In truth, it has happened to the Jewish people just as the Lord God has spoken concerning their hypocrisy, stubbornness and folly through the prophet Isaiah 29.13-14:
Because this people approaches me with its mouth and honors me with its lips, but its heart is far from me; and fears me in accordance with commandments which they have learned and done, so shall I also deal wonderfully with this people in the most wonderful and unusual fashion, so that the wisdom of its wise men will degenerate and the understanding of its clever men will become blinded.
For in their supposed worship of God there is nothing but insincerity and falsehood, and in their most understanding Rabbanim or scribes, there is nothing but ignorance and great lack of understanding, especially in the knowledge of God and the interpretation of God's word. In the entire race there is nothing but shocking obstinacy and stubbornness in their ways, which are solely evil. Nonetheless, they wish to praise themselves as the justly selected people of God, and bear an extreme zeal for His word and the knowledge of Him, since they believe perfectly in God, and with absolutely true trust adhere to Him before all other races, as the Apostle Paul has witnessedRomans 10.2: "They indeed are zealous for God, but not with understanding." On account of this, to this very day, they still adhere strongly to their supposed worship of God, and acknowledge an absolutely unquestioned belief in God Almighty, who created heaven and earth, who is one and unique, and who suffers no strange gods beside Him.
Now the Jewish belief contains thirteen Ikkárim or articles which are, in short, as they are found in their Tephillos and prayerbooks:
This is the essence of the thirteen articles of the Jewish belief as they are set forth in their daily prayer books in a short and summary form. In them the poor blind Jews die and waste away wretchedly with great sighing, fear, doubt, and howling.
However, so that one may the better understand to what they refer with this belief of theirs, I will explain the articles somewhat further. First, it should be known that the Jewish belief and Mosaic religion, as the Jews write, although they were always based on these thirteen articles, were first stated in writing by the highly learned Rabbi Mosche Bar Maimon (who died in the year 4964 after the creation of the earth, as the Jews reckon, i.e., 1104 A.D. and they were set down in this order; thereafter it was strictly commanded that henceforth and forever all Jews should acknowledge, live, and die according to this belief in this arrangement.
For this reason this belief has been explained extensively, and a big book has been written about it, from which the aforementioned articles, somewhat more extensively explained than before, were extracted, and were appended to the great Esrim V'arba, or Hebrew Bible, which was printed in Venice in 1517 A.D. by Daniel Bomberg, edited by Felix Pratensis, in which they were explained in the following form.
The first article concerns God, who is Creator of all creatures; that He is illas haillos, Causa causarum, Ens entium, that everything, in the heavens above and on earth below, is created by and through Him, and exists in Him alone; that he made everything according to his simple pleasure; also that everything will again vanish and become nothing according to His will. And even when everything has vanished, His being will not vanish, diminish or be changed, because His being is Mezius gemurah, a perfect and changeless Being, without defects, and needing no helper or partner. He is the eternal light, power, strength, and life; to Him alone belongs rule and dominion; He is truly one, and is an exalted king. And this article is based on these words: "I am the Lord thy God etc." Exod. 20.2
The second article concerns the sole God, namely that he is echad umejuchad, one and unique, or is a being to whose unity nothing within or outside of the world may be compared. He is not like a common or uncommon being or substance which comprises other species. Nor is He Keechad Hammurcabh, like a being which was once assembled and which may in turn be divided into pieces and parts. Nor is He like a Guph paschut, Corpus Simplex, which is unique by number, but may be diminished or increased; rather He is one in an entirely perfect being to which no other being may be compared in such unity. This article is based on these words: "Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is a sole God." Deut. 6.4
The third article is that one should not ascribe to God Middas hagguph, corporeal characteristics, or whatever is incidental to the body, which again may in turn be separated from it, such as walking, standing, talking, being silent, sitting, running, etc. And whenever the Holy Scriptures ascribe to Him any bodily qualities such things are al derech haabharah, hyperbolic and Kilschón ben adam, according to human ways and manner of speaking, so that the nature of God may so much the better be grasped and understood by the people. This article is based on these words: "For you saw no likeness . . ." etc. Deut. 4.15
The fourth article says in its simple sense that God the Creator is Kadmon, the First or the Eternal, and that everything besides God is of finite time or started a finite time ago. This article is based on these words, where he is called Elohe Kédem, God of eternity. Deut. 33.27 Also: "I am the first and the last, and there is no God besides me." Is. 44.6
The fifth article is that one should pray only to God, serve only Him, praise, love, and extol Him, and honor no other creature, not even the holy angels, the stars, or whatever is composed of the four elements. For all such things are His creation, circumscribed, and finite. He alone is the Creator, without beginning or end. All creatures are dependent, and do not act of their own free will, and He permits nothing to oppose His will. Accordingly, one should set up no Melitzim, representatives and mediators, between Him and man. And all this serves as a warning and injunction to put far away all idols, as the entire Thorah and Holy Scriptures are full of these warnings.
The sixth article is that God according to His own good pleasure has chosen and selected persons out of the human race whose mind and disposition He illuminates and purifies, and grants them the spirit of prediction and prophecy, and He has attached their mind to the will of their Creator, so that He spoke through them, and has revealed the path in which man should go.
The seventh article is that of such prophets, Moses was the highest and most precious, and that he attained the highest degree of all knowledge and human perfection, honor and dignity, so that he is to be deemed equal to the angels. Hence also his prophecies in many respects far outshine those of all other prophets.
The eighth article concerns the Law, namely, that it was given to Moses from the mouth of God, just as it is still found with them today. However, how such a thing occurred, namely whether God gave it to Moses in writing, or whether Moses wrote it from the mouth of God, can no longer be known. If then everything came from the mouth of God, it must all be true, and there is no difference between all the words which are written in the Law, as for example: "I am the Lord your God"; "Timna was a concubine of Eliphaz, Esau's son"; "The children of Ham are Chus, Mitzraim, Put and Canaan, etc."; "Hear O Israel, the Lord your God is a Sole God"; Exod 20.2; Gen. 36.12; Gen. 10.6; Deut. 6.4 and others similarly, for everything is God's holy and true word. Similarly the interpretation of the Law came from the mouth of God, mippi haggebhurah, that is to say, just as it is being kept today with the Lulabh [palm branch] and other things at the Feast of Tabernacles, with the blowing of the horn, with the Zizis, Tephillin [fringes on the garments, and phylacteries] and other like matters, of which nothing is explicitly mentioned in the written law of Moses. Everything is kept as God explained and clarified it orally to Moses, and Moses to us. But Moses, God says, "is faithful in all my house." Num. 12.17 And Moses said: "By this you shall know that the Lord sent me, that I should do all these deeds, and not of myself or of my own heart."Num 16.28
The ninth article concerns the unchangeability of the Law. This means that the old law of Moses shall never be changed, no other or new law given besides it, nothing added, nothing taken away. No point or letter shall be added to, or taken away from, the written Law, nor shall the interpretation be strengthened or weakened. Moreover, the Holy Temple and the City of Jerusalem, will surely be rebuilt, the sacrifices and all Mosaic ceremonies will again be put into force, and the Jews will be brought into their country, so that they may follow the Law of Moses forever.
The tenth article is well known in its simple sense from the Holy Scriptures.
