|Vol. III, No. 4
Tamuz 5605, July 1845
Manifesto of German Rabbis.*
But these men who wish to lead you astray, argue, that the times, which are now changed, are opposed to the strict observance of the precepts of the Law; hence, they say it happens, that the garden of the holy Law is overrun with briars and thistles, that they (the altered times) are our scourge, they compel us to consult prudence, and have recourse to expedients, to break down the houses that the walls may be repaired with the materials thereof, to deliver up a part of the camp to the enemy that the remainder may be saved! But false and valueless are such arguments. We will not and cannot conceal from you, how much the prevailing disease of the present age, in the religion of the house of Israel, and the perverted generation of faithless children, like raging torrents making violent devastations, grieve and afflict every person in whose heart our holy faith is firmly fixed, but more particularly those whose duty it is to lead their congregation in the path of God, to seek their everlasting happiness, and to promote peace between their brethren. They silently trust in the Lord, and hope for his assistance; they bend their shoulders to bear patiently their burden, and endeavour, by every means in their power, to recal those who have gone astray. But see you, our faithful brethren, see what these men, who change darkness into light, and light into darkness, do, to save the ship of the holy Law, which, being tossed, as they say, by the roaring waves of the times, is in danger of being wrecked on the sea of religious anarchy, and overwhelmed by tempestuous storms. They do not involve the Holy One of Israel for help, they do not exert themselves with pious energy, nor tremble with religious fear; they do not strengthen the weak in faith, they do not awaken those that slumber; but, like the sailors in the days of Jonah, who, when the ship sailed for Tarshish, thinking to save it by lightening its burden, cast the gold, the silver, and all the precious things into the depths of the sea, so do these men pretend to save the sacred Law, by unburdening it of its precepts and statutes!
Woe to so unavailing a counsel! their eyes are deprived of sight, their hearts of wisdom! Open your eyes, brethren, behold how many just and righteous statutes have already been thrown into the raging sea of reform, and have become the prey to its greedy waves; how many of the commandments have been trampled under foot by the heedless and presumptuous; still the sea continues to rage, the tempest is not diminished, and they in the ship, who endeavour to lighten its burden, falter, and reel like drunken men.
Therefore brethren, know this, and impress it upon your hearts; our laws are bound together with the strong cords of religion, and it is not in our power, nor in the power of any mortal, to alter or diminish any precept enjoined by our holy laws; they are delivered to us by one shepherd, an everlasting covenant; there is nothing crooked nor uneven in them. The words of our wise ancestors also, they are like an oak deeply rooted in the field of faith, which cannot be broken nor uprooted; the righteous walk firmly in their path, the wicked stumble. But granting it were as the false and perverted reasoners imagine, suppose the everlasting covenant could be altered, changed like a garment, and as an ornamental dress shaped to fashion and worn at pleasure; suppose we were permitted to weigh in the unequal balance of human understanding the respective importance of all the precepts, in order to reject the less weighty for the preservation of the heavier; and suppose human wisdom were capable of testing, assaying, and purifying the holy doctrines of the Law of God, so as to enable us to ascertain which precepts (according to the demand of the age) might be removed, and which might never be shaken,—would not every attempt to establish such a modification be in vain? The faithless will never cease to imbibe the spirit of reform, in accordance with the desire of their hearts, even as the wild heifer, used to the wilderness, snuffs the wind unrestrained; they will never satisfy their craving desire to throw off the yoke, and to ease the burden of religion; their innate tumultous spirit and passions, jealousy, envy, ambition, and covetousness—girded with the cords of vanity, and their zeal and eager longing to add drunkenness to thirst, will never rest or be at ease, until then have broken the iron chains of our holy Law, and have become like servants free from the yoke of their master. Therefore, although our power is limited, and our souls are bent to the ground, because foxes have demolished our vineyards, and wicked shepherds have destroyed our holy inheritance and trampled down our lovely plants, so that there is nothing left enclosed and preserved, yet the hand of the Lord hath not waxed too short for help. The King of the Universe, the Giver of the Law, hath promised us, that it shall not be forgotten from amongst the children of Israel. We trust in the Lord; although He hide His face for a while from us, we still hope in Him. Brethren, ask of former days, and they will tell you; inquire of earlier generations, and they will inform you; that already in remote ages, there were times when the spirit of irreligion reigned;—not as in the present age, when there are a few only amongst the children of Israel who diverge from the holy faith, and falsify its doctrines, and when there are still thousands and tens of thousands in all parts of the globe, from the rising of the sun to the setting thereof, who faithfully adhere to the religion of their ancestors, and serve the Lord with a pure heart;—but in those times when Israel had their own kings, they were nearly all sinners and transgressors, they forsook the Lord, broke his covenant, worshipped images and heavenly bodies, and practised all the abominations despised by Him. But they did not long continue so; in a short time Israel returned unto the Lord and followed Him with an upright heart, and were faithful to His covenant.
