Friday, November 27, 2009

Artscroll Stone Chumash

Artscroll Stone Chumash Bible - Torah - Judaism - BibleDescription:

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Scroll of the Law

SCROLL OF THE LAW By : Joseph Jacobs Judah David Eisenstein Executive Committee of the Editorial Board. Ludwig Blau

  • Every One to Possess a Sefer Torah.
  • Method of Preparation.
  • Size of the Scroll and Margin.
  • Verses.
  • Name of God.
  • Sewing the Sheets Together.
  • Appurtenances.
  • The Breastplate.
  • History.
  • Personal Copies of the Torah.
Every One to Possess a Sefer Torah.

The Pentateuch, written on a scroll of parchment. The Rabbis count among the mandatory precepts incumbent upon every Israelite the obligation to write a copy of the Pentateuch for his personal use. The passage "Now therefore write ye this song for you, and teach it the children of Israel" (Deut. xxxi. 19) is interpreted as referring to the whole Pentateuch, wherein "this song" is included (Sanh. 21b). The king was required to possess a second copy, to be kept near his throne and carried into battle (Deut. xvii. 18; Maimonides, "Yad," Sefer Torah, vii. 1, 2). One who is unable to write the scroll himself should hire a scribe to write it for him; or if he purchases a scroll he should have it examined by a competent Sofer. If a Jew inherits a scroll it is his duty to write or have written another. This scroll he must not sell, even in dire distress, except for the purpose of paying his teacher's fee or of de. fraying his own marriage expenses (Meg. 27a).

Method of Preparation.
The Pentateuch for reading in public (see Law, Reading from the) must be written on the skin (parchment) of a clean animal, beast or fowl (comp. Lev. xi. 2 et seq.), though not necessarily slaughtered according to the Jewish ritual; but the skin of a fish, even if clean, can not be used (Shab. 108a). The parchment must be prepared specially for use as a scroll, with gallnut and lime and other chemicals that help to render it durable (Meg. 19a). In olden times the rough hide was scraped on both sides, and thus a sort of parchment made which was known as "gewil." Later the hide was split, the outer part, of superior quality, called "Kelaf," being mostly used for making scrolls of the Law, while the inner and inferior part, called "doksostos," (= δύσχιστος), was not employed for this purpose. The writing was inscribed on the outer or hair side of the gewil, and on the inner or flesh side of the Kelaf (Shab. 79b). Every page was squared, and the lines were ruled with a stylus. Only the best black ink might be used (see Ink), colored ink or gilding not being permitted (Massek, Soferim i. 1). The writing was executed by means of a stick or quill; and the text was in square Hebrew characters (ib.).

Size of the Scroll and Margin.

The width of the scroll was about six handbreadths (= 24 inches), the length equaling the circumference (B. B. 14a). The Baraita says half of the length shall equal the width of the scroll when rolled up (Soferim ii. 9). The length of the scroll in the Ark was six hand breadths, equal to the height of the tablets (B. B. l.c.). Maimonides gives the size of the regular scroll as 17 fingers (= inches) long (see below), seventeen being considered a "good" number ( = 17). Every line should be long enough to contain thirty letters or three words equal in space to that occupied by the letters . The lines are to be neither too short, as in an epistle, nor too long, involving the shifting of the body when reading from beginning to end. The sheet ("yeri'ah") must contain no less than three and no more than eight columns. A sheet of nine pages may be cut in two parts, of four and five columns respectively. The last column of the scroll may be narrower and must end in the middle of the bottom line with the words (Men. 30a).
The margin at the bottom of each page must be 4 fingerbreadths; at the top, 3 fingerbreadths; between the columns, 2 fingers' space; an allowance being made of 1 fingerbreadth for sewing the sheets together. Maimonides gives the length of the page as 17 fingers, allowing 4 fingerbreadths for the bottom and 3 fingerbreadths for the top margin, and 10 fingerbreadths for the length of the written column. In the scroll that Maimonides had written for himself each page measured 4 fingers in width and contained 51 lines. The total number of columns was266, and the length of the whole scroll was 1,366 fingers (= 37.34 yds.). Maimonides calculates a finger-measure as equal to the width of 7 grains or the length of 2 ("Yad," l.c. ix. 5, 9, 10), which is about 1 inch. The number of lines on a page might not be less than 48 nor more than 60 (ib. vii. 10). The Baraita, however, gives the numbers 42, 60, 72, and 98, based respectively on the 42 travels (Num. xxxiii. 3-48), 60 score thousand Israelites (Num. xi. 21), 72 elders (ib. verse 25), and 98 admonitions in Deuteronomy (xxviii. 16-68), because in each of these passages is mentioned "writing" (Soferim ii. 6). (At the present day the forty-two-lined column is the generally accepted style of the scroll, its length being about 24 inches.) The space between the lines should be equal to the size of the letters (B. B. 13a), which must be uniform, except in the case of certain special abnormalities (see Small and Large Letters). The space between one of the Pentateuchal books and the next should be four lines. Extra space must be left at the beginning and at the end of the scroll, where the rollers are fastened. Nothing may be written on the margin outside the ruled lines, except one or two letters required to finish a word containing more than twice as many letters.

Some scribes are careful to begin each column with initial letters forming together the words ("by his name JAH"; Ps. lxviii. 4), as follows: (Gen. i. 1), (ib. xlix. 8), (Ex. xiv. 28), (ib. xxxiv. 11), (Num. xxiv. 5), (Deut. xxxi. 28). Other scribes begin all columns except the first with the letter "waw"; such columns are called "wawe ha-'ammudim" = "the waw columns" (see Scribes).

It is the scribe's duty to prepare himself by silent meditation for performing the holy work of writing the Pentateuch in the name of God. He is obliged to have before him a correct copy; he may not write even a single word from memory; and he must pronounce every word before writing it. Every letter must have space around it and must be so formed that an ordinary schoolboy can distinguish it from similar letters (Shulhan 'Aruk, Orah hayyim, 32, 36; see Taggin). The scroll may contain no vowels or accents; otherwise it is unfit for public reading.

The scroll is not divided into verses; but it has two kinds of divisions into chapters ("parashiyyot"), distinguished respectively as "petuhah" (open) and "setumah" (closed), the former being a larger division than the latter (Men. 32a). Maimonides describes the spaces to be left between successive chapters as follows: "The text preceding the Petuhah ends in the middle of the line, leaving a space of nine letters at the end of the line, and the petuhah commences at the beginning of the second line. If a space of nine letters can not be left in the preceding line, the petuhah commences at the beginning of the third line, the intervening line being left blank. The text preceding the setumah or closed parashah ends in the middle of the line, a space of nine letters being left, and the setumah commencing at the end of the same line. If there is no such space on the same line, leave a small space at the beginning of the second line, making together a space equal to nine letters, and then commence the setumah. In other words, always commence the petuhah at the beginning of a line and the setumah in the middle of a line" ("Yad," l.c. viii. 1, 2). Maimonides gives a list of all the petuhah and setumah parashiyyot as copied by him from an old manuscript in Egypt written by Ben Asher (ib. viii., end). Asheri explains the petuhah and setumah differently, almost reversing the method. The general practise is a compromise: the petuhah is preceded by a line between the end of which and the left margin a space of nine letters is left, and commences at the beginning of the followingline; the setumah is preceded by a line closing at the edge of the column and commences at the middle of the next line, an intervening space of nine letters being left (Shulhan 'Aruk).

The poetic verses of the song of the Red Sea ("shirat ha-Yam"; Gen. xv. 1-18) are metrically arranged in thirty lines (Shab. 103b) like bricks in a wall, as illustrated below:
  • (see image) The first six lines are placed thus:
The verses of the song of "Ha'azinu" (Deut. xxxii. 1-43) are placed in seventy double rows, the first four lines as follows:

The scroll must be written in accordance with the Masoretic Ketib, the abnormalities of certain letters being reproduced (See Small and Large Letters). If the final letters are written in the middle of a word, or if their equivalents are written at the end, the scroll is unfit for public reading (Soferim ii. 10).

Name of God.

Scrupulous care must be taken in writing the Names of God: before every name the scribe must say, "I intend to write the Holy Name"; otherwise the scroll would be unfit ("pasul") for public reading. When the scribe has begun to write the name of God he must not be interrupted until he has finished it. No part of the name may, extend into the margin outside the rule. If an error occurs in the name, it may not be erased like any other word, but the whole sheet must be replaced and the defective sheet put in the genizah. When the writing is set aside to dry it should be covered, with a cloth to protect it from dust. It is considered shameful to turn the writing downward ('Er. 97a).

If an error is found in the scroll it must be corrected and reexamined by a competent person within thirty days; if three or four errors are found on one page the scroll must be placed in the genizah (Men. 29b).

