a sae

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his would have proved the most readable 3 he might have shown us himself, his wise, tolerant, enthusiastic self, in them. But instead, we possess, in his shelves on shelves of published compilations of dead men’s minds, only duly labelled and catalogued selections from learned mummies,

The dream of Manasseh was to compose a ‘Heroic History,’ a significant title which shadows forth the worthy record he would have delighted in compiling from Jewish annals. It is as well, perhaps, that the title is all we have of the work, for he was too good an idealist to prove a good historian. He cared too much, and he knew too much, to write a reliable or a readable history of his people. To him, as to many of us, Robert Browning’s words might be applied—

‘So you saw yourself as you wished you were— As you might have been, as you cannot be— Farth here rebuked by Olympus there, And grew content in your poor degree.’ 1

He, at any rate, had good reason to grow content in his degree, for he was destined to make an epoch in the ‘Heroic History,’ instead of being, as he ‘wished he were,’ the reciter, and probably the prosy reciter, of several. Certain it is that, great scholar,

1 ‘Old Pictures from Florence.’

MANASSEH BEN ISRAEL 77

successful preacher, and voluminous writer as was Manasseh ben Israel, it was not till he was fifty years old that he found his real vocation. He had felt at it for years, his books were more or less blind gropings after it, his friendships with the eminent and highly placed personages of his time were all uncon- scious means to a conscious end, and his very character was a factor in his gradually formed purpose. His whole life had been an up- holding of the ‘standard’; publicists who sneered at the ostentatious rich Jew, priests who railed at the degraded poor Jew, were each bound to recognise in Manasseh ben Israel a Jew of another type: one poor yet self- respecting, sought after yet unostentatious, conservative yet cosmopolitan, learned yet undogmatic. They might question if this Amsterdam Rabbi were sui generis, but they were at least willing to find out if he were in essentials what he claimed to be, fairly re- presentative of the fairly treated members of his race. So the ‘way was prepared’ by the ¢ standard’ being raised. Which, of the many long-closed gates,’ was to open for the people to pass through ?

Manasseh looked around on Europe. He sought a safe and secure resting-place for the tribe of wandering foot and weary heart, where, no longer weary and wandering, they might

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cease to be ‘tribal.’ He sought a place where ‘protection’ should not be given as a sordid bribe, nor conferred as a fickle fayour, but claimed as an inalienable right, and shared in common with all law-abiding citizens. His thoughts turned for a while on Sweden, and there was some correspondence to that end with the young Queen Christina, but this failing, or falling through, his hopes were almost at once definitely directed towards England. It was a wise selection and a happy one, and the course of events, and the time and the temper of the people, seemed all upon his side. The faithless Stuart king had but lately expiated his hateful, harmful weakness on the scaffold, and sentiment was far as yet from setting the nimbus of saint and martyr on that handsome, treacherous head. The echoes of John Hampden’s brave voice seemed still vibrating in the air, and Englishmen, but freshly reminded of their rights, were growing keen and eager in the scenting out of wrongs; quick to discover, and fierce to redress evils which had long lain rooted and rotting, and unheeded, The pompous insouciance of the first Stuart king, the frivolous insouciance of the second, were now being resented in inevitable reaction. The court no longer led the fashion; the people had come to the front and were growing grimly, even grotesquely, in

MANASSEH BEN ISRAEL 79

earnest. The very fashion of speaking seems to have changed with the new need for strong, terse expression. Men greeted each other with old-fashioned Bible greetings; they named their children after those great ones gone,’ or with even quainter effect in some simple selected Bible phrase; the very tones of the Prophets seemed to resound in White- hall, and Englishmen to have become, in a wide, unsensational sense, not men only of the sword, or of the plough, but men of the Book, and that Book the Bible. Liberty of conscience, equality before the law for all religious denominations, had been the un- conditional demand of that wonderful army of Independents, and although the Catholics were the immediate cause and object of this appeal, yet Manasseh, watching events from the calm standpoint of a keenly interested onlooker, thought he discerned in the listen- ing attitude of the English Parliament, a favourable omen of the attention he desired to claim for his clients, since it was not alone for political, but for religious, rights that he meant to plead.

