Jewish History Essay

956 words - 4 pages

Baruch Spinoza was a Jewish Dutch philosopher in the 17th century. He was born in 1632 in Amsterdam, to a family of Jewish immigrants from Portugal. He was very learned in Talmud and Halacha, but abandoned his studies when he was seventeen, after the death of his brother Isaac. Spinoza’s views were radical and vastly different from others in his community. The Jewish community encouraged him to keep his opinions to himself, but he ignored their demands and continued preaching about atheism, and the limited power of God. At the age of 24, he was brought before a rabbinical court, and excommunicated. On Spinoza’s official excommunication document, it was stated that he was forbidden from ever reentering or even speaking to anyone within the community, which was the harshest excommunication edict instated to date. Spinoza had never been a model citizen, and his unwillingness to remain quiet and private about his views was considered to be the last straw for the community leaders. In 1656, he violated a community regulation by proclaiming to the Dutch authorities that he was an orphan after his father died to relieve the debts his father had not repaid. He had a radical view of God and his authority and refused to keep his ideas to himself, when his ideas began starting a controversy in the Jewish and gentile communities alike. The Jews, who were guests in Amsterdam, wanted to keep a low profile and remain as quiet and polite as possible, as they had recently been expelled from both Spain and Portugal. Baruch Spinoza’s excommunication was justified because, although his ideas were brilliant and innovative, they were far too radical for his time.

When Spinoza was 17, his father died in the wars against England and France and the family fortune was diminished, Spinoza was forced to stop his formal studies in order to help run the family business, although he was eventually able to give up responsibility for the business and its debts to his brother, Gabriel, and devote himself to his true passion, which was philosophy, in addition to his job as a lens grinder. He gave away his share of his father's inheritance to his sister, and lived the rest of his life in moderate poverty as a grinder of optical lenses, wanting nothing to do with the issues regarding his deceased father. He went to Dutch authorities to legally proclaim himself as an orphan, leaving the debt to his siblings. This was however, frowned upon in the Jewish community because managing the finances and complications that arise from the death of a loved one is a burden for all of their surviving relatives, which Spinoza refused to take part in. Although he was not punished for this action because it was a minor offense, the Jewish communal leaders became wary of Spinoza and his suspicious behaviour.

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