The sheets are sewed together with threads made of dried tendons ("gidin") of clean beasts. The sewing is begun on the blank side of the sheets; the extreme ends at top and bottom are left open to allow stretching. The rollers are fastened to the ends of the scroll, a space of two fingerbreadths being left between them and the writing. Every sheet must be sewed to the next; even one loose sheet makes the scroll unfit. At least three stitches must remain intact to hold two sheets together (Meg. 19a; Git. 60a).

Sewing the Sheets Together.

If the scroll is torn to a depth of two lines, it may be sewed together with dried tendons or fine silk, or a patch may be pasted on the back; if the tear extends to three lines, the sheet must be replaced. If the margin or space between the lines is torn, it may be sewed together or otherwise repaired. Care must be taken that every letter is in its proper place and that the needle does not pierce the letters.

A scroll written by a non-Jew must be put aside in the genizah; one written by a heretic ("apikoros") or sectarian Jew ("min") must be burned, as it is to be apprehended that he has wilfully changed the text (Git. 45b).
Every one who passes a scroll must kiss its mantle. The scroll may not be kept in a bedroom (M. K. 25a). A scroll of the Law may lie on the top of another, but not under the scroll of the Prophets, which latter is considered inferior in holiness to the scroll of the Pentateuch (Meg. 27a).

Decayed and worn-out scrolls are placed in the Genizah or in an earthen vessel in the coffin of a talmid-hakam (Ber. 26b). See also Manuscripts.


The reverence with which the scroll of the Law is regarded is shown by its costly accessories and ornaments, which include a beautiful Ark as a receptacle, with a handsomely embroidered "paroket" (curtain) over it. The scroll itself is girded with a strip of silk and robed in a Mantle of the Law, and is laid on a "mappah," or desk-cover, when placed on the almemar for reading. The two rollers, "eẓ hayyim," are of hard wood, with flat, round tops and bottoms to support and protect the edges of the parchment when rolled up. The projecting handles of the rollers on both sides, especially the upper ones, are usually of ivory. The gold and silver ornaments belonging to the scroll are known as "kele Kodesh" (sacred vessels), and somewhat resemble the ornaments of the high priest. The principal ornament is the Crown of the Law, which is made to fit over the upper ends of the rollers when the scroll is closed. Some scrolls have two crowns, one for each upper end.

The Breastplate.
Suspended by a chain from the top of the rollers is the breastplate, to which, as in the case of the crowns, little bells are attached. Lions, eagles, flags, and the Magen Dawid either chased or embossed, or painted, are the principal decorations. The borders and two pillars of Boaz and Jachin on the sides of the breastplate are in open-work. In the center there is often a miniature Ark, the doors being in the form of the two tablets of the Law, with the commandments inscribed thereon. The lower part of the breastplate has a place for the insertion of a small plate, bearingthe dates of the Sabbaths and holy days on which the scroll it distinguishes is used. Over the breastplate is suspended, by a chain from the head of the rollers, the Yad. In former times the crown was placed upon the head of the "hatan Torah" when he concluded the reading of the Pentateuch on the day of the Rejoicing of the Law, but it was not permitted to be so used in the case of an ordinary nuptial ceremony (Shulhan 'Aruk, Orah hayyim, 154, 10). The people used to donate, or loan, the silver ornaments used for the scroll on holy days (ib. 153, 18). When not in use these ornaments were hung up on the pillars inside the synagogue (David ibn Abi Zimra, Responsa, No. 174, ed. Leghorn, 1651). In modern times they are placed in a drawer or safe under the Ark when not in use.

For domestic use, or during travel, the scroll is kept in a separate case, which in the East is almost invariably of wood; when of small dimensions this is sometimes made of the precious metals and decorated with jewels.

Bibliography: Masseket Soferim:
Maimonides, Yad, Sefer Torah, vii.-x.:
Shulhan 'Aruk, Yoreh De'ah, 270-284;
Vitry Mahzor, pp 651-685, 687-704;

bibliography under Sofer;

William Rosenau, Jewish Ceremonial Institutions and Customs, p. 32, Baltimore, 1903; Catalogue Anglo-Jewish Historical Exhibition.J. J. D. E.

  • (see image) Binder for Scroll of the Law.(From Kirchner, "Judisches Ceremonial," 1726.)
  • (see image) Metal-Work Cases for Scrolls of the Law, with Floral Designs and Hebrew Inscriptions, Dated 1732.(Formerly in a synagogue at Bokhara, now in the possession of M. N. Adler, London.)
  • (see image) Wooden Case for Scroll of the Law from Tafilet, Morocco.(From the Sulzberger collection in the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, New York.)
  • (see image) Case Containing Samaritan Scroll of the Law.(From a photograph by the Palestine Exploration Fund.)
  • (see image) Breastplate for Scroll of the Law.(In the synagogue at Schönhausen, Germany.)
The awe with which the Torah was regarded, even in its outward form, and the immutability of the East in general and of Jewish antiquity in particular, have preserved the scroll of the Law practically unchanged, and it may therefore be considered as the representative of the ancient Hebrew book. All the rules enumerated above find parallels in the Talmud and in the Midrash, and may be verified with the aid of the table of contents and index in Blau's "Das Althebräische Buchwesen" (see also Manuscripts). The material used for synagogue scrolls in ancient times was generally leather made of the skins of wild animals, parchment being used but seldom (Blau, l.c. pp. 23 et seq., especially p. 30). This material continued to be employed in the East; for in the second half of the sixteenth century Joseph Caro was the first to codify the word "gewil," thus giving the Polish Jew Moses Isserlein occasion to remark that "our parchment is better" (comp. also Löw, "Graphische Requisiten," i. 131). In Europe, on the contrary, parchment scrolls were approved; and it was even permitted to read from the Torah in book-form if there was no scroll at hand (Maimonides, l.c. x., end; "Migdal 'Oz" ad loc.; and Löw, l.c. ii. 138). In antiquity a scroll of small size with very fine script was generally used; and the largest copy, the official Torah scroll of Judaism, which was kept in the sanctuary at Jerusalem, and from which the high priest and the king read to the congregation on solemn occasions, did not exceed 45 cm. in height, as is shown both by direct statements and by the illustration on the arch of Titus (Blau, l.c. pp. 71-78). Under European influence, however, gigantic scrolls, specimens of which still exist, became the fashion in the Middle Ages, although side by side with them small, graceful rolls likewise were used both for synagogal and for private worship. The earliest extant manuscript of the Torah is said to have been written before 604; only fragments of it have been preserved (see Jew. Encyc. iii. 180b, s.v. Bible Manuscripts). Among noteworthy scrolls of the Law which have disappeared may be mentioned, in addition to the official copy noted above, the roll of leather with golden script sent by the high priest in the third century B.C. to the King of Egypt, at the latter's request, to be translated into Greek (Letter of Aristeas, §§ 176-179; Blau, l.c. pp. 13, 157-159), and the Torah scroll which Maimonides wrote with his own hand. The latter scroll, made of ram's, skin, was 1,366 fingers (about 25 meters) in length, contained 266 columns six fingers wide, with 51 lines in each, and conformed to the rule, enforced even in antiquity (B. B. 14a), that the girth of the scroll should correspond to its height (Maimonides, l.c. ix. 10).

Personal Copies of the Torah.

The history of the dissemination of the scrolls of the Law is one of vicissitudes. While they were few in number at the time of the Chronicler (II Chron. xvii. 7-9), their number increased enormously in the Talmudic period as a result of a literal interpretation of the command that each Jew should write a Torah for himself, and also in consequence of the custom of always carrying a copy (magic influence being attributed thereto) on the person. In the later Middle Ages, on the contrary, the scrolls decreased in number, especially in Christian Europe, on account of the persecutions and the impoverishment of the Jews, even though for 2,000 years the first duty incumbent on each community was the possession of at least one copy (Blau, l.c. p. 88). While the ancient Oriental communities possessed scrolls of the Prophets and of the Hagiographa in addition to the scroll of the Law, European synagogues have, since the Middle Ages, provided themselves only with Torah scrolls and, sometimes, with scrolls of Esther. Six or nine pigeonholes, in which the rolls are lying (not standing as in modern times), appear in certain illustrations of bookcases (comp. Blau, l.c. p. 180; also illustrations in "Mittheilungen," iii.-iv., fol. 4), these scrolls evidently representing two or three entire Bibles, each consisting of three parts, the Torah, the Prophets, and the Hagiographa. Curiously enough, the interior of the Ark in the synagogue of Modena is likewise divided into six parts (comp. illustration in "Mittheilungen," i. 14).

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TORAH By : Joseph Jacobs Ludwig Blau

Quinary Division of the Torah.
Division into Sections.
Jewish Tradition and the Torah.
Preexistence of the Torah.
Study of the Torah.
Criticism of the Torah Among Jews.
Laws of the Torah.
Penal Law.
Civil Law.

Name applied to the five books of Moses, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The contents of the Torah as a whole are discussed, from the point of view of modern Biblical criticism, under Pentateuch, where a table gives the various sources; while its importance as a center of crystallization for the Hebrew canon is treated under Bible Canon. The present article, therefore, is limited to the history of the Pentateuch in post-Biblical Judaism.

The Torah receives its title from its contents, the name itself connoting "doctrine." The Hellenistic Jews, however, translated it by νόμος = "law" (e.g., LXX., prologue to Ecclus. [Sirach], Philo, Josephus, and the New Testament), whence came the term "law-book"; this gave rise to the erroneous impression that the Jewish religion is purely nomistic, so that it is still frequently designated as the religion of law. In reality, however, the Torah contains teachings as well as laws, even the latter being given in ethical form and contained in historical narratives of an ethical character.


In the books of the Bible the following names of the Pentateuch occur: in II Chron. xvii. 9, Neh. ix. 3, and, with the added epithet , II Chron. xxxiv. 14; while alone, without , is found in II Kings x. 31, I Chron. xxii. 11, and II Chron. xii. 1, xxxi. 3, 4, and xxxv. 26. Sometimes , or a word of similar meaning, is added, as , Josh. xxiv. 26, Neh. viii. 18 (without , ib. x. 29). Another designation is , Josh. viii. 31, xxiii. 6; II Kings xiv. 6; Neh. viii. 1; or , I Kings ii. 3; II Kings xxiii. 25; Mal. iii. 22 (A. V. iv. 4), with the addition of ; Ezra iii. 2 (with the addition of ), vii. 6; , II Chron. xxv. 4 (preceded by ), xxxv. 12. The oldest name doubtless is (Deut. i. 5; xxxi. 9, 11, 24; xxxii. 46; Neh. viii. 2), sometimes shortened to (Deut. i. 5; xxxi. 9, 11, 24; xxxii. 46; Neh. viii. 2), or to (Neh. viii. 5), or to (Deut. xxxiii. 4). The last two names occur with great frequency in Jewish tradition, where the Torah becomes a living creature. The expression "the five books," which is the origin of the term "Pentateuch," occurs only in Jewish tradition, which has also been the source for "Genesis," etc., as the names of the books of the Pentateuch (see Blau, "Zur Einleitung in die Heilige Schrift," pp. 40-43).

Quinary Division of the Torah.

According to all critics, regardless of the schools to which they belong, the Torah forms a single work, which is represented, even at the present day, by the synagogal Scroll of the Law; nor does history know of any other Torah scroll. The fivefold division of the Pentateuch was due to purely external causes, and not to a diversity of content; for in volume the Torah forms more than a fourth of all the books of the Bible, and contains, in round numbers, 300,000 letters of the 1,100,000 in the entire Bible. A work of such compass far exceeded the normal size of an individual scroll among the Jews; and the Torah accordingly became a Pentateuch, thus being analogous to the Homeric poems, which originally formed a single epic, but which were later split into twenty-four parts each.

Division into Sections.

Like them, moreover, the Pentateuch was divided according to the sense and with an admirable knowledge of the subject (Blau, "Althebräisches Buchwesen," pp. 47-49), while subdivisions were also made into the so-called open and closed "parashiyyot," whose exact interrelation is not yet clear. There are in all 669 sections, 290 open and 379 closed. Another class of parashiyyot divides the weekly lessons, now called "sidrot," into seven parts. The Torah also falls, on the basis of the lessons for the Sabbath, into 54 sidrot according to the annual cycle, and into 155 according to the triennial cycle. The former division, which is now used almost universally, is the Babylonian; and the latter, which has recently been introduced into some Reform congregations, is the Palestinian. The latter class of sidrot, however, has no external marks of division in the scrolls of the synagogue; while the divisions in the former, like the parashiyyot, are indicated by blank spaces of varying length (see Sidra). This probably implies a greater antiquity for the sections which are thus designated, although the divisions into 5,845 verses, which seem to be still older, have no outward marks. The system of chapters was introduced into the editions of the Hebrew Bible, and hence into the Torah, from the Vulgate. This mode of division is not known to the Masorah, though it was incorporated in the final Masoretic notes, for individual books of the Pentateuch. It is given in modern editions of the Hebrew Bible simply on the basis of the stereotyped editions of the English Bible Society, which followed earlier examples.

Jewish Tradition and the Torah.

The external form of the Torah is discussed in such articles as Manuscripts, Scroll of the Law, and Mantle of the Law; but so numerous are the assertions of tradition concerning its contents and its value that the repetition of even a very small part of them would far exceed the limits of this article. Every page of the Talmud and Midrash is filled with citations from the Pentateuch and with the most fulsome praise of it, united with super-human love and divine respect therefor. In the five volumes of Bacher's work on the Haggadah, the Torah and its study form a special rubric in theaccount of each "sofer," or scholar of the Law. In all probability there never was another people, except possibly the Brahmans, that surrounded its holy writings with such respect, transmitted them through the centuries with such self-sacrifice, and preserved them with so little change for more than 2,000 years. The very letters of the Torah were believed to have come from God Himself (B. B. 15a), and were counted carefully, the word "soferim" denoting, according to the Talmud (kid. 30a), "the counters of the letters." A special class of scholars devoted all their lives to the careful preservation of the text ("Masorah"), the only analogy in the literature of the world being found in India, where the Vedas were accurately preserved by similar means.

Preexistence of the Torah.

The Torah is older than the world, for it existed either 947 generations (Zeb. 116a, and parallels) or 2,000 years (Gen. R. viii., and parallels; Weber, "Jüdische Theologie," p. 15) before the Creation. The original Pentateuch, therefore, like everything celestial, consisted of fire, being written in black letters of flame upon a white ground of fire (Yer. Shek. 49a, and parallels; Blau, "Althebräisches Buchwesen," p. 156). God held counsel with it at the creation of the world, since it was wisdom itself (Tan., Bereshit, passim), and it was God's first revelation, in which He Himself took part. It was given in completeness for all time and for all mankind, so that no further revelation can be expected. It was given in the languages of all peoples; for the voice of the divine revelation was seventyfold (Weber, l.c. pp. 16-20; Blau, "Zur Einleitung in die Heilige Schrift," pp. 84-100). It shines forever, and was transcribed by the scribes of the seventy peoples (Bacher, "Ag. Tan." ii. 203, 416), while everything found in the Prophets and the Hagiographa was already contained in the Torah (Ta'an. 9a), so that, if the Israelites had not sinned, only the five books of Moses would have been given them (Ned. 22b). As a matter of fact, the Prophets and the Hagiographa will be abrogated; but the Torah will remain forever (Yer. Meg. 70d). Every letter of it is a living creature. When Solomon took many wives, Deuteronomy threw himself before God and complained that Solomon wished to remove from the Pentateuch the yod of the word (Deut. xvii. 17), with which the prohibition of polygamy was spoken; and God replied: "Solomon and a thousand like him shall perish, but not one letter of the Torah shall be destroyed" (Lev. R. xix.; Yer. Sanh. 20c; Cant. R. 5, 11; comp. Bacher, l.c. ii. 123, note 5). The single letters were hypostatized, and were active even at the creation of the world (Bacher, l.c. i. 347), an idea which is probably derived from Gnostic speculation. The whole world is said to be only 1/3200 of the Torah ('Er. 21a).

Israel received this treasure only through suffering (Ber. 5a, and parallels), for the book and the sword came together from heaven, and Israel was obliged to choose between them (Sifre, Deut. 40, end; Bacher, l.c. ii. 402, note 5); and whosoever denies the heavenly origin of the Torah will lose the future life (Sanh. x. 1). This high esteem finds its expression in the rule that a copy of the Pentateuch is unlimited in value, and in the ordinance that the inhabitants of a city might oblige one another to procure scrolls of the Law (Tosef., B. M. iii. 24, xi. 23). The pious bequeathed a copy of the Torah to the synagogue (ib. B. k. ii. 3); and it was the duty of each one to make one for himself, while the honor paid the Bible greatly influenced the distribution of copies and led to the foundation of libraries (Blau, "Althebräisches Buchwesen," pp. 84-97).

Study of the Torah.

