THE AGED RABBI.
A Jewish Tale.
BY B. S. INGEMANN.
'Is thy day of persecution to return, lost, unhappy Israel?' exclaimed
the old rabbi, Philip Moses, sadly shaking his venerable grey head, as
one evening in the autumn of 1819 stones were thrown in through the
windows of the house in which he resided, whilst the rabble of Hamburg
shouted in the street in derision the first words of the Jew's lament
'Yes! ye are right,' he continued mournfully; 'Jerusalem is demolished
and laid waste. Ye could not stone us against Jehovah's will! But His
wrath is sore kindled against us. His patience was great, but His
people have forgotten Him in the midst of their banishment; they have
forsaken the Law and the Prophets amidst the dwellings of strangers;
they have mingled their blood with the blood of the unbeliever; and lo!
therefore God's people are thrust forth from the earth, and blotted out
from among the living.'
'Oh, grandfather, grandfather!' cried his weeping grandchildren,
clinging to him in their terror, 'protect us from the fearful
'If ye be still the children of Israel,' answered the old man calmly,
'fold your hands and bow your knees, turn your faces towards the
east--towards the ruins of God's holy city--and pray to Jehovah, the
God of your fathers! While thus engaged in prayer, what if these stones
crush your heads and dash out your brains? Praise Jacob's God with me,
and die in the name of the Lord God of Sabaoth! Then shall His cherubim
bear ye in peace to our father Abraham's bosom!'
'Is that the only comfort you can bestow, simple old man?' said his son
Samuel, the father of the children. He was the richest jeweller in
Hamburg, and now saw his valuable shop exposed to be ransacked and
plundered by the furious mob. 'Can you give us no better advice than to
pray? I know something better. We will all let ourselves be baptized
'Would you renounce the faith of your fathers on account of your
anxiety about your jewellery, my son?' said the old man, casting a
contemptuous glance on the wealthy, trembling Israelite, who, overcome
with fear, was rushing from keeping-place to keeping-place, gathering
together and packing up his most valuable articles.
'Truly it is indifferent to me whether they call me Jew or Christian,'
replied Samuel, 'so I can save my goods and my life. When the question
is, whether I shall be a rich man to-morrow or a beggar--whether I
shall walk the streets, and go to the Exchange in peace, or if I am to
be pelted in open day by the very children, and risk my health, my
limbs, my life itself--when my jewels, my furniture, my wife, my
children, and my windows are in question--I should be a great ass if I
hesitated to let a handful of cold water be thrown upon me. It is only
a stupid ceremony; but I daresay it is just as good as our own
crotchets. Now-a-days that is the best creed which gives security and
advantages in trade and commerce.'
'Miserable being!' cried old Philip Moses, drawing himself up to his
full length, 'accursed be the spirit that speaks by your mouth! It is
that pestilential spirit which has wrought evil among God's people, and
caused them to become a byword to the nations of the earth, and an
abomination to the Lord of Heaven! Accursed be those goods and that
life for which you would barter the faith of your forefathers, and mock
even the altar of the strangers, to which you would fly in your abject
cowardice! Accursed be the security and the advantages for which you
would betray Jehovah! Accursed be the trade and the commerce that have
enticed God's people to become the slaves of Mammon, and frantic
worshippers of the golden calf!'
'You talk wildly, old man!' replied Samuel. 'You do not know how to
accommodate yourself to the times. You are aged, and cling to old
notions; but the days of your prophets are gone by.'
'Their words shall stand to the last of days,' said the old man,
raising his head proudly; 'and be it my care to proclaim them among ye,
even if the earth should burn around me, and sink beneath my feet! Is
it not enough that we are a stricken and dispersed race, cast forth
into the wide world, and condemned to live despised in the land of the
stranger? Shall we add humiliation to humiliation, and despicably
constrain ourselves to laud and call those just who scorn us and
trample us in the dust?'
The jeweller's handsome saloon was full of fugitive Israelites, who
sought refuge and protection at the abode of the wealthy Samuel; whilst
the police and the watchmen pretended to be endeavouring to quiet and
disperse the mob outside.
The assembled Jews loudly deplored their misfortunes, and some of them
gazed with astonishment on the aged Philip Moses, who stood there
firmly and fearlessly, like a prophet among them, and poured forth
words of wisdom and instruction to his trembling fellow-believers.
Two or three of the old rabbis, with long beards and black silk
talars, or robes, alone listened attentively and with calm
seriousness to him, the most ancient of their community. But the young
beardless Israelites uttered cries of lamentation, bewailing the
conduct of the people of Hamburg, bewailing their broken windows, and
all the damage that would accrue to their trades or business in
consequence of this new persecution.
'Ah! if my mother had not been so over-faithful to my father,' said a
conceited young Jew, 'I might have gone with comfort to the theatre,
and seen that pretty Ma'amselle Wrede, without being recognized as a
Jew, and abused accordingly; and running the risk of getting my head
broken to boot.'
'Oh! that we had never been circumcised!' cried another; 'our lives are
actually not safe in the streets.'
'Would that we were all baptized!' groaned a third. 'Ay, with some
philter that would turn our dark hair to red, and remove the too
apparent marks with which Jehovah has signalized us and cast us out
among our foes.'
'Oh!--woe--woe!' shrieked the women and children--'whither shall we fly
in our great distress and misery? Ah! were it but morning, and this
dreadful night were past!'
'Leave off your lamentations, ye foolish and untoward ones!' cried
Philip Moses. 'The Lord has struck ye with imbecility, and with
blindness, and with corruption of heart. He has scattered ye abroad
among all the tribes of the earth, because of your perversity; he has
given thee a timorous heart, oh Israel! so that the sole of thy foot
cannot find rest, and thou feelest that thy life is in jeopardy, and
goest about groaning night and day; and in the morning thou sayest,
Would that it were evening! and in the evening, Would that it were
morning! because of the terror of thy heart, and the visions that are
before thine eyes. But hearken what the Lord declares unto you by the
mouth of His servants from the tabernacle in your foreign synagogue. If
your affliction and your humiliation be greater than your
transgressions, shake the dust from your feet, and go forth from the
place where ye are treated with ignominy and oppression. Leave the
iniquitous Mammon in the hands of the evildoers, and take only with you
that to which there cleaves no curse in the sight of Jehovah! Come! I
will lead ye from city to city, and from land to land, until we find
some spot on earth where Jehovah may veil our disgrace and grant us
freedom among the children of mankind, or else, like our fathers of
old, among the wild beasts of the wilderness!'
