|Mr. Editor,—I regret that you did not receive my discourse on the Restoration of the Jews, published by the Harpers in pamphlet form, as the preface would have satisfied you that my views on that important and interesting subject were entirely my own; that I held no one accountable for my opinions, nor did I desire to exercise any influence over my co-religionaires in that matter but such as reason and common sense would authorize. I could not be insensible to the fact, that he who broaches new doctrines, or rather new versions of received opinions—who attempts to give a different direction to established views, respected at least for their antiquity, cannot escape criticism, possibly censure. It has always been so; therefore, pursuing the great object I had in view, I ventured upon opinions which may be calculated to startle the rigid Talmudist, and lead him to dissent, as you have done, to my propositions, and the whole scope and tenor of the objects I had in view in that discourse. I am not dispirited, however, by this difference of opinion, and would rather see all my views rebutted, my premises denied, my inferences confuted, than to allow them to pass wholly unnoticed. It is of the apathy of the Jewish people, and their want of nationality, of which I have reason to complain; and if there are false premises in any thing I advance, I am rejoiced to see them confuted, because I have touched a spring which has at length aroused them from their lethargy.
In a number of the Voice of Jacob, published in London, my discourse on the Restoration is unceremoniously pronounced, “anti-Judaic.” It is not so—and for the simple yet certain reason, that I did not intend it to be so; on the contrary, it is a complete vindication of Judaism throughout; it avows that the Messiah of the Jews is yet to come and will come—a broad admission, on which the very foundation of our religion rests. I endeavour in that discourse to convince Christians that in attempting to evangelize the Jews they violate an affirmative precept of their own faith. I endeavour to show its utter failure; I prove by quotations from our prophets, that the Jews are to be restored in their unconverted state; I maintain steadfastly their perpetual belief in the unity and omnipotence of God; I show how peculiarly they are his people; I vindicate the morality of the Jewish character, and appeal to Christians to do them justice, and to temper that justice with mercy. How can this be “anti-Judaic,” and from one who has always, on all occasions, public and private, proudly avowed himself to be a Jew? But you may say, There were certain portions of that discourse, which relate to the advent of Christianity, which are not conformable to the received opinions of the Jewish people. Now, my reverend friend, how should the Jewish people know any thing of Christianity beyond the certain fact that Christians have long been the religious enemies of the Jews? The most enlightened of our people seldom read the New Testament, and the most rigid and superstitious would shrink with pious horror at the idea of even touching that book. I have no such apprehensions, no such prejudices, and I never close the New Testament without being forcibly struck with the superior beauty, simplicity, and truly divine inspiration of the Bible; and I mean no disrespect to Christianity when I say, that no unprejudiced mind can come to any other conclusion. I have studied Christianity from the New Testament, and therefore profess to know more of that religion and am better able to explain its doctrines than Jews who do not read that book at all, and my own opinions have been made up from study and reflection, and I feel satisfied that Christians have not comprehended the position in which they stand towards the Jews, nor the obligations imposed upon them by their own laws, to treat the chosen people with kindness and consideration, and to extend towards them the hand of succour and of brotherly love. Equally erroneous and unjust have we been towards Christians, in classing them with idolaters, and placing them on a footing with the Canaanitic nations. It is to correct error; it is to produce a more candid union between Jews and Christians; it is to bind them together by the ties of charity and good-will, which were the objects of my discourse, and this I maintain can be done without surrendering a single particle of our ancient and holy faith. You consider the restoration of the Jews as a feasible project, and that the consent of the sultan to their purchasing and holding land may be readily obtained; but the greater portion of your argument relates to the supposed mercantile jealousy of the Christian powers, and their want of good faith. You dwelt at great length upon the trouble and difficulty, the danger and insecurity, which would surround the Jewish people when in possession of their ancient heritage. You look back to the dangers which they have passed; the rack and the Inquisition terrify you; you talk of punica fides, and hesitate from prospective dangers; “forewarned, forearmed,”—and you throw by the staff and scrip which the Almighty places in your hands, and repose without faith in sluggish insecurity, and morosely, for that is the phrase, declare that we want no co-operation, no aid in the great work of restoration from Christians, and that in good time it will be brought about, and that Christians will come voluntarily to our aid. I have not time at present to examine all your arguments on these points, neither is it necessary. The restoration is to be brought about by human agency, and can only be accomplished by and with the consent of the Christian powers, who, from their own active energies, and, if you please, spirit of conquest, now control, I may say, the whole world, civilized and barbarian. We can only be peaceably restored by and with their consent, and if so restored, we shall, beyond doubt, be secure and protected in all our national rights.
