Page 102 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 33

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polemics, i t is always interesting to note how Christian writers
deal with the Pharisees:
PHARISEES, a famous sect of the Jews, who distinguished them­
selves by their zeal for the traditions of the elders, which they
derived from the same fountain with the written word itself; pre­
tending that both were delivered to Moses from Mount Sinai, and
were therefore both of equal authority. From their rigorous observ­
ance of these traditions, they looked upon themselves as more holy
than other men, and therefore separated themselves from those
whom they thought sinners or prophane, so as not to eat or drink
with them; and hence, from t'he Hebrew word
pharis,
which signi­
fies to separate, they had the name of Pharisees or Separatists.
T he etymology of
perushim
is still a matter of scholarly dispute,
but there can be no complaint as to unfairness. T he same can be
said of the description of the rabbi:
RABBI, or Rabbins, a title which the pharisees and doctors of the
law among the Jews assumed, and literally signifies masters, or
excellenfs.
There were several gradations before they arrived at the dignity
of a rabbin, which was not conferred till they had acquired the
profoundest knowledge of the law and the traditions. It does not
however appear, t’hat there was any fixed age, or previous examina­
tion necessary; but when a man had distinguished himself by his
skill in the written and oral law, and passed through the subordinate
degrees, he was saluted a rabbin by the public voice.
Among the modern Jews, for near seven hundred years past, the
learned men retain no other title than that of rabbi, or rabbins;
they have great respect paid them, have the first places of seats in
their synagogues, determine all matters of controversy, and fre­
quently pronounce upon civil affairs; they have even a power t'o
excommunicate the disobedient.
Comparison with the entry for “Rabb i” in the current edition
makes clear that, in Mordecai M. Kaplan’s words, it is a new pro­
fession with an old name.
ART ICLES ON JEWS EXPANDED
The
Britannica
expanded over the years, and so did the articles
relating to the Jews. Going back a century to the n in th edition
(1875), we find their history elaborately treated and “Jews” now
92
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL