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The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia
Manuals for religious instruction. The name as well as the form of Jewish catechisms has been adopted from the Christian Church in modern times in connection with a more systematized religious instruction. Catechesis as a term for instructing persons, particularly proselytes, in the principal parts of the faith before admitting them into the fold, was probably in use among the Greek-speaking Jews in pre-Christian times (see, for instance, Acts 18:25); the manual used for this purpose being simply called "Didache"-Torah = teaching (see DIDACHE). In the Christian Church, however, the catechization—that is, the instruction and other preparation of the applicant for admission into membership—was made a well-defined branch of practical theology, and the existence of catechisms as an aid became a necessity. In accordance with the old—also Jewish—system of instruction of proselytes, the catechism originally consisted of a list of the capital sins to be shunned and of the duties or leading virtues to be practised, besides parts of the creed. With the introduction of more rational methods of education, due especially to the Reformation movement, and above all since Luther, who with fine pedagogical insight made the Decalogue the basis of instruction (1529), the catechism became a useful and almost indispensable means of religious instruction of the young, as it presented in clear concise language, in the form of questions and answers adapted to common use, the chief teachings, religious and moral, of the Church.
Jewish Catechism Not Required.
The need of such a catechism was not felt in Judaism of old, since with the cessation of a religious propaganda cases of the admission of proselytes became rare and isolated, while the regular curriculum of Jewish instruction comprised throughout the Middle Ages the entire Torah; that is, Bible and Talmud. Only for the observance and knowledge of the laws compendia were now and then composed to facilitate the study; but for the systematic comprehension of the creed no provision was made in the education of the young, the intercourse between Jew and non-Jew having been so rare as to render a specific religious instruction or a discussion of the distinctive characters of the Jewish belief unnecessary for the average student.
The first symptom of an awakened Jewish self-consciousness was Abraham Jagel's "Leḳaḥ Ṭob," a catechism published in Venice in 1587, and composed entirely after the model of the smaller catechism by the Catholic Peter Canisius (see Maybaum, "Abraham Jagel's Katechismus Leḳaḥ Ṭob," Berlin, 1892). After Luther's catechism had given a new impetus to systematic religious instruction even in Catholic Italy so as to give rise to Canisius' larger and smaller catechisms exactly after the Protestant model, the idea naturally suggested itself to the Jews of Italy, who stood in closer relation to their Christian neighbors than their coreligionists did elsewhere, of having also the tenets of the Jewish faith presented to the young in similar catechetic form. This was the declared purpose of Yagel's work. The need of a catechism, however, was not as yet felt by the Jews. The "Leḳaḥ Ṭob," written in Hebrew and in defense of the Jewish religion, with constant and clever use of rabbinical literature in support of views and conceptions largely adopted from the Catholic original, was-against the expectation of the author—never used as a school manual; but its popularity is shown by the fact that it was frequently republished in Hebrew and translated into Latin and into Judaeo-German. The books used for elementary religious instruction contained mainly the 613 commandments and Maimonides' thirteen articles of faith with excerpts from the prayer-book and the Shulḥan 'Aruk. Such books were the "Emet we-Emunah" by Isaac Aruvas, Venice, 1654; the "Eleh ha-Miẓwot" by Gedaliah Taikus, Amsterdam, 1765, who also wrote in 1764 "Emunat Yisrael," a religious catechism not noticed by Güdemann.
The first systematic religious manual after Jagel's attempt seems to have been Judah ben Perez's "Fundamento Solido de la Divina Ley," a compendium of Jewish theology written in dialogue form in Spanish (Amsterdam, 1729). A similar one under the title of "Torat Emunat Yisrael" appeared 1764 in Leghorn, in Hebrew and Spanish, for the use of Turkish Jews, by Isaac de Moses Paz, and in 1782, in Verona, "Esamo Osia Catechismo ad un Giovane Israelito" by Simone Calimani (Strassburger's "Gesch. der Erziehung," p. 277).
The Mendelssohnian Era.
The Mendelssohnian era, which, owing to the closer contact of the Jews with the Christian world, made a more systematic religious instruction a necessity, brought a perfect tidal wave of catechistic literature. From 1782 to 1884 no less than 161 religious manuals appeared, according to David Kaufmann and Isidore Loeb (see Maybaum, "Methodik des Jüdischen Religionsunterrichts," p. 5), and the place of honor belongs not, as Maybaum has it, to W. Dessau, whose "Grundsätze der Jüdischen Religion" appeared 1782, but to Hartwig Wessely, who, at the suggestion of Moses Mendelssohn, published in 1782 the first sketch of a catechism in his "Miktabim," republished in the "Meassef." He had already recommended in his "Yen Lebanon" (1775) the composition of a religious manual, and in his "Gan Na'ul" presented the system in Hebrew. As to the method after which the matter should be arranged, the question was whether for the doctrinal part the thirteen articles of Maimonides or Albo's three fundamental articles should be made the basis, and whether for the duties the whole Pentateuchal system of laws—that is to say, all the ceremonial laws—or only the chief ceremonies, besides the festivals and the moral laws, should be treated.