At the time of the Maccabees, when the rod of the wicked blossomed, the dominion of tyrannical rulers made powerful efforts to enforce the rejection of the true law. Israel then valiantly fortified their hearts with courage, not to turn away from the paths of religion; they sacrificed all that was dear to them, they disregarded all their treasures, they boldly encountered fire and water, they put their lives in jeopardy, and fought unitedly as one man, with a strong arm and a lion’s heart, until they subdued the enemy and saved their holy faith. Again, some time after, there arose wicked and presumptuous men, known by the name of Sadducees and Caraites, who had the temerity to deny the law which was given to Moses our instructor, (Peace be with him;) they invented crafty devices, and, seduced by the smoothness of their tongues, many of the children of our faith, even kings and high priests, were amongst their followers. But the existence of these sects was of short duration; they withered like moss on the house tops, they wasted like a garment eaten by the moth, they were consumed in their sins; both they and the remembrance of them have been lost, and there are at present only a few of them in existence, scattered here and there in isolated corners of the world; whilst the tribes of Jeshurun, who believe in the truth of both the written and the oral Laws, increase and multiply upon the whole face of the earth;—even beyond the far seas are thousands without number who, like one man, and with one heart, worship the God of Israel and obey his commandments.
He who has not denied his mercy to us from the time the heavens were spread over the earth, who was our refuge and support, when oppression overwhelmed us like tempestuous seas, when in the darkest ages, tyrants ploughed, as it were, our backs, and made long furrows on them, saying, Bow down, that we may pass over you, and make you the mark for our arrows; He who promised that our memorial should never be forgotten amongst men, and that the faith of the believer should never perish, He will also be our tower and fortress in this age, when merciful and gracious kings protect us, desirous to promote our peace and happiness, as well as those of all the other subjects under their dominion; for they are convinced, that the happiness and salvation of a country, and of society in general, are only firmly fixed when based on the adamantine rock of religion. Therefore you, faithful brethren, who pursue righteousness, and in whose hearts God’s law is fixed, fear not the scorn of those men who are desirous of alluring you from your faith; nor allow yourselves to be scared by the terrific images of the threatening danger which they charm into existence, to intimidate you, to entice you to revel in the caresses of a strange woman, and to deal treacherously towards your graceful and much beloved.
But brethren! trust in the Lord, and hope for the assistance of Him who delighteth in the happiness of His creatures, and in their righteousness. He will help you with the salvation of His countenance; and when He heals the ranging sickness of reform in this age, He will fill up the chasms, and will send a spirit from His holy heights, to bring back to Him those who have gone astray from the house of Jacob. But until these happy days are come, be courageous, and unite with us, in valiantly defending the tower of our glorious fortifications against those who, although our enemies, enter the gates in the guise of friendly allies, so as more easily to shake its foundation, and to lay it in ruins for ever! But to those who repent in truth, and with a pure heart, we stretch forth our friendly hand, and draw them to us with the cords of love. May their portion be everlasting bliss!
He who establishes peace in the high Heavens, may He grant peace and happiness to us, and to all the inhabitants of the world, until the glory of His kingdom be revealed over the whole universe!
In the year of the world, 5605.
Voice of Jacob.