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- The Emperor, Part 2, Volume 7. - 2/10 -
clothing of our thoughts--the language of our fathers and of the scriptures, you have abandoned for another, sacrificed to another."
"You and your nephew also speak Greek."
"We do it here, because the heathen, because you and yours, no longer understand the tongue of Moses and the prophets."
"But wherever the Great Alexander bore his arms Greek is spoken; and does not the Greek version of the scriptures, translated by the seventy interpreters under the direct guidance of our God, exactly reproduce the Hebrew text?"
"And would you exchange the stone engraved by Bryasis that you wear on your finger, and showed me yesterday with so much pride, for a wax impression of the gem?"
"The language of Plato is not an inferior thing; it is as noble as the costliest sapphire."
"But ours came to us from the lips of the Most High. What would you think of a child that, disdaining the tongue Of its father listened only to that of its neighbors and made use of an interpreter to be able to understand its parents' commands?"
"You are speaking of parents who have long since left their native land. The ancestor need not be indignant with his descendants when they use the language of their new home, so long as they continue to act in accordance with his spirit."
"We must live not merely in accordance with the spirit, but by the words of the Most High, for not a syllable proceeds from His lips in vain. The more exalted the spirit of a discourse is, the more important is every word and syllable. One single letter often changes the meaning of whole sentences.--What a noise the people outside are making! The wild tumult penetrates even into this room which is so far from the street, and your sons take delight in the disorders of the heathen! You do not even withhold them by force from adding to the number of those mad devotees of pleasure!"
"I was young once myself, and I think it no sin to share in the universal rejoicing."
"Say rather the disgraceful idolatry of the worshippers of Dionysus. It is in name alone that you and your children belong to the elect people of God, in your hearts you are heathens!"
"No, Father," exclaimed Apollodorus eagerly. "The reverse is the case. In our hearts we are Jews but we wear the garments of Greeks."
"Why your name is Apollodorus--the gift of Apollo."
"A name chosen only to distinguish me from others. Who would ever enquire into the meaning of a name if it sounds well."
"You, everybody who is not devoid of sense," cried the Rabbi. "You think to yourself 'need Zenodotus or Hermogenes, some Greek you meet at the bath or else where, know at once that the wealthy personage, with whom he discussed the latest interpretation of the Hellenic myths, is a Jew?' And how charming is the man who asks you whether you are not an Athenian, for your Greek has such a pure Attic accent! And what we ourselves like, we favor in our children, so we choose names for them too which flatter our own vanity."
A faint mocking smile crossed Gamaliel's lips and interrupting the Alexandrian he said:
"Is there any particularly worthy man among our Alexandrian fellow- believers whose name is Heracles?"
"No one" cried the Alexandrian "ever thinks of the son of Alcmene when he asseverates--it only means 'really,--truly--'"
"To be sure you are not fastidiously accurate in the choice of your words and names, and where there is so much to be seen and enjoyed as there is here one's thoughts are not always connected. That is intelligible-- quite, peculiarly intelligible! And in this city folks are so polite that they are fain to wrap truth in some graceful disguise. May I, a barbarian from Judea, be allowed to set it before you, bare of clothing, naked and unadorned."
"Speak, I beg you, speak."
"You are Jews; but you had rather not be Jews, and you endure your origin as an inevitable evil. It is only when you feel the mighty hand of the Most High that you recognize it and claim your right to be one of His chosen people. In the smooth current of daily life you proudly number yourselves with his enemies. Do not interrupt me, and answer honestly what I shall ask you. In what hour of your life did you feel yourself that you owed the deepest gratitude to the God of your fathers?"
"Why should I deny it?--In the hour when my lost wife presented me with my first-born son."
"And you called him?"
"You know his name is Benjamin."
