Asa Kasher and Shlomo Biderman
WHY WAS Baruch de Spinoza EXCOMMUNICATED?
On the 6th of the month of Av, 5416, July 27, 1656, the excommunication of Baruch de Spinoza was proclaimed from the Ark in the synagogue of Talmud Torah, the united congregation of the Portuguese Jews in Amsterdam. The complete version of the proclamation, written in Portuguese, is found in the Book of Ordinances of the congregation (Livro dos Acordos de Nacao e Ascamot)(1) and it includes some highly interesting details:
"The Lords of the Ma'amad", i.e. the governing body of six parnassim and the gabbai, announce that
"having long known of the evil opinions and acts of Baruch de Spinoza , they have endeavored by various means and promises, to turn him from his evil ways. But having failed to make him mend his wicked ways, and, on the contrary, daily receiving more and more serious information about the abominable heresies which he practiced and taught and about his monstrous deeds, and having for this numerous trustworthy witnesses who have deposed and born witness to this effect in the presence of the said Espinoza, they became convinced of the truth of this matter; and after all of this has been investigated in the presence of the honorable hakhamim, they have decided, with their consent, that the said Espinoza should be excommunicated and expelled from the people of Israel..." (2)
The "hakhamim," namely the official rabbis of the community, with whose consent the resolution was made to excommunicate the "said Espinoza," were familiar with thetraditional wording of the proclamations of excommunication and excerpts of these onventional formulations were incorporated in the announcement of Spinoza's excommunication:
"By decree of the angels and by the command of the holy men, we excommunicate, expel, curse and damn Baruch de Espinoza, with the consent of God, Blessed be He, and with the consent of the entire holy congregation, and in front of these holy scrolls with the 613 precepts which are written therein; cursing him with the excommunication with which Joshua banned Jericho and with the curse which Elisha cursed the boys and with all the castigations which are written in the Book of the Law. Cursed be he by day and cursed be he by night; cursed be he when he lies down and cursed be he when he rises up. Cursed be he when he goes out and cursed be he when he comes in. The Lord will not spare him, but then the anger of the Lord and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the Lord shall blot out his name from under heaven. And the Lord shall separate him unto evil out of all the tribes of Israel, according to all the curses of the covenant that are written in this book of the law. But you that cleave unto the Lord your God are alive every one of you this day."(3)
The proclamation of the excommunication concludes with the following famous lines of the actual warning:
"That no one should communicate with him neither in writing nor accord him any favor nor stay with him under the same roof nor within four cubits in his vicinity; nor shall he read any treatise composed or written by him."
What were the views, the "abominable heresies," that Baruch de Spinoza maintained in those days, just a few months before he reached the age of 24? How did the governing council try to "reform him from his evil ways"? What where they willing to promise him? To whom did he teach his views? Who were the witnesses that were considered trustworthy? Why did they testify and what was Spinoza's response to their testimonies? What treatises, if any, had already been "composed or written by him" and were banned so that reading it became punishable by excommunication? What was the source of the curses used in the excommunication proclamation? Why was a harsh wording of excommunication used, rather than a milder one?
For almost all of these questions, which emerge from the particular phrasing of Spinoza's excommunication, no answer is to be found in any primary source. We have at our disposal, for instance, the dossiers of written statements and letters concerning the views and deeds of two of Spinoza's acquaintances, Daniel de Prado and Daniel Ribera(4), but no such dossier has been found about the case of Spinoza. Various works that Spinoza wrote in the course of his life are known in full, but there has not been found any complete treatise which was written before the excommunication. We are soon going to refer to several answers gleaned from secondary sources.
An exception of sorts is the question of the wording used in the proclamation of Spinoza's excommunication. It is now plausible to assume that though the text used in Spinoza's case was not extraordinary, the circumstances of its use indeed were. The Hebrew original of the core of the text was well-known(5) and its Spanish translation was brought to Amsterdam from Venice, in 1618, that is to say, before Spinoza was even born.(6) On the other hand, the circumstances of putting this text to use must have been of particular importance. There is no other case in which we know the same text was used during the same period(7) and there is just one additional case in which that text is known to be used, during a later period, namely against three alleged Karaites, in 1712.(8) Interestingly enough, the latter case also involved heretical views.
