Page:Guideforperplexed.djvu/404

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and other superstitions mentioned in the Nabatean Agriculture, are fully described by the Sabeans. They likewise imagine that they know certain acts by which they can prevent the dropping of leaves from the trees and the untimely falling of their fruit. On account of these ideas, which were general in those days, the Law declares in "the words of the covenant" as follows: The same idolatry and superstitious performances which, in your belief, keep certain misfortunes far from you, will cause those very misfortunes to befall you. "I will also send wild beasts among you" (Lev. xxvi. 22), "I will also send the teeth of wild beasts upon them, with the poison of those that creep in dust" (Deut. xxxii. 24)." The fruit of thy land, and all thy labours, shall a nation, which thou knowest not, eat up" (ibid. xxviii. 33). "Thou shalt plant vineyards and dress them, but shalt neither drink of the wine nor gather the grapes, etc. Thou shalt have olive trees throughout all thy coasts, but thou shalt not anoint thyself with the oil" (Deut. xxviii. 39, 40). In short, in spite of the schemes of idolaters to support and firmly establish their doctrine, and to make people believe that by idolatry certain misfortunes could be averted and certain benefits gained, worship of idols will, on the contrary, as is stated in "the words of the covenant," prevent the advantages and bring the troubles. The reader will now understand why, of all kinds of curses and blessings, those mentioned in "the words of the covenant" have been selected by the Law, and particularly pointed out. Note also the greatness of the benefit [of these laws).

In order that we may keep far from all kinds of witchcraft, we are warned not to adopt any of the practices of the idolaters, even such as are connected with agriculture, the keeping of cattle, and similar work. [The Law prohibits] everything that the idolaters, according to their doctrine, and contrary to reason, consider as being useful and acting in the manner of certain mysterious forces. Comp. "Neither shall ye walk in their ordinances" (Lev. xviii. 3). "And ye shall not walk in the manners of the nation which I cast out before you" (ibid. xx. 23). Our Sages call such acts "the ways of the Amorite"; they are kinds of witchcraft, because they are not arrived at by reason, but are similar to the performances of witchcraft, which is necessarily connected with the influences of the stars; thus ["the manners of the nations"] lead people to extol, worship, and praise the stare. Our Sages say distinctly, "whatever is used as medicine" does not come under the law of "the ways of the Amorite"; for they hold that only such cures as are recommended by reason are permitted, and other cures are prohibited. When, therefore, the dictum was quoted: a tree that casts off its fruit may be laden with stone or dyed with red colour, the following objection was raised: The loading of the tree with stones may be justified on the plea that it serves to weaken the strength of the tree, but why should it be permitted to dye the tree with red colour? This question shows that the dyeing of the tree with red colour, and all similar things which are not explained by analogy from nature, are prohibited as "ways of the Amorite." For the same reason our Sages said, "The uterus of animals which have been selected for the Sanctuary must be buried; it must not be suspended from a tree, and not buried in the cross-road, because this is one of 'the ways of the Amorite.'" Hence you may learn how to treat similar cases.