Page 100 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 18

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Luzzatto, could remain on terms of friendship with these tradi-
tionalists, is testimony to the respect and admiration his person
and knowledge, if not his point of view, had engendered. All
who knew or had any contact with him, agree that he was a most
stimulating teacher and colleague who set many on new paths of
scholarly investigations or opened up new theological vistas.
Geiger’s two best known pupils in the United States were Felix
Adler and Emil G. Hirsch. Both carried out the implications of
his thought in their respective teachings, the former in Ethical
Culture and the latter in what was known as radical reform with
its universalism and concomitant denial of all nationalistic or par-
ticularistic features of Judaism. Although Geiger might have been
radical in this thought, in practice he was much of a conformist.
He observed the Sabbath and dietary laws, thus identifying him-
self with his coreligionists and making no concessions to Christian-
He was the child of his age, a product of its climate from which
he could never quite escape. Who can? The eighteenth century
saw the beginning of the Jews’ intellectual “deghettoization”
with their imbibing of the general culture. Geiger repudiated
the Mendelssohnian dictum that Judaism was “revealed Law”
and that it more or less resembled the general “deistic” feature
this epoch believed was characteristic of all natural religion. The
Jews began to enter the universities, and general knowledge was
added to and all too frequently took the place of the traditional
Jewish training. Jewish leadership had to step out of the “four
ells of the Halakah” into the larger world and many Jews who
had burst the bonds of the traditional outlook became non-
descript Germans or Christians, watering down or repudiating
their Jewish heritage. Geiger wanted to save Judaism for Jews
and the Jew for Judaism. He proposed to show that it possessed
glories as great as or even greater than its rivals, and set about
to discover them. To be sure, his opponents, excepting the most
rigid and undeviating traditionalists, wanted to do the same;
and in so far as they sought to make adjustments to modernity,
whether in the mode of living or in the acceptance of the scientific
approach, they paid him the flattery of imitation.
This epoch witnessed the heyday of the “Enlightenment” with
its apotheosis of rationalism, universalism, political and intel-
lectual freedom, and its opposition to dogmatism and its sublime
faith in progress. It was the golden age of German literature, with
its Lessing, Schiller and Goethe, and the period of its highest
achievement in philosophy, with Kant, Hegel and their ilk. It
marked the acceptance of the meticulous and thoroughgoing
scientific method that reached a maximum degree of perfection
in great German universities which became synonymous with re-
searchers, and these in turn with authoritative monographs of
various shades of ponderosity on every conceivable subject, from
atom to zoology. Evolution was in the air, and intellectual analysis