The highest ideal of young and old and of small and great was the study of the Law, thus forming a basis for that indomitable eagerness of the Jewish people for education and that unquenchable thirst for knowledge which still characterize them. "As the child must satisfy its hunger day by day, so must the grown man busy himself with the Torah each hour" (Yer. Ber. ch. ix.). The mishnah (Pe'ah i.) incorporated in the daily prayer declares that the study of the Law transcends all things, being greater than the rescue of human life, than the building of the Temple, and than the honor of father and mother (Meg. 16b). It is of more value than the offering of daily sacrifice ('Er. 63b); a single day devoted to the Torah outweighs 1,000 sacrifices (Shab. 30a; comp. Men. 100a); while the fable of the Fish and the Fox, in which the latter seeks to entice the former to dry land, declares Israel can live only in the Law as fish can live only in the ocean. Whoever separates himself from the Torah dies forthwith ('Ab. Zarah 3b); for fire consumes him, and he falls into hell (B. B. 79a); while God weeps over one who might have occupied himself with it but neglected to do so (Hag. 5b). The study must be unselfish: "One should study the Torah with self-denial, even at the sacrifice of one's life; and in the very hour before death one should devote himself to this duty" (Sotah 21b; Ber. 63b; Shab. 83b). "Whoever uses the crown of the Torah shall be destroyed" (Ned. 62a). All, even the lepers and the unclean, were required to study the Law (Ber. 22a), while it was the duty of every one to read the entire weekly lesson twice (Ber. 8a); and the oldest benediction was the one spoken over the Torah (ib. 11b). Prophylactic power also is ascribed to it: it gives protection against suffering (ib. 5a), against sickness ('Er. 54b), and against oppression in the Messianic time (Sanh. 98b); so that it may be said that "the Torah protects all the world" (Sanh. 99b; comp. Ber. 31a). The following sayings may be cited as particularly instructive in this respect: "A Gentile who studies the Torah is as great as the high priest" (B. k. 38a). "The practise of all the laws of the Pentateuch is worth less than the study of the scriptures of it" (Yer. Pe'ah i.), a conclusive refutation of the current view of the Nomism of the Jewish faith. After these citations it becomes readily intelligible that, according to the Talmudic view, "God Himself sits and studies the Torah" ('Ab. Zarah 3b).

Criticism of the Torah Among Jews.

The spirit of criticism naturally developed from this devotion to the Pentateuch, in spite of faith and reverence. The very existence of the doctrine that the Law was of heavenly origin, and that whosoeverdenied this dogma had no share in the life to come (Sanh. x.), shows that there was a school which assumed a critical attitude toward the Torah. There is much evidence in proof of this; but here only the history of criticism within the orthodox synagogue will be discussed. It was a moot point whether the Law was given all at once or in smaller rolls at different times (Git. 60a); and the further question was discussed, whether Moses or Joshua wrote the last eight verses of the Pentateuch (B. B. 14b-15a). It was definitely affirmed, on the other hand (ib.), that Moses composed the sections concerning Balaam (Num. xxii.-xxiv.), thus closing all discussions on that score. Many tacit doubts are scattered through the Talmud and Midrash, in addition to those which Einstein has collected. In the post-Talmudic period, in like manner, there was no lack of critics, some of them recognized as such again only in recent times, although Abraham ibn Ezra, who was joined by Spinoza, has long been recognized as belonging to this class.


The composition of the Torah should be discussed on the basis of the old Semitic concepts, which planned a work of literature practically rather than systematically. Repetitions, therefore, should not be eliminated, since things which are good and noble may and should be brought to remembrance many times. From the point of view of effective emphasis, moreover, a change of context may develop a new and independent application of a given doctrine, especially if it be repeated in other words. Thus tradition (The Thirty-two Rules of Eliezer b. Jose ha-Gelili) took "the repeated doctrine" as its rule of interpretation, and left large numbers of repetitions (parallel passages) in its collections of oral teachings. The framework of the Pentateuch is historical narrative bound together by the thread of chronology. There is no rigid adherence to the latter principle, however; and the Talmud itself accordingly postulates the rule: "There is no earlier and no later in the Torah" (Pes. 6b et passim). From a Masoretic point of view, the Mosaic code contains the history of a period of about 2,300 years. As has already been noted in regard to the names of the individual books, the Talmud and the Masorah divided the Torah into smaller units according to its contents, so that Genesis includes the story of Creation and of the Patriarchs, Exodus the account of the departure from Egypt, the revelation, and so on.


The style of the Pentateuch, in keeping with its content, differs widely from the diction of the Prophets and the Psalms. It is less lofty, although it is not lacking in dramatic force, and it is concrete rather than abstract. Most of the laws are formulated in the second person as a direct address, the Decalogue being the best example. In certain cases, however, the nature of the subject requires the third person; but the Torah reverts as quickly as possible to the second as being the more effective form of address (comp., for example, Deut. xix. 11-21). In the Pentateuch, temporal depiction is the usual method. The process of creation, rather than the universe as a whole, is described; and the account brings the world visibly into being in six main parts. In the creation of man, of plants, and of paradise God is seen at work, and the same process of coming into being may be traced in the ark of Noah and similar descriptions. A remarkable example of word-painting is the account of the consecration of Aaron and his sons to the high-priesthood (Lev. viii.). Here the reader watches while Moses washes the candidates, dresses them, etc. ("Magyar-Zsidó Szemle," ix. 565 et seq.). Naïve simplicity is a characteristic trait of Pentateuchal style, which understands also the art of silence. Thus, as in all great products of world-literature, feminine beauty is not described in detail; for Sarah, Rachel, and other heroines are merely said to be beautiful, while the completion of the picture is left to the imagination of the reader.

Laws of the Torah.

The contents of the Torah fall into two main parts: historical and legal. The latter commences with Ex. xii.; so that the Tannaim maintained that the Law actually began there, proceeding on the correct principle that the word "Torah" could be applied only to teachings which regulated the life of man, either leading him to perform certain acts (commands = ) or restraining him from them (prohibitions = ). The Talmud enumerates a total of 613 rules, 248 being commands and 365 prohibitions (see Jew. Encyc. iv. 181, s.v. Commandments, The 613). In the post-Talmudic period many works were written on these 613 "mizwot," some even by Maimonides. The legal parts of the Pentateuch include all the relations of human life, although these are discussed with greater detail in the Talmud (see Talmudic Laws). The Torah recognizes no subdivisions of the commandments; for all alike are the ordinances of God, and a distinction may be drawn only according to modern ideas, as when Driver (in Hastings, "Dict. Bible," iii. 66) proposes a triple division, into juridical, ceremonial, and moral "torot."

Penal Law.

Montefiore was correct when, in laying emphasis on the ethical aspect of the Biblical concept of God, he declared that even the law of the Bible was permeated with morality, propounding his view in the following words ("Hibbert Lectures," p. 64): "Most original and characteristic was the moral influence of Jahveh in the domain of law. Jahveh, to the Israelite, was emphatically the God of the right. . . . From the earliest times onward, Jahveh's sanctuary was the depository of law, and the priest was His spokesman." The most prominent characteristic of the Pentateuchal law, as compared with the laws of ancient peoples and of medieval Europe, is mildness, a feature which is still further developed in the Talmud. The Torah is justly regarded as the source of humane law. Although such phrases occur as "that soul shall be cut off from his people" or "so shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee," it would be incorrect to take them literally, or to deduce from them certain theories of penal law, as Förster has recently done. On the contrary, these expressions prove that the Mosaiclaw was not a legal code in the strict sense of the term, but an ethical work. Although the Talmudists made it a penal code, instinctively reading that character into it, the penal law of the Torah is something theoretical which was never put into practise. This view is supported by the fact that a commandment is stated sometimes without the threat of any penalty whatever for its violation, and sometimes with the assignment even of death as a punishment for its transgression. In like manner, tradition frequently substitutes such a phrase as "he forfeited his life" for "transgression worthy of death."

Civil Law.

On the other hand, the civil law of the Torah, which is more developed and bears a practical character, probably accords more closely with ancient Jewish legal procedure. It reflects the conditions of an agricultural state, since most of the laws relate to farming and cognate matters. There was no Hebrew word for "store," although "just measure" was mentioned. It must be borne in mind, however, that to satisfy the more advanced conditions of later times, the Talmudists both supplemented the Mosaic law and by means of analogy and similar expedients interpolated into the Torah much which it did not contain originally.

From the earliest times the Synagogue has proclaimed the divine origin of the Pentateuch, and has held that Moses wrote it down from dictation, while the religions based on Judaism have until very recently held the same view. Biblical criticism, however, denies the Mosaic authorship and ascribes only a portion of varying extent to so ancient an origin. A history of criticism in regard to this point is given by Winer ("B. R." ii. 419 et seq.) and by Driver (in Hastings, "Dict. Bible," iii. 66), while Montefiore expresses himself as follows (l.c.):

"The Torah—or teaching—of the priests, half judicial, half pædagogic, was a deep moral influence; and there was no element in the religion which was at once more genuinely Hebrew and more closely identified with the national God. There is good reason to believe that this priestly Torah is the one religious institution which can be correctly attributed to Moses. . . . Though Moses was not the author of the written law, he was unquestionably the founder of that oral teaching, or Torah, which preceded and became the basis of the codes of the Pentateuch."