A number of authors followed Luther's example; but, in accordance with Num. R. and Saadia's Azharot, they used the Decalogue as the basis for the treatment of the duties. J. A. Francolm, 1826; B. H. Auerbach, in "Torat Emet," 1839; S. Holdheim, in Ha-Emunah we ha-De'ah," 1857; Leopold Stein, in "Ha-Torah we ha-Miẓwah," 1858; and G. Lasch, in "Piḳḳude Adonai," Leipsic, 1857, all derived the 613 commandments from the Decalogue.
Among the leading catechisms of the conservative school may be mentioned those of Alexander Behr,1826; Solomon Plessner, 1838; Auerbach, 1839; 2d ed. 1853; G. Lasch, 1857; Feilchenfeld, 1867; 2d ed. 1878; and M. Friedlander, London, 1891.
In the year 1832 Zunz wrote in his "Gottesdienstliche Vorträge" (p. 457) that for the last thirty-three years more than fifty Jewish catechisms appeared in German, Danish, French, Italian, and Hebrew. In addition to these the following Hebrew catechisms may be mentioned: Abr. Jagel, "Leḳaḥ Ṭob," 1595; Isaac Aruvas, "Emet weEmunah," 1654; and Gedaliah Taikus, "Emunat Yisrael," referred to above; Ben Ze'eb, "Yesode ha-Dat," Vienna, 1806, in Hebrew and German; David Zakkut de Modena, "Limmude Adonai," Hebrew and Italian, Reggio, 1815; A. Buchner, "Doresh Ṭob," Warsaw, 1825 and 1826; Jacob Tugendhold, "Ben Yaḳḳir," in Hebrew, German, and Polish, Warsaw, 1839.
Herz Homberg published three catechisms: "Imre Shefer" (Vienna, 1808), in Hebrew, and German; "Bene Ẓiyyon" (Vienna, 1810), which had to be studied in Austria by brides before they could receive the marriage license; the third, "Ben Yaḳḳir" (Vienna, 1820), declares that Jewish soldiers might be exempt from the observance of Biblical laws. "'Edut Adonai" (Berlin, 1814; third edition, Leipsic, 1839, and under a new title, 1850) was published by E. Kley; "Gersha de Janḳutha" (Breslau, 1814), by B. Meseritz; "Dat Yisrael," in two volumes (Prague, 1810-11), by Peter Beer. He also published a "Hand-book of the Mosaic Religion" (Prague, 1818 and 1821) and "Emet we'Emunah" (Prague, 1832, 2d edition). This catechism omits the ceremonial laws, and states that in the "interest of humanity every religious commandment may be set aside," and that "wars of conquest" are prohibited by the sixth commandment. Among the duties of the Jews are mentioned "bathing in fresh water and frequent change of linen," and that "employers must take care of their employees when they are sick or old."
