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The Continuing Allure of Spinoza

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Detail of a letter from Rabbi Joseph Serfaty, a leader of Amsterdam’s Sephardic community, to philosophy professor Yitzhak Melamed, sent 28 November 2021

It’s amazing how a man who was excommunicated in 1656 for unspecified crimes and misdemeanors can still hold so much interest and enflame so much passion.

Over three hundred and fifty years mark the gap between Spinoza’s excommunication and the letter of Rabbi Joseph Sefary, a leader of Amsterdam’s Sephardic community, to Professor Yitzhak Melamed, a world-leading expert on Spinoza. The letter declares the professor to be “persona non grata” for his work on Spinoza and desire to make a film about the philosopher at the Portuguese Synagogue complex in Amsterdam. Feelings clearly still run high.

But why? What is the attraction to Spinoza, and why such virulent reaction?

Let’s start with those attracted to him. On the one hand, it is natural for people to........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)

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