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Consecration of the New Netherdutch Synagogue

To the Editor of the Occident

New York, June 6, 5607.

This event took place on Thursday the 20th of May, at 4 o’clock, P.M. The object of the founders of the Congregation was to have a Synagogue where they can worship according to the Amsterdam Minhag. They number about sixty members. The service was performed by the Rev. S. E. C. Noot, the Hazan of the congregation, assisted by several young men. It embraced principally the Psalms generally read on similar occasions. The reverend gentleman acquitted himself in a most creditable manner. His voice is exceedingly harmonious, and his manner of reading exquisitely correct and impressive, and we feel no hesitation in stating that every one present felt highly delighted with the manner he performed the service. Too much praise cannot be awarded to L. Gosling, Esq. President, and Abm. Leon, Esq. Vice President, of the congregation, for their unremitting exertions to carry this holy design into execution. At the conclusion of the service, Mr. Henry Goldsmith, in accordance with a request made of him, delivered an address in the English language, and as he has favoured us with a copy of it, we believe that the following extract will not prove unacceptable to your readers.

After craving the indulgence of his hearers for his want of experience, (this being the first time that Mr. G. ever addressed a public assembly,) he took his text from the 127th Psalm, אם ה' לא יבנה  בית שוא עמלו בוניו בו “If the Lord will not build the house, vain are the labours of its builders.” In order to arrive at a proper elucidation of the text, it is necessary to bear in mind that true and famous adage of our Rabbins,דברי תורה בלשון בני אדם “The language of Scripture is made suitable to the understanding of man.” We all know that God does not build a house, we believe Him to be an incorporeal being, therefore no corporeal qualities can be attributed to Him. What then means the Psalmist when he says אם ה' לא יבנה בית? His meaning is, my friends, if the house you are building is not acceptable to Him, in vain are all your labours expended, fruitless and bootless are all your gorgeous ornaments, והיא לא תצלח for it will not and cannot prosper. The question not naturally occurs, how then can we insure his acceptance? What can we do to make our humble efforts prosper? By what means can we succeed in our undertaking? By doing everything לשם שמים for the love of God and for Him alone. רחמנא לבא בעי Our merciful Father requires a pure heart. He looks at our aims and intentions. If you are prompted by an honest and sincere desire to have a shrine where to worship God with all your heart, and with all your soul, a place where you come to pour out your heart in spontaneous thanksgiving for the kindness He daily bestows on you, and where you pray to Him for a continuance of his Divine favours: אז טוב לכם then it will be well with you; but mark me, if it be the love of worldly and vain-glorious honours you are pursuing, know thatכל הרודף אחר הכבוד הכבוד בורח He that pursues honour, honour flees from him, and you will not succeed. If you erect this temple in spite of any individual, or to vent your spleen on any particular class of individuals: then know also that כל מחלוקת שאינה לשם שמים אינה סופה להתקיים “All divisions and contentions, prompted by an unholy cause, will never be realized.” Nay, I will even go farther. If your object be to make invidious distinctions between clime or country, to exclude any one because he happens to have been born in some particular latitude: then indeed שוא עמלו בוניו בו. Vain and futile are the labours of its builders. My brethren, I perhaps, speak harshly, but feelingly. I have, unfortunately, seen too many of the evils against which I now caution you. I wish that you, like a prudent mariner, may steer clear of the shoals and quicksands where larger vessels were stranded, so that you, with your light and fragile bark, may arrive in safety in the haven of eternal bliss. I never could tolerate a difference between one Jew and another כלנו בני איש אחד נחנו “We are all the sons of one man.” We are all the sons of Abraham.בנים אנחנו. “We are all true men.” We are all true to the living God of Israel. We are all true to the sacred covenant He made with us amidst the thunders of Sinai. The Psalmist tells us טוב ה' לכל ורחמיו על כל מעשיו God is good to all, His mercy is extended to all his works; קרוב ה' לכל קראיו לכל אשר יקראוהו באמת The Lord is near to all that call on Him—to all that call unto Him in truth. Let us learn wisdom and tolerance from the wisest of men. When King Solomon consecrated the holy temple, after offering up his prayers for his own people, he continues:

וגם אל הנכרי אשר לא מעמך ישראל הוא. ובא מארץ רחוקה למען שמך כי ישמעון את שמך הגדול ואת ידך החזקה וזרעך הנטוי' ובא והתפלל אל הבית הזה אתה תשמע השמים מכון שבתך ועשית ככל אשר יקרא אליך הנכרי:

“Even unto the stranger who is not of thy people Israel, who comes from a distant country for the sake of thy name, (for they shall hear of thy great name, thy mighty and thy outstretched arm,) and he (that stranger) shall come and pray in this house, thou shalt hearken unto him in the heaven thy dwelling-place, and thou shalt do according as this stranger shall call unto thee.” Follow this illustrious example, and Heaven will smile on your holy endeavours. Our Rabbins tell us,הבא לטהר מסייעין לו “He that comes to purify himself, it is our duty to assist him,” but never exclude any person from participating in the worship of the true God.

Mr. Goldsmith then passed some well-deserved compliments on the projectors and originators of this congregation; he expressed his utmost confidence in their liberality and tolerance. Knowing they were enlightened men, he felt assured they would mete out equal justice to all. He thus continued: “Besides the evils I have already pointed out to you, there is another equally pernicious to the welfare of your congregation, which, if you do not avoid, will prove the greatest stumbling block to your prosperity. That evil is intestine quarrels. Fortune never smiles where peace does not preside. One of our sages tells us, על שלשה דברים העולם עומד: על הדין ועל האמת ועל השלום “The existence of this world depends upon three things, namely, Justice, Truth, and Peace.” They are indissolubly connected: one is dependent upon the other. Where there is no truth, there is no justice; where there is no justice, there can be no peace. I therefore entreat you, my brethren, let truth be your watchword, let justice be inscribed on your banner, and peace will pervade this sanctuary. In was when our forefather Jacob freed himself from the strife and contention which he had with his brother Esau, when he alighted at Luz slept upon a pillow of stone, dreamed a dream, and what a dream!—it was when his mind was perfectly at ease, when no feeling of envy or hatred filled his breast, it was then that he exclaimed,אין זה כי אם בית אלהים וזה שער השמים “This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of Heaven.” Where was the house of God? In his own pure heart. Where was the gate of Heaven? In his own undefiled conscience. My brethren and countrymen, let perpetual peace and brotherly feelings reign amongst you, so that every one may exclaim in entering your Synagogue, “Surely this is the house of God, and this is the gate of Heaven.”

Mr. Goldsmith then appealed to the audience to assist this holy undertaking with all the means in their power. In the course of his remarks he said that this was one of those acts of benevolenceשאדם אוכל פירותיהם בעולם הזה והקרן קימת לעולם הבא of which a man receives the interest in this world, while the principal remains for the world to come. He concluded with the following prayer.

ועתה ה' אלהי ישראל השקיפה ממעון רדשך מן השמים וברך את עמך בני ישראל ואת הקהל הקדש הזה ואת הבית אשר בנו לשמך בצר להם הקשיבה לקולם אם חטאו לך כפר עונותם ובהתחננם אליך שמע את תפלתם:

We need not add that Mr. Goldsmith acquitted himself to the satisfaction of all present. He spoke wholesome truths, which came home to the hearts of everybody. The evils he pointed out have hitherto been very prevalent in this city, and have proved the bane of many a congregation; and we earnestly hope that the above extracts will have the effect of at least partially eradicating those evils from the hearts of many of your readers.

Yours, respectfully,

E. D. Y.