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The “Third Assembly of Rabbies.”


The third Rabbinical Assembly was held in Breslau, from the 13th to the 24th of July, and was attended by twenty-six German rabbies. No complete list of those present has been published, but we find the following mentioned in the Report of the proceedings:

Gosen, Marburg Herxheimer, Bernburg
Stein, Frankfurt-on-the-Maine Hess, Weimar
S. Adler, Alzey Jolowicz, Koslin
A. Adler, Worms Pick, Töplitz
Wechsler, Oldenburg Salomon, Hamburgh
Einhorn, Birkenfeld Wagner, Mannheim
Geiger, Breslau Ben-Israel, Coblenz
Auerbach, Frankfurt-on-the-Maine Güldenstein, Buchau
Levi, Breslau Goldstein
Herzfeld, Brunswick Levi, Münsterburg
Philippson, Magdeburg Formstecher, Offenbach
Holdheim, Mechlenburg-Schwerin Sobernheim, Bingen
Kahn, Treves  

The Assembly having been formally opened, in the usual way, Dr. Geiger was elected President; Dr. Stein, Vice-President; Rabbi A. Adler and Dr. Auerbach were appointed Secretaries; Drs. Levi and Herzfeld, Vice-Secretaries.

The first important question which was brought under discussion, was that of the proper observance of the Sabbath. In introducing it, the President expressed a desire that extreme opinions should be avoided, in order that, as far as possible, unanimity might be obtained in the decisions of the Assembly. After a discussion of five days, the following decisions were come to on the Sabbath question, viz., the Assembly declared:

  1. (Unanimously.) It is one of the most sacred duties of the Jewish teacher, as well as of each individual Israelite, to promote the restoration of a worthy observance of the Sabbath, as a day of sacred rest. It is therefore necessary to insist upon the sacredness of the Sabbath, and to show the importance of increased attention to public worship, and the domestic observance of that day.
  2. The celebration of Divine worship in a manner worthy of the Sabbath, is of such pre-eminent importance, that no labour undertaken for its promotion, although otherwise unlawful, can be prohibited; every action, therefore, is permitted, which is connected with the performance of public worship in a proper manner, or which renders it possible for an individual to take part in public worship for his edification.
  3. If a cessation of labour should endanger existence, it is permitted to continue the same on the Sabbath by means of Gentiles.
  4. (Unanimous.) No religious duty is violated by procuring or rendering assistance, in especial cases, where temporal welfare, property, or the means of existence is in imminent danger.
  5. (Unanimous.) Wherever life is in danger, whether one’s own or that of others, that of an Israelite or of a Gentile, it is not only permitted but commanded to use, even on the Sabbath, every possible means for prevention or rescue.
  6. The excessive severity of the existing laws relative to the observance of the Sabbath is injurious, and ought to be mitigated as much as possible. The Assembly, therefore, declares that those very strict prohibitions, which require a state of complete inactivity on the Sabbath, are carried too far, and are, not binding.
  7. Those definitions which have been adopted by former teachers, with a view to modification, but in a form which gives them the appearance of evasion, such as ערובי חצרות and ערובי תחומין are inadmissible, and moreover superfluous, as regards short journeys, which are not for purposes of business.

  8. Mental exertion does not violate the Sabbath.
  9. (Unanimous.) To promote the welfare of the State is such an imperative duty, that if a collision of duties takes place, the observance of the Sabbath must give way. The soldier is, therefore, exempted from the observance of the Sabbath, if discipline requires it. The public functionary must likewise perform his official duties; if it becomes necessary, on the Sabbath, provided that he endeavour to maintain the observance of the day of rest in his domestic circle.

Dr. Philippson declined to vote on the above questions, except the two first, the fifth, and the eighth, unless the Assembly adopted a declaration to the effect that “the rest of the Sabbath consists in abstaining from every professional and laborious occupation;” and that “in individual cases it must be left to every man’s conscience to consider whether any given action be such or no.” He contended that, unless the Assembly adopted this as a fundamental rule, they were not entitled to lay down the above regulations. His proposition was, however, rejected by a majority of seventeen to nine.

The sixth day of meeting was a private sitting, during which questions relating to circumcision were discussed, and regulations adopted with a view to preventing the possibility of danger of life from this rite.

The eighth, ninth, tenth, and eleventh sittings were chiefly occupied with discussions on questions relative to the importance and the proper observance of the second festival days, and the ancient customs of mourning, which latter were partly repudiated, partly modified.

The Assembly then terminated, and it was agreed, that the meeting next year take place at Mannheim.

The Berlin Reform Association sent this year another address to the Assembly, but at the same time declared itself independent of the latter, and recommended that each of the two bodies should pursue its own course without interfering with the other. The Assembly decided upon sending no reply to this address.

The following remarks are taken from the Breslauer Zeitung:

“The different tendencies of the Assembly, with reference to the question of the celebration of the Sabbath, may be defined as follows: There were, in the first place, the orthodox reformers, adherents of the Talmud, who would not conform the Sabbath to man, but man to the Sabbath; but who still wished to mitigate the contrast between both, as they daily come more and more into collision. The old Rabbi Gosen and Dr. Herxheimer were the principal representatives of this party. The only remedy, however, which they proposed was, that Jews should employ Gentiles to perform those offices which the Jewish law prohibits on the Sabbath-day. Dr. Geiger remarked on this that only the opulent world be served thereby, but that the poor, who must work with their own hands, would be placed in the same difficulty as before and it was his wish to see the Jews more and more employed in agricultural and manual occupations.

Another party took the Bible for the basis of their arguments, believing the Pentateuch to be a Divine book given by God unto Moses, before which reason must retire with reverence, as Stein expresses himself. Those who joined him in this view were S. Adler, Philippson, and Pick. They contended that the laws relating to the Sabbath have been clearly laid down in the Bible, all labour being repeatedly prohibited; and how, they asked, can the Word of God be shaken? They declared themselves decidedly against transferring the Sabbath from the Saturday to the Sunday,—which was boldly proposed by Holdheim.

“The latter, together with Hess and Adler, professed to hold fast only the spirit of the Bible; to attach importance to the injunctions relative to the Sabbath, only in so far as they can have any signification when applied to our times. They were indifferent to the day of the Sabbath, whether Saturday or Sunday, as they considered it only the centre of the ideas connected with the day of rest.

“Herzfeld, Wechsler, Einhorn, and Salomon, took a line between the two last-named parties.”—Jewish Intelligence.