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The Israelite


To the ignorant or to the careless observer, the Jewish faith, clogged as it is said to be with vain formalities or useless observances, appears like some ancient fane, which, abandoned by its presiding deity, and seared by the lightning’s blast, or tottering under the continuous strokes of time, shows what it has been, but is useless now as a means for attaining that end for which it was designed.

But how different is the aspect it presents to the eye of purity and truth.

Building his faith upon a just conception of the attributes of <<452>>the Deity; conscious of his omnipresence, and guided by the injunction, “be ye holy:” to the Israelite, each ceremony becomes a means of sanctification, and in each observance his being becomes more and more spiritualized.

He enters his dwelling; the Mezzuza on the door-posts speaks with its ancient and hallowed voice: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might; and thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself!” He joins his family, and his heart expands and becomes renovated by the pure draughts from the well-springs of human affection and heavenly love. He rises from the table and blesses that God whose bounty provides more than his wants require; and rejoices that from his over-abundance, the widow may be made to laugh and the orphan shout for joy. He retires at night; his last thoughts are given to his Guide and Creator; and when he rises at morn, his first act is that of thanksgiving and praise. And as the viewless hours are lost in the sea of eternity, they bear upon their wings the continuous communion with an omnipresent Creator, whose delight it is to dwell with the lovers of peace, within the abodes of content.

Though ages have passed since the day of his captivity, his spirits droop not, neither doth his heart falter. Strong in faith, where he cannot penetrate into the inscrutable ways of the Most High, he gives to them a pure and childlike trust; for he knows that he is but as the child in knowledge.  He does not say, The redemption from Egypt concerns me not, and what to me are your Feast of Weeks or your Feast of Tabernacles?—because he is proud of his birthright, and acknowledges with delight that when the Lord redeemed his ancestors from a bodily and spiritual thraldom, even he, a child of a time far to come, was not forgotten gotten by the Omniscient. And though he mourns that the spoiler gathers in the increase of his fields, and that for the stranger now ripen the fruits of Judea, yet he will not acknowledge that his patrimony is lost; but in keeping the joyous and time-hallowed feasts of his race, publicly and solemnly proclaims, at each fleeting season, his inalienable .right to the land of his fathers, and his firm hopes in its restoration.

He does not say, This ordinance was meant for Judea, and this for the land of the stranger; because he knows that the destiny <<453>>of Israel was delineated before the all-seeing eye of the Omnipotent, when the law was given at Sinai; and if Israel could have been rendered a holy and a separate nation in a stranger land, without observing the same regulations as were required in their own, the law would have expressed: “Thus shall ye do in your own country,—these things shall ye observe in your dispersions.”

“I have been young, and now I am old, yet never have I seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread,”—he feels to be the words of wisdom and experience. And though he cannot leave to his offspring riches or worldly grandeur, his whole endeavour is by precept and example to bestow upon them the riches of contentment, and adorn them with the gems of purity and truth; so that when his soul takes its flight towards the regions beyond the tomb, they may cast their eyes to heaven, and find there a Friend whose love is deeper than that of a mother for her first-born,—whose friendship is more potent than that of the mighty ones of earth.

His eye penetrates the regions of futurity, and he beholds his wreath full of living gems—souls that ne’er denied their God by word or deed—and not one of all his bright and happy household missing. Although dangers surround him, and though the furious waves of storm and strife threaten his destruction: he can lay himself down and sleep with the calm sleep of the infant; for he knows that even then his God surrounds him with his shielding arms, and he fears no evil, “though he should walk through the valley of the shadow of death.”

He does not feel his religion to be a weight or obstruction to him, but rejoices when the periods arrive that are devoted to the communion of heavenly thoughts; and he hastens to the sanctuary with eager steps and a delighted heart; and though he may meet the scoffer standing by the wayside, he views his derisions with pity, and allows him not to turn his thoughts from the contemplation of the ways of righteousness:

Station and power he despises, except as the means of rendering mankind more happy; riches and honours he pays no reverence to, unless he finds them removing the burdens from the oppressed and the broken-hearted. He asks not of himself, How shall I do good? but, What good have I done this day? and medi<<454>>tates when the day is past how he shall increase his usefulness on the morrow. And when the evening of his life draws nigh, he lays himself calmly down to rest, in the sure hope of awakening in the visible presence of his God and Father.

S. Solis.