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divides his book into ten chapters, the topics of which are as follows: 1, of the Unity of God; 2, of his Government and Preservation of the Universe; 3, of Resignation to God's Will; 4, of Confidence in God; 5, of Actions performed for God's sake; 6, of Meekness; 7, of Repentance; 8, of Self-examination; 9, of the Renunciation of worldly influences; 10, of Love to God. The spirit which pervades the whole performance clearly shows the influence of the Arabian sages, whose sayings he profusely quotes. The relations between God and man, as exhibited by him, are not those of the loving father and son, but of the gracious master and submissive servant: so that the predominant motive, held out for feelings and acts of piety, is a dread of opposing the will of God; and the most edifying contemplations are declared to be those of his might and majesty. Holding the belief that good actions are of value, only as exhibiting purity of feelings and obedience to the Supreme will, he gives them an Arabic name signifying viatica,-such being the provisions with which one should furnish one's self for his journey to the other world. The idea that the present life is but a state of preparation for that to come, he thus expresses : “ This world is as an antechamber, in which thou art to prepare thyself for entering with propriety into the saloon."* It is clear that the doctrines of Bechai might easily have degenerated into those of total seclusion from the world, had not the practical tendency of Judaism effectually opposed such a result. Indeed he himself admits, that although such a religious retirement is not altogether unpraiseworthy, it is opposed to the spirit of the Bible ;t adding, however, that it might still be permitted to some individuals, in order to form a standard of holy living for the rest. Although these doctrines were not fully adopted by the people, their effect must have been highly beneficial, at a period when the Jewish mind was rapidly tending to a gross materialism.
The intellectual advancement of the Jewish nation was next assisted by the labors of the celebrated Abraham ben Maier ben Ezra of Toledo, commonly styled Aben Ezra, in whose voluminous writings the sciences of philology and philosophy, although grounded as usual upon Talmudical learning, reached a much higher point of development than in those of any of his
predecessors. He was descended from one of the most respectable and learned families among the Jews of Spain ; and was alike distinguished in his own person for native genius and profound scholarship. Master of both Hebrew and Arabic, he was thoroughly versed in the Talmud and other rabbinical writings, and also in the Aristotelian philosophy then so much in vogue, besides possessing an acquaintance with mathematics and astronomy. His activity of disposition and ardor for inquiry led him to enlarge the bounds of his knowledge of men and things by foreign travel, in preference to remaining at home and occupying a teacher's chair. He thus extended his journeyings eastward to Italy, Greece, Palestine and other Oriental countries, and according to some as far as India ; and towards the close of his life he is known to have visited England. He yet found leisure, notwithstanding his migratory course of life, for the composition of numerous works in widely different branches of literature. Among his grammatical writings are those entitled Mosnaim, Zachoth and Sepher Brura ; in these he appears as the first scientific investigator of the etymologies of words and of the abnormal forms found in the Bible, with which he manifests a degree of minute familiarity that is truly extraordinary. Many ingenious and successful interpretations are also to be met with in these works; but his exegetical productions are chiefly contained in his commentaries on the Pentateuch and various other parts of the Bible, and in them he exhibits extensive philological knowledge, sound critical judgment, and an uncommon freedom from Talmudical bias. His style is pure and condensed, often abrupt, and occasionally obscure, in consequence of his merely hinting at the ideas he wishes to convey, instead of expressing them at length.
Of the several modes of interpretation adopted by others and himself he speaks as follows: “Some, and especially those rabbies who reside among the Arabs, take occasion to connect the study of biblical interpretation with that of natural history and metaphysics ; but every one who desires to become acquainted with these sciences will do better to study them in books that treat of them alone. Others, as the Karaites, seek to explain all these matters from the Bible, and to establish them upon what is there contained. A third class, the Cabbalists, grope in total darkness, thinking to discover symbols in every part of the Law; the errors of these men scarcely deserve a serious refutation, although in one respect they are right, viz. in asserting that all laws
arenind whic literal accon being interpretatke for any
withstan allegorical of knowlithe Agada;
are to be weighed in the balance of reason,-for in every heart is a mind which is a reflection of God's spirit, and when this is opposed to the literal acceptation of Scripture, a deeper meaning is to be looked for, reason being the messenger between God and man. If, however, the plain interpretation of a passage be not opposed to reason, why should we seek for any other ? Notwithstanding, there are phrases which contain both a literal and an allegorical meaning, as for instance the terms circumcision, the tree of knowledge, etc. A fourth class explain every thing according to the Agada,* without regard to the laws of grammar; but what purpose is served by repeating the often contradictory views that have already been detailed in so many Talmudic writings ? Some of these Agadic explanations have indeed a deeper meaning than appears on the surface; but the majority of them are designed merely as an agreeable relaxation for the mind when wearied by the study of the Halacha. A fifth mode is that followed by myself: this is, first to determine the grammatical sense of a passage ; next to consult the Chaldee version of Onkelos, although this, especially in the poetical portions, often departs from the simple meaning; and for the legislative books of the Bible I call in the aid of tradition.”
