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Presidential Address Vol 7 2

Rev. the Haham Dr. M. Gaster

<plain_text><page sequence="1">From a unique copper-plate line engraving- lent by Mr. Israel Solomons.</page><page sequence="2">PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS, By the Rev. the Haham Dr. M. GASTER. Read before the Jewish Historical Society of England, at University College, London, on Monday, November 19, 1906. Officially I am entering to-night upon the post of President of the Jewish Historical Society of England. It is incumbent upon me to formulate as briefly as possible the views which I entertain about an Historical Society and about a Jewish Historical Society. We are as yet too young a Society to have established a tradition, and the variety of counsel which still prevails demands imperatively a personal confession. From the clash of opinions a wider view may be evolved, to the benefit, as I trust, of this Society. I find it the more necessary as I have always been opposed to anything that may tend to narrow our conceptions or to contract our sympathies. I hold to the widening of the horizon and to the broadening of our sympathies. The reason for these remarks is to be found in the fact that on the one hand we are expected to be an Anglo Jewish Historical Society, and on the other the objects of investigation have been or may be persons or things which in the perspective of a wider atmosphere lose of the greatness and importance which some may give to them and induce others to accept. Even within a stricter limitation, if adhered to, there is scope for a different and more embracing activity, and it is to this that I turn and this I wish to expound here on this occasion, both theoretically and by a practical example. Let us, in the first place, realise what the study of history means. Why should we pore over the remnants of old and devote time and energy to call back to life things, events, and persons who no longer are among us, from whom we apparently have nothing more to expect, and from whom we have nothing to gain % Have we not problems enough of our own to occupy our attention % Have we not difficulties great enough 291</page><page sequence="3">292 PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS. and numerous enough to overcome, which require our undivided strength ? Why, therefore, waste it on apparently useless researches? In putting these questions, I am merely echoing what is said, unfortunately, by many. Is history to be only an intellectual toy, an amusing pastime to idle away leisurely a few hours and to be cast aside, forgotten, as soon as the things pass out of our sight? Wherein lies the true benefit wdiich we derive from the resuscitation of the past? I am not speaking of material benefit, but I ask : to what an extent can such studies influence and mould our activity and direct us in the very work which our time demands ? Of all the sciences there is none so serious and none so important as the study of history, the unfolding of the record of the past, the scanning with a trained eye and an open mind the annals of years gone by. For it is the study of man in the fullest sense of the word. It is not anthropology, the study of the physical structure of man, or of his primitive origins. History is the study of man spiritual, of his attempts to rule nature and to ascend slowly the heights of civilisation. The progress of man, from the lowest to the highest, can be traced only in the annals of mankind, in the struggles against evil passions, against ignorance,against oppression of body and mind. Only through history we realise the unity of the human race. We recognise that human nature given certain environments will act, as a rule, on the same lines. We then become less sure of our ground when we claim superiority over others, and the pride of ignorance which rests upon a supposed great advance over the past is ruthlessly shattered by the shock of the experience gained through a knowledge of the past. It is the best antidote against overweening confidence and arrogance, and, on the other hand, it is an unfailing source of strength and encouragement. Stripped of temporary outward differences, freed from the trappings and swaddling-clothes which each period winds round the body of man, the driving forces are the same through centuries. Man has changed very little?at least in the last few thousand years in which historical records have retained the memory of things done or attempted. History holds up the mirror in which we see ourselves reflected, and a wholesome sobering must come upon every impatient and impulsive mind wrhen it sees that our forefathers had to fight the same battles, had to grapple with the same difficulties which are encountering us, but sees at the same time whether they succeeded or failed. Our experience, always short and limited, expands by the experience of the past generations,</page><page sequence="4">PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS. 293 and our knowledge deepens by the acquisition of the knowledge be? queathed to us by those who have been before us. No man well read in history wTill venture upon dogmatic statements w7ith an air of infallibility, nor will believe himself to be the first who utters a truth, as others less versed believe, who presume to judge the events of the day from their narrow point of view. He will neither be too optimistic nor will he con? sider the victory of to-day as final, nor share in the general dejection follow? ing upon a temporary check in the progress of the nation. We learn to know a little more of the true inwardness of things, and from the study of details we evolve the sublime science called the philosophy of history. We lay bare the general