1. AFTER this the Khazari, as is related in the history of the Khazars, was anxious to reveal to his Vezier in the mountains of Warsān the secret of his dream and its repetition, in which he was urged to seek the God-pleasing deed. The king and his Vezier travelled to the deserted mountains on the sea shore, and arrived one night at the cave in which some Jews used to celebrate the Sabbath. They disclosed their identity to them, embraced their religion, were circumcised in the cave, and then returned to their country, eager to learn the Jewish law. They kept their conversion secret, however, until they found an opportunity of disclosing the fact gradually to a few of their special friends. When the number had increased, they made the affair public, and induced the rest of the Khazars to embrace the Jewish faith. They sent to various countries for scholars and books, and studied the Tōrāh. Their chronicles also tell of their prosperity, how they beat their foes, conquered their lands, secured great treasures; how their army swelled to hundreds of thousands, how they loved their faith, and fostered such love for the Holy House that they erected a Tabernacle in the shape of that built by Moses. They also honoured and cherished those born Israelites who lived
among them. While the king studied the Tōrāh and the books of the prophets, he employed the Rabbi as his teacher, and put many questions to him on Hebrew matters. The first of these questions referred to the names and attributes ascribed to God and their anthropomorphistic forms, which are unmistakeably objectionable alike both to reason and to law.
2. Said the Rabbi: All names of God, save the Tetragrammaton, are predicates and attributive descriptions, derived from the way His creatures are affected by His decrees and measures. He is called merciful, if he improves the condition of any man whom people pity for his sorry plight. They attribute to Him mercy and compassion, although this is, in our conception, surely nothing but a weakness of the soul and a quick movement of nature. This cannot be applied to God, who is a just Judge, ordaining the poverty of one individual and the wealth of another. His nature remains quite unaffected by it. He has no sympathy with one, nor anger against another. We see the same in human judges to whom questions are put. They decide according to law, making some people happy, and others miserable. He appears to us, as we observe His doings, sometimes a 'merciful and compassionate God,' (Exod. xxxiv. 6), sometimes 'a jealous and revengeful God' (Nahum i. 2), whilst He never changes from one attribute to the other. All attributes (excepting the Tetragrammaton) are divided into three classes, viz. creative, relative and negative. As regards the creative attributes, they are derived from acts emanating from Him by ways of natural medium, e.g. making poor and rich, exalting or casting down, 'merciful and compassionate,' 'jealous and revengeful,' 'strong and
almighty,' and the like. As regards the relative attributes, viz. 'Blessed, praised, glorified, holy, exalted, and extolled,' they are borrowed from the reverence given to Him by mankind. However numerous these may be, they produce no plurality, as far as He is concerned, nor do they affect his Unity. As regards the negative attributes, such as 'Living, Only, First and Last,' they are given to Him in order to negative their contrasts, but not to establish them in the sense we understand them. For we cannot understand life except accompanied by sensibility and movement. God, however, is above them. We describe Him as living in order to negative the idea of the rigid and dead, since it would be an a priori conclusion that that which does not live is dead. This cannot, however, be applied to the intellect. One cannot, e.g. speak of time as being endowed with life, yet it does not follow that it is dead, since its nature has nothing to do with either life or death. In the same way one cannot call a stone ignorant, although we may say that it is not learned. Just as a stone is too low to be brought into connexion with learning or ignorance, thus the essence of God is too exalted to have anything to do with life or death, nor can the terms light or darkness be applied to it. If we were asked whether this essence is light or darkness, we should say light by way of metaphor, for fear one might conclude that that which is not light must be darkness. As a matter of fact we must say that only material bodies are subject to light and darkness, but the divine essence is no body, and can consequently only receive the attributes of light or darkness by way of simile, or in order to negative an attribute hinting at a deficiency. Life
and death are, therefore, only applicable to material bodies, whilst the divine essence is as much exempt from both as it is highly extolled above them. The 'life' of which we speak in this connexion is not like ours, and this is what I wish to state, since 'we cannot think of any other kind of life but ours. It is as if one would say: We know not what it is. If we say 'living God' and 'God of life' (Ps. cvi. 28), it is but a relative expression placed in opposition to the gods of the Gentiles, which are 'dead gods' from which no action emanates. In the same way we take the term One, viz. to negative plurality, but not to establish unity as we understand it. For we call a thing one, when the component parts are coherent and of the same materials, e.g. one bone, one sinew, one water, one air. In a similar way time is compared to a compact body, and we speak of one day, and one year. The divine essence is exempt from complexity and divisibility, and 'one' only stands to exclude plurality. In the same way [we style Him] 'First' in order to exclude the notion of any later origin, but not to assert that He has a beginning; thus also 'Last' stands to repudiate the idea that His existence has no end, but not to fix a term for Him. All these attributes neither touch on the divine essence, nor do they lead us to assume a multiplicity. The attributes which are connected with the Tetragrammaton are those which describe His power of creating without any natural intermediaries, viz. Creator, Producer, Maker, 'To Him who alone doeth great wonders (Ps. cxxxvi. 4),' which means that [He creates] by His bare intention and will, to the exclusion of any assisting cause. This is perhaps meant in the word of the Bible: 'And I
appeared unto Abraham . . . as El Shaddāi' (Exod. vi. 3), viz. in the way of power and dominion, as is said: 'He suffered no man to do them wrong; yea, He reproved kings for their sake' (Ps. cv. 14). He did not, however, perform any miracle for the patriarchs as He did for Moses, saying: 'but my name J H W H was I not known to them' (Exod. 1. c). This means by My name J H W H, since the bēth in beēl shaddāi refers to the former. The wonders done for Moses and the Israelites left no manner of doubt in their souls that the Creator of the world also created these things which He brought into existence immediately by His will, as the plagues of Egypt, the dividing of the Red Sea, the manna, the pillar of a cloud, and the like. The reason of this was not because they were higher than the Patriarchs, but because they were a multitude, and had nourished doubt in their souls, whilst the patriarchs had fostered the utmost faith and purity of mind. If they had all their lives been pursued by misfortune, their faith in God would not have suffered. Therefore they required no signs. We also style Him wise of heart, because He is the essence of intelligence, and intelligence itself; but this is no attribute. As to 'Almighty,' this belongs to the creative attributes.
3. Al Khazari: 'How dost thou explain those attributes which are even of a more corporeal nature than those, viz. seeing, hearing, speaking, writing the tablets, descending on mount Sinai, rejoicing in His works, grieved in His heart.'
4. The Rabbi: Did I not compare him with a just judge in whose qualities no change exists, and from whose decrees result the prosperity and good fortune of people, so that they say that he loves them and
takes pleasure in them? Others, whose fate it is to have their houses destroyed and themselves be annihilated, would describe Him as filled with hate and wrath. Nothing, however, that is done or spoken escapes Him, 'He sees and hears'; the air and all bodies came into existence by His will, and assumed shape by His command, as did heaven and earth. He is also described as 'speaking and writing.' Similarly from the aethereal and spiritual substance, which is called 'holy spirit,' arose the spiritual forms called 'glory of God' (Exod. xix. 20). Metaphorically He is called J H W H (ibid.) who descended on the mount Sinai. We shall discuss this more minutely when treating on metaphysics.
5. Al Khazari: Granting that thou hast justified the use of these attributes, so that no idea of plurality need of necessity follow, yet a difficulty remains as regards the attribute of Will with which thou dost invest Him, but which the philosopher denies.
6. The Rabbi: If no other objection is raised, except the Will, we will soon vindicate ourselves. We say: O philosophers, what is it which in thy opinion made the heavens revolve continually, the uppermost sphere carrying the whole, without place or inclination in its movement, the earth firmly fixed in the centre without support or prop; which fashioned the order of the universe in quantity, quality, and the forms we perceive? Thou canst not help admitting this, for things did neither create themselves nor each other. Now the same adapted the air to giving the sound of the Ten Commandments, and formed the writing engraved in the tables, call it will, or thing, or what thou wilt.
7. Al Khazari: The secret of the attributes is now clear, and I understand the meaning of 'The Glory of God,' 'Angel of God,' and Shekhinah. They are names applied by the prophets to things perceptible, as 'Pillar of Cloud,' 'Consuming Fire,' 'Cloud,' 'Mist, Fire, Splendour,' as it is said of the light in the morning, in the evening, and on cloudy days that the rays of light go forth from the sun, although it is not visible. Yet we say that the rays of light are inseparable from the sun, although in reality this is not so. It is the terrestrial bodies which, being opposite to it, are affected by it, and reflect its light.
8. The Rabbi: Even so does the glory of God, which is only a ray of the divine light, benefit His people in His country.
9. Al Khazari: I understand what thou meanest by 'His people,' but less intelligible is what thou sayest about 'His country.'
10. The Rabbi: Thou wilt have no difficulty in perceiving that one country may have higher qualifications than others. There are places in which particular plants, metals, or animals are found, or where the inhabitants are distinguished by their form and character, since perfection or deficiency of the soul are produced by the mingling of the elements.
11. Al Khazari: Yet I never heard that the inhabitants of Palestine were better than other people.
12. The Rabbi: How about the hill on which you say that the vines thrive so well? If it had not been properly planted and cultivated, it would never produce grapes. Priority belongs, in the first instance, to the people which, as stated before, is the essence and kernel [of the nations]. In the second instance, it
would belong to the country], on account of the religious acts connected with it, which I would compare to the cultivation of the vineyard. No other place would share the distinction of the divine influence, just as no other mountain might be able to produce good wine.
