Sunday, 2 November 2014


More excerpts from my translation of Karben’s The Life and Customs of the Jews , 1511

Chapter 15
Why the Jews discriminate against women.
They cannot even prove that they are Jews like their husbands or the other males, who can prove it by their circumcision. For this reason they are not considered worthy to have an eternal life or to converse with God. For God has often called on men, but never on women. See Proverbs 8: “O men, I call to you.” Thus Jewish men have a special prayer which they say every single day: “Praise to God in eternity for making me a man rather than a woman!” 

Chapter 16
The Feast of Yom Teru’ah.
They celebrate the 1st of September with great joy. They sing and blow trumpets and horns – not just any kind, but instruments made of bone and the horns of rams.  The origin of the custom is the biblical passage describing Isaac being spared because the ram’s horns are caught in a thicket.
Karben also connects the feast with the fall of Jericho’s walls at the sound of trumpets (Joshua 6). Furthermore, the Jews believe that demons cannot bear hearing the noise of those horns and therefore cannot prevent prayers from rising to heaven. The man who blows the horn must be an excellent and most respectable Jew worthy of that holy instrument. If he blows it properly, the people are incredibly pleased. If not, you will see them much aggrieved. For they say a mistake [in blowing the horn] does not happen without reason. No doubt it happened on account of their sins, and they believe they will not be successful in anything that whole year.
They also connect the first day of September with the creation of the world.
On that day they hope God will write their name in the Book of Life, and no one dares to sleep that day, lest God’s angel be obliged to sleep as well.
In the morning they go to a nearby river. They stand on the bridge that spans the river and carefully search the water for small fish. When they see them, they are full of joy and cast their clothes over them. As the fish scatter, their sins too are being carried away, or so they believe.
On the 10th day of September, they gather in the synagogue to pray. If a Christian saw them, he would certainly wonder at their uncoordinated movements and distracted behaviour. For as they pray to God, they yell and shout and at the same time move their bodies to the right and the left, forward and backward.

(Next: Yom Kippur, as described by Karben)

No comments:

Post a Comment