May 23, 2019

Judaism Must Internalize Spinoza's Lessons

“It would be too much to say that I was “raised on the knees” of Spinoza, but it’s definitely true that my father was a great admirer of his and often spoke about him and his teachings. I’m not sure if he understood Spinoza or just used some of his ideas to justify his own secular lifestyle.

There are two reasons why as a child I was attracted to Spinoza. First of all, he was a member of the Portuguese Spanish Jewish Community in Amsterdam. This is the very community of which my father was a member, as were all my ancestors (my family came to Holland via Portugal and Italy about 150 years after the Spanish Inquisition in 1492). My father always spoke about this community and was extremely proud of it, although he was not an active member. (Remember, my father was in a mixed marriage.)

Secondly, I was intrigued by the fact that Spinoza had been expelled by this community at a young age, when his ideas about God and Tanach became somewhat known (a long story, which I have spoken and written about at great length). This is the gravest and most notorious ban in all of Jewish history. In fact, it probably made Spinoza more famous than his actual philosophy did.”

Read more

JJ Editor's Daily Picks

"The results were surprising. The center-right coalition, led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, remained in power against the opposition Labor party, which had led in every poll for years."

"Anger seldom works against Trump; he owns the currency and can always issue more of it. In addressing the rogue President directly, or speaking about him in the third person, Pelosi usually adopts a tone that is more sorrowful than angry..."

"I am Mizrahi, as are the majority of Jews in Israel today. We are of Middle Eastern and North African descent. Only about 30% of Israeli Jews are Ashkenazi, or the descendants of European Jews."

"Kids are exposed to plenty of controversial social issues on a daily basis. And if parents don’t want their kids to watch “Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone,” they can turn off the TV."

"Are public-school teachers really underpaid? It’s a claim often made during teacher pay disputes, but the same data and statistical methods that produce the “teacher salary gap” lead to some ridiculous conclusions..."

"Tech companies are getting into the business of making cities. We need to stop Silicon Valley social engineering before things get even worse."

"Having a Library or Cafe Down the Block Could Change Your Life: Living close to public amenities—from parks to grocery stores—increases trust, decreases loneliness, and restores faith in local government."

"“What name . . . shall we give to the darkness of hell...?” The question of how we can name a place such as this is at the center of scholar Scott G. Bruce’s new anthology The Penguin Book of Hell."

"She had all six of her kids — ages 5, 4, 2 (twins) and 10 months (also twins!) in her 10-seater van. To get the kids a quick snack, Curry parked in front of the Cobbler’s Café."

"Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed said they grew up typically eating dinner at a kitchen table, but a little less than half said they do so now when eating at home."

"If you tied a rope tight around the Earth’s equator and then added a single yard of slack, would the extra material make any noticeable difference to someone standing on the ground?"

"While American Jewish women face attacks on our freedom and rising anti-Semitism, abortion opponents are appropriating Jewish history in order to push an agenda that hurts women."