The eleventh article concerns the repayment and requital of good and bad deeds. For good deeds, the great reward is Olam habba the next world, or eternal life. But for bad deeds, the punishment is the annihilation and eternal destruction of the soul. Thus it is written: "Now forgive them their sins; if not, erase me out of your book which you have written. But the Lord answered and spoke to Moses: What! I will erase out of my book him who has sinned against me." Exod. 32.32-33
The twelfth article concerns the Messiah, who is yet to come, and in whose coming one should certainly believe. Despite the fact that he stays away long, one should not set a limit and time for him, nor work out the time of his coming from the Psukim or the Scriptures. Thus the Chachamim and the wise Rabbis said: Tippach ruchan schel mechaschebhe kitzin, that is, may the spirit of those who calculate the times burst asunder. But one should believe in the Messiah, love him, extol him highly, and pray that he come soon, as all prophets starting with Moses down to the last prophet Malachi have done. However, he who doubts his coming, hu machzibh thorah cullah, he makes the entire law false and deceitful (yes, you poor blind Jew, the Law makes you false and deceitful, so that you still doubt, and do not want to believe that he has already come!) in that a loud and clear promise is written about him, for example in the Parascha Bilham (that is in the 24th chapter in the fourth book of Moses) and in the Parascha Nitzabhim, (the 29th and 30th chapters of the fifth book of Moses) and more in other places.
The thirteenth article concerns the awakening of the dead about which there is nothing further to say at this place.
Now whoever fully believes these fundamental principles is numbered among the Israelites, and such a one should be loved, pitied, and shown everything that God the Creator has commanded to show to one's kin and brothers, out of true love, brotherhood, and friendship. And when such a one commits all the sins in the world, because of innate evil lusts and wickedness, then he will surely be punished according as his sins deserve; but nonetheless he will also have a part of eternal life and will be reckoned among the sinful Israelites. However, he who rejects and does not believe a single fundamental principle or article, does not belong to the congregation of Israel; for he denies God, and shall be called a heretic and an epicurean, since he roots out what is properly and well planted, and he should be disowned, rejected, and even destroyed. For of such people it is said in Scripture: "Lord, I hate those who hate Thee, and have no pleasure in those who rise up against Thee. Ps. 139.21
I have thus far tried to explain the meaning of the Jewish belief at somewhat greater length according to Rabbi Mosche bar Maimon, who is commonly referred to in writing and orally by the Jewish scribes abbreviated as Rambam so that one may better see and recognize to what this Jewish belief is directed.
When one diligently considers these articles from their books, one will easily ascertain that the Rambam overturned the Christian belief, and rendered it false and hated for the Jews, and kept them back from it, by arranging these articles thus, and requiring all, under pain of the forfeiture of the Jewish name and salvation, to acknowledge them, looking nowhere else. Thus the articles concerning the creating, unique, incorporeal and eternal God tend only in in the direction of damning and belying the Christian doctrine, as though we make three gods out of the Trinity, and that Christ was not God and could not posess a divine nature, since he was not eternal, but rather took on a human body at a definite period of time. Since he is not God, one should not pray to him either, for God alone hears prayers, as the fifth article explains. He also does not know the human heart and thoughts, for God alone searches out the heart, as the eleventh article notes. The sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth articles again deal with more of the same Christian teaching and the entire New Testament, namely that Christ was not a true prophet or a divine teacher, since, unlike Moses, he did not receive his teachings out of the mouth of God, and also that he taught and preached and changed in many places the Law of Moses which ought to stay unchanged. So when a man earns life eternal for his pious life, his observance of God's commands and for good works, or merits eternal punishment because of his godless dealings and bad deeds, to what purpose was the suffering and death of Christ? "No one can make atonement for my sins," a Jew recently told me, "Every fox must stretch its own skin and hide, and shed its hair." This is the eleventh article again.
This is approved and followed by all other learned Jews in their writings and books, notably by Rabbi Joseph Albu, a Spaniard, who wrote a book in 1425 A.D. which he called Sepher Ikkárim, [Book of Principles] in which he strongly confirms the Jewish faith, and carries on a strong Vikkuach and disputation against the Christian faith. Now he sets the Jewish faith on three fundamentals at most. First on Metzias hasschem, that is, on the single existence of the single God, whereby he denies the Trinity and the Divinity of Christ; secondly on Thoras Mosche min hasschamajim, on the Law of Moses which came forth from heaven from God Himself, and from His very mouth, whereby he repudiates the teaching of Christ and the New Testament, and gives it to be understood that Christ was a false prophet and no Messiah – so in these two points, namely in the Trinity and in the person of Christ there is the greatest difference and distinction between the Jews and Christians; thirdly he sets the Jewish faith on Sachar veónesch, eternal reward and eternal punishment for good and bad deeds, and thereby he despises the passion and death of Christ for the sins of men.
This is also the trend of the infamous and shameful book Nizzachon which Rabbi Lippman wrote in 1459 A.D. receiving it from the Devil's own mouth contrary to the evangelical history of the four Gospels. Sebastian Münster, my predecessor some years ago as Professor of the Holy Language in this University, has abstracted and refuted much of this in the Evangelium Matthaei Hebraicum.
Since then the Jews wanted in this obstinacy and blindness of theirs to belie the Christian faith, and show it false, they have themselves fallen into greatly erroneous beliefs, and have virtually lost the right faith in the true God to the extent that they themselves do not know what they believe. Even though they haughtily boast of a strong and perfect belief in God, Creator of Heaven and Earth, who is one, of one being, uncreated and eternal, this cannot be called a right belief, since they do not know the God in whom they presume to believe to the extent to which He has revealed Himself in His word.
Now Scripture, namely Moses and the prophets, gives us to understand, albeit less explicitly than the New Testament, that God is one in His essence and being, but is threefold in His person – God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Since then the Jews do not believe in such a God, who is the right and true God, who created Heaven and Earth, but, rather, are offended by Him, and deny and belie Him, so it follows that they do not believe in the true God, but are stuck fast in unbelief, or erroneous belief.
They properly and truly say that they believe all that Moses and the prophets spoke and wrote to be true, that nothing may be taken from or added to their words and that Moses was a great and outstanding prophet, but they do not believe it! First of all, they hold true not only what is in the books of Moses and the Prophets, but also what is written in the interpretations of the Chachamim and wise Rabbis concerning the Law and Word of God; in fact one should rely more on them than on the words of Moses. Next, they consider the traditions, the statutes and ordinances of their forbears, not as Tosephos or additions to the Law, but as the Law itself, which Moses received orally from God; moreover he taught them orally to others and did not commit them to writing, so that the heathens might not learn them, and so that they themselves might properly understand the Law. For they suppose that without these clarifications the Law of Moses cannot properly be understood or adhered to, as I will soon explain more expressly.
Besides they completely miss the mark in holding that the Law can never be changed in any of its particulars. For the ceremonial law pointed only to Christ, who put an end to it. Soon after its termination the Holy Temple was razed to the ground, and Jerusalem was destroyed with all its holy places. They were expelled from their land, and scattered among all peoples so that they might know that they no longer had a shepherd or a fold. After many wonderful prophecies, the heathens too joined the community of belief in God Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and have acquired a share in the magnificent treasure of God's word, which was first entrusted to the Jews alone.
Likewise they err greatly in considering Moses so great a prophet that not only is Christ unfit to be compared with him, but actually taught falsely. Experience indicates that in their consciences many Jews are convinced to the contrary.