He did not, however, actually come to England till 1655, when the way for personal intercession had been already prepared by correspondence and petition. His Hope of Tsrael had been forwarded to Cromwell so

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early as 1650; petitions praying for the re- admission of Jews to England with full rights of worship, of burial, and of commerce secured to them, had been laid before the Long and the Rump Parliament, and Manasseh had now in hand, and approaching completion, a less elaborate and more impassioned composition than usual, entitled, Vindicie Judworum. A powerful and unexpected advocate of Jewish claims presently came forward in the person of Edward Nicholas, the clerk to the Council. This large-minded and enlightened gentleman had the courage to publish an elaborate appeal for, and defence of, the Jews, ‘the most honourable people in the world,’ as he styled them, ‘a people chosen by God and protected by God.’ The pamphlet was headed, Apo- logy for the Honourable Nation of the Jews and all the Sons of Israel, and Nicholas’s arguments aroused no small amount of atten- tion and discussion. It was even whispered that Cromwell had had a share in the author- ship; but if this had been so, undoubtedly he who ‘stood bare, not cased in euphemistic coat of mail,’ but who ‘grappled like a giant, face to face, heart to heart, with the naked truth of things,’1 would have unhesitatingly avowed it. His was not the sort of nature to shirk responsibilities nor to lack the courage 1 On Heroes: Lect. vi., ‘The Hero as King,’ . 349.

MANASSEH BEN ISRAEL 81

of his opinions. There can be no doubt that, from first to last, Cromwell was strongly in favour of Jewish claims being allowed, but just as little doubt is there that there was never any tinge or taint of ‘secret favouring’ about his sayings or his doings on the subject. The part, and all things considered the very unpopular part, he took in the subsequent debates, had, of course, to be accounted for by minds not quick to understand such simple motive power as justice, generosity, or sym- pathy, and both now and later the wildest accusations were levelled against the Protector. That he was, unsuspected, himself of Jewish descent, and had designs on the long vacant Messiahship of his interesting kinsfolk, was not the most malignant, though it was perhaps among the most absurd, of these tales. ‘The man is without a soul,’ writes Carlyle, ‘that can look into the great soul of a man, radiant with the splendours of very heaven, and see nothing there but the shadow of his own mean darkness.’1 There must have been, if this view be correct, a good many particularly materialistic bodies going about at that epoch in English history when the Protector of England took upon himself the unpopular burden of being also the Protector of the Jews. 2 Cromwell, vol. ii. p. 359. F

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There had been some opposition on the part of the family to overcome, some tender timid forebodings, which events subsequently justified, to dispel, before Manasseh was free to set out for England ; but in the late autumn of 16551 we find him with two or three companions safely settled in lodgings in the Strand. An address to the Protector was personally presented by Manasseh, whilst a more detailed declaration to the Common- wealth was simultaneously published. Very remarkable are both these documents. Neither in the personal petition to Cromwell, nor in the more elaborate argument addressed to the Parliament, is there the slightest approach to the ad misericordiam style. The whole case for the Jews is stated with dignity, and pleaded without passion, and throughout justice rather than favour forms the staple of the demand. The ‘clemency’ and high- mindedness’ of Cromwell are certainly taken for granted, but equally is assumed the worthiness of the clients who appeal to these qualities. Manasseh makes also a strong point of the Profit, which the Jews are likely to prove to their hosts, naively recognising the fact that Profit is a most powerful motive which all the world prefers above all other things’; and ‘therefore dealing with that

1 Some chroniclers fix it so early as 1653,

MANASSEH BEN ISRAEL 83

point first.’ He dwells on the ‘ability,’ and ‘industry,’ and ‘natural instinct of the Jews for ‘merchandising,’ and for ‘contributing new inventions,’ which extra aptitude, in a somewhat optimistic spirit, he moralises, may have been given to them for their ¢ protection in their wanderings,’ since ‘wheresoever they go to dwell, there presently the trafieq begins to flourish.’

Read in the light of some recent literature, one or two of Manasseh’s arguments might almost be termed prophetic. Far-sighted, however, and wide-seeing as was our Am- sterdam Rabbi, he could certainly not have foretold that more than two hundred years later his race would be taunted in the same breath for being a‘ wandering’ and homeless tribe,’ and for remaining a ‘settled’ and ‘parasitic’ people in their adopted countries ; yet are not such ingenious, and ungenerous, and inconsistent taunts answered by anticipa- tion in the following paragraph ?—

‘The love that men ordinarily bear to their own country, and the desire they have to end their lives where they had their beginning, is the cause that most strangers, having gotten riches where they are in a foreign land, are commonly taken in a desire to return to their native soil, and there peaceably to enjoy their

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estate ; so that as they were a help to the places where they lived and negotiated while they remained there, so when they depart from thence, they carry all away and spoile them of their wealth; transporting all into their own native country: but with the Jews, the case is farre different, for where the Jews are once kindly receaved, they make a firm resolution never to depart from thence, seeing they have no proper place of their own ; and so they are always with their goods in the cities where they live, a perpetual benefitt to all payments.’ !

