It is forbidden to inquire what existed before creation, as Moses distinctly tells us (Deut. iv. 32): "Ask now of the days that are past which were before thee, since the day God created man upon earth." Thus the scope of inquiry is limited to the time since the Creation.
The unity of God is at once set before us in the history of creation, where we are told he, not they, created.
The Torah was to God, when he created the world, what the plan is to an architect when he erects a building.
The aleph, being the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, demurred at her place being usurped by the letter beth, which is second to her, at the creation; the history of which commences with the latter, instead of with the former. She was, however, quite satisfied when told that, in the history of giving the Decalogue, she would be placed at the beginning, for the world has only been created on account of the Torah, which, indeed, existed anterior to creation; and had the Creator not foreseen that Israel would consent to receive and diffuse the Torah, creation would not have taken place.
There is a difference of opinion as to the day on which angels were created; one authority decides for the second day, on the ground that they are mentioned in connection with water (Ps. civ. 3, 4), which was created on that day; while another, arguing from the fact that they are said to fly (Isa. vi.), assigns their creation to the fifth day, on which all other flying things were created. But all authorities are agreed that they did not exist on the first day of creation, so that skeptics can not say that they were helpers in the work of creation.
The title of an earthly king precedes his name, for instance,
Emperor Augustus, etc. Not so was the will of the King of kings; He is only known as God after creating heaven and earth. Thus it is not said, "God created," but "In the beginning created God heavens and earth"; He is not mentioned as God before he created.
Even the new heavens and earth, spoken of by the Prophet Isaiah (lxv. 17), were created in the six days of creation.
When any divergence is found in the Scriptures it must not be thought that it is by mere accident, for it is done advisedly. Thus, for instance, we invariably find Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; but once, as an exception, Jacob is mentioned before the other patriarchs (Lev. xxvi. 42). Again, whilst Moses has always precedence over Aaron, in one instance we find Aaron's name placed before that of Moses (Exod. vi. 26). This is also the case with Joshua and Caleb; whilst the former normally precedes the name of Caleb, there is one exception (Numb. xiv. 30).
This is to show us that these men were equally beloved by God. The same is the case with the love and honor due to parents; whilst the father is as a rule mentioned first in this connection, once (in Lev. xix. 3) the mother is mentioned before the father. This is also intended to indicate that children owe the same love and honor to the mother as to the father.
The man that gloats over another man's disgrace and thinks himself raised in dignity by it, is unworthy of future bliss.
Light is mentioned five times in the opening chapter of the Bible. This points to the five books of Moses. "God said, let there be light," refers to the book of Genesis, which enlightens us as to how creation was carried out. The words, "And there was light," bear reference to the book of Exodus, which contains the history of the transition of Israel from darkness to light. "And God saw the light that it was good": this alludes to the book of Leviticus, which contains numerous statutes. "And God divided between the light
and between the darkness": this refers to the book of Numbers, divided as that book is between the history of those who came out of Egypt and that of those who were on their way to possess the promised land. "And God called the light day": this bears reference to the book of Deuteronomy, which is not only a rehearsal of the four earlier books, but contains Moses's eloquent dying charge to Israel and many laws not mentioned in the preceding books.
"And the earth was without form and void." There seems to be some reason for the earth's despondency, as though she was aware of her lot beforehand. This may be illustrated by the following parable: A king acquired two servants on precisely the same conditions, but made a distinction in their treatment. Regarding the one, he decreed that she should be fed and maintained at the expense of the king. For the other, he decided that she must maintain herself by her own labor. In the same way, the earth was sad because she saw that the heavens and the earth were equally and at the same time called into being by the same "let there be," or will of God, and yet the heavenly bodies feast on: and are maintained by divine glory; whilst earthly bodies, unless they labor and produce their own sustenance, are not sustained. Or, again, it is as though the king decreed that the one servant should be a constant dweller in his palace, whilst the other should be a fugitive and a wanderer; or gave to the one perpetuity or eternity, and to the other, death. Thus, the earth knowing--as though by inspiration--God's words spoken afterward to Adam (Gen. iii. 17): "Cursed is the ground for thy sake," put on mourning, and thus was "without form and void."
In the words, "And there was evening and there was morning one day," the "one day" referred to is the Day of Atonement--the day of expiation.
There seems to be a covenant made with the waters that whenever the heat is excessive and there is scarcely a breath of air moving on land, there is always some breeze, however slight, on the waters.
God knew beforehand that the world would contain both righteous and wicked men, and there is an allusion to this in the story of creation. "The earth without form," means the wicked, and the words, "and there was light," refers to the righteous.
Other worlds were created and destroyed ere this present one was decided on as a permanent one.
Rain is produced by the condensed effusion of the upper firmament.
"How is it," asked an inquisitive matron of Rabbi José, "that your Scriptures crown every day of creation with the words: 'And God saw that it was good,' but the second day is deprived of this phrase?" The Rabbi sought to satisfy her by pointing out that at the end of the creation it is said: "And God saw all that he had made, and it was exceedingly good," so that the second day shares in this commendation. "But," insisted the matron, "there is still an unequal division, since every day has an additional sixth part of the praise, whilst the second day has only the sixth part without the whole one, which the others have for themselves." The sage then mentioned the opinion of Rabbi Samuel, that the reason for the omission is to be found in the fact that the work begun on the second day was not finished before the following (the third) day; hence we find the expression "it was good" twice on that day.
Three were accused: Adam, Eve, and the Serpent; but four were sentenced, viz., the earth, as well as those three. The earth received her sentence as the element out of which rebellious and fallen man was formed.
