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Rizpah: a Poetical Paraphrase.
[From the United States' Literary Gazette.]
"And he delivered them into the hands of the Gibeonites, and they hanged them in the hill before the Lord; and they fell all seven together, and were put to death in the days of harvest, in the first days, in the beginning of barley harvest. And Rizpah, the daughter of Aiah, took sackcloth, and spread it for her upon the rock, from the beginning of harvest until the water dropped upon them out of heaven, and suffered neither the birds of the air to rest on them by day, nor the beasts of the field by night." 2 Sam. xxi. 9, 10.
HEAR what the desolate Rizpah said,
As on Gibeah's rocks she watched the dead.
The sons of Michel before her lay,
And her own fair children, dearer than they;
I have made the crags my home, and spread
Ye were foully murdered, my hapless sons,
But I hoped that the cottage roof would be A safe retreat for my sons and me;
And that while they ripened to manhood fast,
As they stood in their beauty and strength by my side,
Oh, what an hour for a mother's heart,
The barley harvest was nodding white,
THIS is the title of a pleasing little volume just published by Hyman Hurwitz, a learned Jew. The tales have been selected from the writings of the ancient Hebrews, who flourished in the five first centuries after the destruction of Jerusalem, and are known to the learned by the names of the Talmud, &c. There is an Essay prefixed "on the uninspired Literature of the Hebrews." We can recommend the volume to our readers, especially the younger part of them. The following extracts will shew the nature of the work:
The Value of a Good Wife.
He that hath found a virtuous wife, hath a greater treasure than costly pearls.
Such a treasure had the celebrated teacher Rabbi Meir found. He sat during the whole of one Sabbath-day in the public school and instructed the people. During his absence from his house his two sons, both of them of u uncommon beauty and enlightened in the law, died. His wife bore them to her bed-chamber, laid them upon the marriage-bed, and spread a white covering over their bo dies. Towards evening Rabbi Meir came home. "Where are my beloved sons," he asked, "that I may give them my blessing?" "They are gone to the school," was the answer. "I repeatedly looked round the school," he replied, "and I did not see them there." She reached him a goblet; he praised the Lord at the going out of the Sabbath, drank, and again asked, "Where are my sons, that they may drink of the cup of blessing?" "They will not be far off," she said, and placed food before him, that he might eat. He was in a gladsome and genial mood, and when he had said grace after the meal, she thus addressed him :-" Rabbi, with thy permission I would fain propose to thee one question." "Ask it, then, my love!" he replied. "A few days ago a person entrusted some jewels to my custody, and now he demands them again: should I give them back again?" "This is a question," said Rabbi Meir, "which my wife should not have thought it necessary to ask. What! wouldest thou hesitate or be reluctant to restore to every one his own?" "No," she replied,
but yet I thought it best not to restore them without acquainting thee therewith." She then led him to their
chamber, and, stepping to the bed, took the white covering from their bodies. "Ah, my sons! my sons!" thus loudly lamented the father: "My sons! the light of mine eyes, and the light of my understanding; I was your father, but ye were my teachers in the law!" The mother turned away and wept bitterly. At length she took her husband by the hand and said, "Rabbi, didst thou not teach me that we must not be reluctant to restore that which was entrusted to our keeping? See, the Lord gave, the Lord has taken away, and blessed be the name of the Lord!" "Blessed be the name of the Lord!" echoed Rabbi Meir, "and blessed be his name for thy sake too! for well is it written, 'He that has found a virtuous woman has a greater, treasure than costly pearls. She openeth her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the instruction of kindness.'
Conversation of a Philosopher with a Rabbi.
"Your God in his Book calls himself a jealous God, who can endure no other God beside himself, and on all occasions makes manifest his abhorrence of idolatry. How comes it then that he threatens and seems to hate the worshipers of false gods more than the false gods themselves?" "A certain king," replied the Rabbi, “had a disobedient son. Among other worthless tricks of various kinds, he had the baseness to give to his dogs his father's name and titles. Should the king shew his anger on the prince or the dogs?" "Well turned," replied the Philosopher: "but if your God destroyed the objects of idolatry, he would take away the temptation to it." "Yea," retorted the Rabbi, "if the fools worshiped such things only as were of no further use than that to which their folly applied them,-if the idols were always as worthless as the idolatry is contemptible. But they worship the sun, the moon, the host of heaven, the rivers, the sea, fire, air, and what not. Would you that the Creator, for the sake of these fools, should ruin his own works, and disturb the laws appointed to nature by his own wisdom? If a man steals grain and sows it, should the seed not shoot up out of the earth because it was stolen? O, no! the wise Creator lets nature run her own course; for her course is his own appointment. And what if the children of folly abuse it to evil? The day of reckoning is not far off, and men will then learn that human actions likewise re-appear
in their consequences by as certain a law as the green blade rises up out of the buried corn-seed."
Mercy in Judgment.-A Parable of Rabbi Jo-cho-nan. Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth.-PROV. xxiv.
RABBI JOCHONAN relates, that whilst the Egyptians were drowning in the Red Sea, the angels wished to chaunt the song of praise; but God rebuked them, saying, "What! the works of my hand are perishing, and ye wish to sing!"
This fully agrees with the character of God, as given in various parts of scripture; where he is represented as the God of mercy, who wishes not the destruction of the wicked, but their repentance. When, therefore, the wickedness of men calls down just punishment upon their guilty heads, it ought to serve as a warning, but not as matter of joy.
To insult Poverty or natural Defect, no venial Crime. Whosoever mocketh the poor, reproacheth his Maker.-PROV. xvii. 4. Despise not the poor; thou knowest not how soon it may be thine own lot.
Despise not the deformed; their defects are not of their own seeking, and why shouldest thou add insult to misfortune?
Despise no creature; the most insignificant is the work of thy Maker.
RABBI ELIEZER returning from his master's residence to his native place, was highly elated with the great knowledge he had acquired. On his way he overtook a singu larly unshapely and misfeatured person, who was travelling to the same town. The stranger saluted him by saying"Peace be upon thee, Rabbi." Eliezer, proud of his learning, instead of returning the civility, noticed only the Traveller's deformity; and by way of joke, said to him,"Racca,* are the inhabitants of thy town all as misshapen as thou art?" The stranger, astonished at Eliezer's want of manners, and provoked by the insult, replied, "I do not know but thou hadst better make these inquiries of the great Artist that made me." The Rabbi perceived his error, and alighting from the animal on which he rode,
A term of reproach.