Manasseh goes on to quote Holy Writ, to show that to ‘seek for the peace,’ and to pray for the peace of the city whither ye are led captive,’ ® was from remote times a loyal duty enjoined on Jews; and so he makes perhaps another point against that thorough-going historian of our day, who would have disposed of the People and the Book, the Jews and the Old Testament together, in the course of a magazine article. To prove that uncompro- mising loyalty has among the Jews the added force of a religious obligation, Manasseh mentions the fact that the ruling dynasty is always prayed for by upstanding congregations

1 From ‘Declaration to the Commonwealth of England,’ ® Jeremiah xxix. 7. 3

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in every Jewish place of worship, and he makes history give its evidence to show that this is no mere lip loyalty, but that the obligation enjoined has been over and over again faith- fully fulfilled. He quotes numerous instances in proof of this; beginning from the time, 900 years B.c., when the Jerusalem Jews, High Priest at their head, went forth to defy Alex- ander, and to own staunch allegiance to discrowned Darius, till those recent civil wars in Spain, when the Jews of Burgos manfully held that city against the conqueror, Henry of Trastamare, in defence of their conquered, but liege lord, Pedro,?

Of all the simply silly slanders from which his people had suffered, such, for instance, as the kneading Passover biscuits with the blood of Christian children, Manasseh disposes shortly, with brief and distinct denial; per- tinently reminding Englishmen, however, that like absurd accusations crop up in the early history of the Church, when the ‘very same ancient scandalls was cast of old upon the innocent Christians.’

With the more serious, because less abso- lutely untruthful, charge of usury,’ Manasseh deals as boldly, urging even no extenuating plea, but frankly admitting the practice to be ‘infamous.’ But characteristically, he pro-

1 In 1369.

ee a te eee ee ee ee ee

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ceeds to express an opinion, that inasmuch as no man is bound to give his goods to another, so is he not bound to let it out but for his own occasions and profit,’ ‘only,’ and this he adds emphatically

«It must be done with moderation, that the usury be not biting or exorbitant. .. . The sacred Scripture, which allows usury with him that is not of the same religion, forbids absolutely the robbing of all men, whatso- ever religion they be of. In our law it is a greater sinne to rob or defraud a stranger, than if I did it to one of my owne profession ; a Jew is bound to show his charity to all men ; he hath a precept, not to abhorre an Idumean or an Egyptian ; and yet another, that he shall love and protect a stranger that comes to live in his land. If, notwithstanding, there be some that do contrary to this, they do it not as Jewes simply, but as wicked Jewes.’

The Appeal made, as it could searcely fail to do, a profound impression—an impression which was helped not a little by the presence and character of the pleader. And presently the whole question of the return of the Jews to England was submitted to the nation for its decision.

The clergy were dead against the measure,

MANASSEH BEN ISRAEL 87

and, it is said, ‘raged like fanatics against the Jews as an accursed nation.’ And then it was that Cromwell, true to his highest convictions, stood up to speak in their defence. On the ground of policy, he temperately urged the desirability of adding thrifty, law-respecting, and enterprising citizens to the national stock ; and on the higher ground of duty, he passion- ately pleaded the unpopular cause of religious and social toleration. He deprecated the principle that, the claims of morality being satisfied, any men or any body of men, on the score of race, of origin, or of religion (‘tribal mark’ had not at that date been suggested), should be excluded from full fellowship with other men. ‘I have never heard a man speak so splendidly in my life,’ is the recorded opinion of one of the audience, and it is a matter of intense regret that this famous speech of Cromwell’s has not been preserved. Its elo- quence, however, failed of effect, so far as its whole and immediate object was concerned. The gates were no more than shaken on their rusting hinges—not quite yet were the people free to go through.’