The waters of the various seas are apparently the same, but the different taste of the fish coming from the various seas seems to contradict this.
God made a condition with Nature at the creation, that the sea should divide to let the Israelites pass through it at the Exodus, and that Nature should alter her course when emergency should arise.
When iron was found the trees began to tremble, but the iron reassured them: "Let no handle made from you enter
into anything made from me, and I shall be powerless to injure you."
The following are God's presents, or free gifts, to the world: The Torah (Exod. xxxi. 18), light (Gen. i. 17), Rain (Lev. xxvi. 4), Peace (Lev. xxvi. 6), Salvation (Ps. xviii. 36), Mercy (Ps. cvi. 46). Some add also the knowledge of navigation.
When creation was all but ended, the world with all its grandeur and splendor stood out in its glorious beauty. There was but one thing wanting to consummate the marvelous work called into existence by the mere "let there be," and that was a creature with thought and understanding able to behold, reflect, and marvel on this great handiwork of God, who now sat on his divine throne surrounded by hosts of angels and seraphim singing hymns before him.
Then God said, "Let us make man in our likeness, and let there be a creature not only the product of earth, but also gifted with heavenly, spiritual elements, which will bestow on him reason, intellect, and understanding." Truth then appeared, falling before God's throne, and in all humility exclaimed: "Deign, O God, to refrain from calling into being a creature who is beset with the vice of lying, who will tread truth under his feet." Peace came forth to support this petition. "Wherefore, O lord, shall this creature appear on earth, a creature so full of strife and contention, to disturb the peace and harmony of thy creation? He will carry the flame of quarrel and ill-will in his trail; he will bring about war and destruction in his eagerness for gain and conquest."
Whilst they were pleading against the creation of man, there was heard, arising from another part of the heavens, the soft voice of Charity: "Sovereign of the universe." the voice exclaimed, in all its mildness, "vouchsafe thou to create a being in thy, likeness, for it will be a noble creature striving to imitate thy attributes by its actions. I see man now in Spirit, that being with God's breath in his nostrils, seeking to perform his great mission, to do his noble work. I see him now in spirit, approaching the humble
hut, seeking out those who are distressed and wretched to comfort them, drying the tears of the afflicted and despondent, raising up them that are bowed down in spirit, reaching his helping hand to those who are in need of help, speaking peace to the heart of the widow, and giving shelter to the fatherless. Such a creature can not fail to be a glory to his Maker." The Creator approved of the pleadings of Charity, called man into being, and cast Truth down to the earth to flourish there; as the Psalmist says (Ps. lxxxv. 12): "Truth shall spring out of the earth; and righteousness shall look down from heaven to abide with man"; and he dignified Truth by making her his own seal.
The sun alone without the moon would have sufficed for all his purpose, but if he were alone the primitive people might have had some plausible excuse for worshiping him. So the moon was added, and there is less reason for deifying either.
The progeny of man is reckoned from his father's and not from his mother's family.
"Let us make man." God may be said to address the spiritual and the material elements thus: "Till now all creatures have been of matter only; now I will create a being who shall consist of both matter and spirit."
"In our form, in our likeness." "Hitherto there was but one such creature; I have now added to him another who was taken from him. They shall both be in our form and likeness; there shall be no man without a woman and no woman without a man, and no man and woman together without God." Thus in the words AISH VASHH ("man and woman") there is the word IH (God).
If they are unworthy the I from the word AISH and the H from VASHH is taken away, and thus IH, God, departs and there are left the words ASH VASH = "fire and fire."
Adam was created with two bodies, one of which was cut away from him and formed Eve.
If man had been created out of spiritual elements only there could be no death for him, in the event of his fall. If, on the other hand, he had been created out of matter
only, there could be no future bliss for him. Hence he was formed out of matter and spirit. If he lives the earthly, i.e., the animal life only, he dies like all matter; if he lives a spiritual life he obtains the spiritual future bliss.
Michael and Gabriel acted as "best men" at the nuptials of Adam and Eve. God joined them in wedlock, and pronounced the marriage-benediction on them.
Rabbi Meier wrote a scroll for his own use, on the margin of which he wrote, in connection with the words: "And God saw that it was good." "This means death, which is the passing from life transitory to life everlasting."
God knows our thoughts before they are formed.
There is a limit to everything except to the greatness and depth of the Torah.
After destroying Jerusalem and the temple, plundering all its valuables and doing much what he liked, Titus became intoxicated with his success and indulged in gross blasphemy. "It is all very well," he said, "for the God of the Jews to conquer kings of the desert, but I attacked him in his very palace and prevailed against him." When he was on his return voyage to Rome, with the booty robbed from the temple, a great tempest arose on the sea and threatened him with shipwreck. He again had recourse to blasphemy: "The God of the Jews," said he, "seems to have dominion over the waters; the generation of Noah he destroyed by water, Pharaoh and the Egyptians he drowned in the waters, and over me he had no power until I gave him the chance by using the elements over which he possesses this subtle power." Suddenly a perfect calm set in, the sea became quite smooth, and Titus prosecuted his voyage without let or hindrance. Arrived in Rome with the golden vessels of the temple, he was given a great reception, and a large number of distinguished men went to meet him.