Also they believe correctly that a Messiah was promised in Moses and the Prophets. But they are sadly mistaken in not believing that he has already come so many years ago, and do not even know for what reason he was sent to them, namely to be efficacious and secure favor for them. For they believe that he will be just like Moses and Aaron, and will rid them of this bodily and earthly Galus, misery and captivity, and again lead them into their land, so that they no longer have to drink bitter vermouth among the Gojim, but they will grow fat and enjoy themselves with sweet milk and good honey. For the spiritual captivity of sin they care nothing; for they can readily atone for sin and earn life eternal in their own skins by good deeds and observing God's commandments. For they are Goy Kadosch, a holy people. From the eleventh article they believe that the one who does many Mitzvos and good deeds will receive a great reward in the other world. We read in the Talmud Mishna Sanhedrin 10.1 "Col yisráel jesch lo chéleck leólam habbá, etc." that is, all children of Israel have a part in the other world, as it is written: Is. 60.21 "And your people shall all be justified, and shall possess the earth for ever, since the branches of my planting and work of my hands are to be glorified." Nevertheless, one will have more than the other: namely, the one who has done many good deeds will receive a proportionately larger part. The ungodly who have no charátha, regret or sorrow over their sins, will have to suffer for twelve months in hell or purgatory, and thereafter they will also receive their share in eternal life, although not such a large one as the Zaddikim or pious. However, those who deny God utterly, and weaken His holy name (namely those who fall away from the Jewish faith and become Christians) and who grow back the Mílah or foreskin as though they had never been "jewished" or circumcized, will remain in Hell forever. Further, when a man dies, his son, if he leaves one, must recite a prayer called Kaddisch through which he frees the father from purgatory; and such a one dies happy. Similarly, a pious wife can be matzil her husband, that is, pray for him and bring him out. It may also happen that a man and his wife are not equally pious, and one should come higher than the other in the next world. In such a case God takes pity on them and brings them up to equal levels in heaven.
To sum up: all Jews will have a share in eternal life, and they will all go to heaven, but one will be more precious than the other. It may be compared to a king or prince who has many servants and people with him, and is admitted to a city. Any other person will be given hospitality there, and offered food and drink, but not in the same degree. So it is in the other world. In the article about the awakening of the dead the unbelieving Jews, although alive, are in truth dead! First, they say that only the Israelites will be awakened from the dead, and not the Christians or other people. Thus we read in Rabbi Bechái in the book which he calls Kad hakkémach: "Arba máalos pratíos lejisráel bilbhad, veló bischear haumos, etc." The Israelites have a fourfold honor and various wonderful gifts which the other peoples do not have, namely, the land of Canaan, the Law, Prophecy, and the awakening of the dead. He repeats this and explicitly proves every point in his interpretation of the eighteenth and thirty-third chapters of the fifth book of Moses, where for confirmation of the last point, he brings among other witnesses, the prophet Isaiah, and says that he predicted as follows about the Umos Haolam, the Christians and other peoples: "The dead will not live, those who have died will not stand up." But concerning the Israelites he says: "But your dead will live, and will arise with the body; wake up and give praise you who lie under the earth, for your dew is of the green fields, but the land of the dead you will cast away." Is. 26.14, 26.19
He further informs us from the Talmud that on the great judgment day three kinds of dead people will be awakened: first, the absolutely pious Israelite; second, the absolutely impious and godless Israelite, and thirdly, the Benoniim or average ones who have done as much good as evil. The pious will be immediately inscribed and sealed unto eternal life. The godless however will be inscribed unto Gehinnam and hellfire, as it is written. "Many who lie asleep under the earth will awake, some to eternal life, some to eternal disgrace and humiliation." Dan. 12.2 "From this we learn," says the Rabbi, "that the godless Israelites also will rise up, but their rising will be for their eternal ruin, for they will be judged and punished in body and soul in Hell." The Benoniim or average ones will be punished in Hell for only twelve chadaschim or months for their bad deeds, and after twelve the body will be consumed and the soul burned, and a wind or breeze will spread the ashes under the soles of the feet of the righteous, etc." In the Talmud however, the point is proved from the prophet Zechariah 13.8-9: "And it shall come to pass that in every land, saith the Lord, there shall be two parts which will be eradicated and perish, and the third part shall stay therein. And that third part shall be led through fire and refined as silver is refined and purified as gold is purified. then they will call on my name etc." Concerning them Scripture says: "The Lord kills and makes alive, he brings down to hell and brings up again." I Sam 2.6
Also, Rabbi David Kimchi writes concerning the first Psalm of David that the Reschaim or godless will not arise, ella tobhad naphscham im haggupham bejom misah that is, their soul will perish with their body on the day of death, or when the body dies. In the same sense he writes concerning the twenty-sixth chapter of the prophet Isaiah: Techías hammésim latzaddikim veló larescháim that is, the awakening of the dead pertains only to the pious and righteous, and not to the godless.
Rabbi Saadiah writes concerning the statement of the prophet Daniel just quoted that the word "many" means only a certain number, and refers to the pious Israelites who alone have a share in eternal life. The ones who will not awaken are those who have forsaken the Lord, and fallen off from God. They will go to the lowest chambers in Hell and stay there in eternal disgrace. Aben Ezra too writes in the same sense in his Perusch or interpretation of this statement on the authority of Rabbi Haggáon: "While the prophet says that many will awake, many more yet will not awake. Those who awake belong in the life eternal, those who do not awake stay in eternal disgrace. However, as I see it (says Aben Ezra) the pious Jews who died in Gálus or misery will again be awakened and live when the savior or Messiah comes. For Scripture writes concerning them Is 65.22: "The days of my people shall be as the days of a tree." Understand this to mean as the tree of life, as it is interpreted in the Chaldean language, or as a tree which endures, grows and does not perish for some hundred years. Those who will be awakened when the Messiah comes will live as long as the forefathers from Adam to Noah. Thus writes Aben Ezra about the statement of the prophet Isaiah just quoted: "And then they shall amuse themselves and rejoice with the great fish Leviathan, with the great bird Ziz and the great ox Behemos (about these we shall say more in a particular chapter.) After that they will die once more, and live again at the last awakening of the dead, and enter the life eternal, where one neither eats nor drinks, but only enjoys the luster and affection of God.
We read in the forty-seventh chapter of the first book of Moses that when the time came for Israel to die, he called his son Joseph and ordered him not to bury him in Egypt, but to take him away and let him lie with his fathers in the land of Canaan. Rabbi Solomon Iarchi [referred to infra as Jarchi.]writes concerning this that Israel did not want to be buried in Egypt because he saw through a spirit of prophecy that eventually lice would grow from Egyptian soil, as is written in the eighth chapter of the second book of Moses. Moreover the Israelites who died outside the land of Canaan would not live again or be awakened from the dead, unless they suffered the great pain of rolling through deep and secret caves and tunnels in the earth. Thirdly, he did not want the Egyptians to make an idol out of him and pray to him, since they were very prone to idolatry. In order to understand this better, I will put down here what is written somewhat more explicity in the book Tanchuma which is an interpretation of the five books of Moses. "Rabbi says on the authority of Rabbi Chelbo: Why did the partriarchs desire so strongly to be buried in the land of Canaan? Answer: because those who died and were buried in the land of Canaan will be the first to become alive again in the days of the Messiah. And Rabbi Hananiah says: Whoever dies and is buried outside the land of Canaan has two deaths on his neck, that is to say, he must die twice, as we learn from this statement: Jer. 20.6 And you Pashur shall go captive with all your household, and you shall go to Babylon where you will die and be buried. Then Rabbi Simon said to him: If it is so, then all the Tzaddikim or righteous who die and are buried outside the land of Canaan must perish! Oh no! he replied. God will make for them Mechillos or holes and deep caves in the earth, through which they will wander until they reach eretz jisrael, the praiseworthy and holy land. When they come to the land, God will blow into them a living breath, so that they will stand up, as it is written Ezek. 37.12-14: See, I will open your graves, and will bring you my people out of them, and bring you into the land of Israel. And I will put my spirit into you, so that you live again, and I will set you in your land. Then said Rabbi Simeon ben Levi: Scripture states expressly that as soon as they come back to the land, God will return their souls to their bodies, as it is written Is. 42.5: Thus says the Lord who makes the earth and its vegetation, who gives breath to the people who is upon it, etc. According to Jewish teaching this must be understood as referring to the dead Jews who roll through the holes under the earth, and not on it. This rolling should be understood in the sense of the Targum or Chaldee [Aramaic] translation of the Song of Solomon 8.5: Solomon the prophet says: When the dead live again, the Mount of Olives will split apart, and all the dead Israelites will emerge. Also, the righteous who died in Galus, and captivity or foreign lands will come there through chasms and holes under the earth, and rise up from the Mount of Olives. From this it is now easy to understand how much it means to the Jews to return to their land, and die there as pious Jews, so that they rid themselves of the great pain and difficult effort of rolling under so many deep waters and hard mountains. I have also been told by the Jews that just now, because of this fact, some pious wealthy Jews are migrating to eretz jisrael the land of Canaan, so that their bodies may have peace after death. This is the Aemúnah schelmah, the perfect, firm and well-grounded Jewish faith, in which they so stubbornly persevere, and on which they build their bliss – though often with great sighing and despair. Everyone can easily understand from this how well and thoroughly they have built their faith on Moses and the prophets, and with what degree of understanding they put the Holy Scriptures to use.
