|Vol. IV, No. 3
Sivan 5606, June 1846
Hebrew Sunday School of Columbia, S. C.
The third examination of this institution took place on Sunday, the 5th of April. Heretofore the examinations have been held at the Carolina Hall, a building used for public lectures, &c., the use of which was kindly granted until the building of the Hebrew Benevolent Society was completed, the lower room of which is appropriated for the use of the above school; and it being in readiness, the examination took place therein, much to the gratification of the parents, relatives, and numerous friends of the children present on the occasion. It was truly an interesting and imposing exhibition, giving positive proofs—ocular demonstrations, that the indefatigable labours and exertions of their teachers in their behalf, had not been futile, but reflecting much credit on themselves and their pupils; their unremitting attention and care are destined, like the dew of heaven, to revive and invigorate all it falls upon, causing to be yielded in return innumerable benefits and good.
The following was the order of exercises of the day:
Address of Mr. L. T. Levin.
In compliance with the urgent solicitations of the patrons of this institution, though fully conscious of my inability to the task, I appear before you on this pleasing and happy occasion, trusting to the lenity of my auditors for indulgence towards my humble efforts, bearing in mind, that each of us, according to his abilities, should exert himself in the cause of Israel; knowing which, I crave you will lend an indulgent ear to my discourse.
The third anniversary of this institution has dawned upon us, for the celebration of which, we have assembled here this day. We have had no obstacles to contend with since our last. We still enjoy the freedom of speech and of thought, the blessings of light and liberty, and it has pleased Almighty God, whose unity and omnipotence we will never cease to maintain and acknowledge, to permit us to erect this building to His holy name, which we now consecrate to his service, and implore His divine guidance and blessing on his favoured children.
Is there one amongst this assemblage of Israel—is there a father, mother, sister, or brother, who does not feel within his breast a thrilling glow of joy, pleasure, and pride, with the happy consciousness that through zeal and exertion, the munificent offerings of those whom fortune has favoured with plenty, and the united efforts of all our congregation according to their means, combined with the liberal aid of our Christian friends who have stretched forth the hand of assistance, and to whom our most sincere thanks are due,—I ask of you again, is there one amongst you, who does not feel vivid emotions of joy, pleasure, and pride, that another structure has been added to the number, now existing, throughout this vast republic, for the service of the all-wise, the eternal God of Israel?
Is it not dedicating it to his service, when, within its walls, we design instructing our children in the tenets of that holy, sacred religion, which He, our divine Father, so wisely imparted to Moses on Mount Sinai, through him transmitted to His chosen people, our revered forefathers? Have we not, therefore, engaged in the fulfilment of a most sacred duty, in having erected a suitable place in which can be taught, unimpaired, a knowledge and understanding of that divine religion, the word of God himself, to our children’s children? But before proceeding farther on the subjects which now engross our attention on this occasion, I would ask you to follow me to the early periods of the history of our nation, and to bear with me in the hasty and brief glance I shall take of their sufferings endured in the maintenance of their religion.
We live, thank God! in a most enlightened age, and enjoy, from our very birth, immunities and favours which our unhappy ancestors never knew, “or even dreamt of in their philosophy;” we are but moderately, but slightly acquainted with their oppression, their sufferings, and their unwearied persecution, and are not fully able thereby to judge the greatness of their sacrifices; let us return, then, to these early periods when not one gleam of sunshine, not one ray of happiness, was shed upon Israel; they were attacked on all sides by all nations, by each oppressed, harassed, and persecuted; their temples, dedicated to the worship of the Most High, demolished; their lands laid waste, their homes made desolate, hundreds of thousands falling by the relentless sword, and thousands led in contumely into captivity, there insulted, degraded, basely, inhumanly treated by their captors; nought but wailing and wo, sorrow and suffering, was in the land of Judea; but we find this insulted, degraded, vilely persecuted people still clinging to their religion, and upholding with all their might the majesty of their God—the God of Israel—declaring his unity and omnipotence through all their sorrows, through all their trials. With bleeding hearts must we indeed trace their history, too assuredly written in blood, back to these days of gloom and darkness, when desolation and wo o’erspread our nation, when the destroying sword of our enemies was drawn, and it seemed as though it would never again be sheathed.
