Page 103 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 18

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91
L
e v y
— A
b r a h a m
G
e ig e r
many regarded as an unpalatable and untenable conclusion that
the Talmud, and perhaps even the Bible, did not contain divine
revelations as described. Geiger’s own idea was that revelation
is a continuous process. Reform and change go back to the Bible
itself, and have continued since then. The sages never considered
themselves infallible, as some modern counterparts think of
them and of themselves. In his personal life Geiger was never
extreme, not so much out of conviction as from a desire to identify
himself with his own people and not to ape or make concessions
to Christianity. He continued to publish as well as contribute to
his “Zeitschrift” and to the
Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgen-
landische Gesellschaft.
Geiger revolutionized the concepts of Jewish history and
theology, not so much by altering as by interpreting them for
modern man in the light of current modes of thought. The two
can be said to be linked, for Judaism is, strictly speaking, a
philosophy of history. Except Deity itself, it has no theological
presuppositions to prove, as Christianity must do with its
whole idea of salvation based on a miraculous event in history.
For Judaism means, at least it did to Geiger, the increasing ability
on man’s part to read what the finger of God writes. This saga is
not merely something spoken about; the Jews and their fellow־
men have participated in its unfoldment as actors as well as spec-
tators. Revelation is not a single occurrence or even several dis-
parate phenomena; it proceeds unceasingly, forever. The Jews
have a significant role to play in the economy of creation—the
recognition and the teaching of the divine. From the very be-
ginning they have discharged this role through their life, their
religion and literature.
Geiger did not make as much of the doctrine of the election of
Israel (and here he has modern counterparts in all camps) as
some of his co-reformers did and still do. He maintained that
Judaism is a religion and that Israel is a religious people. To
state it more explicitly, he wanted to divest the Jew of all Jewish
national trappings. This thinking is, of course, in the very
Christian terminology he warned against. For, if he would eschew
orthodoxy and similar terms, religion is equally dangerous and
liable to misunderstanding. The Jew acknowledged the fear
and love of God and obedience to the Halakah, but he never
professed “religion”; strictly speaking, he had no term for it. To
him the prophets with their God-intoxication and ideals of
human brotherhood and universal peace, mark the apex of
spirituality.
All this emerges clearly from his editorials in the later pe-
riodical he founded as his instrument for reform, the
Judische
Zeitschrift fur Wissenschaft und Leben.
The word
Leben
is
noteworthy; it is characteristic of this man who was no cloistered
scholar but who craved knowledge capable of transmuting life