The great characteristic of Moses--humility--pervades his life throughout. When he was first charged with the mission to Pharaoh his hesitation in accepting the charge was based upon self-abasement. "Who am I," he says, "that I should go to Pharaoh and that I should bring out Israel from Egypt?" Any other man, having been selected by God himself as the fit and proper person to be his own messenger, would surely have been induced to think more of himself; but not so Moses. Coming to the Red Sea, he again retires in his humility, not being bold enough to take the initiative until called upon by the Lord. "And thou lift up thy rod, and stretch out thy hand over the sea and divide it" (Exod. xiv.). At the Tabernacle of the congregation his deep humility again manifests itself; he does not venture to approach until the Lord calls him (Lev. i. 1).
If you are a man of distinction and entitled to a prominent seat at an assembly, seat yourself, nevertheless, two or three seats lower, for it is better to be told "Go up," than to be asked to "go down." Hillel was wont to say, "If I condescend I am exalted, but if I am haughty I am degraded."
Pharaoh's daughter married Caleb.
The Torah sets us an example of refinement of speech. If allusion is made to an offering made by man, it is said (Lev. i. 2), "If any man of you bring an offering," but if anything objectionable needs to be spoken of--such as leprosy--the expression is not "if any one of you shall have leprosy," but "if there shall happen to be a boil in any flesh." Further, when a blessing is pronounced it is given fully and distinctly, "these shall stand up to bless the people" (Deut. xxvii. 12); but when it is necessary to threaten with a curse, the words, "the people," are omitted, and the phrase used is, "they shall curse."
Better for you to have no more than two Zehubim (coins equal to about twenty-five cents) as the means with which to gain a livelihood, than to be a man of large capital and employ it in usury.
If sincere converts to Judaism enter heaven, Antoninus will be at the head of them.
The proverb says, "If you give out your money in usury you will lose what you gain as well as your original capital."
Whom will the Lord bold responsible after death for the unrighteous life on earth? The body as inanimate matter can surely not be affected by anything done to it. The soul has surely a very tangible plea in the fact that all misdeeds were committed by the body whilst alive, for which it (the soul) should not be held responsible. But it is as though the owner of a very valuable garden, being anxious for the preservation of his fruit, employed two men, one blind and the other lame, to watch his orchard.
Said the lame one to the blind one, "Would I could walk! I could feast on the wonderful and enticing fruit which I see all round about me." "I," said the blind man, "am strong enough in my legs, but unfortunately have not the sense of sight, and can not even feast my eyes on the choice fruit of which you tell me. Supposing," suggested he to his lame comrade, "you were to get on my back and pilot me to those wonderful trees which you see, I could with ease carry you there and you could pluck the coveted fruit for both of us." The suggestion was adopted, and the garden was quickly despoiled. When the owner visited his garden he was shocked at the havoc committed on what to him was his most precious possession, and charged the two men with depredation.
Said the blind man, "I surely can not be guilty of the theft of a thing the existence and whereabouts of which I could not even see." "Neither was I able," said the lame watchman, "to lay my hand on any of the fruit, for you know that my legs refuse to carry me a step." The owner of the orchard was, however, able to demonstrate the method employed by the pair in robbing him of his precious fruit, by
taking the lame man and putting him on the back of the blind watchman, and making the latter carry the former to the trees. Thus the Psalmist intimates (Ps. l. 4), "He will call to the heavens above and to the earth that he may judge his people": that is to say, he will unite man's heavenly element (the soul) with his earthly element (the body) again, and will fix the responsibility on the reunited whole.
"Your Torah tells you," argued a heathen with one of the Rabbis, "to be guided by the majority. Why then do you decline to adopt the religion of the majority?" "Apart from the fact," replied the sage, "that a large number is no argument in a matter of religion, and my Torah also tells me, 'You shall not go after the multitude to do evil,' I will ask you a question. Have you any children?" "Yes, to my sorrow," replied the questioner, "for they cause me sorrow with their religious views; whenever they come together there is contention between them as to the truth of their respective beliefs." "Try, then," retorted the Rabbi, "to create unity and harmony regarding religion in your own family, rather than waste your efforts in trying to bring me to your views." When the questioner had gone the Rabbi's disciples said to him, "It is well that the heathen left you with the lame argument you gave him; but what have you in reality to say as to the paucity of followers of our religion?"
