקרא׃

"And Jeshua and Bani, etc. and the Levites, caused the people to understand the law, and the people stood in their places. So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense and caused them to understand the reading." This, in my humble opinion, sufficiently proves not only that the laws required explanation, without which they would have been utterly unintelligible to the majority of the nation, but also that a few only were initiated to whom the tradition was entrusted and who preserved it in its purity. The Hebrew being still the vernacular tongue, I cannot see any other meaning in the terms caused the people to understand the law and gave the sense, etc.

So much in justification of my views stated in my first letter. In reply, Mr. Carillon says: "Where did I speak of rabbinical laws? I said authority, not laws, for I deny to the Rabbis and the Talmud the right of making laws."* Now I am really at a loss to understand this. If he believes the laws which we find in the Talmud to emanate from the divine legislator, then they are incontestably divine If they do not, we are not bound to abide by them if the Rabbis have no authority to enact laws, as Mr. C. asserts. The conclusion I wish to draw from this is, that there is no juste milieu. The Talmud is divine, or it is not entitled to authority.

* No one grants them that right, nor do they claim it, except for a few גדרים and סיגים to which we never attach so much importance as to those laws directly founded on the letter of the law.

The views of Maimonides which the Rev. Mr. Rice cites, cannot be quoted in evidence of the truth of traditions, for as soon as a person admits that oral laws have been transmitted from Moses, their divine nature is then already sufficiently obvious. If not transmitted from Moses, they are not entitled to he called divine.

I can not conclude without returning thanks to the Rev. B. C. Carillon, for his good wishes. But I beg to assure him that I am very well satisfied with my present situation, and do not aspire to that elevated position in which he would like to see me placed. I have every opportunity now to be of some service to my co-religionists, and I pray the Almighty to grant me life and strength to continue in my present career.

I am yours, very respectfully,

Letter From Barbadoes.

Bridgetown, Barbadoes, January 2d, 5604, (1844.)

To the Editor of the Occident.

Sir: Having read in your number for December 1843, under the head of the "Jewish Congregation of Charleston," the following sentences, "The congregation determined to rebuild their Synagogue, and a subscription was immediately opened for this sacred purpose, and an earnest appeal made to the different Congregations in this country and Europe; we regret to state that the only response to this appeal was heard from the congregation of Cincinnati, Ohio, enclosing $119,50. Letters were received from the congregations of London, Amsterdam, Barbadoes, and Curaçoa, sympathizing with us in the loss of our Synagogue, but excusing themselves under various pretexts from affording us the necessary aid." I must request the favour of your doing the congregation of this city the justice to publish the following letter in your periodical.

Kaal Kadosh Nidhe Israel, Barbadoes, 24th, Ab. 5598,
15th August, 1838.

Joshua Lazarus, Esq., Chairman, &c. &c.

Dear Sir: I have to acknowledge the receipt of your circular applying to this congregation for aid to rebuild your fallen sacred edifice; most tenderly do this Kaal sympathize in your awful bereavement; yet with the keenest anguish they deeply deplore announcing that the dreadfully reduced and wofully depressed state of the Kaal prevents their extending the hand of assistance. This congregation feel a desire with all their hearts and souls to promote your exemplary energetic sacred efforts, but with poignant anguish feel an incapability to accomplish their wish.

Praying that the Omnipotent Guide will shield you from further peril, promote your worthy exertions, and prosper your holy congregation,

I have the honour to be,
&c. &c.

Now, sir, I will ask the writer in the "Occident" in what part of the above he discovered any thing of "pretext?"

We plainly and unhesitatingly declare our inability; and which, when it is stated that the number of contributing members in this congregation at that time did not exceed twelve, must be allowed; of this the Charleston Kaal might not have been cognizant; but they must have known that our Synagogue was destroyed by an awful hurricane in August 1831, and that we rebuilt it by February 1834, at a cost of nearly $11,000, although we did not take any measures to "show to posterity that this congregation rebuilt their Synagogue by the aid of their own members," and without any "insurance recovered on the building destroyed," or a single cent from any source whatever but their own funds; but which I now take the opportunity of declaring. Such has been our paucity of numbers, and consequent reduction of income for some years past, that since the death of our lamented Hazan, the Rev. M. Belasco, in November 1834, we have not had the means to pay a minister, nor can we now afford but to pay a Shochet.

These facts considered, we think it must be allowed that our assigned reason for not affording assistance was any thing but pretext. It is perhaps not amiss as a proof that we are not accustomed to use pretexts for not extending the hand of assistance to our brethren, to mention, than in the near 1819, we granted $500 to the Kaal of Philadelphia, to aid in building their Synagogue; and also that an individual of this Kaal contributed liberally towards the erection of one in Cincinnati.

I am, sir, your obedient servant,

Note.—We give the above as an act of justice to the congregation of Barbadoes. But we think that we can assure our honoured correspondent, that N. L. wished to cast no reflection upon the Israelites of Barbadoes, and only meant to state the general fact that no aid was obtained from them towards the rebuilding of the destroyed Synagogue. Independently of the above being a reply to N. L., it contains some statements which will doubtless be of general interest to our readers.