Upon second thought, further questions arise. For instance, the entry of the excommunication in the Ascamot is not signed, while analogous records used to be signed by the congregational officers (gabba'im). Thus, for instance, Abraham Telles' signature appears at the bottom of an entry concerning the subsequent excommunication of the same Daniel de Prado,(9) and the signature of Jacob Belmonte appears at the conclusion of the entry concerning the ban on the Sabbataian book Ketz Hayyamin.(10) Was there a special reason for this discrepancy? (11)
Moreover, although the entry about Spinoza's excommunication concludes the records of that year, its date (the 6th of Av) is earlier than that of the resolution recorded in the preceding entry. The latter is dated the 2nd of Elul and is signed by all the parnassim and the gabbai Isaac Israel Suasso. Is there any significance to this fact?
The key to this intriguing sequence of the entries lies in an interesting detail which many people overlooked. David Franco Mendes, who in the second half of the Eighteenth Century wrote the history of the settlement of the Jews from Portugal and Spain in Amsterdam, describes the case of Spinoza(12) and argues that the public ceremony of the excommunication was not held until the 22nd of Elul 5416!(13) Just as an excommunication was not usually the first formal step taken by a community but was preceded by a lighter measure of expulsion (niddui), so, apparently, neither did it have to be the final formal step taken by a community. It could be followed by the most severe measure, sometimes called shamta. At the intermediate stage of the excommunication, the herem, it is still possible for the transgressor to mend his evil ways. Even if he somewhat tarries, the community waits for him to confess and forsake his transgressions so that he might obtain mercy. Only when there is no further hope, the public ceremony of the absolute severance is held. It seems, then, reasonable to assume that the community waited for Baruch de Spinoza 's retraction for over a month, and only then, when it despaired of him, the heads of the community ejected him from the community and noted this down in the ordinance book of the congregation.
In this context, it is of special interest to mention a comment made by Johannes Colerus, one of the first biographers of Spinoza, who was his contemporary and knew many of his acquaintances. Thanks to the help of theologians and philologists of his time, he had an extensive knowledge of the Jewish procedures of excommunication. In reference to the excommunication of Spinoza he wrote that a certain "learned Jew" had confirmed that it was rather the shamta that was most applicable to the case of Spinoza.(14)
Why did the ma'amad decide not to wait any longer for Spinoza to retract his views? What happened during the six weeks between the 6th of Av and the 22nd of Elul? These questions too have no answer in primary sources. Once again we have no choice but to make use of secondary sources, indirect evidence or plausible hypotheses in order to form a reasonable view of the crux of the matter.
In this paper we shall deal primarily with the first question we have raised, namely - what were the views of Baruch de Spinoza in 1656, views that the ma'amad regarded as "abominable heresies," so much so that, along with the consent of the hakhamim, they found them sufficiently weighty to justify excommunication? However, occasionally we shall also get close, though only to some extent and indirectly, to the answers for some other questions.
Right away we have to dismiss one simplistic answer. Quite a few persons labeled Spinoza, during his lifetime and soon after his death, as an "atheist" on the grounds of his renown writings. This is how he is described, for instance, by Lambert van Velthuysen, one of Descartes' disciples, in a letter addressed to Jacob Ostens, leader of the Collegiants of Roterdam, who was in contact with Spinoza. This letter, dated January 24, 1674, is the 42nd in the standard collection of Spinoza' correspondence. Later on, Spinoza was considered a "pantheist" because of the views expressed in the same works. However, these facts bear no relevance to our question. For surely the young Spinoza was not excommunicated for the works he was to compose later on in the course of his life. The answer to our question should be based on evidence directly related, as far as possible, to the views held by Spinoza precisely during the period of his excommunication.