13. Al Khazari: How could this be? In the time between Adam and Moses were not prophetic visions in other places granted to Abraham in Ur of the Chaldaeans, Ezekiel and Daniel at Babylon, and Jeremiah in Egypt?
14. The Rabbi: Whosoever prophesied did so either in the [Holy] Land, or concerning it, viz. Abraham in order to reach it, Ezekiel and Daniel on account of it. The two latter had lived during the time of the first Temple, had seen the Shekhinah, through the influence of which each one who was duly prepared became of the elect, and able to prophesy. Adam lived and died in the land. Tradition tells us that in the cave [of Machpelāh] were buried the four pairs: Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebeccah, Jacob and Leah. This is the land which bore the name 'before the Lord,' and of which it is stated that 'the eyes of the Lord thy God are always upon it' (Deut. xi. 12). It was also the first object of jealousy and envy between Cain and Abel, when they desired to know which of them would be Adam's successor, and heir to his essence and intrinsic perfection; to inherit the land, and to stand in connexion with the divine influence, whilst the other would be a nonentity. Then Abel was killed by Cain, and the realm was without an heir. It is stated that 'Cain' went out of the presence of Lord (Gen. iv. 16), which means that he left the land, saying: 'Behold, Thou hast driven me out this day
from the face of the earth, and from Thy face shall I be hid' (ib. v. 14). In the same way is it said: 'But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord' (Jonah i. 3), but he only fled from the place of prophecy. God, however, brought him back there out of the belly of the fish, and appointed him prophet in the land. When Seth was born he was like Adam, as it is said: 'He begat in his own likeness, after his image' (Gen. v. 3), and took Abel's place, as it is said: For God has appointed me another seed, instead of Abel, whom Cain slew (ib. iv. 25). He merited the title: 'Son of God,' like Adam, and he had a claim on the land, which is the next step to paradise. The land was then the object of jealousy between Isaac and Ishmael, till the latter was rejected as worthless, although it was said concerning him: 'Behold, I have blessed him, and will multiply him exceedingly' (ib. xvii. 20) in worldly prosperity; but immediately after it is said: 'My covenant will I establish with Isaac' (v. 21), which refers to his connexion with the divine influence and happiness in the world to come. Neither Ishmael nor Esau could boast of a covenant, although they were otherwise prosperous. Jealousy arose between Jacob and Esau for the birthright and blessing, but Esau was rejected in favour of Jacob, in spite of his strength and the latter's weakness. Jeremiah's prophecy concerning Egypt was uttered in Egypt itself. This was also the case with Moses, Aaron and Miriam. Sinai and Parān are reckoned as belonging to Palestine, because they are on this side of the Red Sea, as it is said: 'And I will set thy bounds from the Red Sea, even unto the sea of the Philistines, and from the desert unto the river' (Exod. xxiii. 31). The 'desert' is that of
[paragraph continues] Parūn, 'that great and terrible wilderness' (Deut. i. 19), being the southern border. 'The fourth river is Euphrates' (Gen. ii. 14), designates the northern border, where there were the altars of the Patriarchs, who were answered by fire from heaven and the divine light. The 'binding' of Isaac took place on a desolate mountain, viz. Moriah. Not till the days of David, when it was inhabited, was the secret revealed that it was the place specially prepared for the Shekhinah. Araunah, the Jebusite, tilled his land there. Thus it is said: 'And Abraham called the name of the place, The Lord shall see, as it is said to this day, in the mount of the Lord it shall be seen' (ib. xxii. 14). In the Book of the Chronicles it is stated more clearly that the Temple was built on mount Moriah. These are, without doubt, the places worthy of being called the gates of heaven. Dost thou not see that Jacob ascribed the vision which he saw, not to the purity of his soul, nor to his belief, nor to true integrity, but to the place, as it is said: 'How awful is this place' (ib. xxviii. 17). Prior to this it is said: 'And he lighted upon a certain place' (ver. 11), viz. the chosen one. Was not Abraham also, and after having been greatly exalted, brought into contact with the divine influence, and made the heart of this essence, removed from his country to the place in which his perfection should become complete? Thus the agriculturer finds the root of a good tree in a desert place. He transplants it into properly tilled ground, to improve it and make it grow; to change it from a wild root into a cultivated one, from one which bore fruit by chance only to one which produced a luxuriant crop. In the same way the gift of prophecy was retained among Abraham's descendants in Palestine,
the property of many as long as they remained in the land, and fulfilled the required conditions, viz. purity, worship, and sacrifices, and, above all, the reverence of the Shekhinah. For the divine influence, one might say, singles out him who appears worthy of being connected with it, such as prophets and pious men, and is their God. Reason chooses those whose natural gifts are perfect, viz. Philosophers and those whose souls and character are so harmonious that it can find its dwelling among them. The spirit of life, pure and simple, is to be found in beings which are endowed with ordinary primary faculties, and particularly adapted to higher vitality--viz. animals. Finally, organic life finds its habitat in a mixture of harmonious elements, and produces--plant.
15. Al Khazari: These are the general rules of a science which must be classified. This does not concern us now, and I will ask thee about it when we speak on the' subject. Continue thy discourse on the special advantages of the Land of Israel.
16. The Rabbi: It was appointed to guide the world, and apportioned to the tribes of Israel from the time of the confusion of languages, as it is said: 'When the Most High divided among the nations their inheritance' (Deut. xxxii. 8). Abraham was not fit to gain the divine influence, and to enter into a mutual compact, until he had, in Palestine, made the covenant with Him 'between the pieces' (Gen. xv. 17). What is now thy opinion of a select community which has merited the appellation 'people of God,' and also a special name called 'the inheritance of God,' and of seasons fixed by Him, not merely agreed upon or settled by astronomical calculations, and therefore styled "Sabbath of the land"
[paragraph continues] 'feasts of the Lord.' The rules regarding purity and worship, prayers and performances, are fixed by God, and therefore called 'work of God' and 'service of the Lord.'
17. Al Khazari: In such an arrangement the 'glory of God' was bound to become apparent.
18. The Rabbi: Dost thou not see that even the land was given its Sabbaths, as it is said: 'Sabbath of the land' (Lev. xxv. 6), and 'The land shall keep a Sabbath unto the Lord' (ibid. 2). It is forbidden to sell it for ever, as it is said: 'For Mine is the land' (ver. 23). Observe that the 'feasts of the Lord' and the 'Sabbaths of the land' belong to the 'land of the Lord.'
19. Al Khazari: Was not the day primarily calculated as dawning first in China, because it forms the eastern commencement of the inhabited earth?
20. The Rabbi: The beginning of the Sabbath must be calculated from Sinai, or rather Alush, where the Mannah first descended. Consequently Sabbath does not come in till the sun has set behind Sinai, and so on to the remote west, and round the globe to China, which is the extreme end of the inhabited earth. Sabbath begins in China eighteen hours later than in Palestine, since the latter lies in the centre of the world. Sunset in Palestine, therefore, concurs with midnight in China, and midday in Palestine concurs with sunset in China. This is the problem of the system based on the eighteen hours in the [Talmudical] rule: If the conjunction of the moon takes place before midday, the new moon becomes visible near sunset.