Century after century rolled away; still we remained a reviled and persecuted race, the scorn and byword of nations; but our persecutions have now ceased. Truth and Reason have dawned forth and hold supremacy over the land; our persecutors are no more; our ancient enemies, as nations, have ceased to exist; whereas, as an allpowerful evidence of divine favour, the Israelites, though scattered and dispersed over the four quarters of the inhabitable globe, are now more numerous than at the period of their dispersion.. Their dispersion was a just retribution from above, a penalty from Heaven for sins committed against his divine word, a neglect of his laws, his commandments; but with his merciful providence, he has permitted us still to remain a separate people, a distinct nation, clinging with unwavering truth to our ancient faith, the religion of our ancestors; and, whilst other religions have changed and multiplied, fallen and decayed, ours has remained pure and unsullied, unimpaired by the withering hand of time, and in this blessed land of freedom and religious toleration, we enjoy equal rights, and equal privileges as citizens; as such, then, let us do our duty to our God and to our country, a prominent feature in which is, to bestow on our children the light, the blessings of education, to lead their minds “from nature up to nature’s God.”
Knowledge is all-powerful, and when combined with virtue, will prove the safeguard of a nation.
On you, parents, much depends; an important trust is yours. On you depends whether your child shall be a blessing or a curse, a useful or useless member to the community. The mind of a child should be prepared early with instruction, and tempered with the maxims of wisdom; the bent of its inclinations should be carefully watched and placed right in youth, so that no evil habit gain strength with years.
Training up children in the way they should be guided through life, does not consist altogether in pointing out and directing the way, but also, and in fact, chiefly, in accustoming them to walk therein. As the tree grows up straight, or crooked and shapeless, according to the direction given it when a plant, so in a great measure is it with animal nature. Of these truths we are fully, perfectly sensible, because experience teaches and proves to us, that if the faults of children are permitted to grow up with them, they will become firmly, indelibly fixed. How much care and attention then should be paid to the fostering and rearing of the human offspring; not that we are sparing of pains and expense for the purpose of imbuing the young mind with the rudiments of learning, but having done this, we often unscrupulously leave undone a still more important part, namely, the care to settle those habits, without which, the mere possessing of learning can turn to no good account.
You cannot expect that children, accustomed to do evil, will, in afterlife, learn to do well; you might as well look for the growth of a fair and beauteous flower in the spot where you have planted only the seed of a common and worthless weed; for the generality of human beings are throughout life such, or nearly such, as early custom has formed and fashioned them; and that which early habit forms, becomes cemented and riveted into second nature. Pause, consider then, ye who are parents of young children! it is not, nay cannot, be your desire that they should be idle men and women; then rear them not up in idleness; you do not wish to render them destitute of the power or means to assist themselves, compel them, then, to rely on their own exertions; you do not admire a violent or revengeful spirit, then allow not their little tongues to lisp out rage and violence; you would not rear them up to dishonesty, then laugh not at their shrewd and cunning tricks, their artful falsehoods and equivocations, and when you check or reprove them, let them see that you are more displeased with their wit and artifice, than pleased at the inceptive mark of their depravity. The soil is your own, let it not want proper cultivation; teach your child obedience; and he will bless you for it; teach him gratitude, justice, diligence, temperance, so that his life may be happy and useful here, and teach him religion that he may be happy hereafter.