On August 8, 1659, the monk Tomas Solano y Robles submitted a detailed written report to the Inquisition, in Madrid, about his recent travels. The following day, a similar report was submitted to the law court of the Madrid Inquisition by Captain Miguel Perez de Maltranilla, who had been the monk's fellow traveler. Brother Tomas testified that he had met "doctor Prado" as well as "a certain de Espinoza ... who was a good philosopher (buen filosofo)." They told him that they had "observed the Mosaic law" but the congregation (Sinagoga) had ejected them because they "reached the point of atheism." The monk added that they had said that they were circumcised and observed the laws of the Jews (la ley de los Judios) but changed their mind "because they thought that Law was not true, and that the soul dies along with the body and that God exists only philosophically, and therefore they were expelled from the synagogue." The Captain too attended these meetings and according to him, these two had told him that they were Jews who observed the precepts and were moved away from religion and this was why they were excommunicated. He added that the meetings had also been attended by two other Jews, apparently observant of the Jewish Law - they refused to taste some food that was offered to them. Spinoza and Prado, testified the Captain, "apparently embraced no religion."(15)
The Law is not true; The soul dies along with the body; God exists only philosophically. At the time, were these "abominable heresies"? Do we have further evidence that Spinoza maintained these views during that period? And if, indeed, these views of Spinoza were "abominable heresies," did they justify his excommunication from any halakhic point of view? Furthermore, could the ma'amad regard the adherence to these views as justifying excommunication? Let us try to answer these four questions.
There is no doubt that many regarded these three assertions as outright "heresies." In this paper, we will refer only to the counter views expressed by those who functioned as the senior rabbis of the community at the time of the excommunication, namely Hakham Saul Levi Morteira and Hakham Isaac Aboab da Fonseca. In addition, we will cite the words of Hakham Menasseh ben Israel, another senior rabbi of the community at that period, who at the time of the excommunication was in England, trying to be granted a permit for Jewish resettlement there.(16) We turn now to a discussion of each of those three principles separately.
"The Law is not true." Among those that "are cut off and perish, and for their great wickedness and sinfulness are condemned for ever and ever," Maimonides lists (in Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Teshuvah, chapter 3) three types of "those who deny the Torah", amongst them - "He who says that the Torah is not of divine rigin, even if he says it of one verse, or of a single word. If he says that Moses said it of himself, he is a denier of the Torah; likewise he who denies its interpretation, that is, the oral law."
Indeed, Hakham Morteira accepted Maimonides's opinions and frequently cited them. In a letter addressed to Venice,(17) apparently written in 1635, he ascribes his ideas to "Maimonides, the leading spokesman,"(18) and clarifies that while he was making a public sermon, he referred to "the established tradition accepted by the people of Israel, the baraita, which appears in the first chapter of Rosh Ha-Shanah (17a): "But as for the heretics ["minim"] ... and the scoffers ["apikorosim", lit. Epicureans] who rejected the Torah and deny the resurrection of the dead ... these will go down to Gehinnom and be punished there for all generations.... Gehinnom will be consumed but they will not be consumed...".(19) In his homily on the Thetzave portion of the Law, which is included in Giv'at Sha'ul, his collection of homilies, Morteira writes about "these thirteen Articles of Faith... For everybody agrees that these are the principles of Faith and he who denies them has no share in the world to come..." One of them is "the principle of the divine origin of the Torah. And it is suggested by the name "Dan" for it teaches us that in His divine Torah, God gave human beings the laws [dinim] according to which they have to conduct themselves."(20)
Hakham Aboab, in his book Nishmat Hayyim,(21) clearly supports the citations he incorporated from Pardes Rimmonim, written by Kabbalist Moses Cordovero: "...Though they are not called "koferim" or "minim" [heretics], since they believe in all matters of divinity, nonetheless they are called "koferim" because they deny the oral interpretation of the Law... as was written by Maimonides in the said chapter..." If this is what he thought about the oral interpretation of the Torah, all the more so that he held the same opinion about the Torah itself.