'What are you dreaming of, old man?' exclaimed his rich kinsmen, in
dissatisfied chorus. 'Should we leave our hard-won gains, and go forth
like beggars into the world, with old sacks on our shoulders? Where
shall we find a more commercial town than this? And in what part of the
world would we not be exposed to annoyances and persecutions? No path
leads back to the promised land, and were we to be guided by your
dreams, we should neither be able to feed our wives and our little
ones, nor to gather golden pieces and silver ducats.'
'If ye believed in Jehovah,' replied Philip Moses, 'ye would also
believe that there is a way to the promised land; but that thought is
too grand for your contracted souls. The flesh-pots of Egypt are dearer
to you than the manna from heaven in the wilderness; and if the Lord
God were to call up Moses among you, ye would stone him as your fathers
stoned the prophets.'
'What avails all this long discourse, poor, foolish old man?' said his
son, the rich jeweller, interrupting him. 'Sit down there in your
comfortable arm-chair, and amuse yourself with the children, Moses,
while the rest of us consult together what is best to be done. He is
going into his dotage,' added he, turning to the other Jews, 'and
sometimes he is not quite in his right senses, he has quarrelled with
all his family, and I keep him here, out of charity, in my house, as
you see; but for all that I have to put up with many hard words, and
much abuse from him.'
Then there commenced a mumbling in the room, and a buzzing sound as in
a bee-hive, everyone giving his opinion as to the best way of quieting
the people of Hamburg, and making up matters with them. Some proposed
that a deputation should be sent to the Senate to demand the protection
of the military for their houses.
'It would be of no use,' said others. 'These mean, abominable members
of the Hanseatic League are our worst enemies; these stupid, paltry,
petty dealers, who envy our cleverness in business, and covet our
profits--it is just they themselves who set the populace against us.'
'Then let us remove to Altona,' cried some. 'Those Danish blockheads
will at least have sense enough to be willing to receive us with all
our riches; and they will be glad to have an opportunity of causing a
loss to the impudent Hamburgers, in return for their "Schukelmeier"
'But when the worst part of the storm is over, we will repent having
gone,' argued others; 'for there is not so much business done, or so
much money to be made there, as here. It is better for us to put up
with rudeness and with temporary annoyances, than to run the risk of
seriously injuring our business, and lessening our gains.'
'If the worst happens, we can but let ourselves be baptized,' said
Samuel, 'and then we can no more be called Jews than the Hamburgers
'What good would that do?' exclaimed a shabby-looking Jew, with a long
beard. 'It is not on account of our religion that they persecute us; it
is only our wealth and the luxuries we can afford, that excite their
envious dislike. Our handsome houses are our misfortune, and our
splendid equipages; our beautiful villas on the Elbe and the Alster,
and all the braggadocio of our young fops. Go about like me, with a
matted beard and tattered garments. Live well in the privacy of your
own houses, but let not your abundance be seen by anyone. You will then
find that no one will envy you, or persecute you. Let the children in
the street point at us, and abuse us. Is it not for being what it
should be our pride to be called? If they even treated us as if we were
lepers, they could not prevent us from being God's chosen people. We
are blessed in our affairs, and in our wedlock; we multiply, and fill
all lands, and devour the marrow thereof; we are really the lords of
the people, though we do not blush to seem their slaves.'
This advice was rejected by the richer and more modern Israelites, who
had no inclination to array themselves in sackcloth and ashes, and to
relinquish the ostentatious display of that wealth which, in the midst
of so many humiliations, and with so many equivocal acts, and little
tricks in trade, they had amassed.
'No, no! I know a much better plan,' said one of the richest men
present, who had originally been a sort of pedlar, and sold tapes and
ribbons. 'We will take it by turns to give turtle-feasts; we will
invite all the young men, the sons of the merchants, to our tables; our
wives and our daughters must show all manner of kindness and
complaisance to them, and not keep them at such a cold distance as they
do now; let them lay aside their reserve, and try to please them. It is
better, far better, even to marry among the Christians, than to have
them as enemies, now-a-days.'
On hearing these words, old Philip Moses arose; he could no longer
endure to listen to his people humbling themselves, as he thought, so
basely. He tore his clothes, and anathematized the tongue that spoke
last. He then tried, with all the eloquence of which he was master, to
touch the hearts and rouse the spirits of those who were the best among
the assembly, by setting forth to them the misery and degradation which
their own selfishness and cupidity had brought upon them. He
characterized their present persecution as a just punishment from
Jehovah for their degeneracy, and their being so absorbed in the
pursuit of money. He condemned their indifference to the faith and the
customs of their forefathers; their neglect of the Sabbath, and of its
holy rites; their shaving off their beards, and their being ashamed to
be known to be what they were. He inveighed against their connection
with Christians, and more especially their marriages with them, by
which two of his own sons had disgraced him. And he denounced their
excessive keenness in the pursuit of gold, as likely to be ruinous to
them, as being certain to have an injurious effect on their settling
happily in any and every country in the world.
But this was too much for his fellow Jews to harken to in silence. They
all attacked him vehemently, calling him a crazy old traitor, who only
wished their destruction. Loudly, however, as swelled their chorus of
abuse, still more loudly arose the voice of the old man, as he, in the
words of the prophet Jeremiah, reproved them: 'O Israel! thine own
wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee.
I had planted thee a noble vine, wholly a right seed; how then art thou
turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto me? For though
thou wash thee with nitre, and take thee much soap, yet thine iniquity
is marked before me, saith the Lord God. Your sons have withholden good
things from me. For among my people are found wicked men; they lay wait
as he that setteth snares; they set a trap, they catch men. As a cage
is full of birds, so are their houses full of deceit, therefore they
are become great and waxen rich. They are waxen fat--they shine; yea,
they overpass the deeds of the wicked. They judge not the cause of the
fatherless, yet they prosper. Shall I not visit for these things? saith
the Lord. Shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this? Go ye
upon her walls and destroy; but make not a full end: take away her
battlements, for they are not the Lord's!'
Scarcely had he uttered these last words than a shower of stones,
hurled against the closed window-shutters, demolished them, and dashed
in, while this new attack was followed by shouts of triumph and
derisive laughter from the streets.