You appear constantly to consider our position our dangerous; you apprehend the power and untiring influence of Christians in the work of evangelizing; you seem to look with dread at the progress and the vast pecuniary means at their disposal to achieve such important objects, and imagine that the ground on which the Jews have stood firmly for many centuries, surrounded by all kinds of trouble and calamity, is now crumbling beneath their feet. I do not participate in any such fears. It is natural that Christians who have faith in their own religion, should desire to convert what they consider the “lost sheep of Israel,” and it may and will happen, that considerations of interest with many and security with the few may produce converts; but there are cardinal points and considerations which in a measure shake their faith, while that of the Jew from natural and philosophical causes, remains firm. For example, many Christians have misgivings about the Trinity; some have their doubts about the spiritual and corporeal resurrection; the contradictions among the evangelists trouble them; Unitarianism, which is not Christianity, is greatly on the increase; Pantheism is apprehended; sects are multiplying; divisions increasing; new doctrines springing up; Romanism is acquiring a spiritual preponderance, and troubles seem gradually encircling the Christian Church. The Jews, being in no such danger, reposing always on the simple rock of their ancient faith, relying on God as their Redeemer, present to the Christian an object of so much interest; of such painful anxiety; they are so ancient, so favoured, so protected—that all sects extend their hands in supplication, and say “Come to us.” They want the consolation of having God’s favourite children to acknowledge the messiahship of Jesus of Nazareth; and although we cannot go to them, although we cannot forsake our ancient Shepherd, we cannot believe in all that they believe, we ought not on that account to treat them unkindly and consider them our perpetual enemies. A great change has come over Christians; the Almighty is at work on them, efficiently, practically—the scales are falling from their eyes—truth begins to dissipate the clouds of darkness which for ages have surrounded them. Not many years ago, few ministers of the gospel ascended the pulpit without preaching against the Jews; prejudice was kept alive and fed the flames of persecution: but now all is changed; all is love, confidence and regard. The Jews are recognised as God’s chosen people, and all his promises of mercy towards them are to be redeemed; the “lost sheep of Israel” they have now discovered have never been lost, and they look at us with eyes overflowing with tears of affection, as the greatest living miracle that exists—the true and faithful witnesses of the unity of God and the truth of the Scriptures. Shall we not profit by this returning kindness and goodwill? They have mistaken the very principles of their own faith in relation to the treatment of the Jews; shall we drive them back again within the pale of ancient intolerance? Our own prayers teach us a different course; the great family of mankind is recognised without distinction of sect or creed as participating equally in all the rights, privileges, and immunities of Divine favour and protection.
“O God of our fathers, spread thy blessings over the whole universe, it is thy work and thy powerful hand hath formed every thing that breathes.” DAILY PRAYERS.
“May the Supreme King of kings through his infinite mercy inspire our rulers and all their counselors with benevolence towards us and all Israel our brethren.” “Ho! every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters.” “The Lord contemplated the happiness of all his creatures,” “Her ways are ways of pleasantness and all her paths are peace.”
“Philanthropy and humanity form the basis of our creed, and it establishes as a principle that virtuous men of every nation share the reward of eternal life.”—Talmud, Treatise Sanhedrim, fol. 105.