Sunday, November 15, 2009

People of Israel

ISRAEL, PEOPLE OF: (print this article)

By : Emil G. Hirsch J. Frederic McCurdy

I. Origin of the People:
Ultimate Babylonian Origin.
II. Tribal History:
Early Existence of the Tribes.
Division and Distribution of the Tribes.
Moses and Jahvism.
Settlement East of the Jordan.
Settlement in Canaan Proper.
Fortunes of the Tribes.
The National Spirit.
III. The Kingdom.—
Battle of Gilboa.
King David.
The Northern Kingdom.
The Southern Kingdom.
IV. The Babylonian Régime:
The Remnant in Palestine.
V. The Persian Dominion:
The Restoration.
Reforms of Ezra and Nehemiah.
VI. The Hellenistic Era:
Rule of the Ptolemies.
Seleucid Dominion.
VII. The Maccabees:

In the Bible "Israel" is the national name of the people who are known racially as "Hebrews." In the tribal condition no comprehensive name was historically applied to the whole people. The story (Gen. xxxii. 24 et seq.) of the change of name from "Jacob" to "Israel" is in part a reflex of the historical fact of the union of the tribes and of their final triumph over the Canaanites.

I. Origin of the People:

Ultimate Babylonian Origin.

Whether regarded politically or ethnologically, Israel must be considered a composite people. This appears both from the genealogical statements of the Bible and from recorded instances of racial amalgamation. It is not, however, easy to determine exactly all the racial elements of Israel; and the beginnings are involved in greatest obscurity. A primary Babylonian contribution is at least probable. The tradition that Abram as the founder of the race came from Ur of the Chaldees is meaninglessif it is a mere geographical reference; and the fact that the Hebrews shared with the Babylonians their oldest literary reminiscences, such as characteristic forms of the Creation and the Flood stories, is apparently a confirmation of the tradition.

The more immediate Biblical tradition is to the effect that Israel was fundamentally Aramean; and this belief is not incompatible with partial Babylonian descent. The course of the earliest history was perhaps somewhat as follows: During the Babylonian domination of the west country—not later than about 1600 B.C.—a party of emigrants from the lower Euphrates came to the region about Charran, the seat of an old Babylonian colony. After a time certain families of them went farther to the west and south, settling in scattered bands both east and west of the Jordan. From these the Hebraic peoples, including the Hebrews proper, the Moabites, Ammonites, and Edomites, claimed descent. By the ancestors of the Hebrews proper the old affiliations were maintained for a time by Aramean accessions, so that later it could be said of Israel, "an Aramean nomad was thy father" (Deut. xxvi. 5, Hebr.).

II. Tribal History:

There are thus given a few sturdy clans, the most prominent being marked off by their Aramean affiliations, forming settlements for themselves in Palestine and never wholly abandoning them, till by superior moral and physical energy they make good their claim to the possession of most of the country. By putting in most probable chronological order the substance of the patriarchal and tribal traditions and genealogical tables, and utilizing the scanty notices from outside sources, the following tentative outline history may be constructed:

Early Existence of the Tribes.


The Tribes Before the Exodus: Most, if not all, of the tribes of Israel had some kind of organic existence before 1200 B.C., the approximate date of the Exodus from Egypt, though they may not in all cases have then borne the names which have become historical. The scheme of the Twelve Tribes is a later construction, based in part upon genealogical data and in part upon geographical boundaries; yet this scheme is still the chief guide for determining the tribal distribution in the period preceding the invasion.

Division and Distribution of the Tribes.

The traditional classification of the tribes (Gen. xxx.) into the sons of Leah, the sons of Rachel, and the sons of their two maids is of essential historical value. The eldest four were the first to make an independent settlement in Canaan. Reuben was the first leader; but he early lost his preeminence, and made his permanent home across the Jordan. Simeon and Levi were almost destroyed in a feud with Canaanites of the region of Shechem, with whom they had made an alliance. The scattered remnants of Simeon were later absorbed by Judah. Whether Levi at length became rehabilitated in Israel as the priestly tribe is not quite certain (see Levites). Judah in these early days allied himself with Canaanites of the districts of Adullam and Timnath, and maintained his tribal existence in spite of many disasters (Gen. xxxviii.). Early and late Judah derived strength from the absorption of outsiders.

Some sort of settlement was also probably made by Issachar and Zebulun in the plain of Jezreel and northward before the return from Egypt, which would account for the prominence of these tribes so soon after that era (Judges v.) in those fertile and much-coveted regions. Joseph and Benjamin are of more relative consequence in Palestine after than before the sojourn in Egypt. In the earlier time the ambition and progress of the tribe of Joseph excited the jealousy of the other tribes, and it was compelled to migrate into Egypt, as was the fashion with many Asiatics during the eighteenth and nineteenth dynasties. Benjamin as a tribe in Canaan was perhaps non-existent till after the Egyptian era. The historical location of Gad, Asher, Dan, and Naphtali is suggestive of their predominantly foreign origin, which explains their being accounted as the sons of the maids of Leah and Rachel. As connected with Israel they were not prominent till the time of the general settlement. But in the Egyptian records of about 1300 B.C. a people called "Aseru" then occupied the territory later ascribed to Asher.

The question of a federation of any of the tribes is obscure. But there seems to have been an "Israel" in some sense in Canaan before the Exodus, for Me(r)neptah, son of Rameses II., refers to having devastated Israel in Canaan. No other supposed monumental allusion to Jacob or Joseph or the Hebrews can be used as yet for historical purposes.

Moses and Jahvism.


The Egyptian Era and the Exodus: Meanwhile the people of Joseph prospered so greatly in Egypt that many families from kindred tribes migrated thither. But a change of policy under the kings of the nineteenth dynasty brought about a sore oppression of the Hebrews, so that their life there became intolerable. The great design of restoring them to Canaan was cherished by Moses, a Hebrew of Egyptian education, but at this time a fugitive in the peninsula of Sinai in consequence of active partizanship in the cause of his oppressed brethren. There he adopted the religion of his hosts, the Kenites, who were worshipers of Yhwh. He then returned to Egypt, induced his people to migrate with him, and effected a passage of an arm of the Red Sea when hard pressed by the pursuing Egyptians. After this deliverance it became easier for the fugitives to make the worship of Yhwh their own; and the new religious bond was strengthened by a prolonged visit to the seat of Yhwh, Mount Sinai. Of this religion Moses was the first priest, though the ministry was subsequently transferred to other hands. As civil leader and priest in one he was the supreme judge; and as the interpreter of the will of Yhwh he was the first and in a sense the greatest of the prophets. Law and justice, the rudiments of which were imparted by Moses to his people, were also of the essence of revelation.

Settlement East of the Jordan.


The Occupation of Palestine: The tribesmen of Joseph, now divided into two great clans, were naturally the head and front of the movement upon Palestine. Their main endeavor was to effect anentrance into "the hill country of Ephraim," where their kinsmen were most numerous. Attempts to reach this goal by the west and south were found to be hopeless; and after many long delays a détour was made around the land of Edom, a union being effected with the Israelitish population already east of the Jordan and their allies. The chief foes of all the Hebraic peoples of this time were the Amorites, who by the invasion of the newcomers were driven out of Gilead and the northern border of Moab, with the result that new Israelitish settlements were made in the region north and south of the Jabbok.

Settlement in Canaan Proper.

With these achievements the life and work of Moses were finished. His place was taken by Joshua, the representative of the dominant tribe of Ephraim. Under the new leadership the Jordan was crossed near Jericho (c. 1160 B.C.); and with the entrance into the central highlands, the old Israel already in Palestine and the new immigrants, endowed with the spirit of a world-conquering religion, made common cause in the gradual occupation of the land of promise and the realization of a national ideal. It is doubtful, however, whether there was any complete federation of the tribes before the era of the kingdom. For more than a century the settlement extended itself, partly through conquest, but chiefly through peaceful assimilation of the Canaanitish communities. Mainly because the Canaanites could maintain themselves in fortified cities a complete and speedy conquest of the whole country was out of the question (comp. Judgesi.). Against the more numerous and wealthy but divided Canaanites the main advantage possessed by the Hebrews was common action over an extended area, inspired by land-hunger and by religious enthusiasm.

Fortunes of the Tribes.

At first aggression was naturally the chief factor. The occupation of the central hill country laid the foundation of the great settlement of the people of Joseph with Ephraim itself in the center, Manasseh (Machir) in the north, and the new tribe of Benjamin in the south. This territory was firmly held and long remained the kernel and defense of Israel. The other tribes adjusted themselves gradually to this primary condition. Those to the north, Issachar, Zebulun, and Naphtali, strengthened their hold upon the plain of Jezreel and beyond, and in an early stage of the general occupation (c. 1130 B.C.), by the help of Machir (Manasseh), Ephraim, and Benjamin (Judges v.), made good their claim against a desperate combination of northern Canaanites. The southern tribes, Judah, Simeon, and Dan, took little part in the distinctive work of securing Canaan for Israel. Yet Judah, virile and enterprising, continually enlarged itself from well-chosen centers, absorbing whole clans of outsiders, such as the Kenites and the Kenizzites, as well as the remnant of Simeon. Dan held a part of the Shephela by precarious tenure, first against the Canaanites, and later against the Philistines, till it was forced to migrate to the foot of Hermon, where it thenceforth remained inactive in the common affairs of Israel. In the northwest Asher was claimed for the people of Yhwh (ib. v. 17), but was never assimilated. Gilead and Bashan became a home for emigrants, especially from the overcrowded territory of Manassch; and Gilead actually became synonymous with Gad (ib.).


Period of the Judges: After centuries of military control Canaan had been relinquished by the Egyptians (c. 1170 B.C.) to become in large measure the possession of the Israelites. But the title of the new occupants was not to be undisputed. Successful raids, sometimes amounting to prolonged occupations, were made by Arameans (who came in large numbers over the Euphrates to replace the now almost extinct Hittite communities), by Moabites, by Midianites, and east of the Jordan by Ammonites. Only a portion of the country was attacked and despoiled by each of the invading hosts; and on each occasion a leader was raised up to deliver his people. The most serious incursion was that made by the Midianites, who (c. 1090 B.C.) struck into the center of Israel's territory by way of the possessions of Manasseh. After the repulse Gideon, the leader or "judge," was almost made a king by his tribesmen; and the lack of a common leadership was henceforth so strongly felt that it became only a question of time when a kingdom of Israel should be established.

The National Spirit.

The last and greatest of the judges was Samuel (c. 1030 B.C.). He was the first legitimate successor of Moses, as being an epoch-making priest, prophet, and judge in one. Moses had been the founder of Israel, in that he had imbued his people with the national spirit along with the religion of Yhwh. But the idea of nationality was being rapidly obliterated by the disintegrating effect of agriculture upon a people primarily nomadic, by the establishment of individual families and septs in their own several holdings and districts, and by the inevitable adoption almost everywhere of Canaanitish customs, with separate city government and the worship of local deities (see Ba'al).

External influences seemed still more destructive. Most pressing of all immediate dangers was the growing power of the Philistines. They had (c. 1040 B.C.) repeatedly defeated the armies of Israel; they had destroyed the sacred city of Shiloh with its shrine; they had seized the chief strongholds of Ephraim and Benjamin; and they were now holding central Israel in vassalage.

III. The Kingdom.—


The United Kingdom: Samuel now perceived that only a king could reclaim and unite Israel; and by him Saul, a wealthy landholder of Gibeah in Benjamin, was consecrated to the kingly office (c. 1030 B.C.). Saul's first achievement was of happy omen. The town of Jabesh in Gilead was under siege by the Ammonites, and claimed the protection of the western tribes. Saul fired the heart of Israel by proclaiming a holy war in behalf of this town. The rescue which followed gave heart to the despondent tributaries of the Philistines; and a series of brilliant victories, in which the crown prince, the noble Jonathan, took the lead, served to make Israel strong and united. Saulgathered about him men of force and promise, and gave them the command of chosen bodies of militia. Abner, the captain of the host, was a brave and skilful leader; and among the officers was a youth of genius, David, the son of Jesse of Beth-lehem in Judah, the first of that tribe to take an active part in the affairs of Israel. Jonathan and David became fast friends; and their alliance promised well for the redemption of their country.

Battle of Gilboa.

All went happily for a time. The Philistines, driven out from central Palestine, were kept at bay; and if Saul had been a statesman as well as a soldier the state might have been saved under his régime. But he lacked the gift of administration so essential to the building up of the nation. He also became moody and melancholy, and suspected a plot against him on the part of both David and Jonathan. David was compelled to flee from the court. He made himself the leader of a daring band of outlaws. Though often pursued by Saul, he would not retaliate. He became a nominal vassal of the King of Gath, but helped the Philistines as little, and his own men of Judah as much, as possible. The Philistines; unable to penetrate the western passes of Benjamin and Ephraim, marched northward, and struck at Israel from the plain of Jezreel. On a slope of Mount Gilboa the fateful battle was fought, in which Saul and three of his sons, Jonathan, Abinadab, and Melchishua, laid down their lives; and the Israelites once more became tributary to their terrible foes (c. 1000 B.C.).

David had laid for himself the foundation of a kingdom in his own separate tribe; and when Ishbaal (Ishbosheth), a surviving son of Saul, was proclaimed King of Israel by Abner, he (David) took up a royal residence in Hebron, where he reigned as King of Judah for some years, probably on good terms with his old allies the Philistines. The reign of Ishbaal was very brief; and he never possessed real authority west of the Jordan, his capital being at Mahanaim in Gilead. He was dethroned by his general after a quarrel; and Abner, when a few years of anarchy had passed, handed the kingdom over to David, who then received the allegiance of the elders of Israel (c. 995 B.C.).

King David.

David was the political creator of Israel. Before him there had been national aspirations, but never a united nation. He was the most commanding public figure in the history of Israel. Surpassed in the art of war by his general and near relative, Joab, to whom he owed most of his military success, he was unrivaled in his genius for statesmanship. His eventual comparative failure as a ruler was due to moral weaknesses and an overwrought emotional temperament.

His early achievements as King of Israel were the final expulsion of the Philistines from their garrisons in the central region; the capture of Jerusalem from the Canaanitish Jebusites, which he made his capital and the sacred city of Yhwh, thus securing the alliance of the powerful and warlike Benjamin and the religious allegiance of all Israel; his establishment of an organized administration with permanent state officials; and the formation of a regular body-guard of trained soldiers as the nucleus of a standing army.

There soon began a period of foreign wars, which ended in the subjugation of the Moabites, Edomites, and Ammonites, besides the Arameans of southern and central Syria. Israel's suzerainty over all of these except the Arameans lasted till well into the reign of David's successor.

The kingdom proper was, however, not fully organized internally; and David's own crimes and follies came nearly rending it into fragments. Adultery with Bath-sheba, the wife of a faithful officer, and the murder of the husband were followed in the latter half of his reign by fatal dissensions among the children of his many wives, and finally by the open rebellion of Absalom, the heir to the throne. Through the fidelity of a few devoted friends David's safety was secured, and through the strategy of Joab, Absalom was defeated and slain. Local dissensions were once more outwardly healed, and the closing years of the great king's reign were passed in comparative tranquillity. A court intrigue at the close of David's days put an end to the pretensions and the life of the next heir, Adonijah, and thereby Solomon, son of Bath-sheba, succeeded to the throne (c. 965 B.C.).


Solomon's merits were fewer and his demerits more numerous than those of his father. He cultivated peace and friendship with his neighbors, developed trade and production, and organized the kingdom into administrative districts; and by the aid of workmen and materials brought from Phenicia, he erected the great Temple on Moriah along with a gorgeous palace for himself. On the other hand, he was sensual in his habits, and without religious depth or steadfastness. He impoverished the rest of the kingdom to build up Judah and Jerusalem, to repay his debts to the Phenicians, to maintain a splendid court, and to gratify his own luxurious and extravagant tastes. Before his reign was ended he had lost the allegiance of all the vassal states, and provoked an ominous discontent throughout northern Israel. His reign was the first epoch of Hebrew literary history; for then was made the oldest collection of epic ballads and of the traditions of tribal heroes.


The Divided Kingdom: At the death of Solomon (934 B.C.) his son Rehoboam claimed kingship over all Israel. But the discontent in the northern tribes showed itself at once in a great "folkmote" at Shechem. There they chose as their king Jeroboam, an Ephraimite who had been a fugitive in Egypt on account of an attempt at rebellion in the reign of Solomon. Benjamin, in whose territory were Jerusalem and the Temple, remained with Judah. Thus the ideal of a united Israel was shattered forever. Thenceforth for a time there were enmity and strife between north (Israel) and south (Judah); and though there came at length a longer period of almost unbroken peace, yet the hope of reunion was never again cherished.

The Northern Kingdom.

Despite the popularity of Jeroboam's election, northern Israel was kept in a state of partial or total anarchy for half a century. To compete with the Temple at Jerusalem shrines were erected at Dan and at Beth-el, and strong fortresses were built upon both sides of the Jordan. But at first Israel was at a disadvantage as compared with Judah. The latter was small numerically, but it had a well-disciplined force of warriors along with the legitimate seat of government and worship. The real founder of the Northern Kingdom was Omri (886 B.C.), who built the strong fortress Samaria and made it his capital. Under his dynasty friendship was cultivated with both Judahites and Phenicians, and east of the Jordan strenuous war was waged with the rising power of Damascus. His successor, Ahab (875), continued his policy, but Joram, the son of Ahab, was overthrown and slain by the usurper Jehu.