"Esau's family," answered their teacher, "is spoken of as consisting of so many souls, whilst the seventy members of Jacob's family are described as one soul, because the former had many gods, but the latter had all of them one and the same God. So that even if a majority were an argument in favor of religion, still, though we are apparently smaller in number, we are actually larger if we are not divided in our monotheism."
Great and dignified names which have been given to Israel have also been bestowed on other nations, such as "Congregation," "mighty," "wise," "perfect," and "righteous.
If a man is a witness, whether he has seen or otherwise
knows of a thing, if he does not testify he shall bear his iniquity (Lev. v. 1). "You, my people," says God to Israel, "have both seen (Deut. iv. 35) and know (Deut. v. 39) that I am God, and thus you are my proper witnesses (Isa. xliii. 10). If then you will not proclaim me as God to all nations of the earth, you shall bear your iniquity."
A certain ruler there was who, when thieves and the recipients of their stolen goods were brought before him, invariably discharged the former and severely punished the latter.
If you sit in judgment and you find one of the litigants anxious to verify his statement by taking an oath, have suspicion against that individual.
There was a man named Bar Talmion, with whom one deposited a sum of money for safe keeping. When the depositor called for his deposit Bar Talmion said, "Surely I have placed in your own hands the amount you left with me." When they came before Rabbi Assé and his court Bar Talmion was anxious to verify his assertion on oath, and the two litigants, accompanied by the Rabbi, went to the synagogue to have the oath taken there. At the entrance of the sacred edifice Bar Talmion said to the plaintiff, "Just take this stick and hold it for me whilst I take the solemn oath." The stick being unusually heavy excited suspicion, and was broken to see the cause of its remarkable weight, when the coins deposited with the rascal fell out from the hollow made for the purpose of being a receptacle for the money; the perjurer having placed the stick in the hands of the plaintiff, thinking that by this subterfuge he could honestly swear that he had returned the money to the claimant's own hands.
Broken things are not admired, but God is pleased with a broken spirit and contrite heart.
God pairs--in marriages--and appoints all destinies.
By the ordinance of sacrifices we are taught lessons of frugality. He who could afford it had to bring a bullock; if a man's means did not reach so far, then a sheep was as well accepted; and if that was beyond his means, a goat was
accepted, or a dove if a goat was too costly; and the very poor who could afford neither of these could bring a handful of flour. This very inexpensive sacrifice could be brought in two instalments (Lev. vi.).
All sacrifices, except thank-offerings, will be abolished in future; and even should prayer be abolished, that portion thereof which comes under Praises will not be abolished.
All contention amongst the Israelites ceased when they stood at the foot of Sinai to receive the commandments, and owing to the peace and harmony that existed then amongst them they were fit and qualified to receive God's behests.
Amongst the heavenly bodies and beings there is no envy, jealousy, hatred, or contention; yet it is said (Job xxv. 2), "He maketh peace in his high places." How much more, then, is peace needed amongst God's creatures in this lower sphere.
The creation of peace and good-will amongst men towers above all other of God's commandments. Take, for instance, that beautiful commandment of restoring your enemy's lost cattle. One is not bidden to go and seek them, only if you meet them you are bound to restore them (Exod. xxiii.). Or, again, the injunction regarding a bird's nest; you have not to seek this out, it is only when you happen to meet with one that your duty applies. But with regard to peace and good-will we are distinctly asked to pursue it (Ps. xxxiv.). We are to seek and establish it in our midst, and pursue and found it everywhere else.
The prophet Amos was a stutterer.
Where repentance effects half, prayer is wholly effective.
Without the young there would be no pupils, and without them there would be no scholars; and without them, again, there would be no want of the Torah, without which we would have no place of worship, no place of study; and without these God would not vouchsafe his Shechinah amongst us.
King Solomon was very abstemious till he married Pharaoh's daughter; then he began to indulge in wine rather freely. On his marriage there was a double rejoicing, the one in honor of the temple, and the other to celebrate his
(forbidden) marriage. His new wife danced eighty rounds; and Solomon, who kept the keys of the temple under his pillow, overslept himself four hours, and there could consequently be no service in the temple the following morning. His. mother administered to him a sharp rebuke for this, reminding him of his father's great joy when the prophet Nathan foretold the birth of Solomon, and that his great joy was because of the temple which his son was to build for the service of God, which he (Solomon) so shamefully neglected.
Alexander of Macedonia invariably rose when he saw Simeon the Righteous. Some of his ministers expressed their amazement that so proud a king should rise--as they said--for a Jew. His explanation was that when he embarked on a war and had, previous to his starting, seen the image of this holy man he could reckon on victory.
The last Darius was the son of Esther.
God considered all the nations, and found Israel in the wilderness the most fit and proper to be the recipients of his Torah. Likewise Sinai was decided to be the most fitting spot for the purpose. Jerusalem was fixed upon as the best place for the temple, and Palestine as the country for Israel.
A man is not consulted by his parents as to whether he wishes to be brought into this world.
Man is the last in creation and the first in responsibility.
A woman can only conceive either immediately before or a certain number of days after menstruation.
There was a limit to every prophet's inspiration. Beeri, the father of Hosea, only uttered a few words of prophecy, and as they were insufficient to be embodied in a book by themselves they were incorporated within the book of Isaiah, viz., verses 19 and 20 of the 8th chapter of Isaiah.
Man's body should contain an equal portion of water and blood; if the blood increases and preponderates over the water, he becomes afflicted with leprosy.
It is very dangerous to be within four yards of a leper, and of his breath even within a hundred yards.
Ninety-nine out of a hundred evils which overtake man can be traced to his own acts.
If your prayers are earnest, hope for the fulfilment of them. The human tongue is not free, like some other members of the human body, but is confined in the mouth, and, moreover, is constantly in moisture: yet how many burns can it cause with its sharp edge and its fire. How much worse, then, would it have been were that dangerous member of the human body possessed of more facilities.
If speech is silver, then silence is gold.
Sweet is the attainment of the evil inclination at the start, but bitter, very bitter in the end.
Antoninus asked Rabbi Judah Hannasi to pray for him.
"May you be protected against cold," said the wise man. Antoninus demurred, saying, "Oh, an additional coat will do that for me." "Then," exclaimed the Rabbi, "may you be sheltered against heat and drought!" a wish that thoroughly pleased Antoninus.
At the approach of the Israelites to the promised land, the Girgashites offered no resistance, but were ready to vacate their country for the Israelites to take possession of it, in consideration of which compensation was granted them, viz., Africa was given to them, a country in every respect as good as the one they had given up. The Gibeonites formed a peaceful alliance with the Israelites, but thirty-one of the princes and chieftains offered resistance and were conquered.
At first sight it would be difficult to understand why the message concerning leprosy in the land which the Israelites were to take possession of should be couched in language like that of a promise. "When you come into the land of Canaan," says Holy Writ, "I put the plague of leprosy in a house of the land of your possession" (Lev. xiv. 34). But when the Canaanites heard of Israel's approaching their borders they hid their treasures in the secret places of their houses and in the fields; and when they vacated the country in haste their hidden treasures, which they had no time to take up, were left behind. When, therefore, the plague of leprosy was sent, the houses--according to the law of Moses--had to be razed to the ground, and the hidden treasures were discovered and taken possession of by the Israelites.
Joshua sent these tribes due notice of the approach of the Israelites to possess themselves of the land of promise, and offered them the opportunity of either leaving the country with all their movable property or offering resistance, in which event, in case of their defeat, they would forfeit their movables with their immovables.
The prophet Obadiah was an Edomite who embraced the Jewish faith.