The decision of the Council of State was deferred, and some authorities even allege that it was presently pronounced against the readmission of the Jews to England. The known and avowed favour of the Protector

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sufficed, nevertheless, to induce the few Jews who had come with, or in the train of, Man- asseh to remain, and others gradually, and by degrees, and without any especial notice being taken of them, ventured to follow. The creaking old gates were certainly ajar, and wider and wider they opened, and fainter and fainter, from friction of unrestrained inter- course, grew each dull rust and stain of pre- judice, till that good day, within living memories, when the barriers were definitely and altogether flung down. And on their ruins a new and healthy human growth sprang quickly up, ‘taking root downwards, and fruit upwards,’ spreading wide enough in its vigorous luxuriance to cover up all the old bad ) past. And by this time it has happily grown impervious to any wanton unfriendly touch which would thrust its kindly shade aside and once again lay those ugly ruins bare. Manasseh, however, like so many of us, had to be content to sow seed which he was des- tined never to see ripen. His petitions to the Commonwealth were presented in 1655, his Vindicie Judeorum was completed and handed in some time in 1656, and in the early winter of 1657, on his journey homewards, he died. His mission had not fulfilled itself in the com- plete triumphant way he had hoped, but ‘life fulfils itself in many ways,’ and one part at

MANASSEH BEN ISRAEL 89

any rate, perhaps the most important part, of the Hebrew prophet’s charge, had been both poetically and prosaically carried out by this seventeenth century Dutch Jew. He had ‘lifted up a standard for his people.’

CHARITY IN TALMUDIC TIMES SOME ANCIENT SOLVINGS OF A MODERN PROBLEM

‘Wuar have we reaped from all the wisdom sown of ages?’ asks Lord Lytton in one of his earlier poems. A large query, even for so questioning an age as this, an age which, dis- carding catechisms, and rejecting the omni- scient Mangnall’s Questions as a classic for its children, yet seems to be more interrogative than of old, even if a thought less ready in its Tesponses. Possibly, we are all in too great a hurry nowadays, too eager in search to be patient to find, for certain it is that the world’s already large stock of hows and whys seems to get bigger every day. We catch the echoes in poetry and in prose, in all sorts of tones and from all sorts of people, and Lord Lytton’s question sounds only like another of the hope- less Pilate series. His is such a large inter- rogation too—all the wisdom sown of all the ages suggests such an enormous crop! And then as to what “we,” who have neither

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planted nor watered, have ‘reaped’ from it! An answer, if it were attempted, might certainly be found to hinge on the ‘we’ as well as on the ‘wisdom,’ for whereas untaught instinct may ‘reap’ honey from a rose, trained reason in gathering the flower may only succeed in running a thorn into the finger. What has been the general effect of inherited wisdom on the general world may, however, very well be left for a possible solution to prize competitors to puzzle over. But to a tiny corner of the tremendous subject it is just possible that we may find some sort of suggestive reply; and from seed sown ages since, and garnered as harvest by men whose place knows them no more, we may likely light on some shadowy aftermath worth, perhaps, our reaping.

The gospel of duty to one’s neighbour, which, long languishing as a creed, seems now reviving as a fashion, has always been, amongst that race which taught ‘love thy neighbour as thyself,’ not only of the very essence of religion, but an ordinary social form of it. It is ‘law’ in the ‘family chronicle’ of the race, as Heine calls the Bible; it is ‘law’ and legend both in those curious national archives known as Talmud. Foremost in the ranks of livres incompris stand those portentous volumes, the one work of the world which has suffered about equally at the hands of the commen-

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tator and the executioner. Many years ago Emmanuel Deutsch gave to the uninitiated a glimpse into that wondrous agglomeration of fantastically followed facts, where long-winded legend, or close-argued ‘law,’ starts some phrase or word from Holy Writ as quarry, and pursues it by paths the most devious, the most digressive imaginable to man. The work of many generations and of many ‘masters’ in each generation, such a book is singularly susceptible to an open style of reading and a liberal aptitude of quotation, and it is no marvel that searchers in its pages, even reasonably honest ones, should be able to find detached individual utterances to fit into almost any one of their own preconceived dogmas concerning Talmud. On many sub- jects, qualifications, contradictions, differences abound, and instances of illegal law, of pseudo- science, of doubtful physics, may each, with a little trouble, be disinterred from the depths of these twelve huge volumes. But the ethics of the Talmud are, as a whole, of a high order, and on one point there is such remarkable and entire agreement, that it is here permissible to speak of what ‘the Talmud says,” meaning

opinion, and not the views of this or of that individual master, The subject on which this unusual harmony prevails is the, in these days,

CHARITY IN TALMUDIC TIMES 93

much discussed one of charity ; and to discover something concerning so very ancient a mode of dealing with it may not prove uninterest- ing.

The word which in these venerable folios is made to express the thing is, in itself, signifi- cant. Inthe Hebrew Scriptures, though the in- junctions to charitable acts are many, an exact equivalent to our word ‘charity’ can hardly be said to exist. In only eight instances, and not even then in its modern sense, does the Septuagint translate npt¥ (¢zedakah) into its Greek equivalent, éenyortvn, which would become in English ‘alms,’ or ‘charity.’ The nearest synonyms for ‘charity in the Hebrew Scriptures are Mp7¥ (tzedakah), well translated as ‘righteousness’ in the Authorised Version, and 11pn (chesed), which is adequately rendered as ‘mercy, kindness, love.” The Talmud, in its exhaustive fashion, seems to accentuate the essential difference between these two words. Tzedakah is, to some extent, a class distinction 5 the rights of the poor make occasion for the righteousness of the rich, and the duties of izedakah fd liberal and elaborate expression in a strict and minute system of tithes and almsgiving.t The injunctions of the Penta-

1 Maimonides, in his well-known digest of Talmudie laws relating to the poor, uniformly employs tzedakah in the sense of alms.’

Be ee

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teuch concerning the poor are worked out by the Talmud into the fullest detail of direction. The Levitical law, When ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field’ (Levit. xiv. 9), gives occasion of itself to a considerable quantity of literature. At length, it is enacted how, if brothers divide a field between them, each has to give a ‘corner,’ and how, if a man sell his field in several lots, each purchaser of each separate lot has to leave unreaped his own proportionate corner’ of the harvesting. And not only to leave unreaped, but how, in cases where the ‘corner’ was of a sort hard for the poor to gather, hanging high, as dates, or needing light handling, as grapes, it became the duty of the owner to undertake the ‘reap- ing’ thereof, and, himself, to make the rightful division; thus guarding against injury to quickly perishable fruits from too eager hands, or danger of a more serious sort to life or limbs, where ladders had to be used by hungry and impatient folks. The exactest Tules, too, are formulated as to what constitutes a <field’ and what a corner,’ as to what produce is liable to the tax and in what measure, Very curious it is to read long and gravely reasoned arguments as to why mushrooms should be held exempt from the law of the corner, whilst onions must be subject to it, or the weighty pros and

Nhe ETE ghee eo -

CHARITY IN TALMUDIC TIMES 95

cons over what may be fairly considered a ‘fallen grape,’ or a ‘sheaf left through forget- fulness.’ Yet the principle underlying the whole is too clear for prolixity to raise a smile, and the evident anxiety that no smallest loop- hole shall be left for evading the obligations of property compels respect.

Little room for doubt on any disputed point of partition do these exhaustive, and, occasion- ally, it must be owned, exhausting, masters leave us, yet, when all is said, they are careful to add, Whatever is doubtful concerning the gifts of the poor belongeth to the poor.’ The actual money value of this system of alms, the actual weight of ancient ephah or omer, in modern lbs. and ozs. would convey little mean- ing. Values fluctuate and measures vary, but ‘a tithe of thy increase,’ ‘a corner of thy field,’ gives a tolerably safe index to the scale on which isedakak was to be practised. Three times a day the poor might glean, and to the question which some lover of system, old style or new, might propound, Why three times? Why not once, and get it over?’ an answer is vouchsafed. Because there may be poor who are suckling children, and thus stand in need of food in the early morning; there may be young children mho cannot be got ready early in the morning, nor come to the field till it be mid-day ; there may be aged folk who cannot come till the time of evening

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prayer.’ Still, though plenty of sentiment in this code, there is no trace of sentimentality ; rather a tendency for each back to bear its own burden, whether it be in the matter of give or take. Rights are respected all round, and significant in this sense is the rule that if a vineyard be sold by Gentile to Jew it must give up its ‘small bunches’ of grapes to the poor; while if the transaction be the other way, the Gentile purchaser is altogether exempt, and if Jew and Gentile be partners, that part of the crop belonging to the Jew alone is taxed. And equally clear is it that the poor, though cared for and protected, are not to be petted. At this very three-times-a- day gleaning, if one should keep a corner of his ‘corner’ to himself, hiding his harvesting and defrauding his neighbour, justice is prompt: ‘Let him be forced to depart,’ it is written, ‘and what he may have received let it be taken out of his hands.’ Neither is any preference permitted to poverty of the plausible or of the picturesque sort: He who refuseth to one and giveth to another, that man is a defrauder of the poor,’ it is gravely said.

In general charity, there are, it is true, certain rules of precedence to be observed ; kindred, for example, have, in all cases, the first claim, and a child supporting his parents, or even a parent supporting adult children, to

CHARITY IN TALMUDIC TIMES ° 97

the end that these may be ‘versed in the law, and have good manners,’ is set high among followers of tzedakah. Then, The poor who are neighbours are to be regarded before all others ; the poor of one’s onn family before the poor of one’s own city, and the poor of one’s onn city before the poor of another's city. And this version of ‘charity begins at home’ is worked out in another place into quite a detailed table, so to speak, of professional precedence in the ranks of recognised recipients. And, curiously enough, first among all the distinctions to be observed comes this: ‘Ifa man and woman solicit relief, the woman shall be first attended to and then the man.” An explanation, perhaps\ajusti~ fication, of this mild forestalment of women’s rights, is given in the further dictum that ‘Man is accustomed to wander, and that woman is not,’ and ‘Her feelings of modesty being more acute,’ it is fit that she should be ‘always fed and clothed before the man,’ And if, in this ancient system, there be a recognised seale of rights for receiving, so, equally, is there a graduated order of merit in giving. Eight in number are these so-called «Degrees in Alms Deeds,’ the curious list gravely setting forth as highest,’ and this, it would seem, rather on the lines of ‘considering the poor’ than of mere giving, that tzedakah which ‘helpeth . .. who is cast down,’ by G

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means of gift or loan, or timely procuring of employment, and ranging through ‘next’ and ‘next,’ till it announces, as eighth and least, the ‘any one who giveth after much molesta- tion.’ High in the list, too, are placed those ‘silent givers’ who ‘let not poor children of upright parents know from whom they receive support,’ and even the man who giveth less than his means allow’ is lifted one degree above the lowest if he ‘give with a kind countenance,’

The mode of relief grew, with circumstances, to change. The time came when, to ‘the Hagars and Ishmaels of mankind,’ rules for gleaning and for ‘fallen grapes’ would, per- force, be meaningless, and new means for the carrying out of tzedakah had to be devised. In Alms of the Chest, nap (kupak), and Alms of the Basket, npn (tamchui), another ex- haustive system of relief was formulated. The kupah would seem to have been a poor-rate, levied on all ‘residents in towns of over thirty days’ standing,’ and ‘Never, says Maimonides, ‘have we seen or heard of any congregation of Israelites in which there has not been the Chest for Alms, though, with regard to the Basket, it is the custom in some places to have it, and not in others,’ These chests were placed in the Silent Court of the Sanctu- ary, to the end that a class of givers who went

CHARITY IN TALMUDIC TIMES 99

by the name of Fearers of Sin,’ might deposit their alms in silence and be relieved of re- sponsibility. The contents of the Chest were collected weekly and used for all ordinary objects of relief, the overplus being devoted to special cases and special purposes. It is some- what strange to our modern notions to find that one among such purposes was that of providing poor folks with the wherewith to marry. For not only is it commanded concern- ing the ‘brother waxen poor,’ If he standeth in need of garments, let him be clothed ; or if of household things, let him be supplied with them,’ but ‘if of a wife, let a mife be betrothed unto him, and in case of a woman, let a husband be betrothed unto her.’ Does this quaint provision recall Voltaire’s taunt that ‘Les juifs ont toujours regardé comme leurs deux grands devoirs des enfants et de l’argent’? Perhaps, and yet, Voltaire and even Malthus notwithstanding, it is just possible that the last word has not been said on this subject, and that in ‘improvident’ marriages and large families the new creed of survival of the fittest may, after all, be best fulfilled,

Philosophers, we know, are not always con-

1 xonN ONT (yeree chet). These ultra-sensitive folks seem to have feared that in direct relief they might be imposed on and so indirectly become encouragers of wrong-

doing, or unnecessarily hurt the feelings of the poor by too rigid inquiries.