This refers to Palestine, the place where the law was given, and where Adam at the end of Sabbath was transferred from paradise. It is there where the
calendar began after the six days of creation. Adam, then, began to name the days, as he did with all that dwelt on earth, and the following generations continued counting in the same way. This is the reason why there is no difference among mankind about the seven days of the week, which commenced at the hour when the inhabitants of the extreme west held noon. This was the hour of sunset for Palestine, and at this moment the first light was created, the sun being created later on. This first light was but an illumination, which soon passed away, leaving the world in darkness. The established order was then that night preceded day, as it is written: 'It was evening and it was morning.' In the same manner the Tōrāh ordained: 'From evening unto evening' (Lev. xxiii. 32). Do not quote against me those recent astronomers, the thieves of science, though their theft was unintentional. They found, however, their science in a precarious condition, since the eye of prophecy was stricken with blindness; so they had recourse to speculation, and composed books on the strength of it. In contradistinction to the Tōrāh, they considered China as the original home of the calculation of the days. The contrast is not, however, complete, because they agree with the Jewish theory in assuming the beginning of the break of the day to have taken place in China. The difference between our theory and theirs consists chiefly in the circumstance that we count the night before the day. The 'eighteen' hours must, consequently, be made the basis of the nomination of the days of the week. For there are six hours between Palestine, where the nomination of the days began, and the place of the sun at the time when nomination
began. Thus the name of Sabbath, e.g. was employed for the beginning of the day on which the sun rose for the extreme west, whilst it set for Adam in Palestine. It kept the name 'beginning of Sabbath' till the sun culminated for him eighteen hours later, when it was evening in China, and also beginning of the Sabbath. This was the extreme limit for the day to be called Sabbath, because the region further on is only called east of the place where the days began to be counted. A place must, however, exist which is at the same time extreme west and the beginning of east. This is, for Palestine, the beginning of the inhabited world, not only from the point of view of the law, but also from that of natural science. For it would be impossible for the days of the week to have the same names all over the world unless we fix one place which marks the beginning, and another one not far off, not that the one be merely an eastern point for the other, but that the one should be east absolute, and the other west absolute. If this were not so the days could not have definite names, since every point of the equator can be east or west at the same time. China would thus be east for Palestine, but west for the antipodal side. The latter would be east for China, but west for [what we call] west, and the last-named would be east for the antipodal side, but west for Palestine, and there would be neither east, nor west, nor beginning, nor end, nor definite names for the days. Adam, however, did give definite names to the days, taking Palestine for his starting-point, but each name spreads over a certain geographical latitude, because it is impossible to fix the horizon for every single point on earth Jerusalem itself would have many east and west points;
the east of Zion would not be also the east of the Temple, and their horizons, strictly speaking, different, though not noticeable to the eye. This would be the case in a greater degree between Damascus and Jerusalem, and we could not deny that in the former place Sabbath commenced earlier than it does in the latter, and in Jerusalem sooner than it does in Egypt. A certain latitude must, therefore, be allowed. But the latitude in which differences in the nomination of the day become apparent amounts to eighteen hours, neither more nor less. The inhabitants of one meridian still call the day Sabbath, whilst those of another are past it, and so on till eighteen hours after the time when the Sabbath began, and the sun culminated in Jerusalem. It is then when the name Sabbath comes to an end. Therefore no one exists who would call the day Sabbath, but uses the name of the next day. This is meant by the words: If the conjunction takes place before noon, it is understood that the new moon is visible at sunset. In other words: If the Mōlād takes place before noon on the Sabbath in Jerusalem, it is understood that the new moon is visible on the Sabbath at sunset. This is because the name Sabbath is retained for eighteen hours after the reason for so calling it had departed from the place where it had begun, and the sun a day and a night later culminates again in Palestine. The new moon is, therefore, bound to appear at the eastern border of China in the twilight of the Sabbath. This agrees with the rule of the sages: A night and a day are reckoned to the month. The name Sabbath gives place everywhere to Sunday, although Palestine had before that left Sabbath, and was in the midst of Sunday. The intention of [this
rule] was that the name of the same day of the week should hold good all over the world, and the question could be put both to the inhabitants of China and the West: 'On which day did you celebrate the New Year?' The answer would be: 'On Sabbath.' This notwithstanding that the latter people had finished the feast, whilst the former, according to the geographical position of their country towards Palestine, were still celebrating it. With regard to the name of the days of the week, they had both kept the same day.
Thus does the knowledge of the 'Sabbath of the Lord' and the 'Festivals of the Lord' depend upon the land which is the 'inheritance of the Lord,' and has, as thou didst read, the other names of 'His holy mountain' (Ps. xcix. 9,), 'His footstool,' ib. 5 'Gate of heaven' (Gen. xxviii. 7). For the law shall go forth from Zion' (Micah iv. 2). [Thou didst also read] how the Patriarchs endeavoured to live in the country whilst it was in the hands of the pagans, how they yearned for it, and had their bones carried into it, as did Jacob and Joseph. Moses prayed to see it, and when this was denied to him, he considered it a misfortune. Thereupon it was shown to him from the summit of Pisgah, which was to him an act of grace. Persians, Indians, Greeks, and children of other nations begged to be allowed to offer up sacrifices, and to be prayed for in the holy Temple; they spent their wealth at the place, though they believed in other laws not recognized by the Tōrāh. They honour it to this day, although the Shekhinah no longer appears there. All nations make pilgrimages to it, long for it, excepting we ourselves, because we are punished and in disgrace.
[paragraph continues] All the Rabbis tell of its great qualities would take too long to relate.
21. Al Khazari: Let me hear a few of their observations.
22. The Rabbi: One sentence is: All roads lead up to Palestine, but none from it. Concerning a woman who refuses to go there with her husband, they decreed that she is divorced, and forfeits her marriage settlement. On the other hand, if the husband refuses to accompany his wife to Palestine, he is bound to divorce her and pay her settlement. They further say: It is better to dwell in the Holy Land, even in a town mostly inhabited by heathens, than abroad in a town chiefly peopled by Israelites; for he who dwells in the Holy Land is compared to him who has a God, whilst he who dwells abroad is compared to him who has no God. Thus says David: 'For they have driven me out this day from abiding in the inheritance of the Lord, saying, Go, serve other gods' (1 Sam. xxvi. 19), which means that he who dwells abroad is as if he served strange gods. To Egypt they ascribed a certain superiority over other countries on the basis of a syllogism in the following way: If Egypt, with regard to which a covenant was made, is a forbidden land, other countries are still more so. Another saying is: To be buried in Palestine is as if buried beneath the altar. They praise him who is in the land more than him who is carried thither dead. This is expressed thus: He who embraces it when alive is not like him who does so after his death. They say concerning him who could live there, but did not do so, and only ordered his body to be carried thither after his death: While you lived you made
[paragraph continues] Mine inheritance an abomination, but in death 'you come and contaminate my country' (Jer. ii. 1). It is told that R. Hananyah, when asked whether it was lawful for a person to go abroad in order to marry the widow of his brother, said: His brother married a pagan woman; praised be God who caused him to die; now this one follows him The sages also forbade selling estates or the remains of a house to a heathen, or leaving a house in ruins. Other sayings are: Fines can only be imposed in the land itself; no slave must be transported abroad, and many similar regulations. Further, the atmosphere of the Holy Land makes wise. They expressed their love of the land as follows: He who walks four yards in the land is assured of happiness in the world to come, R. Zērā said to a heathen who criticized his foolhardiness in crossing a river without waiting to reach a ford, in his eagerness to enter the land: How can the place which Moses and Aaron could not reach, be reached by me?
23. Al Khazari: If this be so, thou fallest short of the duty laid down in thy law, by not endeavouring to reach that place, and making it thy abode in life and death, although thou sayest: 'Have mercy on Zion, for it is the house of our life,' and believest that the Shekhinah will return thither. And had it no other preference than that the Shekhinah dwelt there five hundred years, this is sufficient reason for men's souls to retire thither and find purification there, as happens near the abodes of the pious and the prophets. Is it not 'the gate of heaven '? All nations agree on this point. Christians believe that the souls are gathered there and then lifted up to heaven. Islām teaches that it is the
place of the ascent, and that prophets are caused to ascend from there to heaven, and, further, that it is the place of gathering on the day of Resurrection. Everybody turns to it in prayer and visits it in pilgrimage. Thy bowing and kneeling in the direction of it is either mere appearance or thoughtless worship. Yet your first forefathers chose it as an abode in preference to their birth-places, and lived there as strangers, rather than as citizens in their own country. This they did even at a time when the Shekhinah was yet visible, but the country was full of unchastity, impurity, and idolatry. Your fathers, however, had no other desire than to remain in it. Neither did they leave it in times of dearth and famine except by God's permission. Finally, they directed their bones to be buried there.
24. The Rabbi: This is a severe reproach, O king of the Khazars. It is the sin which kept the divine promise with regard to the second Temple, viz.: Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion' (Zech. ii. 10), from being fulfilled. Divine Providence was ready to restore everything as it had been at first, if they had all willingly consented to return. But only a part was ready to do so, whilst the majority and the aristocracy remained in Babylon, preferring dependence and slavery, and unwilling to leave their houses and their affairs. An allusion to them might be found in the enigmatic words of Solomon: I sleep, but my heart waketh (Song v. 2-4). He designates the exile by sleep, and the continuance of prophecy among them by the wakefulness of the heart. 'It is the voice of my beloved that knocketh' means God's call to return; 'My head is filled with dew' alludes to the Shekhinah which emerged from the shadow of the Temple. The words: 'I have put off
my coat,' refer to the people's slothfulness in consenting to return. The sentence: 'My beloved stretcheth forth his hand through the opening' may be interpreted as the urgent call of Ezra, Nehemiah, and the Prophets, until a portion of the people grudgingly responded to their invitation. In accordance with their mean mind they did not receive full measure. Divine Providence only gives man as much as he is prepared to receive; if his receptive capacity be small, he obtains little, and much if it be great. Were we prepared to meet the God of our forefathers with a pure mind, we should find the same salvation as our fathers did in Egypt. If we say: 'Worship his holy hill--worship at His footstool--He who restoreth His glory to Zion' (Ps. xcix. 9, 5), and other words, this is but as the chattering of the starling and the nightingale. We do not realise what we say by this sentence, nor others, as thou rightly observest, O Prince of the Khazars.
25. Al Khazari: Enough on this subject. Now I should like an explanation of what I read about the sacrifices. Reason cannot accept such expressions as: My offering, My bread for My sacrifices made by fire, 'for a sweet savour unto Me' (Num. xxviii. 2), employed in connexion with the sacrifices, describing them as being God's offering, bread, and incense.
