Home page The Occident and American Jewish Advocate Jews in the Civil War Jews in the Wild West History of Palestine The Occident Virtual Library


The Life of a Pious [but modern] Israelite

(Continued from issue #1)

16. He consecrated the ten penitential days of the year to repentance and meditation; but at the same time he exercises no religious duties which he does not perform the rest of the year.

17. He consecrates entirely the day of atonement ( יום כפור ) to reflection and edification, and if his health possibly permits, he abstains the entire day from food and drink.

18. He addresses his prayers to none other but God himself, and it is for that reason that he does not recite any prayers in which cabalistic or mysterious names occur, which cause the unity of God to be doubted, and disfigure in a very objectionable manner the purity of our religion.

19. He withdraws himself as being sinful and contrary to religion from all usages and customs founded on superstitious notions. And in every thing he undertakes, he does not prefer one day of the week to another, or one particular month, in order to give him good luck; he neither avoids any time nor place as though it were connected with a bad or threatening omen. He does not make Kaparoth, ( כפרות ), to preserve him from death, nor Tashlich, ( תשליך ), to discharge, in an easy manner, the weight of his sins; he does not permit, generally, in his house those foolish mummeries which the darkness of the middle ages has given rise to, and are not only foreign to our religion, but are discordant to all enlightened minds.

20. According to the true spirit of several precepts of the Pentateuch he avoids, in his toilet and his beard, all distinctions which, for his contemporaries, represent superstitious ideas. It is the same with the labours of agriculture.

21. To seethe a lamb in the milk of the mother appears to be a superstitious usage among the ancient isolators; the pious Israelite abstains from such an action, which, nevertheless, is not done any where at the present day.

22. He does not make use of any thing that has been used in the worship of idolatry; it is for this reason that he does not taste of the wines that he knows to have been positively used in idolatrous libations.

23. In his intercourse with his fellow-men he is directed by a real and active philanthropy, acting equitably towards others just as he wishes to be done by.

24. He is just towards all the world, in doing punctually his duty, and avoiding every thing which could be prejudicial to another, either in his person, his wealth, his honour, or his liberty.

25. He does not envy the wealth of others, nor regard with a jealous look the happiness of his neighbour, nor insinuate himself into his affairs without being invited; he does not endeavour to draw to himself the customers of his neighbour by underhanded means, or to injure his business for the sake of advancing his own.

26. He does not induce others to err by false counsel, but tells with frankness to the person that asks for advice what he would do in a similar case.

27. If he has offended or done harm to any one he seeks to repair it as soon as possible, and does not abstain through false shame from asking pardon.

28. If another has offended or injured him he is indulgent and pardons him; but if he thinks it necessary to do something to save his honour, he does not do justice to himself by employing violent means.

29. He does not hate his brother in his heart; but if he thinks he has proper subjects of complaint, he explains them frankly to him.

30. He avoids revenge, and even renders a service to his enemy if an opportunity offers.

31. He is equitable, and does not enforce his undoubted rights by harsh and haughty words. He is as much as possible humane towards his debtors, particularly towards the widow and orphan, and towards those that are unfortunate.

32. He is punctual in his payments, and pays the workman and mechanic their wages, as soon as they have finished their work.

33. In the intercourse of life he observes strictly the rules of politeness and decorum; but he takes care not to turn politeness into flattery, meanness or deceit.

34. He is kind towards the poor without respect to station, to belief, or birth. It is not only with money but by advice, instruction, kindness, demeanour, and in short by all the means in his power that he weeks to aid his neighbour.

35. He gives particularly the greatest part of his attention to the welfare of his congregation; he thinks of it in all the occasions of joy and sadness that occur in his family; he does not withdraw himself from it in a spirit of contradiction, and he takes a part in the administration when he is invited, without being moved by ambition.

36. He loves and honours his parents, and tries ardently to promote their happiness and to be a comfort to them in their old days.

37. From filial piety the children of Jacob did not eat the sinew which shrunk, and it is this motive that prevents the pious Israelite from eating this part of the animal at the present day.

38. He marries as soon as he finds himself in a condition to supply honourably the wants of a family; he loves his wife, and makes it his whole care to render her happy.

39. He educates his children in the principles of a pious Israelite; he seeks to make them useful citizens, so that by giving them an honourable trade or occupation, they may be as much as possible preserved from the danger of being a burden to themselves or to others.