"Doctrine and Faith," in Hebrew and German, by Heinemann, was published, 1812, in Cassel; also "Torat Dat Yisrael" and "Miẓwot Dat Yisrael" (Berlin, 1829 and 1830). A. Arnheim published "Leitfaden beim Unterrichte in der Mosaischen Religion" (Glogau, 1829); H. Miro, "Leitfaden beim Unterrichte der Israelitischen Religion" (Breslau, 1834); Joseph Maier, "Selection of Fruits from the Bible" (Frankfort-on-the-Main, 1820); and R. Benedict, "Elementary Instruction in the Mosaic Religion, with Appendix" (Prague, 1832). "Judaism in Its Relation to the State" was translated by Rabbi A. L. Landau (Breslau, 1832). The Hebrew title is "Ahabat Melek." "Teru'at Melek" was published by B. Fränkel (Breslau, 1833). H. M. Copenhagen published "Ẓefirat Tif'arah" (Breslau, 1833). The catechism of J. Wolf, Gotthold Salomon, and M. Frankel was published under the title, "Yesode ha-Limmud" (Dessau, 1810); J. Johlson's, as "Alume Yosef" (Fränkfort, 1814 and 1819; Vienna, 1824) and A. H. Bock's, as "Emunat Yisrael" (Berlin, 1814). Beer Fraenk was the author of "Maḥene Lewi" (Prague, 1816). Julius Schoenborn published a catechism (Cracow, 1819). "Emunat Yisrael" is the name of a catechism by Naphtali Benedict (Vienna, 1824), and "Gedankensammlung" of one published by J. M. Lilienfeld (Berlin, 1825). P. Hurwitz wrote "Torat Adonai Temimah" (Berlin, 1832), and Salomon Pappenheim "Maamar Ge'ullat Miẓrayim u-Mizwat Tefillin" (Breslau, 1815; published, after his death, by the Breslau Jewish Orphan Asylum). A. Büdinger was the author of "Moreh Limmudim" (Cassel, 1830), and Judah ben Ze'eb Loeb of "Explanation of the Ten Commandments" and "Religionsbuch für die Jüdische Jugend" (Darmstadt, 1834). H. Stern published the "Tree of Life" (Würzburg, 1834), and Abraham Gruenthal the "Mosaische Religionslehre" (Breslau, 1836). "Complete Ceremonies of Confirmation" was published by S. Lippmannsohn (Neukirchen, 1836). Naphtali Benedict published a "Torah Min ha-Shamayim" (Vienna, 1814). J. Johlson's "Shoreshe ha-Dat: Doctrines of the Mosaic Religion" (Frankfort, 1819) is a catechism which was accepted in the curriculum for rabbis and teachers in Bavaria. It has been translated into English, with certain omissions, by Isaac Leeser (Philadelphia, 1830), and has passed through several editions.
Aron Chorin published a catechism in dialogues under the title "Hillel" (Ofen, 1837), in Hebrew and German. Its leading thought is that the law of humanity is divine. Joseph Saalschütz's "Basis to Catechizations" (Vienna, 1833) contains fifty pages on "God's Attributes" and four on "Duties to Fellow-Men." The post-Mendelssohnian school imitated Christian catechisms, and dwelt on arguments for the existence of God at the expense of ethics and Jewish teaching.
Salomon Herxheimer displayed pedagogical skill in laying greater stress on ethics, and his "Israelitische Glaubens und Pflichtenlehre" (Bernburg, 1831; 27th edition, 1889) won great popularity by its terseness. It was recommended by the Prussian minister of education "for its Kantian and Lessingian spirit" in 1886.
Samuel Hirsch's "Systematischer Katechismus der Israelitischen Religion" (Luxemburg, 1856; second edition, Philadelphia) bases ethics upon Biblical history, and declares the ceremonies, dietary laws, etc., to be needless to those who have the "religion of the heart," Judaism being not "law" (Gesetz), but "doctrine" (Lehre). Hirsch favors Sunday as a day of rest for Jews in the Occident, inasmuch as the Jew who would also rest on Saturday would break the commandment "six—[and not five]—days shalt thou labor." Joseph Aub's "Grundlagen zu einem Wissenschaftlichen Unterricht in der Mosaischen Religion" (Mayence, 1865; 2d edition, Leipsic, 1875) lays stress upon the fact that faith, in the language of the Bible, is "trust based on knowledge." Superstition and atheism spring from ignorance and materialism, which are twin sisters. Falsehood can not be made truth by miracles, and truth needs no miracles. David Einhorn's "Ner Tamid, the Doctrine of Judaism" (Philadelphia, 1866) declares that man through his conscience hears God's voice, which is revelation. The mission of Israel implies God's love for all nations. Sin is unnatural; original sin therefore is impossible. Israel's dispersionis a blessing and not a curse; hence the Ninth of Ab should be celebrated as a "day of joy," being the beginning of the realization of our mission, which is spiritual and not national. Yom Kippur emphasizes the idea that Judaism rejects the belief in a Mediator.
Leopold Stein's "Torah u-Miẓwah: Israelitisches Religionsbuch" (Frankfort-on-the-Main, 1858, 2d edition) is based upon the Decalogue; it takes the dietary laws to be "sanitary" laws. Salomon Formstecher's "Torat Moshe" (Giessen, 1860) is a condensed extract of his treatise, the "Religion of the Spirit" (Frankfort, 1841). Religion is the law in history and the spirit of mankind. The Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in order to teach that God can be worshiped everywhere by prayer and by moral conduct. "Ha-Emunah we ha-De'ah" (Berlin, 1857), by Samuel Holdheim, discriminates between moral and national laws, such as are Levitical, purity, and dietary laws. The Sabbath should be celebrated in the Occident on a day which can be conveniently observed. Ceremonies have only an educational character, and sacrifices have no atoning power without moral conduct.