Their good works are also according to the ten commandments of God, like their belief. For the wise rabbis travel around and convince the common Jewish people that they are the holy, circumcised and elect people of God, who alone are fit to hold not the ten commandments alone, but the entire law of Moses. On this account they got together and overmastered poor undiscerning Moses, and even God Himself. They divided the entire law of Moses into six hundred and thirty Mitzvos or commandments, and differentiated these into injunctions and prohibitions. Of the injunctions they make two hundred and forty eight corresponding to the number of limbs in a man's body, according to rabbinical anatomy. The prohibitions number three hundred and sixty five, according to the number of number of days in the year, or as we read in the book [see also infra.] Brandspiegel (printed in Cracow, Poland, five years ago in the German language in Hebrew characters) as many as the number of veins in the body, according to the former anatomy. So when each limb of the human body daily performs a commandment, and abstains from a prohibition, the entire Law is observed daily and eternally, and not just the ten commandments. Truly is the holy Thorah or Law called Schmúrah becól verarúchah, well-ordered and well-kept; truly may the prophet Isaiah step back with his complaint when he says Is. 23.5: The land is desecrated by its inhabitants, for they give up the Law, put an end to the commandment and forsake the eternal covenant. Holy Stephan would surely once again be stoned if he should again complain and attack the Jews for their piety and say: You stubborn and uncircumcised in heart and ear, you always oppose the Holy God; just as your fathers were, so are you also. You received the Law through angels' messages, but you have not observed it.
The Chachámim and wise Rabbis say further that only the men are bound to observe these six hundred and thirteen Mitzvos and commands. The women, however, are not liable to all of them, they must just observe all prohibitions, but they are not bound to observe the commandments. For there are a number of commandments which must only be obeyed at a certain time and not just when one wants to [from which women are exempt]. There are also some which do not concern them at all, such as circumcision, the office of the priests and levites, the first-born, and so on. At times they cannot observe a number of commandments on account of their husbands who have a say over them, and make demands on them and need them for other things, and the women are bound to obey and serve their husbands. And if we investigate and want to make the exact calculations, we find that women are only responsible for sixty four of the prohibitions and thirty six of the commandments. Thus Jewish women have been excused from the observance of the Law by their most considerate rabbis, on condition that they are never idle, but are burdened with many other tasks, such as cooking, washing, raising children, and what their husbands demand of them.
However, it seems that the previous total of the commandments was not sufficient, for some Chachámim and great saints came, and added seven more commandments, bringing up the number to six hundred and twenty. This corresponds to the number of words in the ten commandments in Hebrew, and also to the numerical value of the Hebrew word Keser, which means crown and has three letters, Caph, Tav, Resch, which make six hundred and twenty. This implies that if one could obey all the commandments, he would be a crown for the whole world. Moreover it is essential that they be obeyed, for the world can exist only on account of the commandments, as the chachamin have "dariched" and taught from this statement of the prophet Jeremiah 33.25: Im lo berisi chykkos eretz veschamaim lo samti, that is, But for my guarantee – the law – I would not have made earth and heaven. This is the way in which this wonderful statement of the prophet is perverted and torn up in good Jewish style, that is to say savagely, in the book [see also supra.] Brandspiegel for it is just about as appropriate for a Jew to interpret Holy Writ as for a wild pig to chew up a vineyard. To continue – were it not for the Law which is called Beris, a covenant, I would not have created heaven and earth, and everything exists only on account of the Law. Those who keep all the commandments set a crown on God's head, and God sets seven crowns on them, and makes them inherit the seven chambers of hell. In this way they have preserved the seven heavens and the seven worlds. We read about this in the Talmud in the tractate Joma 38b: Rabbi Eliezer says: "The world was created for the sake of one Tzaddik or righteous man. In the first book of Moses it is written 1.31: "And God saw that it was good." What is good? The Tzaddik is good, as it is written Is. 3.10: "Praise the righteous for he is good." This is the meaning of the just quoted statement of Moses: "And God saw that there was a Tzaddik," namely Adam, on whom the world relied since no one else had yet been created. Rabbi Chaja bar Abha says: The whole world is based on one Tzaddik. He said it on the authority of Rabbi Jochanan, who learned it from the Pasuk Mischle, or the Proverbs of Solomon, where it is written 10.25: Tzaddik jesod olam , the righteous man is the basis of the world. The Chachamim go on: Each of man's veins should stop him from doing anything that is forbidden (and so are the three hundred and sixty five prohibitions observed). If it does not happen, people say: He does not have a good vein in his body. (Oh, you poor Jew, where shall we find a good vein, or a few good drops of blood in you!) The limbs stop man from doing what is forbidden. King Solomon says in his Proverbs 7.2: Keep my commandments so that you may live. This means, so long as your veins and limbs keep you in the path of goodness, you will live forever. And David Hammelech says in his Psalms 34.21: He guards all his bones, so that not one of them is broken. This means, if one keeps the commandments, one's bones will not be broken.
This is the direction in which the poor, blind, foolish Jews go, with the result that they cannot and will not understand what belief and good deeds are. Instead they go their own way, and persist in their foolish conduct. It is not for nothing that the prophet Zephaniah says of them 3.4: Her prophets are frivolous and contemptible, her priests profane the sanctuary, and expound the Law mischievously. They should properly be ashamed of their great clumsiness in tearing apart and torturing the word of God, as though they did not have a spark of pure human understanding. In their explanations and proofs of their baseless faith and exegesis, it does not appear that they still have the Holy Writ in their hands, but it is like something they dreamt some thousands of years ago, according to which they grope along, like a blind man for a wall. However, I will not speak any more here of the Jewish belief – or rather, terrible unbelief – in view of the fact that in this book there is more than enough, and you would prefer me to report on the origin of the terrible blindness and obstinacy of the Jews in regard to the knowledge of God and His word.