40. He lives in friendship and in harmony with his brothers and sisters; he takes particular care that the ties of relationship be not broken.

41. If a relative dies, he takes care to have him decently buried according to the accustomed rites. He honours his memory by a complete mourning of seven days, to take place from the moment of the burial, and a half mourning which lasts thirty days. As for choosing the signs of mourning he governs himself according to the customs of the country in which he lives. For his father and mother mourning lasts a year, and is renewed on the anniversary of their death.

42. At the occurrence of the case, he submits to the ceremony of Halizah (חליצה), so as to render it possible for his sister-in-law without children to marry a second time.

43.He causes his children to be circumcised in commemoration of the covenant that God made with Abraham, as we are told in Holy Writ.

44. As soon as, according to the rules of our religion, his children have acquired the requisite age, he makes them profess publicly the Jewish belief.

45. He respects the authorities and the princes of his country, submits to its laws, is faithful to his fellow-citizens, and is ready to sacrifice his fortune and even his life for his country.

46. He fulfils with a scrupulous exactitude his particular duties to those whom he has to respect.

47. He is kind, humane, and generous towards persons who are his inferiors, and seeks all possible means to lighten the hardness of their fate.

48. He addresses old men with respect and mildness, bears patiently their whims which are common to advanced age.

49. He is sensible of kindness received, and is grateful towards his benefactors, and does not think himself free from gratitude towards them, because he has rendered them a service.

50. He acts considerately towards those whom he has obliged, and never casts up to others the good that he has done them.

51. He feels a particular interest for his oppressed co-religionists; he is happy to assuage their misery, to sustain their fainting courage, and to enable them to maintain their religion with honour and respect.

52. He takes care to preserve his life as being the first gift he has received from God; and does not expose himself voluntarily to an imminent danger except to fulfil a sacred duty, such as to maintain his honour, to save a man, or in the service of his country.

53. He takes care of his health and the cleanliness of his body.

54. He does not eat forbidden things; but this observance does not make him neglect other duties.

55. He observes in every thing a wise moderation; he prefers avoiding all enjoyments, if they could cause him to become effeminate or weak.

56. He is active in the execution of his labours, in order to procure for himself and family the utmost happiness; but with an entire confidence in divine assistance, and without a corroding anxiety for the future.

57. He is as free from an inconsiderate prodigality as from a despicable avarice, and he takes care to use moderately the gifts that God has given him.

58. He is humble towards God, and is modest in the society of men; but he esteems himself as a human being whom God has created in his own image.

59. This appreciation of himself should withdraw him from every human weakness, from flattery, from hypocrisy, and all that is against his conscience, and in general from all actions that he would have to blush for.

60. But this esteem for himself does not make him arrogant, pompous or proud. He avoids carefully the society of wicked and despicable men; but he accosts all others with affability and kindness.

61. His honour is dear to him; and it affords him happiness if all wise and respectable men approve his manner of living; nevertheless he is free from vanity and the desire of pleasing; and he does not seek to distinguish himself by exterior marks, or to eclipse others.

62. He tries to bring to perfection all the gifts that God has given him, and does never think himself sufficiently perfect to stop. He therefore flies from inaction, and consecrates all his leisure to improve himself.

63. He seeks through the employment of his mind to complete his religious knowledge by self-instruction, and to free himself from the errors of doubt and fanaticism.

64. He is kind towards domestic animals; he does not torment them; he maintains them, and does not oblige them to work above their strength.

65. He does not eat of the blood or flesh of animals declared unclean.

66. When he finds a bird's nest he acts according to the law of Moses, sends away the mother before he takes the little ones.

67. One of his principal wishes is that peace and concord may reign in Israel, and this wish will frequently induce him to submit to a custom looked upon as sacred in the community, although he does not consider it obligatory.

68. He is likewise always ready to support the charges of the congregation, if he could even free himself from them by his peculiar situation.

69. He honours the rabbis and the learned in the law who endeavour, in good faith, to maintain our religion; yet without submitting himself blindly to their authority.

70. He will also respect the decisions of the ancients as long as he is not convinced that these decisions are without sufficient authority; and in this case, though they are to be respected, they are not sacred to him, and he has a right to exercise his own judgment concerning them.