Orthodox Rabbi Natan Lopez Cardozo argued the ban should be lifted, even though Spinoza's ideas about Judaism were wrong. Cardoza blamed Spinoza's supposed theological errors on Spinoza's purported lack of familiarity with the Talmud and said when he was growing up, the Lopez Cardozo family only had one rabbi – Baruch Spinoza.
Above: Baruch Spinoza
Jews Again Try To Get Excommunication Of Spinoza Lifted, Rabbi Yet Again Refuses To Do It
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
There was yet another attempt to get the Portuguese Jewish community of Amsterdam to rescind the writ of excommunication issued against Baruch Spinoza in July 1656, Tablet reported.
Over the years, philosophers, politicians (including David ben Gurion when he was Israel's prime minister), and everyday Amsterdam Jews have tried to have the excommunication lifted. All those attempts failed as a string of local chief rabbis – all Orthodox or haredi – refused to symbolically free the world famous philosopher, who died on February 21, 1677, from what the rabbis viewed as his self-imposed purgatory.
Sunday a one-day symposium on Spinoza was held in Amsterdam. Scholars (who did not communicate with each other during the writing process) presented papers about what the likely reasons for the excommunication were and invited participants argued for or against lifting it.
Spinoza did not believe in a personal God, and for him Jews were not the chosen people the Torah was not divine.
The Amsterdam Jewish community was primarily made up of descendants of conversos (Jews who converted to Christianity under duress due to the expulsions of Jews from Spain and the Iberian peninsula that began in 1492) who later fled the Inquisition and returned to Judaism. The Amsterdam community tended to be strict on doctrinal matters and on matters of hierarchical community authority as a result and has some parallels to the American revivalist church movement during the Second Great Awakening of the late 1700s through the first half of the 1800s.
Orthodox Rabbi Natan Lopez Cardozo reportedly argued the ban should be lifted, even though Spinoza's ideas about Judaism were wrong. Cardoza blamed Spinoza's supposed theological errors on Spinoza's purported lack of familiarity with the Talmud and said when he was growing up, the Lopez Cardozo family only had one rabbi – Baruch Spinoza. (Lopez Cardozo also displayed a portrait of Spinoza painted by Lopez Cardozo's late father while he was hiding from the Nazis in 1940.)
But Amsterdam’s Chief Rabbi Pinchas Toledano, who refused to lift the ban in 2012, would have none of it. He refused yet again to rescind the writ of excommunication against the world's most famous philosopher.
"The fact that [Spinoza] has been buried in a non-Jewish cemetery shows clearly that, to the last breath of his life, he was indifferent to the herem [writ of excommunication], and that he never asked for forgiveness or did teshuva [repented].…How on earth can we even consider removing the herem from a person with such preposterous ideas, where he was tearing apart the very fundaments of our religion…The moment we rescind the herem…it would imply that we share his heretic views,” Toledano said, noting that the leaders of the community knew exactly what they were doing when they excommunicated Spinoza. Because of that, Toledano said, I do not have the right to rescind their ruling.
After the excommunication and an assassination attempt by a knife-wielding Jewish fanatic outside the synagogue, Spinoza fled Amsterdam. He died at age 44 from a lung disease possibly caused by his work as an optician who turned glass into refractive lenses to correct vision, a cutting edge technology of that era.
Because of the excommunication, Spinoza was buried in a church cemetery in the Dutch city of The Hague.