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Manifesto of German Reform Rabbis.

by Isaac Leeser

Our readers will remember our strictures, in the November number of the Occident of last year, on the resolutions, as reported, of the small portion of German Rabbis assembled last June at Brunswick. Imperfect as was the report which had then reached us (and we regret that our information has not yet been more perfected), we thought that we could not let even that little pass without the severest censure which we were able to bestow. We do not claim any extensive learning; our talmudical knowledge is very little indeed—much less than we ought to possess; but it required but little learning to distinguish the mischievous tendency of the proceedings of our learned contemporaries, who, in legislating for Judaism, substituted their own notions for what we have always considered the true meaning and intent of our laws.

It is not yet in our power to give our readers a complete analysis of what was said and done; the severe cold of last winter has prevented hitherto the receipt of direct intelligence from Germany; but we trust before long to have the details furnished from other sources than the two conversion organs in London, the editors of which have given us merely the abstracts which we at first communicated, and their additions have not thrown a great deal of light upon the subject. This much by way of explanation.

In the mean time, the Occident was the first and for some time the only public voice raised against the destruction which was attempted. We do not say that we have rendered any service, farther than as an individual Israelite to protest in our own person against being bound by the opinions of the wisdom assembled at Brunswick, great as this no doubt is. But we have not lived so much in ignorance of mankind as not to know that wise men have often their follies, and that teachers of religion frequently destroy what they were appointed to preserve. We were however surprised that nothing, that we could learn, was said or done in England or Germany to counteract the pernicious movements of the assembled reformers. But a few days back, we were gladdened to see that at length the faithful servants of the Lord and the true shepherds of Israel moved in the matter, and that they had issued a declaration, subscribed by seventy­seven good men and true. Up to this time, however, we have only a part of this document, which has reached us in No. 100 of The Voice of Jacob. We hope in our next to give the remainder; and when we have obtained a connected account of the proceedings in question, we very probably shall give an abstract of our own, with such comments as the case may demand. It is to be deplored that the schemes attempted of late should produce a disunion so evident as here disclosed; but to our view, much as we love peace, we would sooner meet the danger at once, than to have the disease festering in our vitals, and it never to show the seat of the corruption. Let our enemies not rejoice: we have survived severer trials; and the Guardian of Israel will snatch us from this peril, as He has ever protected us.

Faithful believers in Israel!

“But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned: if the sword come and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood will I require at the watchman’s hand. So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore then shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me.”—Ezekiel 33:6, 7.

A tumultuous voice has reached our ears, that in the month of Tamuz last year, twenty-three gentlemen assembled at Brunswick, some of them Rabbins, the others deficient even of that title; but all of them wise in their own eyes, and learned in their own estimation: and they came unanimously to the resolution of attacking the citadel of our holy religion, of removing its bulwarks, and of destroying its fortifications, so as to expose it to easy demolition.

Every thinking and rational man must have felt surprised how a knot of individuals, so small in number, and so inefficient in attainments, (it being evident from their arguments and reasonings that they had never entered deeply into Talmudical study,) could have the presumption of inquiring into, and judging of, things so remote from the sphere of their comprehension, of assuming a title of pre-eminence, constituting themselves the oracle of the religious tenets of all the Jews, and of ostentatiously styling themselves “The Rabbinical, Assembly of Germany.” Although, from the knowledge we have of those who are at the head of that assembly, (with whose perverted religious thoughts and actions we are acquainted,) we could not entertain a hope that they would offer any thing wholesome and refreshing to those who faithfully and piously follow our holy religion, we nevertheless only wept in secret over their dreams and follies; we kept our peace, and refrained from making any public demonstration, until we should be able to see what steps they would actually take, and how far their presumption would lead them.

But, however impressed we were with the tendency of their erroneous principles, we were not prepared to see such pernicious doctrines as those promulgated in a printed protocol which they issued;—doctrines, which had only for their object the leading of the house of Israel astray, and the removal of it from our holy law; doctrines calculated to excite contempt against the law of the Almighty, to destroy our holy inheritance, to break down its fences, to tear asunder its cords, and to over­step the landmarks which our pious ancestors (amongst whom were the great Synod, אנשי כ״הג) had established;—they arrogantly speak with pride and contempt against the holy statutes and the sages, they lift up their hand against the law of God, they enter the holy garden to destroy it and to uproot its plants, they shake off all precepts to lighten the burden from their shoulders.—In short, all the resolutions and doctrines which they have agreed upon in their assembly, (except those which to the strict observance of political and civic statutes, established by the state, and the injunction not to violate an oath taken by the Creator of heaven and earth, precepts which, in fact, were taught and practised by the Jews from times immemorial,) are false and founded on error, only intended to abolish the holy law, to shake its foundation, to enlarge the breach of the house of Israel, to add new wounds to the old ones as yet unhealed, to widen the chasm which already separates brother from brother, friend from friend, parents from children; to carry the torch of hatred and revenge into the tents of those who are faithful and upright.

All this is done under the mask of piety and religion; they assume the cloak of justice and righteousness, to facilitate their deception; they pretend to strengthen the law, to fortify its bases; but, in reality, they only aim at the annihilation and destruction of the law of God, to trouble the source whence the refreshing waters flow;—like the Caraites, who deny the Oral Law. No! it shall not be: they shall not be successful, they shall not accomplish their wishes, they shall not carry confusion into the house of Israel, and allow every one to shape the religion to his own imagination, desire, and judgment. No! Israel is not yet forsaken; there are still faithful leaders, who are at all hazards ready to protect and guard the holy charge; who will valiantly defend the breach when destruction threatens Israel. Scarcely was the war-sound of the enemy’s trumpet heard in the camp of Israel; scarcely were the necessary preparations made for attacking our religious sanctuary and its fortifications, for shaking its pillars, and casting down its foundations, when faithful guardians mounted the fortified towers to see who led on the battle, and towards what point the attack was directed, so as to to enabled. to strengthen the wall, and repair the breach which the enemy should make; and now; after having seen the sword approaching, they girded themselves with strength, ready for war; they sounded the trumpet to wake those that slumber deeply, to rouse those that sleep, and to warn them to be on their guard, and not allow themselves to be caught in the snares the enemy has prepared for them.

Therefore hear ye, brethren, house of Israel, that we, the undersigned, having weighed the resolutions of the above-mentioned assembly, in the balance of wisdom, with weights of justice; having searchingly and maturely considered every point, have come to the resolution of boldly and publicly declaring to those who fear the word of God, and in whose heart the commandments of the holy law are firmly fixed, that all the resolutions which that assembly have published, and those which they have already prepared for promulgation at this congress, which is fixed for next summer, are all contrary to the statutes of our holy law, conceived in a perverted spirit, and based on a rotten foundation. Do not, therefore, brethren, hearken to, nor have any regard for, the voice of those who diverge from the path of truth; stand apart, and keep your children afar from them and their devices, by which they wish to ensnare you; and embrace all means in your power, consistent with reason and justice, to defeat their counsels and frustrate their designs. And you, our friends and colleagues, who are firm in righteousness and religion, who agree with us in our views and think as we do, although you had not the opportunity of uniting with us when we determined on the issuing of this manifesto, we are confident that, like ourselves, whenever you may be called upon to assist in the pious work of entering the field of battle against the enemies of our holy religion, you will fearlessly kindle the flame of zeal to defeat the adversaries of our holy law.

(To be Continued.)