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weight in the affairs of the nation. Many of them are celebrated lawyers and authors; some are high in office, and several have distinguished themselves in the army and the liberal professions, and have been decorated. It would be difficult to take any branch of commerce, art, or science in which the French Jews are not engaged, and in which they have failed to distinguish themselves. Their chief home in France is Paris; and just as the London Jews affect the uninviting regions of Whitechapel, Houndsditch, and Duke's Place, so the Parisian Jews cling to the quarter near where the once famous Bastille stood—the Rue du Temple, Rue des Rosiers, Rue Notre Dame de Nazareth, and other streets in their vicinity, not specially noted fortheir cleanliness.
The thirty thousand Jews located in Paris are divided into two synagogues—the Spanish and the German.
The congregation of the former is very small, for the majority of the Parisian Jews follow the German ritual. These two synagogues one would have thought afforded but scanty accommodation for the community that worships within their walls, yet numerous vacant seats are always to be found. The chief synagogue in the Rue Notre Dame de Nazareth, is built only to contain about six hundred men, and half as many women; and the Spanish synagogue is not even as large. This is all the religious accommodation for Jewish Paris. But notwithstanding the excellent religious organisation of the French Jews, their numerous charitable institutions, and their well-arranged schools, Judaism in France is an expiring creed, and now almost a dead letter. The demoralising influence of their infidel neighbours, the open profligacy of the Second Empire, and the pernicious results of Roman Catholicism have doubtless tended greatly to undermine French Judaism. It is hard to touch pitch and remain undefiled; it is hard to be surrounded by those who ridicule their own religion, neglect the Sabbath, and devote all their time and energies to vanity, frivolity, and vice, without being more or less influenced by the example. And the French Jew has proved that in this instance he is no exception. On the contrary, he has freely adopted much of the levity and the superstition of his Christian associates. Few commands are more positive, and few more rigorously enforced by the Hebrew Church, than the commandment to keep “holy the Sabbath day,” and yet the Parisian Jew does not scruple to keep his shop open on that day, and to transgress in every respect the law of Moses, which he pretends to believe.
The observance of the Sabbath among the Jews is almost more than a command, for it is a positive dogma of their faith. The slightest departure from the rules laid down for the observance of that day is a very grave sin; and these rules are most strict. On Friday afternoon, some little time before sunset, the Jews begin to leave off their work-day occupations, and commence preparing all things necessary for their Sabbath-day,—which, I need hardly say, lasts from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday. Their first business is to prepare fish, meat, and flour for their respective meals these meals on the Sabbath consisting of three—the first on Friday evening, the second on Sabbath noon, and the third at the close of the day. Accordingly, they bake three, or, at the utmost, four long loaves, like the French bread, made of pure flour, which they call challah, in order to have two such loaves whole at each of their three meals. Nothing is to be cooked on the Sabbath. Everything required for food is
placed on Friday in the oven; and when their holy-day commences, the different dishes are taken out at meal times by a Shabbath-gio, or Gentile servant, specially employed on the Sabbath for that purpose.
For in the Pentateuch it is written, “Thou shalt touch no fire.” So strictly do they obey this command, that they are not allowed to place their provisions upon anything which gives heat; as for instance, not upon a hot oven or a coal fire. Nor dare they put cold food in hot vessels to warm it. If they wish to warm their provisions, they can only effect this through the Christian servant; but this warmth must not be of such a degree as to boil. This Gentile servant is expressly engaged for that day to attend to the fires, and to snuff the candles; and she generally waits upon several families at the same time, going by turns to the different houses to attend to her duties.
As an instance how strictly the Jews observe the law against touching fire, it is related that one Sabbath evening, whilst a father and his son were at supper, the snuff of a candle, which had long remained unsnuffed, dropped upon the table-cloth, and set it on fire. Both father and son started up in great confusion, and began to call for the Gentile servant to come and put out the fire; but she was in a neighbour's house, snuffing the candles, and could not come immediately. Not one of them dared to touch the table-cloth, but looked on till it was consumed, as well as many other things upon the table. The Jews have no scruples, however, in asking Christians to break the Jewish laws, for they consider that all Gentiles are in a reprobate and lost state, and that God has given them no laws, nor promised them any blessings.
Before the Sabbath, the Jews are obliged to wash their hands and feet with warm water, cut their nails, trim their beards, and put on their Sabbath garments. The Jewesses, in their turn, have to plait their hair, take their veils, bathe, and before Sabbath begins, deck themselves out in their best dresses, as if they were expecting the visit of a great lord; for the Rabbis call the Sabbath a Queen, and the first words with which they greet it are—“The Bride is coming! The Bride is coming !” These Sabbath clothes are reserved most strictly for that day. To wear them on any other day would be a sin. “That thy Sabbath apparel be not like thy daily clothes," is a Jewish law.
Before the commencement of the Sabbath some of the extremely orthodox Jews, especially in Poland, no matter how great their wealth, or how high their social position, attend to some trifling domestic duty, such as trimming the lamp, or the like, in honour of the Sabbath.
When the holy-day is actually ushered in, all money is at once laid aside. The Jewesses cover the table with a clean white cloth, and get ready the plates, dishes, seats, etc. for the feast. Upon the table they lay two loaves, and cover them with a napkin; this done, they light a lamp with from four to eight burners, made of copper and tin, or, among the wealthy, of silver, and which is commonly suspended from the ceiling like our gas chandeliers. As soon as the lamp is lit the Jews leave off their week-day occupations, and the Sabbath begins.
A visit is now paid to the synagogue, when first vespers (minchah) are said, and afterwards the evening (or maribh) prayers. A portion of he Talmud is then read. Should a holy-day fall on the Sabbath eve, the procentor, at the end