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28 Spinoza The Amsterdam rabbis were not altogether wrong. The kherem on Spinoza was justified by everything they believed. He was, in their city, not just a nuisance but the major threat they perceived without understanding why or what he threatened. In 1656 what gabardined man could imagine Kant, Hegel, Marx, and Freud, not to mention Nietzsche? The age of reason, of vertiginous free fall is dawning there among a small community of Marranos, who had no choice but to reject it all and him with it. Twenty-some years before, the Church had been wrong in its wrangle with Galileo, but, as John Paul II admitted, the earth does move. The rabbis, less silly, worried that reason would run amok. Ethics without God? And destruction not only of what they believed but belief itself. Kherem? Give over to God (often by violence) was what they had fled from in Spain. If we could be there and we had the nerve, we might tug on a tallit fringe of one of the panel and point out the uncomfortable repetition in Amsterdam but with them the inquisitors now. It’s anyway moot. We can’t excommunicate Jews, the Nürnberger Gesetze having determined that with one Jewish grandparent you were merely a Mischling but two made you a Jew. Marked thus with our yellow star, confirmed, believing or not, condemned, we were welcomed forever. ...


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MARC Record
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