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But the rigorous discharge of tithes was only one part of the obligations of a "Chaber." The other part consisted in an equally rigorous submission to all the laws of Levitical purity as then understood. Indeed, the varied questions as to what was, or what made "clean," divided the one "order" of Pharisees into members of various degrees. Four such degrees, according to increasing strictness in "making clean," are mentioned. It would take too long to explain this fourfold gradation in its details. Suffice it, that, generally speaking, a member of the first degree was called a "Chaber," or "Ben hacheneseth,"son of the union"--an ordinary Pharisee; while the other three degrees were ranked together under the generic name of "Teharoth" (purifications). These latter were probably the "Chasidim" of the later period. The "Chaber," or ordinary Pharisee, only bound himself to tithing and avoidance of all Levitical uncleanness. The higher degrees, on the other hand, took increasingly strict vows. Any one might enter "the order" if he took, before three members, the solemn vow of observing the obligations of the fraternity. A novitiate of a year (which was afterwards shortened) was, however, necessary. The wife or widow of a "Chaber," and his children, were regarded as members of the fraternity. Those who entered the family of a "Pharisee" had also to seek admission into the "order." The general obligations of a "Chaber" towards those that were "without" the fraternity were as follows. He was neither to buy from, nor to sell to him anything, either in a dry or fluid state; he was neither to eat at his table (as he might thus partake of what had not been tithed), nor to admit him to his table, unless he had put on the garments of "Chaber" (as his own old ones might else have carried defilement); nor to go into any burying-place; nor to give "therumah" or tithes to any priest who was not a member of the fraternity; nor to do anything in presence of an "am ha-aretz," or non-"Chaber," which brought up points connected with the laws of purification, etc. To these, other ordinances, partly of an ascetic character, were added at a later period. But what is specially remarkable is that not only was a novitiate required for the higher grades, similar to that on first entering the order; but that, just as the garment of a non-"chaber" defiled a "Chaber" of the first degree, that of the latter equally defiled him of the second degree, and so on. *
* It is impossible here to reproduce the Talmudical passages in evidence. But the two obligations of "making clean" and of "tithing," together with the arrangement of the Pharisees into various grades, are even referred to in the Mishnah (Chag. ii. 5, 6 and , and Demai ii. 2,3).
To sum up then: the fraternity of the Pharisees were bound by these two vows--that of tithing and that in regard to purifications. As the most varied questions would here arise in practice, which certainly were not answered in the law of Moses, the "traditions," which were supposed to explain and supplement the Divine law, became necessary. In point of fact, the Rabbis speak of them in that sense, and describe them as "a hedge" around Israel and its law. That these traditions should have been traced up to oral communications made to Moses on Mount Sinai, and also deduced by ingenious methods from the letter of Scripture, was only a further necessity of the case. The result was a system of pure externalism, which often contravened the spirit of those very ordinances, the letter of which was slavishly worshipped. To what arrant hypocrisy it often gave rise, appears from Rabbinical writings almost as much as from the New Testament. We can understand how those "blind guides" would often be as great a trouble to their own party as to others. "The plague of Pharisaism" was not an uncommon expression; and this religious sore is ranked with "a silly pietist, a cunning sinner, and a woman Pharisee," as constituting "the troubles of life" (Sot. iii. 4). "Shall we stop to explain the opinions of Pharisees?" asks a Rabbi, in supreme contempt for "the order" as such. "It is as a tradition among the Pharisees," we read (Ab. de R. Nathan, 5), "to torment themselves in this world, and yet they will not get anything in the next." It was suggested by the Sadducees, that "the Pharisees would by-and-by subject the globe of the sun itself to their purifications." On the other hand, almost Epicurean sentences are quoted among their utterances, such as, "Make haste, eat and drink, for the world in which we are is like a wedding feast"; "If thou possessest anything, make good cheer of it; for there is no pleasure underneath the sod, and death gives no respite...Men are like the flowers of the field; some flourish, while others fade away."
"Like the flowers of the field!" What far other teaching of another Rabbi, Whom these rejected with scorn, do the words recall! And when from their words we turn to the kingdom which He came to found, we can quite understand the essential antagonism of nature between the two. Assuredly, it has been a bold stretch of assertion to connect in any way the origin or characteristics of Christianity with the Rabbis. Yet, when we bring the picture of Pharisaism, as drawn in Rabbinical writings, side by side with the sketch of it given by our Lord, we are struck not only with the life-likeness, but with the selection of the distinctive features of Pharisaism presented in His reproofs. Indeed, we might almost index the history of Pharisaism by passages from the New Testament. The "tithing of mint and anise," to the neglect of the weightier matters of the law, and "the cleansing" of the outside--these twofold obligations of the Pharisees, "hedged around," as they were, by a traditionalism which made void the spirit of the law, and which manifested itself in gross hypocrisy and religious boasting--are they not what we have just traced in the history of "the order?"