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  • SKETCHES IN JEWISH SOCIAL LIFE - CH. 13 - B
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    * The learned Lightfoot has expressed a doubt whether the name "Magdalene" is to be rendered "from Magdala" or "the hairdresser." We have noted in a previous chapter, that the inhabitants of Magdala engaged in such and similar business. But the Rabbinical passages to which Lightfoot refers are not satisfactory, since they are evidently dictated by a special animus against Christ and Christianity.

    As for ornaments, gentlemen generally wore a seal, either on the ring-finger or suspended round the neck. Some of them had also bracelets above the wrist (commonly of the right arm), made of ivory, gold, or precious stones strung together. Of course, the fashionable lady was similarly adorned, adding to the bracelets finger-rings, ankle-rings, nose-rings, ear-rings, gorgeous head- dresses, necklaces, chains, and what are nowadays called "charms." As it may interest some, we shall add a few sentences of description. The ear-ring was either plain, or had a drop, a pendant, or a little bell inserted. The nose-ring, which the traditional law ordered to be put aside on the Sabbath, hung gracefully over the upper lip, yet so as not to interfere with the salute of the privileged friend. Two kinds of necklaces were worn- -one close-fitting, the other often consisting of precious stones or pearls, and hanging down over the chest, often as low as the girdle. The fashionable lady would wear two or three such chains, to which smelling-bottles and various ornaments, even heathen "charms," were attached. Gold pendants descended from the head- ornament, which sometimes rose like a tower, or was wreathed in graceful snake-like coils. The anklets were generally so wrought as in walking to make a sound like little bells. Sometimes the two ankle-rings were fastened together, which would oblige the fair wearer to walk with small, mincing steps. If to all this we add gold and diamond pins, and say that our very brief description is strictly based upon contemporary notices, the reader will have some idea of the appearance of fashionable society.

    The sketch just given will be of some practical use if it helps us more fully to realise the contrast presented by the appearance of the Pharisee. Whether sternly severe, blandly meek, or zealously earnest, he would carefully avoid all contact with one who was not of the fraternity, or even occupied an inferior degree in it, as we shall by-and-by show. He would also be recognisable by his very garb. For, in the language of our Lord, the Pharisees made "broad their phylacteries," and "enlarged the borders of their garments." The latter observance, at least so far as concerned the wearing of memorial fringes on the borders of the garments--not the conspicuous enlargement of these borders--rested really on a Divine ordinance (Num 15:37; Deu 22:12). In Scripture these fringes are prescribed to be of blue, the symbolical color of the covenant; but the Mishnah allows them also to be white (Men. iv. 1). They are not unfrequently referred to in the New Testament (Matt 9:20, 14:36, 23:5; Mark 6:56; Luke 8:44). As already stated, they were worn on the border of the outer garment--no doubt by every pious Israelite. Later Jewish mysticism found in this fringed border deep references to the manner in which the Shechinah enwrapped itself in creation, and called the attention of each Israelite to the fact that, if in Numbers 15:39 we read (in the Hebrew), "Ye shall look upon him" [not "it," as in our Authorised Version] "and remember," this change of gender (for the Hebrew word for "fringes" is feminine) indicated--"that, if thou doest so, it is as much as if thou sawest the throne of the Glory, which is like unto blue." And thus believing, the pious Jew would cover in prayer his head with this mysterious fringed garment; in marked contrast to which St. Paul declares all such superstitious practices as dishonoring (1 Cor 11:4). *

    * The practice of modern Jews is somewhat different from that of ancient times. Without entering into details, it is sufficient here to say that they wear underneath their garments a small square, with fringes, called the little tallith (from "talal," to overshadow or cover), or the "arbah canphoth" (four "corners"); while during prayer they wrap themselves in the great tallith, or so-called prayer-cloak.

    If the practice of wearing borders with fringes had Scriptural authority, we are well convinced that no such plea could be urged for the so-called "phylacteries." The observance arose from a literal interpretation of Exodus 13:9, to which even the later injunction in Deuteronomy 6:8 gives no countenance. This appears even from its repetition in Deuteronomy 11:18, where the spiritual meaning and purport of the direction is immediately indicated, and from a comparison with kindred expressions, which evidently could not be taken literally--such as Proverbs 3:3, 6:21, 7:3; Song of Songs 8:6; Isaiah 49:16. The very term used by the Rabbis for phylacteries--"tephillin," prayer-fillets--is comparatively modern origin, in so far as it does not occur in the Hebrew Old Testament. The Samaritans did not acknowledge them as of Mosaic obligation, any more than do the Karaite Jews, and there is, what seems to us, sufficient evidence, even from Rabbinical writings, that in the time of Christ phylacteries were not universally worn, nor yet by the priests while officiating in the Temple. Although the words of our Lord seem only expressly to condemn the making broad of the phylacteries, for purposes of religious ostentation, it is difficult to believe that He Himself had worn them. At any rate, while any ordinary Israelite would only put them on at prayer or on solemn occasions, the members of the Pharisaic confraternity wore them all day long. The practice itself, and the views and ordinances connected with it, are so characteristic of the party, that we shall add a few further particulars.

    The "tephillin" were worn on the left arm, towards the heart, and on the forehead. They consisted--to describe them roughly--of capsules, containing, on parchment (that for the forehead on four distinct parchments), these four passages of Scripture: Exodus 13:1-10, 13:11-16; Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21. The capsules were fastened on by black leather straps, which were wound round the arm and hand (seven times round the former, and three times round the latter), or else fitted to the forehead in a prescribed and mystically significant manner. The wearer of them could not be mistaken. But as for their value and importance in the eyes of the Rabbis, it were impossible to exaggerate it. They were reverenced as highly as the Scriptures, and, like them, might be rescued from the flames on a Sabbath, although not worn, as constituting "a burden!" It was said that Moses had received the law of their observance from God on Mount Sinai; that the "tephillin" were more sacred than the golden plate on the forehead of the high-priest, since its inscription embodied only once the sacred name of Jehovah, while the writing inside the "tephillin" contained it not less than twenty-three times; that the command of wearing them equalled all other commands put together, with many other similar extravagances. How far the profanity of the Rabbis in this respect would go, appears from the circumstance, that they supposed God Himself as wearing phylacteries (Ber. 6 a). The fact is deduced from Isaiah 62:8, where the "right hand" by which Jehovah swears is supposed to refer to the law, according to the last clause of Deuteronomy 33:2; while the expression "strength of His arm" was applied to the "tephillin," since the term "strength" appeared in Psalm 29:11 in connection with God's people, and was in turn explained by a reference to Deuteronomy 28:10. For "the strength" of God's People (Psa 29:11) is that which would cause all to "be afraid" of Israel (Deu 28:10); and this latter would be due to their seeing that Israel was "called by the name of Jehovah," this ocular demonstration being afforded through the "tephillin." Such was the evidence which traditionalism offered for such a monstrous proposition.

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