Page images
PDF
EPUB

bishop Usher, they have been dispersed over the globe. To the unpolluted current of their Caucasian structure, and to the segregating genius of their great Lawgiver, Sidonia ascribed the fact that they had not been long ago absorbed among those mixed races, who presume to persecute them, but who periodically wear away and disappear, while their victims still flourish in all the primeval vigour of the pure Asian breed.

The fact is, you cannot destroy a pure race of the Caucasian organisation. It is a physiological fact; a simple law of nature, which has baffled Egyptian and Assyrian kings, Roman emperors, and Christian inquisitors. No penal laws, no physical tortures, can effect that a superior race should be absorbed in an inferior, or be destroyed by it. The mixed persecuting races disappear; the pure persecuted race remains. And at this moment, in spite of centuries, of tens of centuries of degradation, the Jewish mind exercises a vast influence on the affairs of Europe. I speak not of their laws, which you still obey; of their literature, with which your minds are saturated; but of the living Hebrew intellect."

And what says that great orator, Père Hyacinthe, himself a Jew, and like Mr. Disraeli, proud of his origin, in one of his famous sermons delivered at Nôtre Dame at Paris : Have you ever met with a Jew without recognising him? Have you ever contemplated with a single thought of hesitation, or doubt this singular, melancholy, and yet seductive beauty, those sunken eyes replete with intelligence and passion ? Have you not met this pure, proud blood—this aristocratic blood, excelling all others—which has streamed through all ages, and through various races, but always without mingling with that which was not its own ? And you, men of thought, and men of the political world, organisers of families and

societies, have you studied the constitution of the Jewish community ? Even now, under our very eyes, in Europe as well as in Asia, this organisation has resisted the fall of all external supports. It had a royal dynasty, a political entity, but both dynasty and political entity have fallen for centuries. It had a priesthood and an ecclesiastical establishment. Something of all this yet remains; but their genealogies are reduced to shreds; their ecclesiastical condition is reduced to dust. They have sacrifices and church royalty no longer; yet the communion of Israel-suá mole stat—it stands upright by its intrinsic strength! It derives from itself the power of maintaining the tradition of its race and its religion, untouched by the efforts of modern civilisation and the barbarities of the middle ages."

The British Jews are of all professions—lawyers, merchants, physicians, and tradesmen of all descriptions; but those living in and about Houndsditch are chiefly glaziers, old clothes' men, and fruiterers. As I walked along I noticed that the shops and stalls were chiefly filled either with secondhand clothes and tawdry ornaments, or else fried fish and lifferent kinds of food. Everything that was saleable was more or less exposed.

According to statistics there are about sixty thousand Jews living in England, of whom over twenty-five thousand inhabit London. Until 1841, Judaism among the English Jews kept the even tenour of its way, but in that year the spirit of reform, which has long been secretly at work among many of their body, caused a religious revolution in the Jewish Church within this kingdom, The Jews of Great Britain were formerly divided into two communities, the Ashkenasim, or Orthodox Jews; and the Sephardim, or Spanish or Portuguese Jews. Both these sects are distinct over the whole world. In the essentials of Judaism they both agree, but in their ritual they slightly differ. In 1841, some English Jews, dissatisfied with the Ashkenasim mode of worship, thought a modification of the Jewish service necessary. Accordingly, a new synagogue, upon a reformed model, was established in Margaret Street, Cavendish Square, called, the West London Synagogue of British Jews.* These Reformed Jews differ from their brethren–Orthodox and Spanish-in many respects. Their service is much shorter; and commences at a more convenient hour. The forms of prayer have been abridged ; and those portions which they consider not of a devotional character, have been excised. Religious discourses in English are delivered every Sabbath and Holy Day, and the service is assisted by a choir. But the great difference between the Reformed and the Orthodox is a most fundamental one, for the former deny the divinity of that literary mixture of blasphemy and indecency called the Talmud, and only acknowledge one Law—the sacred volume of the Scriptures. The service of these Reformed Jews is far more attractive than that of the Orthodox Jews, and has almost a Christian air about its ritual. But the place above all others, where the old conservative style of worship is conducted, is in the synagogue of the Ashkenasim in Duke's Place, Houndsditch. It is a plain, ugly-looking building, as devoid of architecture as are most synagogues, and not over clean. It was here that I witnessed the service performed on the Feast of Dedication, of which I shall now give a few particulars.

* This has now been removed to its present building in Upper Berkeley Street --the most splendid synagogue in the world !

The Feast of the Chanukah, or Dedication, is one of thoso festivals in the Jewish calendar which have not been originally instituted by God in His Church of the Old Covenant. It occurs on the twenty-fifth day of the month Kislev, or November, and was instituted by the Maccabees as a memorial of the great deliverance which the Lord had wrought for their countrymen, and of the great victory they had obtained over the king of Syria. During the time of the second Temple, Antiochus Epiphanes, having cruelly oppressed the Jews and polluted their Temple by erecting a statue of Jupiter Olympus within its sacred precincts, Mattathias the high-priest, together with his sons and their allies, stood up and resisted the tyrant. The troops sent by the Syrian king against the priest and his followers were successively defeated; and thus was achieved the triumph of a petty province over a great empire, which, says Hales, “is hardly to be paralleled in the annals of history.”

The Temple was now cleansed and re-consecrated to the service of God, and Jewish worship was once again performed on the 25th of Kislev, C.B. 166, being the self-same day on which, three years before, Antiochus had defiled the holy building. The renewed Dedication was ushered in with great solemnity; the Lamb of the daily sacrifice was offered, the Holy Candlestick lighted, and everything that could add effect to the ceremony was performed. The Festival lasted eight days, and to perpetuate its memory it was ordained that “the days of the Dedication of the altar should be kept in their season from year to year, for the space of eight days, from the five and twentieth day of the month Kislev, with mirth and gladness.” In commemoration of the lamps of the Holy Candlestick having again been lighted, and the houses of Jerusalem

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »