RABBI JOSHUA, as was his wont, was on a mission of charity on a hot summer's day, in a glowing sun, without finding a drop of water to quench his thirst. Towards evening he reached a small village, where he espied a girl filling her pitcher at the village well. 'O grant me a draught of your refreshing water,' he said to the damsel, 'for I am well-nigh perishing of thirst.' Like the graceful Rebecca of Holy Writ, the maid handed her pitcher full to the thirsty sage, with the remark, 'Drink, worthy man, to thy full, and I will then also give water to the beast upon which thou camest hither.' Touched by the kindly act, the Rabbi said to the maiden, 'I see you understand well how to imitate our pious mother Rebecca.' 'And you, I hope,' came the quick answer, 'will equally understand how to imitate the faithful Eliezer.' 'Quite right, my daughter,' replied Rabbi Joshua, struck by the quick-wittedness of the maiden, 'You well deserve golden trinkets for your kindness; but you deserve them, you do not need them, for you possess a jewel in your kindly soul that is the brightest ornament one can possess. The only addition I can give you to it is my prayer that the Lord may aid you to retain your kindly nature through life.' With this Rabbi Joshua took his departure.--Mid. Lament. 1.
At Sinai the Israelites carried a glorious weapon with the name of God inscribed on it. They were deprived of it after making the golden calf.--Pesichta of Mid. Lament.
Rav Assé and Rabbi Ammé went to inspect a town, to see what improvements were required therein. When
they came to the place they asked for the protectors of it. The watchmen of the town were presented to them, as being what they asked for. 'These,' the Rabbis said, 'are not the protectors of your place. What we want to see is your real protectors: your schools, your teachers and their pupils.'--Mid. Lament. 1.
Balaam the son of Beor and Abinimos the Gardite, who were considered the wisest men amongst their people at the time, were consulted how to act in order to effect a serious injury to the Israelites. The advice of these two wise men was, to find out whether there were any elementary schools for the instruction of the rising generation amongst the Jews. 'If you hear,' said they, 'children's voices studying their Torah, all your efforts to hurt that people will be in vain; if not, you will succeed. For you should remember the words in connexion with the blessings they have received: "the voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau." As long as the voice of Jacob is used in prayer and in study of the Torah, he will defy the hands of Esau.'--Mid. Lament. 1.
He who trains a bad pupil must expect discredit.--Mid. Lament. (Pesichta).
There was harmony between God and his people when He redeemed them from Egypt. They have sinned and broken that harmony, and become separated from their God.--Mid. Lament. (Pesichta).
At the destruction of the Temple, whilst some of the enemy were busy with the plunder of gold and silver, the men of Ammon and Moab sought to lay hands on the scrolls of the Pentateuch, as it is there written (Deut. 23. 4), 'An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord.' So, when a fire breaks out on a slaveowner's premises, while others look for plunder among his valuables, the slave's first care is to look for the contract which binds him to his master and to destroy it.--Mid. Lament. 1.
The following story is related of a woman named Miriam, daughter of Nachtem, who was made captive with her seven sons. When the chief of the place had her sons brought before an image of an idol and bade them bow down before it, six of the sons, each in his turn, stubbornly declined to do so, each basing his refusal on a different Biblical passage showing the prohibition of idolatry; and each on his refusal to comply with the mandate of the savage paid the penalty of death. When at last the turn of the youngest son came, and he, like his elder brothers, refused to bow down before the idol, the perpetrator of this wholesale slaughter seemed to be overcome with something like pity for the young life, and tried, instead of violence, his persuasive powers, and argued with the youngster to induce compliance with his orders. 'See,' he said, 'the fate of your brothers for refusing to do my bidding.' 'No,' answered the lad, 'I will not bow down to an idol, and I am prepared to meet death with the same fortitude as my brothers.' 'But your brothers,' argued the heathen, 'did not die before they had seen something of life, and tasted its sweetness; whilst you are so young and have seen nothing of life, you should not be so ready to sacrifice it.' 'No,' persisted the boy, 'I will not do an act which is offensive to my God and destructive of my soul.' 'I am prepared to compromise with you,' the savage went on with his subterfuges, 'I will drop my ring in front of the image, and you will bend down to pick the ring up, so that it shall appear to my people that you did my bidding, and they will no longer be able to say that I was defied, not only by your six brothers, but even by one of such tender years as you.' When all these devices had failed, the chief adopted other tactics. 'See,' he said, 'in my idol you have something tangible, which is more than can be said of your God, whom no one has ever seen and who has nothing visible about Him. Has your God a mouth, as you
see my god has?' He has not a mouth,' replied the lad, 'for He is incorporeal; but by his word the heavens were made (Ps. 33.). He has no eyes, yet I know that the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the land (Zech. 4.). He has no bodily ears, but he hearkens and hears (Mal. 3.). He has no mortal hand, but his hands founded the earth' (Isa. 48.). 'Then,' said the heathen, 'why does He not save you out of my hands?' 'Because I am destined to die,' replied the boy, 'and you are but the instrument-as any wild beast, such as a lion, a wolf, or a snake might be-to bring about the destiny decreed upon me.' Hereupon the child was put to death by order of the savage, and his mother, bereft of reason by the loss of all her children, threw herself down from the top of her house. Thus perished the mother and all her seven sons.--Mid. Lament. T.
God in his love and mercy provides the remedy even before the disease visits us. He sent the sweet balm of comfort through one prophet before another of his prophets uttered his lamentations over the woes and sorrows which had overtaken Jerusalem and its people. In the first chapter of the Book of Lamentations Jeremiah pours out his bitter heart in twenty-two verses, alphabetically arranged; but before Jeremiah thus uttered his sorrows the prophet Isaiah anticipated each of his colleague's woes with words of comfort suitable to the complaint.
Jeremiah said, 'How doth the city sit solitary' (Lament. 1. 1), but in anticipation of this lament Isaiah declares, 'The place is too strait for me, give place to me that I may dwell' (Isa. 49. 20). Against Jeremiah's lament, 'She weepeth sore in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks,' Isaiah preceded him with the words, 'For the people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem, thou shalt weep no more' (Isa. 30. 19).
Jeremiah says, 'Judah is gone into captivity,' which Isaiah anticipates with the assurance, 'He shall assemble
the outcasts of Israel,' etc. (Isa. 11. 12). The words of Jeremiah, 'The ways of Zion do mourn,' Isaiah meets beforehand with the words, 'Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God' (Isa. 40. 3). Jeremiah complains, 'Her adversaries have become chiefs': but Isaiah tells us before this, 'The sons of them that afflicted thee shall come bending their knee' (Isa. 60. 14). Jeremiah cries, 'From the daughter of Zion all her beauty is departed': Isaiah had already said, 'And the Redeemer shall come to Zion' (Isa. 59. 20). Jeremiah says, 'Jerusalem remembers in her days of affliction'; Isaiah assures us, 'The former shall not be remembered' (Isa. 65. 17). Jeremiah says, 'Jerusalem hath sinned'; Isaiah previous to this declares, 'I have blotted out as a thick cloud thy transgressions' (Isa. 44. 22). Jeremiah says, 'Her filthiness is in her skirts'; Isaiah speaks of a time 'when the Lord shall wash away the filth of the daughters of Zion' (Isa. 4. 4). Jeremiah laments, 'The enemy hath spread out his hands on all her pleasant things'; Isaiah anticipates this lament by assuring us, 'the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people' (Isa. ii. 11). Jeremiah says, 'All her people sigh, they seek bread'; Isaiah anticipates this complaint with the comforting words, 'they shall not hunger nor thirst' (Isa. 49. 10). Jeremiah asks, 'See if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow'; Isaiah has it, 'The Spirit shall be poured out on us from on high' (Isa. 32. 15). Jeremiah laments, 'From above hath He sent a fire into my bones'; Isaiah brought the message from the Most High, 'For I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth' (Isa. 57. 16). Jeremiah complains, 'The yoke of transgressions is bound by his hand'; which Isaiah anticipates with the words, 'Loose thyself from the bands of thy neck,' etc. (Isa. 52. 2). Jeremiah cries, 'The Lord hath trodden under foot all my mighty men '; Isaiah comforts us with the words,
'Prepare ye the way of the people, cast up the highway, lift up the standard for the people' (Isa. 62. 10). Jeremiah says, 'For this I weep, mine eye runneth down with tears'; Isaiah assures us, 'For they shall see eye to eye when the Lord shall bring again Zion' (Isa. 52. 7). Jeremiah complains, 'Zion spreadeth forth her hands, and there is none to comfort her'; Isaiah had said, 'Comfort you, even I am He that comforteth you' (Isa. 51. 12). Jeremiah declares, 'The Lord is righteous, for I have rebelled against his commandments'; Isaiah declares, 'Thy people also shall be all righteous' (Isa. 60. 2). Jeremiah wails, 'I called for my lovers, but they deceived me'; Isaiah declares, 'But thou shalt call thy walls salvation and thy gates praise' (Isa. 60. 18). Jeremiah cries, See, O Lord, for I am in distress'; Isaiah declared, 'And when ye see this your heart shall rejoice' (Isa. 66. 14). Jeremiah laments, 'There is none to comfort me'; Isaiah had previously proclaimed, 'Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people,' etc. (Isa. 40. 1). Jeremiah finally says, 'Let their wickedness come before thee,' etc.; Isaiah had previously said, 'Even them will I bring to my holy mountain,' etc.--Mid. Lamentations 1.
It seems that the identical word used to describe Israel's sin is employed to particularize the punishment for that sin, and is again made use of as the forgiveness of their transgression. It is, for instance, said that Israel sinned, and with the sin employed the word ראש 'head' in suggesting 'Let us appoint a head--a leader--and let us return to Egypt' (Numb. 14.). In punishing them the same word ראסה 'head' is used (Isa. 1. 5), and in comforting them the same word ראסה 'head' is employed (Micah 2. 13).
They transgressed with the word 'ear' (Zech. 7. 11) in punishing them the same word is used (1 Saml. 3. 11), and they are comforted with the same word (Isa. 30-24 They sinned with the word 'eye' (Isa. 3.); they were
punished with that word (Lament. 1. 16), and comforted with the same word (Isa. 52). They transgressed with the word 'nose' (Ezkl. 8. 17); they were punished with the word (Levit. 2,6. 24), and comforted with that word (Levit. 26. 423). They committed sin, and used in connexion therewith the word 'mouth' (Isa. 5.); they were punished with that word (Isa. 9.), and comforted with the same word (Ps. 126.). They erred with their tongue (Jer. 9.); they had their retribution with the same word (Lament. 4. 4), and were comforted with the same word (Ps. 126.). They sinned, and used in connexion with their sin the word 'heart' (Zech. 7.); and so they were punished with that word (Isa. 1.), and were also comforted with the same word (Isa. 40.). They committed iniquity with their hands (Isa. 1.), were punished with the same (Lament. 4. 10), and comforted with the same (Isa. 11. 11). They sinned with the word 'foot' (Prov. 1.), were punished with the word (Jer. 11), and comforted with that word (Isa. 52). They committed sin with the word 'fire' (Jer. 7), were punished with it (Lament. 1. 3), and comforted with it (Zech. 2.).--Mid. Lament. 2.