Page 104 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 18

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J
e w i s h
B
o o k
A
n n u a l
9 2
into dynamic living. Nine hundred and thirty-six items came
from his pen and saw the light of day. From the first number,
his diary begun in 1824, to the last, a re-issue of his
Judaism
and Its H istory
in 1910, space permits only cursory comments in
addition to what has already been noted.
His polemical pamphlets are still readable. They contributed
in such large measure to the freedom of thought and research
for the rabbi that today these are taken for granted in most quar-
ters. His
Israelitisches Gebetbuch ,
embodying the Reform prin-
ciples he espoused, is marked by his characteristic moderation.
He rediscovered medieval poetry for us moderns, and by his
enthusiasm fired others to follow his example of studying and
translating it. In 1851 he published the
D ivan of Jehuda ha-Levi,
and according to Israel Abrahams, the late Amy Levy’s English
translation of the poem “Separation” was rendered, not from ha-
Levi’s Hebrew text but from Geiger’s German translation.
Geiger had the soul of a poet and the power to articulate in
verse what he saw and felt. He disinterred that charming medieval
collection of tales, Joseph Zabara’s
Book of Deligh t.
Later (in
1867) he paid his respects to Ibn Gabirol, and among his smaller
pieces are found essays and translations of Hebrew poetry from
Spain and Italy. About 1850 he began his studies on Maimonides,
to be followed by those on the exegetes of the Middle Ages. He
discovered Joseph Bechor Schor in his (Geiger’s) Hebrew and
German “Parshandata” which deals with the French commen-
taries. He discussed Helbo, Rashi, Kara, Rashbam and others,
differentiating the style of the schools and the individuals, and
holding up the north French commentators, to whom the book
is devoted, above their Spanish confreres. For though the latter
may have been more knowledgeable, the former better under-
stood and explained the text. He published some of the apologetic
writings of the Middle Ages, for example, Profiat Duran’s satire
“Be Not Like Your Fathers” and the unsurpassed defence of
Judaism by Isaac Troki. His studies on Joseph Solomon Del-
medigo (
Melo Hofnaim ,
1840) and Leon da Modena (1856) are
vitiated by his seeing in them forerunners of the Reform move-
ment.
The Greatest Work of Geiger
His greatest work, however, is the
Urschrift
(1857). The trans-
lation of the full title is “Original Document and the Transla-
tions of Holy Writ in Their Dependence on the Inner Develop-
ment of Judaism.” He maintains and proves his thesis that the
text and even the versions of the Bible have been worked and
reworked all in the name of various tendencies and outlooks
dominant at certain periods. Even the Massoretes were not free
from temptations to tamper with the text in order to bring it
into agreement with their interpretation of Judaism. He intended