Hanged Man

In October of 1887, Anthony Comstock broadened his horizons by arresting bookseller Meyer Chinsky for selling a pamphlet written entirely in Hebrew. Comstock said the book was “Massa Tolo,” “The Story of the Crucified One,” that it was filled with obscenity, and brought the names of Jesus, Mary and Joseph into disrepute.

The attorney for the defense, however, noted that the book was actually “Massa Solo,” “The Story of the Hanged One,” from the Talmud, written several hundred years before the birth of Christ. (See Deuteronomy 21:22-23.) He also noted that the Hebrew Missionary Union, formed to convert Jews to the Christian faith, was at the bottom of the prosecution and had induced Comstock to make the arrest. Comstock did not deny this, but said the book was vulgar and should be suppressed.

In January of 1888, the case was heard. The judges accepted a non-partisan translation of the Hebrew and decided in Chinsky’s favor.


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