The massacre of Damascus was considered a terrible affliction—terrible as it was no doubt to the sufferers—but I have always deemed it a most providential dispensation: and we are too apt in these things to overlook the agency of divine Providence. It sent a thrill throughout the civilized world, and the governments of the earth loudly denounced the cruelties practised towards the Jews, and declared that they should not again happen. From that moment the Israelites assumed a rank and a character among the nations of the earth; they found friends and protectors in Christians; and would you now counsel us to fall back upon our ancient prejudices and revive the animosities of centuries? or rather, keeping pace with the enlightened spirit of the age, forgive and forget, and seize the hand stretched forth in kindness to succour us? But then again succeeds your “ague fit”—“they want to convert us”—“their kindness is assumed”—“they press us to surrender our faith.” Take courage—have more confidence, my friend, in the firmness and stability of our religion—it is not to be shaken. But there is danger I admit—danger, not from Christians, but from ourselves. Danger from apathy, from indifference—danger from a want of nationality. The Jew who keeps his store open on the Sabbath is still a Jew: he commits a great sin, but pleads necessity. It is his indifference—he has no desire to embrace another religion or to surrender his own faith; but he cares too little for his own religion to induce him to make a sacrifice for it. There are many reasons for this which I have not time at present to notice. The Jews want nationality; you cannot rally them on any given point; you cannot inspire them either with faith or enthusiasm. We pray fervently and constantly to be restored to Zion; we believe in the coming of the Redeemer, and pray earnestly for his coming; and yet talk to the mass of our people on the Restoration—on their return to Jerusalem—and they express no confidence in it; few would be willing to go; and the coming of our Redeemer—the advent of our Messiah—seems to give them no trouble, no solicitude at all. They pray for him from habit, and have no faith in what they pray for. What is the cause of all this discrepancy between assertion and belief? The want of nationality, I again repeat: we are a sect, not a nation. The Greeks remained two thousand years in slavery, and yet they arose and redeemed their country. Why should not the Jews do the same? Christians would honour us even if we failed. Nothing therefore in my opinion will save the nation from sinking into oblivion but agitating this subject of the Restoration. We should pass the word around the world—“Restoration of the Jews”—“Justice to Israel”—“the Rights and Independence of the Hebrews”—“Restore them to their country”—“Redeem them from captivity.” Chistians and Mussulmen should be invoked to aid them in the good cause.
As to evangelizing, depend upon it the labour is great and the success very limited, and it is not to be feared to the extent you believe. No Jew surrenders his own faith, without satisfying himself that it is inherently false, and no Christian ever asserted or believed that there is any thing false in Judaism: therefore no Jew. changes his faith to Christianity, unless under rare circumstances; except to answer some sinister purpose. It has been said that our religion is Talmudistic and not Biblical. It is directly the reverse: the Talmud is the mere explanation of the Law, and wherever that explanation is in hostility to the Law and the Prophets it should be rejected as anti-Judaic. The Bible is the rock of our salvation. The great secret of consolidating and keeping the Jews together as a nation consists in their intermarriages; breakdown that barrier and allow Jews and Christians to marry, and in two or three generations we shall be no longer heard of. Let us be liberal and tolerant to our Christian brethren, and set them a better example than they have hitherto set us. Our sufferings and persecutions have kept us together and have been our protection. Let them if they please use their efforts to convert the Jews; their weapons are not now swords or dungeons as formerly, but mildness and persuasion; and if they fail, let us not add harshness and intolerance to that failure. We want their aid in the great work of Restoration—we cannot succeed without it; it is our duty, if we sincerely believe in that great advent and desire it, to solicit their co-operation—their good feelings—their powerful protection. God is at this moment working upon their minds to favour the Jews, while in many parts of the world He is inclining the Jews to entertain more tolerant views towards the Christians. We in this generation may be impelled to commence the good work, which succeeding generations will accomplish. If my time or your pages would admit, I could give you many reasons in proof that Restoration is much more feasible than you imagine, and at this moment all the elements by divine dispensation, are at work to consummate that great and glorious project. Be prepared for it with liberal and enlarged feeling; shut the Talmud and open the Bible, and you will there fins it written:
“Have we not all one Father—hath not one God created us!”—Malachi, 2:10.
M. M. Noah.
Note by the Editor.—The above letter from Judge Noah reached us at too late a date this month to comment on it at full length, and hence we must postpone any remarks and a review of the remainder of his discourse for another occasion. The subject is of too vital an importance to be injured by delay, hence we regret this postponement of our own views but little, as our readers will have in the mean time the Judge’s ideas and our own, which they can compare at their leisure, and will then be able to digest both, before we say any thing more. But one remark we must be permitted to make: we only spoke of conversion efforts as inimical to Jews, not of Christians as enemies to Israel; we fear as little as Judge Noah all attempts at conversions, still they who make them are not actuated by friendship. More anon.