Page 99 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 18

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87
L
evy
— A
b r ah am
G
eiger
to this man who sought truth, whose “hammer smashed״ super-
stitions and rendered it possible for the Jew to make his peace
with modern culture. Interestingly enough, in the sparse litera-
ture about Geiger a half dozen pages are devoted to him in
Henry S. Morais’
Eminent Israelites of the Nineteenth Century
(Philadelphia, 1880).
Geiger possessed extraordinary gifts which were happily
blended in a genial, warm-hearted personality. This was evident
in his preaching, which he loved even more than his scientific
study because speaking face to face with his fellow men whom he
loved, he could persuade them to his thought or move them to
action. His sermons were always carefully prepared—in fact his
whole life in a sense was a getting ready for delivery of his mes-
sage. They were of high literary calibre, always keyed to a lofty
moral tone, and infused with deep Jewish overtones. His critical
bent made him the reformer that he was; his religiosity, which was
deep, nourished the theologian in him. Although he wrote
much on the subject, he never produced a systematic theology;
he felt the time was not ripe for such an effort. His conception
of Judaism is reflected in some of his polemical writings and in
his historical essays. He was quite conversant with Christianity.
Throughout his pages one finds many shrewd observations about
the daughter faith, witness for example his almost prophetic
picture of the future of that discipline in his review of Straus’
Life of Jesus.
Geiger also knew Islam at first hand, to say nothing
of the various sectarianisms in Judaism as well as comparative
religion and philosophy, although he was no adherent of con-
temporary German thought. He was familiar with the ancient
classics as well as the German. An unusually spirited writer who
never permitted himself the trivial and never descended to the
vulgar; even in controversy, he remained ever the literary gentle-
man, the seeker of truth.
Seeker of Eternal Truths
Because he wanted to find eternal truths and identify them
with Judaism, he was impelled to write and do what he did,
whether as scholar or religious reformer. Yet, he was never the
servant of mere philosophical generalizations. What motivated
his work was a passionate desire to purify Judaism from what
he considered the dross it had accumulated in its long un-
changing thought and practice. He sought eagerly to find basic
religious principles that undergirded the Judaism he believed
had been smothered by the multifarious ritual precepts of the
Halakah; for example, Jewish universalism, the pure monotheistic
ethics of the prophets, the Messianic goal, the high mission of
Israel, and other ideal values that he felt were buried under a
mass of rites and customs. The fact that this stormy petrel,
despite his radical differences with Samson R. Hirsch and S. D.