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The Necessity of Union

To the Editor of the Occident:—

An article appeared in the March number of the Occident with the above caption, signed “S. Newman.” After stating the necessity of the various congregations in the United States combining to promote more purity and zeal in the practice of our religion, he adverts to a visit to a “Kehillah* esteemed not many years ago one of the chief in the Union.” Mr. Newman then says that the late minister,† once orthodox, has changed to the opposite extreme. That according to his creed “The law was not given to Moses by God, but delivered to our fathers by Moses yet he admits its divinity by calling it the Divine Law in our possession.” Mr. N. then says that Mr. Poznanski “has advocated the abolition of all ceremonial laws, and from his silence on the abrogation of the Sabbath and circumcision it is feared that they are no longer obligatory on the house of Israel.”

* The writer alludes to the congregation of Beth Elohim of Charleston, S. C.

† The Rev. Mr. Poznanski.

Now, sir, as one of the congregation alluded to, I pronounce the above assertions a gross tissue of misrepresentations. They are a reflection on dignity and pride which Mr. N. should possess as a professor in one of our chief universities, and they are a departure from that sincerity and love of truth which he should practise as a man. If the Rev. Mr. P. had been allowed to preach such doctrines, and tolerated in doing so for twelve or fourteen years, by his congregation, then the latter must have possessed very little knowledge of the great truths of their religion, and none of that spirit and seal which elevate the character of all true believers.

But let us analyze a little closer these illiberal expressions. Mr. Newman says that the minister alluded to above asserts “That the law was not given to Moses by God, but delivered to our fathers by Moses,” yet he admits its divinity by calling it the “Divine Law.” Now because it is said that the law was <<90>>delivered to our fathers by Moses, Mr. N. chooses to infer a denial that the law was given to Moses by God. Although he admits it was called by our minister “the Divine Law.” Is not this torturing words to suit his own disingenuous feelings, and false assumptions? Is it not a syllogism of the worst kind? If the laws are admitted by our minister to be of divine origin, how can he be said to be in favour of the abrogation of the Sabbath and circumcision? This would amount to a denial of revelation, and consequently lead to infidelity. What an obnoxious stigma on an enlightened congregation is thus published to the world! They are branded as derelicts from all the sacred principles of their religion, because they were in favour of lopping off a few excrescences that marred the beauty and detracted from the dignity of their form of worship. It was left for Mr. Newman (who has been advocating moral doctrines all his lifetime) to give to the world such a specimen of his beautiful precepts, and all for the love of an old habit, we presume, because it was uncalled for and gratuitous.

In short, Mr. Editor, the Rev. Mr. Poznanski has never advocated doctrines that conflicted with cardinal principles. It is useless to enter into a lengthy discussion to establish the assertion. If unprejudiced men will take the trouble to analyze his views on doctrinal points, without torturing verbal definitions to suit their own views, they will find nothing but what is orthodox (in the true meaning of the word). Nor will they find anything but what is consistent with the rued zeal, and ardent advocacy of the religion of his forefathers.

The following short quotation from Mr. N. in the article alluded to above, comes in here quite admirably. “The exploded ideas which originated in the dark ages, and are falsely termed orthodoxy, are so many stumbling-blocks in the path of the Jewish minister. The least deviation from useless ceremonial observances which deaden the spirit of Synagogue worship, and tediously prolong the service, are magnified into dangerous innovations.”

The above contains the essence of all that the congregation of Beth Elohim ever contended for. They explain the course, and <<91>>trace the results likewise of all Mr. Poznanski has been labouring to establish.

I will now, Mr. Editor, make a few general remarks in connexion with the subject before us. We all admit that some reform is necessary to keep pace with the rapid march of improvement. It has become a necessity of the age, and will before long be recorded among its triumphs. Judging from your own remarks in your valuable journal, you are yourself infected with the spirit of reform,—of such reform, I mean, as will tend to develop the great truths and sublime moral beauties of our religion by proper expositions and explanations. When this is effected it will be a great era for our people, because national elevation will follow from national enlightenment.

The men who entertain such views are not to be charged with a desecration of their religion. And if leading individuals, influenced by love and liberality, and not by profession, under the cloak of zeal, were united, they could achieve trophies of which they would be proud. But, sir, religion has, in every age, suffered more from its professors than from its principles. If left to itself, ours will be found to have vital energy, and moral strength, and power enough to stand upon its own eternal foundations. But as no system is perfect, and no creed infallible, we always find a dangerous spirit of disputation engendered in the public mind. We are aware that reforms require searching investigation before they should be adopted. Yet they are but a reflection of the light of the age, and they should carry with them some deference and respect, as they stand without those binding virtues so necessary to give them durability.

But to conclude, sir, we still indulge the hope that, through reasonable reform, we shall see our form of worship adorned with all its pristine dignity, and its olden virtues still flourish and full of fruition. But even these, and its other great attributes, will remain without development if the light which is everywhere around us be not allowed to penetrate our temple.


Charleston, S. C.