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There are two kinds of it naturally pointed out by the diversity of its objects. The mercava, or the Chariot, is an inquiry into the divine essence and perfection; and is so called because the Cabalists assert that Ezekiel explained its chief mysteries under the type of the miraculous chariot, described in the first chapter of his prophecies; all which may be true for aught we or any body can affirm. The bereschit, or the beginning, is concerned in the more ignoble study of the world, its mechanism and accidents. Bereschit is the first word of the book of Genesis, and seems therefore appropriately chosen to designate the science of the creation. This division was familiar to Maimonides, who makes a great show, as if intending to explain the secret; and perhaps, all that is explicable he has explained, although we cannot extract much from his account. This, however, seems certain; that the bereschit should only be promulgated in the presence of two persons. Subjects so venerable, from a profound and sacred unintelligibility, should not be too openly discussed, or mentioned before profane listeners. If Plato, says the learned Rabbi, and other ancient philosophers have enveloped the secrets of nature in metaphysical expressions, thrice dubious and inexplicable should be the language in which spiritual mysteries are imparted to ears of flesh. Of the mercavu, or Ezekiel's chariot, not a word must be hesitated by the master even in the presence of his disciples; an admirable precept, when we reflect that the latter were as likely to penetrate into the arcana of the art without his assistance as with it.
A great Cabalist was once requested to explain the secret of the chariot. He inquired of the questioners what they knew of the creation of the universe. They told him at great length all they had to say on the subject; indeed at much greater than the minute portion of their knowledge warranted. When it came to the master's turn to expound the mercava, he refused to communicate a syllable on that sacred subject; and alleged in his defence, the words of the Song of Songs,-" Honey and milk are under my tongue.” The imprudent questioners were quite satisfied with this apposite answer, and made no further attempts to penetrate the mysterious mercava.
We read of sundry instances of the infliction of condign vengeance on the presumption of students who attempted to interpret Ezekiel. Some were slain by celestial fire, and others by celestial thunder; all in such manner as manifested the displeasure of Heaven. In consequence of repeated instances of presumptuous curiosity and awful chastisement, the doctors deliberated on the propriety of withdrawing the sacred book from the hands of the vulgar; a plan adopted by the Romish Church in later days, in order that the ignorant, by“ not meddling with matters
that are too high for them,” may neither interpret the political and religious mercara of the papacy, nor incur the punishment of attempting it. In the presence of adepts it was lawful to explain these mysteries. A rabbi driving the ass of his master, the Rabbi Jochanan, the son of Sauai, asked his permission to discuss the subject of the mercava. The son of Sauai dismounted, and took his station beneath a tree on the wayside ; for it is particularly forbidden to expound the mysteries while sitting astride an ass. As soon as the disciple spoke, the fire of heaven descended, and the neigbouring trees and bushes became vocal with the hundredth psalm.-“ Make a joyful noise, all ye lands.” So sublime are the mysteries of the mercara, and so imbecile the Hebrew commentators !
No work has ever been written on the vision of the chariot. Maimonides gives the good reason, that they who reveal the secrets of thelaw-orrather of its depositories, the holy college-provoke the divine resentment; while they who conceal them are rewarded with heavenly favor.-In other words, the latter are visited with the predial tithes, and the former are sent into hopeless curacies. In spite of this, Maimonides himself promised an explanation. This, however, in the end, stands in need of as much elucidation as the chariot itself, and has of course divided his disciples into numerous sects and parties. The whirlwind issuing from the north, has by some been represented as typical of Nebuchadonosor, who took the holy city and destroyed the temple. According to the same interpreters, “ the likeness of the four living creatures,” were the four angels who presided each over a portion of the four-fold division of the globe. The monarchical principle in those times shot out into four divisions, and each claimed a guardian angel. The wheels were symbolical of the empires, whose beginning, progress, and decline were regulated by the presiding demon. 'The “wheel in the middle of a wheel" denoted the ruin of ancient kingdoms, by the advancement of new monarchies. Babylon was swallowed up Persia ; Persia in Greece; and the empire of Alexander was merged in eternal Rome. This is a literal interpretation, the mere outside shell of the mercava ; too obvious to satisfy the genius of an accomplished doctor, and too intelligible for the taste of a rabbi. According to these, the four creatures are so many forms of celestial intelligences. The one wheel was the primary matter, and the four were the four elements. Deeper and deeper still,” and they discover the essence, attributes and perfection of the Deity, the nature of angels, and the condition of the soul after death. Morus, an illustrious Cabalist, believed he had lifted the last veil, when he read the announcement of the Messiah in the first chapter of Ezekiel. That, however, bad been previously discerned by divines who laid no claim to
cabalistic prophecy; although their unaccountable sagacity would have given them a colourable pretension to its oracular gifts.