The attainment of virtue is the highest learning, and the path or road to happiness should be the aim of life. The noblest employment of the works of man, is the study of the works of his Creator; in the contemplation of nature, all things prove the infinite goodness of God, and every thing that proves his goodness, causes our adoration. When we raise our eyes above, are we not filled with the majesty of God? does not the sun, shedding light and heat, vivifying all creation, but remaining still; the moon lavishly throwing her silvery light o’er the face of nature; the planets performing their courses; the comets wandering through liquid air, but returning to their destined road again, cause us to know and feel that nought but infinite Wisdom, could have appointed unto them their places? and when we look down upon the earth, do we not see Power and Mercy there displayed in the provision made for all its creatures? do we not there trace our Creator’s greatness? In all things, justice and goodness shine forth, imbuing us with wonder, love, adoration, and gratitude towards our Father, the Creator, the Giver of all good.
Piety to God, and benevolence to our fellow-creatures, then, are our great duties; and do we not now behold woman, lovely woman, the best, the fairest boon of Heaven, engaged in this hallowed task? to her, are we indebted for the origin of this institution for the religious instruction of the youthful mind. Female excellence has been acknowledged in all ages, in all climes, and what Cato observed of his countrywomen, is in one respect true of every nation under the sun: “The Romans,” said he, “govern the world, but it is the women that govern the Romans.” The most attractive grace of the female character, is a beneficent disposition, guided by moral principles, which has ever contributed to the happiness of mankind; her sphere of action, though apparently limited, has a wide, extended range; as mother, wife, and friend, her power is equally felt; by her the infant tongue is first taught to lisp its Maker’s name; it is through her proper direction that good is early instilled into the mind of man; to her the formation of his first ideas is owing; yes, “to her is committed the immortal treasure of the infant mind;” to her right guidance and culture in childhood, man owes all, all through life; she is also the soother of his cares, in after-life, the partner of his joy; in adversity, she is the ministering angel, and cheers the drooping heart of man; when on the couch of sickness, the smile of a wife alleviates all pain and anguish; the sound of her voice is music to the soul; on her bosom you can pour out in safety and confidence the pangs of disappointment; she sympathizes with you in the midst of your misfortunes and distresses, and rejoices with you in the day of prosperity; when all the world have thrown you off, you have an asylum left you in her embraces. Thou art to man his solace, his guide, the cheerer of each anguish of the heart; to life thou givest its charms, its zest; thy power is like the pale moonbeam that renders more interesting every beauty it softens, and gives mild grandeur to the whole horizon.
To you, respected directress, and teachers of this institution, much praise is due; we have this day witnessed proofs of your zeal and efforts; you now yourselves behold the pleasing fruits of your own exertions; what a feeling of conscious happiness mast dwell within your hearts in consequence thereof, and bid you continue on in your good work! You do not desire that the present generation should be bound in ignorance, as the mass of mankind were in times past. I do not wish to be understood to say that there were of halls of learning, no temples of art, no forums of eloquence; there were all these, knowledge reached its highest point; but it was among the few, the masses were kept in ignorance in order that they might be more easily controlled; ignorance threw her dark and gloomy mantle over the classic climes of Greece and Rome, which were once the most powerful, the mightiest lands of knowledge; and why the cause of this sudden overthrow, need I ask you? as long as intelligence and virtue reigned or distinguished the leading clauses of society, so long did they sustain their true nobleness of character, their free and exalted institutions; but, alas! they permitted immorality, vice in its most hideous forms, luxury, pride, and extravagance, to gain access; and from that moment, the last hope of freedom, knowledge, and religion expired, their splendour and brightness had for ever departed, and the enemy conquered. Let me implore you, them, to persevere on; allow no obstacles to impede, no difficulties to obstruct your progress; in the name of heaven let your watchword be “onward;” do by those under your care, as justice to yourselves, justice to them, justice to your own religion, and justice to your God demands, and they will yet have reason to give you thanks; yes! posterity will bless you; you will reap your reward not only here, but hereafter; they will yet sing your praise in strains of gratitude and love. With all my heart, I fervently utter, “God speed you in your good and holy work for Israel his chosen people.”
