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The Promised Land

The Promised Land.
Oh! in the lightning let thy glance appear!
Sweep from his shivered hand the oppressor’s spear:
How long by tyrants shall thy land be trod!
How long thy temple worshipless, Oh God!
BYRON: Hebrew Melodies.

For near two thousand years we have been sojourners and wanderers in lands winch know not our sway, whilst often we were persecuted, seldom protected, frequently tortured with all the horrid instruments which base persecution has invented to nick the bones and to tear asunder the sinews of our mortal frame, in order to drive out from our hearts the belief in the power and the mercy of Israel’s God. Yet we have clung to our faith and have escaped the destruction, like a brand snatched from the burning.

By opposing with meekness, or as it has been styled by our enemies, stubbornness, we have defied the edicts of the Roman emperors and the kings of France, the ukases of the Russian autocrats, and the bulls of the Popes.

How truly does the Bible say, “The battle is not to the strong, nor the race to the swift;” for of those who opposed us, where are they? The Roman empire was overrun by the northern invader, was soon divided into small states and governed by petty despots; the Pope is now an exile, living upon the charity of his <<22>> followers; the last of a long line of French kings expiated the crimes of his fathers on the scaffold; and the Israelite is a favoured citizen in “la belle France”—now a republic. The Queens of Portugal and Spain are bigoted dependents, while their wretched subjects, once so obedient, abhor in their hearts their degraded sovereigns. This shall ever the doom of those who persecute Israel. The past, though never to be forgotten, we forgive, but in the future let the guilty suffer.

At the hands of our opponents we have met death, tortures, imprisonment and exile, with a firm step and calm and manly front, few have flinched in the trial, and fewer yet have disowned their faith.

Brethren! The time is perhaps not far distant when we shall once more hear the harp and the timbrel in our ancestral halls, when we shall be judged and governed by those of our own persuasion, when stately temples, swelling anthems, and sincere hearts, shall attest our love for God’s holy law; and then shall we avenge the stripes under which we have so long suffered; then will our sacred armies march to distant lands to convert the gentile and the heathen, not by torture, but by holy example, and gentle arguments, to be believers in one God! one King! one Saviour! one Father! To all of you, fellow-Israelites, this will be given as a task and it is yours to see that it is done with truth and sincerity.

But before this lofty castle can be reared, we must rear our own hearts, purify our own thoughts, practise as well as preach the ordinances and the commandments, by constant attendance at the Synagogue, keeping holy the Sabbath, and last but not least, by forgetting all those petty differences, all those various distinctions, which have so long separated the various classes of Jews.

Within the last eighty years more has been done, thanks be to Providence, towards the accomplishment of the great work, than was expected or anticipated. First there was the American revolution, then followed in rapid succession, the French revolution, next several Jewish merchants became suddenly (and unaccountably as some would say) wealthy and were able to control the movements of many European states; the Jews were declared <<23>>citizens of France; certain Israelites made nobles of the French and Austrian empires; after a while came the Damascus persecution, followed by the generous and successful efforts of Sir Moses Montefiore to improve the condition of our people in the East; and lastly there came new revolutions in Europe, which shook monarchy to its base, and compelled the sovereigns of the various countries to declare the Jews citizens. Cannot every one see in all this “the finger of God?”

Let us then, indeed, try to be a nation of priests; let us one and all keep holy the Sabbath day; let us love and do good to one another that we may deserve the great mercy of the Lord; then will we enter Jerusalem, the city of our King; then will we again rebuild the temple; the sacrifices shall be renewed, the priests will once more officiate, the son of Judah shall be *our* king, and Israel his people. For this blessed consummation let us all pray, and by timely repentance atone for our sins; that the future may be one bright unclouded day of joy that the time may not be distant when Israel shall dwell securely in Zion; and there is surely not one among you who will not say, Amen, and hope for the speedy fulfilment of these glorious results.

S. C V. B. [Van Biel]
Feb. 6, 1850.