'Away with him--away with the old prophet!' cried several of the Jews.
'His imprecations are bringing fresh evil and persecution upon us.'
'This is not a time to be preaching all that old twaddle to us about
our sins,' said his son, the rich Samuel. 'I will not listen to another
word; and if you expect to remain longer in my house, you must keep
your tongue to yourself, I can tell you. It would be more to the
purpose if you went to your room, and shaved off that beard of yours,
that you might look like other men. We must howl with the wolves we are
among, and if the mob were to catch a glimpse of your long beard, which
is just like that of an old he-goat, and your masquerade garb, they
would pull the house down about our ears.'
'Oh, grandfather, grandfather!' exclaimed the youngest of his
grandchildren, starting away from him, 'how your eyes are blazing! You
are not going to hurt my father?'
'For your sakes, I will not curse him,' said the old man, in a low,
tremulous voice; 'but accursed be the spirit which influences him, and
my unfortunate, perverted people! I shall shake the dust from my feet
at the threshold of your door, my son, and never more shall you behold
my countenance in this world; but, in your last moments, you will
remember this hour. I will wander defenceless among our enemies; I
will bare this grey head to their insults, stand amidst their showers
of stones, and peradventure be torn asunder by their violent hands,
before my own child shall pluck out the beard from my aged cheeks, or
turn me out of his house as a beggar.'
'Stay!--are you mad?' cried Samuel; 'you will not pass alive through
that mob outside. Hold him, some one!' he exclaimed to those around.
'He is deranged, as you see, and is going into his dotage. I should be
sorry if anything were to happen to him, or he were to meet with any
But old Philip Moses went away, like Lot, from the doomed Sodom, and
never once looked back. No one attempted to detain him, for his
denunciations, and his terrible look, had frightened them all. With his
snow-white locks uncovered, and in his torn dark silk talar, alone,
and without his staff, he went forth, and shook the dust from his feet
as he stepped from the door.
When the Hamburg populace perceived him, a group of children began to
abuse him, but no one took up the cry, and not a hand was lifted
against the silent, venerable-looking old man.
'Let him go in peace!' said one to the other; 'it is old Philip Moses.
He is a good man; it would be a sin to hurt him, or to scoff at him.'
'But if we had his son Samuel in our clutches,' said others, 'he should
not get off so easily; he is the greatest bloodsucker among them all!'
It was late at night--the tumult in the streets had ceased. No more
carriages rolled along from the theatre, or from parties at the houses
of the rich Hamburg merchants. The promenade on the 'Jungfernstieg' had
been over long before, and the pavilions were locked up. Lights
glimmered faintly from the upper windows of the large hotels, and only
here and there a solitary reveller was to be seen, humming an air, as
he was wending his way homewards from the 'Salon d'Apollon,' or was
stopped by some straggling night-wanderer of the female sex. The moon
was shining calmly on the Alster, and the watchman had just called the
hour by St. Michael's clock; but two strange-looking figures still
walked up and down the 'Jungfernstieg,' and seemed to have no thought
of home, though the sharp wind scattered the leaves of the trees around
them, and the flitting clouds often obscured the moon on that cold
September night. A dark-haired young girl walked, shivering with cold,
alongside of an old Jew, and seemed to be speaking words of comfort to
him, in a low, sweet voice; and that Jew was the aged Philip Moses!
'You are freezing, my child,' said the old man, as he threw the
skirt of his torn talar around her shoulders. 'Let me take you back to
the house of your mother's brother; but I will not cross his
threshold again. I made that vow the day he was seduced into wedding
the artful Christian girl. On this day has my third son closed his
door against me, and I have no more daughters on this earth. But yes, I
have you still--you, the daughter of my dear and excellent Rachel!
Come, let me take you home. It is hard enough upon you to be an
orphan--fatherless and motherless--and a servant to your Christian
aunt; you shall not become houseless for my sake. Poor Benjamina!' he
exclaimed, as a bright beam from the moon, that was unclouded for a
minute, enabled him to see her lovely youthful face distinctly, and to
observe how tears were gathering in her long dark eyelashes. 'Poor
Benjamina! you are indeed kind to care so much for your rough old
grandfather, and not to be afraid to come and wander about with him, in
our day of persecution, when he was thrust out alone among our foes!'
'Ah, dear, good grandfather!' replied Benjamina, 'how could my uncle
Samuel behave so ill to you! But all my uncles are not so bad as he is.
I am tolerably comfortable at uncle Daniel's every other week, and they
are kind to me now at uncle Isaac's, since I have grown stronger, and
am able to assist my aunt in the kitchen. Do go with me to one of them.
Their wives and new connections do not hate us as the other Christians
do; and you must go somewhere. Since uncle Samuel has become so rich,
he disdains all his poorer relations, and will not associate with them.
Why did you choose to live with him, rather than with either of your
other sons? I am sure neither of them could have found it in his heart
to have treated you as Samuel has done to-day. You never took a vow not
to enter Isaac's house, therefore do go with me to it. I shall reside
there with you, and attend upon you: and the pretty children will
become fond of you. They can learn from you the history of Joseph and
his brethren, and hear about little Benjamin, my namesake. You can
teach them as you taught me at my poor mother's, when I was a little
girl. Come, dear grandfather, come!--before day dawn, and our
persecutors awake. In these times of tribulation we must cherish each
other--we unfortunate and persecuted fugitives.'
'It is five years since I have entered my son Isaac's house,' said the
old man, slowly. 'How many children has he now?'
'Ah, you do not know that, dear grandfather, and yet he is your own
son! His fifth boy is an infant in its cradle.'
'Is his Christian wife kind to him? and does she not turn his feeble
spirit from Jehovah, and the faith and the customs of our forefathers?
I have not seen him lately at the synagogue, but he never misses going
to the Exchange.'
'Only come with me to him, grandfather, and you will see that he is
better than Samuel, though he may not go to the synagogue, and only
puts the shop-door on the latch on Saturday, instead of shutting it up.
