Sunday, April 01, 2012

The Excommunication of Spinoza Has Been Lifted -- At Least Symbolically

This evening at Washington, D.C.'s wonderful Jewish theatre, Theatre J, the community held a trial lasting several hours, at the end of which a vote was taken as to whether to revoke the excommunication (cherem) that was placed on Spinoza by the Amsterdam Sephardic-Jewish community on July 27, 1656. After 149 votes were cast and counted, it was announced that 78% of the voters present opted to revoke the cherem. Thank God.

Yes, I realize that this is a merely "symbolic" act. According to traditional Jewish law, only the particular community in Amsterdam that imposed the cherem can revoke it. But sometimes symbolism is important. And this vote provides a pretty good idea about what a typical modern-day Jewish community thinks about the decision to excommunicate one of the greatest philosophers of all time who was born a Jew.
As to whether he was one of the greatest "Jewish philosophers," I will let you decide that after reading the the lecture I delivered at Theatre J immediately prior to the trial. You can find a copy of that lecture on the Spinoza Society page of my website.

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