A |

a=

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sistent with themselves, and if there be truth in another saying of Voltaire’s—‘ Voyez les registres affreux de vos greffes crimines, vous y trouvez cent garcons de pendus ou de roués contre un pére de famille ’—then is there something certainly to be said in favour of the Jewish system. But this by the way, since statistics, it must be owned, are the most sensitive and susceptible of the sciences. This ancient betrothing, moreover, was no empty form, no bare affiancing of two paupers ; but a serious and substantial practice of raising a marriage portion for a couple unable to marry without it. By Talmudic code, ‘marriages were not legitimately complete till a settle- ment of some sort was made on the wife,’ who, it may be here parenthetically remarked, was so far in advance of comparatively modern legis- lation as to be entitled to have and to hold in as complete and comprehensive a sense as her husband.

But whilst Alms of the Chest, though pretty various in its application,! was intended only

1 We read, in medinval times, of the existence of wide ‘extensions’ of this system of relief. In a curious old book, published in the seventeenth century, by a certain Rabbi Elijah ha Cohen ben Abraham, of Smyrna, we find list drawn up of Jewish charities to which, as he says,

all pious Jews contribute.’ These modes of satisfying ‘the hungry soul’ are over seventy in number, and of the Most various kinds. They include the lending of money

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for the poor of the place in which it was col- lected, Alms of the Basket was, to the extent of its capabilities, for ‘the poor of the whole world” It consisted of a daily house-to-house collection of food of all sorts, and occasionally of money, which was again, day by day, distri- buted. This custom of ¢amchui, suited to those primitive times, would seem to be very similar to the practice of ‘common Boxes, and common gatherynges in every City,’ which prevailed in England in the sixteenth century, and which received legal sanction in Act of the 23rd of Henry VIII.—‘Item, that 2 or 3 tymes in every weke 2 or 3 of every parysh shal appoynt certaine of ye said pore people to collecte and gather broken meates and fragments, and the refuse drynke of every householder, which shal be distributed evenly amonge the pore people as they by theyre discrecyons shal thynke good.’ Only the collectors and distri- butors of kupah and tamchui were not ‘certaine of ye said pore people, but unpaid men of high character, holding something of the position of magistrates in the community. The duty of contributing in kind to tamchui was supplemented among the richer folks

and the lending of books, the payment of dowries and the payment of burial charges, doctors’ fees for the sick, legal fees for the unjustly accused, ransom for captives, ornaments for bribes, and wet nurses for orphans.

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by a habit of entertaining the poor as guests;! seats at their own tables, and beds in their houses being frequently re- served for wayfarers, at least over Sabbath and festivals.2

The curious union of sense and sentiment in the Talmudic code is shown again in the regulations as to who may, and who may not, receive of these gifts of the poor : He who has Sufficient for two meals, so runs the law, ‘may not take from tamchui; he who has sufficient for Sourteen may not take From kupah.? Yet might holders of property, fallen on slack seasons, be saved from selling at a loss and helped to hold on till better times, by being ‘meanwhile sup- ported out of the tithes of the poor.” And if the house and goods of him in this temporary need were grand, money help might be given to the applicant, and he might keep all his smart personal belongings, yet superfluities, an odd item or two of which are vouchsafed, must be sold, and replaced, if at \n, by a simpler sort. Still, with all this excessive eare for

? Spanish Jews often had their coffins made from the wood of the tables at which they had sat with their un- fashionable guests.

? This custom had survived into quite modern times—to cite only the well-known ease of Mendelssohn, who, com- ing as a penniless student to Berlin, received his Sabbath meals in the house of one co-religionist, and the privilege

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those who have come down in the world, and despite the dictum that ‘he who withholdeth alms is “impious” and like unto an idolater,’ there is yet no encouragement to dependence discernible in these precise and prolix rules. « Let thy Sabbath be as an ordinary day, rather than become dependent on thy fellow-men,’ it is clearly written, and told, too, in detail, how ‘wise men,’ the most honoured, by the way, in the community, to avoid ‘dependence on others, might become, without loss of caste or respectability, carriers of timber, workers in metal, and makers of charcoal.’ Neither is there any contempt for wealth or any love of poverty for its own sake to be seen in this people, who were taught to ‘rejoice before the Lord,’ In one place it is, in truth, gravely set forth that ‘he who increaseth the number of his servants’ increaseth the amount of sin in the world, but this somewhat ascetic-sounding statement is clearly susceptible of a good deal of common-sense interpretation, and when another Master tells us that ‘charity is the salt which keeps wealth from corruption,’ a thought, perhaps, for the due preservation of the wealth may be read between the lines.

