The Jew (1898)/3
IN dealing with the Jews of the Holy Land, it is well to remember that the two great branches of the Hebrew race are the Sephardím and the Ashkenazím. They are both equally orthodox, and may intermarry when they please. It is advisable to offer a few words concerning these great branches first.
“Sepharad,” pronounced throughout “the East” Safard, a word occurring only once in the Old Testament (“and the captivity of Jerusalem, which is in Sepharad,” Obad. ver. 20), has been subjected to various interpretations. Enough to say the majority of Jews following the Targum Jonathan and the Peshito, or Syriac version, identify it with Iberia, modern Spain and Portugal. The Sephardím claim descent from the royal tribe of Judah which, like the children of Benjamin, was the last to disperse. It contains the usual three orders: (1) The Cohen (in Arabic Káhin), the priest or Levite
of the house of Aaron—a numerous body, as the Cohens of England show. Though born an ecclesiastic, he may now, since the rite of ordination has become extinct, pursue a purely laical trade. Whenever a Jew slaughters an animal, the Cohen claims the tongue, one side of the face, and one shoulder.1 So in the days of Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews, IV. iv. 4) the priest took the maw, the cheek (or breast), and the right shoulder of the sacrifice privately killed for a festival. (2) The Levite or descendant of Levi, but not through the house of Aaron; like the Cohen, to whom he should pay the tithe of his tithes, he must prove his genealogy, which is often doubtful, and he is known by taking the name of Levi after his own and before that of his birthplace—e.g. Simeon Levi Salonikli. (3) “The circumcision” or Ammon Israelite.
Since the final destruction of the Temple there are no Gentile Proselytes of the Covenant, that is, circumcised strangers admitted to all the privileges of the children of Abraham; nor are there Proselytes of the Gate, uncircumcised worshippers of Jehovah who keep the moral law. The Ger, or stranger, may be received into the Church under certain circumstances by purification and circumcision, which
1 In consequence of the accident which occurred to Jacob (Gen. xxxii.) his descendants still abstain from the hind‑quarters of the few beasts left to them by Leviticus xv.
latter, unlike the law of Muhammad, is absolutely necessary. Judaism, however, like Hinduism and Guebrism, is essentially one of the old congenital creeds; it never has been, it is not, and it never will be a system of proselytizing. As regards the tribes, Judah and Levi are everywhere known. Benjamin, Ephraim, and Half Manasseh are spoken of, and tradition declares that Asher exists in Abyssinia with Karaïte peculiarities. Finally, many Jews do not believe that the Ten Tribes were ever lost. They say that, during the Great Captivity, when the faith became all but extinct, they were mixed to such an extent that it was afterwards impossible to separate them.
The Sephardím, or Southern Jews, are mostly the descendants of Spanish and Portuguese ancestry, and throughout the Levant and the North African coast they speak Spanish and read and write it in their own character. Those of the Moroccan interior use Arabic. The dress is Oriental, and in the Holy Land they still wear the black turban ordained by the sumptuary laws of El Hakim (circa A.D. 1000). In physical appearance they are somewhat more prepossessing than the Ashkenazím, who are outnumbering them in Syria and Palestine, and are gradually ousting them. Officially they retain their position; the Hakhám Bashí, or chief doctor, is the only Jewish official recognized by the Turkish Government and representing the community in
the Majlis, or town council. In all matters which come before the tribunals the Ashkenazím must be supported by the Hakhám Bashí, while the doctors hear and decide all cases relating to the internal affairs of the community. Many of the Sephardím are shopkeepers, trading chiefly in stuffs and hardwares. There are many minor differences between them and the Ashkenazím, such as the contents and the arrangement of their ritual, the constitution of their meetings, the mode of reading the service, their music, and even their cursive form of the square Hebrew character. The Maghrabis, or Western Jews, chiefly living in North‑western Africa, rank elsewhere as Sephardím; at Jerusalem, however, they are considered a separate sect, and have their own chief doctor.
Thus the Sephardím are the Southern, opposed to the Northern Jews, or Ashkenazím. These derive their name from Ashkenaz, son of Gomer, and grandson of Japhet (Gen. x. 3), who is supposed to have peopled, in ethnologic succession, Armenia (Jer. li. 27), Poland, Germany, and Scandinavia—the latter according to some derives from him its name. The Ashkenazím claim descent from Benjamin, and are generally supposed not to have been present at the second building of the Temple by Zorobabel (B.C. 520), as described in the Book of Ezra.