Hakham Menasseh ben Israel too, in a book entitled Nishmat Hayyim, takes this for granted, citing Maimonides: "The following have no portion in the world to come but are cut off and perish, and for their great wickedness and sinfulness are condemned for ever and ever. The Heretics ["minim" and "apikorosim"], those who deny the Torah, etc ."(22)
"The soul dies along with the body." The question of the life of the soul after the death of the body was important to whoever believed that the full reward given to the righteous man for his good deeds and the full punishment inflicted on the wicked man for his evil deeds are not experienced in this world but are awaiting man in the world to come. As suggested by the testimonies of Solano and the Captain, Spinoza's view implied a denial of the existence of reward and punishment after death since he argued that the soul dies with the body. Spinoza's opinion on this issue might have reminded the elders of the congregation of Uriel d'Acosta who also had denied, among other things, the immortality of the soul and the principle of reward and punishment after death. However, we are not going to dwell here on the case of d'Acosta, hisis ex-communication, and his repentance.(23) What is noteworthy in this context is that in 1635, several years after d'Acosta was ex- communicated for the second time, there emerged a heated dispute between Morteira and Aboab, the two most senior hakhamim of the community, concerning the issue of the eternality of punishment in the world to come, a debate that can be regarded as an offshoot of the controversy stirred by d'Acosta's views.
Morteira, who had a Talmudic and somewhat philosophical orientation, argued vehemently that "the perfectly wicked who died without repentance are condemned to eternal punishment."(24) In 1635 or 1636 Morteira formulated this opinion in a short treatise in which he discusses "the thesis that whoever is called by the name Israelite, even though he may have committed the gravest possible sins, will not suffer eternal punishment."(25) Considering this proposition a heresy, Morteira called those who denied the eternality of punishment persons "who claim to be proficient in the science of Kabbala... young men deficient in the faith... immature disciples"(26) (a possible allusion to Hakham Aboab, who was younger than him.) Morteira produces the evidence to the eternality of punishment in the world to come mainly from the Talmud, the post- Talmudic literature, and from philosophical writings, with almost no substantiation from the literature of the Kabbala and mysticism. At the end of his treatise he states that the anti-eternalists requested the leaders of the community to forbid him to further express his view in his homilies.
Aboab's position was put forth even more blatantly in his book Nishmat Hayyim. According to Aboab, punishment is not eternal but "as temporary as the gravity of sin."(27) He dismisses Morteira's view as a "castle in the air",(28)since it contradicts everything implied in the writings of the Kabbalists. Aboab unleashes his tongue on Morteira and his followers, whom he critically portrays as follows: "Older than I am; whose fathers I would have disdained to have set with the dogs of my flock; and they are exceedingly wise in their own eyes and prudent in their own sight. Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; and though I am younger in years, and they are older than I am, they become more foolish as they advance in years, for they have neither knowledge nor understanding."(29)
The sharp controversy raged in public. The leaders of the community requested the congregational, rabbinical court of the Venice community to settle the issue. In response, two of the Venice hakhamim, Shemaiah de Medina and Azariah Figo, wrote an emotional letter to Aboab, imploring him to abandon his view and accept Morteira's, thus obviating the need to submit this issue to the congregational court, whose verdict will undoubtedly favor "the party affirming the notion of eternal punishment."(30)
Did this letter calm down the agitated community? We have no direct evidence to this effect. However, in 1642 Isaac Aboab left the Portuguese community of Amsterdam and retired to one of the towns in Brazil. There he served as the hakham of the Jewish community. Perhaps his departure from the community resulted from this controversy. Later on, after a war between Portugal and Holland came to an end, he returned to Amsterdam and once again resumed his position as a hakham there.