From the history of the Old Testament it appears that once the Jews had embarked on a certain course, they would stubbornly stay on it for good, and persist in it, and not be deflected from it. For this reason, they severely punished Moses and the other prophets. In many cases the prophets were beaten to death by them, and on account of this in the New Testament they were called murderers of the prophets.
After God had taken them to be a special people, he made a covenant with them by means of an outward sign or seal, the circumcision, impressed in the flesh. He released them from the hand of their enemy, and gave them a special land, surpassing all other lands in goodness. He led them with a mighty hand and a strong arm, and gave them His word and law through Moses, according to which they should live, and acknowledge, recognize, praise and extol God. For at this time the entire world was entangled in idolatry, and did not acknowledge the true God, creator of heaven and earth. Then the Jews became proud, haughty, overweening and mischievous. They raised themselves above other peoples, made themselves out to be the sole holy, chosen people of God on account of their circumcision, the Law, and that they had acquired the land, got a holy temple, were making their offerings, etc. They boasted greatly of their land, city, temple, offerings, and entire divine service. Whoever would scold them for this and say that they were not Abraham's children, that God would destroy and expel them, that they had uncircumcised hearts and ears, that God would take them off their land, and disperse them among the heathen – he must needs be a liar and a false prophet, and die at their hands.
Thus they always adhered to their opinion, and held strongly to the outward covenant, to the evil letter of the simple, outward law, to outward works, ceremonies and practices of the law, the offerings, etc. In this fashion they denied God and all His prophets, and were not concerned whether or not the proper knowledge, understanding and truth of God were fixed in their hearts. The result was that God finally developed a great distaste for them, grew angry with them, and called them Is. 1.5 a sinful people, a people of great misdeeds, a malicious seed, shameful children, who have left the Lord and slandered the Holy One in Israel and have gone back. They were scolded for having hard heads, stubborn hearts, iron necks and brazen foreheads, for being transgressors since birth.Is. 48.4, Ezek. 2.4. They were a disgrace to their race, with the result that they were not in fact descended from the holy patriarchs and forefathers, but Ezek. 16.3 their race and birth was from the land of the Canaanites, their fathers were from the Ammonites and their mothers from the Hittites, who were all rejected and accursed peoples, as we know from the books of Moses. He threatened that he would expel them from their land to a land unknown to them or their fathers, where he would show them no mercy. He would take them away from their inheritance, and make them slaves to their enemies in a land which they did not know. Just as he did to Shiloh he would do to the house which was named for God's name, of which they boasted and on which they relied, and so also to the place which he had given to their fathers. And he would cast them away from his sight. Finally he said to the prophet Isaiah 6.10: Make the heart of this people stubborn, and let their ears be thick, and blind their eyes, so that they do not see with their eyes, and do not hear with their ears, and do not understand with their hearts, and turn back and recover. For long before, God had threatened them through Moses Deut. 28.15, 28-29: If you will not listen to the voice of the Lord your God, to keep and obey all His commands and laws, which I command you today, all these curses will overtake you and come upon you. The Lord will smite you with blindness and raging of heart, and you will stumble at noon like a blind man stumbling in the darkness. And you will have no fortune on your way, and all your life you will suffer violence and injustice, and no one will help you.
So the first and basic reason for the blindness and stubborness of the Jews is God's just sentence and punishment, which came upon them in accordance with God's clear warnings, since they did not listen to His voice. Indeed they praised Him with their lips, and drew near to Him with their mouth, but their heart stayed far from Him and served Him with a doctrine which was only the command of men, as the prophet Isaiah complained about them Is.29.13.
From this we gather that they deviated from God's word early, and relied on their own wisdom and cleverness, and on the great understanding of their Chachámim and highly intelligent teachers who after the time of Ezra were called scribes [sopherim.] Moreover, they adhered more to their interpretations, ordinances, laws and commands than to the teaching of the prophets. The prophets fought and strove against this, but with little success.
So what are the commands which they observe more than God's commands, and for which they wish to abandon God's commands? Our Lord Christ teaches us Christians the answer in the New Testament, for the Jews wanted to punish Christ because his apostles did not observe the Jewish commands such as the washing of hands, containers and jugs for liquids, oil containers and tables and other similar things, through which they nullified God's word and only observed what the elders and Chachámim had set up Mark 7.1-9.
These rules, which Christ himself abrogated, and others to which he referred, are still in use and observed among the Jews, and described in the canon law and ordinances concerning spiritual matters and the religious life, and I shall devote a good part of this book to them. On the basis of this, I should like to show on what foundation and base the Jews observe commands of men rather than commands of God right up to the present day, and have thereby overthrown God's commands through their rules, and fallen into disbelief and misunderstanding of God's word. The learned Rabbi Mosche mikkótzi wrote a book explaining the six hundred and thirteen commandments which among the Jews is called Sepher mitzvos gádol, the Great Book of the Commandments. He taught in 1236 A.D. in the Jewish academy in Toledo, Spain, where at that time lived about twelve thousand Jews, as he himself writes in connection with the one hundred and twefth commandment. In his preface he says as follows:
The written law, which God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai, is obscure and difficult. First of all, it makes contradictory statements which conflict with one another. Secondly, it is incomplete and does not contain everything in writing that must of necessity be known. On this account a correct interpretation is necessary from which can be ascertained the correct meaning of the written law, and on which one can lay down a sure foundation. The first point can be exemplified by many examples; for instance, we read in one place Exod. 12.15; Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. In another place Deut 16.8: Six days you shall eat unleavened bread. Another example Deut. 16.9: You shall count seven weeks. Now seven weeks are made up of only forty-nine days. In Leviticus 23.16: you shall count fifty days. Another example Deut. 16.2: You shall slaughter the pascal offering to the Lord your God, sheep and cattle. In another place it says Exod 12.5: You shall take a lamb without blemish, a male one year old. Another example Deut 15.19: All the male first born among your cattle and sheep you shall make holy to the Lord your God. In another place it says Lev. 27.26: The first born among the animals which are born only to the Lord, shall never be made holy to the Lord, whether it be an ox or a sheep. Another example Exod. 19.11: On the third day the Lord will come down to all the people on Mount Sinai. Yet elsewhere Exod. 20.22: You have seen that I spoke to you from heaven.And there are many more which cannot be understood or explained from the written law, according to him.
The second point can similarly be illustrated by many examples. Who can tell us all the signs of all the clean birds and animals? Which fats are permitted or forbidden? Where shall we find how high or low and in what shape the tabernacle Lev. 23.24 should be constructed? Should circumcision be performed alone, or should it be accompanied by Prioh (what this is will be explained in the second chapter about circumcision.) How does one write the mezúzahsome upside down, etc. Who shall tell us the correct interpretation of all these things? It follows indubitably that we need another interpretation of the written law, from which we may learn these things.So far we have followed the Rabbi.
This is the true means whereby the Devil first led away the Jews from the true word of God, and brought them to man's commands in the masterly fashion which is his wont. So securely did he attach them, that neither Isaiah nor Christ nor anyone else has been able to drag them away. Then where shall we find the true interpretation of the written law? Surely not in Wecker's De Secretis, nor in Clothes-line's – excuse me – Reuchlin's De Arte Cabalistica much less in Marcolfus. We shall find it in the holy Talmud.