As might be expected, from the views of interpretation here given,' we find the commentaries of Aben Ezra full of sound judgment and acute criticism ; his bold and original mind often spurning the beaten track pursued by the rabbies his predecessors, although not able to escape from their influence altogether. Indeed there seems to have been a constant struggle going on in his mind, between the deep-rooted impressions of childhood and the more enlarged views and correct opinions obtained by
* The Agada is that portion of the Talmud which consists of narrations, sayings and allegorical illustrations; while the Halacha comprises the discussions and decisions that have been made on the traditional laws.
+ Sentiments similar to these are expressed in the preface to his Commentary on Lamentations. “The Agadic explanations,” he says, “are of various kinds; some to elevate and refresh the mind, and some to furnish food for the weaker in. tellects: so that the literal sense of a verse is to be likened to the body, and its Agadic illustration to the dress, which is sometimes of fine silk, and at other times of sackloth.”
| Pref. to Com, on Genesis.
his extensive commerce with the world. Thus, at one time, his indignation is excited against writers who doubt or deny the
the conviction that the spread of such opinions would tend to overthrow the whole fabric of religious belief, he denounces the books containing them as worthy of being committed to the flames ;* while, at another time, he ventures to intimate that some passages of the Pentateuch are of later date than the rest, but bids the prudent keep silence respecting it ;t he also points out an error in the Book of Chronicles. Again, he sometimes amuses himself with Cabbalistic trifling; thus he finds holy symbols in the number of days, &c. of the festivals,g and in the numbers of the letters composing the sacred name 797", concerning which last he wrote an entire treatise, called the Book of the Name (OPA DO):|| He also composed a number of poems in the modern form, with rhyme and metre, which show a happy invention and considerable richness of thought and language. In fine, his talents and labors were such as to entitle him to a very high place in the esteem of Jewish scholars; and his works, many of which still remain unedited, are among the most remarkable monuments of Jewish erudition. · As a poet, however, Aben Ezra was far surpassed by Samuel ben Judah Gabirol, of Malaga in Spain, and Eliezer Hakkaler in Italy. Both of these literati distinguished themselves by their many poetical productions of merit, of which a great portion are preserved in the synagogue service of the present day. The Portuguese ritual is mostly composed of the sacred poems of Samuel Gabirol; and the Italian, Polish, and German, of those of Eliezer Hakkaler. The remainder of this article we shall devote to an account of these productions.
THE JEWISH RITUAL.
The Jewish ritual has grown up from small beginnings to a great and multifarious mass, by the gradual accession of new pieces. The ancient Hebrews knew nothing of an order of
* At the end of Zachoth, and in his Commentary on Gen. 36: 30.
+ Com. on Gen. 12: 6. 13: 7. $ Com. on Exod. 25: 29. Ś Com. on Lev. 23: 26. | First edited by Dr. Lippmann, Furth, 1834.
common prayer, their religious services consisting chiefly of sacrifices, which the individuals offering them were wont to accompany by an extempore prayer in the temple. But during the existence of the second temple, when various circumstances arose to weaken the unity of the Jewish faith, a necessity began to be felt for a set of religious exercises, more uniform and complete, and better adapted to their altered situation. To this end, formulæ of prayer and praise were composed from time to time by different teachers, for the use of the students in the seminaries of learning (w778 03). These schools were afterwards converted into meeting. houses, or synagogues (noon na), in which the public merely took the part of auditors, listening in silence to the words of the reader, and accompanying the close of each petition with the ejaculation, Amen. The reader, who stood in front of the desk where the Law was kept, was called nanna 72937; he generally used the appointed formula, but sometimes followed the impulse of his own feelings, and led the devotions of the congregation in extempore prayer. After the destruction of the second temple, with which the ancient service finally disappeared, the consoling influences of prayer in the nation's humbled state became more fully appreciated, and its exercise became more general among individuals and assemblies. By degrees, prayers for particular occasions, as Sabbaths and other festivals, acquired an obligatory character; and “the eighteen blessings” (77107377 90s now) were ordered to be daily used in the private devotions of individuals not taking part in the public service of the synagogue.,
The liturgy thus founded obtained the sanction of the Gaonim, whose spiritual authority was universally recognized, and who not only instituted the order of prayer in their own dioceses, but transmitted it to distant countries, to be used by the rest of the nation. The additions made to it from time to time are as diverse in character, as the individuals by whom they were introduced. Some are mere extracts from the Talmud, not originally intended to serve as prayers, and by no means adapted to devotional purposes; many again are written, not in Hebrew, but in Chaldee,-at that time the vulgar tongue. The liberty possessed by the Gaonim of making additions, especially of poems for the festivals of the Jewish church, was afterwards exercised by different rabbies, who in later times were the spiritual heads of the people. These additions, however, instead of being called forth by the circumstances of the times, or writ