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in the frequent mention of us in modern history, the other is but too often entirely forgotten, or only thought upon as blended with the records of Syria, Greece, Rome, and the final siege.
Our task rests with the Women of Israel; and of them we have unhappily so little mention, either as individuals or as a body, in modern times, that we can add but little to our previous pages. Yet that little, trifling as it may seem, on a superficial consideration, is of real importance to the confirmation of our asserted point, the perfect freedom and equality of the Hebrew female.
We shall not find her wanting in any single point which constitutes the fit recipient and promulgator of a persecuted creed, or shrinking, as her physical weakness might portend, from any suffering, even that most agonising--the bereavement of her children, by her own or their father's hand, could they thus only be saved from the denial of her God. Could any woman have done this, have looked on the pitiless murderers of all she loved, and then by cruel tortures calmly shared their fate; had she been deprived, as our opponents in their ignorance declare, of the belief in, and hope of, the bliss and rest of immortality?
Before, however, we bring forward instances of female martyrdom, there is one subject which, though we approach it with reluctance, from the opposition and wilful misconception which it is likely to produce, we desire to bring most strongly before our readers. It is the supposition of many amongst the Gentiles, and we fear amongst some few of ourselves, that it is the Talmud which, promoting the spirit of the Mosaic law, authorises, nay commands, the degradation and enslaving of the Jewish female. In confirmation of this theory, there are many zealous conversionists who bring forward, as translations from the Talmud, detached verses and portions, which appear so strongly to support their assertion, as to prevent all reply. Now it should be well remembered, both by ourselves and our opponents, that much which is called the Talmud, and supposed to be coeval with its original venerable compilers, are the speculations, inquiries, and even ordinances of much later writers, whose opinions were no doubt often biased (though unconsciously) by the habits and customs of their own darkened age. Let us first consider the origin and real intent of these most venerable and often falsely abused forms. Divine, they are not. There are, we think, comparatively but few now, who will place them, in point of divinity and dignity, with the written oracles of God; for if they are, why do we not see the same honour and reverence paid to them, as to the sacred rolls, whose dwelling is the House of God, and whose appearance and elevation in the sight of the assembled multitude, cause the congregation simultaneously to rise, in silent homage to their inspired author?
When expelled from their own land—banished into every quarter of the globe--the temple service, and worship, exactly as Moses had ordained, was impossible.* The sacrifices were compelled to cease; for the fire from heaven consumed them no longer as in the First Temple; nor, as in the Second, were there courts and altars for the sacrifices; nor flocks and herds in possession of the Israelites to offer up. The multitudes, more eager than
* For these remarks on the Talmud, and supposition of its use and intent, the author alone is answerable.
ever, from their state of adversity and trial, to return to the Lord their God, and once more obey that holy law, which, when it was in their power to obey, they had totally disregarded, beheld the opportunity so to do gone from them. Morning and evening, sabbaths and holidays, they had been accustomed to offer sacrifice and prayer. In case of singular vows, of thanksgiving, or penance, in every circumstance of life, they had a high priest to whom to resort, a Temple where to come, offerings ordained by Moses, and laws and statutes entering into every man's household, and guiding not only his spiritual and social but his domestic life. But these laws and ordinances were for Israel when an independent state, subjects of God alone, and in possession of lands and their produce- flocks, herds—all of which were absolutely necessary for exact obedience to the law. In their banishment, how could they be guided in exact accordance with the pure law of Moses? At first perusal, they must have been almost appalled at the many ordinances which they could not observe; yet, on a second study of the holy books of Moses, and comparing them with the prophets, they must have seen, that obedience, as far as lay in their power, in their several lands of exile, was imperatively demanded from them; that their only hope of restoration and salvation was in a faithful adherence to the God and law of their fathers, and a firm faith in His promised mercy, to • strengthen and purify man's feeble efforts, and render them acceptable to him.
But how were they to obey? Eager and earnest in their repentance and desire to return to their God, now that the long-threatened chastisement had fallen, they welcomed with rejoicing the efforts of holy and good men to lay down a path of obedience which, even in their exile and in the midst of persecution, they might tread. Hence arose those ordinances which are accused of clogging with dead and soulless weight the pure and spiritual Law of God; but which, in those fearful eras of exile and persecution, bound Jew to Jew, and with God's protecting blessing, saved His religion from amalgamation with other nations, and all adoption of the Gentile creeds. But the holy men, who originally raised the protecting casket around the beautiful jewel of their faith, never either preached or intended that their ordinances were to be considered divine or perpetual. It was to preserve the purity, the spiritual purity, of their Law uusullied, when circumstances inust otherwise have crushed it (we are writing humanly, not alluding to the Divine Guardian, who would always have preserved us from annihilation), not to take its place and be considered in the same unalterable and changeless light with which we look on the Law of God. Circumstances might demand the modification, even the alteration, of some of these Rabbinical statutes; and could their wise and pious originators have been consulted on the subject, they would have unhesitatingly adopted those measures most likely to advance and aid spiritual improvement, even if to do so demanded a modification of some of their previously instituted statutes. We have but to glance over the life and writings of the great Maimonides, to prove this assertion.
To the speculative theorists, students, and additional compilers of the middle ages, be it remembered, we do not allude.
The great mischief which has befallen our
people, in the supposed superiority of form over spiritthe ordinances of the Talmud over those given by Moses, and explained by the prophets-originates not in the first venerable compilers of the Talmud at the time of our dispersion, but in the writers of the middle ages, whose minds were darkened by the bloody ashes of persecution, who beheld all of spirituality apparently about to succumb before the awful darkness and abasement in which misery had plunged the mass; and who, in consequence, multiplied forms to guard them still more strictly from assimilation with their persecutors. And all those laws, in which the fierce exclusiveness, so contrary to the spirit of love pervading the law of God, is founded, owe their origin to the same source. Opponents would do well to remember this, and, when they point to vows and laws, which appear to contradict the law of God, apply them to their only source, not the disobedience of the Jew, but the persecution of the Gentile, and the darkening misery thence ensuing.
But in our first dispersion, eagerly and rejoicingly the people listened to and observed the mild protecting ordinances of their spiritual teachers. In their banishment and misery, they beheld the awful fulfilment of the Eternal's word; and, remembering the beneficent mercy and forbearance which they had scorned, turned in deep repentance once more to their God. Their conscience, their earnest longings, to prove repentance by obedience, found rest and peace in the steady observance of ordinances which in their captive state they could obey, and which brought down the spiritual religion of their own bright land, to the homes and synagogues of their captivity. These ordinances, and the spiritual supre