The new dynasty suffered terribly at the hands of Damascus, but after that powerful state had been crushed by the Assyrians (797) Israel revived, and under Jeroboam II. (783-742) attained to the height of its power. Jeroboam's successors, however, had brief and unfortunate reigns until in 733 both Damascus and Samaria were captured by the Assyrians, who annexed the whole of Israel north of Jezreel. Hoshea, the vassal king in Samaria, rebelled in 724 at the instigation of the intriguing Ethiopian dynasty in Egypt, and his capital was taken after a siege lasting till the end of 722. Many of the people of the kingdom were exiled, and their places were taken by heathen colonists deported thither from Babylonia. Of internal matters the most important were the rise and influence of the preaching prophet Elijah (c. 870) and his school, and of the first great literary prophets, Amos (c. 760) and Hosea (c. 740).

The Southern Kingdom.

The kingdom of Judah, after its early successes against Israel, played a subordinate rôle for over a century. Its fiercest struggles—of varying success—were waged with the Edomites; and it continued to grow by the naturalization of outsiders to the south. Under Uzziah (783-738) it reached the height of its prosperity, having much of Philistine and Edomite territory under tribute. But in 734, under Ahaz (735-719), it became tributary to the Assyrians, who were then ravaging northern Palestine. Ahaz's son, Hezekiah (719-690), joined in an important revolt against Assyria in 701. The kingdom was laid waste; many inhabitants were deported; and Jerusalem was saved from capture only through the breaking out of a plague in the Assyrian army near the border of Egypt. Thenceforth almost till the fall of Nineveh (607) Judah continued an Assyrian vassal.

In 608 Palestine was traversed by an Egyptian force under Pharaoh-Necho; and the young king, Josiah (639-608), having marched out to give him battle, was defeated and slain. A brief Egyptian régime was terminated in 604 by the great Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, who had succeeded to the fallen empire of Assyria. The Egyptians, expelled from Palestine, still kept intriguing, and Judah under Jehoiakim (608-597) was induced to rebel in 598. The next year the newly ascended king Jehoiachin was taken with his city and deported to Babylonia with many of his subjects, including the prophet Ezekiel. In 588 Judah again rebelled under Zedekiah (598-586). In 586 Jerusalem was taken, the king and many more of his people were deported, and the kingdom was finally abolished.

IV. The Babylonian Régime:

The Remnant in Palestine.

Over the Judahites left in Palestine a governor of their own race, Gedaliah, was appointed. In a few years he was assassinated by an apostate named Ishmael. As a punishment for the murder a third deportation was made to Babylonia, while a band of fugitives, taking the aged prophet Jeremiah with them, made their way to Egypt and were heard of no more. A considerable number still remained in Palestine.

The exiles, as a whole, fared well in Babylonia. The bulk of the first or principal deportation was placed beside the Canal Chebar, not far from Nippur in central Babylonia. Here and elsewhere most of the captives were employed on public works, and many of all classes of the exiles eventually gained their freedom and rose to influential positions. Hence Babylonia furnished a strong moral and financial support to Judaism for many centuries. Here, also, the faith and religious devotion of Israel were renewed; the literature of the kingdom was studied, reedited, and adapted to the needs of the reviving community; and the hope of restoration to Palestine was preached and cherished. About 545 this aspiration took more definite form. Cyrus, King of Persia, had by that time attained to dominion over the whole uplands of Asia as far as the shores of the Ægean Sea, and it seemed to the seers of Israel (the second Isaiah and others) that the Semitic lowlands would soon fall to him also. As a matter of fact, the Babylonian empire became his possession when the city of Babylon surrendered to his army without resistance in July, 539.

V. The Persian Dominion:

The Restoration.

Soon thereafter Cyrus issued a proclamation giving the Judahite and other exiles permission to return to their own lands. The Jews gladly seized the opportunity. A "prince" of the Davidic line, Sheshbazzar, with a large following, set out for Jerusalem in 538. The difficulties of resettlement were enormous, largely due to jealousy and intrigue on the part of the Samaritans and other peoples of Palestine. The foundation of a temple was laid; but it was not till 521, when Darius Hystaspes, the great patron of subject religions, gave further encouragement, that a decisive impulse was given by the exertions of Zerubbabel, a prince of the same royal line, supported by a contingent of new colonists. Through his agency along with that of Joshua the high priest, and the inspiring words of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, the Temple was completed and dedicated in 516.

Reforms of Ezra and Nehemiah.

The Hebrew settlement was still little more than a struggling colony; and during the next two generations it showed a marked decline in religious earnestness and therefore in social and political weal. Separation from the heathen and semi-heathen peoples of the whole region was indispensable. But intermarriages with them were frequent; and with these alliances the practises of forbidden cults went hand in hand. A great reformation was nowbrought about by Ezra, a priest and a scribe in Babylonia, who came to Jerusalem (458?), with authority from King Artaxerxes I., to reform the Jewish community. His efforts would have been of little avail if they had not been backed up by the powerful influence of Nehemiah, a Jewish cupbearer of Artaxerxes, who came with a royal escort and with a governor's commission to set right the affairs of his compatriots in Palestine.

Nehemiah, whose genius was eminently practical, rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem; forced the richer Jews to release the property mortgaged to them by their poorer brethren; forbade the taking of usury, the contracting of mixed marriages, and the profanation of the Sabbath. Ezra's greatest work was the more lasting, being nothing less than a new edition of the Law, which soon became the strongest pillar of Judaism. It was read before a great congregation in 444. A second visit of Nehemiah in 432 resulted in the vigorous carrying out of some of the most sorely needed reforms.

During the century that followed till 330 little is accurately known of the fortunes of the Jewish state. The people were homogeneous; and the result of the labors of Nehemiah and Ezra was seen in the fact that the religious purity of the community was maintained.

VI. The Hellenistic Era:

The conquests of Alexander the Great brought Syria under Hellenistic influence, at first chiefly exercised by the Ptolemies of Egypt from Alexandria as a center (323-203), and later by Antiochus III. of Syria and his two successors, reigning in Antioch (203-165).

Rule of the Ptolemies.

What the Egypt of the Pharaohs had failed to do in Palestine, the Egypt of the Ptolemies in large measure accomplished. Not only was a political control established there, but a strong intellectual influence was exercised. Ptolemy Logi, who occupied Jerusalem in 320, took large numbers of Jews to Egypt as colonists and prospective citizens. Other Jews followed, strong in their loyalty to the Judaism established by Ezra: forerunners and types of faithful Jews ever since scattered throughout the world. The Jews prospered in Egypt; and Alexandria reacted upon Jerusalem in matters intellectual. The Egyptian capital became a center of Jewish learning; and the devoted Jews who resorted for worship to their Holy City familiarized the people of the home land with the enlarged outlook and knowledge of the world acquired in Egypt. Moreover, the first Greek translation of the Old Testament was made and used by Hellenistic Jews. On the whole, the Ptolemaic régime was a benefit to Judaism.

Seleucid Dominion.

In 203 Antiochus III. wrested Judea from Egypt. Under his second successor, Antiochus Epiphanes, the fatal epoch of world-liness and compromise with heathenism began with the success of his endeavor to corrupt the priesthood. His next step was to seize the Temple and profane it.

VII. The Maccabees:

At this juncture a heroism worthy of the best days of Israel was displayed by the noble priest Mattathias of the Hasmonean family, who in 167 raised the standard of rebellion. Under his son and successor, Judas Maccabeus, Jerusalem was recovered, the Temple purified, and its worship restored (165). The rule of the Maccabees was finally established in Judea, and was maintained for a full century, till Syria became a Roman province.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The wicked and the righteous

The wicked and the righteous

The *Midrash says, '"And it was evening" these are the deeds of the wicked, "and it was morning" these are the deeds of the *Tzaddikim...'

I heard my master *ZT'L [the Baal Shem Tov] explain this according to what it says in *Pirkei Avos 'There are four traits of those who give charity...' The question on this *Mishnah is well known: How can you say that there are four? The one who doesn't give and doesn't want others to give is not from those who 'give' charity. The same is with the other teaching there about the four traits of those who go to the *Beis Midrash to learn. [The who neither goes nor learns has no real relationship to the Beis Midrash.

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Meket - Who to Trust - Chassidus


Ahavas HaShem, Ahavas Yisroel, Ahavas HaTorah
Love of G-d, Love of fellow Jews, Love of the Torah
by Moshe Shulman


I. Who to trust.

1. 'And it was at the end of two years' (Bereishis* 41.1)

The Midrash says, "'Praised is the man who has trusts in HaShem*'
this is Yosef." My grandfather ZT'L (the Baal Shem Tov) has a
teaching on the verse, 'Blessed is the man who trusts in HaShem, and
HaShem is what he trusts in'. He said that there are three things
with regards to trusting: the person who trusts, the one he has trust
in, and the action or method that his trust depends on.