After resting from his fatigue, he appeared again before a distinguished assembly, and was offered wine; but whilst he was partaking of it a microbe, so minute that it was imperceptible, found its way into his glass, and soon began
to cause him intense pain in the head. In the course of a short time the insect grew, and with it grew the pain in Titus's head, till it was decided to have recourse to an operation, to open his skull, in order--as the Romans said--to see what the God of the Jews employed as punishment for Titus. An insect of the size of a pigeon and of the weight of nearly two pounds was found in Titus's brain. Rabbi Eleazer, son of Rabbi José, who was then in Rome, saw with his own eyes the insect when taken out of Titus's skull.
Even flies, parasites, and microbes have their purpose to fulfil, and there is nothing superfluous in creation.
The river Sambation casts up stones all the days of the week, but desists from doing so on Sabbath--indeed, on Friday after midday, when it becomes quite calm, as a proof of the day which is really the Sabbath.
Rabbi Judah Hannasi invited his friend Antoninus to dine with him on the Sabbath day, when all the viands were served cold. After a time the Rabbi again had the pleasure of his friend's company at dinner on a week-day, when warm food was served. Antoninus, however, expressed his preference for the food he had enjoyed at his friend's table on the Sabbath, though it was cold. "Ah," said the sage, "there is something missing to-day which we can not procure." "But," replied Antoninus, "surely my means can procure anything?" "No," answered the Rabbi, "your means can not procure the Sabbath; it is the Sabbath that gives the zest to the food."
The merciful Creator did not overlook the wild goat or the coney, but provided for them a refuge and a protecting shelter. It follows that he created all that is necessary for man.
The light, when first created, would have enabled man to see from one corner of the earth to the other; but the wicked men of the generation of Enos, the flood, and the Tower caused that light to be withdrawn from this world, and it is preserved for the righteous in a higher sphere.
The nose is the most important feature in man's face, so much so that there is no legal identification of man, in Jewish law, without the identification of the nose.
All the rivers go into the sea and the sea is not full, because the waters of the sea are again absorbed, and this causes the mist which rises from the earth. When the clouds have absorbed the mist, the moisture becomes condensed, and loses its salty substance before it comes down again on earth in the shape of rain.
The Hebrew word for "forming" is, in connection with the formation of man, spelled exceptionally, with two "Ys," which is not its proper spelling. This is to be taken as a hint that man was formed out of two elements--spirit and matter. This is also manifested in man's life. His material part has need of matter to sustain him, and of the other laws of nature; he grows, flourishes, decays, and dies. But, on the other hand, he resembles spiritual beings by walking upright, by his power of speech and thought, and by being able in some degree to see behind him without need of turning his head round; which facility is given to man alone and not to the lower animals.
The appearance of Adam and Eve, when just formed, was like that of persons of twenty years of age.
Rabbi José ben Chlafta paid a visit of condolence to a man who had lost a dearly beloved son. He met there a man of skeptical ideas, who, observing the Rabbi's silence, asked him whether he had nothing to say to the mourner.
"We," said the good man, "believe in a meeting again hereafter." "Has our friend not sorrow enough," observed the skeptic, "that you must needs add to it by offering him foolish words as comfort? Can a broken pitcher be made whole?" he argued. "Your own Psalmist does not seem to think so when he says (Ps. ii. 8): 'Thou shalt dash them to pieces like a potter's vessel.'" "And yet," answered the Rabbi, "there is even a vessel made by human hands, or rather by blowing, viz., a vessel made from glass, which, when broken, can be made whole again by the same process, by blowing. And if such is the case with anything made
by human skill, shall we doubt it where the Great Maker blew into the nostrils his own breath? "
The builder mixes a thick sand with a thinner one in the mortar, by which contrivance the latter becomes very strong and the building more substantial. In creating the first pair, something of this method was adopted. Adam was the strong, and Eve the weaker. This mixture of the weak with the strong is beneficial to the human race.
Man was originally formed with a tail like the lower animals, but this was afterward taken from him out of consideration for him.
God designed man for work--work for his own sustenance; he who does not work shall not eat.
Perhaps in the proper order of things Abraham should have been the first man created, not Adam. God, however, foresaw the fall of the first man, and if Abraham had been the first man and had fallen, there would have been no one after him to restore righteousness to the world; whereas after Adam's fall came Abraham, who established in the world the knowledge of God. As a builder puts the strongest beam in the center of the building, so as to support the structure at both ends, so Abraham was the strong beam carrying the burden of the generations that existed before him and that came after him.
Here in this life we have the Spirit, i.e., the soul, blown into our nostrils; hence it goes from us at death. In futurity the soul, when restored, will be given to us, as it is said in Ezek. xxxvii. 14: a complete gift never to be returned.
The river Euphrates is the chief and choicest of all rivers.
The Greeks, amongst other insults which they heaped on Jews, had a satirical saying: "The Jews should write on the horn of an ox"--alluding to the making of the golden calf--that they are not the portion of the God of Israel.
"Why," asked a matron of Rabbi José, "did God steal a rib from Adam?" "Steal, did you say?" replied the Sage. "If one were to take away from your house an ounce of silver, and give you in return a pound of gold,
that would not be stealing from you." "But," persisted his friend, "what need was there for secrecy?" "It was surely better," replied R. José, "to present Eve to Adam when she was quite presentable, and when no traces of the effects of the operation were visible."
That woman exercises more influence over man than he possesses over woman was illustrated by a couple who were famous for their piety, but who were eventually divorced. The man married a woman of questionable habits, and soon copied her conduct and became like his new wife, conspicuous for his evil deeds; whilst the divorced woman married a notorious sinner, and converted him into a pious man.
Woman is formed out of bone. Touch a bone and it emits sound; hence woman's voice is thinner than man's. Again, man is formed from earth, which is comparatively soft and melts when water comes over it; whilst woman, being formed from hard substance, is more stubborn and unbending.
Sleep is a sixtieth portion of death; a dream is the same proportion of prophecy and the Sabbath of the Future bliss.
Dreams, something like prophecy, are the offspring of imaginations and comparisons which we may form whilst awake.
Sleepiness and laziness in a man are the beginning of his misfortune.
Man in celibacy is in sublime ignorance of what is meant by the words "good," "help," "joy," "blessing," "peace," and "expiation of sin." He is, in fact, not entitled to the dignified name of man.
Rabbi José, the Galilean, married his niece--his sister's daughter--who proved an exceedingly bad wife, and took a delight in abusing him in the presence of his pupils, who urged him to divorce her. This he refused to do, pleading that he was not in position to make provision for her maintenance, without which it would not be just to cast her adrift. One day he brought home with him Rabbi Eleazar
ben Azaria, to whom, as well as to her husband, she offered a frown as her greeting. Upon inquiry as to what repast there was to place before his guest, Rabbi José received the reply that there was nothing but lentils. His sense of smell, however, told him that there was something more savory, and, looking into the simmering pot on the hob, he found its contents to be stuffed chickens. After a deal of persuasion the woman was prevailed upon to place the tempting morsels before her husband and his guest, Rabbi Eleazar, who, having overheard the answer which the woman first gave her husband, that there was nothing better than lentils, expressed his surprise that chickens were served. In order to screen his wife, Rabbi José made the remark that perhaps a miracle had happened in honor of so distinguished a guest. The true character of the woman, however, reached the ears of Rabbi Eleazar, and he also learned that it was owing to his friend's inability to provide for her maintenance that he was not divorced from her. The means to make provision for her were then soon found, and she was duly divorced from her husband.
Rabbi José had the good fortune to find a very much more desirable helpmate in his second wife, but no such good luck followed his divorced wife. She married the town watchman, who, after a lingering illness, was struck with total blindness, and he employed his wife to guide him through the streets for the purpose of begging. When they arrived at the street in which Rabbi José lived, the woman retraced her steps, but the man, though blind, knew every street, owing to his having been watchman of the town, and demanded his wife's motive for so persistently avoiding a certain street. She eventually had to divulge her reason, and this led to quarrels between the couple; the man saying that his wife deprived him of a source of income by avoiding the very street where he expected to find a decent revenue. The quarrels soon culminated in blows bestowed by the blind man upon his unhappy wife. This scandal made quite a stir in the small town, and did not escape the ears of Rabbi José, whose worldly affairs had vastly improved, and who,
in fact, was now a man of affluence, possessing property in the little town. When he became aware of the sad plight his former wife was in, he placed one of his houses at the disposal of herself and her husband, and made them, in addition, a monetary allowance which placed them beyond the reach of want till the last day of their lives.
Woman attains discretion at an earlier age than man.
Woman was not formed from Adam's head, so that she might not be haughty; nor from his eye, so that she might not be too eager to look at everything; nor from his ear, so that she might not hear too keenly and be an eavesdropper; nor from his mouth, so that she might not be a chatterer; nor from his heart, lest she should become jealous; nor yet not from his hand, so that she might not be afflicted with kleptomania; nor from his foot, lest she should have a tendency to run about. She was made from Adam's rib, a hidden, modest part of his body, so that she, too, might be modest, not fond of show, but rather of seclusion. But woman baffles God's design and purpose. She is haughty and walks with outstretched neck (Isa. iii. 16), and wanton eyes (Isa. iii. 6). She is given to eavesdropping (Gen. xviii. 10). She chatters slander (Numb. xii. 11), and is of a jealous disposition (Gen. xx . 1). She is afflicted with kleptomania (Gen. xxxi. 19), and is fond of running about (Gen. xxxiv. 1). In addition to these vices women are gluttonous (Gen. iii. 6), lazy (Gen. xviii. 6), and bad tempered (Gen. xvi. 5).
When the Jews returned from Babylon, their wives had become brown, and almost black, during the years of captivity, and a large number of men divorced their wives. The divorced women probably married black men, which would, to some extent, account for the existence of black Jews.
The higher the position the greater is the fall, and this applies to the serpent, who not only was the chief of all animals, but walked upright like man, and when it fell it sank into the reptile species.
The delight of the Shechinah is to dwell here amongst men. Adam's fall caused it to retire from earth to the first heaven. Cain drove it, by his misdeeds, farther into the second, the generation of Enos farther still, and the generation of the flood again to the fourth. The generation of the Tower, the Sodomites, and the Egyptians of Abraham's time, finally drove the Shechinah into the seventh heaven.
Then arose Abraham, who induced the Divine Glory to descend one degree nearer. So also did Isaac, Jacob, Levi, Kehos, Amram, and Moses, so that the Shechinah was once more brought down to dwell with man.
Like the desire of a woman for her husband is the desire of Satan for men of Cain's stamp.
"Dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return." The grave is the only thing which every man has honestly acquired and can honestly claim.
To protect Cain from being killed, a dog was given him, who accompanied him and protected him against all comers.
When Cain went abroad, after killing Abel, he met his father Adam, who expressed his surprise at Cain's life being spared. The son explained that he owed his life to the act of repentance, and to his pleading that his sin was greater than he could bear. Adam thus received a hint of his error in not having fallen back upon repentance instead of putting the blame on Eve. He there and then composed a hymn, now known as the Ninety-second Psalm, which, in the course of time, became lost or forgotten. Moses, however, found it and used it, and it became known as the prayer of Moses, the man of God.
Do not befriend an evil man, and no evil will overtake you.
The evil inclination at first behaves like a guest, but eventually becomes master. He makes not only the open streets, but the palace also, the center of his traffic; whereever he observes a vain or proud person, or any traces of vice in a man, he says, "He is mine."
The evil enticer is as cunning as the famous dogs of Rome, who feign sleep when they see the baker with the basket of bread approaching the palace, and are thus able to snatch the loaves from the incautious carrier. He pretends at first great mildness, the gentleness of a woman, but soon shows the boldness of a strong man; he begs admittance like an outcast, but eventually becomes master of the situation.
"Sin lieth at the door" (Gen. iv. 7). Happy is the man who can rise above the sin that lieth in waiting for him.
Cain was a twin, for with him was born a girl; and Abel was one of three, for with him came two girls.
Three men craved for things of earth, and none of them made a success of his occupation. Cain was a tiller of the ground; we know his sad history. Noah attempted to become a husbandman, and he became a drunkard. Uzziah became a leper (2 Chron. xxvi. 10-20).
In the early time of creation, in the time of Lemech, a medicine was known, the taking of which prevented a woman's conception.
The deluge in the time of Noah was by no means the only flood with which this earth was visited. The first flood did its work of destruction as far as Jaffé, and the one of Noah's days extended to Barbary.
Naamah, daughter of Lemech and sister to Tubalcain, was Noah's wife.
It is an error to think that Cain was stronger than Abel, for the contrary was the case, and in the quarrel that arose Cain would have fared worse had he not appealed to Abel for compassion and then attacked him unawares and killed him..
Alan should look upon the birth of a daughter as a blessing from the Lord.
For seven days the Lord mourned (or deplored) the necessity of destroying his creatures by the deluge.
God will wipe away tears from off all faces (Isa. xxv. 8). This means from the faces of non-Jews as well as Jews.
Rabbi Judah Hannasi was an exceedingly meek man, who always tried to put the virtues of others above his own. He used to say: I am prepared to do anything reasonable that any man may ask me to do. Though the chief of the Rabbis of his time, he rose when he saw Rav Hunna--much his inferior in learning, piety, and position--explaining that he--Rav Hunna--was a scion of the tribe of Judah on his father's side, whereas he himself was only from that of Benjamin, and that only on his mother's side.
Mercy and compassion are the great virtues which bring with them their own rewards, for they are recompensed with mercy and loving-kindness from the mercy-seat of God. There was once a great drought in Palestine, which afflicted its inhabitants long and severely. Rabbi Tanchuma proclaimed a fast-day once, twice, and thrice without propitiating the heavens to send down the much-sought rain. He then assembled the people for prayer.
Before the congregation engaged in prayer the good man intended to address his flock; but a report was brought to him that a certain man had been seen giving a woman some money within the precincts of the House of Assembly, an act which, under all the circumstances, could not but excite suspicion. The Rabbi had the man brought before him and asked him in what relationship he stood with the person to whom he was seen to have given money outside.
"She is my divorced wife," answered the man simply. "And how is it, insisted the Rabbi, "that you are on cordial terms with her and continue to give her money?" "I am on no friendly footing with her; as for giving her money, she is in want, and that is a sufficient reason for my relieving her distress," replied the man. "Her want obscured all other considerations and the peculiarity of our relationship." The Rabbi was much affected by the man's generous nature and kindliness, and preached his sermon on charity and brotherly love, a sermon worthy of the distinguished sage, showing that those virtues stand on an eminently higher level and are more efficacious than fasting
and chastising of the body, and asking his audience to imitate "the man in the street," who set them such a good example. The good man then lifted up his heart in prayer, in which the congregation joined, and invoked the throne of mercy on behalf of a people imbued with mercy and compassion. The service was barely brought to a close when copious showers came down to refresh the parched ground and replenish the empty water-tanks, and the people were once more happy.
The very punishments with which God visits his erring children are often turned into blessings. When the deluge was sent on a sinning world all the fountains of the great deep were opened (Gen. vii. 11), but when the deluge ceased not all the fountains were stopped (Gen. viii. 2). Those containing the mineral waters with their healing properties were left open for the great benefit of man.
The difference between the solar and the lunar year is that the former is eleven days longer than the latter.
The period covering the second half of Tishri, the whole of Cheshvon, and the first half of Kislev is the season for sowing. The second half of Kislev, the whole of Tebeth, and first half of Shvat is winter. The second half of Shvat, the whole of Adar, and first half of Nisson is spring. The second half of Nisson, the whole of Iyar, and first half of Sivon is harvest-time, according to climate. The second half of Sivon, the whole of Tammuz, and first half of Ab is summer, and the second half of Ab, the whole of Ellul, and first half of Tishri is autumn.
The wicked make no resistance, but abandon themselves to their evil inclination.
Noah began by being righteous in his generation, but fell back and became a man of earth (Gen. ix. 20). Moses, on the other hand, began his career as an Egyptian (Exod. ii. 19), but developed into a man of God.
By Japhet, Gomer and Magog Africa is meant, and by Tiros Persia.
The sexes of both man and the lower animals were meant
to be separated in the ark during the deluge. This is clear from the way in which they entered the ark: first Noah and his three sons went in, and then their wives separately (Gen. vii. 7). But when they came out of the ark after the flood, God commanded Noah, "Go out of the ark, thou and thy wife, thy sons and their wives" (Gen. viii. 16), thus putting the sexes together again. Ham among the human beings, and the dog among the lower animals, disregarded this injunction and did not separate from the opposite sex in the ark. The dog received a certain punishment, and Ham became a black man; just as when a man has the audacity to coin the king's currency in the king's own palace his face is blackened as a punishment and his issue is declared counterfeit.
Artaban sent Rabbi Judah Hannasi as a present a pearl of great value, and when he asked the Rabbi a present of equal value in return, the sage sent him a parchment (Ephesian letters). Artaban thought it unworthy, since his own gift was of such priceless value. Rabbi Judah replied that not only was his present precious above all the possessions of both, but it had immeasurable advantage over the valuable pearl, as care must be taken of the pearl, whilst his amulet would take care of its possessor.
We are not allowed to say any portion of Holy Writ by heart, but must always read it from the Scroll. Thus when Rabbi Meier was once in Asia on Purim, and was unable to find a copy of the book of Esther, he wrote the book out from memory (as he knew it by heart), and then made another copy from which he read to the congregation.
If a man has entertained you only with lentils, do you entertain him with flesh. If one shows you small favors, bestow on him great ones when an opportunity occurs.
There is not an evil which fails to bring benefit to some one.
Terah, the father of Abraham and Haran, was a dealer in images as well as a worshiper of them. Once when he was away he gave Abraham his stock of graven images to
sell in his absence. In the course of the day an elderly man came to make a purchase. Abraham asked him his age, and the man gave it as between fifty and sixty years. Abraham taunted him with want of sound sense in calling the work of another man's hand, produced perhaps in a few hours, his god; the man laid the words of Abraham to heart and gave up idol-worship. Again, a woman came with a handful of fine flour to offer to Terah's idols, which were now in charge of Abraham. He took a stick and broke all the images except the largest one, in the hand of which he placed the stick which had worked this wholesale destruction. When his father returned and saw the havoc committed on his "gods" and property he demanded an explanation from his son whom he had left in charge. Abraham mockingly explained that when an offering of fine flour was brought to these divinities they quarreled with one another as to who should be the recipient, when at last the biggest of them, being angry at the altercation, took up a stick to chastise the offenders, and in so doing broke them all up. Terah, so far from being satisfied with this explanation, understood it as a piece of mockery, and when he learned also of the customers whom Abraham had lost him during his management he became very incensed, and drove Abraham out of his house and handed him over to Nimrod. Nimrod suggested to Abraham that, since he had refused to worship his father's idols because of their want of power, he should worship fire, which is very powerful. Abraham pointed out that water has power over fire. "Well," said Nimrod, "let us declare water god." "But," replied Abraham, "the clouds absorb the water; and even they are dispersed by the wind." "Then let us declare the wind our god." "Bear in mind," continued Abraham, "that man is stronger than wind, and can resist it and stand against it."
Nimrod, becoming weary of arguing with Abraham, decided to cast him before his god--fire--and challenged Abraham's deliverance by the God of Abraham, but God saved him out of the fiery furnace. Haran, too, was challenged to declare his god, but halted between two opinions,
and delayed his answer until he saw the result of Abraham's fate. When he saw the latter saved he declared himself on the side of Abraham's God, thinking that he too, having now become an adherent of that God, would be saved by the same miracle. But since his faith was not real, but depended on a miracle, he perished in the fire, into which, like Abraham, he was cast by Nimrod. This is hinted in the words (Gen. xi. 28): "And Haran died before his father Terah in the land of his nativity, in Ur of the Chaldees."
Abraham, Joshua, David, and Mordecai issued their own coinage. The coins of Abraham had the figure of an old man and an old woman on the face of the coin, and those of a youth and a maiden on the obverse, signifying that after Abraham and Sarah had grown old their youth was renewed and they begat a son.
Those which Joshua issued bore the figure of an ox, and on the obverse that of a unicorn, alluding to the words (Deut. xxxiii. 17), "His glory is like the firstling of his bullock, and his horns are like the horns of unicorns"; for Joshua was descended from Joseph, concerning whom those words were uttered. The coins which David issued had a shepherd's staff and satchel on the face, and a tower on the obverse, in allusion to his having been raised to the throne from the sheepcote. Mordecai's coins bore sackcloth and ashes on the face, and a crown of gold on the obverse, these symbols being a multum in parvo of his career.
What has now become a popular expression, viz., "The man in the street," is a phrase used in the Midrash.
The pure of heart are God's friends.
Lot enjoyed four great benefits in accompanying Abraham. He became rich, became the possessor of property, was rescued from 36 kings who pursued him, and was saved with his family at the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Yet Ammon and Moab (Lot's descendants) inflicted four great sorrows upon Abraham's descendants, to whom they owed their very existence. They hired Balaam to curse. Eglon, King of Moab, gathered the children of Ammon and subjected
the Israelites to his yoke 18 years. The war which Ammon and Moab waged against Israel, as recorded in 2 Chronicles, and the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, and all its attending sorrows, are lamented by Jeremiah in the Book of Lamentations. Therefore there came four prophets to prophesy the downfall of these two ungrateful nations, viz., Isaiah (see the 15th chapter of his book), Jeremiah (in his 49th chapter), Ezekiel, who prophesies against Ammon in the 25th chapter of his book, and Zephaniah, who prophesies that the fate of Ammon and Moab will be like that of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Once a man, twice a child.
Nations in Abraham's time desired to proclaim him their prince, their king, and even their god, but he indignantly declined, and took that very opportunity to point out to them that there is but one Great King, one Great God.