God tells man, "Behold, I am pure, my habitation is pure, my ministering angels are pure, and the spark of myself (the soul) deposited with you is pure: take heed that you restore to me that spark in the same state of purity as when it was given to you."
If man with all his knowledge and wisdom were to try his utmost to alter so little of nature or of creation as even to make the wing of the raven white, he would utterly fail in his efforts. Equally would they fail, if all nations of the world were to endeavor to annul one word of the Torah.
Nebuchadrezzar came to Jerusalem and took up his position at the side of Antisachia. The great Sanhedrin went out to him, asking the object of his coming. He demanded to have Jehoiakim delivered to him, or he would lay siege to the city. Jehoiakim pleaded hard against being delivered into the hands of Nebuchadrezzar, but was reminded of his shocking career of iniquity, of the gross and unspeakable misdeeds he was guilty of. He was given up to Nebuchadrezzar, who put him in irons, subjected him to a cruel death, and had the corpse exhibited in a wooden box in the shape of a donkey, throughout Judea. He then set Jechoniah, the son of Jehoiakim, on his father's throne, but when he returned to Babylon his people reproached him for his act of folly in having given the throne to the son of so inveterate an enemy and so notorious a sinner. Nebuchadrezzar then returned to Jerusalem and demanded the delivery of Jechoniah, with which demand the people complied. Before he was given over to Nebuchadrezzar he went with the keys of the temple to the top of his house and threw the keys down, saying that he delivered them up to God, who would appoint a worthier
man to take charge of them. He was carried to Babylon, and through the influence of Shealtiel and Nebuchadrezzar's wife (Shemirimith) he was treated with less rigor, and he was even subsequently allowed certain privileges. His son Zerubbabel was born in Babylon, and the kingdom was restored to this good man. Jechoniah died penitent and at peace with his Maker.
If you want to court derision, give your opinion on weighty matters in the presence of your teachers or your superiors.
Do not enter any house without some indication of your coming, such as knocking at the door: even in your own house you should not make your appearance suddenly or unexpectedly; something may be going on there which, however innocent, may cause you annoyance and may lead to a want of peace and harmony in your household.
The 27th Psalm contains the song of the Red Sea.
The high priest, with all his dignity and greatness, was not to enter the sanctuary in golden but in modest linen garments. It would be inconsistent that he who made atonement for the people should be attired in the very material (gold) with which they committed such grievous sin. Another reason for the humble attire was that the high priest was to be impressed and to impress others with humility and not with pride.
There were but eighteen priests ministering in the first temple, but they were skilful servants, and the temple service was kept up for four hundred and ten years. Not so was it, unfortunately, in the second temple, where over eighty priests officiated. With a few honorable exceptions, they were unworthy to serve on the altar of God. Some bought their position with money, and there were others amongst them who did not disdain to use witchcraft.
He who defrauds his fellow man--no matter how small an amount--has it in him to go to the extent of taking life.
A king had a stupid son who was in the habit of eating all sorts of abominations when absent from his father's table. The king ordered that his son should be indulged in his fancy at his (the king's) own table, considering this the best means
of weaning his son of his objectionable habit. Thus the Israelites, when in Egypt, got into the habit of offering sacrifices to the Egyptian gods; they were therefore commanded to bring the sacrifices which they used to offer to demons (Lev. xvii. 7) unto the Tabernacle of the Lord.
The present Rome is Edom.
Adultery can be committed with the eyes.
The nineteenth chapter of Leviticus contains the Ten Commandments..
The inhabitants of Canaan had vices similar to those of the Egyptians, as regards witchcraft and immorality. The Israelites,, who had seen nothing but evil practises up to now, would be prone to conclude--seeing the same vicious practises amongst the remaining nations of Canaan--that these practises were common to mankind. Wherefore God tells them (Lev. xviii. 2), "After the doings of the land of Egypt wherein you dwelt shall ye not do, and after the doings of the land of Canaan wherein I bring you shall ye not do." As in Egypt, so will you be in Canaan, a rose amongst thorns.