You will like his nice little boys, though my aunt rather spoils the
eldest. They have all light hair and pretty blue eyes, like their
mother. Many Christians visit the house; and the good Mr. Veit, who is
a painter, sometimes teaches me to draw when I am there. You do not
hate all Christians, do you, grandfather, because some of them treat
us cruelly? You do not condemn them all so much as these--our
'No, my child,' replied the old man. 'I admit the general philanthropy
of the Christians, which they believe they learned from their wise but
unfortunate prophet; though, in their present conduct towards us, they
give no proof of it. Yet far be it from me to blame them for this. Our
law tells us to make our own hearts clean before we judge others; that
so we may find forgiveness in the day of atonement. But stay not out
here longer, so late, my daughter; your good name may be made the prey
of the tongue of the backbiter and the slanderer, although it is only
in a work of mercy and of love in which you are engaged, and for which
the Lord God of Sabaoth will bless you in future days. Leave me to
wander out into the solitary paths! The Lord can send to me--even to
me--a raven in the desert, if he think fit. My tent is now the great
Temple of the Lord, where the sun and the moon are lights in the high
altar, and the four corners of the earth are the pillars of the
tabernacle. Hark! from thence shall it seem to me that His mighty
cherubs are singing praises to His name, when the wild storms of nature
are playing around my head. Let me go, my child, and weep not because I
am a lonely wanderer! I would rather roam, houseless, through the
world, than seek a refuge under the roof where I am an unwelcome
intruder. I would rather be stoned by the Christians than be disdained
as a pauper by my own kindred--my own children--and perhaps hear that I
am so, when the infirmities of age compel me to listen in silence.'
'Well, then, so be it, dear grandfather, and I will remain with you.
The Christians may stone me in your arms if they will.'
The old man was silent for a time, and he appeared to be fighting a
hard battle in his heart.
'Come then, my child,' said he at length, seizing Benjamina by the
hand, 'for your sake will I endure disgrace, and ask shelter from a
son, who cared more for a strange woman than for his father's
They then proceeded in silence to the 'Hopfenmarkt,' and rang at the
clothier Isaac's door.
'Is that any of our people?' whispered an anxious voice from a window.
Philip Moses answered in Hebrew, and a little while after the outer
door was opened.
Isaac received his deserted old father, who had thus taken refuge with
him, with sincere pleasure; yet this pleasure was damped by the
perplexed and uneasy feelings which came over him when he thought of
the daily reproaches which he foresaw he would have to encounter, and
the many disturbances in his domestic life which he feared the
unbending rabbi would occasion. But their common grievances and danger
drew their hearts together. Though Isaac's house was, at present,
exempt from all damage (since, through his marriage with a Christian,
and his frequent intercourse with Christians, he seemed almost
separated from his own people), he lived still in constant terror, on
account of the inimical disposition evinced towards the Jews, which had
now actually broken out in open persecution of them; and he sought in
vain to conceal from those with whom he associated the interest he
secretly took in the fate of his unhappy nation.
He was extremely indignant when he heard how his rich brother, Samuel,
had behaved to the old man: and he begged his father to forget all the
past, and make himself at home in his house. But he resolved, at the
same time, not to permit his domestic peace to be disturbed, or the
habits of his daily life to be disarranged, by the old man's
prejudices--such at least as could not be borne with easily, and might
not give cause of complaint. 'He must accommodate himself, as my guest,
to the ways of the house,' thought he to himself. 'He will be
accustomed to them in time, and there would be no use in beginning as
we could not go on.'
'Your brother Samuel has not honoured his father, and he cannot succeed
in worldly matters,' said Philip Moses, as he seemed endeavouring to
read in the countenance of his son what was passing in his mind. 'But
may the Almighty give him, and all our people, grace to repent, and let
not His angry countenance be turned upon us to our ruin! My days will
not be many,' he added, earnestly; 'but had it not been for my
faithfully attached Benjamina's sake, I would rather have gone forth to
wander over the wide world than have exposed your heart, my son, to a
trial which, I fear, is beyond your strength.'
Isaac's wife was quite out of humour when Benjamina went to her bedroom
to tell her what had taken place.
'It will never answer,' said she, 'to have that old instigator of
strife here in our house. He hates me already, because I am not one of
your nation. It was on my account that he has never hitherto chosen to
put his foot within our doors.'
'No, my grandfather does not hate the Christians,' replied Benjamina,
cheerfully. 'If he lives here, he will bring good luck and a blessing
to the house. Dearest aunt, may I not get the little blue chamber ready
for him? I did not dare to go near him when he was with my uncle
Samuel, and yet he was so kind to me when I was a child.'
'Well, I suppose I can't help his staying, for the present at least,'
replied the aunt, peevishly, 'so you can put the blue chamber in decent
order for him, Benjamina. But if you make too much fuss about him, or
give me any additional trouble with this new pest, I will send you back
to Daniel. You may stay for the present; but keep him as much as
possible away from the children and the rest of us. We shall have quite
annoyance enough with him at the dinner-table.'
'Poor, poor grandfather!' sighed Benjamina, as weeping silently she
left her unkind aunt, who had often before spoken harshly to her, but
had never wounded her feelings so deeply as now.
Isaac had afterwards an unpleasant matrimonial scene, and a sharp
battle of words with his wife, in reference to the old man, to whom he
could not deny an asylum in his house, however many scruples he himself
had as to keeping him.
The next day was Saturday. Philip Moses kept the sabbath in his own
room, and prayed for his unhappy people; but he often started, and a
look of pain seemed to contract his features when he overheard his son
talking loudly to his customers in the shop, and rattling the money in
the till; while his wife, in the other apartments, was engaged in
various household duties, in all of which Benjamina was obliged to
assist her. He frequently heard her aunt scolding her, and she had
scarcely been able to snatch more than a minute to carry her
grandfather's breakfast to him, and affectionately to bid him good
morning. On that short visit he perceived that she had been weeping;
but he would not deprive her of the comfort of fancying she had
concealed her tears from him, by letting her know that he had observed
Philip Moses was lying with his old head literally bowed into the dust,
and was engaged in prayer, when Benjamina returned and called him to
dinner. His daughter-in-law had slightly hoped he would be able to put
up with such accommodation as their house afforded, but she was neither
able nor willing to conceal her ill-humour; and the old man sat
silently at table without tasting any of the dishes placed on it, for
these consisted of the very things that the Mosaic law particularly
forbade. His son did not seem to notice all this; but poor Benjamina
did, and fasted also, though she was very hungry. The tumult of the
preceding night was talked of, and it was told that there had not been
one window left unbroken in Samuel's residence, nor in many of the
handsomest houses belonging to the Jews; also, that a couple of Jew
old-clothesmen, who were perambulating the streets, had been very
ill-used by the mob.