From where then did the Talmud come, that it is accorded such firm belief, as though the law of Moses could only be understood through it? The answer is, from Mosche Rabbenu; Moses, our teacher and prophet, brought it from Mount Sinai together with the written law. Do you suppose, you stupid goy, that Moses was tending geese for forty days and forty nights on Mount Sinai? Could not God have given him the inscribed tablets in one hour, and let him come away, so that in the meanwhile the children of Israel would not have worshipped the Golden Calf as though it were a god? There must be another reason why the geese go bare-foot. In reality, God put Moses in school, and first gave him the written law, and thereafter explained the whole thing to him, and revealed to him with the correct understanding, the reason, manner and measure, basis and intent of every command, and enjoined him to explain it orally to the children of Israel, as it is written Deut. 4.14: And the Lord commanded me at the same time to teach you commands and laws. These commands and laws were the proper interpretation of the written law, and are called Thorah schebbeal peh, the oral law. Moses then taught it to Joshua; Joshua to the seventy-two elders; from them it came to the last prophets, Zechariah and Malachi; from them the Ansche kenses haggedólah, the Great Sanhedrin or Council, received it. In this way each one taught it orally to the other, and properly explained it, having first heard it from his grandmother or grandfather.
How could Moses have known when it was day or night? This is an important and difficult question which Rabbi Bechai on Exodus 34 answers thus. When he learned the written law, it was day. When he received from God the oral law, it was night. Well answered indeed! He could not have written in the dark, and he would not have found any lights or candles on the mountain that he might have bought!
Why did God want this explanation to be only oral? Rabbi Mosche Mikkotzi replies: So that the Gojim and other peoples could not write it down and pervert it, as they did the written law. And on that day when Jews and heathens will stand before Him, God will ask: Which of you are the children of Israel? They will then bring the Sepher Thorah, the written law of Moses with them. Then the Umos and peoples of the world will also bring the written law. Then the Jews will say: We are God's children. And the other peoples will say: We are God's children. Then God will ask: Who has the Simanim [signs] and oral explanation of the Law which was given on Sinai? Then the only ones who know them will be the children of Israel. As soon as visions and prophecy ceased among Israel, God urged and commanded the Chachamim and wisest among the people, who were the prophets' disciples, to establish proper arrangements among the Israelites, so that they might learn the Law properly, and so that it might flourish among them and their successors up to the present day. These people then instituted that the highly extolled name of God should be "bensched" or blessed each morning and evening when the sun rises and sets. They also established the Eighteen Benedictions or prayers of praise, in which, every evening and morning we praise God, and ask from Him all our needs, as well as grace, knowledge and understanding. We beg Him with all our heart to heal our deficiencies and failings, to gather again our dispersion, to punish the godless, to break their horn and strength (by this they mean the Christians), to raise the horn of the pious and righteous (namely the Jews), to rebuild Jerusalem, and to make green again the kingdom of the house of David. They also ordained that we should pray over food and board; that we should bring in the New Moon with a prayer; that we should pray over the rainbow and thunder. They also commanded that in all cities good schools and teachers should be introduced, in which the children should be taught and educated in the law of Moses. Moreover, the law should be read publicly every week in the synagogues, so that it should not be forgotten among Israel. They also forbade us to eat and drink with the Gojim and other nations (by this they mean especially the Christians) and ordered us to avoid all their foods, as it is written in the prophet Daniel 1.8: But Daniel set it in his heart that he would not defile himself with the food of the king and the wine which the king drank. At that time when the city of Jerusalem was taken, the Temple destroyed and the Jews driven away, and nobody could foresee the end of the captivity and misery, God gave grace and favor in the eyes of the Emperor Antoninus to Rabbi Juda Hannasi, who was called Rabbénu Hakkódosch on account of his humility, piety and holiness. The latter became very dear to the Emperor and intimate with him, with the result that he gave him the royal permission to gather together all the most learned Jews from all places, and to deliberate what to do, so that the Law might not be utterly destroyed, but might rather be observed among the people. All this was in view of the fact tht the misery of the Jews was increasing more and more and that their wise and learned men had been killed or exiled. Although there was among them an oral kabbala and law that the thorah schæbbeal peh, the oral law, should not be written down, in view of the great misery and universal dispersion for the Jews the decision was taken, and he wrote down everything which they remembered of the oral law, from before and after the time of Christ up to his own time. This book is called the Mischna (repeated or second law, repetition). It comprises six Sedarim or divisions, which are divided into sixty Massichtos, sub-divisions or tractates. Up to this point Rabbi Mikkotzi takes us. In the Mischna are the teachings, traditions and interpretations of their fathers which were observed thereafter, all set down in short laws or definitive statements. These are the "theses" or "aphorisms" against which Christ, the Evangelists, and the Apostles preached. We may probably conclude that Isaiah was preaching against the same thing when he called their teaching "the commandment of men" Is. 29.13 This book was completed, ratified and accepted by the entire Jewish synagogue, to be adopted then and thereafter forever – as in fact they observe it up to the present. This took place in the year 219 A.D., as is shown in detail in the Hebrew chronicle called Tzemach David. Some years later there came a certain Rabbi Jochanan who was Rosch hajeschibha, rector of the academy, in Jerusalem for eighty years. He enlarged the aforementioned Mischnajos into a work called the Jerusalem Talmud. It is obscure and unclear, harsh and difficult to understand. For this reason it is little used, and not held in so high esteem as the Mischnajos, and up to the present day is not much read.
Meanwhile, however, the Mischnajos, although written in an easy laschon [language] and in good understandable Hebrew, as I indicated, were found to be written in too brief a style to be understood by all. Later on Rabh Asse, also rector in the Academy, began to interpret the Mischnajos in the Academy, covering two tractates each year. So in the sixty years of his rectorship he covered the entire Mischnajos twice. However, he only completed thirty-five tractates in writing, as the Rambam writes in his introduction to the Talmudic tractate Zeraim ["seeds" -- deals mostly with agricultural law.] His rectorship began in 367 A.D. After him, namely in 427 A.D. Maremar became rector. With the assistance of Mar, he completed what Rabh Asse had left undone, so that all the Mischnajos were fully interpreted. That which resulted is called Gemara "complement", and the Mischnajos and Gemara together constitute the Talmud. These two labored over their work seventy-three years, so that the correct and complete Talmud was finished, made ready, sealed, accepted and declared authentic in 500 A.D. It is called the Babylonian Talmud, and according to it the Jews conduct themselves right up to the present day in all their spiritual as well as temporal affairs.
This is the lovely jewel, the precious treasure, which was deposited for the Jews alone, and entrusted to them orally. Here come to light the secrets of the Law which have been buried behind the Jews for two thousand years. This is the correct interpretation and Perusch [explanation] (or rather, peres, as it is written in Malachi 2.3. Peres al penehem "filth on your nose") From it we can derive that all moot and dubious matters of the written law can be properly dissected and analyzed. This is the Thorah schebbeal peh, the oral law, on which one should rely as much as, if not more than, the written law. For the written law of Moses cannot be understood or explained without this oral law.
Since these matters are not generally known, particularly among Christians, I want to write more about them, at any rate to the extent that I have been able to read and learn about them in Jewish books.
Aben Ezra writes as follows in the introduction to his commentary on the five books of Moses: Zeh lánu haós schæssamach Moscheh al thorah schæbeal peh, &c . "This is a sure sign for us that Moses bases himself onthe oral law, namely the Talmud, which is a joy of the heart and invigoration of the bones. For there is no difference between these two laws, both of which were given to us by our fathers." And elsewhere he goes on to write:
We cannot make a perfect interpretation of the way and manner of performance of the commandments of the written law, if we do not base it on what our Chachamim and rabbis have said and written. For just as the written law was given to us by our fathers, so have we got from them the oral law, and there is no difference between the two of them.
