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Catechism For Jewish Children

By Isaac Leeser.

Chapter II

The Mosaic Religion in Partiticular

1. What religion do you profess?

I believe in the Mosaic Religion, which was revealed by the Lord; and I esteem the same as the true, pure, and unmixed word of God.

2. Are you firmly convinced of the truth of this belief?

I am firmly and completely convinced of the truth thereof, for the following reason: because the Mosaic Religion is based upon that celebrated revelation which God imparted in the immediate presence of a whole people, amidst extraordinary signs and wonders.

3. What is the peculiar distinguishing feature of the Mosaic Religion?

It teaches that there is but one God, and that He is incorporeal and indivisible; that is to say, that there exists no other being who has power to create any thing, or to destroy the least of those things which God has made. That this God does not possess a material figure like all those things which we can perceive by our senses, which are called corporeal or bodily substances; and that lastly, He cannot by any means be divided into different parts, being always the same, and not liable to change.

4. Whence is the name "Mosaic Religion" derived?

From MOSES, the son of Amram, of the tribe of Levi, through whom God communicated his law to the people of Israel. So also teaches the Bible:

"Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, to whom I commanded on Horeb statutes and judgments for all Israel." Malachi 3:22.

5. Was not the Deity known and worshipped already before Moses?

Yes; for the patriarchs, and even before them, Enoch and Noah, acknowledged the Lord God, and worshipped Him.

"Enoch walked with God, and was no more here; for God had taken him away. Genesis v.24.

"Noah was a righteous, upright man in his generation: Noah walked with God." Ibid. vi.9.

6. Who were the Patriarchs?

The original fathers of the Israelitish people, now called the Jews: these were Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob or Israel.

"And He (God) spoke, I am the God of thy fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." Exodus 3:6.

7. Why is Abraham called the first Patriarch?

Because he was the first with whom God made a covenant on account of his piety and devotion to the service of the Lord.

8. In what consisted the covenant on the part of Abraham?

In the circumcision of all the males of his family; for this was to be the sign of the consecration to Divine service, which Abraham covenanted, that is, agreed, to perform in himself and his descendants during all succeeding ages.

"And my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant." Genesis xvii.13.

9. What was the covenant on the part of God?

That He would bestow his peculiar favour on Abraham and his descendants, as a reward of their obedience to his will. As we read:

"And I will establish my covenant between me and between thee, and thy descendants after thee, in all their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee and to thy descendants after thee." Ibid.7.

10. To whom was the observance of this covenant commanded?

Only the family of the patriarchs and those belonging to them were bound to its observance; but it was not required of any others.

11. Did God make himself known to the Patriarchs?

Yes; for He appeared to them at times in nightly dreams and indistinct visions, to make known unto them his will.

"After these events came the word of the Lord unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram, I am thy shield, thy reward is very great." Ibid. 15:1.

"And the Lord spoke to Israel in the dream of the night, and said, Jacob, Jacob! and he said, Here am I." Ibid. 46:2.

12. By what name did God make himself known to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?

He appeared to them as EL SHADDAY, the Almighty God, whose power is not limited by that of any existing being, and who is able to execute and do all that He desires.

"And the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, I am the God Shadday, walk before me and be perfect." Genesis 17:1.

"And God spoke with Moses, and said to him, I am the Everlasting One: I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, as God Shadday." Exodus 6:2,3.

13. In what manner did the Patriarchs worship the God Shadday?

They feared God, and believed truly in his word and promises; they built altars in honour of Him, and confided in his power.

"And he (Abraham) believed in the Lord, and He accounted to him as righteousness." Genesis 15:6.

"And Jacob erected a pillar of stone in the place where He had spoken with him; and he poured a drink-offering thereon, and he poured oil thereon. And Jacob called the place where God had spoken with him, BETH-EL (the house of God)." Ibid. 35:14,15.

14. Do you know the name of the country in which the Patriarchs lived?

It was called the country of Canaan, and is situated on the eastern side of the Mediterranean Sea. This country God promised to Abraham as the peculiar property of his children; and it is therefore called the Land of Promise, also Palestine, the Holy Land, or the Land of Israel.

"And I will give unto thee, and to thy descendants after thee, the land wherein thou sojournest, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God." Ibid. 17:8.

15. Can you recite any passages from Scripture wherein is mentioned the peculiar protection which God promised to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob?

To Abraham it was said:

"And I will make thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing; and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee; and in thee shall be blessed all the families of the earth." Ibid. 12:2,3.

To Isaac was promised:

"Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee; for unto thee and unto thy seed I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I have sworn unto Abraham thy father; and I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven; and I will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." Genesis 26:3,4.