'Why do the rich make so much useless display?' said Isaac, 'and why do
the poor seek, by their needless oddity, to draw public observation
'Have you become a Christian, my son?' demanded the old man; 'or
perhaps this is not the Sabbath-day?'
'I adhere to the doctrines of my forefathers,' replied his son, 'in
what I consider to be of consequence, and in what is applicable to the
age in which we live, and to the ideas of what is holy and unholy that
my reason and my senses can acknowledge. I wish my father would do the
same, and not be scandalized at what is really quite innocent.'
'My father-in-law must try to put up with our fare,' said the mistress
of the house, handing him, with thoughtless indifference, a plate of
roast pork. 'Our house is quite in disorder to-day,' she added, by way
of apology, when he silently handed her back the plate, 'and I really
did not bethink me of our guest; but I shall have something else
another time, when I am accustomed to remember what he will not eat.'
A gloomy silence then followed at table, and Isaac cast a reproachful
look at his wife, which she did not omit to notice. The old man made a
movement as if he were about to rise, but at that moment his eye fell
on Benjamina; he remained silent and reseated himself. What Benjamina
read, however, in her grandfather's countenance, drew unbidden tears to
her beautiful eyes--tears which she quickly brushed away, while in her
embarrassment she, unwittingly, broke up her bread into small crumbs on
the tablecloth. For this act of extravagance she received a sharp
reprimand from her aunt, with a rude reminder that these were not times
to waste bread, and that 'those who had nothing of their own should
think themselves lucky to get anything to put in their mouths.'
'Wife!' whispered Isaac, to his better half, as they rose from table,
'that was not according to our agreement.'
When old Philip Moses was alone with his son afterwards, he looked long
and earnestly at him, and then said, in a dejected tone of voice:
'My son, speak out the truth freely--the grey-haired, antiquated Jew is
an unbidden guest; you are ashamed to close your doors against him, but
not to give him wormwood in his cup of welcome; and my poor Benjamina
is looked on as a mendicant here, to whom you have not many crumbs of
bread to spare.'
'How so--my father?' stammered Isaac. 'If my wife--forgive her!--I
myself remarked a degree of thoughtlessness in her, which pained me.'
'Isaac--Isaac!' exclaimed the old man, 'why does your voice tremble,
and why do your eyes avoid mine? But I will still call you my son, and
will tarry awhile to see if you can free yourself. Your heart is not
bad, Isaac; but, alas! it has been with you, as with the sons of
Israel, who, captivated by the daughters of a strange people, forgot
father and mother, and that Lord who brought them out of Egypt--they
never beheld the promised land.'
'Let not my marriage offend you so much, my dear father,' said Isaac,
gathering courage to speak out, 'and be not shocked at my way of
living. Remember, I came into the world half a century later than you
did. Opinions alter with time and with circumstances, and I have
learned to see much in our religion, and our position as regards the
rest of the world, in a very different light to what you do. I should
indeed be blind, if I did not perceive that our people are the most
remarkable on the face of the earth, and the least subject to change,
even in their ruin, and their dispersion among all the nations in the
world. But I do not think that we are, therefore, called upon eternally
to separate ourselves from all other living beings. Inwardly we may,
indeed, feel our distinction from them; and let this secret knowledge
strengthen us to support our humiliations, and teach us to rise
superior to our oppressors and persecutors, even when we are condemned
to crawl in the dust before them; inwardly we may despise them, but
outwardly we must amalgamate with the great masses of mankind, who
will otherwise crush us in our stubbornness.'
'If I understand you aright, my son, you mean that we may continue to
be Israelites, while we accept Christian customs and fashions; and that
our race might be preserved, notwithstanding that we put an end to it
ourselves by mingling our blood with that of the stranger.'
'As a people and as a nation we are already lost,' replied his son;
'and with the destruction of the temple at Jerusalem has the outward
structure of our religion fallen to the ground. Do you not believe that
if our great lawgiver had lived in these times, and in this land, he
would not have prescribed very different rules for our conduct?'
'Would he have changed the commandments to fear and serve the God of
Sabaoth, and to honour father and mother?' asked the old man.
Some persons came in at that moment, and the conversation was broken
In the evening Isaac was not at home, but some of his wife's relations
came to visit her, along with a couple of foppish young men, who looked
in from a party in the neighbourhood. No one seemed to notice old
Philip Moses; he sat quietly in a remote corner of the room, and
listened to the jokes, with which some of the gentlemen entertained the
company about the rising against the Jews, at which they laughed very
heartily; also telling, with great glee, that they were to be attacked
again. Amongst the visitors was a handsome young man, with long fair
hair falling over his white collar. He was the young painter Veit, who
had lately returned from Rome, and who still wore the peculiar costume
adopted there by artists. The two fops seemed inclined to turn his
dress into ridicule, for they were afraid that he intended introducing
the fashion into Hamburg; but he took no notice of them. He was the son
of the physician who attended Isaac's family, and who resided on the
'Hopfenmarkt.' His attraction to the house was Benjamina's beautiful
face, which was very interesting to him as an artist. He had hitherto
taken no share in the general conversation, but had been standing apart
in a window with Benjamina, talking to her about her reverend-looking
grandfather, whom he had saluted with the respect which his age and
patriarchal appearance demanded.
He now remarked the tenour of the conversation that was going on, and
turned quickly from Benjamina to try to stop it, by introducing some
other subject. But the thoughtless and unfeeling young men soon resumed
their ridicule of the Jews, and indulged in witticisms at the expense
of their sufferings during the riot, without at all being checked by
the remembrance of whose house they were in, or who was present. At
length Veit thought it necessary to remind them where they were; and he
did this in so pointed and stinging a manner, that, ashamed and
enraged, they immediately took their departure, but not until they had
whispered him that he would find them the next morning near the
Obelisk. No one overheard the challenge, but Veit vowed to himself that
he would chastise them severely, and that that meeting should be a
blacker hour to them than any which had occurred during the tumult they
had considered so amusing. But their exit did not put an end to
strife. Some elderly wholesale dealers thought fit to take up the
defence of their friends who had just gone, and seemed at least not to
disapprove of the chastisement inflicted on the privileged Hebrew
usurers for their long-practised extortions.
