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Israel's Union


THE sun, in his purple robe, had set in the endless west,
And night, clothed in sable garbs, had sent the earth to rest;
In silence was all nature wrapped, a starry sky above,
Which filled the heart with holy awe, devotion, faith, and love.
                      Even the nightingale was still;
                      Holiness did all nature fill.

Wrapped in deep and holy thoughts, I gazed up to the sky,
My breast was of emotion full, I sighed and knew not why;
When suddenly a solemn voice, so plaintive and so sweet,
Approaching me, I knew not whence, my list’ning ear did greet.
                      I looked around in the dark of night,
                      And oh, what vision met my sight!

Methought I saw a female form, descending in a cloud,
Her dress, her form, the East betrayed—she wore a mourning shroud:
Her countenance, of beauty rare, and majesty divine,
Had traces of misfortune’s seal stamped on every line.
                      Ah, ne'er shall I that face forget,
                      That tearful eye when mine it met.

A mournful silence now prevailed, my heart did loudly throb,
Her lustrous eyes were on me bent, as if my thoughts to probe;
At last she gently raised her voice, in accents thrilling, soft,
My son, she spoke, hast thou not heard that solemn voice aloft?
                      Behold, I’ve sent thee in my name,
                      To Jacob’s seed this to proclaim.

Oh, children, hear your mother's voice, ‘tis Zion's solemn call,
United, you will prosper e’er, divided, you must fall;
You do not live as brethren should, in unison and love,
You neither love, obey, or fear, that Parent from above,
                      Who with a father’s true delight,
                      Wished you, his children, to unite.

Too long, alas; you have slumbered, and dreaming lost your time,
You have carried God’s chastisement to every land and clime;
Awake then, now, and hear these words, which Zion does proclaim,
And write them down upon your hearts, with pens of fire and flame;
                      That Israel’s hearts they may combine,
                      And Jacob’s seed to God incline.

For lo! when God from Egypt’s land had led you safe and free,
And wonderfully you passed o’er the deep and roaring sea;
When manna He from heaven sent, and water from a rock,
And when the quails He did command around your camp to flock:
                      ‘Twas done only that e’er you might,
                      Like one heart in his love unite.

Why did He from the nations all, you as His own select,
That you for Him, in faith and love, a temple might erect?
Why did ‘midst thunder, smoke, and fire, from Sinai He proclaim,
I am the Lord, thy only God, Unity is my name?
                      Was it that you should lead a life
                      Of opposition, feud, and strife?

Why did through Jordan’s rushing stream He lead you safe and dry,
And break the walls of Jericho at your united cry?
Why did Canaan’s mighty kings He crush and overthrow,
And gave to you their land that did of milk and honey flow?
                      Was that not done to make you great,
                      United in a happy state?

Why did He give so small a land to you, of whom He swore,
That you as heaven’s stars shall be, as sand on the seashore?
Why did He, in His law command, that three times every year
Your males shall in His holy place before the Lord appear?
                      It was done not to scatter you,
                      But e’er to gather you anew.

Did He not make you prosperous, and fill you with renown,
When His pious servant David did wear Israel’s crown,
When Solomon He wisdom gave, a sanctuary to build,
Where His Shechina e’er might dwell, and be with glory filled?
                      Was it not the Lord's great delight,
                      That you should prosper and unite?

Alas! had you your Father’s voice obeyed, and not transgressed,
Ne’er should I have desolate been, but happy, loved, and blessed;
And you, my children, would have lived united by God’s hand,
A priestly nation to your God, and never lost your land.
                      Nor ever felt the gentiles’ scorn,
                      Nor been dispersed and nigh forlorn.

Yet, though my wounds are painful still, my heart crushed and sore
And eighteen centuries have passed since I such misery bore,
My trust, my hope, my faith in God, is still as firm as e’er,
He'll surely receive you again, if you His law revere:
                      And Him alone seek as your Lord,
                      Him worship and obey His word.

But t’accomplish this you must with heart and soul unite,
And cast off strife and jealousy, when God’s commands invite;
Remember, too, that God to you a sacred mission gave,
To teach the gentiles all that faith in Him alone can save.—
                      No mediator they require,
                      If they the love of God desire.

And since the Lord revealed to you, by prophets’ mouth and pen.
That you shall at a certain time, (although He said not when,)
From every corner of the globe, be gathered to your land,
United there, in faith and love, obey the Lord's command;
                      And that the gentiles shall agree,
                      That you to them a blessing be:

Then; oh children, you can contrive by your UNITED will,
That God, in Mercy, hasten may his promise to fulfill:
It is a sacred duty which you now to Zion owe,
For the sufferings which she bore, the mis’ry, and the wo.
                      And now, farewell! but know and mind,
                      In union you’ll salvation find.

It ceased, that voice, and I awoke, the vision disappeared;
That rev’ry I shall ne’er forget, the voice that I then heard;
Sadness filled my heart, and wo, when I began to think,
That Judaism is like a ship that cannot float or sink;
                      For ev’ry Jew himself deems wise,
                      Therefore, no leader can arise.

Oh! religion of my fathers, thy pristine beauty’s lost,
Since Jews begin to vote for laws, which thee so much have cost,—
For which thy children sacrificed, their wealth, their homes, their all,
Nay, willingly as martyrs bled, sooner than see thee fall.
                      Where are our shepherds! where our guides?
                      What is it that our ranks divides?

Our ministers are powerless, are nought but serving men,
Our religious schools a mock’ry, synagogues forsaken;
And all those laws, and wise commands, preserved with so much care
By our sage and pious fathers, are practised now so rare.
                      Why, in this land that free us made,
                      Does Israel thus retrograde?

Because Jeshurun has grown fat, therefore we speculate,
Freedom has refined our taste, taught us to violate.
No unison ‘mongst us is found, as in those days of yore,
When oppression made us pious, united us the more.
                      Some are reformed, and wisdom boast,
                      Some orthodox, indifferent most.

Oh Zion! my heart weeps for thee, and grieving do I pause,
For I fear thou hopest in vain for union in thy cause;
So long as religious points decided are by vote,
And those that our God’s law neglect to leaders we promote,—
                      No union will bless Jacob’s seed,
                      For all love power, all wish to lead!

But, oh! Almighty God, I pray, have mercy and forgive
The trespasses of Thy own flock, teach them in Thee to live,
Open Thou their eyes and heart, that they see and understand,
That, if divided, they must fall, united they will stand.
                      Make Israel one heart and mind,
                      That Zion may soon comfort find!

J. R.