26. The Rabbi: The expression: By My fires removes all difficulty. It states that offering, bread and sweet savour, which are ascribed to Me, in reality belong to My fires, i.e. to the fire which was kindled at God's behest, and fed by the offerings. The remaining pieces were food for the priests. The deeper signification of this was to create a well arranged system, upon which the King should rest in an exalted, but not local
sense. As a symbol of the Divine Influence, consider the reasoning soul which dwells in the perishable body. If its physical and nobler faculties are properly distributed and arranged, raising it high above the animal world, then it is a worthy dwelling for King Reason, who will guide and direct it, and remain with it as long as the harmony is undisturbed. As soon, however, as this is impaired, he departs from it. A fool may imagine that Reason requires food, drink, and scents, because he sees himself preserved as long as these are forthcoming, but would perish if deprived of them. This is not the case. The Divine Influence is beneficent, and desirous of doing good to all. Wherever something is arranged and prepared to receive His guidance, He does not refuse it, nor withhold it, nor hesitate to shed light, wisdom, and inspiration on it. If, however, the order is disturbed, it cannot receive this light, which is, then, lost. The Divine Influence is above change or damage. All that is contained in the 'order of sacrificial service,' its proceedings, offerings, burning of incense, singing, eating, drinking, is to be done in the utmost purity and holiness. It is called: 'Service of the Lord,' 'the bread of thy God' (Num. viii. 11; Lev. xxi. 8), and similar terms which relate to his pleasure in the beautiful harmony prevailing among the people and priesthood. He, so to say, accepts their hospitality and dwells among them in order to show them honour. He, however, is most Holy, and far too exalted to find pleasure in their meat and drink. It is for their own benefit, as is also the proper working order of the digestion in the stomach and liver. The nobler ingredients of the food go to strengthen the heart; the best of all, the spirit. Not only are heart, mind, and brain regenerated by means of this
food, but also the digestive organs and all other organs through the strengthening matter which reaches them through the arteries, nerves and sinews. Altogether, this is so arranged and prepared, as to become fit to receive the guidance of the reasoning soul, which is an independent substance, and nearly approaches the angelic, of which it is stated: 'Its dwelling is not with flesh' (Dan. ii. 11). It inhabits the body as ruler and guide, not in the sense of space, nor does it partake of this food, because it is exalted above it. The Divine Influence only dwells in a soul which is susceptible to intellect, whilst the soul only associates with the warm vital breath. The latter must needs have a mainspring to which it is attached, as is the flame to the top of the wick. The heart is compared to the wick, and is fed by the flow of blood. Blood is produced by the digestive organs, and therefore requires the stomach, the liver, and lower organs. The heart, in the same way, requires the lungs, throat, nose, the diaphragm, and the muscles which move the muscles of the chest for breathing, as well as to keep in balance the temperature of the heart between the air which enters, and that which is expelled. It further requires for the removal of the food, refuse expelling forces, viz. the excretory and urinary organs. In this way the body is formed from all the component parts mentioned. It also requires organs of motion from place to place, in order to procure its wants, to avoid that which is harmful, and to attract and to repel. It requires hands and feet, advisers who distinguish, warning against what is to be feared, and advising what is to be hoped for; who keep account of what has taken place, and record what has passed, in order to recommend care or hope for future events.
[paragraph continues] It requires the internal and external senses, the seat of which is in the head, and which are assisted by the functions of the heart. The whole body is thus harmoniously arranged, but under the control of the heart, which forms the primary home of the soul. Its localization in the brain is of secondary importance, the heart remaining its regulator. In exactly the same way is the living, godly people arranged, as Joshua said: 'Hereby shall ye know that the living God is among you' (iii. 10). The fire was kindled by the will of God, when the people found favour in His sight, being a sign that He accepted their hospitality and their offerings. For the fire is the finest and noblest element beneath the sphere of the moon. Its seat is the fat and vapour of sacrifices, the smoke of the incense and oil, as it is the nature of fire to cling to fat and oil. So also does natural heat cling to the finest fatty globules of the blood. God commanded the construction of the altar burnt offerings, the Altar of Incense, and the candlestick; their holocausts, incense, and the lamp oil. As regards the altar of burnt offerings, it was destined to bear the visible fire, whilst the Golden Altar was reserved for the invisible and finer fire. The candlestick was to bear the light of wisdom and inspiration; the table that of abundance and material provisions. The sages say: He who wishes to be wise must turn to the south; he who wishes to be rich must turn to the north. All these implements stood in the service of the Holy Ark and the Cherubim which occupied the place of the heart, and the lungs above it. The vessels, such as the laver and its foot, tongs, firepans, dishes, spoons, bowls, pots, and forks, etc., were all required. A place was wanted to house them, viz. the Tabernacle,
tent and cover, and the court of the Tabernacle with its appurtenances, as an enclosure for the whole. As bearers of the entire household God appointed the Levites, because they were nearest to Him, especially after the affair of the golden calf, as it is said: 'And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto Him' (Exod. xxxii. 26). From among them He chose Elazar, the finest and noblest of them, as it is said: 'And to the office of Elazar the son of Aaron the priest [pertaineth] the oil for the light, and the sweet incense, and the daily meat offering, and the anointing oil' (Numb. iv. 16)--things to which the finer fire clings. The light of wisdom, however, and inspiration was attached to the Urim and Tummim, as well as to the most select section of Levites, viz. the family of Kohāth, who carried the appurtenances of the internal service: the Ark, Table, Candlestick, Altars, and the Holy Vessels 'with which they served.' With regard to them it is said: 'Because the service of the sanctuary belonged unto them, they should bear upon their shoulders' (Num. vii. 9)--just as the internal organs of the body are without bones which help to carry them, but are, themselves, borne by the innate powers in conjunction with all that belongs to them. Another branch of the children of Gershōn bore the more delicate external appurtenances, viz. the carpets of the Tabernacle, the Tent and its cover, and the covering of badgers’ skin that was above it. The lower section of the B’nē Merāri bore the grosser utensils, viz. its hooks, boards, bars, pillars, and sockets. The last two sections were aided in carrying their burden by having chariots, as it is said: 'Two wagons for the Gershoni and four wagons for Merāri according to their service' (Num. vii. 7-8). All this was systematically arranged
by God. I do not, by any means, assert that the service was instituted in the order expounded by me, since it entailed something more secret and higher, and was based on a divine law. He who accepts this completely without scrutiny or argument, is better off than he who investigates and analyses. He, however, who steps down from the highest grade to scrutiny, does well to turn his face to the latent wisdom, instead of leading it to evil opinions and doubts which lead to corruption.
27. Al Khazari: Rabbi, thy symbolization was excellent, but the head and its senses, as well as the anointing oil were left unconsidered.
28. The Rabbi: Quite so. The root of all knowledge was deposited in the Ark which took the place of the heart, viz. the Ten Commandments, and its branch is the Tōrāh on its side, as it is said: 'Put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God' (Deut. xx)d. 26). From there went forth a twofold knowledge, firstly, the scriptural knowledge, whose bearers were the priests; secondly, the prophetic knowledge which was in the hands of the prophets. Both classes were, so to speak, the people's watchful advisers, who compiled the chronicles. They, therefore, represent the head of the people.
29. Al Khazari: So you are to-day a body without either head or heart.
30. The Rabbi: Thou sayest rightly, but we are not even a body, only scattered limbs, like the 'dry bones' which Ezekiel saw [in his vision] (chap. xxxvii.). These bones, however, O king of the Khazars, which have retained a trace of vital power, having once been the seat of a heart, brain, breath, soul, and intellect, are better than certain bodies formed of marble and plaster, endowed
with heads, eyes, ears, and all limbs, in which never dwelt the spirit of life, nor ever can dwell in them, since they are but imitations of man, not man in reality.
31. Al Khazari: It is as thou sayest.
32. The Rabbi: The 'dead' nations which desire to be held equal to the 'living' people can obtain nothing more than an external resemblance. They built houses for God, but no trace of Him was visible therein. They turned hermits and ascetics in order to secure inspiration, but it came not. They, then, deteriorated, became disobedient, and wicked; yet no fire fell down from heaven upon them, nor rapid pestilence, as a manifest punishment from God for their disobedience. Their heart, I mean the house in which they used to meet, was destroyed, but otherwise their status was not affected. This could only take place in accordance with the largeness or smallness of their number, with their strength or weakness, disunion or unity, following upon natural or accidental causes. We, however, since our heart, I mean the Holy House, was destroyed, were lost with it. If it be restored, we, too, will be restored, be we few or many, or in whichever way this may happen. For our master is the living God, our King, Who keeps us in this our present condition in dispersion and exile.
33. Al Khazari: Certainly. A similar dispersion is not imaginable in any other people, unless it became absorbed by another, especially after so long a period. Many nations which arose after you have perished without leaving a memory, as Edōm, Mōāb, Ammōn, Aran, the Philistines, Chaldaeans, Medians, Persians, and Javān, the Brahmans, Sabaeans, and many others.
34. The Rabbi: Do not believe that I, though agreeing
with thee, admit that we are dead. We still hold connexion with that Divine Influence through the laws which He has placed as a link between us and Him. There is circumcision, of which it is said: 'My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant' (Gen. xvii. 13). There is further the Sabbath, 'It is a sign between me and you throughout your generations' (Exod. xxxi. 13). Besides this there is 'the covenant of the Fathers,' and the covenant of the law, first granted on Hōreb, and then in the plains of Moab in connexion with the promises and warnings laid down in the section:
When thou shalt beget children and grandchildren' (Deut. iv. 25). Compare further the antithesis: 'If any of thine be driven out unto the utmost parts of heaven' (chap. xxx. 10); 'Thou shalt return unto the Lord thy God' (ibid. 2), finally, the song: 'Give ear' (chap. xxxii. 1); and other places. We are not like dead, but rather like a sick and attenuated person who has been given up by the physicians, and yet hopes for a miracle or an extraordinary recovery, as it is said: 'Can these bones live?' (Ezek. xxxvii. 3). Compare also the simile in the words: 'Behold my servant shall prosper'; 'He has no form nor comeliness,' 'Like one from whom men hid their faces' (Is. lii. 13; which means that he is, on account of his deformity and repulsive visage, compared to an unclean thing, which man only beholds with disgust, and turns away; 'Despised and rejected of men,' 'A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief' liii. 3).