"Thy camp shall be holy" (Deut. xxiii. 15). By this it is meant that we must be choice in speech.
The Israelites were commanded to plant trees in Canaan when it came into their possession (Lev. xix. 23). Thus they were to occupy themselves in agriculture, and even imitate their God, who, after calling the world into existence, planted trees therein.
Adrianus (Hadrian) was passing on his way to Tiberias when he saw a very old man digging holes preparatory to planting trees. Addressing the old man, he said: "I can understand you having worked in your younger days to provide food for yourself, but you seem to labor in vain at this work. You can surely not expect to eat of the fruits which the trees, that you intend planting, will bring forth?" "I," said the old man, "must nevertheless do my duty as long as I am able to do it." "How old are you?" asked Adrianus. "I am a hundred years old," replied the planter, "and the God who granted me these long years may even vouchsafe me to eat of the fruit of these trees. But in any
case I do not grudge the labor on them, and as it pleases the Lord so he may do with me." "Promise me," said Adrianus, "that if you should be alive when these trees bear figs you will apprise me of it." When the trees brought forth their fruit the old man loaded a basket full of figs, and made his way with the fruit to the King's palace. Arrived at the gate he was at first refused admission, but owing partly to his persistence, and partly to his venerable appearance, his wish for an audience was conveyed to the King, who granted it. On being asked his wish, he reminded the King that he was the old man whom his Majesty had observed planting trees, and that he had expressed the wish to be acquainted with the fact if the old man should be alive when the trees bore fruit. "Here," continued the old man, "I have brought a basket full of the figs which I plucked from the trees your Majesty saw me planting." So pleased was Adrianus with the incident that he accepted the fruit from the gray-haired man and ordered the basket, now empty, to be filled with coins.
Slander injures the slanderer, the victim, and the listener, and sad indeed may be its baneful effects. A man, it is related, was affianced to a woman afflicted with this dreadful vice, and in spite of the man's entreaties she could not nor would not give up entirely the vicious practise. One day she told her affianced that his own father had made unbecoming advances to her, and suggested that, in order to satisfy himself of the truth of her statement, he should arrive at the house in the evening unexpectedly, and he would find his father making advances to her. Arriving at the house, he found his father in a kneeling posture before the woman, as he was begging of her, on his knees, to give up her slanderous habits and render herself worthy of being the wife of such a good young man as his beloved son was. The young man, however, remembering what his affianced had repeatedly stated, and seeing his father in a suspicious attitude, considered her story confirmed, and in a moment of rage killed his father. On the affair being investigated it was found that the murdered man was quite innocent. His son was put to
death for the murder, and the woman suffered the same penalty, for being the chief cause of the whole tragedy. Thus were three lives sacrificed through a lying and slanderous tongue.
There is a Rabbinical phrase not infrequently met with: "He who wilfully transgresses the enactments of the sages deserves the bite of the serpent." The Midrash explains this peculiar expression as follows: One asks the serpent, "Why are you so fond of hiding under fences?" and its reply is, "Because I broke down the first great fence of the world, the fence that existed between Adam and death." Now the enactments of the sages are "fences," set round about the law of God to guard it, and he who breaks through them deserves to meet with the one hidden under them who was the first to break them.
King Saul's conduct may well be compared to that of the king who decreed that all the cocks of the town should be destroyed, but the following day, having to undertake a journey and wishing to rise early, gave orders to procure him a cock to wake him at an early hour. Saul ordered all witches and wizards to be destroyed, and yet he was anxious to seek out a witch to learn from her the secrets of heaven.
God makes no choice of persecutors, but rather of the persecuted. Abel was the victim of Cain, Abel's offerings were accepted; Noah was persecuted by his contemporaries, Abraham by Nimrod, Isaac by the early Philistines, Jacob by Esau, Joseph by his brothers, Moses by Pharaoh, David by Saul, and Saul himself by the Philistines; and amongst all these the persecuted, and not the persecutors, were chosen by God. This does not apply to man only, but also to the lower animals. The ox is pursued by the lion, the sheep by the wolf, and not the pursuer, but the pursued, is chosen for God's altar.