principles and sum up the lasting results, the permanent elements in a world which seems unstable as water. Slowly and gradually there emerges a definite plan in the rule of the world and in the action of man. We find every one, more or less, falling into his place, and every action, mysterious and inexplicable to us when it is a thing of the present, emerges in the light of history as part of a great system in which it finds its true explanation. A close connection becomes apparent between widely differing events, and an inner bond, hitherto not detected, holds them together. Above all, a better appreciation of man and things is the result of this historical and philosophical investigation. What to their contemporaries appeared great, shrinks and may disappear altogether, whilst insignificant events easily passed over may become the germs for tremendous developments which change the face of the earth and influence deeply the life of millions. I do not intend travelling very far. I will keep close to my own subject. Among this bewildering mass of details there is one which appeals to us with special force, which, to study and explain, is, to my mind, the aim of a Jewish Historical Society. I mean the role which we JewTs play in the great drama of the world. That w7e have played and are destined still to play such a role no one can gainsay, unless he has lost his consciousness as a Jew, and then we no longer defer to his judg? ment ; w7e turn in preference to the annals of the past. They furnish us with the true answer. Here we have at once an example of the importance and value of the study of history. Only a man to whom the past is a book closed with seven seals can, in my view, maintain that we are no longer a nation and that we are only a religious denomination. Only he can rest satisfied with that shadowy existence flitting like a</page><page sequence="5">294 PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS. disembodied ghost across the stage of human history. Those who agree with me see the things differently. To us the men and the things of yore are the true guides and teachers. From their lips we cull the answer and by their light we walk in this wrorld. They all speak with no uncertain voice of the unity and solidarity of our race; no essential difference between one section of Jewry and the other. The work done by one fits in and completes the work done by the other, and no true appreciation is possible of the achievements of the one unless we survey the whole field of activity and endeavour to lay bare the threads which lead from one to the other, and examine the way in which they influ? ence one another. Sometimes they are separated by distance of time or of space, but ultimately they merge into one, and the interdependence of one upon the other is the visible outcome of historical research. If, then, our Society is to become?and in this all agree?a real society for the study of Jewish history, then we must adapt our activity to these wider scopes and seek for unity of aim and solidarity of purpose in the scattered mani? festations of Jewish life. Any event that has happened in whatever part of the world is of double importance, local and universal. First, in the effect it has upon its immediate surroundings, and, secondly, in the effect it has or may have in distant quarters. Historical research must keep, however, these two distinctly apart, and real science begins with the apportioning of merit to each of them separately. Nothing that occurs in one place should be taken only as affecting one small limited entity, it must not be treated as a self-contained local event; on the contrary, it must be studied as part of a larger wThole, as a section from a greater circle, the centre of which remains everywhere the same. Local history has its justification only as part of general Jewish history. Standing by itself it not only dwarfs the outlook and narrows the aims, but is instrumental in creating fictitious values and investing minor and in themselves insignificant things with an importance quite out of proportion to their intrinsic merit. It also contributes to foster a feeling of selfishness and exclusiveness w7hich breeds danger to healthy development. Anglo-Jewish history ought to be treated as part of the general history of the Jews. The incidents and events that have happened in the course of the last few centuries must be connected with the current of Jewish history if their study is to be a source of education and inspiration, if our Society is to be the medium of disseminating true</page><page sequence="6">PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS. 295 and lasting lessons to our contemporaries and preparing the way for an English school of Jewish historical science. If every trivial incident would be studied by itself and invested with undue importance, if it be treated as if it were the pivot round which some great question had turned, as if from it alone depended the fate of the Jew^s or their relation to the rest of Jewry, it would be creating a false impression and would tend to reduce the position of science to that of a handmaid who is to serve personal vanity and to feed inordinate imagination, selfishness, and a sense of import? ance out of proportion. I will go one step further and say that the man of humble origin who has risen by his energy and uprightness, by his scholarship and cleverness, to a recognised and well-deserved position, is the man of the future, and stands higher, from my point of view, as an historian, than the man who may boast of a great ancestry yet is himself a degenerate offspring. He belies his past, and for him there is no future. Against the desire of raising an inordinate claim of superi? ority on the basis of descent, our