35. Al Khazari: How can this serve as a comparison for Israel, as it is said: 'Surely he has borne our griefs?' That which has befallen Israel has come to pass on account of its sins.
36. The Rabbi: Israel amidst the nations is like the heart amidst the organs of the body; it is at one and the same time the most sick and the most healthy of them.
37. Al Khazari: Make this a little clearer.
38. The Rabbi: The heart is exposed to all sorts of diseases, and frequently visited by them, such as sadness, anxiety, wrath, envy, enmity, love, hate, and fear. Its temperament changes continually, undulating between excess and deficiency, and moreover influenced by inferior nourishment, by movement, exertion, sleep, or wakefulness. They all affect the heart whilst the limbs rest.
39. Al Khazari: Now I understand how it can be the most sick and most healthy of all organs simultaneously.
40. The Rabbi: Is it possible that it could suffer from swelling, or a cancer, or boils, a wound, weakness, and asthma, as is possible in other organs?
41. Al Khazari: Impossible. For the smallest trace of these would bring on death. Its extreme sensibility, caused by the purity of its blood, and its great intelligence causes it to feel the slightest symptom, and expels it as long as it is able to do so. The other organs lack this fine sensibility, and it is therefore possible that they can be affected by some strange matter which produces illness.
42. The Rabbi: Thus its sensibility and feeling expose it to many ills, but they are at the same time the cause of their own expulsion at the very beginning, and before they have time to take root.
43. Al Khazari: Quite so.
44. The Rabbi: Our relation to the Divine Influence
is the same as that of the soul to the heart. For this reason it is said: 'You only have I known of all the families of the earth, therefore I will punish you for all your inquities' (Amos iii. 2). These are the illnesses. As regards its health, it is alluded to in the words of the sages: He forgives the sins of his people, causing the first of them to vanish first. He does not allow our sins to become overwhelming, or they would destroy us completely by their multitude. Thus he says: 'For the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full' (Gen. xv. 16). He left them alone till the ailment of their sins had become fatal. Just as the heart is pure in substance and matter, and of even temperament, in order to be accessible to the intellectual soul, so also is Israel in its component parts. In the same way as the heart may be affected by disease of the other organs, viz. the lusts of the liver, stomach and genitals, caused through contact with malignant elements; thus also is Israel exposed to ills originating in its inclinings towards the Gentiles. As it is said: 'They were mingled among the heathens and learned their works' (Ps. cvi. 35). Do not consider it strange if it is said in the same sense: 'Surely, he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows' (Is. liii. 4). Now we are burdened by them, whilst the whole world enjoys rest and prosperity. The trials which meet us are meant to prove our faith, to cleanse us completely, and to remove all taint from us. If we are good, the Divine Influence is with us in this world. Thou knowest that the elements gradually evolved metals, plants, animals, man, finally the pure essence of man. The whole evolution took place for the sake of this essence, in order that the Divine Influence should inhabit it. That essence, however, came into existence
for the sake of the highest essence, viz. the prophets and pious. A similar gradation can be observed in the prayer: 'Give thy fear, O Lord our God, over all Thy works.' Then: 'Give glory to Thy people'; finally: 'The pious shall see and rejoice,' because they are the purest essence.
45. Al Khazari: Thy interesting comparison has completely riveted my attention. But I should expect to see more hermits and ascetics among you than among other people.
46. The Rabbi: I regret that thou hast forgotten those fundamental principles in which thou didst concur. Did we not agree that man cannot approach God except by means of deeds commanded by him? Dost thou think that this can be gained by meekness, humility, etc., alone?
47. Al Khazari: Certainly, and rightly so. I think I read in your books as follows: 'What doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God' (Deut. x. 12) and 'What doth the Lord require of thee' (Mic. vi. 8), and many similar passages?
48. The Rabbi: These are the rational laws, being the basis and preamble of the divine law, preceding it in character and time, and being indispensable in the administration of every human society. Even a gang of robbers must have a kind of justice among them if their confederacy is to last. When Israel's disloyalty had come to such a pass that they disregarded rational and social principles (which are as absolutely necessary for a society as are the natural functions of eating, drinking, exercise, rest, sleeping, and waking for the individual), but held fast to the sacrificial worship and other divine laws, He was satisfied with even less. It was told to
them: 'Haply you might observe those laws which rule the smallest and meanest community, such as refer to justice, good actions, and recognition of God's bounty.' For the divine law cannot become complete till the social and rational laws are perfected. The rational law demands justice and recognition of God's bounty. What has he, who fails in this respect, to do with offerings, Sabbath, circumcision, etc., which reason neither demands, nor forbids? These are, however, the ordinations especially given to Israel as a corollary to the rational laws. Through this they received the advantage of the Divine Influence, without knowing how it came to pass that the 'Glory of God' descended upon them, and that 'the fire of God' consumed their offerings; how they heard the allocution of the Lord; and how their history developed. These are matters which reason would refuse to believe if they were not guaranteed by irrefutable evidence. In a similar sense it was said to them: 'What doth the Lord thy God require of thee?' (Deut. x. 12) and 'Add your burnt offerings' (Jer. vii. 21), and similar verses. Can it be imagined that the Israelites observe 'the doing of justice and the love of mercy;' but neglect circumcision, Sabbath, and the other laws, and felt happy withal?
49. Al Khazari: After what thou hast said I should not think so. In the opinion of philosophers, however, he becomes a pious man who does not mind in which way he approaches God, whether as a Jew or a Christian, or anything else he chooses. Now we have returned to reasoning, speculating and dialectics. According of this everyone might endeavour to belong to a creed dictated by his own speculating, a thing which would be absurd.
50. The Rabbi: The divine law imposes no asceticism on us. It rather desires that we should keep the equipoise, and grant every mental and physical faculty its due, as much as it can bear, without overburdening one faculty at the expense of another. If a person gives way to licentiousness he blunts his mental faculty; he who is inclined to violence injures some other faculty. Prolonged fasting is no act of piety for a weak person who, having succeeded in checking his desires, is not greedy. For him feasting is a burden and self-denial. Neither is diminution of wealth an act of piety, if it is gained in a lawful way, and if its acquisition does not interfere with study and good works, especially for him who has a household and children. He may spend part of it in almsgiving, which would not be displeasing to God; but to increase it is better for himself. Our law, as a whole, is divided between fear, love, and joy, by each of which one can approach God. Thy contrition on a fast day does nothing the nearer to God than thy joy on the Sabbath and holy days, if it is the outcome of a devout heart. Just as prayers demand devotion, so also is a pious mind necessary to find pleasure in God's command and law; that thou shouldst be pleased with the law itself from love of the Lawgiver. Thou seest how much He has distinguished thee, as if thou hadst been His guest invited to His festive board. Thou thankest Him in mind and word, and if thy joy lead thee so far as to sing and dance, it becomes worship and a bond of union between thee and the Divine Influence. Our law did not consider these matters optional, but laid down decisive injunctions concerning them, since it is not in the power of mortal man to apportion to each faculty of the soul and body its right measure, nor to
decide what amount of rest and exertion is good, or to determine how long the ground should be cultivated till it finds rest in the years of release and jubilee, or the amount of tithe to be given, etc. God commanded cessation of work on Sabbath and holy days, as well as in the culture of the soil, all this 'as a remembrance of the exodus from Egypt,' and 'remembrance of the work of creation.' These two things belong together, because they are the outcome of the absolute divine will, but not the result of accident or natural phenomena. It is said: 'For ask now of the days that are past--Did ever a people hear the voice of God--Or hath God assayed,' etc. (Deut. iv. 32 sqq.). The observance of the Sabbath is itself an acknowledgment of His omnipotence, and at the same time an acknowledgment of the creation by the divine word. He who observes the Sabbath because the work of creation was finished on it acknowledges the creation itself. He who believes in the creation believes in the Creator. He, however, who does not believe in it falls a prey to doubts of God's eternity and to doubts of the existence of the world's Creator. The observance of the Sabbath is therefore nearer to God than monastic retirement and ascetism. Behold how the Divine Influence attached itself to Abraham, and then to all those who shared his excellence and the Holy Land. This Influence followed him everywhere, and guarded his posterity, preventing the detachment of any of them, it brought them to the most sheltered and best place, and caused them to multiply in a miraculous manner, and finally raised them to occupy a degree worthy of such excellence. He is, therefore, called: 'God of Abraham' (Gen. xxviii. 13),'God of the land' (1 Sam. iv. 4),'Dwelling between the Cherubim' (Ps. ix. 12), 'Dwelling in Zion '
[paragraph continues] (Ps. cxxxv. 21), 'Abiding in Jerusalem' (Ps. cxxiii. 1), these places being compared to heaven, as it is said: 'Dwelling in heaven' (Ps. cxxiii. 1). His light shines in these places as in heaven, although through mediums which are fit to receive this light. He sheds it upon them, and this it is that is called love. It has been taught us, and we have been enjoined to believe in it, as well as to praise and thank Him in the prayer: "With eternal love Thou lovest us"; so that we should bear in mind that it originally came from Him, but not from us. To give an instance, we do not say that an animal created itself, but that God formed and fashioned it, having selected the proper matter for it. In the same manner it was He who initiated our delivery from Egypt to be His people and to acknowledge Him as king, as He said: 'I am the Lord your God who led you out of the land of Egypt to be unto you a God' (Lev. xxii. 33, Num. xv. 41). He also says: 'O Israel, in whom I will be glorified' (Is. xlix. 3).