"Israelitische Religionslehre" (Dessau, 1873, 2d edition), by Julius Popper, defines "revelation" as the work of the religious genius of Israel. Among ceremonies which he holds to have outlived their usefulness are: circumcision, dietary laws, and maẓẓot on Peṣaḥ. Sunday is the real day of rest.
M. Levin's "Israelitische Religionslehre" (Berlin, 1892) defines religion as the "belief in God based on knowledge." Prayer should not be supplication, but adoration. Death atones for every guilt. Man must remove everything that might cause his defeat in the struggle for existence. The author apparently means that the Jew should not rest two days of the week, as by doing so he could not succeed against his competitors, who labor six days of the week.
Salomon Plessner's "Dat Mosheh we-Yisrael" (Berlin, 1838) represents extreme orthodoxy. Mysticism plays an important part in this catechism. The Sabbath is a blessing, because the six days of labor are a curse. That the dietary laws, in Plessner's opinion, are conducive to health is no sufficient reason for their observance, but the fact that they were ordained by God.
The first English catechism was a translation of Salomon Cohen's Hebrew "Shoreshe Emunah" (Roots of Faith; London, 1814). Leeser's translation of Johlson's "Shoreshe ha-Dat" has already been mentioned. A. P. Mendes published "The Law of Moses" (revised, London, 1870). He speaks of five "revelations": (1) to Adam and Noah; (2) to the Patriarchs; (3) to Moses; (4) to Israel on Sinai; (5) to the Prophets.
The first duty of a Jew is circumcision. Blood, certain fat, etc., are forbidden, in order to "keep our health from injury." The thirteen articles of creed are given precedence over the Ten Commandments.
Isaac M. Wise published "The Essence of Judaism" (Cincinnati, 1861) and "Judaism, Its Doctrines and Duties" (1880). He recognizes the authority of the Bible, but not that of the Talmud. "True religion is that the doctrines of which are taught in, God's works and words." Among his four "cardinal doctrines the mission of Judaism is not included." "Miẓwah" means a Biblical commandment which is either expressed or implied in the Decalogue. "The Decalogue was written by divine. authority for the sake of certainty, that it be known for sure that this is the moral law, as ordained by the Creator of man." "The fourth commandment opens the duties of man to man" (p. 42) and "reaches duties to ourselves" (p. 45). "Ḥuḳḳim are ordinances concerning the mode of worship, and are obligatory on every one in Israel," a definition which would make innovations in the mode of worship, absolutely impossible.
George Jacobs' catechism (Philadelphia, 1882) teaches that "those who do not keep the Sabbath must surely die, and that the souls of those who eat leaven on Pesaḥ shall be cut off from Israel." Short catechisms in English were published by David Asher (London, 1845), Benjamin Szold, H. A. Henry, J. Mendes de Solla, N. S. Joseph, Julius Katzenberg, H. Loeb, I. Mayer, E. Pike, Gustave Gottheil, J. S. Goldammer, Joseph Strauss (London, 1895), M. Friedlander (London, 1896, 4th edition), Aron, Messing, and Barnett Elzas; Koplowitz translated Feilchenfeld's "Manual." In Kaufmann Kohler's "Guide for Instruction in Judaism" (New York, 1898) rabbinical as well as Biblical ethics are duly considered, and the growth of Jewish religious ideas and ceremonies is traced through the Biblical and rabbinical stages of development. It also takes the-Decalogue as a basis.
Following are the catechisms written in French: "Catechisme du Culte Judaïque" (Metz, 1818), written in Hebrew, German, and French; "Catechisme Judaïque, en Hébreu, en Allemand, en Français," by L. M. Lambert (Paris, 1837); "Précis Elémentaire d'Instruction Réligieuse et Morale," in Hebrew and French, by Elie Halévy (Paris, 1837); "La Foi d'Israel, Ses Dogmes, Son Culte, Ses Cérémonies," by S. Bloch (Paris, 1859); "Histoire Abrégé des Juifs et de leurs Croyances," by Elie Astruc (Paris, 1869); "Quelques Paroles sur l'Instruction Réligieuse, by L. Kahn (Brussels 1862); "Précis Elémentaire d'Instruction Réligieuse et Morale," by the central consistory of the Israelites of France (Strasburg, 1838); "Morale en Action à l'Usages des Ecoles Israélites" (Mulhouse, 1858; 2d edition, Vienna, 1869); "Les Doctrines Réligieuses des Juifs," by M. Nicolas (Paris, 1860).
