"When Israel went out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a People of strange language, Jacob was His sanctuary and Israel His dominion. Jewish legend attempts to describe how God's sanctuary, the religion of Israel and His dominion, the beginnings of Israel as a nation, arose in the time between the Exodus from Egypt and the entrance into the Holy Land.
Moses is regarded not only as the greatest religious guide of Israel, but also as its first national leader; he is "the wisest of the wise, the father of the prophets," as well as "king in Jeshiurun, when the heads of the people and the tribes of Israel gathered together." hence his unique position in Jewish legend, neither Abraham, the friend of God, nor Solomon, the wisest of all men, nor Elijah, the helper in time of need. can lay claim to such a position.
Great religious and national institutions like the Sabbath, the sanctuary, and many other "commandments of God revealed to Moses" stand in a special relation to his life and work. The sanctification of the Sabbath became quite a living thing to him through the miracle of the Manna, and the first sanctuary was actually erected by Moses. The life of Moses ceased, therefore, to be a thing of the past and became closely interwoven with the every-day life of the nation.
The most natural way for the popular mind to connect existing conditions with the past is the symbolic method. The present volume contains, therefore, a number of symbolic explanations of certain laws, as, for instance, the symbolical significance of the Tabernacle, which, properly speaking, do not belong to the domain of legend. The life of Moses, as conceived by Jewish legend, would, however, have been incomplete if the lines between Legend and Symbolism had been kept too strictly. With this exception the arrangement and presentation of the material in the third volume is the same as that in the two preceding ones.
NEW YORK, March 2, 1911
Legends of the Jews [Table of Contents]
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