51. Al Khazari: This sentence seems to go too far, and is overbold in expressing that the Creator is glorified through mortal man.
52. The Rabbi: Wouldst thou find this less strange in the creation of the sun?
53. Al Khazari: Certainly, on account of its great power. Next to God it is the cause of being. By its means night and day and the seasons of the year are determined; minerals, metals, plants, and animals were developed through its instrumentality. Its light produced sight and colours. Wherefore should not the action of such a thing be an object of glory among men?
54. The Rabbi: Are not the intellectual faculties much finer than the light that is seen? Or were not
the inhabitants of the earth prior to the Israelites in blindness and error excepting those few whom I mentioned? Some people said that there was no Creator; that no part of the world was more worthy of being created than being creator, the universe being eternal. Others say that the spheres are eternal and creative. They consequently adore them. Others again assert that the fire is the essence of light and all the miraculous products of its power; it must, therefore, be worshipped. The soul also is fire. Others worship different things, viz. sun, moon, stars, and animal forms, which are in connexion with special phenomena. Other people adore their kings and sages. They all, however, agree that there is nothing in the world which is contrary to nature, nor is there any Providence. Even philosophers who, with their refined intuition and clear view, acknowledge a Prime Cause different from earthly things and unparalleled, are inclined to think that this Prime Cause exercises no influence on the world, and certainly not on individuals, as he is too exalted to know them, much less to make them the basis of a new entity. The community was at last considered sufficiently pure for the light to dwell on it, to be worthy of seeing miracles which changed the course of nature, and to understand that the world had a King who watched and guarded it, who knew both great and small, rewarded the good and the wicked, and directed the hearts. All who came after these philosophers could not detach themselves from their principles, so that to-day the whole civilized world acknowledges that God is eternal, and that the world was created. They look upon the Israelites and all that befell them as a proof of this.
55. Al Khazari: This is glory indeed, and an extraordinary
proof. It is justly written: 'To make Himself an everlasting name' (Is. lxiii. 12), 'So didst Thou get Thee a name as it is this day' (Neh. ix. 10), and 'In praise, in name, and in honour' (Deut. xxvi. 19).
56. The Rabbi: Didst thou not see how David introduces the praise of the Tōrāh, when he first speaks of the sun in the words: 'The heavens declare the glory of God' (Ps. xix. 2). He describes how ubiquitous its light, how pure its body, how steady its path, and beautiful its countenance. This is followed by the words: 'The law of the Lord is perfect' (ver. 7), etc., as if he wished to convey that one should not wonder at such a description. For the Tōrāh is more pure, more resplendent, more widely known, more exalted, and more useful still. If there were no Israelites there would be no Tōrāh. They did not derive their high position from Moses, but Moses received his for their sake. The divine love dwelt among the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The choice of Moses, however, was made in order that the good fortune might come to them through his instrumentality. We are not called the people of Moses, but the people of God, as it is said: 'The people of the Lord' (Ezek. xxxvi. 20) and 'The people of the God of Abraham' (Ps. xlvii. 10). Proof of the Divine Influence is not found in well chosen words, in raising the eyebrows, closing the eyes during prayers, contrition, movement, and talk behind which there are no deeds; but a pure mind, illustrated by corresponding actions which, by their very nature, are difficult to perform, and are yet performed with the utmost zeal and love. It is to be found in one who, wherever he may, strives to reach the chosen place three times a year, and bearing with the greatest pleasure and joy all fatigues
and expenses connected therewith. He pays the 'first tithe,' and the 'second tithe,' and the 'poor tithe,' and the expenses connected with his apparel for the Temple. He renounces the harvest in the years of release and jubilee, incurs expense for a tabernacle, holy days, and abstention from work; gives the first fruits, the firstborn animals, priests' emoluments, the first of the shearing, and the first of the dough, apart from vows and free gifts, and fines connected with intentional and unintentional sins, and peace offerings. Further offerings due on account of private happenings, impurity, child-bed, issue, leprosy, and many other things. All this is regulated by divine command, without [human] speculation. It is not possible for man to determine the relative importance of each, and he need not fear any deterioration in them. It is as if He assessed Israel, and measured them as well as the harvests of Palestine as regards vegetable and animal life. He also considered the tribe of Levi, and ordained these assessments in the desert, because he knew that, as long as they were not infringed, Israel would retain its surplus, and the Levite would not be in want. It never could come to such a pass that a tribe or family would be reduced to poverty, because he ordained the return of the whole property in the year of jubilee in the same status as it was in the first year of the distribution of the land. The details of these regulations would fill volumes. He who studies them carefully will see that they are not of human origin. Praised be He who has contrived them: 'He hath not dealt so with any nation; they are judgments which they knew not' (Ps. cxlvii. 20). This arrangement lasted during the periods of both Temples for about 1,300 years, and had the people remained in
the straight path, it would have been 'as the days of the heaven on earth' (Deut. xi. 20).
57. Al Khazari: At present you are in great confusion concerning those heavy duties. What nation could observe such regulations?
58. The Rabbi: The community whose guardian and compensator is always in its midst--I mean God. Joshua said: 'You cannot serve the Lord, for He is an holy God' (chap. xxiv. 19). Notwithstanding this, his community was so zealously observing that, in the matter of the trespass of 'the devoted thing of Jericho,' not more than the one, Achan, was found disobedient among more than six hundred thousand. The punishment followed immediately, just as it did in the case of Miriam, who was afflicted with leprosy; also in the cases of Uzzah, Nadab and Abihu, and the people of Beth-Shemesh, who were punished because they had 'looked into the ark of the Lord' (1 Sam. vi. 19). It was one of the wonderful traits of God that His displeasure for minor transgressions was shown on the walls of houses and in the clothes, whilst for more grievous sins the bodies were more or less severely stricken. The priests were appointed to study this profound science and to discover to what extent these trials were God's punishment (this often took them weeks to find out, as was the case with Miriam), or how much was simply constitutionally curable or incurable. This is an abstruse science to which God pointed in the words: 'Take heed in the plague of leprosy, that thou observe diligently and do according to all that the priests, the Levites, shall teach you' (Deut. xxiv. 8).
59. Al Khazari: Hast thou a satisfactory argument on the matter?
60. The Rabbi: I told thee that there is no comparison to be made between our intelligence and the Divine Influence, and it is proper that we leave the cause of these important things unexamined. I take, however, the liberty of stating--though not with absolute certainty--that leprosy and issue are occasionally the consequence of contamination by corpses. A dead body represents the highest degree of malignancy, and a leprous limb is as if dead. It is the same with lost σπέρμα, because it had been endowed with living power, capable of engendering a human being. Its loss, therefore, forms a contrast to the living and breathing, and on account of its ideal potentiality only affects noble minds and highly strung souls which incline towards the divine, prophetic, visionary, and towards genuine imagination. There are people who feel depressed as long as they have not purified themselves after such an accident. Experience has taught them that their touch deteriorates such fine things as pearls and wine. Most of us feel influenced by the vicinity of dead bodies and graves, and our spirits are depressed as long as we find ourselves in a house in which there is a corpse. Those of coarser mould remain untouched. We see the same in intellectual matters. He who seeks purity of thought in philosophic studies, or purity of soul in prayer, feels uncomfortable in the association with women and scoffers, or during the recitation of jocular or love songs.
61. Al Khazari: This explains to me why the physical birthright, viz. the σπέρμα, contaminates, though being wholly spiritual, whilst other excreta do not do so, in spite of their repulsive aspect, odour, and quantity. Now I should still like to hear the explanation of the leprosy of the garment and the house.
62. The Rabbi: I mentioned that as one of the characteristics of the Shekhinah, that it occupies in Israel the same place as the spirit of life in the human body. It granted them a divine life, and allowed them to find lustre, beauty, and light in their souls, bodies, dispositions, and houses. When it was absent from them, their intelligence waned, their bodies deteriorated, and their beauty faded. The effect of the disappearance of the divine light became noticeable in every individual. One can easily see how the breath of a person is suddenly lost through fear and sorrow, whereby the body also suffers. On women and boys who go out at night one may sometimes see black and green marks, the result of their weak nerves. This is attributed to demons, but diseases of body and mind are often produced by the sight of people who have died or were killed.
63. Al Khazari: I perceive that your law comprises all sorts of profound and strange sciences, -not to be found in other codes.