The Ashkenazím of the Holy Land are chiefly
Germans, Poles, Muscovites, and other Northerners. On January 26, 1849, an order from the Russian Consulate‑General of Beyrut obliged them either to return home biennially in order to renew their passports or to give up their nationality. They were then taken under the protecting wing of Great Britain by the immense exertions of their co‑religionists in the “City of Refuge” (London) and of other Western powers. This step can hardly be looked upon with satisfaction. Relying upon their new nationality, they addict themselves openly to usury and to other transactions of a doubtful and often of a dishonourable character. A determination to protect the whole community from religious persecution, allowing the Sultan to treat their commercial and civic affairs on the same footing as all the rest of his subjects, would be much more just, and would probably remedy not a few evils. In the year 1840 the Northern Jews mustered few at Damascus, and even now they are not numerous; among them may be mentioned old Abú ’Brahím, a well‑known cicerone at Demitri Cara’s Hotel, who usually passed for a Cohen.
The Ashkenazím speak a kind of Jew‑German, garbled with Hebrew and other foreign words. Their dress is a long robe like a dressing‑gown, and a low-crowned hat of felt or beaver; the lank love‑lock hanging down either cheek, and the eccentrically clipped fur caps, which, despite the burning sun,
they everywhere don for the Sabbath and for feast-days, make their appearance not a little comical. In the Holy Land they are mostly petty traders and craftsmen, supported in part by the Hallorkah, or alms. Many Jews who have neither the time nor the will to visit Jerusalem pay considerable sums for vicarious prayers there offered by their co-religionists, and the contributions are collected throughout Europe by appointed emissaries like the begging friars of the Catholic world. This dole, distributed alike and indiscriminately to all who occupy the four Holy Cities, brings many idle and worthless persons together, and promotes early and improvident marriages, every child being a source of additional increase. Some steps should be taken to obviate the scandals of the Hallorkah. Much vice, misery, and ill‑feeling are engendered by the present system of bounty, which leaves much behind when passing through the hands of doctors responsible to no one for the money they receive. These men live in comfort and even luxury; the terrorism, physical as well as spiritual, with which they inspire their congregations, renders them absolutely unassailable. Knowing that his doctor can excommunicate him, and, what is more to the purpose, starve him and his family, not a Jew dare object to, though he will loudly complain of, a system of hypocrisy and peculation. And as a rule the almsgiving of the Israelite, so exceptionally liberal
throughout Western Europe, becomes mean and niggardly throughout the Holy Land. In the absence of coin sufficiently small, the wealthy Hebrews of Jerusalem have invented a system of tin bits, which the mendicant must collect till sufficiently numerous to be changed for currency. Whenever there is a famine in the country, pauper Jews receive probably the least assistance from their fellows dwelling within the same walls.
The Ashkenazím are divided into religious sects and social communities. The former are three in number—viz. Parushím, Khasidím, and Khabad. The Parushím, Pharisees or Separatists, follow the law as laid down in the commentary of the late R. Gaon1 of Wilna. They consider the diligent study of the Talmud an essential for every religious Jew, and they conduct their liturgy according to it, respecting, however, the sense attached to various rites by the Cabalistic teachers. They strictly observe the appointed times for prayer, but they do not consider it necessary to dip the body in water before ablution. They neglect the second pair of phylacteries prescribed by Rabbenu Tam.* They do not hold it unlawful to slaughter animals for food with a knife which is not very sharp, provided that the edge has no notches. They regard a Passover cake as lawful,
1 Gaon means a learned man: had he not some other name?
[* Rabbenu Tam was the most distinguished disciple of the renowned R. Rashi (1040—1105 A.D.).]
even though it be made of any kind of wheat or flour.