And lastly, concerning Jacob we read:

"And behold the Lord stood above it and said, I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac; the land, whereon thou liest, I will give to thee and thy descendants; and thy descendants shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed." Ibid. 28:13,14.

16. Had Abraham and Isaac any children who were not included in the great nation that was to descend from Abraham?

Yes; for Abraham had Ishmael and other sons, and Isaac had Esau, who were not included in the great nation through whom all the world should be blessed; for this promise was given only to the whole family of Jacob.

17. Of how many persons did this family consist?

Of twelve sons, who were the parents of the twelve tribes, or families into which the people of Israel were formerly divided.

18. You just now said that the Patriarchs lived in the land of Canaan: did Jacob and his sons always continue to live there?

No; Joseph, one of these sons, had been sold by his brothers as a slave to some Ishmaelitish merchants who traded to Egypt, a country situated on the northeastern corner of Africa; where, by direction of God, he was at last made the chief officer of the king of Egypt; and when his father heard, after many years, that he was yet alive, he was induced to go there to see his son Joseph before he died.

19. Be good enough to give me some farther account of what took place in consequence?

When Jacob had arrived, the kind of Egypt, called Pharaoh, told Joseph to give his father and brothers as much land as they wanted in the country of Goshen, one of the divisions of Egypt; Joseph did so, and the family of Jacob settled there in peace and security. But when Jacob, Joseph, and all the people of that time, had died, and when the Egyptians found that the Israelites grew to be a numerous people, they began to be afraid of them, and resolved to injure them.

20. by what means did they try to do this?

As the Egyptians were the strongest in number, that is to say, that there were more Egyptians than Israelites, they compelled these to work for them as slaves, and they treated them with great cruelty.

"And the Egyptians made the children of Israel labour with rigour: and they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in mortar, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field." Exodus 1. 13,14.

21. Was hard labour the only consequence of the cruelty of the Egyptians?

By no means; the faith which the patriarchs professed was in a great measure forgotten during a slavery which lasted nearly two hundred years, and the Israelites by degrees learned the idolatry and false belief of the Egyptians.

22. By what means was the true faith again restored?

When the sufferings of the Israelites had become very great, God sent his servant, the prophet Moses, to ask of the king of Egypt to let Israel go free; and when this was refused, Moses wrought unheard-of wonders by Divine power, and at length delivered the Israelites, and led them out from the land of Egypt.

"And Israel saw the great work which the Lord had done upon the Egyptians: and the people feared the Lord, and believed in the Lord, and in Moses his servant." Exodus 16:31.

23. Was this all that Moses was the instrument of doing for the people of Israel?

It was but the first act of the mission which God sent him to perform.

24. Can you tell me the other purpose for which God used him?

He was chosen as the means to unite Israel in the second and permanent covenant with god.

"Face to face the Lord spoke with you on the mount, from the midst of the fire; I stood between the Lord and you at that time, to tell unto you the word of the Lord; for ye were afraid of the fire, and ye ascended not the mount." Deuteronomy v. 4,5.

25. In what consisted the second covenant?

The Israelites accepted for themselves and their latest descendants the laws of God's holy religion.

"The Lord our God made with us a covenant on Horeb. Not with our forefathers made the Lord this covenant, but with ourselves, who are here all alive this day." Ibid. 2,3.

26. In what manner was this covenant made?

God, the Lord, descended in his glory on Mount Sinai, also called Horeb, and announced to all the people of Israel, who were there assembled, his holy law; and all the people said: "We will do and obey."

"And the Lord descended upon Mount Sinai, on the top of the mount, and the Lord called Moses unto the top of the mount, and Moses went up." Exodus 19:20.

27. How is this covenant called in Scripture?

The covenant on Horeb, or the revelation and Divine legislation on Sinai. this revelation also we consider as the holiest and greatest of all revelations known to us.

28. Why do you call it the holiest?

First. Because God revealed himself, that is, He made himself known to the whole people, which never took place upon any other occasion; as we read:

"And all the people perceived the thunders and the flames, and the sound of the cornet, and the smoking mount." Genesis 20:15.

Secondly. The ten commandments made known on that day were afterwards written upon two tables of stone by the finger of God.

"And when He had finished speaking to Moses upon Mount Sinai, He gave him the two tables of the testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God." Exod. 31:18.

Thirdly. The tables of the testimony were kept as the most holy thing in the ark of the covenant.

"And he (Moses) took the testimony and placed it in the ark; placed the staves on the ark, and put the mercy-seat on the ark above the same." Ibid. xl. 20.

"There was nothing in the ark but the two tables of stone, which Moses had put there at Horeb, when the Lord made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they went out of the land of Egypt." 1 Kings. 8:9.

