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December 26, 1975 - Image 16

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1975-12-26

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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16 December 26, 1975

:IP



THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

A selective guide
to restaurants in the Detroit
area by Detroit News
restaurant critic
Mc4Iy Abraham ck

Abraham Geiger, Noted Scholarly Contributor
to the German-Jewish Culture Movement

BY ALLEN A. WARSEN

"The kind of writing that inspires one
to exclaim 'Brava, Molly' and then to call for
a reservation"
Susan Stark

Detroit Free Press
"an expertly objective view of where
to dine in and around Detroit" Bill Gray

Detroit News

at bookstore, and ,sherever tine paperbaeks are
sold in the Metropolitan Detroit area. S'.95

.Available

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On Nov. 17, 1819 Leopold
Zunz, Edward Gans and
Moses Moser founded the
Verein fur Cultur and Wis-
senschaft der Juden (The
Society for Jewish Culture
and Science). Its aim was to
study and explore Jewish
religion, literature, philoso-
phy, and endeavor to remove
the cultural, legal, and so-
cial barriers separating the
Jews from the Christians.
To advance this objective the
society established in 1823
the Zeitschrift fur die Wis-
senschaft des Judenthums
(Periodical for the Science
of Judaism).
The term Wissenschaft
des Judenthums was coined
by Zunz whose scholarly
volumes enriched Jewish lit-
erature and culture, and
helped raise the prestige of
Judaism.
There were other scholars
who contributed to the ad-
vancement of Jewish
science. Foremost among
these was Abraham Geiger
(1818-1874).
"New Perspectives on
Abraham Geiger" (He-
brew Union College —
Jewish Institute of Reli-
gion, 1975) is a collection
of four papers presented in
1974 at a colloquium on the
occasion of Geiger's 100th
yahrzeit by Profs. Michael
A. Myer (HUC-JIR), Na-
hum M. Sarna (Brandeis
University), David Weiss
Halvini (Jewish Theologi-
cal Seminary of America)
and Jacob J. Petuchowski
(HUC-JIR).
Prof. Myer, the author of
"Abraham Geiger's Histori-
cal Judaism," offers new
insights into Geiger's phi-
losophy of Jewish history
and provides a better under-
standing of his ideas of the
nature of the Jews — are
they a people or a mere reli-
gious community?
Prof. Myer explains Geig-
er's concept of Judaism as
"a religion still in flux," and
evaluates his belief in the
continuity of the Jewish
spirit. Geiger describes it as
follows: "Judaism arose
within the people of revela-

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tion . . . an illumination
proceeding from a higher
mind and spirit which can-
not be explained; a com-
pound produced by a proc-
ess of development even if it
is further developed after-
wards; which all at once
appears in existence as a
whole, like every new crea-
tion proceeding from the
Original Spirit . . ."
Prof. Myer adds these
comments: "It was an intui-
tive concept for him based
frankly on introspection
. . . Indeed, Geiger thought
that it was only because the
spirit, still lived within him-
self that he could discover
its operation in Jewish his-
tory . . . and thus write an
inner history of Judaism."
Prof. Sarna commences
his study, "Abraham
Geiger and Biblical Schol-
arship" by first naming
the foremost Christian Bi-
ble scholars, Geiger's con-
temporaries. They in-
cluded K.D. Ilgen, Hein-
rich Ewald, Ferdinand
Hitzig, Eduard Reuss, K.
H. Graf, and others. "Only
Julius Wellhausen
(1844-1918) is missing from
the list of worthies in that
he did not publish his
nwnum opus ' until two
yetirs after Geiger's de-
mise."
These scholars, Prof.
Sarna points out, helped
Geiger broaden "his per-
spective," but did not satisfy
him intellectually. He was
disappointed in their theory
that idolatry was Israel's
national religion, and "Is-
rael's infidelity the fruit of
later retrogression." Geiger
was convinced that Israelite
monotheism was "original,
intuitive, spontaneous and
national."
Prof. Halvini's essay,
"Geiger and Talmud Criti-
cism," contributes to a bet-
ter comprehension of Geig-
er's critical interpretation of
the Talmud. Halvini
stresses that Geiger in his
"magnum opus" the "Ur-
schrift demonstrates the
existence of an earlier (ur)
Halakha," and proves in the
"Wissenschaftliche Zeit-
schrift" II, 1838 that the
tractates of the Mishna are
arranged according to the
number of chapters con-
tained in each tractate in
descending order."
Maimonides, it should be
noted, gave a different rea-
son for the arrangement of
each of the tractates of the
Mishna.
Prof. Halvini observes
that no Talmudic scholar
ever dared interpret the
Talmud contrary to the
Gemara. He cites the case
of De Rossi (1513-1578)
whom R. Joseph Karo
(1488-1575), the author of
the "Shulkhan Arukh,"
almost excommunicated
for "having questioned the
accepted date of the
world's creation — a cal-
culation based in part on
Talmudic statements."
Geiger, however, did in-
terpret the Talmud contrary
to the Gemara, because he
felt unrestrained by tradi-
tional bounds.
Fantastic are Geiger's li-

turgical axioms as expli-
cated by Prof. Petuchowski
in "Abraham Geiger, the
Reform Jewish Liturgist."
They are:
• "The people of Israel no
longer lives . . ."
• "Amalek (the enemy of
the Jews) has lost its signifi-
cance for us."
• "Altogether, Hebrew
no longer lives . . ."
• "Jerusalem remains for
us the holy source whence,
in the past, sprang the
teaching of truth . . . The
present heap of ruins, Jeru-
salem, is for us, at best, a
poetic and melancholy
memory, but no nourish-
ment for the spirit . . ."
Insightful are Prof. Petu-
chowski's reflections:
"Geiger was utterly and
completely wrong about the
lost significance of Amalek
for us. He was wrong again
about the 'heap of ruins Je-
rusalem' ... and Geiger's
wrong assertion that the
People of Israel no longer
lives is drowned out by our
defiant song, Am Yisriel
Hai!"

It is noteworthy that
when Geiger mastered the
Hebrew and German alpha-
bets at age 3, William Marr
coined the term "anti-Semi-
tism" in his brochure "Der
Sieg des Judenthums uber
des Germanenthum" (The
Victory of Judaism over
Germanism).

"New Perspectives on
Abraham Geiger," edited by
Jacob J. Petuchowski is a
valuable addition to the lit-
erature on Abraham Geiger
and the Wissenschaft des,_
Judenthums.

,

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