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Baruch de Spinoza

By David Bidussa*

Today is the anniversary of the pronunciation of the Cherem against Baruch de Spinoza by the members of the ma’amad of the synagogue on the Outgracht (i.e. of the Jewish-Portuguese community of Amsterdam). It was July 27, 1656, a Thursday for the record, or if you prefer 6 Av 5416. What remains of that moment today? Maybe the memory of the expulsion. Or perhaps, going beyond both Spinoza’s life and the community of Amsterdam, we must look at that scene as the symbolic moment of the clash between two concepts: on the one hand the right to exercise philosophy against prejudices, on the other the defense of the community as it is? Doesn’t that confrontation continue to concern us? And isn’t the question is still the same: which side to be on? And why?

*David Bidussa is a historian of social ideas.