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Brotherhood | A Yom Kippur Custom

Brotherhood | A Yom Kippur Custom


AT the beginning of the Atonement service the most venerable men in the congregation solemnly repeat from the Almemor74: ‘With the permission of the Court on High, and with the permission of the Congregation below, we declare it permitted to pray with hardened transgressors’. 
Why this custom? In some communities of the Middle Ages there were persons who, by their conduct, had placed themselves outside the pale of Judaism; cowardly apostates, for example, who sold their souls; informers, who spread broadcast false accusations against their brethren; insubordinates, outcasts, criminals. Throughout the year these never sought spiritual fellowship with their brethren. 
On Yom Kippur, however, they would steal into some corner of the synagogue and join the worshippers in prayer. The Rabbis thereupon instituted this solemn declaration, in order to proclaim in most unmistakable terms that, no matter what is a man’s mode of life—slanderer, apostate, outcast—he is still a brother. ‘We have transgressed, we have dealt treacherously, we have robbed,’ do we pray. 
We associate ourselves with the most forlorn souls that sin in darkness, because we recognize that society—we ourselves—are largely responsible for their actions. Many a time has our evil example misled others, and become a stumbling-block in the way of the blind. And all our Yom Kippur vows to rise to a higher life are useless, unless we endeavour to raise others who have fallen. 
A traveller was crossing mountain heights of untrodden snow alone. He struggled bravely against the sense of sleep which weighed down his eyelids, but it was fast stealing over him, and he knew that if he fell asleep death would inevitably follow. 
At this crisis his foot struck against a heap lying across his path. Stooping down, he found it to be a human body half buried in the snow. The next moment he held him in his arms, and was rubbing and chafing the frozen man’s limbs. 
The effort to restore another unto life brought back to himself warmth and energy, and was the means of saving both. The same law obtains in the realm of the soul. In order that our spiritual vitality may quicken into new life, we must help others in highest matters of faith and hope.

‘Heaven’s gate is shut
To him who comes alone;
Save thou a soul,
And it shall save thine own.’
J. H. HERTZ, 1898.

IWILL seek that which is lost, and will bring again that which is driven away, and will bind up that which is broken, and will strengthen that which is sick.
EZEKIEL 34. 16.

Excerpt From A Book of Jewish Thoughts By Dr. J H. Hertz

Lord Thine Humble Servants Hear | Atonement Promise | A Poem

Lord Thine Humble Servants Hear | Atonement Promise | A Poem


LORD, thine humble servants hear,
Suppliant now before Thee;
Our Father, from Thy children’s plea
Turn not, we implore Thee!
Lord, blot out our evil pride,
All our sins before Thee;
Our Father, for Thy Mercy’s sake,
Pardon, we implore Thee.
Lord, no sacrifice we bring,
Prayers and tears implore Thee;
Our Father, take the gift we lay,
Contrite hearts before Thee.
Lord, Thy sheep have wandered far,
Gather them before Thee;
Our Father, let Thy shepherd’s love
Guide us, we implore Thee.
Lord, forgive and comfort all
That in truth implore Thee;
Our Father, let our evening prayer
Thus find grace before Thee.
(Trans. S. Solis-Cohen.)



SEEK ye the Lord while He may be found,
Call ye upon Him while He is near;
Let the wicked forsake his way,
And the man of iniquity his thoughts;
And let him return unto the Lord,
And He will have compassion upon him,
And to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.
For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Neither are your ways My ways, saith the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.
For as the rain cometh down and the snow from heaven,
And returneth not thither,
Except it water the earth,
And make it bring forth and bud,
And give seed to the sower and bread to the eater;
So shall My word be that goeth forth out of My mouth:
It shall not return unto Me void,
Except it accomplish that which I please,
And make the thing whereto I sent it prosper.
ISAIAH 55. 611.


THEN shall thy light break forth as the morning,
And thy healing shall spring forth speedily;
And thy righteousness shall go before thee,
The glory of the Lord shall be thy rearward.
Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer;
Thou shalt cry, and He will say: ‘Here I am.’
If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke,
The putting forth of the finger, and speaking wickedness;
And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry,
And satisfy the afflicted soul;
Then shall thy light rise in darkness,
And thy gloom be as the noonday;
And the Lord will guide thee continually,
And satisfy thy soul in drought,
And make strong thy bones;
And thou shalt be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.
And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places,
Thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations;
And thou shalt be called The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.
ISAIAH 58. 812.

Excerpt From A Book of Jewish Thoughts By Dr. J H. Hertz

What Is The Talmud

What Is The Talmud


THE Talmud is the work which embodies the civil and canonical law of the Jewish people, forming a kind of supplement to the Pentateuch—a supplement such as took 1,000 years of a nation’s life to produce. It is not merely a dull treatise, but it appeals to the imagination and the feelings, and to all that is noblest and purest.

Between the rugged boulders of the law which bestrew the path of the Talmud there grow the blue flowers of romance—parable, tale, gnome, saga; its elements are taken from heaven and earth, but chiefly and most lovingly from the human heart and from Scripture, for every verse and every word in this latter became, as it were, a golden nail upon which it hung its gorgeous tapestries.

The fundamental law of all human and social economy in the Talmud was the absolute equality of men. It was pointed out that man was created alone—lest one should say to another, ‘I am of the better or earlier stock’.

In a discussion that arose among the Masters as to which was the most important passage in the whole Bible, one pointed to the verse ‘And thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself’. The other contradicted him and pointed to the words ‘This is the book of the generations of man’ (Gen. 5. 1)—not black, not white, not great, not small, but man.

‘The law given on Mount Sinai’, the Masters said, ‘though emphatically addressed to one people, belongs to all humanity. It was not given in any king’s land, not in any city or inhabited spot—it was given on God’s own highway, in the desert—not in the darkness and stillness of night, but in plain day, amid thunder and lightning. And why was it given on Sinai? Because it is the lowliest of mountains—to show that God’s spirit rests only upon them that are meek and lowly in their hearts.’

The Talmud taught that religion was not a thing of creed or dogma or faith merely, but of active goodness. Scripture said, ‘Ye shall walk in the ways of the Lord’. ‘But the Lord is a consuming fire; how can men walk in His ways?’

‘By being’, the rabbis answered, ‘as He is—merciful, loving, long-suffering. Mark how on the first page of the Pentateuch God clothed the naked—Adam; and on the last he buried the dead—Moses. He heals the sick, frees the captives, does good to His enemies, and is merciful both to the living and to the dead.’

The most transcendental love of the rabbis was lavished on children. All the verses of Scripture that spoke of flowers and gardens were applied to children and schools. The highest and most exalted title which they bestowed in their poetical flights upon God Himself was that of ‘Pedagogue of Man’.

Indeed, the relationship of man to God they could not express more pregnantly than by the most familiar words which occur from one end of the Talmud to the other, ‘Our Father in Heaven’.

I have been able to bring before you what proves, as it were, but a drop in the vast ocean of Talmud—that strange, wild, weird ocean, with its leviathans, and its wrecks of golden argosies, and with its forlorn bells that send up their dreamy sounds ever and anon, while the fisherman bends upon his oar, and starts and listens, and perchance the tears may come into his eyes.

Excerpt From A Book of Jewish Thoughts By Dr. J H. Hertz

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