Being aware that wine carries misfortune in its trail, as we find, for instance, in the case of Noah and Aaron's sons, one might indulge in the hope of finding a pleasant exception in the wine that Melchizedek brought out to Abraham. But not so, for immediately after this act of mere courtesy Abraham had to face unpleasant tidings when he was told that his offspring would be slaves and afflicted for four hundred years in a land not their own.
Hagar was the daughter of the Pharaoh who captured Sarah, and on restoring her to Abraham he presented Sarah with Hagar as her maid.
If a man calls you an ass, the best way is to take no notice of it; but if you are called so by two or more persons, take the bit into your own mouth.
Do not depart, whether from a great or an insignificant individual, without leave-taking and parting greetings.
If you are in Rome, do as the Romans do. Moses, when he spent forty days and forty nights in heaven, where there is neither eating nor drinking, neither ate nor drank. On the other hand, when the angels visited Abraham, they partook--or pretended to partake--of the meat and drink which were prepared for them.
The names of the Hebrew months, as at present used, and the names of angels, were brought, with them by the Jews on their return from Babylonish captivity.
Angels have no back to their necks, and can not turn their beads round.
One angel can not perform two duties at a time, nor are two angels sent to perform one and the same duty.
The feeble prayer which a sick person can offer himself is infinitely better than all the prayers offered for him by others.
Every one is morally blind until his eyes are opened for him from above.
Man's fatherly compassion does not extend beyond his grandchildren.
Have no compunction to admonish where admonition is called for; it will produce not animosity, but eventually love and peace.
Job was born when the Jews went down to Egypt; he married Dinah, Jacob's daughter, and he died when the Israelites left Egypt.
Job probably never existed, and if he did exist, the events recorded concerning him never took place. The whole narrative is intended as a moral lesson.
Rabbi Meier came to a place where he found a family (a people) remarkable for dying young. They asked him to pray for them, but he advised them to be of a charitable disposition in order to prolong life.
Abraham was the blessed of the Eternal, and he was the blessing of mankind (Gen. xii. 3). Moses was the miracle and miracle-worker of the Israelites, and God was his own miracle (Exod. xiii.-xv.). "And Moses built an altar and called the name of it, 'The Lord my miracle'" (also "the Lord my banner"). David was Israel's shepherd (1 Chron. xi.), and God was David's shepherd (Ps. xxiii.). Jerusalem was the light of the world (Isa. lx.), and God is its light (Isa. Ix.).
When Rebecca left her parents' house they blessed her, and prayed that she might be the mother of millions of people
(Gen. xxiv. 60). Yet she was barren till she herself and Isaac supplicated the Lord. Hence we see that it makes a difference who offers prayers.
All the numerous disciples of Rabbi Akiba hastened their own death by their vices of envy and uncharitableness; but his last seven pupils took warning by the fate of their predecessors, and they prospered. These are the seven pupils: Rabbi Meier, R. José, R. Simeon, R. Eleazar ben Chanania, R. Jochanan the Sandal-maker, and R. Eleazar ben Jacob.
Man is in duty bound to look to his son's religious education until he attains the age of thirteen, and then to offer thanks to God for having relieved him of his responsibility.
When pronouncing his blessing upon Jacob, Isaac said, "The voice is Jacob's voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau." Thus Isaac's blessings fixed upon each of his sons what should be his power. Jacob's power and function should be his voice, i.e., prayer, and Esau's might was to be in his hands. So long, then, as Jacob exercises his power or function, that of prayer, he need have no fear of the hands of Esau, of the persecutions of those amongst whom his lot may be cast.
The garments which Esau put on when he went hunting were originally Adam's; they had on them figures of various animals, and bunting was thereby facilitated, as the animals on seeing the garments came running toward the wearer. Nimrod coveted these garments, and resolved to kill Esau in order to possess himself of them. Esau, being aware of his constant danger, says, when selling his birthright to Jacob, "Behold I am on the point to die."
When the pig pauses from his gluttony and lies down to rest he stretches out his foot to show his cloven hoof, and pretends that he belongs to the clean kind of animals.
A person afflicted with total blindness eats more than one blessed with the sense of sight: sight having more of satiating than appetizing effect.
All members of man's body were given him for use, yet over some he has no power of restraint. His eyes sometimes see what he would rather not see, his ears often hear against
THE MOSQUE OF ABRAHAM
his will, and his nose smells occasionally what he would rather dispense with.
Italy is a fat land, i.e., a fertile country.
Dreams neither injure nor benefit: they are vain.
Matches are made in heaven.
In three different places of Holy Writ are we told that heaven appoints the wife of a man: in Gen. xxiv. 50, Judges xiv. 4, and in Prov. xix. 14.
Just as two knives are both sharpened by being rubbed one against the other, so scholars improve and increase in knowledge when in touch with one another.
The portion of the temple called the Drawing-court was so called because the people drew thence the Holy Spirit.
Rabbi Meier was asked by a skeptic how he could justify the conduct of Jacob, who, having vowed (Gen. xxviii. 22) to give to God a tithe of all he might bestow upon him, yet, out of the twelve tribes with which he was blessed, consecrated one tribe only to the service of God, which represented only the tithe of ten. The Rabbi replied: "Out of the twelve tribes there were to be deducted the first-born, who were themselves consecrated to God, and no tithe had to be given out of them."
Were it not for the patience and endurance which Rabbi Joshua manifested toward Onkeles, he would have slipped back into his former heathenism.
With the birth of a child a woman escapes blame for household accidents which would otherwise be charged to her. If anything is wasted or broken, there is no longer any inquiry as to who has done this; it is taken for granted that the child did it.
