3. The Gendered Politics of Authority
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Geiger’s wife Emilie died in Berlin at the age of 51 on December 6, 1860. She had been ill since the birth of their last child some ten years earlier.1 Geiger recalled those painful moments in a letter written to his friend Joseph Derenbourg a bit more than a year after her death: She suffered cruelly during the last few years, and she bore it with dignity. Early in 1860 she underwent a painful operation in Berlin. On her sickbed, which seemed to be a couch of convalescence, she was quite cheerful; she had loving care and devoted friends. When she ¤nally succumbed to her illness, Geiger made a pledge to “go on living, true to my children, to my of¤ce and to scholarship.” Yet even as Geiger redoubled his efforts at work, he admitted to Derenbourg that “the painful void remains forever new; my home is and remains empty.” Recalling that painful loss, Geiger remembered his wife as one who “remained beautiful to the very last; her womanly dignity and grace grew as time went by.” Even today, Geiger admitted, “she still lives within me.”2 These personal re®ections of loss expose the undercurrents of Geiger’s emotional life. But they also reveal something more in that they re®ect bourgeois sensibilities of re¤nement and space. To Geiger, Emilie remains the digni¤ed, honorable , and pleasant mother and wife, devoted to her children’s welfare and her husband’s profession—a portrait that her son Ludwig, in his biography of his father , admires as well.3 She still “lives within” Geiger because she cultivated all that he associates with home and the inner life. His world is one of scholarship and labor; her duty resided, as Geiger tells it, in “understanding and sympathy for all my work and all my endeavors.” Through her sympathy and support, Emilie enabled Geiger, both in her life and death, to dedicate his passions to “one idea,” and to “labor faithfully in its cause.”4 The home was indeed empty, but the power of Geiger’s reform would carry forward. In writing about that “one idea,” and the virtuous feminine support of it, Geiger reproduced bourgeois gendered assumptions of feminine interior space and male public labor. At home and “within,” Emilie could support Geiger’s public world of religion and political reform. The tropes of personal loss, however deeply and honestly felt, reveal Geiger’s sense of gendered space, and the ¤tting work to be done within and beyond the self. Geiger sought to translate this inner, feminine, yet ever-present spiritual sensibility—one that he associated with his wife Emilie—into more public, communal spaces. Doing so could help him channel the inner life into the sphere of ritual performance; it could turn Emilie’s personal support into a more engaged The Gendered Politics of Authority 3 64 and worldly religious reform. This public expression of inner piety represents Geiger ’s commitment to a religious idealism that discovers eternal spiritual ideas in material forms. We have already witnessed this idealist practice in Geiger’s historical works. There, he appealed to a moral core that continually reappears in progressive Jewish history. Geiger models his ritual reform on a theory of religious idealism : rituals that no longer convey the eternal, spiritual ideals should give way to new material practices that more concretely expose those ideals. The authority of ritual reform lies in how well religious practice translates the inner core of spiritual sensibility into material acts. This inner-outer movement in ritual practice mimics bourgeois sensibilities of proper feminine virtue and male public virility. But it also explains Geiger’s gendered reading of Jewish texts. Geiger reads inner religious virtue and public political morality into the biblical texts in order to read out of them an authoritative precedent for bourgeois Jewish practice and identity. The texts, through Geiger’s interpretive skill, de¤ne virtue as private and female, but label political morality as public and male. Biblical women such as Rebecca, Miriam, and Deborah are domestic , private persons cultivated in virtues that re®ect aesthetic beauty. Yet Geiger highlights the strong ethical principles and noble grandeur, the political savvy and moral rectitude of such diverse male ¤gures as Abraham, Hillel, and Honi. Figuring biblical women as modest and virtuous enablers is certainly not peculiar to Geiger, for he shares this image with many of his contemporaries. Amos Funkenstein is surely right when he argues that Geiger, and not only he...