Among catechisms written in Italian are: "Catechisma de l'Istruzione Religiosa ad Uso della Gioventa Israelitica," by Salomon Jona (Ivrea, 1858); "Or Zaroa', Corso d'Istruzione Religiosa," by Marco Mortara (Mantua, 1857-62); "Compendio della Religione Israelitica," by the same author (Mantua, 1855); and "La Prima Parte della Fede d'Israel," by R.M.Bachi.
"A Catechism of the Jewish Religion," by S. J. Cohn (Hamburg, 1811), was in 1812 translated into Danish. Abraham Alexander Wolf's "Lehre der Israelitischen Religion" (Mayence, 1825) was translated into Danish (1862), Dutch(1844), Swedish (1844 and 1852), and republished in German (1863). Of Hungarian catechisms, the following deserve mention: the one written by Israel Bak (Budapest, 1878, 2d edition), by Solomon Kohn (Budapest, 1883 and 1885), and by Leopold Loew (Budapest, 1895).
"A Plan of Instruction in Religion for the Jewish Congregation of Budapest" has been translated into German by Bernhardt Mandl (Vienna, 1894). David Kaufmann published a Hungarian essay: "On the Jewish Catechism" (Budapest, 1884; republished in German). Catechisms in Polish were published by S. Dankowitz (Cracow, 1873) and by Joachim Blumenthal (Drohobicz, 1882), and in Russian by J. L. Klatzko (Warsaw, 1884). Four Hebrew catechisms were published in the second half of the nineteenth century: "Ma'ase Abot" (Vienna, 1896); "Miẓwoth Yisrael" (Cracow, 1891); The 613 "Miẓwot" (Presburg, 1859), by J. Landau; and "'Ammude ha-'Olam" for Orthodox schools (Presburg, 1875), by Wilhelm Neuman. The last two were translated into German. Of modern authors of German catechisms may be further mentioned: Lazarus Adler (Cassel, 1872), lgnatz Baek (Leipsic, 1857), S. Baeck (Lissa, 1886), M. L. Belinsohn (Odessa, 1878), Hirsch B. Fassel (Vienna, 1864), Wolf Feilchenfeld (Posen, 1874), Joseph Horowitz (Grodno, 1878), Jacob H. Jacobsohn (Leipsic, 1876), L. Kahn (Vienna, 1860), Solomon Kohn (Budapest, 1860, 1873, 1878), E. Bondi (Brünn, 1880, 1885), Jacob Auerbach (Frankfort, 1869), L. Lewysohn (Worms, 1856), M. Levinger (Bremen, 1876), L. Levi (Hechingen, 1877), D. Leimdörfer (Nordhausen, 1876; Frankfort, 1881; Vienna, 1898), Gerson Lasch (Leipsic, 1857 and 1861), Julius Landsberger (Berlin, 1861; 2d edition, 1876), Georg Wolf (Vienna, 1878), Marcus Winter (Vienna, 1861), Abraham Singer (Ujhely, 1875), J. Schwarz (Great Kanisza, 1877), D. Rothschild (Breslau, 1879), Ludwig Philippson (Leipsic, 1844, 1858; Vienna, 1878), Emanuel Mandus (Breslau, 1860 and 1870, Orthodox), A. Kapka (Prague, 1882; 8th edition, Berlin, 1884), D. Kohn (Odessa, 1880), Michael Silberstein (Wiesbaden, 1888), Israel Singer (Ujhely, 1881), H. Sondheimer (Lahn, 1881), Jacob Mautner (Vienna, 1884, 1894, 1896), Ludwig Stern (Frankfort, 1895, Orthodox), Oscar Waldeck (pseudonym; Vienna, 1886), M. Spanier (Berlin, 1898), Adolf Weiss (Prague, 1894), M. Zuckermandl (Frankfort, 1889), T. M. Caro (Posen, 1883), J. Goldschmidt (Frankfort, 1896), Eisik Bentauvim (Jaffa, 1899), F. Feilchenfeld (Breslau, 1881; 3d edition, Frankfort, 1900), H. J. Schuetz (Cleve, 1854), Eliezer Nathan (pseudonym; Rödelheim, 1804), M. Gottlieb (Frankfort, 1896; Hanover, 1898, part ), U. Grünwald (Tilsit, 1893), J. Guttman (Teschen, 1896), Leopold Katz (Ratibor, 1890), H. Lesser (Colberg, 1853), W. Wessely (Prague, 1846), Israel Steinhardt (Arad), S. Stern (Prague, 1893).
- Strassburger, Geschichte der Erziehung und des Unterrichts;
- S. Maybaum, Methodik des Jüdischen Religions-Unterichts, 1896.
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Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Catechisms'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tje/c/catechisms.html. 1901.