Isaac Aboab da Fonseca, the head rabbi of the Spanish and Portuguese Jewish Community of Amsterdam, published a pamphlet in 1680 that addressed the laws of the herem. This Exhortation, as he called it, urged his readers to restore a general sense of gravity to the ban, arguing more specifically that lay leaders could legally impose a ban without a rabbi’s approval, and that the herem was deeply connected to the foundations of communal authority, which he viewed as inviolable. His halakhic discussion engaged with a series of claims made by his unnamed interlocutors, who apparently rejected the authority of the Mahamad on practical and theoretical grounds. Aboab’s previously unstudied work reveals a new, ideological dimension of a series of disputes that are known to have disturbed this Sephardi community in the 1670s, and complicates the widely held view that the early modern period was characterized by a decline in rabbinic authority alongside the rise of strongly lay-led communities.


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pp. 171-191
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