Heathens were in the habit of taunting the Israelites with making the golden calf, a transgression which they said would never be forgiven them. As a mark, therefore, of having pardoned their sin, God mentioned the ox at the head of sacrifices.
The trumpets used in the temple could be made from the horns of any animal, but might not be made from the horns of a cow, because that animal was connected with Israel's idolatry.
Israel had not to maintain the three leaders with whom God provided them in the wilderness, though it is invariably incumbent on any organized society to have to maintain their officers of State. Here, on the contrary, they were the means of sustaining the people: Moses brought down the manna, Miriam brought up the waters of the wells, and Aaron invoked the clouds of glory.
It can not be doubted that those who instigated the Israelites to make the golden calf were of "the mixed multitude," who fastened themselves on to the Israelites at the Exodus, and there is incontestable evidence of this in the words employed at the end of the pernicious work, for it is said (Exod. xxxii. 4), "These are thy gods." Had the Israelites been the workers of this iniquity, they would have more appropriately said, "This is our god that brought us out," etc.
The number seven seems to be particularly selected and sanctified. Arovoth is the seventh name of heaven, and is especially favored (Ps. lxviii. 5). "Tebel" is the seventh name by which this world is known, and that, too, has special mention (Ps. xcvi. 4). Enoch was in the seventh generation from Adam, and Moses was in the seventh generation from Abraham; David was the seventh son of Jesse, and Asa was the seventh king after Saul. Then the seventh day was sanctified as the Sabbath, the seventh year as the Sabbatical year, and seven Sabbatical years as the Jubilee; and almost the whole of the seventh month is devoted to solemn festivals.
The temple required no light from the outer world, but had to diffuse light to the outer world. The formation of its windows indicated this fact.
There were some beautiful traits in the character of the Israelites in Egypt, by which alone they merited redemption. They did not change their names, such as Rufus instead of Reuben, Leon in lien of Simeon, Listus in place of Joseph,
or Alexander for Benjamin. Neither had they changed their language, but they retained the Hebrew tongue. They eschewed slander, and they were very chaste.
"The merciful man," says King Solomon, "doeth good to his own soul, but he that is cruel troubleth his own flesh" (Prov. xi. 17). Solomon meant by this the rich who disdain to invite their poor relatives to their festive tables.
The opening words of the 41st Psalm, "Happy is he that considereth the poor," were interpreted by the Rabbis in various ways. It is maintained by one authority that the words fit him whose better propensities prevail over the evil ones; another has it that they allude to him who visits the sick; and yet another refers the words to the: man who not only helps the poor, but considers the best way of really helping them without making them feel the sense of shame which receipt of charity may cause them. Thus Rabbi Jonah, to whose knowledge it came that a person, formerly in affluence had met with reverses, approached the man with the words "I understand you have some expectations, and I shall therefore be glad to advance you some money with which you can make some profitable transactions, and then you can pay me back when you have no longer need for the money." The question of assisting the man having thus been opened in an inoffensive manner, he was only too glad of the proffered help, and was then told that there was no need to repay the money, as it was a gift.
Rabbi Tanchuma, son of R. Cheya, laid. it down as a maxim that it is man's duty, when he becomes aware of any one having come down in the world, to consider the best means of helping him as quickly as possible. He himself would never purchase anything for his household without, at the same time, providing an equal quantity for the poor.
When the poor stand at your door, remember that their Maker stands at their right hand (Ps. cix.), and consider it a high privilege for you to help them.
It is man's duty to keep his body in a state of cleanliness, as well as to keep his soul in a state of purity. Hillel, when going to bathe, used to tell his pupils that he was going to
do a godly deed. Once his pupils ventured to ask for an explanation. "Have you not observed," said he to his disciples, "how the caretakers in the theaters and other public places always wash the statues and keep them clean? If then such care is bestowed on inanimate sculptures, the works of man, it must surely be a holy duty scrupulously to clean the handiwork and masterpiece of God."