My Dear Father:
The excellent Rabbi, Ben Israel, has just made known to me his intention of returning to Egypt to-morrow, and has waited upon me, to inquire if I had any commands to intrust him with, for my friends in Alexandria. Instead of this letter, which he will be the bearer of to you, I would rather commit myself a second time to his care, and instead of placing this parchment in your hand, let his lay your child again upon your bosom. But it is by your wish, dear father, that I am here, and though I sigh to behold you once more, I will try to be contented in my absence from you, knowing that my discontent would cause sorrow to bow down your gray hairs. So far as a daughter can be happy from the home of her youth, I have every thing to render me so. The good Rabbi Amos, in his kindness, recalls your own mild and dignified countenance, and Rebecca, his noble wife, my cousin, is truly a mother in Israel. Her daughter Mary, my younger cousin, in her affectionate attachment to me, shows me how much love I have lost, in ever having had a sister. It is altogether a lovely household, and I am favored by the God of our fathers in having my lot, during my exile from my home on the banks of the beautiful Nile, cast in so peaceful and holy a domestic sanctuary. The street in which we dwell is elevated, and from the roof of the house, where I love to walk in the evening, watching the stars that hang over Egypt, there is commanded a wide prospect of the Holy City. The stupendous Temple, with its terraces piled on terraces of dazzling marble, with its glittering fountains shooting upward like palm trees of liquid silver, with its massive yet beautiful walls and towers, is ever in full sight. The golden arc, that spans the door which leads into the Holy of Holies, as it catches the sunbeams of morning, burns like a celestial coronet with an unearthly glory. I dare not gaze steadily upon that holy place, nor imagine the blinding splendor within, of the visible presence of Jehovah, in the Shechinah once present there. Yesterday morning I was early on the house-top, to behold the first cloud of the day-dawn sacrifice rise from the bosom of the Temple. When I turned my gaze towards the sacred summit, I was awed by the profound silence which reigned over the vast pile that crowned Mount Moriah. The sun was not yet risen; but the East blushed with a roseate purple, and the morning star was melting into its depths. Not a sound broke the stillness of the hundred streets within the walls of Jerusalem. Night and silence still held united empire over the city and the altar of God. I was awe-silent. I stood with my hands crossed upon my bosom and my head reverently bowed, for in the absence of man and his voice I believed angels were all around in heavenly hosts, the guardian armies of this wondrous city of David. Lances of light now shot upward and across the purple sea in the East, and fleeces of clouds, that reposed upon it like barks, catching the red rays of the yet unrisen sun, blazed like burning ships. Each moment the darkness fled, and the splendor of the dawn increased; and when I expected to see the sun appear over the battlemented heights of Mount Moriah, I was thrilled by the startling peal of the trumpets of the priests: a thousand silver trumpets blown at once from the walls of the Temple, and shaking the very foundations of the city with their mighty voice. Instantly the house-tops everywhere around were alive with worshipers! Jerusalem started, as one man, from its slumbers, and, with their faces towards the temple, a hundred thousand men of Israel stood waiting. A second trumpet peal, clear and musical as the voice of God when He spake to our father Moses in Horeb, caused every knee to bend, and every tongue to join in the morning song of praise. The murmur of voices was like the continuous roll of the surge upon the beach, and the walls of the lofty Temple, like a cliff, echoed it back. Unused to this scene, for we have nothing like this majesty of worship in Alexandria, I stood rather as a spectator than a sharer, as it became thy daughter to have been, dear father. Simultaneously with the billow-like swell of the adoring hymn, I beheld a pillar of black smoke ascend from the midst of the Temple, and spread itself above the court like a canopy. It was accompanied by a blue wreath of lighter and more misty appearance, which threaded in and out, and entwined about the other, like a silvery strand woven into a sable cord. This latter was the smoke of the incense which accompanied the burnt sacrifice. As I saw it rise higher and higher, and finally overtop the heavy cloud, which was instantly enlarged by volumes of dense smoke that rolled upward from the consuming victim, and slowly disappeared melting into heaven, I also kneeled, remembering that on the wings of the incense went up the prayers of the people; and ere it dissolved wholly, I entrusted to it, dear father, prayers for thee and me! How wonderful is our religion! How mysterious this daily sacrifice, so many hundreds of years offered up for the sins of our fathers and ourselves! How, I often have asked myself since I have been here, how can the blood of a heifer, of a lamb, or of a goat, take away sin? What is the mysterious relation existing between us and these dumb and innocent brutes? How can a lamb stand for a man before God? The more