The Khasidím (Cabalists), that most fanatical of Jewish sects, are here for the most part unlearned. Their liturgy is according to Rambáni or Maimonides (Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon), a Spaniard who flourished in the twelfth century, and of whom it is said, “From Moses to Moses there was none like Moses”; they interpret it, however, in the Cabalistic sense. Their favourite book is the Holy Ri; they pray whenever they feel bound to do so, no matter whether the prescribed time has passed or not. Unlike the Parushím, they believe in certain Sadikím, or righteous men, popularly called Gute Yaden (Juden), and regard them with a superstitious veneration which borders upon worship, attributing to them supernatural powers, and attaching some spiritual and symbolic meanings to their most trivial and insignificant actions. Whilst professing to be guided only by the Talmud, they in reality follow the teaching of some chosen Guter Jude. The Khasidím are particular in the observance of Jewish customs, especially such as relate to the Sabbath. They shake themselves violently and cry aloud during prayers; at other times they are much addicted to dancing, singing, and deep drinking. They dip themselves in water before devotions, and use the second pair of phylacteries. They deem it unlawful to slaughter animals with a knife which
is not very sharp, or to use any but a particular kind of wheat for the Passover cakes. Much importance is attached by this sect to works of charity; in this way they are guided by the Yad ha‑Khazakah, or “strong hand” of Maimonides, who assigns eight steps or grades to the golden ladder of charity. The Parushím and Khasidím combine in various proportions; for instance, in Tiberias all are Khasidím except the doctor, who is a Parushi.
The Khabad, or third sect, suggests in name the Ebionites, or Jewish Nazarenes, who hold the “great teacher of Nazareth” to be the Messiah, but merely human; this sect, however, has apparently died out. The modern Khabad have a liturgy arranged from their old Rabbi Zelmína. They resemble the Khasidím, having their own Gute Juden, but they are usually more learned and pious. They are given to hospitality and charity, and attach much importance to visiting the sick. They dip themselves before prayers, read and study much, and meet together on Sabbath evenings to hear the Law expounded by their principal teacher. They keep as a feast the 19th day of Kislef, the third civil and ninth ecclesiastical month (about December); on that day R. Shalomon, the founder of the sect, was liberated from prison.
The Ashkenazím are divided into social communities according to the European district or city whence they came, and each section is presided over
by a scribe or a layman of respectability and good standing. The chief communities of Parushím are the Wilna, Grainer, Grodno, Minsk, Nassen, Warsaw, Zuolik, and German. Those of the Khasidím are the Volhynian, the Hungaro‑Austrian, and the Galician. The Khabad are a community by themselves.
The Ashkenazím, who are wrongly represented to be considered pariahs by the Sephardím, have brought from Northern climates a manliness of bearing, a stoutness of spirit, and a physical hardness strongly contrasting with the cowardly and effeminate, the despised and despicable Sephardím “Jew of Israel’s land.” If spoken to fiercely, they will reply in kind; if struck, they will return the blow; and they do not fear to mount a horse, unlike their Southern brethren, who prefer an ass, or at most an ambling pony, to the best of Arab blood. They will travel by night over difficult and dangerous paths, whereas their congeners tremble to quit the city walls; and they can endure extremes of heat and cold, of hunger and thirst, which might be fatal to any soft Syrian who would imitate them. The Ashkenazím of the Holy Land are in a word “men”; the Sephardím are not. “The Spanish and Portuguese Jews are of far higher and more intellectual type than the English and German,” says Dr. Linsdale. Possibly; but in the matter of manliness there is no comparison. And, as has been remarked,
the Ashkenazi is “eating up” the Sephardi wherever they meet.
Concerning the so‑called unorthodox sects in the Holy Land a few brief details may be given.
The Karaïtes (Caraïtes), translated “Readers,” that is “textualists,” assign a literal sense to all Holy Writ, and reject every book posterior to the Law and the Prophets; they are therefore considered pestilent heretics. These Puritans, claiming descent from the Ten Tribes who took no part in the Crucifixion, are scattered throughout Arabia, with Bagdad for a centre; and they are most numerous in Russia, and Poland, where they could boast that for four centuries none of their number had ever been found guilty of a serious crime. Henderson the traveller numbers some four thousand of them in the Crimea with their Cohens, or priests. At Pentecost, they read, we are told, as Ha‑phatorah, or conclusions of the day, Joel ii. 28—32, whereas other Jews stop at ver. 27. There is still a large colony at Aden, where the English authorities have found nothing to complain of them. Formerly there were many at Damascus; now they have left it en masse: the Protestant cemetery occupies part of their old burial‑ground, whose gravestones are distinguished from those of the Jews. In Syria they are mostly confined to Jerusalem, where till lately they numbered seven families (thirty‑five souls). Their single, poor synagogue, a small cellar‑like chamber, which dates back,
they say, for many centuries, lies opposite the big new building of the orthodox. Its sole object of attraction is one old manuscript of the Pentateuch, and the other Jews so hate them that the stranger will not readily find his way to their place of worship. In early 1872 they were reinforced by an emigration from Bagdad numbering forty souls, who reported that many more were on the way. These men all wore Bedawin dresses, which, however, they changed for the usual Jewish garb when once settled in the city.
