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The Jewish outlook. (Denver, Colo.) 1903-1913, August 10, 1906, Image 3

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language for daily use, but which for it
were impediments, it begins its true life.
It was not destroyed, but it was liberated
by the Romans. It became a church in
practice, what it had long been in theory,
and in its deepest yearnings.
The recognition that Israel is a Church
is the only one valid condition for its life
among the nations. There is no reason
why it can not assimilate with what is
best in its environment. The Jew is at
home everywhere. The form of assimila
tion alone can he in dispute between re
formers and the neo-Orthodox.
* * ° If you ask the real orthodox,
pious Jew, who prays for the personal
Messiah, why he so prays and what is his
heart's real desire, he will answer that he
prays to bring about the time when he
can better serve God in the Holy Land
than in the sojourn of his exile. But as
long as the Messiah has not appeared
with his miraculous restoration of the an
cient cult, he is willing, provided he is
not molested, to remain in any land
where he is permitted to serve God ac
cording to his conscience. We reform
Jews may differ with him in the interpre
tation of Judaism; we may discard the
belief in the personal Messiah because of
its connection with a cluster of other be
liefs which can not thrive in our intel
lectual atmosphere. But Reform and Or
thodox Jews agree in emphasizing relig
ion. 'l'he Orthodox Jew as such has no
secular national aspirations. And it is
therefore no accident that many who
have joined the latest nationalistic move
ment known as Zionism, whose utilitar
ian aspects we are not here discussing,
have very little or no Jewish feeling. In
deed, a striking illustration, that this na
tionalistic. movement is foreign to the
abiding impulses of Jewish history, is
the fact that the two most prominent
leaders in Zionism, men of national rep
utation, have married Christian women
without their being converted, and thus
have shown their readiness to undermine
that spiritual unity of the home which
since Ezra and Nehemiah, has been ac
knowledged as the indispensable safe
guard for the perpetuation of the syna
gogue.
11. The rabbi is the expounder of Is
rael’s unique literature. If he is to lead
he must never forget his discipleship to
the masters and leaders of the past. lie
is the interpreter of the Bible and all suc
ceeding literature. The whole theory of
Jewish teaching and preaching roots in
this thought, lie must acknowledge that
the creative sources of Jewish genius lie
in the past. The originality of the pres
ent lies in the wisdom to use such past.
AVe are literally scribes as compared with
the wealth of our heritage. It may be
said complacently that we should take
our text from life, not from Bible or mid
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rash. But if this were clone in thor
ough-going fashion, the influence of the
religion of Israel would soon come to an
end. The Bible is for us the immortal ex
pression of Israel’s genius; it is an ever
lasting classic; its work can never be
clone again.
Never in the history of the synagogue
were creeds manufactured in council or
even in committee. An Abraham, a
Moses, an Isaiah, an Ezra, a Ilillel, an
Akiba, a Maimonides, a. Mendelssohn, be
came creative centres from which radiatu
new movements of Judaism. The indi
vidual dominates the moral authority
which the compelling character of his
thought, the superiority of his learning,
and the consecration of his life naturally
command. The creed of the Maimonides
gets itself accepted because it expresses
for the time, the satisfaction of a long
felt want. And if in our time there shall
arise a man who combines a. complete
mastery of modern thought with a com
plete mastery of Jewish literature, and
lie shall write a book and give a modern
expression of Judaism, it will win au
thority by its own inherent power and
will come to be universally accepted. The
individual is always the source of author
ity. In the Bible he is a revealer, in later
literature he is interpreter and applier.
In him does the spirit break forth from
time to time, which is the proof that the
covenant with Israel lias not departed
from his mouth. In fact, our time, with
its complete freedom, mirrors the ideal
constitution of the synagogue. The indi
vidual, it is true, must if lie be reverent
and modest, seek information from, and
be influenced by. tin* character and learn
ing of their individuals better prepared
than he to interpret the past and apply it
to modern life. In plain words, he must
love truth better than himself, lie must
be sure that his individualism is not a
freak, but a fresh inspiration.
111. If the freedom of the rabbi is to
be measured and corrected by the revela
tions and oracles of the past, it does not
mean that be is not to enjoy an absolutely
free pulpit. He must be scribe as to the
past: be dare not divest himself of the
mantle of Prophet when the living ques
tions of the present clamor for tile word
of untrammeled courage, lie is not
merely a teacher of what is right in
calm academic manner; he is the
preacher of Judaism vitalizing men’s
consciences, convicting them of sin, and
laying bare unsparingly the corruption
of the body politic. The question has re
cently been raised as to the relation of
the independence of the rabbi as a
preacher to the congregation or its board
of trustees as a possible critic and con
troller of his utterances. The particular
occasion on which this question was
raised does not concern us here, but the
principle involved touches the very dig
nity of the rabbi’s office and the vital
teachings of Judaism. The rabbi holds
liis position, it is true, not by an inherent
right or heirarchial authority,but by the
election of a congregation: any man may
be elected by a Jewish congregation as
its teacher, provided his learning, his
character and his Judaism satisfy it. His
office, however, is in no sense the creature
of the congregation, and his authority as
teacher of men is not dependent upon it.
As long as his tenure of office lasts he
holds the vote of confidence of the con
gregation in his piety, character and in
tellect. which makes him its moral and
sniritual leader. He does not stand to
the board of trustees in the relation in
which a. manager of a department stands
to a board of directors who represent
stockholders. His utterances can not be
reviewed and controlled bv an executive
board. He is the teacher of the board
(Continued on Page 7.)
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