As a specimen of cabalistic subtlety, we subjoin a dissertation on the unutterable name of Jehovah, from an adept in the science. All the appellations of the Deity arise from that sacred word, as the branches of a tree from its trunk; itself being the hidden source of ineffable and endless wonders. Every letter of which it is composed, is charged with miraculous influence, which is distributed in various portions among the sacred Sephirots. The jod—the letter j, which corresponds with the Arabic Ya, and whose orthöepy is as puzzling to Hebrew scholars, as its cabalistic qualities are perplexing to Hebrew doctors—this jod is one of those things which the material eye hath never seen, nor the intellectual contemplated. To comprehend its nature and essence is impossible; to pry into them by the aid of meditation, impious. When a doctor is asked what it is, he replies Not; as if it were in fact nothing, being equally incomprehensible as non-entity. Of entity it enjoys no quality but a name. From one end of heaven to the other may the thoughts of man expatiate; they may dive into the ocean and pervade the earth ; but the light of the jod is inaccessible the primitive existence of the jod defies investigation; the thrice-sacred jod is destined for ever to be the choke-pear of human understanding. We must believe without examining its nature; and submitting our stubborn reason to the influence of faith, acquiesce in the mysteries of the jod. Jod is supreme; but the remaining letters which compose the unspeakable Jehovah, are of infinite importance and dignity.. They imply the unity of a creative Being, from which four mighty rivers take their rise—the sacred Schetinah, the quadruple majesty of God. So means Moses, when he says, that the river which watered Eden was divided into four lesser branches. The whole word Jehovah comprises the universe itself, material and spiritual. He, therefore, who pronounces it, puts into his own mouth, amongst other things, the earthly world, beasts, birds, and fishes, and “ all that it inherit.” Hence we cannot be too cautious in uttering this terrible tri-syllable-a precept inculcated in the third commandment, which many have mistaken as a prohibition to call God to witness on slight occasions, and for bad purposes; but which was really intended to prevent the deglutition of the universe by any impious wretch; who, having the all-containing word Jehovah between his teeth, might choose to swallow it in mere wantonness, and convert the world into a bonne bouche, as the giants did the hills of Thessaly.
There is another important secret connected with this astonishing word. Many people are ignorant that a man who
enunciates its sacred syllables, moves the heavens and the earth as his tongue wags, and confuses the order of the creation. Mortals are insensible to this effect; but the host of heaven observe it, and ask, in astonishment, of each other, the cause of the universal trepidation. They reply that it is the work of M. or N. an impious mortal, who amuses himself by uttering the sacred name, and jostling the angels.
Now it luckily happens that this name is the proper appellation of the Jews. Nothing, according to them, is so agreeable to the Deity as the title of Jehovah ; and the Hebrews, on account of that appellative, are especially favoured by heaven. For this reason they are honoured in every nation; for this reason their lips are thick, their eyes piercing, and their beards bushy; hence their success in trade; hence their prosperity on 'Change; hence Rothschild's loan to Louis, and hence the re-establishment of legitimacy and the Inquisition in Spain, which will burn every mother's son
of them who utters the name of his nation, and thus secure mankind from the ill effects of a universal shaking, from a dislocation of the poles, and a general jumble of the planets.
The reader will scarcely give us credit for being in earnest in the greater part of the preceding relation. We were never
If our account of these Rabbinical deliramenta be chargeable with inaccuracy, it is not on the score of exaggeration. We could add much more to prove it, if we thought it useful or entertaining. If the reader chance to think otherwise, he may consult the original works, while we say a few words of their authors.
These were, perhaps, more utterly childish and irrational than any other writers of any other time or nation. Their absurdities are destitute of the only merit of such performances the tendency to excite laughter. They are simply and continuously dull. With more than the extravagance of what must be called oriental philosophy, the rabbinical writings have none of its brilliant imagery and fanciful decoration. They are filled with ill-contrived allegories, spun out to an insufferable length, and subtleties wire-drawn from a monstrous metaphysic. We look in vain for the elegant fictions of the Greek, or the ingenious fables of the Arabian poets and mythologists. There is nothing like them but Swedenborg ; and the mis-shapen carease of his philosophy was animated with more devotion. No elegance of style or conception; no gráce or ingenuity: they are sterile as their native soil; or, when productive, like the plains of Judæa, teem only with miraculous harvests. Every subject, over which, amongst every other people, the genius of poetry has delighted to scatter its embellishments, they have disfigured with repulsive fictions. The passage of Styx, and
the boat of Charon, are at least picturesque and humorous ; the bridge of Al-Sirat, finer than the most extenuated thread of a famished spider, and stretched fearfully over the lake of Eblis, is, perhaps, sublime—at least as much so as such fables may be : the indestructible bone Luz, is silly, if not disgusting. Butler, the rival of Rabelais in curious and recondite learning, has told us that
66 The learned Rabbins of the Jews
Os sacrum justly style that part.” This is no fiction of the inimitable humourist; the passage is copied from a book to which few have access, and fewer read. “Ossiculum illud,” says Hoornbeeck, in his book, contra Judæos, lib. viii. cap. v. p. 556,-“ Ossiculum illud dicunt rore quodam cælesti molliendum et extendendum ad instar fermenti quod in totam se massam diffundit, vel quemadmodum granum aliquod tritici in cristam se exporrigit.” Adrian, says Manasses Ben-Israel--and adds, with much fervor, a wish that all his bones may be confounded for his scepticism-had some doubts about the indestructible Luz. The rabbi, Jehosuah, the son of Hanini, endeavoured to convince him by attempting to grind Luz in a mill, burn him in a furnace, dissolve bim in water, pound him on an anvil—but all to no purpose. Luz retained his shape, and Adrian his incredulity,
Seraphical doctors ! if such are the recondite mysteries to be read in the face of heaven, well might Postel exclaim, “I should pass for a liar, were I to say that I have read in heaven, in Hebrew characters, everything in nature :-God, however, and his Son are witness that I do not lie; although I must confess that I have only read implicitè !” Far be it from us to dispute
this grave assertion; but we will tell him we have read in his works, and no where more plainly than in the sentence just quoted; we have read it, too, * non implicitè et absconditè sed patentiùs et expeditiùs," that Ferdinand Mendez Pinto is a liar only of the second magnitude, compared with him.