This is the meaning: HaShem is the one whom a person has trust in.
Through Him he will get all that he needs, so long as he goes in His
ways. The person who trusts is the person himself. However as to the
action or method, even though he has trust that HaShem will provide
for him, he nevertheless feels that there is some action he must do.
He feels that the action that he is doing will cause him to have his
needs met. This action can be some type of business deal or something
of that nature. [He feels it is the action that brings to fruition
the trust that he has in HaShem.]

However this person has yet to come to the true understanding of
faith. The foundation of faith is to believe that there is HaShem
and nothing else. That in truth he does not need to do any action
that will cause him to gain his needs. This is because it is HaShem
who brings about all the situations in life. Even if he would not
occupy himself with his business deals, HaShem could provide for him
his needs according to His great mercy.

This is the meaning of the verse, 'Blessed is the man who has trust
in HaShem, and HaShem is what he trusts in.' That is to say that his
trust is totally in HaShem. He is the one he trusts in and there is
no action that he trusts in to bring about his needs. He doesn't need
to do anything for HaShem to provide for him. Everything depends on
HaShem. Even if he has something that he does for his livelihood, he
does not believe that this is what supplies his needs. He has a
perfect faith that it is HaShem who provides for him. It is HaShem
who wishes that he be provided for in this manner, and not that there
is any real need for him to do this action. He should only trust in
HaShem. This is a very high level of service of HaShem. (p.277
sefer Baal Shem Tov teachings of the Baal Shem Tov. This is taken
from the sefer Degel Machneh Ephraim.)

* * *

II. The nature of Tshuva*

2. 'And the ill looking cows ate ... And Pharaoh awoke' (Bereishis

A little further in the Torah* it says that when Pharaoh retells the
story of his dream to Yosef he changes it. He says that you couldn't
tell that the ill looking cows had eaten the other healthy ones. This
was not mentioned when the dream was first being related by the

It seems to me that all the stories in the Torah are a remez* in
order to instruct us in the proper way of serving HaShem. It seems to
me that the dream of Pharaoh is a remez for the person who has sinned
and continued to act wickedly until his actions have caused all his
seven bad midos* to swallow up the seven good midos he had.

There are seven ways of serving HaShem. 1. To love Him. 2. To be in
fear of Him. 3. to glorify Him. 4. to succeed in the battle with the
Yetzer HaRah* for His sake. 5. To praise Him. 6. To be attached to
the Holy King. 7. To accept His Rulership over you. The verse says
'And G-d has created these against those' [This indicates that for
every good midah there is it's opposite which is bad.]

HaShem has created the Yetzer HaRah [as a test] in order to turn a
persons attention to the foolish affairs of this world and its
emptiness. To lead him on a way that is not good, so that he will
love the things of this world, and to fear things other then HaShem.
To beautify other things. And the same with all the other midos. The
foolish person walks in darkness and follows after his Yetzer and so
he causes (G-d forbid) his seven good midos to be swallowed up by the
seven bad ones of the side opposing HaShem.

Now when the sinner is sinning, every day he continues in his
foolishness. However long he does not do Tshuva, he does not even
feel that he is doing anything wrong and he weakens the power of
holiness that was in him. In fact what happens is the opposite. He
thinks of himself as a great Tzaddik* who is upright, and going in
the proper way.

Therefore it is properly stated in this verse that he saw the cows in
his dream, which is a remez to the sinner who when he sins it is like
he is sleeping. It does not say anything about recognizing that the
good ones having disappeared into the bad ones. This is because the
good that is in him is as if it were asleep. And he is spending his
life in a dream and so it is not even possible to say that one
'couldn't see that they were eaten up.' Since he is so drunk from his
actions he doesn't even know that he doesn't know. [He can't even see
that he has lost his good midos.]

However after he awakens and starts to do tshuva, he is like one
awakening from sleep. He has awakened from the sleep of foolishness
and he feels sorry for his actions and he does tshuva to HaShem. And
he feels bad over the actions he had done because of the greatness of
his sins. And his eyes become opened to the greatness of the damage
he has done through his actions. And from heaven they help him to see
how he should act after he has awakened from his sleep which had
caused his seven bad midos to swallow up the seven midos of holiness.
Also the sins that were not revealed to him he recognizes. 'And they
swallowed them up but they still appeared ill fed.' This means that
he had sinned so much that he didn't even recognize it. [But now he
sees that he had really sinned.]

This is the remez of the dream and his awakening. The Baal Tshuva*
when he returns and speaks to his heart about the great blindness
that he had before this. He laments of the sins he had that were so
bad that he didn't realize that he had lost his good midos until he
awoke. And he sighs and has a broken spirit and returns to HaShem. He
accepts that from now on he will no longer sin and he will go in the
paths of truth. (p. 74 sefer Avodas Yisroel, teachings of Rebbe
Yisroel the Koznitzer Maggid*)

* * *

III. The true Cause

3. 'And they said one to his brother, surely we have sinned
concerning our brother...' (Bereishis 42.21)

The Torah is giving us a remez. We should understand that if some
disaster comes to a person (G-d forbid) and he does not see any sin
that he did which could be the cause of it. He should assume that the
reason is that he had an opportunity to instruct or help someone in
serving HaShem, or to do some good thing and he was lazy and did not
do it.

This is what the verse says.

'Surely we have sinned concerning our brother in that we saw his
soul's anguish when and he begged our help.' We should have
strengthen him in serving HaShem and save him from the anguish of his
soul and from the difficult trials he was going through.

But 'We did not listen, therefore this trouble has come upon us.'
[Because we did not listen to help him to serve HaShem, this disaster
has come upon us.] (p. 31 Sefer Divrei Emunah vol 2 teachings of
Rebbe Avraham Yitzchok, Admor* m'Toldos Aharon ZT'L)

* * *

IV. Faith

4. I would like to end this week with a little piece from one of the
many letters written by the Toldos Aharon Rebbe ZT'L (whose Yortzheit
is during Channukah) to his Chasidim.

The main thing is not to give up hope no matter what happens, because
it is written, 'I am HaShem and I do not change.' HaShem watches
over every single person in every single act. No one can hurt even a
small finger in this world if it has not been decreed from above.

It can be compared to water where if you look into it your face sees
another face. So it is that according to the strength with which one
is attached by his faith to Hashem, and in His providence, so will
Hashem guide him in his life. By having simple faith in HaShem one is
able to bring on himself all kinds of blessings even outside of the
normal order of things. This is what Chazal* say, 'even a wicked
person who has faith in HaShem His mercy surrounds him.' (#136b sefer
Asefos Meksuvim part 1, letters from Rebbe Avraham Yitzchok, Admor
m'Toldos Aharon ZT'L)


Arizal: Hebrew initials of the words: Adoni Rabbenu Yitzchok Zechorono LeVaracha our master Rabbi Yitzchok. Better known as Yitzchok Luria the great 16th century Kabbalist
Baal Tshuva (Baalei Tshuva): Hebrew for someone who is a repentant sinner.
Fourth book of the Torah. Called in English Numbers
Chazal: Hebrew initials for: Chochmenu Zichrona Levaracha (Our sages of Blessed memory) Used to refer to Rabbis of the Talmud
Chesed: Hebrew word meaning acts of mercy
Drash: A method of Biblical interpretation ascribing moral or ethical meaning to verses in the Torah.
HaShem: Noun used in place of G-d. Lit. The Name
mikvah: Hebrew word referring to a ritual bath used for purification
Mishnah: An ancient Jewish work made of specific laws.
Moshe Rabbeinu: Hebrew for Moses our teacher. A common Jewish way of referring to Moses.
Or HaChaim: Jewish Torah commentary
Rashi: The primary commentary on the Tenach.
Rebbe: Leader of a Chassidic group or a teacher
Rebbe Reb: A title added to a few special Rebbes as a sign of their higher spiritual stature.
remez: A method of Biblical interpretation based on finding hints in the Torah for various concepts.
Rov: An official rabbi who renders legal decisions. Many of the Rebbes were both a Rebbe of Chasidim, and the Rov of the city in which they lived.
Sanhedrin: 1. Tractate in the Talmud
2. Name of the highest level of the Jewish court system.
sefer (seforim): A Jewish religious book.
Talmud: An ancient work of Jewish law.
Tehillim: Hebrew name for Psalms.
Torah: a. First 5 books of the Jewish Bible
b. Also refers to the whole of Jewish law
c. also common term for a chassidic teaching
Tshuva: Hebrew word for repentance

Copyright (c) 1997 by Moshe Shulman (
All rights reserved.
Issur Hasugas Givilv