From this it may be seen that the Jewish faith is not based on Moses, but on the interpretations of the rabbis, according to which alone can Moses be understood. This then is the proper basis, as we read in the book Ammúde golah, which is generally called for short Semak or Sepher mitzvos katon. This book was printed in Cremona, Italy, in the year 316 according to the Jewish calendar lesser reckoning, [i.e. omitting the thousands] corresponding to 1556 A.D. He writes: Al tachschobh ki ikkar hattorah bichthabh, ki adrabbah ikkarah osah schæbbeal peh, &c "You should not think that the written law is the basis. Much more is the oral law (namely the Talmud) the proper basis, and God made the covenant with Israel on the oral law, as it is written Ki al pi &c. Exod. 34.27 "For according to the tenor of these words I made a covenant with you and Israel." And these words are God's treasure; for God knew well that in the future Israel would be driven out into misery, and that the peoples among whom they would be dispersed could copy and translate their books, as they did to the written law. So God did not want the oral law to be set down in writing. And although later on it was put in writing, it was not translated by the Gojim, Christians, and other peoples, because it is harsh and difficult, and requires a commentary and a high degree of intelligence, as it is written Hos. 8.12: I write for them the wonderful great sayings of my law; yet it is regarded by them as a strange thing. So far from the aforementioned book. Now if the author of this book, Rabbi Isaac son of Rabbi Joseph of Corbeil, had properly opened the eyes of understanding, he would have seen that the statement quoted referred to the written law, not the oral law, and it was disdained to such a degree by the Israelites themselves and not by the Gojim. Moreover, it was regarded as a strange, unknown thing as in fact happened in the time of King Josiah. For the book of the written law, which had come from Moses, was lost for a long time, and was regarded as a strange new thing, as may be read in II Kings 23.1-3. Also, the just quoted statement of Moses Al pi haddbhárim haelleh means in good Jewish style: According to the mouth of these words, that is to say, according to the words which you have heard and received orally. And it must be understood that God made a covenant with Israel not on the basis of the written law of Moses, but on the oral explanation of the written law which is included in the Talmud. Hence we read in the book Tanchuma [a Midrash] in the Parscha or section Elle Toledos Noach, which begins in the sixth chapter, verse nine of the first book of Moses:
Our Chachamim and wise men say: God did not write in His law: I made a covenant with Israel lemaan haddebharim heaelleh, [for the sake of these words] nor baabur [because of] nor biglal[on account of] – but on the mouth of, [the Hebrew idiom for "according to"] that is, the oral words of the Talmud, which is harsh and difficult to learn, and is compared to darkness, as it is written:Is. 9.1 – 9.2 in English bibles The people which wandered in darkness will see a great light. This means that the Baale hattalmud, those who diligently study the Talmud, see a great light. For God enlightens their eyes, and allows them to see how they may observe the permitted and the forbidden, the clean and the unclean, all of which things are not explained clearly and in detail in the written law.And soon thereafter we read further:
On account of this covenant based on the Oral Law, the Olam, the whole world, stands. For God created day and night only in order that the Israelites might learn in them the Thorah schaebeal peh, the Talmud. And if they should no longer learn it, then day and night would have no reason for existence. Whence we read in the prophet Jeremiah 33.25: If my covenant is not kept day and night, I would not have given any law to heaven and earth.Thus must it be translated and understood in good Jewish style.
Now what kind of covenant must be observed day and night? Su Talmud, this is the Talmud. Concerning this Jeremiah also says just previously 33.20: Thus says the Lord: If you will disturb my covenant with day and night (that is to say, if you will not learn and observe the Talmud), so also my covenant with my servant David will be disturbed. Also, the prophet David says Ps. 1.2; In the law of God [i.e. the written law] he has his delight, and in his law (that is, the Talmud) he strives and learns day and night. What is more, God has also made a covenant with Israel that the Torah schaebeal peh, the oral law or Talmud, shall never be forgotten from their mouth, nor from the mouth of their seed after them, as it is written Is. 59.21: I will make this covenant with them, and the words which I have put in your mouth, shall never cease to be in your mouth nor the mouths of your children from now until eternity. It does not say "from you" but "from (or out of) your mouth." From this it may readily be seen that the reference is to the oral law which God has set up, and he established day and night as though they were two high schools or universities, in which to learn the oral law.
So far from the Tanchuma. Further, we read in Rabbi Bechai's Medraschim or sermons (which book he entitled Cad hakkemach, "the barrel of meal" from I Kings 17.14): Veschischah sedárim elu – these six sections, namely the Talmud, are the oral law; and the proper basis of the written law is the oral law, since without it nothing can be explained or understood. Hence we read in the Talmud, Tractate Báva meziah: Haosekin bemikra, midda veenah middah, that is, to study and learn the Bible is a virtue and not a virtue (that is, a small virtue which is not to be highly regarded); to learn Mischnah (the text of the Talmud, as explained above) is a praiseworthy virtue; to learn the Gemara (the complement of the Talmudic text) – en lecha middah gedolah mizzo – this is the greatest virtue that can be found. On this account the Rabbis and learned men among the Jews were always more familiar with the Talmud than with the Bible.
So it has been adequately proved and demonstrated that the Jewish faith is not based on the stern preacher of the law, Moses, but on the heart-warming, bone-refreshing dismal Talmud. Hence we need not any longer be surprised that the Jews have fallen into such dreadful blindness and unbelief, since they have departed from the way of the truth of God's word, and wantonly followed the path of lies which their fathers have constructed. Now since the Devil, who is, as we know, the father of all lies, played dice with the Jews for God's word, and luckily won the first throw, he went on playing, and conferred upon them this wonderful and glorious outcome: since the Talmud is the true basis and right guideline according to which the written law must be measured, planed, cut up, adjusted and dissected, so must all the rabbinical teaching about God's word be adjusted along this line. Since the Talmud is true and cannot go amiss, we must similarly deem true all that the Rabbis have written, said and taught according to the guideline of the Talmud. It seems from their conceited statements that this outcome pleased the learned rabbis very much, since it conferred upon them the highest praise; nor were they in any hurry to let it go, even though it should make God and all his prophets appear to be liars.
Rabbi Isaac Abhuabh, who died in Portugal in 1493 A.D., writes this in his book Menóras hammáor:
Col mah schæameru Rabbosenu bemedraschos – that is, we are duty bound to believe all that our Rabbis taught and said in their sermons and mystical and allegorical explanations, just as firmly as we believe in the Law of Moses. Whenever we find something there which seems very exaggerated, or contrary to nature, or too high for our understanding, we should impute the fault to our limited and defective intelligence, and not to their words.He says further:
Aphalpi schæmatzinu schæameru – that is, although we find that they fly very high in their statements, and present us with unclear and incredible things, if you consider their words carefully you will find in them pure truth. For example (as we also find in the Talmud) a rabbi once preached; The time will come when a female will give birth daily, as it is written: She conceived and gave birth immediately. "Immediately" implies that she can give birth daily.