"Like the favorite son of our forefather Jacob, for in the hour when you thus named him you were honestly yourself, you felt thankful that it had been vouchsafed to you to add another link to the chain of your race--you were a Jew--you were confident in our God--in your own God. The birth of your second son touched your soul less deeply and you gave him the name of Theophilus, and when your third male child was born you had altogether ceased to remember the God of your fathers, for he is named after one of the heathen gods, Hephaestion. To put it shortly: You are Jews when the Lord is most gracious to you, or threatens to try you most severely but you are heathen whenever your way does not lead you over the high hills or through the dark abysses of life. I cannot change your hearts--but the wife of my brother's son, the daughter of Ben Akiba, must be a daughter of our people, morning, noon, and night. I seek a Rebecca for my daughter and not an Ismene."
"I did not ask you here," retorted Apollodorus. "But if you quit us to-morrow, you as will be followed by our reverent regard. Think no worse of us because we adapt ourselves, more, perhaps, than is fitting, to the ways and ideas of the people among whom we have grown up, and in whose midst we have been prosperous, and whose interests are ours. We know how high our faith is beyond theirs. In our hearts we still are Jews; but are we not bound to try to open and to cultivate and to elevate our spirits, which God certainly made of stuff no coarser than that of other nations, whenever and wherever we may? And in what school may our minds be trained better or on sounder principles than in ours--I mean that of the Greek sages? The knowledge of the Most High--"
"That knowledge," cried the old man, gesticulating vehemently with his arms. "The knowledge of God Most High and all that the most refined philosophy can prove, all the sublimest and purest of the thinkers of whom you speak can only apprehend by the gravest meditation and heart- searching--all this I say has been bestowed as a free gift of God on every child of our people. The treasures which your sages painfully seek out we already possess in our scriptures, our law and our moral ordinances. We are the chosen people, the first-born of the Lord, and when Messiah shall rise up in our midst--"
"Then," interrupted Apollodorus, "that shall be fulfilled which, like Philo, I hope for, we shall be the priests and prophets for all nations. Then we shall in truth be a race of priests whose vocation it shall be to call down the blessing of the Most High on all mankind."
"For us--for us alone shall the messenger of God appear, to make us the kings, and not the slaves of the nations."
Apollodorus looked with surprise into the face of the excited old man, and asked with an incredulous smile: "The crucified Nazarene was a false Messiah; but when will the true Messiah appear?"
"When will He appear?" cried the Rabbi. "When? Can I tell when? Only one thing I do know; the serpent is already sharpening its fangs to sting the heel of Him who shall tread upon it. Have you heard the name of Bar Kochba?"
"Uncle," said Ben Jochai, interrupting the old Rabbi's speech, and rising from his seat: "Say nothing you might regret."
"Nay, nay," answered Gamaliel earnestly. "Our friends here prefer the human above the divine, but they are not traitors." Then turning again to Apollodorus he continued:
"The oppressors in Israel have set up idols in our holy places, and strive again to force the people to bow down to them; but rather shall our back be broken than we will bend the knee or submit!"
"You are meditating another revolt?" asked the Alexandrian anxiously.
"Answer me--have you heard the name of Bar Kochba?"
"Yes, as that of the foolhardy leader of an armed troup."
"He is a hero--perhaps the Redeemer."
"And it was for him that you charged me to load my next corn vessel to Joppa with swords, shields and lance-heads?"
"And are none but the Romans to be permitted to use iron?"
"Nay--but I should hesitate to supply a friend with arms if he proposed to use them against an irresistible antagonist, who will inevitably annihilate him!"
"The Lord of Hosts is stronger than a thousand legions!"
"Be cautious uncle," said Ben Jochai again in a warning voice.
Gamaliel turned wrathfully upon his nephew, but before he could retort on the young man's protest, he started in alarm, for a wild howling and the resounding clatter of violent blows on the brazen door of the house rang through the hall and shook its walls of marble.
"They are attacking my house," shouted Apollodorus.
"This is the gratitude of those for whom you have broken faith with the God of your fathers," said the old man gloomily. Then throwing up his hands and eyes he cried aloud: "Hear me Adonai! My years are many and I am ripe for the grave; but spare these, have mercy upon them."
Ben Jochai followed his uncle's example and raised his arms in supplication, while his black eyes sparkled with a lowering glow in his
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