29. Where did the revelation of the other commandments take place?

Likewise at Sinai, in the first instance; but no more than the ten commandments were told to the whole people by God; but He told them to Moses, who had to tell them afterwards to the people of Israel.

"And the Lord said to Moses, Ascend unto me upon the mount and remain there, and I will give thee the tables of stone, the law and the commandment which I have written, to teach them. --And Moses went into the cloud and ascended the mount, and Moses stayed upon the mount forty days and forty nights." Exodus 24:12,18.

30. Can you state to me something of the subsequent history of the people, after the revelation on Sinai, which is closely connected with the revelation of the law?

After the Israelites had remained for nearly a whole year in the wilderness of Sinai, they travelled farther in the direction of the land of Canaan, in order to take possession of it, --the land which God had (as we said already) promised to Abraham, for an everlasting possession to his descendants. As they were now no longer near Horeb, the few remaining laws, not already made known to them, were told to Moses from the mercy-seat, as the cover of the ark of the testimony was called.

"And when Moses went into the tabernacle of the congregation to speak with Him, he heard the voice speaking unto him from off the mercy-seat that was upon the ark of the testimony, from between the two cherubim: and thus did He speak with him." Numbers 7:89.

31. Is there any difference in the holiness of the commandments first given to Abraham, and afterwards to Moses in Egypt, on Horeb, and from the mercy-seat, and the ten commandments, spoken before the whole people?

No; they are all alike the will of God, and therefore we are bound to obey the whole of them as the best source of our happiness.

"All the commandments which I command you this day you must observe to do, in order that you may live, and multiply, and go and possess the land, which the Lord swore unto your fathers." Deut. 8:1.

32. You said above that God revealed himself to the Patriarchs in nightly dreams and in indistinct visions: did He appear to Moses in a similar manner?

No; God spoke to Moses, as the Bible expresses it, face to face, as one man speaks to another; meaning, that Moses was awake, conscious of what took place, and heard with perfect distinctness the commandments aas they were spoken to him.

"And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet like you, I the Lord make myself known to him in a vision, speak with him in a dream; not so is my servant Moses, who is faithful in all my house. Mouth to mouth I speak with him, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and he beholdeth the similitude of the Lord." Numbers 12:6-8.

33. How is Moses, therefore, to be considered?

We must consider him as the greatest of prophets and lawgivers; and as the benefactor of all mankind no less than of our people in particular.

34. Why do you say that Moses was the greatest prophet?

Because the bible testifies concerning him:

"And there arose not a prophet in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face." Deut. 34:10.

35. How is this expression to be understood?

That Moses had more knowledge of the wisdom and goodness of God than any man who lived before him, or any one that will come after him; and that he was more than any other person the means of spreading a knowledge of the true and ever-living God, the sole Creator and incorporeal Ruler, among the people of Israel, from whom it will at last be carried to all the children of man.

36. Under what name did God announce himself to Moses?

He called himself the Everlasting and Unending One, He who was, who is, and who will be.

"And He spoke to Moses, I am He that every will be: and He said, Thus shalt thou say to the children of Israel, I WILL BE hath sent me to you." Exodus 3:14.

37. Why do you say that Moses was the greatest legislator?

Because the laws which he taught are founded upon the wisdom of God, and, being given by Him, they will stand for ever.

38. Why is he the benefactor of the whole human family?

Because Moses was the first, and the only one, who received the law of God from heaven, and taught mankind thereby how they can live in a manner pleasing to the Lord. All the later prophets and legislators, as also all teachers of morals and religion, followed but in the way he pointed out, since no new doctrine or any ptractible virtue has been made known to men after the death of Moses.

39. Why is he called the particular benefactor of our people?

Because the law was in the first instance taught to our forefathers, they being the children of the patriarchs, with whom, as we said, the Lord had made a covenant that He would be a God to them, and to their children after them. By its possession, also, we have at all times since the revelation on Sinai been blessed with a knowledge of Divine truths, and of the manner by which we could please our Heavenly Kind, even whilst all the rest of mankind were believers in false religions, and did those things which are hateful in the sight of God. Thus we also read:

"The law which Moses commanded us is an inheritance of the congregation of Jacob." Deut. 33: 4.

40. Can you tell me the chief articles of belief which the Mosaic Religion demands?

First. the belief in one only God, and in the superintending providence of this God.

Second. The belief in the religion revealed by God through the means of Moses and the other prophets, and in the permanence of this religion.

Third. The belief in a reward of the good and a punishment of the evil we have done after our death, even if in our present life we may escape the punishment or not receive the reward due to our actions.

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