I reflect upon this awful subject, the more I am lost in wonder. I have spoken to Rabbi Amos of these things, but he only smiles, and bids me think about my embroidery; for cousin Mary and I are working a rich gold border in the phylactery of next New-Year’s garment. The evening sacrifice, which I witnessed yesterday, is, if possible, more imposing than that of the morning. Just as the sun dips beyond the hill of Gibeah, overhanging the valley of Aijalon, there is heard a prolonged note of a trumpet blown from one of the western watchtowers of Zion. Its mellow tones reach the farthest car within the gates of the city. All labor at once ceases! Every man drops the instrument of his toil, and raises his face towards the summit of the house of God. A deep pause, as if all held their breath in expectation, succeeds. Suddenly the very skies seem to be riven, and shaken with the thunder of the company of trumpeters that rolls, wave on wave of sound, from the battlements of the Temple. The dark cloud of sacrifice ascends in solemn grandeur, and sometimes heavier than the evening air, falls like a descending curtain around the Mount, till the whole is veiled from sight; but above it is seem to soar the purer incense to the invisible Jehovah, followed by a myriad eyes, and the utterance of a nation’s prayers. As the day-light faded, the light of the altar, hidden from us by the lofty walls of the outer court of the Temple, blazed high and beacon-like, and lent a wild sublimity to the towers and pinnacles that crowned Moriah. There was, however, my dear father, last evening, one thing which painfully marred the holy character of the sacred hour! After the blast of the silver trumpets of the Levites had ceased, and while all hearts and eyes were ascending to Jehovah with the mounting wreaths of incense, there came from the Roman castle adjoining the City of David a loud martial clangor of brazen bugles, and other barbarian war-instruments of music, while a smoke, like the smoke of sacrifice, rose from the heights of David’s fortified hill. I was told that it was the Romans engaged in worshiping Jupiter, their idol God! Oh, when, when shall the Holy City be freed from the reproach of the stranger! Alas, for Israel! Her inheritance "is turned to strangers, and her houses to aliens." Well said Jeremiah the Prophet, "The kings of the earth and all the inhabitants of the world would not have believed that the adversary and the enemy should have entered into the gates of Jerusalem." How truly now are the prophecies fulfilled, which are to be found in the Lamentations: "The Lord hath cast off His altar, He hath given up into the hands of the enemy the walls of her palaces: they have made a noise in the house of the Lord, as in the day of a solemn east." For these things I weep, my dear father; even now, while I write, my tears drop on the parchment. Why is it so? Why does Jehovah suffer the adversary to dwell within His holy walls, and the smoke of his abominable sacrifices to mingle with that of the offerings of the consecrated priests of the Most High? Surely Israel has sinned, and we are punished for our transgressions. It becomes the land "to search and try its ways and turn unto God," if perhaps He will return and have mercy, and restore the glory of Israel. Our kings are the servants of the Gentiles. Our laws are no more. Our prophets no longer see visions. God has gone up in anger, and no longer holds discourse with His chosen people. The very smoke of the daily sacrifices seems to hang above the Temple like a cloud of Jehovah’s wrath. Nearly three hundred years have passed since we have had a Prophet–that divine and youthful Malachi! Since his day, Rabbi Amos confesses that Jehovah has ceased from all known intercourse with his people and holy house; nor has He made any sign of having heard the prayers or heeded the sacrifices that have been offered to Him in his time! I inquired of the intelligent Rabbi, if it would always be thus? He replied, that when Shiloh came, there would be a restoration of all things–that the glory of Jerusalem then would fill the whole earth with the splendor of the sun, and that all nations should come up from the ends of the world to worship in the Temple. He acknowledges "that we are now under a cloud for our sins; but that a brighter day is coming when Zion shall be the joy of the whole earth." He then added, that there was a report that thirty-one years before an angel had appeared to a priest when offering incense, who was struck dumb by the vision. My conversation with Rabbi Amos, dear father, a conversation which grew out of the subject of the Roman garrison occupying the citadel of David, and offerings their pagan sacrifices by the side of our own smoking altars, led me to examine the Book of the Prophet Malachi. I find that after plainly alluding to our present shame, and reproaching the priests "for causing the people to stumble," and thus making themselves :Contemptible and base before all nations," he thus prophesies: "Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom ye seek shall suddenly come to his Temple, and he shall sit as a REFINER AND PURIFIER of silver, and he shall PURIFY the sons of Levi, and PURGE them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness. Behold," adds the divine seer, "I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord."