history has provided us with a proper antidote, for whether a family may now be in a high or low position it is of a temporary character. All of us trace our descent from one common ancestor, Abraham, and the fundamental democratic principle has been faithfully preserved for us in the grand annals of Jewish History. We know only the aristocracy of spirit which happily cannot be inherited, it must be acquired. The small however need not be neglected, it acquires for us some special significance if wre study it rather from a broader point of view as part of a greater organism. The micro? scope which is applied to micro-organisms can also be applied to the details of a fuller life. It can also be applied to the details of human activity. In every leaf, nay, in every atom, the play of great and eternal forces can be successfully detected. So also the play of these forces can be followed up in every small human individual, if we only know howr to see the great in the small. Take the return of the Jews to England. From the narrower local point of view, it may become the centre of a series of investigations, self-centred and quite sufficient for such investigators, just as a single brick in itself may be of interest to the builder or maker. But the real importance of that event lies much more in its relation to the rest of Jewry. How has it influenced the Jews in their political, religious, and commercial status? How has it re-acted upon the Jews in other</page><page sequence="7">296 PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS. countries under the English flag, or in English-speaking countries ? How has it stimulated freedom of thought, aspirations for equality and liberty ? What part has it played in the great dramas of Jewish history, in the Messianic troubles, in the mystical aspirations, in the charitable work of rescue here and elsewhere ? And above all, how has it affected Jewish scholarship, the only true bond that unites us and the only common inheritance at once the glory and the despair of our nation? These questions do not exhaust all the problems which flow from, or could be connected with, this simple fact of the re-admission of Jews into this country. One could easily multiply them if, proceeding in our work of investigation, we descend to details, to men and matters. Not isolation nor fossilisation is to be the aim of an historical society, but in the true spirit of historical science it is to raise us above trivial and narrow con? siderations, it is to open the eyes wide to a comprehensive view, em? bracing the whole range of Jewish life. Nothing is further from my thought than to deprecate accurate and minute study of details, but they must not usurp the place reserved for the study of great things. Bricks are only bricks, even if they are made in the marvellous manner of the Roman legions : they are not the whole fabric, only the materials towards it. A skilled architect may use them for a stupendous work of art; in less skilful hands they may also serve some useful purpose. But to the scholar and antiquarian the old Roman tiles, with their stamp on them, are a page of ancient history, an entrancing chapter of olden times. To him they tell a strange and eloquent tale; he reconstructs by their means the dominion and j^ower of Rome, he can trace the name and the composition of the legion and read from it a chapter of the administration and of the government exercised by ancient Rome over that part of the world. He is able to fix the place where those legions were stationed, and if they remained in the country, he can draw from that simple tile also conclusions for the ethnic composition of its modern inhabitants. If we find a brick made by one of the Syrian legions in the heart of Pannonia or in Gaul, we knowT that Semitic elements have given their quota to the Roman garrison, they may have brought the worship of Isis or Mithra. They may have formed one layer of popular beliefs and added a strain of Semitic blood to the modern inhabitants. And so it is with our history. A detail, insigni? ficant or unimportant in itself, is placed in its true light only as a brick</page><page sequence="8">PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS. 297 in the fortress which has kept and protected us. Studied from this point, Anglo-Jewish history will be appreciated and prove of lasting value. If by this process some modern or ancient prejudices will have to undergo modification, the better for us, and if worthies of ephemeral importance will be removed from the artificial pedestal upon which they have been placed, the better for them and for the scholar. Among such fallacies is that one which assigns an extraordinary importance and grants unjustifiable position to men engaged in petty questions of a subordinate character, and others who gauge the standard of society and the merits of men by their financial wreight. If there are any cobwebs which history successfully sweeps away, these are the cob? webs which fall a first prey to its broom. The greatness of our people does not reside in its merchants, nor do we seek information about their inner life in the records of business transactions ; these form only a small part of their activity. They may prove interesting from the point of view of the economic history of the times and of the share which some Jews took in these transactions, but they do not even touch the fringe of that Jewish life which we wish to know, and which our records fully portray. Those are mere by-paths ; the high-road of Jewish history leads to wider outlooks. That which is great and lasting in Jewish history is the spiritual wrealth accumulated through the ages, the description of the fierce battles fought between the powers of darkness and light, of