The Samaritans are now found only at Nablús, the classical Neapolis, or new town. They claim descent from Ephraim and Manasseh, whilst their Cohens are of course Levites; the orthodox opprobriously call them Kúthím, or Babylonians, and despite physical evidence utterly deny their Jewish consanguinity. All contact with them is defiling, as though they were Gentiles. The total is now forty families, or a hundred and thirty‑five souls; they will not intermarry with any but their own people; the birth of males, contrary to what might be expected, outnumbers that of females in the proportion of eighty to fifty‑five, and consequently the “undying dogmatism” is threatened with dying out. The little sect owes its fame in Europe to the three well‑known codices which every stranger hastens to inspect. According to their Hakháms, whilst repeating the Talmud they
study the Targum of R. Levi. They keep their Passover by solar computation, not lunar, like the Hebrews; for instance, in 1871 the former held the feast on May 3, and the latter on April 5. Moreover, they still sacrifice and eat their Paschal Lamb upon Mount Gerizim.
Jerusalem is sometimes visited by some of the “Black Jews” of Malabar and Western India, concerning whom so much absurdity has been written. The “White Jews” of India have a tradition according to which their ancestors, numbering ten thousand souls, emigrated Eastward about A.D. 70, and settled about Cranganore on the Malabar coast. Here they remained till A.D. 1565, when they were driven into the interior by the Portuguese. As no synagogue can be founded without a minimum congregation of ten free and adult males, the white Jews when necessary simply bought back their nine Hindu slaves, manumitted them, circumcised and bathed them, and thus obtained their wishes. The “Reformed British Jews,” mostly Ashkenazím, who date from the 7th of Ellúl, A.M. 5601 (August 24, 1841), and whose prayer‑book is edited by their minister, the Rev. Mr. Marks, are hardly likely to make way in “the East” with such ultra-Karaïte doctrine as “the sufficiency of the Law of Moses for the guidance of Israel,” and with their opposition to the divinity of the traditions contained in the Mishnah; and in the Jerusalem and
Babylonian Talmuds they would only be included in the host
Of petulant, capricious sects,
The maggots of corrupted texts.
There is little to say concerning the physical peculiarities of the Eastern Jew, who in all the salient points of form and feature remarkably resembles his brother of Houndsditch and the Minories. Here and there the lines are less curved, the profile is straight and high, whilst there are a few local varieties like the fair hair and olive‑coloured eyes of Dalmatia. The highest type contains a certain softness of expression, with that decisive cast of mouth and chin which may be seen in the London policeman and in the backwoodsman of the Far West. Although centuries of oppression have necessarily given to the many that cringing, deprecating glance, that shifting look which painfully suggests a tame beast expecting a blow, yet we still find both amongst the Ashkenazím and the Sephardím red Jews and black Jews; fierce‑eyed, dark‑browed, and hollow‑cheeked, with piercing acuteness of glance, and an almost reckless look of purpose. Greed and craft, and even ferocity, are to be read in such faces, but rarely weakness, and never imbecility; roughness, unculture, and coarseness are there, not vulgarity, nor want of energy; and the Christian physiognomy by their side looks commonplace when
contrasted with those features so full of concentration and vigorous meaning.
These are the same men as those who under happier auspices organize such worldwide institutions as the Alliance Israëlite Universelle, with its heart in Paris and its limbs extending far and wide on the earth, whilst increasing organization proposes to extend them farther and wider. Its object is simply to promote concerted action amongst the Jews scattered about both hemispheres; to effect unity and community in all matters interesting to the Jewish body politic; to forward the interest of its friends, and to effect the ruin of its enemies. Thus it will eventually absorb by taking under its charge such detached institutions as the Khagal, or Communal Government of the Hebrews in Russia. It is the fashion to praise the organization of the Jesuits, the Freemasons, the Carbonari, the Mormons, and other bodies, who have an esoteric system underlying the exoteric form. As far as my knowledge goes, none can be compared with that of the Jews, because those are local and partial, whereas these are all but universal.