64. The Rabbi: The members of the Synhedrion were bound not to let any science, real and fictitious, or conventional, escape their knowledge, magic and language included. How was it possible at all times to find seventy scholars unless learning was common among the people? If one elder died, another of the same stamp succeeded him. This could not be otherwise, as all branches of science were required for the practice of the law. Natural sciences was wanted for agriculture, in order to recognise 'mingled seed,' to be careful with the produce of the seventh year and of newly planted trees, to distinguish the various kinds of plants, that their nature might be preserved, and one species be not mixed
up with another. It is difficult enough to know whether chondros is a kind of barley, or spelt, a kind of wheat, or brassica is a kind of cabbage; to study the powers of their roots and how far they spread in the ground; how much of it remains for the following year, and how much does not remain; how much space and time is to be left between each species. Further, the distinction of the various species of animals served various purposes, among which is to know which communicates poison and which not. With this is connected the knowledge of injuries which make an animal unlawful for food. This is even more profound than what Aristotle wrote on the subject, viz. how to know which injuries are fatal and thus to deter people from eating carrion. The small remnant of this knowledge which has remained makes us wonder. Add to this the acquaintance with the blemishes which disqualify priests from taking part in the Temple service, as well as of the blemishes which prohibit the offering up of certain animals as sacrifices. Then there is the knowledge of the various kinds of issue and of the period of purification. All this requires instruction. Man is not able to determine these matters by reflection alone, without divine assistance. The same is the case with the knowledge of the revolutions of the spheres, of which the yearly calendar is but one fruit. The excellence of the calculation of the calendar is famous, and it is well known what deep root it has taken among these people, few in number, yet excellently equipped with model institutions. Could it be otherwise? On account of the smallness, humbleness, and dispersion of the people it is hardly noticed among the other nations, yet those relics of the Divine made it into one firmly established organization.
[paragraph continues] The calendar, based on the rules of the revolution of the moon, as handed down by the House of David, is truly wonderful. Though hundreds of years have passed, no mistake has been found in it, whilst the observations of Greek and other astronomers are not faultless. They were obliged to insert corrections and supplements every century, whilst our calendar is always free from error, as it rests on prophetic tradition. Had there been the smallest flaw in a fundamental rule this would to-day have assumed serious proportions, on account of the time difference between the conjunction of the moon and the moment when she becomes visible. In the same manner our sages were, without doubt, acquainted with the movements of the sun and astronomy in general. Music was the pride of a nation which distributed their songs in such a way that they fell to the lot of the aristocracy of the people, viz. the Levites, who made practical use of them in the holy house and in the holy season. For their maintenance they were satisfied with the tithes, as they had no occupation but music. As an art it is highly esteemed among mankind, as long as it is not abused and degraded, and as long as the people preserves its original nobleness and purity. David and Samuel were its great masters. Dost thou think that they understood it well or not?
65. Al Khazari: There can be no doubt that their art was most perfect, and touched the souls, as people say that it changes the humour of a man's soul to a different one. It is impossible that it should now reach the same high level. It has deteriorated, and servants and half-crazy people are its patrons. Truly, Rabbi, it sank from its greatness, as you have sunk in spite of your former greatness.
66. The Rabbi: What is thy opinion of Solomon's accomplishments? Did he not, with the assistance of divine, intellectual, and natural power, converse on all sciences? The inhabitants of the earth travelled to him, in order to carry forth his learning, even as far as India. Now the roots and principles of all sciences were handed down from us first to the Chaldaeans, then to the Persians and Medians, then to Greece, and finally to the Romans. On account of the length of this period, and the many disturbing circumstances, it was forgotten that they had originated with the Hebrews, and so they were ascribed to the Greeks and Romans. To Hebrew, however, belongs the first place, both as regards the nature of the languages, and as to fullness of meanings.
67. Al-Khazari: Is Hebrew superior to other languages? Do we not see distinctly that the latter are more finished and comprehensive?
68. The Rabbi: It shared the fate of its bearers, degenerating and dwindling with them. Considered historically and logically, its original form is the noblest. According to tradition it is the language in which God spoke to Adam and Eve, and in which the latter conversed. It is proved by the derivation of Adam from adāmāh, ishshāh from ish; ḥayyāh from ḥayy; Cain from qānīthī; Shēth from shāth, and Noah from yenaḥ, mēnū. This is supported by the evidence of the Tōrāh. The whole is traced back to Eber, Noah and Adam. It is the language of Eber after whom it was called Hebrew, because after the confusion of tongues it was he who retained it. Abraham was an Aramaean of Ur Kasdim, because the language of the Chaldaeans was Aramaic. He employed Hebrew as a specially holy language and
[paragraph continues] Aramaic for everyday use. For this reason Ishmael brought it to the Arabic speaking nations, and the consequence was that Aramaic, Arabic and Hebrew are similar to each other in their vocabulary, grammatical rules, and formations. The superiority of Hebrew is manifest from the logical point of view if we consider the people who employed it for discourses, particularly at the time when prophecy was rife among them, also for preaching, songs and psalmody. It is conceivable that their rulers such as for instance, Moses, Joshua, David, and Solomon lacked the words to express what they wished, as it is the case with us to-day, because it is lost to us? Dost thou not see how the Tōrāh, when describing the Tabernacle, Ephōd and breastplate and other objects, always finds the most suitable word for all these strange matters? How beautifully is this description composed? It is just the same with the names of people, species of birds and stones, the diction of David's Psalms, the lamentations of Job, and his dispute with his friends, the addresses of Isaiah, etc.
69. Al-Khazari: Thou wilt only succeed in placing it on a par with other languages thus. But where is its pre-eminence? Other languages surpass it in songs metrically constructed and arranged for tunes 41
70. The Rabbi: It is obvious that a tune is independent of the metre, or of the lesser or greater number of syllables. The verse hōdū la’dōnāi ki tōb can, therefore, be sung to the same tune as leōsē niflāōth gedōlōth lebaddō. This is the rule in sentences in which the tune must follow the grammatical construction. Rhymed poems, however, which are recited, and in which a good metre is noticeable, are neglected for something higher and more useful.
71. Al-Khazari: And what may that be?
72. The Rabbi: The faculty of speech is to transmit the idea of the speaker into the soul of the hearer. Such intention, however, can only be carried out to perfection by means of oral communication. This is better than writing. The proverb is: 'From the mouths of scholars, but not from the mouth of books.' Verbal communication finds various aids either in pausing or continuing to speak, according to the requirements of the sentence, by raising or lowering the voice, in expressing astonishment, question, narrative, desire, fear or submission by means of gestures, without which speech by itself would remain inadequate. Occasionally the speaker even has recourse to movements of eyes, eyebrows, or the whole head and hands, in order to express anger, pleasure, humility or haughtiness to the degree desired. In the remnant of our language which was created and instituted by God, are implanted subtle elements calculated to promote understanding, and to take the place of the above aids to speech. These are the accents with which the holy text is read. They denote pause and continuation, they separate question from answer, the beginning from the continuation of the speech, haste from hesitation, command from request, on which subject books might be written. He who intends to do this must omit poetry, because it can only be recited in one way. For it mostly connects when it should stop and stops where it should go on. One cannot avoid this except with great trouble.
73. Al-Khazari: It is but proper that mere beauty of sound should yield to lucidity of speech. Harmony pleases the ear, but exactness makes the meaning clear.
I see, however, that you Jews long for a prosody, in
imitation of other peoples, in order to force the Hebrew language into their metres.
74. The Rabbi: This is because we remained and are froward. Instead of being satisfied with the superiority mentioned above, we corrupted the structure of our language, which is built on harmony, and created discord.
75. Al-Khazari: How so?
76. The Rabbi: Didst thou not see that a hundred persons read the Tōrāh as one person, stopping in one moment, and continuing simultaneously?
77. Al-Khazari I have, indeed, observed this, and never saw the like of it either among Persians or Arabs. It is impossible in the recitation of a poem. Now I should like to know how the Hebrew language obtained that advantage, and how the metre interferes with it.
78. The Rabbi: The reason is that you can put together two [vowelless] consonants, but not three vowels, except in rare cases This not only gives the speech a rest, but enables it to obtain that advantage, viz. consonance and fluency in reading. This makes learning by heart and the grasping of the meaning easy. The first thing which destroys metrical reading is the relation of those two consonants. Correct accentuation becomes impossible, so that ŏkhlāh (food) is read like ōkhelāh (she is eating); ŏmrō (his word) and āmerū (they have spoken) have metrically the same value as ōmēr (speaking) and ōmer (word). Thus also the time difference between shábti, which is past tense, and we shabtí, which is future, lost. We might find a way out of this difficulty if we followed the ways of the Piyyūt which does not interfere with the language,
and merely employs the rhyme. But in matters of poetry, the same befell us which befell our forefathers, concerning whom it is written: 'They mingled among the gentiles and learned their works '(Ps. cvi. 35).
