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Letter to the Occident

By S. M. I. [Samuel Myer Isaacs]

Dear Occident:

It is, indeed, a source of regret to me, and doubtless so to a numerous circle of thy friends, that after thou hast entered the sixth year of thy valuable life, having until this period given every token of health and strength, all of a sudden thou shouldst be considered in a precarious condition, on the verge of death; this, indeed, must be sad tidings to thy reverend father that gave thee birth, בנפשו יביא לחמו “who, at the hazard of his life, brought thee food,” daily watching thy very movements, to give thee elasticity and vigour, changing thy diet every month in order that fresh nutritious aliment might increase thy strength, bringing thee food from the torrid and from the frigid zone, from every country and clime, so that thou mightest become fat and flourishing; it must indeed be a very sore trial to him that bore thee כאשר ישא האומן את היונק “as a nursing father beareth a sucking child,” to find that all his tending and care, his anxiety and watchfulness, have all been in vain; the fiat has gone forth, the edict has been pronounced, “thou must surely die.” Say not my dear friend, “Why am I doomed? I have ever walked in the path of rectitude! what have I done? what crime have I committed, that I should have to depart from this life, leaving no one behind me to occupy my place?” Let it suffice that Doctor אמת has given it as his opinion, that thy diet has been unwholesome, that it has undermined thy constitution, that with all thy father’s care, thy cheek is wan, thy very appearance lifeless, and that thy dissolution is at hand. It is true that other doctors dispute with “Truth,” respecting his decision; but, alas! for human science, they have not attempted to offer thee any advice, how thy failing health may be restored, thy waning power resuscitated. It is, then, evident that thy complaint really is dangerous, so precarious indeed, that nothing but אתרוגים מורכבים mixed with lard oil can save thee, unless thou art willing to lead the life of an anchorite, and in thy retirement from the world, compile a new edition of קבלה. Something thou must undertake; for it is evident that thy continuance in the present course of diet, it matters not whether imported from New South Wales, or a Russian clime, whether brought from New York or Charleston, will be a sure cause of thy death. Now, dear friend, I have watched thee from the moment <<141>>thou camest into life, considered thee as one destined to accomplish much good for others, and should indeed regret that aught should happen to thee, אל תירא “be not afraid,” let me console thee against ill prognostications. “Behold I will give thee counsel” how thou wilt be able to live thyself, and confer happiness on others. Continue to live on such diet as may be healthy to the soul, “verily, without knowledge, the soul is not rich;” continue to drink from the well-spring of life, and “to eat from the tree of knowledge.” Occasionally dine with some benevolent institution, and report the proceedings in the storehouse of thy mind, in order to increase thy vigour; visit the schools of the children of Israel, and take to heart the lessons thou hearest; for the Psalmist has saidמפי עוללים ויונקים יסדת עז, “from the mouth of babes and sucklings thou obtainest strength;” attend the various Synagogues to note whether spirituality animates thy people; listen with devout attention to thy father, when he publicly teaches the doctrines of thy faith, and on thy return home, write down the words thou hast heard, then it will be well with thee. Above all do everything within thy power to promote holiness, and at every risk avoid doing aught which may tend to profane the holy Name of God חלול השם; continue to act thus, and thou wilt live to mellow old age; no clouds will obscure thy light, which will continue to shine in the Occidental hemisphere, for the happiness of Israel; listen to this advice, and it will be well with thee. If, however, thou art fearful that death should really be near, the best way to hasten that period, is to take every nostrum prescribed by the hand of empiricism, imbibe every remedy recommended by fastidious man; tills course it was which succeeded in destroying most of thy kind in the Orient; avoid it then, at all risks, in the Occident.

Believe me interested in thy welfare.