|Vol. IV, No. 8
Heshvan 5607, November 1846
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:
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:
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.