Veit again became the champion of the Jews, and descanted with warmth
on the hateful, unchristian spirit which could impel Christians so
shamefully to break the peace, and maltreat a fugitive, defenceless
race, to whom the state had promised its protection.
4 We complain that they hate us and defraud us,' said he. 'Do we show
love to them when we stone them? Do we not betray them, when we
infringe our own laws in order to break faith with them, and withdraw
the security on which we told them they might rely, when they settled
among us? If we were to show more justice and Christian feeling, we
might induce them to like us; but hatred, scorn, and persecution, never
yet won either proselytes or friends.'
Benjamina rewarded the defender of her people with a grateful smile,
and old Philip Moses rose and stepped quietly, but with dignity, forth
from his corner.
'It is just and right that we should be humbled before the Lord!' said
he. 'But unjust and wicked are our fellow-creatures who seek our
humiliation. Accept an old man's thanks,' he added, as he turned
towards the young painter, 'that thou dost not echo the cry of the
persecutor, and cast stones at us in the time wherein we are exposed to
the contumely and the reproach of the scorner, but that thou hast a
word of kindness for the Lord's oppressed and humbled people in the
hour of their desolation.'
'Who is that strange old man? He speaks as if he were a Bible,' said
the startled visitors one to another.
Isaac's eldest child, a boy of about five years of age, and his
mother's darling and absolute image, had all day been peeping at the
old man, as if he were some extraordinary spectacle.
'Are not you a Jewish priest?' said he, pertly, as he approached him
more closely. 'Why, what a nasty, ugly, long beard you have! Don't come
near the windows, or they will be broken for us, mother says.'
'He is your grandfather,' whispered Benjamina to the child; 'you must
love him, and behave well to him, Carl!'
'Nonsense!' cried the child, laughing outright--'a Jew with a long
beard, who won't eat pork, my grandfather! No, no. See if I don't
tell him all the funny things that all the boys say--'
Benjamina cried, and placed her hand over the child's mouth, to prevent
the old man from hearing what he was saying; but the unfortunate
grandfather had not lost a word that he had uttered. He lifted his hand
to crush the serpent that thus hissed in his ear, but at that moment he
observed Benjamina's tearful eyes; his arm fell by his side, and he
stood pale and silent, with his flashing eyes fixed on the floor.
Just then Isaac came in, and almost started as he beheld the
embarrassed countenances around. Not one of the strangers, except the
painter, seemed to feel any pity for the old man, but some were
hastening away, while others were evidently preparing to follow.
'What is the matter,' asked Isaac, glancing first at the excited old
man, and then, with some suspicion, at his wife. 'Has anyone been
annoying my old father?'
'How can I help that poor child's chattering?' replied his wife. 'But
come, my boy,' she added, taking the urchin tenderly by the hand, and
leading him out of the room--'come; hereafter none of us must dare to
open our mouths in our own house.'
The painter, reddening with anger, stood near Benjamina and Philip
Moses, whose hand he shook kindly; but the old man stood as a statue of
stone, with his eyes fixed on the floor. Suddenly he seemed to awaken
as if from a dream, raised his head, and looked all around. When he saw
Isaac standing before him, the tears started to his eyes, and coursed
each other down his pale cheeks into his long white beard.
'Farewell, my son!' he exclaimed, laying his hand on Isaac's head. 'The
hand of the Lord rests heavily on thee for thy backsliding. I will not
curse thy house, but I leave it, lest its roof should fall down upon
So saying he walked out of the house, and his son made no attempt to
detain him. But the weeping Benjamina followed him, and Veit followed
them both at a little distance, in order to afford them assistance if
the mob should attack them; for the tumult of the preceding evening was
recommencing, and there were even more ill-disposed persons gathering
in the streets than before. Veit saw the old man take the way towards
the gates of Altona, hand in hand with Benjamina, whom he had in vain
besought to return to her uncle's family, and Veit therefore concluded
that they intended leaving Hamburg, and seeking an asylum in Altona. He
determined still to follow them, so as to obtain shelter for them at
the house of a friend of his there, in case they should find any
difficulty in procuring such for themselves. But before they reached
the Altona gates they were intercepted by a mob of the lowest rabble
and a number of tradesmen's apprentices, who were flocking from all
parts of the town, and wandering from street to street, breaking the
windows of the Jews' houses.
'Stop, Stop!' roared the rabble. 'Where are you taking that pretty
girl, you old Jew rascal?' Some of them then commenced pulling the old
man by the beard, while others began to treat the pale and trembling
Benjamina with rudeness and indignity. But at that moment Viet rushed
to the rescue, and drawing a sword from his walking-stick, he laid
about furiously among the offenders; some gentlemen, and other members
of the more respectable classes of the Hamburg population, took his
part; and while the police were endeavouring to disperse the mob, Veit
succeeded in getting Philip Moses and his granddaughter away, and
conveying them through a side gate into a small back street: after a
rather long circuit through deserted by-lanes and narrow streets, he
was so fortunate as to reach his father's house without further
molestation, and the old doctor received his unexpected guests with
kind cordiality, and did all he could, both as host and physician, to
minister to their wants and comforts. Benjamina was half dead from
terror, and the unfortunate old man had sunk in a state of
insensibility on the floor the moment he was safely within the door of
When Philip Moses returned to consciousness, he stared wildly about
him, tore his hair, and then, like Job, he opened his mouth and cursed
the day of his birth.
'Let the day perish whereon I was born--let darkness and the shadow of
death stain it--let a cloud dwell upon it--wherefore is light given to
him that is in misery, and life unto the bitter in soul? For the thing
which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of
is come unto me!'
He speedily, however, became exhausted; and a violent fever ensued. In
his delirium he raved of the destruction of his people--of Sodom and
Gomorrah; and wrung his withered hands as he denounced the sins of the
chosen race, and deplored the vengeance of Jehovah. During his illness
Benjamina attended him faithfully, and when his fits of excitement came
on, she would pray by him, or read to him from a Bible lent to her by
Dr. Veit, till he was soothed to peace, and passed into a tranquil and
almost happy state.
The good physician had given an asylum in his house to those
unfortunate individuals; and his son, the young artist, sat whole days
with Benjamina, sharing in her watchful care of the aged invalid.
Often, when Benjamina had read to the old man till he went to sleep,
and when she then sat by his bedside, with the sacred volume in her
hand, while he seemed to smile upon her in his dreams, Veit would take
up his pencil, and sketch them together. A new light seemed to beam on
Benjamina's soul, partly from what she read to her grandfather, and
partly from her conversation with the amiable artist about the holy
book which contained the foundation of her faith and of his.
One day Veit came home with his arm in a sling, and gave out that he
had hurt it by a fall. But he had found it necessary to chastise the
two young fops, who had in vain waited for him at the appointed place
of meeting near the Obelisk, the morning that he had promised to be
there. He had been unable to go that morning, on account of his guests;
and the young men had boasted so much of their own prowess, and sneered
so at his failure on the occasion, that he determined to lower the tone
of their self-satisfaction, and effectually did so by placing them both
in a condition to require the care of a surgeon for six weeks at least.
The duels had been fought with swords, and though Veit's wound was but
slight, it was some days before he could make use of his pencil.
Benjamina suspected what had taken place, and blessed him in her heart
for conduct which she deemed so noble and so delicate.
The old Jewish rabbi, in the meantime, was daily recovering. What Veit
felt for the young Jewess was no longer a secret to himself, and she
had not failed to perceive his sentiments, which were betrayed by a
thousand little affectionate acts, by the tones of his voice, and by
his eloquent looks. She had liked and admired him from the first time
that she had seen him; but since the evening that he had so warmly
taken the part of her poor grandfather, since he had continued to show
such generous kindness to them both, her grateful heart had learned
almost to worship him. But neither of them had yet expressed in words
what neither could any longer doubt in regard to themselves, or each
Several weeks had now passed. The persecution of the Jews had ceased;
all was quiet in Hamburg, and the people of that persuasion could
venture into the streets without fear of being hooted at, or
ill-treated. But the newspapers told how the same ill-will against the
Jews had evinced itself in other places; and from Copenhagen, and many
other towns in Denmark, came accounts of similar shameful scenes.
Philip Moses at length arose from his sick bed, but his steps were
feeble and tottering. His countenance was less stern, and less
petrified, as it were, than formerly; a more subdued and gentler
spirit seemed to animate him; yet he still adhered so much to his old
feelings, as to lament deeply that it was to Christians he owed his
dear Benjamina's safety, and the preservation of his own life.
His son Samuel, the rich jeweller, had during this time, in consequence
of his own speculations, and of the failure of a foreign mercantile
house with which he had had large dealings, become utterly ruined; and
not only did he leave Hamburg a beggar, but he had also been attacked
and severely handled when making his escape from his creditors. And
though all the right-minded inhabitants of the city disapproved of the
ill-treatment he had received, yet there was not much pity felt for him
on account of his conduct to his father, who was respected as a really
Their late tribulations and adversity had checked the arrogance of the
Hamburg Jews; and they also began to resort more to their synagogues,
and to pay more attention to their priests. A deputation waited upon
old Philip Moses, and expressed the wish of the congregation that he
would return among their community, saying that they had made
arrangements to provide for his maintenance, and that he should be
entirely independent of all his relations. They acknowledged that what
he had often predicted to them had come to pass, and they now felt
inclined to honour him, as a true servant to Jehovah, upon whom a
prophetic spirit had descended.
'Will ye turn from the evil of your ways, O Israel!' exclaimed the old
man to the messengers of the congregation. If ye will do this, the Lord
will let the light of His countenance shine once more upon you. "They
that trust in the Lord, shall be as Mount Zion, which cannot be
removed." "We will go into His tabernacle; we will worship at His
footstool." "He gathereth together the outcasts of Israel;" and my
heart shall rejoice before I go hence, and ascend into Father Abraham's
When Philip Moses went with Benjamina to Dr. Veit and his son, to bid
them farewell, to thank them for all their humanity and goodness, and
to pray that blessings might be returned to them tenfold, the two young
people looked sorrowfully at each other, and tears came into their
'Oh, Benjamina!' exclaimed the younger Veit, 'I see that you love me,
as I have long loved you;' and before she had time to answer, he had
seized her hand, and suddenly they, dropped on their knees before the
old man, while the young painter asked their blessing.
Both Dr. Veit and the rabbi started back in consternation.
Could I have dreamed of this, my son,' said Dr. Veit, 'I would
never have brought you back from Rome. The difference between your
'Benjamina is a Christian at heart,' said the young man, abruptly, as
he rose from his knees, and assisted the trembling girl to rise. 'By
the sick couch of this excellent old man she read our holy Scriptures,
and their divine truths have enlightened her soul.'
'Is this true, Benjamina?' exclaimed Philip Moses, turning very pale.
'Yes, dear grandfather, it is true,' replied the young girl, as she
threw herself at his feet, and clasped her arms around his knees. 'It
was the word of Christ that I read to you when, in the darkness of your
soul, you cursed the day of your birth; it was the word of Christ that
gave you peace when you would have denounced eternal perdition to your
'You are a Christian at heart, Benjamina, and you love this Christian?'
asked the old man, slowly, and apparently with a painful effort.
'Yes, grandfather--yes. I cannot deny the truth,' sobbed the weeping
girl, as she bathed his hands with her tears.
'You, also, Benjamina!--you also, daughter of my Rachel!--the last hope
of my old days, you also!'
Tears choked his further utterance, and the old man covered his head
with his garment, turned away, and tottered towards the door.
'Farewell, then, for this world!' said Benjamina to her sorrow-stricken
lover, as with a strong effort she withdrew herself from his encircling
arms. 'Yonder--above! where love, and justice, and mercy rule--where
Jehovah and Christ are one--we shall be united for evermore!--Father, I
will go with you!' she said, as she hastened after the old man. 'Take
me with you, and let me die in your arms, but curse me not in the hour
of death, for my soul has only bent to the will of the Most High.'
'Lost, for this world!' sighed the young man, as the door closed upon
her he loved so much; and all hope seemed extinguished for them on
'What is the matter with you, my son? You go about like one in a dream,
and as if the world in which you live were nothing to you,' said the
old doctor one day to his son, the young painter, shortly after their
guests had left them. 'If you cannot conquer your love, and if the girl
return your affection in an equal degree, I am willing to withdraw my
objection to your marriage, and old Philip Moses is too worthy a man to
wish to make you both miserable.'