On the whole, it looks as if these old- world Rabbis set to work at laying down the law in much the spirit of Robert Brown- ing’s Rabbi—

a it a er

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‘Let us not always say, Spite of this flesh to-day, I strove, made head, gained ground upon the whole. As the bird wings and sings Let us ery, ‘All good things Are ours, nor soul helps flesh more now than flesh helps soul.’

After this manner, at any rate, are set forth, and in this sense are interpreted in the Talmud, the Biblical injunctions to tzedakah, to that charity of alms-deeds which, as society is con- stituted, must, as we said, be considered some- what of a class distinction.

But for the charity which should be obli- gatory all round, and as easy of fulfilment by the poor as by the rich, the Talmud chooses the other Synonym DN (chesed), and coining from it the word Gemiluth-chesed, which may be rendered ‘the doing of kindness,’ it works out a supplementary and _ social system of charity—a system founded not on ‘rights,’ but on sympathy—dealing not in doles, but in deeds of friendship and of fellowship, and demand- ing a giving of oneself rather than of one’s stores. And greater than tzedakah, write the Rabbis, is Gemiluth-chesed, justifying their dic- tum, as is their wont, by a reference to Holy Writ. ‘Sow to yourselves in righteousness (tedakah), says the prophet Hosea (Hos. x. 12); ‘reap in mercy (chesed)’ ; and, inasmuch

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as reaping is better than sowing, mercy must be better than righteousness. To ‘visit the sick,’ to promote peace in families apt to fall out, to ‘relieve all persons, Jews or non-Jews, in affliction’ (a comprehensive phrase), to ‘bury the dead,’ to ‘accompany the bride,’ are among those ‘kindnesses’ which take rank as religious duties, and one or two specimens may indicate the amount of careful detail which make these injunctions practical, and the fine motive which goes far towards spiritualising them.

Of the visiting of the sick, the Talmud speaks with a sort of awe. God's spirit, it says, dwells in the chamber of suffering and death, and tendance therein is worship. Nurs- ing was to be voluntary, and no charge to be made for drugs; and so deeply did the habit of helping the helpless in this true missionary spirit obtain among the Jews, that to this day, and more especially in provincial places, the last offices for the dead are rarely performed by hired hands. The ‘accompanying of the pride’ is Gemiluth-chesed in another form. To rejoice with one’s neighbour's joys is no less a duty in this un-Rochefoucauld-like code than to grieve with his grief. A bride is to be greeted with songs and flowers, and pleasant speeches, and, if poor, to be provided with pretty ornaments and substantial gifts, but

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the pleasant speeches are in all cases, and before all things, obligatory. In the discursive detail, which is so strong a feature of these Talmudic rulings, it is asked: ‘But if the bride be old, or awkward, or positively plain, is she to be greeted in the usual formula as fair bride—graceful bride” ?” «Yes, is the answer, for one is not bound to insist on un- comfortable facts, nor to be obtrusively truthful; to be agreeable is one of the minor virtues, Were there anything in the doctrine of metem- psychosis, one would be almost tempted to believe that this ancient unnamed Rabbi was speaking over again in the person of one of our modern minor poets:

‘A truth that’s told with bad intent Beats all the lies you can invent.’1

The charity of courtesy is everywhere in- sisted upon, and so strongly, that, on behalf of those sometimes ragged and unkempt Rabbis it might perhaps be urged that polite- ness, the politesse du ceur, was their Judaism en papillote. «Receive every one with pleasant looks,’ says one sage,2 whose practice was, perhaps, not always quite up to his precepts ; “where there is no reverence there is no wisdom,’ says another ; and as the distinguish- ing mark of a ‘clown,’ a third instances that

? William Blake. 2 Shimei.

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man—have we not all met him ?—who rudely breaks in on another's speech, and is more glib than accurate or respectful in his own. And as postscript to the ‘law * obtaining on these cheery social forms of ‘charity’ a tomb- stone may perhaps be permitted to add its curious crumbling bit of evidence. In the House of Life, as Jews name their burial- grounds, at Prague, there stood—perhaps stands still—a stone, erected to the memory, and recording the virtues, of a certain rich lady who died in 1628. Her benefactions, many and minute, are set forth at length, and amongst the rest, and before ‘she clothed the naked,’ comes the item, ‘she ran like a bird to weddings.’ Through the mists of those terrible stories, which make of Prague so miserable a memory to Jews, the record of this long-ago dead woman gleams like a rain- bow. One seems to see the bright little