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The Wars of the Lord

By Rabbi Bernard Illowy (1814-1875).


Response to the Call for a Rabbinical Conference

The Israelite, vol. I, no. 35. March 9, 1855

[Editorial remark: In compliance with the repeated requests of our friends we render a translation of the preceding letter from the Hebrew as it appeared in No. 35 of the Israelite. The high sounding phraseology must not be misunderstood, as the letter is written in classical Hebrew, in which language the poetic-hyperbolical style is the most beautiful.]

To my friend, the eminent sage, whose name is known in the gates of renown and praise, the teacher Isaac M. Wise, may his light beam, Rabbi of the Holy Congregation of Israel, Cincinnati.

Peace unto thee eminent champion! I have attentively listened and I heard a voice calling on the heights: Arise and let us go up on Mount Zion! -- And I thought to hear the voice of the shouts of war, the one calling, "What of the night!"

Is not Zion's daughter forgotten as the dead from the heart?
All her lovers abused, forsook and deserted her,
And like a widow she sits lonely in the valley of weeping
And sings elegies for her sons who are gone and lost.

And I said thou who callest, who art thou? Art thou ours or our enemy's. I listened attentively, listened again and when I again heard the voice--behold it was the voice of my friend which spoke and said "Who is it that should ascend the mountain of the Lord and who else should stand in the holy place, if not we". All the sons of the stranger and of the uncircumcised heart shall not ascend the holy mountain says the Lord. I have called to set watchmen upon the walls of Zion's daughter, that there vanish not from Israel those who remember the Lord. My mind revived on hearing this. Like the sound of harps and flutes this voice reached my ears and I said, may thy power increase and thy strength grow greater; though Isaac is thy name, and thy hand is on all, thy voice is Jacob's voice.

Hear this ye learned divines, awake and rise, do you not see or not hear that also to you is directed the call, rise and let us go up to the house of the Lord, rise, prepare a way in the wilderness, level a path in the desert to our G-d.

Though my hands are feeble, my feet are tied with bonds, I am not of those who are learned for a combat, am no champion, and no scribe; still I shall not abstain from following after the call of my friend calling in the mountains and with thee I shall raise my voice and call in the streets of Israels cities: "Rise let us ascend the mountain of the house of the Lord."