79. Al-Khazari: I should like to ask whether thou knowest the reason why Jews move to and fro when reading the Bible?
80. The Rabbi: It is said that it is done in order to arouse natural heat. My personal belief is that it stands in connexion with the subject under discussion. As it often happened that many persons read at the same time, it was possible that ten or more read from one volume. This is the reason why our books are so large. Each of them was obliged to bend down in his turn in order to read a passage, and to turn back again. This resulted in a continual bending and sitting up, the book lying on the ground. This was one reason. Then it became a habit through constant seeing, observing and imitating, which is in man's nature. Other people read each out of his own book, either bringing it near to his eyes, or, if he pleased, bending down to it without inconveniencing his neighbour. There was, therefore, no necessity of bending and sitting up. We will now discuss the importance of the accents, the orthographic value of the seven principal vowel signs, the grammatical accuracy resulting from them as well as from the distinction between Qāmeṣ, Pataḥ, Ṣērē and Sēgōl. They influence the meaning of grammatical forms and assist in distinguishing between past and future tenses e.g., שַׁמתִּי and ושַׁמְתִּי and וַאֲבָרְכֵהוּ and וְאַבָרְכֵהוּ. (Is. li. 2, and Gen. xxvii, 33); or between a verb and an adjective, e.g. חָבַם and חָבָם; between the interrogative Hē and the article, as in הָעוֹלָה הִיא לִמָעְלָה
[paragraph continues] (Eccl. iii. 21), and other cases. The euphony and structure of speech is increased by the sequence of two vowelless consonants, which enables a whole congregation to read Hebrew simultaneously without mistakes. Other rules apply to the musical accents. For the vowel sounds are divided in Hebrew into three classes, viz. U-sound, A-sound, and I-sound; or in another division: great U-sound, or Qāmeṣ, medium U-sound, or Ḥōlem; little U-sound, or Shūreq; great A-sound, or Pataḥ; little A-sound or Sēgōl; great I-sound or Sērē; little I-sound, or Ḥīreq. Shewā is sounded with all these [vowels] under certain conditions. It is vowel absolute, because any addition would require a vowelless consonant to follow. Qāmeṣ is followed by a long closed syllable, but not by dāgēsh in the first form Dagēsh can only follow, if demanded by the exigencies of the second or third forms, the syllable being long, by one of the vowel letters alef or hē, as in ברא and קנה. A syllable of this kind can also end in a vowelless consonant, as in קאם (Hos. x. 14). Ḥōlem also can be followed by a vowel letter which is wāw or alef as in לא and לו, or a syllable of this kind can be closed by a consonant as שׁור and שׂמׂאל. The vowel letters after Ṣērē are alef or yōd as in יוצא and יוצאי. Hē, however, only in the second form, but not in the first. Shūreq is free for all three forms. It can be followed by a vowel letter, or dāgēsh, or vowelless consonant. Its long vowel is expressed by wāw only as, לו, ללון and לֻקח. Ḥīreq follows the rule of Shūreq as in לין, לי and לבי. Pataḥ, and Sēgōl are not followed by a vowel letter in the first form, but are lengthened by the second form, either for the sake of emphasis, or on account of the accent, or in the pause
at the end of a sentence. The rules of the first form are obtained by considering the formation of each word separately, without any relation to the construction of the sentence with its variety of combination and separation, and long and short words. Then are obtained the seven principal vowels in their original, unchanged form and the simple Shewā without qa’yā. The second form deals with euphony in the construction of sentences. Occasionally elements of the first form are altered to please the second. The third form concerns the accents, and sometimes reacts on both preceding ones. In the first form three consecutive vowels without an intervening consonant or dāgesh are possible, but three, or more, short vowels may follow each other as in Arabic. This, however, is impossible in the second form. As soon as three vowels follow each other in the first form, the second one lengthens one of them to the quantity of a long vowel as in משבָני, לשבֵני, רצפת (Ps. xxxi. 12; Esth. i. 6). For Hebrew does not allow three consecutive vowels, except when a consonant is either repeated as in שררך (Cant. vii. 3), or in the case of gutturals as in נהרי and נחלי, the reader being at liberty to read [the first syllable] long or short. In the same way the first form allows the sequence of two long closed syllables. The second form, however, to prevent clumsiness of speech, shortens one long syllable as in שמתי and ושמתי. It is obvious that the pronunciation of פעל and similar forms is contrary to its vocalisation, the second syllable being lengthened in spite of the Pataḥ, whilst the first is read short in spite of the Qāmeṣ. The heightening of the second syllable is due to the tone, but not to make it slightly longer. Words as אמר-לי and עשה-לי (Gen. xx. 5; xxi. 6)
remain therefore in the first form, because the smaller word has the tone. We also find פָעָל with two Qāmeṣ though in the past tense. The cause of this is to be found in the athnaḥ or sōf pāsūq, and we say that this is possible in the second form on account of the pause. We follow this up till we find even פָעָל with two Qāmeṣ and zāqēf. The reason of this we find in a virtual pause, the word being entitled to athnaḥ or sōf pāsūq, but other cogent reasons made athnaḥ and sōf pāsūq in this case impossible. On the other hand we find these two accents with two pataḥs, however strange this may be, e.g. ויאמַר, וזקנתי, ותשברנה, וַיִּלַךָ. The reason of pataḥ in ויאמר is found in examining its meaning, as it cannot stand in pause, and is necessarily connected with the following complement of the sentence There are only a few exceptions as כאשר אָמָר, (Gen. xxi. 1), because the verb completes the sentence logically, and can take Qāmeṣ because of the pause.
As regards, however, וילך and ותשברנה, they should originally be ויֵלֵך and ותשבֵרנה; but the transformation of the I-sound with great Pataḥ, without any intermediate element, was too awkward, and therefore Pataḥ stepped in. The form זקנתי belongs probably to the same class, because the root is זָקֵן, the Ṣērē being changed into Pataḥ at the end of a sentence. We marvel why the פֶעֶל forms have the accent on the first syllable which is read long, although it has Sēgōl. We must, however, consider that, if the first syllable remained short, Hebrew phonology would require the second syllable to be read long and with accent, and a slight quiescent would creep in between the second and third radicals. This would be inelegant, which is not the
case in the first syllable, which must have this quiescent and has also room for it. This lengthening of the penultima corresponds to פֶן עֶל, but not to פָן עֱל. For when the word has athnaḥ, or sōf pāsūq, it is פָעֶל corresponding to פָאן עֶל. This shows the necessity of lengthening the vowel in שַמתי and שָמתי. We consider forms like שער and נער likewise strange, because the Pataḥ of the first syllable is read long. We soon discover, however, that they are פֶעֶל forms with Pataḥ on account of the guttural. For this reason they undergo no change in the status constructus, as do נהר and קהל (Gen. xv. 18; Exod. xii. 6), which are formed like דָבָר. Then we find אעשה, יעשה, אבנה and אקנה with Sēgōl and vowel letters. If we consider the first instance, we find it to be a form אפעל, יפעל, the second radical not being long, but always forming a closed syllable with Pataḥ. We are now to read אעשֶה instead of Pataḥ, because no A-sound can precede a silent hē, unless it be Qāmeṣ. Qāmeṣ is long, whilst the second radical of a verb can never have a long vowel, except when read with a vowel, or when followed by Alef as in אצֵא. It is for this reason that אעשׂה is read with Sēgōl which is the shortest vowel imaginable, but interchanges with Ṣērē when the second form requires to replace the one by the other at the ends of sentences. There is almost no necessity for the hē of אעשה except in the pause or with the accent, and is eased by dāgesh as in אעשה-לך and אבנה-לי, (Exod. xxxiii. 5), in which cases the hē has no function. This is not the case [with א] in אצא, אבא. In בא-לי, there is no dāgesh, the א being preceded by Ṣērē and being a radical. Hē, however, is considered to be so weak that it is both graphically and phonetically
omitted in ויבן, ויקן and ויעש. How could it, then, close a syllable vocalized by Ṣērē? It was, therefore, left to Sēgōl, the slightest vowel, at all events, in the first form. The second form changed it into Sērē, when standing in pause. It appears likewise strange that מראה, מעשה, מקנה and similar forms have Ṣērē in the construct state, but Sēgōl in the absolute. We should think the reverse to be correct. But if we consider that the third radical, viz. a silent Hē is treated as altogether absent, and those nouns have the forms of מרא, מעש, מקן, nothing but Sēgōl will serve till some circumstances bring it out with a long vowel as in מראֵה, מעשֵה, מראיהן and מעשיהן. Sēgōl becomes Ṣērē to take the place of [small] Pataḥ in מראֵם and מעשׁםֵ. Words of the first form can be altered by the second as to the vowels, but not as to the pronunciation. The word בן has Sērē in the absolute state, Sēgōl in the construct. Occasionally the latter is lengthened by the tone as in בן-יאיר (Esth. ii. 5) with the Sēgōl of the first form In other cases the tone precipitates it, although it has Ṣērē according to the first form, as in בן אחר (Gen. xxx. 24). In segolate forms with the accent on the last syllable Sērē is no longer perplexing. The author of this profound science held secrets which are unknown to us. We may have discovered some by means of which he intended to stimulate our investigation as we have said above, with regard to העולה היא למעלה. Or we might find out the rules of distinguishing between past and future, infinitive and participle of the passive voice, e.g. נאסָף אל עמי (Gen. xlix. 29), with Qāmeṣ, and נאשר נאסַף (Num. xxvii. 13) with Pataḥ. The masoretic text vocalizes three times וישהָט (Lev. viii. 15, 19, 23), with Qāmeṣ, although
syntactically speaking the words stand only virtually in pause. There are many instances that the Sēgōl after Zarqā has the force of Athnaḥ, or sōf pāsūq, or Zākēf, causing an alteration of the first form. If I wished to enlarge an the subject, the book would become too lengthy. I only desired to give thee a taste of this profound study, which is not built on hap-hazard, but on fixed rules.
81. Al Khazari: This is sufficient to enlighten me on the wonderful character of the Hebrew language. Now I desire the description of a servant of God according to your conception. Afterwards I will ask thee for thy arguments against the Karaites. Then I should like to hear the principal articles of faith and religious axioms. Finally I wish to know which branches of ancient study have been preserved among you.
Finished is the second part, and we begin --