freedom and persecution, of knowledge and ignorance. As my immortal teacher, Graetz, has pointed out, we have written our conquests in the annals of the civilisation of mankind. Our great men are the heroes of the school and the sages of the synagogue, not the knights of the sanguinary battle? field. No widow wTas left to mourn through our victory, no mother for her lost son, no orphan for the lost father. On the contrary, victor and vanquished, both together reaped the blessings wdiich were the outcome of the intellectual fight. I therefore turn my attention principally to those men of action who have influenced not only the community here, bui; who, through their action, have influenced Jewry at large, and have made the community of London share the great and grave responsibilities which rest upon every Jewish community. Descending from the theoretical exposition which I have pursued hitherto to practical examples, I will single out one figure who I trust will fully satisfy all the requirements hitherto set forth. Some</page><page sequence="9">298 PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS. who before me have occupied this presidential chair have directed their attention to men prominent in the political sphere; others have pre? ferred to deal with local problems which they considered of importance. No doubt men who have fought for political and civil liberties in this country deserve to be mentioned and their life studied, without losing sight of the wider aspects of action and reaction between the various sections of Judaism. But efforts of this kind are subject to serious fluctuations, and the results achieved in the field of political activity are so much the work of the day, that can be undone by another day, that I prefer to turn my attention to men whose activity goes far beyond the limits of local interests and local achievements. They, taking their stand upon the communal life in this country, have used their power from this coign of vantage for the defence of greater interests, and at the same time have contributed to enrich the stores of our knowledge, the only imperish? able treasure of our nation. In giving the outlines of Haham David Nieto's work, I hope to satisfy even the strictest demands which I have made. I may peradventure be in a position to show by the example of old how much we have to learn from men and matters gone by, and howT many problems which are agitating the community to-day might easily be solved, if we applied to them the solution given by those who have preceded us. I will draw no conclusions. There are examples and pictures which speak for themselves, if we only take the trouble to examine them more minutely, if we try to peer into the inner soul of the men thus portrayed. I must leave it to you to draw your own conclusions, to make your own application, and to take to heart that lesson which true history is expected to give. In Haham Nieto we have a perfect type of a Jewish Rabbi. The manner in which he realised his position and exercised the rare gifts with which he was endowed for the benefit of Judaism, is a pattern which we might imitate to-day for the benefit of all concerned. I do not claim for him that he was a unique figure, for I would not like to do injustice to other great men who in untold numbers have adorned our past as heads of Jewish communities, and whom admiring contem? poraries and grateful posterity have venerated as sages and great leaders in Israel. Every one of them grew up in the home of Jewish learning, breathed the Jewish spirit, and through them spoke the soul of our people. We have our gallery filled with innumerable pictures, and if</page><page sequence="10">PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS. 299 we do not know them, we ought to know them, and it is the duty of Jewish historical societies to make them known. Haham David Nieto (or Netto as he sometimes signed his name) was the son of Phineas, probably a scholar in Rome, who was in learned correspondence with Haham Aboab, of Amsterdam. Born on 28th Tebet, 1658, he originally studied medicine, and he must have practised with great success as a physician in Venice. He then lived in Livorno, where he received a call by the community of London (4th Sivan, 5461) to occupy the post of Haham then vacant, for Haham Ay lion had just accepted a similar post in Amsterdam. The only con? dition made with this appointment was that he should not practise medicine wrhilst being Haham of the Congregation. Haham Nieto replied, accepting the condition, and the Congregation received him with the respect due to a man whose reputation had preceded him, and installed him to celebrate the inauguration of the new Syna? gogue, whose bi-centenary it has been my privilege to celebrate. Haham Nieto possessed a vast knowledge of the w^orld outside, for he had made himself acquainted with secular science, and wras, therefore, in close touch with the latest results of scientific research. He spoke and wrote many languages, there wras no Ghetto-bend in his gait or in his mien. Here was a man who not only had been educated in Talmudic and Rabbinic literature, but who also had as wide and com? prehensive a secular education as any man of his time could wish. This is the necessary equipment for any man who is to be the spiritual leader of a community, not to live in the narrow groove of one-sided education, and herein he followed the examples of old, to make himself also master of a wide range of knowledge, and to be in touch with the vital problems agitating his contemporaries. Haham Nieto was not only a great medical scholar, but, as he proved later on, a great mathematician, a man to whom applied the words said of Samuel in the Talmud, "that the paths of Heaven were known