Now, to you, my young friends, I will address a few admonitions. Ever bear in mind, that for your good and happiness this institution was established; it is intended solely for your benefit, to instruct you in a knowledge of your religion, the duties you owe to your God, a strict performance of which will tend to make you good and happy. Respect and obedience to your teachers, and attention to your lessons are your chief duties; to little effect would moral instruction be conveyed to you, if you did not listen to, nor observe the precepts taught you; pay respectful attention then, and act with docility and obedience to your preceptors; for illy would you repay the gratitude you owe them for the care and pains they bestow on you, by acting with disrespect to their commands and disobedience to their wishes. Should you at any time receive reproof, though at the time you may think yourselves aggrieved, remember, when you are more capable of judging from what motive and for what purpose this reproof was given, you will be affected by very different emotions, and be most thankful for it. Attention to your lessons is very necessary, and of great importance; without this, the most useful instruction will have but little effect on your minds; you must not only learn your lessons to repeat them, but must endeavour to understand them at the same time, so that you will retain them in your memory, that they may prove a benefit to you afterwards; the impression made on the mind will be soon effaced unless you reflect on what you have been taught; and though some things at first may seem difficult to understand, by making them frequently the subjects of your thoughts they will be clearly comprehended; without application no proficiency can be made in any course of study or learning, and when you are employed on serious subjects, on the knowledge of your Creator and the duties you owe to Him, let not your thoughts be diverted, nor stray away from the object of your pursuit, but pay strict attention thereto; to this injunction you will attend and conform, if you desire or have an inclination to be improved, and to be loved by your Father in heaven, your parents, teachers, and friends on earth.
It is by a proper knowledge of the goodness and greatness of the Divine Governor of the universe, from whose munificence all good flows, that the dignity of human nature is raised; without this, we would be no better than the untutored savage. There can be no greater disgrace to a rational being than to be ignorant of His divine precepts, the moral obligations He has imposed on us. Embrace, then, actively, my young friends, the present opportunity afforded you for moral and religious instruction—for the inculcation of those principles which will prove of the utmost benefit to you, and which will hold their protecting influence over you through life. Need I then say to you, my young friends, in the words of Solomon, “Take fast hold of instruction—let her not go—keep her—for she is thy life?”
You cannot prove the sincerity of your gratitude towards your parents and teachers more forcibly than by proper attention to your lessons, and, being convinced how much pleasure they feel on seeing your improvement, I trust you will ever afford them this pleasing, happy gratification.
And now, let me entreat, nay, earnestly implore you, parents, as you love the land of your birth and its government—as you estimate the intellectual, moral, and religious interests of society, to promote by every laudable means in your power, the diffusion of knowledge—to cherish and sustain this institution; it is by this means that another link may be added to the already endless chain of Israel, which will last till Time itself shall be no more.
And here allow me to express the fond hope, that the day will come, and that at no very distant period, when this building will resound with the voices of Israel, raised in prayer each Sabbath day to the Lord of Hosts; and that that holy day, the Sabbath, given unto us as a day of rest and cessation from all toil, labour, and manner of work, may be observed as such by the members of this congregation, thereby not only teaching our children by precept, the commandments of the Lord our God, but by example also showing unto them to practise them.
“Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy; six days shalt thou labour and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it, thou shall not do any work; thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.”
Now, of what avail is it to teach this fourth commandment of the Lord to our children, when by practice we openly violate this divine precept weekly? and when the dawning minds and ripening intellects of our children begin to distinguish right from wrong, will they not clearly perceive the futility of our teaching them that which we so openly disregard ourselves, and will they not, like us, fall into the habit of doing evil, and neglecting the commandment of the Lord our God, “to remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy?” The good work has been happily commended amongst us by closing places of business on this holy day; and to Almighty God let us trust this good example will be followed, and that we will not be tardy for the sake of the rising generation in returning to the commandments of our Lord, the God of Israel. In conclusion, allow me to repeat an appropriate prayer selected for the occasion. (Here a prayer followed, Vol. II. No. 12 of the Occident, prayer No. 3, for the use of Hebrew Sunday Schools.)