BLTC Press Titles

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The Characters of Theophrastus


The Secret Doctrine, Volume II Anthropogenesis

H. P. Blavatsky

The Art of Worldly Wisdom

Baltasar Gracian

Esoteric Buddhism

A. P. Sinnett

Jewish post-Biblical history through great personalities from Jochanan ben Zakkai through Moses Mendelssohn

by Adele Bildersee


Jerusalem. victims of an even unhappier fate. Many were massacred in the burning and pillage that followed the fall of the city. Many more were driven off to be sold in the slave markets of the world or to toil for Roman masters in unwholesome mines. Some died the prey of wild beasts or of gladiators in Roman amphitheatres. The once beautiful country of Judea lay desolate, almost without inhabitants. Now the conquerors divided it into lots to be sold to the highest bidder or to be given as the spoil of war to the Roman soldiers.

Throughout the world the Jews were in despair. The

great Jewish communities in Syria and Persia, in Egypt

and in Babylon, the Jews in Rome and in Europe

The Kffect

on the jews generally, who, until now, had turned reverently throughout for instruction and guidance to Jerusalem, to the Temple, were overwhelmed with grief. The Sanhedrin, which had taught the principles of Judaism to all these scattered sons of Israel, had vanished with the fall of the Holy City. Nation, Temple, Sanhedrin gone, what was to become of Jews- and Judaism?

Had the Jews been only a nation, like Assyria and Carthage, like these mighty peoples they would have been Israel's swept away. Had Judaism had no great mes

Faith in its sage for the world, had its mission been already accomplished, there would have been no living spirit to carry on the ancient faith after this terrible catastrophe. But Israel had not only proud and tender memories of its glorious past; it had a passionate faith in its vision of the future. And there were at this critical period men who had the foresight to see, above the raging storm that swept their time, the star of this promise; who had the devoted courage to give their lives to the consecrated work of carrying on the Word of God to coming generations.

Foremost among these was Jochanan ben Zakkai. He had been a disciple of Hillel, and the gentle sage had Jochanan valued so highly the character and the ability ben Zakkai. of \]{s voung pupil that he had called him, prophetically, "Father of Wisdom" and "Father of the Coming Generation." And indeed Hillel's love of peace and his devotion to study showed his disciple the way to follow. In Jerusalem, in the happier days before the fall, Jochanan had sat among the learned in council in the Sanhedrin, and had taught tirelessly in the shadow of the Temple all those who sought knowledge. Then had come the stormy days of revolt against Rome; and Jochanan, with his wise insight into the true strong places of his religion, had counseled peace. Israel had a far different task, he knew, from that of opposing violence to violence and combating Rome with force of arms. But in spite of the honor in which the people held him, they had not listened to him. With ever greater horror he had seen the inevitable Roman victory drawing nearer. Nearer came the day when holy city and sacred Temple would be lost. And, Zion gone, whence should come the Word of God? That was the question Rabbi Jochanan pondered while the battering rams of the Romans were knocking at the gate. And to the wise teacher the answer had come that a refuge must be established for the Law; a place where men could think and teach must be found for the Word of God.

To leave Jerusalem, however, was difficult. The hotheaded Zealots kept a suspicious watch, especially on those who were known to be of the peace party, for the Legend tells us that out of this difficulty, too,

Law' the rabbi found a way. One evening, at sunset,

a coffin was carried to the city gate. The wary sentinels had misgivings as to whether they should let even a funeral train pass through. They threatened, it is said, to run their swords through the coffin, so that they might be sure it harbored no living traitor. But the faithful friends of Rabbi Jochanan ben Zakkai cried out in horror against such an indignity to their honored burden, and the coffin was permitted to pass on unmolested. In it was Rabbi Jochanan, not dead but alive. Safely arrived without the city walls, he hastened to the Roman camp, to Vespasian.

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