to him." Astronomy had no difficulties for him, the in? tricacies of the calendar were simple reading. Coming to London, he brought with him enthusiasm, love of work, and a high conception of the duties and responsibilities of a Jewish Rabbi. The first thing he did was to establish the Society " Bikkur Holim " for the care of the sick, and although the community at the time was a very small one, the " Talmud To rah " was established for the purpose of teaching the children not only</page><page sequence="11">300 PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS. elementary subjects, but also advanced subjects in the Bible, Talmud, and Halachah. Serious questions were then troubling the Jewish mind, not so much here as in the rest of Europe and Asia, and berein we recognise at once the lofty standpoint taken up by the Haham and his conception of the duties incumbent upon him. Problems were agitating the Jews, especially in consequence of the movement inaugurated by Sabbatai Sebi, the false Messiah. He considered it his duty to face boldly the questions and to give a satisfactory answer. But much time had to elapse and much work had to be done before this, the ripest fruit of his richly-stored intellect, should see the light. A sermon which he delivered on a Shabbat, exactly the same Sabbath as the one now before us (Shabbat Vayetse), was the occasion of some internal strife. People who are bent on picking a quarrel will fasten on anything, even the most innocent thing, and twist and turn it in order to make out of it a reason for attack, and so it happened with Haham Nieto. He had delivered a sermon on a very profound subject, a subject of inexhaustible interest to the religious mind, viz. on the relation between God and the world, and especially between what people call nature and natural phenomena, and the power and providence of God. Nieto explained that according to Jewish tradition there is no such thing as nature in the abstract which governs the world, a kind of blind fate, a mechanical power without reason and without plan. On the contrary, that which our sages called " Teba," jdd, meaning nature, the sum-total of the various details of natural life, was governed by the power, will, and foresight of God. His providence presided over everything, and guided and shaped everything. For otherwise miracles, or what we call miracles, could not happen, and interference of God in the ways of man would be excluded. These views, briefly expounded by the Haham, appeared to a Mr. Jehosuah Zarfatti to smack of heresy, coming dangerously near, if not being fully identical with, the condemned and excommunicated teaching of Spinoza. In order fully to understand the gravity of such an accusation, one has to remember the horror in which everything excom? municated was held. Another element which explained the virulence of the attack is that a man of an enlightened and philosophical mind, such as that of Haham Nieto, could not sympathise with the false Messianic teachings and mystical delusions propagated by adherents of Sabbatai Sebi. A good many of these were living in London, but it is</page><page sequence="12">PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS. 301 not necessary now to discuss the connection between Sabbatai Sebi and his followers and members of the Jewish community in London. I may deal with this extremely interesting subject on another occasion. I mention this fact in order to show how even an apparently local quarrel can be lifted out from narrow surroundings and personal ambitions, to the wider sphere of general questions affecting the rest of the Jews, in which also this community and their Haham took their share as befitted them. They were not indifferent to the spiritual upheavals and to national though misguided movements elsewThere. Nieto considered it a matter of no small consequence, and wThen once challenged he placed his views unreservedly before a large public. From the records in the archives of the congregation and from the introduction to the treatise containing his exposition, it is evident that he enjoyed the full confidence of the Mahamad, and Moses de Medina, Gabay at the time, fully sup? ported him in the attitude which he had taken up. They insisted that Zarfatti should publicly ask pardon of the Haham, and withdraw the derogatory statement which he had made, misrepresenting the Haham's views. From the Bible, from the Talmud, from the Zohar and Midrashim Meto collected vast material for his theological treatise called " The Divine Providence, or Universal Nature," which appeared for the first time in London in 1704, and w7as reprinted again in 1716. Profound philosophical questions were thus brought within the ken of the com? munity, and by the Babbi of the time their mind was directed to the study of higher things. Meanwhile he was working on questions of calendar. This has been a point of discussion, one might say, from the dawn of Jewish history. Sadducees and Pharisees, Karaites and Samaritans, not to speak of the various sects of the Christian Church, have to this very day continued the fight as to the true calendar. The profound discrepancies between the various schools using the Christian calendar did not escape the notice of so learned and acute an astronomer as Haham Nieto wTas. Not like others, who are always afraid to touch and to impeach the errors of Christians, and being sure of his case, he boldly carried the war into the camp of the enemy, and he wrote his Pascalogia, which curi? ously enough is dedicated to a Cardinal of the Catholic Church, Francisco Maria Cardinal de Medicis. The work, printed nominally in Cologne, was really produced in London, in 1704. It is written in Italian, and shows</page><page sequence="13">302 PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS. the reasons of the difference which exists between the Greek and the Latin Church on the celebration of Easter. The same topic, but in a different mode, serving this time to prove the accuracy and superiority of the Jewish calendar, he took up later on, when he discussed the sanctity and the binding force of the Oral Law. In his desire of bringing order into the times fixed for public worship, he placed his unrivalled know? ledge at the service of the community; and for this reason he discussed at length, in his celebrated philosophical work called the " Rod of Judgment" (Matten Dan, \i being the acrostic of his name, David Nieto), also the question of our Jewish calendar. Based upon his astronomical calculations, he fixed the hours of prayers for London, which from his day has remained the same in my communities. It wras a regret? table departure which I think hardly justifiable, when, not many years ago, upon an assumed re-examination of the question, how long the duration of the twilight is to be calculated for these islands, the Ashkenazic Con? gregation changed their calendar against the Minhag which had been the established custom and rule for close upon two centuries. It was the custom that the Shamash should come officially from my synagogue in Be vis Marks to the synagogue in Duke's Place, and give the time of the beginning of the Sabbath, and, unless weightier reasons could be adduced for it, I can only express my regret at the unnecessary change that has been made. After this digression, I return to Haham Nieto, who wrote a calendar to last for fifty years. It appeared for the first time in London in 1718. In his calculation, again, he follows the practice of the communities in Italy and in the East. He takes as a basis for his calculations the meridian of Jerusalem (unless I be greatly mistaken). For the immediate want of his community he started a new translation of the prayers for the New Year and Day of Atonement, the only copies known being discovered by Mr. Israel Solomons in the Montezinos Library in Amsterdam, and I have to thank him for the photograph of the title-pages of these unique books printed in London in 1706, and for many more acts of similar kindness in placing at my disposal the treasures of his unrivalled collec? tion of Anglo-Judaica. Curiously enough these " Bakasoth " for Rosh Hashana were distributed gratuitously. It is stated on the title-page that they were given away "gratis," and were to be considered as specimens, if approved of to be followed by translations of all the other portions of the</page><page sequence="14">PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS. 303 prayer-book. A new translation brings the prayer nearer to the heart and home. Each generation more or less claims one which should reflect the changed state of knowledge, and should adapt itself to the new turns of the language. It is, besides, a literary contribution to Jewish scholarship. Other problems arose, not local in origin, and not confined to these realms. The unrest which had taken place among the Jews abroad had found its way also into this congregation. Doubts were raised as to the validity and binding character of the Oral Law. In order to combat this danger, so insidious and so subtle, because it appeals to half-educated men and women, and because people like to shelter themselves behind assumed " principles " when they desire to find excuses for ignoring the precepts of the Law, Haham Nieto composed his great work mentioned above, "The Rod of Judgment." It is divided into five dialogues, the burden of which is to prove the two principal points, namely, that the Written Law of the Bible as it stands cannot be understood without the Oral Law, and that the only true interpretation of the Law is the one handed dowm by our sages as a sacred tradition. Haham Nieto calls his book "The Second Kuzari," for he imitates R. Jehudah Halevi, who wrote the famous dialogue known as the Book of Kuzari, of which Dr. Hartwig Hirschfeld has published an excellent English translation. He also pretends to have reached the land of the Khazars and to have taken up the conversation after many centuries which had once been commenced by the former king. I do not wish to discuss here at any length the contents of this extremely able book written in Hebrew and in Spanish. In as few words as possible I will sum up the principal points of these five dialogues. The first proves that even at the time of the prophets there existed an Oral Law by which the people were guided in their inter? pretation of the Written Law. The second dialogue proves that the sages of the Talmud could not have invented an Oral Law of their own, but that they merely recorded and developed the Law handed down to them. The third dialogue proves that the difference between the sages does not affect the principles of the tradition, but only the manner of their application in minute details. The fourth dialogue proves that the Talmudists were fully cognisant of, and conversant with, all the secular sciences of the times, and that in philosophical depth they were far ahead of their contemporaries. And, finally, in the fifth he discusses</page><page sequence="15">304 PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS. the calculation of the new moon and the principles of the Jewish calendar. He also disputes some of the views of Copernicus and the followers of Descartes. He had worked at that book for at least four years, for he began it about 1710, and finished it in 1714. It seemed to have answered the needs of the time, for it was at once printed in Hebrew and Spanish, in parallel columns, and then separately in Spanish and Hebrew. Reaching wider circles abroad, it has