The ten tribes are on the other side of the river Sambation, and the Jews at present scattered over the earth are those of Judah and Benjamin.
The blessings that Isaac bestowed upon Jacob were indorsed from heaven (Gen. xxvii. 28, 29): "God give thee of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine. Let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee: be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother's
sons bow down to thee." Micah (v. 6) says, "the remnant of Jacob shall be as the dew from the Lord." (Isaiah xxx. 23.) "Then shall ye sow the ground, and it shall be fat and plenteous." The same prophet (xlix. 23): "And kings shall be thy nursing fathers and their queens thy nursing mothers." And in Deut. xxvi. 19, "And to make thee above all nations."
Frequently does David, in his prayers, use the phrase: "Arise, O God" (in Psalms iii., vii., ix., x., xvii.). We do not find a direct response to this prayer; but when he uses this prayer in connection with oppression of the poor, the answer he receives is, "Now I will arise, saith the Lord" (Ps. xii. 5).
The fact that we awake from sleep is some evidence for the resurrection.
Man in distress pledges himself to good deeds; man in prosperity forgets his good resolutions.
The righteous require no monuments; their lives and their teachings are their monuments.
We are told that Abraham took his wife Sarah, and the souls they had gotten in Haran, and they went forth into the land of Canaan. By this is meant the souls that they had brought away from idolatry and brought to the knowledge of the living God.
Man should be on his guard not to fall in love with his wife's sister.
Before the first captivity of Israel took place (the Egyptian captivity) the ancestor of their last redeemer (Perez) was already born.
Slaves do not, as a rule, bring blessings on their master's house, but Joseph's master's house was blessed because of Joseph. Slaves are not remarkable for being scrupulous, but Joseph gathered in the silver in Egypt for his king. Slaves are not distinguished for their chastity and modesty, but Joseph would not listen to a sinful suggestion.
Potiphar showed the subtlety for which the Egyptians were famous where their own interest was concerned. He boasted to his friends that as a rule a white man has a Cushite, a colored man, for his slave, whilst he, a Cushite, contrived to obtain a youth of the white race for a slave. Hence it became
a saying in Egypt, "The slaves sold (i.e., the Ishmaelites who sold Joseph); the slave bought (alluding to Potiphar, Pharaoh's servant); and the freeman has become the slave of both."
A certain matron, discussing Joseph with Rabbi José, maintained that the Biblical version of the incident with Potiphar's wife is not the correct one, but is intended to screen Joseph, whose virtues are vastly exaggerated. Rabbi José replied that Holy Writ is no respecter of persons, and records the history of those of whom it speaks just as it happened, the vices as well as the virtues. He cited Reuben's and Judah's transgressions, which are detailed without any attempt to screen them.
It was obviously to Joseph's advantage that the chief butler--though he did not wish to benefit Joseph--had not mentioned Joseph's name to Pharaoh until all the astrologers had failed to interpret Pharaoh's dream to his satisfaction. Otherwise, if Joseph had been called before them, it might have been thought that they were able to interpret the dream.
In your intercourse with the world it is well to bear in mind that there are thousands of men whose characteristic is lying, and woe to those that trust them.
The heathen stands by his god. (Gen. xli. 1.) The Jewish God stands by his people. (Gen. xxviii. 13.)
A dream toward morning is likely to be fulfilled.
During the twenty-two years that Joseph was separated from his brethren neither he nor they had tasted wine; hence they were somewhat overcome by drinking wine at the banquet to which he invited them in Egypt.
By the law of God even a slave, when his master knocked out his eye or tooth, had to be set free because of the pain he had suffered. Surely it can not be worse with God's own children when they undergo hardship, sorrow, and trouble in this life, their pain will surely purify them from the dross of iniquity, and they will inherit futurity.
Man, when reproached with his misdeeds, becomes confused and confounded. Balaam, when reproached by the humblest of animals and asked, "What have I done unto thee,
that thou hast smitten me these three times? Am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day? Was I ever wont to do so unto thee?" was constrained to reply "Nay." Joseph, telling his brethren who he was, said, "I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold to Egypt." And his brethren, ten great, proud, and mighty men, could not answer him, for they were confounded in his presence (Gen. xlv. 3). "How then, O man, will it be with me" (so do thou ask thyself), "when I stand before God's tribunal and a record of my conduct, during my life, is placed before me!"
To rebel against the king is to rebel against the King of Kings.
At the approach of the death of Moses the two silver trumpets which he had made for the purpose of calling the people together (Numb. x. 2) were hidden, so that no one else should use them.
A book of pedigrees was found in Jerusalem, wherein it was stated that Hillel was a descendant of King David.
The effects of the blessing bestowed upon Judah by his father are to be seen even at the present time. Jacob said (Gen. xlix. 8), "Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise." If an Israelite describes his race, he says, "I am a Jew, i.e., a Judaite"; he does not describe himself as a Reubenite or a Simeonite.
Slander is compared to an arrow, not to any other handy weapon, such as a sword, etc., because like an arrow it kills at a distance. It can be uttered in Rome and have its baneful effect in Syria.
Amongst a number of great men who all reached the same age are Moses, Hillel, Rabbi Johanan ben Zakkai, and Rabbi Akiba. Moses's years were divided into three equal portions, viz., forty years in Pharaoh's palace, forty years in Midian, and forty years as leader of the Israelites in the wilderness.
Rabbi Johanan, too, had his forty years of trade, forty years of study, and forty years of serving his people. Rabbi Akiba was forty years an ignoramus, forty years he gave himself to study, and for forty years he served his community.