Such men easily become the warriors of commerce, bringing to the battle of interests, the campaign of life, all that boldness and resolution, that persistence and heroism, that subtlety and unscrupulousness which the Patriarchs and the Maccabees carried out into the personal conflict of sword and spear. They
become the great potentates of finance and capital, who have agents and reporters in every chief centre of the world; who know every project, what is to flourish and what is to founder; what enterprise is to be effectual, and what is to fail. If a seaport want a dock, a city require a bulwark, or a country demand a railway or a loan, they are ever ready to furnish each and all. And as a rule they are not unfair, they are not mean; indeed there is often a certain generosity in their conditions. But they always bargain for something besides money. They stipulate, for instance, that this man should be allowed to participate in these profits, that another should be excluded from those advantages; their interests are so various and so widespread that they need political power everywhere, and as they must have it so they will have it. One offence, one deadly sin, never forgiven, never forgotten, is insubordination in the ranks, however trifling. Let a secondary firm attempt to throw off the yoke by launching out, for instance, into an enterprise unauthorized by the Great House; straightway its credit is assailed, its acceptances are dishonoured, its ruin is assured. Such are the arts which have enabled the Jew to arrive at his present position. And he may confidently look forward to the time when the whole financial system, not only of Europe from one end to the other, but of the whole world, will be in the hands of a few crafty capitalists,
whose immense wealth shall, with a few pulsations of the telegraph, unthrone dynasties and determine the destinies of nations.
It remains now only to touch upon the future prospects of the Jewish race. This important consideration is still subject to two widely different opinions.
The first, which may be called the vapid utterance of the so‑called Liberal School speaks as follows: “In this century we are battering down the ponderous walls of prejudice which nations and sects have erected in past times, for the separation of themselves from their neighbours, or as a coign of vantage from which to hurl offensive weapons at them. Roman Catholic and Jewish emancipation have been conceded, though tardily, and we may fairly hope that in the next generation our political, social, and commercial relations with our fellow‑men will be conducted without regard to their religious belief or their ethnological origin.” The trifling objection to this “harmonious and tolerant state of things” is that, though the Christian may give up his faith and race, the Jew, however readily he may throw overboard the former, will cling to the latter with greater tenacity, as it will be the very root and main foundation of his power.
The second is the Judophobic or Roman Catholic view of the supremacy of Jewish influence in the governments and the diplomacy of Europe. It openly
confesses its dread of Judaic encroachments, and it goes the full length of declaring that, unless the course of events be changed by some quasi‑miraculous agency, the triumph of the Israelite over Christian civilization is inevitable—in fact, that Judaism, the oldest and exclusive form of the great Semitic faith, will at least outlive, if it does not subdue and survive, Christianity, whose triumph has been over an alien race of Aryans. “Gold,” it argues, “is the master of the world, and the Jewish people are becoming masters of the gold. By means of gold they can spread corruption far and wide, and thus control the destinies of Europe and of the world.” For the last quarter of a century the dominant Church in France seems to have occupied itself in disseminating these ideas, and the number of books published by the alarmists and replied to by Jewish authors is far from inconsiderable. Witness the names of MM. Tousseuel, Bédarride, Th. Halliz, Rev. P. Ratisbonne, and A. C. de Medelsheim, without specifying the contributors to the Union Israëlite and the Archives Israëlites of Paris—a sufficient proof of the interest which this question has excited, and of the ability with which it has been discussed in France.
But these are generalisms which require the specification of particulars. Where, however, the field is so extensive, we must limit ourselves to the most running survey of Europe and the Holy
Land. Throughout this continent the career of the Jew is at once thriving and promising. The removal of Jewish disabilities in England and the almost universal spread of constitutionalism throughout Europe have told mightily in favour of the Jews. An essential condition of all reform is that the reformer never can say, “Thus far will I go, and no farther.” In sporting parlance, he took off the weight from a dark horse, and the latter is everywhere winning in a canter. The father kept a little shop in the Ghetto; the son has palaces and villas, buys titles, crosses, and other graven images utterly unknown to the Mosaic Law, and intermarries with the historic Christian families of the land. The great, if not the only, danger is that in the outlying parts of Europe, where men are not thoroughly tamed, and where the sword is still familiar to the hand, the Jew advances far too fast; nor is it easy to see how his career can be arrested before it hurries him over the precipice. At this moment Hungary is a case in point. The Magnate, profuse in hospitality, delighting in display, careless of expenditure, and contemptuous of economy, sees all his rich estates, with their flocks and herds, their crops and mines, passing out of his own hands, and contributing to swell the bottomless pocket of the Jewish usurer. But the Magyar is a fiery race; and if this system of legal robbery be allowed to pass a certain point, which, by‑the‑bye, is not far distant, the Jews
must prepare themselves for another disaster right worthy of the Middle Ages. And they will have deserved it.