'I honour him for the unshaken sincerity of his religious feelings,'
replied his son, 'although these will bring me to the grave. I have had
a long conversation with him, father: I might have rebelled against his
severity, but his mildness has overcome me, and taken from me my last
hope. I know that from a sense of gratitude he might bring himself even
to join our hands; but the heart of the old man would break in doing
so, and I should have to look upon myself as the murderer both of him
and Benjamina. He is immovable in his adherence to his creed; and even
though he might give Benjamina to me himself, he would curse her in his
heart for having deserted the faith of her forefathers.'
'But she has already deserted that faith in her own mind; she loves
you; and the old man knows all this, yet he has not condemned her.'
'Still he might do so, if she were openly to throw off Judaism. He
loves her as he does his own soul, but he would deem his soul doomed to
perdition if it could stray from Jehovah, as he calls his peculiar
'Well, have patience, my son. The old man's days are numbered. My
medical knowledge enables me to tell you that death is already creeping
'Ah, father! you do not know Benjamina; though her heart should break,
she would be as true to the dead as she is to the living. But I would
not that a knowledge of my grief should add to her sufferings, or
deprive her of the peace she may perhaps acquire in the performance of
what she considers her duty. Allow me to travel, father! There is no
hope of happiness before me now in this world; but I will seek
tranquillity in the charming land which is sacred to the arts, and in
absence from all that may recall the past.'
Thus the father and son conversed, while the rabbi, Philip Moses, was
engaged in consecrating the great sin-offering for his unhappy people.
Three days after this event the old man breathed his last in the arms
of the faithful Benjamina.
'The Jews are going to bury their last prophet to-day,' said a lounger
on the 'Jungfernstieg' to one of his associates. 'See how they are
gathering from all corners! And any one of them who meets the hearse
must follow it.'
'It is old Philip Moses,' replied the other: 'he was the only honest
Jew in Hamburg, and some say he is the last of the old Mosaic type in
the world. He died in the belief, notwithstanding all their wanderings
and miseries, that his nation were the holiest on earth, and God's
favourite people. When he was dying, they say, he had his windows
opened, expecting that their Messiah would come flying in to carry him
and his people away back to the promised land.'
'What absurd folly!' exclaimed the first speaker laughing; 'however, we
must admit that he was consistent to the last.'
And ridiculing the Jews, they entered one of the pavilions near the
Towards evening, a young man in a travelling dress stood at the gate of
the churchyard belonging to the Jewish community, and gazed sadly and
earnestly at a female figure, which, in a deep mourning dress, was
kneeling by a newly-made grave. The traveller was the young painter
Veit, who had engaged post-horses for that very evening to take him
from his native town on his way towards Italy, where he intended to
bury himself and his hopeless passion amidst the classic ruins of Rome.
Benjamina's self-sacrificing devotion to her grandfather, and his
patriarchal adherence to the faith of his ancestors, which held up to
execration every departure from that faith, and the intermingling
with those whose religion was different, had entirely destroyed his
long-cherished hopes; but he determined once again to see his beloved
Benjamina, once more to be assured of her sentiments towards him, and
then to take a last and sad farewell.
With this resolution he had approached her dwelling, just as the
hearse, containing the mortal remains of old Philip Moses, was leaving
it. Seeing this, he mingled among the mourners and followed the funeral
cortége, although the passers-by wondered to see a fair-haired
Christian, in a travelling garb, among the mumbling Jews who
accompanied the dead to his last resting-place.
When the mournful ceremony was ended, and they had all left the grave,
Veit felt that he could not tear himself away; it seemed as if he found
himself impelled to wait there the last scene of his sorrowful fate. He
also thought that Benjamina would visit the tomb before night. This
expectation was realized, for she did come, later in the evening, with
flowers to strew over her grandfather's grave. When he perceived her
approaching, he stepped aside, not to disturb her in her pious duty;
but he felt that this was the sad and solemn place where he was to
take leave of her for life. He remained at a little distance, gazing at
her, as she knelt in prayer by the grave, and it was not until she rose
to depart that he approached her slowly and silently. He held in his
hand a cross of shining mother-of-pearl, which his mother had given him
when a child, bidding him present it to her to whom in future he should
give his heart. When packing his portmanteaus and desk, he had stumbled
on this maternal gift, so long laid by, and he had now brought it to
offer it as a parting souvenir to her he loved so hopelessly. It
seemed to shine with peculiar brightness in the clear moonlight.
'Benjamina!' he exclaimed; and she raised her beautiful dark eyes from
the grave, and recognized him. But when she saw the shining cross in
his hand, she sank on her knees, and folded her hands across her
'Heavens! it is fulfilled!' she exclaimed. 'His spirit shows me the
symbol of peace and redemption at this grave.'
'What!' cried Veit, in deep anxiety, 'at this grave?'
'At this grave I was to be released, were his last words to me, as an
angel enlightened his mind at the moment of death. And see, his spirit
has led you here with that holy symbol in your hand, the sign of that
faith, believing in which I shall be united to your crucified Redeemer
'Praised be the name of that Redeemer!' cried the happy Veit, 'and
blessed be that spirit which in death permitted you to seek redemption!
Now there is nothing to prevent our union, and I claim you as my bride
in the face of the Almighty, and by this grave, where I had feared our
final parting was to have taken place.'
They joined their hands over the old man's grave, and Benjamina then
told how her departed grandfather, in his last moments, seemed to have
understood that the noble predictions of David and the prophets
respecting the Messiah had been fulfilled, that he had made the sign of
a cross on his death-bed with his cold stiffening hand, and with a
smile of ineffable happiness had yielded up his spirit in her arms.
'It was ordained, and it has been wonderfully fulfilled!' exclaimed
Veit, as he and Benjamina knelt together by the new-made grave.
The following year, on the anniversary of that day, a happy Christian
couple stood by a tomb, which was thickly strewed with fresh flowers;
within that tomb reposed the aged Philip Moses, with his face turned
towards the east. Benjamina clasped her beloved husband's hand in one
of hers, while with the other she pressed the mother-of-pearl cross to
'Now he knows the truth,' said she, 'and has seen the promised land,
and the holy city which is lightened by the glory of God, and where the
redeemed out of every kindred, and people, and nation of the earth
shall be blessed for evermore!'