Page 102 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 18

Basic HTML Version

e w i s h
o o k
n n u a l
Sadducean and Pharisaic approach, his tracing of the growth
and development of the law in the literature known to him, and
his dividing it into older and later categories. The present day
scientific study with its various theories, political or class, to ac-
count for differences of opinion among the sages, is evidenced in
the great studies of Weiss, Ginsberg, Bacher, Finkelstein, Hoff-
man and others. They owe much to the pioneer achievements of
Geiger, who separated strands and revealed diverse currents as
well as differing attitudes. Later discovery of material has cor-
rected him in details, but his main thesis of growth and develop־
ment of the differences of the schools still stands.
Journal of Jewish Theology
His rabbinical incumbency in Wiesbaden, Breslau, Frankfort
and Berlin cannot concern us here, for we are interested primarily
in his literary productivity. One of his earliest dreams, which
unfortunately he never realized, was to publish the Jewish phil-
osophic classics. He did, however, succeed in establishing the
Wissenschaftliche Zeitschrift fur Judische Theologie,
which went
into four volumes (1835-1838). His translation and adaptation of
the prayer book was part of his plan for reform, again establish-
ing precedent by accomplishing it in accordance with a phil-
osophy of Judaism, a feat which has since been repeated many
times. He also called conferences early in his pulpit career to dis-
cuss questions of Jewish thought and practice, a forerunner of
the later routine procedure of the various rabbinical bodies.
Geiger first proclaimed his ideas through his journal. Here
he and others—and most of the great Jewish scholars of the day
were contributors—expounded how Judaism developed. To my
mind, one of Geiger’s greatest services, of which we need a salutary
reminder today, was his repudiation of Christian terminology
as applicable to Judaism. There is no orthodoxy or heterodoxy
in Judaism. The differences in Judaism are not over dogmas, as
these are understood by the Christian. The rabbis agreed only on
conformity of practice, hence the modern suggestion of “ortho*
praxy” instead of orthodoxy. They differed most radically in
their theology so that Rabbi Jose could say, “The Shechinah
never descended to earth nor did Moses or Elijah ever ascend to
heaven” (Succah 5a). Examples could be multiplied indefinitely
to show that some of the rabbis even questioned the existence
of a personal God, the idea of resurrection, and many other
theological concepts. In other words, Judaism was a changing
and changeable process.
Tradition as such was not attacked by Geiger, as his then
enemies and their like-minded successors accused him of doing.
He maintained that tradition was not rigid, but man made. He
claimed the right of free research even if it led inevitably to what