As regards the restoration of Israel to the Holy Land, that favourite theme of prophecy and poetry, that day‑dream of the Jew, at least until he found a country and a home in the far happier regions beyond his ancient seats, no supernatural gift is required to point out the natural course of events. Though the recovery of Jerusalem is the subject of eternal supplication throughout the Jewish world, wealthy and prosperous Jews openly declare that they take no personal interest in the matter. The prayer, in fact, has become a mere formula.1 Still, with six millions of souls, which will presently become nine, there can be no difficulty in finding volunteers like those who now garrison the four Holy Cities—Jerusalem and Hebron, Tiberias and Safed. A single million of souls would give the Israelite complete command over the Land of Promise in the widest
1 The formula, however, is still perpetually repeated. On the Sabbaths preceding the new moons Jehovah is adjured to “gather the dispersed, the united people of Israel from the four corners of the earth.” The sunset devotions, the Yom ha‑Kippur, or Great Day of Atonement, concludes with, “Next year we shall be in Jerusalem.” At the Passover feast before the fourth cup the Lord is blessed, and all say, as they have been saying during the last eighteen centuries, “The year that approaches we shall be in Jerusalem.” The burden of the Musaph concluding the Sabbath services is that God may be pleased to return His people from their dispersions, and restore them to the possession of Jerusalem and the Temple.
acceptation of the term, and it will not be long before this number can be contributed.
The Jews might readily return to Judæa; but there is a lion in the path. Russia cares little for Constantinople, which will fall to her in the fulness of time when the fruit is ripe. But she will brook no interference with the Holy Land, except for her own benefit. This power, half European and half Asiatic, greatly indebted withal for her success in life to the mixture which she despises, has the immense advantage of a peculiar and homogeneous creed, in which she believes with childish ardour and which she preaches with virile energy. To her, conquest is not mere increase of area, of physical growth. It is extending the field of proselytism, of religion; and this view of national progress and of racial duty is at once her strength and her weakness, her glory and her shame. She finds the headquarters of Christianity necessary to the full development of her religious superiority, and in the ever‑increasing weakness of the Latin Church she descries her best opportunity.
Thus, as modern travellers assure us, Russia is quietly absorbing the Holy Places in Syria and Palestine. A bran‑new Jerusalem of church, convent, and hospice, which a few days’ work would convert into forts and barracks, has lately risen outside the grey old walls and towers of Jebus, concealing them from the ardent gaze of the pilgrim
as he tops the last hill leading to the Jaffa Gate. At Hebron the Muscovite was not allowed to buy building‑ground within the settlement; he bought the oak which passes itself off for Abraham’s terebinth, and here again will be a church, convent, and hospice. Jacob’s Well at Shechem has shared the same fate, and even Tiberias is threatened with a fourth church, convent, and hospice. The so‑called Greeks,1 whose Muscovite sympathies are well known, were granted such boons as the monopoly of Mount Tabor, whose classic and Saracenic ruins were ruthlessly pulled down to build a cockney church and convent. This usurpation became so intolerable, that in the summer of 1872 the Latin monks attacked the intruders, seized vi et armis a part of the mountain to which they laid claim, and enclosed their conquest with a wall. On the other hand, when the Latins proved an undoubted right to their ancestral chapel at Kefr Kenna (Cana in Galilee), the Greeks were instructed to set up a rival claim, and both were formally dismissed with the oyster shell, the oyster having been pronounced Wukúf, or mosque endowment.
This Russian pre‑emption of the Holy Land is a benefit to the Jew, although the latter may not recognize it. But for this he would hasten to fulfil the prophecy; he would buy up the country, as
1 Not to be confounded with Hellenes. These Greeks are Syrian and Christian peasants (felláhín), without a drop of Greek blood in their veins, but belonging to the so‑called Greek Church.
indeed he is now doing at Jerusalem;1 he would conquer the people by capital, and he would once more form a nation.
But here the question obtrudes itself: “If Judaism should again prevail—indeed its advocates say it shall prevail universally—how long could it endure?”