These words I read to-day to Rabbi Amos–indeed I was reading them when Rabbi Ben Israel came in to say that he departs to-morrow. The excellent Amos looked grave, graver than I had ever seen him look. I feared I had offended him by my boldness, and, approaching him, was about to embrace him, when I saw tears were sparkling in his eyes. This discovery deeply affected me, you may be assured, dear father; and, troubled more to have grieved than displeased him, I was about to ask his forgiveness for intruding these sacred subjects upon his notice, when he took my hand, and smiling, while a glittering drop danced down his snow-white beard and broke into liquid diamonds upon my hand, he said, "You have done no wrong, child; sit down by me and be at peace with thyself. It is too true, in this day, what the Prophet Malachi writeth, O, Ben Israel," he said sadly, to the Alexandrian Rabbi; "The priests of the temple have indeed become corrupt, save the few here and there! It must have been at this day the Prophet aimed his words. Save in the outward form, I fear the great body of our Levites have little more true religion and just knowledge of the one God Jehovah, than the priests of the Roman idolatry! Alas, I fear me; God regards our sacrifices with no more favor than He looks upon theirs! Today, while I was in the Temple, and was serving at the altar with the priests, these words of Isaiah came into my thoughts and would not be put aside; ’To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me?’ saith the Lord; ’I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; I am weary to bear them; yea, when ye spread forth your hands I will hide mine eyes from you; yea, when ye make many prayers I will not hear; your hands are full of blood! Wash you; make you clean. Cease to do evil; learn to do well!’ "These terrible words of the prophet," added Rabbi Amos, addressing the amazed Ben Israel, "were not out of my mind while I was in the Temple. They seemed to be thundered in my ears by a voice from heaven. Several of the younger priests, whose levity during the sacrifice has been reproved by me, seeing me sad, asked cause. In reply, I repeated with a voice that seemed to myself to be inspired, the words of the prophet. They turned pale and trembled, and thus I left them." "I have noticed," said Ben Israel, "that there is less reverence now in the Temple than when I was in Jerusalem a young man; but I find that the magnificence of the ceremonies is increased." "Yes," responded Ben Amos, with a look of sorrow; "yes, as the soul of piety dies out from within, they gild the outside. The increased richness of the worship is copied from the Roman. So low are we fallen! Our worship, with all its gorgeousness, is as a sepulchre whitewashed to conceal the rottenness within!" You may be convinced, my dear father, that this confession, from such a source, deeply humbled me. If, then, we are not worshiping God, what do we worship? NOUGHT! We are worse off than our barbarian conquerors, for we have no God; while they at least have gods many and lords many, such as they are! Alas, alas, the time of the judgment of Jerusalem seems to be at hand. The Lord MUST suddenly come to His Temple, and as a refiner and purifier! I am deeply impressed with the conviction that the day is very near at hand! Perhaps we shall see it in our lifetime, dear father! Since writing the last line I have been interrupted by Mary, who has brought to see me a youth, nephew of the noble Jewish ruler, Ptolomeus Eliasaph, who was slain by the Romans for his patriotic devotion to his country. He dwells near the Gaza gate, with his widowed mother, who is a noble lady, honored by all lips that discourse her. Between this young man, whose name is John, and Mary there exists a beautiful attachment, not ardent enough to be love, but sincere enough for the purest friendship; yet each day their friendship is ripening into the deepest emotion. He has just returned from the vicinity of Jericho, where he has been for some days past, drawn thither by curiosity, to see and hear the new prophet, alluded to by me at the close of my last letter, whose fame has spread far and wide, and who is drawing thousands into the wilderness, to listen to the eloquence that flows from his mouth. The young man had been giving Mary so interesting an account of him that she desired me also to be a listener! In my next I will write you all I heard; and I trust, dear father, you will patiently bear with me in all things; and believe that, however I may, from the investigating character of my mind, venture upon sacred mysteries, I shall never be less a lover of the God of our Father Abraham, nor less the affectionate and devoted Adina to thee! Adieu.