Chronicles of Jerahmeel, by M. Gaster , at sacred-texts.com
X. (1) The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. Happy is the man in whom there is wisdom combined with fear; one may be doing more, another less, provided that his heart is turned to heaven. (2) Woe to, him whom this world leads astray; woe unto him who does not walk in the ways of God; woe unto him who hearkens to his evil inclination, or who does not listen to his Creator; woe to him whose pleader becomes his accuser; woe unto him who does not devote his heart to his Father in heaven; woe to him whose wheel of life has turned; woe unto the man who has been righteous and has turned wicked; woe to him who loses his life's work in a rash moment, or causes the profanation of God's name.
(3) Certain punishments follow immediately upon the committal of sin, others come after a time. There are punishments which come one after the other, others simultaneously. Some punishments come upon man while he is asleep, others while he is awake; some come upon him heavily, others lightly; some affect part of the body, others the whole body; some, again, come upon one in his youth, while others come in his old age; some which he anticipates, others which he does not anticipate; some are open and some are hidden, others, again, are revealed to the whole world. And all the trouble, misery, and shame come upon man in consequence of sin and transgression. (4) Some bear their punishments with love; some worship God for fear of suffering in their sustenance or in their livelihood, or through the ill-health of their children, or through the punishment of Gehinnom. Some worship Him
in simplicity, in purity, in joy, and some in the hope that they may make others worthy of reward. Some, again, worship Him to guard themselves against punishments, as it is said, 'When they are in trouble, they seek Me early.' Everyone is judged while he is in full consciousness, and this applies to the living and the dead alike.
(5) When man is about to quit this world the angel appointed over him says, 'Pity this body that goes out of this world without having performed any good actions.' He looks at his two legs, and says, 'Woe unto those legs which have not walked in the ways of the Lord. Woe unto those thighs which have not been eager to run after God's Commandments. Woe unto the bowels which have enjoyed stolen property. Woe unto those hands which have occupied themselves with sin. Woe unto the mouth which has consumed the property of others. Woe unto the eyes which have desired the property of strangers. Woe unto those ears which have not hearkened to reproof. Woe to that proud stature that has not bent in repentance. Woe unto the spirit that has not humbled itself before its Creator.' (6) The angel in anger bids him stand up for judgment to relate his deeds. He says, 'Know whence thou hast come, and whither thou art going—to a place of dust and worms. Who is the Judge, and before whom art thou to give account and reckoning? If thou art able to answer, then answer, for no one else can answer for thee; there is no remedy except good deeds, as it is written, "Thy righteousness shall go before thee."' (7) What enjoyment can it be for man to look upon sin, since it is like fire to stubble, and like a sword to the neck, as an arrow to the liver, as chains to the feet, as darkness to the eyes, as gall to the mouth, and as chastisement to the body? Whoever induces another to swerve from the good path is cut off in the midst of his days, and whoever flatters a sinner, his days shall be shortened in this world. Whoever scoffs at the Commandments will have no mercy shown to him from heaven. (8) Whoever causes another to blush in
public will cause the book in which the sins of man are inscribed to be opened. Whoever scoffs at the poverty of the poor, behold he shall be brought low, he will be ahungered while others shall eat before him. Whoever commits fraudulent transactions shall have no rest on the eve of the Sabbath; behold, all the joys which gladden his heart will be turned into mourning. He will be visited on the day of reckoning with terrible judgment and with much shame by relentless angels in the world to come. Therefore it is said, 'And what wilt thou do on the day of visitation?' (9) He who sins with his eyes, those eyes shall become dim; he who sins with his mouth, behold his words shall not be heard; he who sins by giving false advice, behold his own prosperity shall vanish; he who sins in his thoughts, his days shall be a constant vexation; he who sins with his tongue, behold chastisement will overtake him; he who sins with his hand shall lose his honour; he who sins with his legs, the years of his life shall be shortened; whoever sins in his heart shall die of grief; whoever sins with his inclination, this very inclination shall turn his accuser; he who sins and causes others to sin shall bury his wife and his children during his lifetime; he who sins purposely, the decree of Divine judgment will be sealed against him; he who sins unwittingly is not in a good moral condition.
(10) What benefit has a man by sinning? his ultimate end is to quit this world for another, to go from light to darkness, from life to death, from sleep which is sweet to a sleep that is troubled; he is a prey for the worms; he passes from sweet dainties to the taste of dust; from beautiful garments to the shroud in the grave. But this is not all: he moreover loses his soul. Many rich men have lost their souls through their riches, such as Dathan and Abiram; and the wisdom of many a wise man has caused him to come to grief, as, for instance, Ahitophel, Doeg the Edomite, and Balaam, the wicked one. Likewise many mighty men have existed whose power has been the cause of their fall, as Samson, Abner, Asael, and Joab. Many also have reared
sons, but have had no joy from them, as Aaron, the High Priest, who had no joy from Nadab and Abihu. All this applies equally to the righteous as well as the wicked; death overtakes them all. There were also many beautiful ones, whose beauty was the cause of their downfall, such as Absalom and Adonijah ben Ḥagith. There have been many elders of the community who have departed this life without honour, such as the great Sanhedrin in the time of Zedekiah, who were slain by Nebuchadnezzar. And again, how many young people have been snatched away from their bridal canopy! (11) Thus, what advantage can possibly accrue to man by robbing and stealing? for, although he may thereby derive some temporal comfort, he must nevertheless render account and reckoning before God. What benefit can man's joy be to him when it brings sorrow and grief upon him? What benefit is it for a man to inspire fear, since punishment will overtake him? What benefit his proud strut if it brings pains upon him? What benefit his evil meditation, which brings in its train many kinds of death? What benefit his deception, which dashes his prosperity to the ground? On account of this the righteous and the pious have no desire whatever for this world which is fleeting. But how do we know that this world is fleeting? Because it is said, 'For a wind has passed over it, and it is no more.'
(12) On the other hand, he is heir to the future world who keeps aloof from strife, from evil talk, from causeless hatred, from inciting quarrels, who is truly modest, who is devout in his prayer, and confesses his sins before God. He it is who is loved by God. Therefore the righteous have resolved to claim no honours, and to refrain from pleasure. They have therefore placed a check upon their eyes, their mouths, their hands, and their feet, to prevent them from doing evil. The eye which does not sin is worthy to behold the face of the Divine glory, as it is said, 'Thine eyes shall behold the King in his beauty.' The heart that does not sin shall be worthy to see the Divine glory with abundant joy. The hand that does not
sin will be worthy of receiving every reward, as it is said, 'Behold the Lord God shall come with strength, and give him mastery in his arm.' The mouth that does not sin will be worthy of singing praises before God, as it is written, 'And thou shalt say, On that day I will praise Thee, O God.'