Those who know the codes of the Talmud and of the Safed School, which are still, despite certain petty struggles, the life‑light of Judaism, will have no trouble in replying. A people whose highest ideas of religious existence are the superstitious sanctification of Sabbath, the washing of hands, the blowing of ram’s horns, the saving rite of circumcision, and the thousand external functions compensating for moral delinquencies, with Abraham sitting at the gate of Hell to keep it closed for Jews; a community which would declare marriage impossible to some twelve millions of Gentiles, forbid them the Sabbath, and sentence to death every “stranger”
1 In 1873 the population of the Holy City is generally laid down as :
Jews ... ... ... ... 9,500
Christians ... ... ... ... 5,300
Muslims ... ... ... ... 5,000
Total ... ... 19,800
[Owing to the recent immigration especially of Russian Jews, and to the opening of the railway to the coast of Jaffa, these figures have been more than quadrupled. In 1896 the whole population was estimated at over 80,000, of whom nearly 40,000 were Jews, 25,000 Christians of all denominations, and 15,000 Muhammadans, chiefly Turks and Arabs.]
reading an Old Testament; which would have all the Ger who are not idolaters without religion, whilst forbidding those whom it calls “idolaters” (the Christians) to exercise the commonest feelings of humanity; which would degrade and insult one-half of humanity, the weaker sex, and which would sanction slavery, and at the same time oppress and vilify its slaves by placing them on a level with oxen and asses; a faith which, abounding in heathen practices, would encourage the study of the Black Art, would loosen every moral obligation, would grant dispensations to men’s oaths, and would sanction the murder of the unlearned; a system of injustice, whose Sanhedrins, at once heathenish and unlawful, have distinguished themselves only for force and fraud, for superabundant self‑conceit, for cold‑blooded cruelty, and for unrelenting enmity to all human nature,—such conditions, it is evident, are not calculated to create or to preserve national life. The civilized world would never endure the presence of a creed which says to man, “Hate thy neighbour unless he be one of ye,” or of a code written in blood, not in ink, which visits the least infractions of the Rabbinical laws with exorcism and excommunication, with stoning and flogging to death.1 A year of such spectacles
1 It has been well remarked that no Hebrew citizen was ever condemned to exile. If guilty, he was punished, but not made an outcast and infamous, forced to sin by dwelling beyond the holy soil of their own land in the impure and accursed rest of earth.
would more than suffice to excite the wrath and revenge of outraged humanity; the race, cruel, fierce, dogged, and desperate as in the days of Titus and Hadrian, would defend itself to the last; the result would be another siege and capture of Jerusalem, and the “Chosen People” would once more lie prostrate in their blood and be stamped out of the Holy Land.
Briefly, it is evident that nothing but Russian preponderance in Syria and Palestine prevents its being reoccupied by its old intolerant and persecuting owners,1 and that to these the greatest
1 It is interesting to read what the inspired Jew Spinoza wrote upon the Jews: “The rite of circumcision, I am fain to persuade myself, is of such moment in this matter (i.e. of isolating nations) that it alone, methinks, were enough to preserve this people distinct for ever; indeed, unless the fundamentals of their religion bring upon them effeminacy of mind and character, I am inclined to believe that, with the opportunity afforded, since human affairs are notoriously changeable, they may again recover their empire, and God elect them to Himself anew. . . . To conclude, were any one disposed to maintain that the Jews, for the cause assigned, or for any other cause whatsoever, had been especially chosen by God to all eternity, I should not gainsay him, provided he allowed that this choice was most in respect of nothing but empire and personal advantages (in which only one nation can be distinguished from another), for as regards understanding and true virtue no nation is more remarkable than another, and so cannot on such grounds be looked on as elected by God” (Tractatus Theologico‑Politicus, chap. iii.).
It is instructive to compare with the sage’s text two commentaries of his editions. One of them assures us that, no longer persecuted by Pope and Kaiser or Christian community, “with no mark of civic distinction denied the Jews, they will soon become absorbed into the larger Christian communities, surrounded by whom they now dwell in all the countries of Europe; they will finally
possible misfortune would be the granting of their daily, weekly, and yearly prayer—
Next year may we meet at Jerusalem.
disappear, and leave only historical records of their existence.” At present, however, Judaism bids fair to rise above and to survive Christianity. In B. Auerbach's Leben Spinozas we are told that the immediate cause which to Spinoza suggested this “curious persuasion” (the restoration of the Jews) may have been this, that a certain Sabbathai Zewi,* who had lately appeared in Greece, caused such a commotion amongst his co‑religionists as at one time to make their regeneration and reconstitution into a sovereignty appear not impossible.
[* Better known under the popular form Cevi.]