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Page:Notes and Queries - Series 9 - Volume 11.djvu/230

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ritualism has passed away, where kashruth (examination) of the edibles has been quietly relegated to the Christian cook, this charm- ing old rite still shines in solitary splendour over the ruins of our modern respectability, and recalls the famous line of Lucretius,

Quasi cursores vital lampada tradunt. This is the last relic of the golden age of Jewish scholarship, when learning and not

wealth won the smiles and caught the glances of Hebrew maidens, when the Chabba (pro- fessor) and the Talmid Chacham (distin- guished student) were courted by dames of high degree. The following citations show the status of Hebrew women. "A man might sell his all to enable his daughter to marry a Talmid Chacham " (Pesachim, 49). If he did impoverish himself for so noble an object he is said (Ketuboth, 111) to possess fine spiritual insight, " to cleave to the Shekinah." Money had no particular merits in those bucolic ages. "A man should not let his daughter marry an old man" (Sanhedrin, 71). "That was an ill-assorted marriage when a daughter of the priestly caste stooped to an Israelite, or when a scholar's daughter allied herself with an ainaretz " (tradesman) (Pesachim, 49). The study of the Torah was continuous ; still it might be indefinitely postponed to promote a bridal feast (Megillah, 3). Equality and spiritual sympathy between the sexes, for which Mill pleaded so eloquently, find a responsive note in these dicta : " When a man finds his mate Elijah kisses him and God loves him " (Dayrech Ayretz, cap. i.). "The wife of a scholar was honoured as a scholar" (Shevuoth, 30). Even to-day this rule obtains m many continental cities owning a Chief Rabbi whose wife is invariably an accom- plished lady, and is called " Rabbitsin." Owing to her extreme tactfulness she is better equipped for resolving many of the minor cases of conscience than even the Rabbi himself.

In the work I have referred to Mill labours most painfully to show that women from the cradle onward are trained to look upon mar- riage as their ultimate destiny. Was it so among the Hebrews? Listen to the Tal- mudical fathers, who pushed, if they did not quite bully our frightened Lothario into the marital shafts. "A bachelor is not a man"

Chagiga 63). "A bachelor leads an in- glorious life and has no luck " (ibid , 62) " A widower is not entitled to live a lonely life " id., 61). "A man should build a house and then marry " (Sotah, 44). "At eighteen

very man should take a wife " (Pirkei Aboth, cap i.). Do they address these admonitions to the women? Not at all. For they are as

greatly favoured by the Rabbins as were the English maidens by our own Constitution, if JBlackstone is correct. They certainly vote them a set of chatterboxes. "Out of ten parts of small talk women claim nine" (Keddushin, 49). Inasmuch as they regarded the sex as " superior beings," " God having given them an oversoul " (Niddah, 45), small talk with them was strenuously condemned, as it tended to promote frivolity of conduct (Pirkei Aboth, cap. i.).

These are some of the fine things they said of them : " Women are all tender-hearted " (Megillah, 3). "A noble wife will give birth to princes " (ibid., 10). " The man who has a prudent wife is rich " (Sabbath, 25). " A good woman is a fortune to any man : a pretty one pays her husband a compliment" (Chagiga, 63). The Rabbins knew the wonder-working effects of kindness. They will tell you (Ketu- both, 62) "a woman prefers liberty in a cot- tage to restraint in a palace." And again (ibid., 59), " Whosoever desires to retain his wife's affection will provide her with genteel attire." Here are a few of the duties they owe to each other : " A man is not allowed to reduce his wife to a state of carnal servitude" (Chagiga, 107). On the other hand, he is not to endanger her reputation by ex- cessive absence from the family hearth. He was directed (Ketuboth, 9), " before set- ting out for the wars, to furnish his wife with documents entitling her to get a divorce." Neither was the man encouraged to embark on the perilous seas of matrimony without full deliberation. He was told (Baba Bathra, 10) to institute inquiries into the lady's family history, so that if he tied himself to a vulgar woman he must pay the penalty "in having vulgar offspring " (Sotah, 70). They did not favour divorce. "When a man puts away his first wife even the altar weeps for him " (Gittin, 90). He was plainly told " he had no business to marry the woman" (Chagiga, 37). But their sympathies went out in fullest measure to the man bereft of his mate. "The destruction of the Temple would not be so keen a blow to a man as the ioss of his first love" (Sanhedrin, 22).

M. L. R. BEESLAR. Percy House, South Hackney.


(See ante, p. 181.)

Vol. i. (A. R. Shilleto's edition), p. 253, 1. 8 Part I. sect. ii. mem. ii. subs, i.):

"Our Italians and Spaniards do make a whole dinner of herbs and sallets (which our said Plautus calls coenas [I copy the spelling with reluctance]