Why Spinoza Was Excommunicated
ON JULY 27, 1656 a sentence of excommunication was pronounced on a twenty-four-year-old Jew of the Portuguese community of Amsterdam and recorded in the communal record book as follows:
The members of the ma’amad i.e., the elders or parnasim of the council] make known to you that having long known of the evil opinions and acts of Baruch d’Espinoza, they have endeavored by various means and promises to turn him from evil ways. Not being able to find any remedy, but on the contrary receiving every day more information about the abominable heresies practiced and taught [to others] by him, and about the monstrous acts committed by him, having this from many reliable witnesses who have deposed and borne witness on all this in the presence of said Spinoza … ; all this having been examined in the presence of the wise gentlemen [i.e., the rabbis, they have decided, with the consent of the latter, that the said Espinoza be excommunicated and banished from the people of Israel, and they accordingly excommunicate him as follows:
By the decrees of the Angels and the proclamation of the Saints, we hereby excommunicate, ban, and anathematize Baruch d’Espinoza, with the agreement of the Blessed Lord and his Holy Congregation…. May he be cursed in the day and cursed in the night, cursed in his lying down and cursed in his rising up. Cursed in his going forth and cursed in his coming in; and may the Lord not forgive him, and may His wrath and jealousy destroy him utterly, and may the Lord blot out his name from under the sky and separate him from all the tribes of Israel with all the curses of Heaven that are contained in this book of the Law. But you who cleave to the Lord your God are alive every one of you this day.
And we hereby warn you that none may communicate with him by word of mouth or writing, nor show him any charity whatsoever, nor stay with him under one roof, nor come into his company, nor read any composition made or written by him.
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