Page:Guideforperplexed.djvu/410

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full, etc., and thine heart be lifted up and thou forget the Lord" (ibid. viii. 12-14); "And Jeshurun waxed fat and kicked" (ibid. xxx. 15). On account of this fear the Law commanded us to read each year a certain portion before the Lord and His glory, when we offer the first-fruit. You know how much the Law insists that we shall always remember the plagues that have befallen the Egyptians; comp. "That thou mayest remember the day when thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt all the days of thy life" (ibid. xvi. 3); "That thou mayest tell in the ears of thy son what things I have wrought in Egypt" (Exod. x. 2). Such a law was necessary in order to perpetuate the memory of the departure from Egypt; because such events verify prophecy and the doctrine of reward and punishment. The benefit of every commandment that serves to keep certain miracles in remembrance, or to perpetuate true faith, is therefore obvious.

In reference to the law concerning the first-born of man and cattle it Is distinctly said, "And it came to pass, when Pharaoh would hardly let us go, that the Lord slew all the first-born in the land of Egypt, etc., therefore I sacrifice to the Lord," etc. (Exod. xiii. 15). But it can easily be explained why only cattle, sheep, and asses are mentioned in this law; these are kept as domestic animals, and are found in most places, especially in Palestine, where the Israelites were shepherds, they, their fathers, and forefathers; comp. "Thy servants are shepherds, both we and also our fathers" (Gen. xlvii. 3). Horses and camels, however, are not wanted by shepherds, and are not found in all places; thus in the booty of Midian (Num. xxxi.) no other animals are mentioned but oxen, sheep, and asses. But asses alone are indispensable to all people, especially to those who are engaged in the field or in the forest. Thus Jacob says, "I have oxen and asses" (Gen. xxxii. 5). Camels and horses are not possessed by many people, but only by a few, and are only found in a few places. The law that the first-born of an ass was to have its neck broken [in case it is not redeemed], will only ensure the redemption of the ass. It has, therefore, been said that the act of redeeming the ass is to be preferred to that of breaking its neck.

As to the precepts enumerated in the laws concerning the year of release and the jubilee (Hilkot shemittah ve-yohel) some of them imply sympathy with our fellow-men, and promote the well-being of mankind; for in reference to these Precepts it is stated in the Law, "That the poor of thy people may eat" (Exod. xxiii. 11); and besides, the land will also increase its produce and improve when it remains fallow for some time. Other precepts of this class prescribe kindness to servants and to the poor, by renouncing an claims to debts [in the year of release] and relieving the slaves of their bondage [in the seventh year]. There are some precepts in this class that serve to secure for the people a permanent source of maintenance and support by providing that the land should remain the permanent property of its owners, and that it could not be sold." And the land shall not be sold for ever" (Lev. xxv. 23). In this way the property of a person remains intact for him and his heirs, and he can only enjoy the produce thereof. I have thus explained the reason of all precepts contained in our work in the Section Zera‘im, with the exception of the laws concerning the intermixture of different species of beasts the reason of which will be given (chap. xlix.).

In the same manner we find that all the precepts comprised in "the laws on