since been reprinted several times. It has also been translated into Italian. In 1842, when the waves of strife rose very high, and when similar claims were put forward by one section of the community to ignore Tradition, and to carve out for themselves a new form of religious worship, the late Dr. Loewe translated the first two dialogues into English. More than once has the book been copied in manuscript, I myself possessing a manu? script which almost appears to be the original writing; at any rate approximates so closely to the writing of Haham Nieto, which I have in another manuscript of his, and the wTriting in the book of Ketuboth, that I am inclined to consider it written by his own hand If I mistake not, Mr. Elkan Adler possesses also a Jargon or Jewish German translation in manuscript of this book. By this defence of our Oral Law, Haham Nieto contributed to the satisfactory solution, at any rate for the time being, of problems which disquieted the mind, not only in this small community here, but much more in Jewish communities where philosophical speculations led to a hyper? critical attitude towards tradition, and sapped the foundations of belief by indiscriminate criticism. Another question which engaged his attention was how to combat the growth of the new heresy, which started from the opposite pole, and wras represented by the writings of Nehemyah Hiia Hiyun, who, under the form of a new mystical interpretation, introduced a dissolution of religious practice. A dangerous laxity in moral principles spread like a wild-fire all over the Continent. Haham Nieto, although living in England, appar? ently away from and unaffected by this new kind of spiritual plague, considered it part of his duty to fight for righteousness and truth, for morality, and for religious principles, and therefore he published in 1715, both in Spanish and in Hebrew, his "Legal Fire," "Esh Dath," also in the form of dialogues. The book consisting of two parts, in the first he explains the inward meaning of the seditious principles disseminated</page><page sequence="16">PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS. 305 under the cloak of religious mysticism by Hiyun, showing how his teaching wTould lead to atheism and immorality, and condemning him as an arch heretic. In the second dialogue he formulates a kind of manual of Jewish religious principles, setting forth the fundamental principles of faith. In spite of some discursiveness, it would repay being translated into English. What is more important is that he recognised the intimate connection between the teaching of Kabbalah and the preposterous messianic claims of Sabbatai Sebi, and that he gave preference to men of rationalistic philosophy, like Maimonides and Albo, over the turgid teaching of mystical philosophy. He joined hands with all the sober minded and clear-headed Rabbis on the Continent, and helped to purify Judaism and prevented it from falling into the mystical deadening trance of Hassidism, and from turning away into apostasy as Frank and his followers had done. But these were not the only troubles besetting our people pressing upon his attention. Tragedies were enacted far, far awray from London, of wThich, perhaps, a Jewish Rabbi in modern times might be expected not to take any notice or meddle wdth. But Haham Nieto understood his duties differently, and when the Auto-da-fe was lit in Cranganor, in Cochin, or when the martyrs were groaning in the prison-houses of the Inquisition in Spain and Portugal, their suffering found a strong echo in his heart, and the liberty and position which he enjoyed in this country was placed at the service of his suffering brothers. He lifted up his voice in their defence with no uncertain ring about it, and to the sermon delivered by the Bishop on that terrible occasion of human holocausts, he replied with fiery indignation, branding him and those who were with him, who took a share in that terrible act, as criminals before God and men. There was no timidity about him, no soft-spoken words, no fear of hurting curiously wrought susceptibilities, straight and clear, and upright and fearless, as it beseemeth a man who fights the battle of the Lord against inhuman fiends, old and new. This reply of Haham Nieto appeared after his death in Villa Franca, [1729 ?] in "The town of freedom," which meant "London"; Moses Mocatta translated it under the title "The Inquisition and Judaism," London, 1845, and it was reprinted in Philadelphia in 1861. Shortly before that time he published the best and most authentic description of the horrors of the Inquisition in two sections, one part in VOL. VII. U</page><page sequence="17">306 PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS. Spanish and one part in Portuguese, under the title of " Posthumous and Secret Communications about the Inquisition and various Trials in Spain and Portugal.7' The first part, in Portuguese, is said to have come to Haham Nieto through the instrumentality of a former secretary of the Inquisition. The second part, in Spanish, describes the Inquisition in Spain. It appeared in " Villa Franca," i.e. London, in 1722. It so happened that whilst Haham Nieto was in office, Marranos escaped from time to time from Portugal and reached this country. In many cases they were married couples bringing their children with them. It is an extremely interest? ing page in the book of Ketuboth, kept by Haham Nieto, to read of the re-marriage of these people with the newly-assumed Jewish names; the identity with the past has entirely been obliterated, for their non-Jewish names appear only in the index prefixed to that volume, and written by the Haham himself. These people he received with open arms, and from their lips he learned part of the great