« PreviousContinue »
of the Rabbins, became even the more necessary, as the Christian and then the Mahomedan religions spread. It was comparatively easy to separate themselves from the idolatrous abominations of the Heathen; but when they were thrown, sometimes amongst the followers of the Nazarene, acknowledging the same God and the same moral law-at others, with the followers of Mahomed, proclaiming the unity of God, observing the same covenant of Abraham, having some belief in Moses, and refusing the same interdicted food—the necessity of increased exclusiveness and care of the great mass of the people, who were in much too degraded and enslaved a position to realise the superior spirituality and truth of their own religion, became more and more evident, and gave our wise men still greater power and authority than they had originally sought. The multitudes scattered in every land, and liable to every insult and persecution, had neither the opportunity nor the mind to study for themselves, and were glad to follow unquestioningly in the path laid down.
If we impartially consider our position in the long centuries of persecution, we surely cannot wonder even if inward spirituality did in some degree give place to outward form. To realise the former as our God demands, requires a position of comparative freedombreathing space, as it were-to cultivate all those refining and elevating emotions which enlarge and spiritualise the soul. In many countries, the Hebrew was sunk to a lower and more degraded position, than even (we will not say the slaves) the very beasts of the soil. If, in those eras, they had not had some ordinances which they could obey, without even caring to know the where
fore, how could their religion have been preserved ? We allude merely to those brief calms in their lives, when the sword of slaughter, though hovering over them, was still sheathed. At those times, the mass might have appeared only to possess and value the casket, not the jewel; but where the hovering sword fell, and multitudes were doomed to the dread alternative of death, or denial of their God, then did the immortal glory of the jewel flash through the encircling casket, and endow them with the pure spirit of hope and faith which gave them strength to die! Mere blind adherence to instituted forms could never have done this. The spirit of their holy religion was breathed into every breast, invisible and unfelt in the sluggish depths of daily. misery and constant fear, but bursting into life at the first call, and endowing with that firm belief in immortality which alone creates the martyr.
Those periods, then, in our history, in which the spirit of the Mosaic law seems lost in multiplied and weighty forms, cannot be charged to the ordinances of our ancient fathers, but to the still sluggish indifference which ever follows extreme excitement. Accustomied through so many centuries to anticipate and endure only persecution and slavery, it required a very long interval for the Israelites even to realise the belief that there were actually some countries in which they might live in perfect freedom and equality with their Gentile neighbours, and, consequently, that something more was demanded from them, than mere adherence to instituted forms because so did their fathers. No longer called upon to suffer, the spirit within them so slept, that they became, at length, almost unconscious of its ex
istence; and if asked the wherefore they observed such forms, and what was the origin of their belief, they might have found it difficult to reply. From this unnatural stagnation, many Christians formed the opinion that the religion of the Jew was a mere spiritless formula, unenlightened by a single ray of immortal hope or spiritual faith, forgetting that the very evil they condemn, originated in the persecution of their own ancestors, not in the religion of the Jews.
The period of this stagnation is now, however, almost 'extinct. It had but its appointed time; and though, in some lands, it still too oppressively exists, yet wherever the Hebrew is free, a new spirit is awakening, giving precious promise of that time when spirit and form shall be re-united, as the God of Love ordained, the one aiding the other, till that perfection is attained, which, with the purifying blessing of the Lord, will lead us to our own dear land, and permit us once more to be His
ORDINANCES AND TALES OF THE TALMUD, RELATING
TO THE WOMEN OF ISRAEL.
Having thus briefly glanced over the real origin, intent, and meaning of the Talmudic Ordinances, we will return to the point whence we started, and ascertain whether or not our venerable sages so completely contradicted the spirit of the law of Moses, as to hint, countenance, or ordain the degradation of the Hebrew female. For this purpose, we will transcribe a few of the rabbinical maxims, with which we have been favoured by the kindness of the friend already referred to, whose sound knowledge of the Hebrew, both Biblical and Talmudical, and deep research, render his information on the subject indeed invaluable. The Hebrew Review, and one or two other casual notices in divine history, have also enabled us to form an opinion: but the Talmud itself should be its foundation; and from that we, as a female, are unhappily debarred.
We must refer once more, though unwillingly, to the Nazarene assertion, that their religion was the first, and is the only one, which provides for women. “ For woman never would, and never could have risen to her present station in the social system, had it not been for the dignity with which Christianity invested those qualities, peculiarly her own, etc.* We can quite understand and sympathise
• Woman's Mission, page 140. We should not lay so much
in the Christian woman's love for her own faith, and heartfelt eloquence in the privileges it assures her. We can quite understand when she compares her lot with that of the Heathen and Mahomedan, and remembers, that had it not been for the wider spread of Christianity, her fate would still have been the same -the glow of mind and heart, which must infuse her whole being, and naturally be reflected in her writings; but then, in her eloquent appeal to young countrywomen to remember what they owe to Christianity, let her not be so unjust as to count the Jewish religion amongst those in which woman, in her clinging and truly feminine character, is uncared for and unvalued. The moral laws to which she owes her privileges, came from us, and us alone. Who were the apostles and preachers ? Who went about, giving the Heathen a knowledge of Israel's God, though they disregarded the ceremonial law? Who but HEBREWS, whose whole minds and hearts were imbued, not with new doctrines,
stress upon this point, were such observations as those quoted above confined to conversation. But when we see such sentiments as are contained in pages 140, 141, and 142, of a work, which, from its deserved popularity, is disseminated, not only over our England, but, no doubt, over many other countries, how can we pass such charges by? Did the authoress not allude to the Jews, we should not feel the necessity of noticing it so imperative, but when even the religion of the people of God is included in such false and sweeping assertions (see page 142), we should be failing in either respect or love for our own holy faith, did we not endeavour to remove the impression. Many of our young sisters are acquainted with the really excellent little work in question, and unless well guarded, by finding all that the authoress urges in support of Christianity in their own holy faith, are likely to be startled and annoyed by what appears so plausible ; the more so from the justice and moderation and truth of the previous chapters. In writing for our own sex, we are not authorised in refusing to notice such mistaken charges.