Someone heard this and failed to understand it, so he laughed at the Rabbi and made fun of him. The Rabbi said that he was not speaking of a woman in the usual way, but of a hen which could lay an egg every day. Further on in the same place [in the Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 30b] we read: Col dibhrehem dibhre Elohim chajim – that is, all their statements and words are the words of the living God, and no word of theirs falls in vain to the ground. Hence we are also duty-bound to believe everything that was written by them or in their name, for it is the truth. We must never laugh at them openly or even in the heart, and the one who does so will be punished. Therefore, everyone should be warned not to speak against their person or words, but should learn from their writings and statements as much as he can grasp with his ability and the power of his intelligence. In the same sense we read in the Judeo-German book called Brandspiegel [quoted supra] which was printed in Crakow, Poland in 1597 A.D. at the end of the forty-eighth chapter that the Jews should say "Amen" not only after all Tphillos and Tchinnos, or prayers, but also after all Aggádos and Medraschim [homiletic readings]. Of the latter there are many; they are allegorical homilies or commentaries on the word of God, in which are buried deep Sodos and mysteries or secrets, and with these the plain simple meaning of Scripture is sharpened. By saying "Amen" to them we show and indicate that we believe everything that the Chachamim said, in accordance with the Pasuk in the prophet Isaiah 26.2: Open the gates; a people enters schomer emunim, who observe righteousness or trustworthiness – that is, who say "Amen" and believe all that the Chachamim and wise men have written. And even though an individual's Sechel, understanding, may be too weak to allow him to understand the Aggados, he should believe them nevertheless, since our Chachamim and teachers have said nothing to no purpose, and their words are absolute truth. Aggadah is a concealed and hidden statement in which important matters and great secrets are implied. By transposing the first letter, in good Kabalistic style, we get the word Deagah, which means sorrow and pain. The implication is that one must go to much pain before arriving at the correct meaning of the Aggadah. In connection with this it is often repeated in the Talmud that one should never criticize when two rabbis oppose one another, for each has his teaching Mikkabbalath Mosche missinai, through the Kabalah [here=tradition, not necessarily mystical] and oral tradition of Moses from Mount Sinai, even through their interpretations are at variance with one another, and one says: 'It is thus' and the other says: 'It is so'. And although they cannot understand each other, they must not scold, for each rabbi knows well about what he is speaking, ki elu veelu dibhre elohim chajim – for these words and those are the words of the living God. There is also a general rule in the rabbinic writings: Hizzaher middibhre sopherim joser middibhre thorah, that is, beware much more of what the scribes and wise rabbis have ordained, commanded, taught and written, and you should believe in it and observe it more than what is written in Moses and the prophets.
Luther writes in his book which he wrote about the Jewish Schem hamphorasch concerning the authority and trustworthiness of the Rabbis and their writings:
The Jews say that they must believe their rabbis, even if they say that the right hand is the left, and the left hand is the right, as Purchetus writes. The same thing was done to me by three Jews, who were once with me, when I tried to make them stick to the text of God's word. They said they had to believe their rabbis, and would not admit to the meaning of any text. On account of this, I put all the more faith in Purchetus in this matter through personal experience.
Luther did the right thing in trusting Purchetus in this matter, since he had tested them first. In order to establish the truth, I will set down what I have found out about this in Jewish books. Raschi or R. Solomon Jarchi [referred to supra as Iarchi] writes concerning the seventeenth chapter verse eleven of the fifth book of Moses: According to the law which they teach you, and according to the rule which they say to you, shall you hold; so that you do not deviate from it to right or to left. Aphilu omer lecha al jamin schaehu semol – even if he says to you of the right hand that it is the left, or of the left that it is the right – and how much more if he says of the right hand that it is the right and of the left hand that it is the left!
Similarly we read in Rabbi Bechai concerning the aforementioned saying. He quotes also the Ramban or Rabbi Mosche ben Nachman who also writes much about the necessity of this injunction. There was once a Goy or heathen who came to the noble and wise master Schammai and asked him: How many Thoros or laws do you Jews have? Schammai answered: We have just two Thoros. One was written down for us, the other was given to us orally. Then the Goy said: I believe you concerning the written law and everything that is written in it. But I do not believe you about the oral law. So now teach me, and be megaijer me, that is, make me a Jew, so that you can also teach me the oral law. Schammai pushed him away angrily, and ordered him to go away. Then the Goy went to Schammai's colleague, old Hillel. Both of them were rectors of the synagogue, and lived not long before the birth and advent of Christ. He asked him the same question as he had asked Schammai, and asked him to make him Jewish. Then Hillel made him a Jew, and took him on as a student, and instructed him in the Jewish faith. One day Hillel said to the Goy: Say Aleph, Bes, Gimel, Dales [the initial letters of the Hebrew alphabet.] Then the Goy repeated to Hillel what he had taught him. On the second day he continued with him, but he turned the alphabet around and said to the Goy: Say Dales, Gimel, Bes, Aleph. The Goy answered: Dear Rabbi, you did not teach it to me like that yesterday. Then Hillel said: It seems you rely on my teaching, and say what I said previously; in the same way you must rely on the oral Thorah and believe all that is taught in it. This story is found in the Talmud, in the tractate about the Sabbath 31a. From it we see that everyone had to believe simply in the oral law, without considering or contradicting; similarly in what the Rabbis write and teach in accordance with it. The one who does so is a good pious Jew; the one who does not will be severely punished in hell. As we read in the Talmud in the tractate on the bill of divorcement, the Jewish verdict is as follows: Mar amar: Col hammalhig al dibhre chachamin, nadon bezoah roseches – that is, whoever makes fun of or mocks what our Chachamim and learned rabbis have said will be punished and tormented in hot or boiling Zoah, [lit. excrement] namely in hell. They write blasphemously that Christ our Savior will be punished thus in hell, because he did not follow the traditions, laws, teachings and ordinances of their fathers, but overthrew and despised them. This punishment is repeated in another Talmudical tractate [`Erubin 21b] and explained in detail in the book Menoras Hammaor. It is also set down explicitly in the book Bes Jaacob, but it was quite properly omitted from the Talmud printed at Basel, along with many more things directed against Christ and the Christian religion. Here belongs also the general rabbinical rule: Col Haobher al dibhre chachamim, chaijab misa – that is, whoever transgresses what our wise men have said is liable to death, as it is written:Eccl. 10.8 The one who destroys a fence, a serpent will bite. The reference is to the fence which the rabbis have made around the law, namely their ordinances and enactments. On account of this punishment the Rabbis gave the warning to which reference has already been made: Beni, hizzaher bedibhre sopherim joser middibhre thorah, that is, my child, be careful to pay more attention to the statements of the scribes than to the statements of the law.
So far I wanted in brief to state and explain the articles of the Jewish faith as an introduction to their teachings, and so that they may be better understood. I also wanted to show how the Jews have fallen away from God's word, and have got caught in the maze and labyrinth of all lies, the Talmud, and have been terribly misled thereby. There is no pure teaching to be found among them that might tend to their salvation; there is only mere error, the perversion and falsification of God's teaching, hypocrisy, unbelief, outward practice and window-dressing, fear and need of knowledge, despair and despondency of heart, and a great, gross misunderstanding of godly matters which is worse than bestial. So I will conclude this chapter with what Isaiah and Jeremiah said about the dreadful state of the Jews.
Isaiah 20.13: Because they honor me according to the commandments of men which they teach, I will act marvelously with this people in a most marvelous and remarkable manner, so that the wisdom of their wise men will perish and the understanding of their clever men will be blinded.
Jeremiah 8.5: Why does the people go utterly astray in Jerusalem? They cling obstinately to the false worship of God and will not permit themselves to return. I see and hear that they do not teach aright.
How can they say: We know what is right, and have the Lord's scripture before us? What the scribes claim is an utter lie. Therefore such teachers should come to disgrace, fear and imprisonment. For what good can they teach when they reject the word of the Lord? We have the Holy Scripture before us – it is pure lies what the learned man of scripture inserted. Therefore teachers like that should be disgraced, affrighted and imprisoned. What good can they teach when they reject God's word?