tragedy which was being enacted in Portugal, and in all the Spanish and Portuguese dependencies in the Old and New World, against his unfortunate brethren. He made their cause his cause, and valiantly stood up to defend those who could not defend themselves, and to cry halt to the butcheries perpetrated in the name of religion. Let it be remembered that the position which the Jews then occupied in this country wras not free from danger. They had no political rights, and enjoyed none of the modern liberties. More or less they had to walk warily and to act cautiously. Yet they would stake it all for the defence of their brothers. The present with its claims did not make him forgetful of the past, and whilst engaged in polemics, he sought also the peaceful field of literary recreation. Hebrew poems written by him are found in MS. and in print, and also profound Talmudic studies engrossed his atten? tion. At least two autograph manuscripts have been saved from the wreck of time. They contain a kind of encyclopaedic dictionary of Tal? mudic subjects, and show his profound acquaintance with Rabbinic lore. Nor was Haham Nieto a man indifferent to art. His engraved portrait, dated Tisri 5465, in the collection of Mr. Israel Solomons,1 is set in a frame which is beautifully carved, or at any rate beautifully designed, 1 Mr. Solomons has in preparation a Bibliography of the writings of Nieto, .and his work will be published in due course.</page><page sequence="18">PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS. 307 and bears underneath the chifTre which I have been able to decipher, and which contains the name " David Nieto " written backwards and forwards with interlaced letters. The autograph manuscript of the Talmudic encyclopedia p has some very curious vignettes like pen-and-ink drawings round initial letters, some printed, and others drawn with the pen. I have no hesitation in ascribing them to the artistic skill of Haham Nieto. Also in other questions his sympathies were as wide as they were deep. In his time Jews suffered in Prussia from persecutions and inundations, and with his active support collections were made and sent to the sufferers. Here, then, we have a complete picture of a Jewish Rabbi as he lived and worked, and hoped and prayed in this great metro? polis?great for one reason only, because it held a great man who spread his lustre over a community, and who influenced and inspired them to great and lasting work. Never has my community been in a more flourishing condition, financially, politically, educationally, and socially. A galaxy of scholars, artists, doctors, and men of letters gathered round him, men like Dr. Isaac Sequeira Samuda, Dr. Jacob De Castro Sarmento, Daniel Israel Lopez Laguna, and the Medinas. A large number of talented men grew up in the Congregation, and made it the foremost Jewish com? munity during the first half of the eighteenth century. For fifty years his influence for good had been felt here, and the influence for good which he exercised upon Jewry at large has never ceased. This Congregation was taught, and took the lesson to heart, that there is nothing greater and more lasting than study, philosophy, scholarship, broad mind, vast erudition, idealism, solidarity, and common interest with the rest of Jewry. They were taught to feel the responsibility which rested upon them, living in a freer country than most of the Jews of the time, to utilise this position and to manage their finances in such a manner as to consider themselves as " trustees for the House of Israel," and thus London became, for the time, the heart and brain of Jewish communities in East and West. Shall I now draw the final conclusion ? Shall I explain from the life of that man, what ought to be the position, the activity, and the equipment of men who are to be the representatives of Jewish tradition, the spiritual guides among their people ? Let the history of the past give the answer, and perchance guided by that teaching, may we write in time another page no less illustrious, no less beautiful, in the annals of the Anglo-Jewish community.</page><page sequence="19">308 PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS. My task is now at an end. I have only picked up one tile from the ancient fabric of Anglo-Jewish history. I have endeavoured to fit it into the great building to which it belonged. In the small I have tried to find the great, and the universal in the local. I have followed up the many rays that emanated from one luminous centre and have riveted a new link of brotherhood and unity to the chain which connects the history of the Jews in this country to that of the Jews living in other countries. I have also drawn a lesson from the experience of the past, and I have shown that to many a question raised to-day a ready answer is found in those records which our society is opening to the seekers after truth. NOTE TO PAGE 226. The Jewess who wrote to Maria Edgeworth was Rachel (Mrs. Aaron Lazarus), a daughter of Jacob Mordecai, who was born in Philadelphia in 1762, and died in Richmond (Virginia) in 1838. His father, Moses, a native of Bonn, was born in 1707; he died in Philadelphia in 1781. He married, in London, Elizabeth Whit lock, who became a Jewess (married Jacob I. Cohen as her second husband). Rachel for many years carried on a correspondence with Maria Edgeworth, and through her influence her father, who was interested in pedagogics, adhered closely to the ideas of the Novelist on the subject. Another interesting association with English literature is, that Rachel's brother, Alfred, married Sarah Hays, whose maternal aunt was Rebecca Gratz. The latter has been claimed as the original of Rebecca in Scott's Ivanhoe. Israel Solomons.</page></plain_text>