Since Morteira regarded as a "heresy" the notion that the punishment inflicted on the soul after the death of the body is only temporary, there is no doubt that he regarded as far more heretical the notion that the soul no longer exists after the death of the body. And Aboab, in his treatise Nishmat Hayyim says the following: "And even if it comes to mind that whatever I have explained may not be true, God forbid... none of those who believe in them is called a heretic ["kofer"] because this is not one of the required principles since the principle of reward and punishment does not entail the belief that the sinners are condemned to eternal punishment".(31) Clearly, then, whoever does not believe in the principle of reward and punishment, including anyone who denies the immortality of the soul, was regarded by Aboab as a heretic.
Menasseh ben Israel's book, Nishmat Hayyim, was published in Amsterdam about four years before Spinoza's excommunication. In the very introduction to this book, the author addresses the "friendly reader" as follows: "Know then that the very foundation and essential principle is this belief in the immortality of the soul," also because it is bound up with the other well-known principles of faith. Among other things, "out of this corner extend the four foundations... namely that God is cognizant of all of man's actions, that He rewards those who observe his precepts and punishes those who transgress them, that the Messiah will come and is destined to resurrect the dead..." (32)
Indeed, the main theological role of the belief in the immortality of the soul is to establish the foundation of reward and punishment not in this world - "For we have seen in this world that the righteous man suffers while the wicked man prospers" - but under different circumstances. Clearly, Menasseh ben Israel Under took the task of pursuing "the question most commonly raised by all the commentators of our nation... for why are the spiritual destination and the reward of the soul after death not mentioned in the Torah..." He intended, as he said, "to investigate and explore this belief as far as I can, so that every one will know that our Torah has nothing missing in it," and this "in spite of the fact that there is no nation and language in the land of the living which does not admit that the soul is spiritual and immortal... nor is there any one among us, thank God, who denies this principle..." (33)By the time Menasseh ben Israel wrote the above, the case of Uriel d'Acosta had receded and that of Baruch de Spinoza and Daniel de Prado did not yet surface. At any rate, Menasseh ben Israel undoubtedly shared the opinion that denying the belief in the immortality of the soul was one of the "abominable heresies."
"God exists only philosophically." This assertion, which is not to be identified with the atheist assertion that "God does not exist," was considered a "heresy" in the theological framework of the notion of Providence. The philosophers' God is an abstract idea, such as the "primary cause" or the "supreme idea of the good," while the theologians' God is personal, an active being, a creator, ruler, and judge: "He preserves not the life of the wicked; but gives right to the poor; He withdraws not his eyes from the righteous; but with kings are they on the throne...", to use a verse of the Book of Job. The idea that God is absent from the universe, does not direct all created beings nor watches over His people had to be considered by Hakham Morteira and Hakham Aboab as nothing but "an abominable heresy." This position clearly emerges from their writings.
Morteira found in the Torah thirteen verses in which the Hebrew word "mitzva" [precept] does not indicate "a particular practical precept, but in a sense embraces all precepts, namely constitutes one of the principles on which the whole Torah is based."(34) He presented all of these verses in his homily on the Ekev portion of the Torah, which is included in his Giv'at Sha'ul. In addition to the above mentioned principles - "the divine origin of the Torah" and "the principle of reward and punishment" - Morteira also mentions "the principle of the providence of God, praised be He, over human ways, as we say in the prayer book¤: 'He watcheth and knoweth our secret thoughts / He beholdeth the end of a thing before it exists." Yet the principle of Divine Providence refers not only to God's general watching over people, for "the precept prescribing the belief in Providence is a particular and principal precept which includes all the precepts and from the observance of which God's Providence will stem, that in which He will watch particularly over you, out of all the nations..."(35)
Aboab, a devoted Kabbalist, to the extent of being willing to say, "we ought to praise the Kabbalists, who posses the truth",(36) using the wording of the famous Jewish liturgy: "we ought to praise the Master of everything", quotes from Moses Cordovero's Pardes Rimmonim, Part A, Chapter 9,(37) what he undoubtedly endorsed: "For the denial of the sefirot(38) will cause the individual to be led to heresy, since he must draw it from the assumptions and foundations of the Torah, for since the one, which is simple, does not change, how can He watch over transient matters." It is the doctrine of the sefirot that makes it possible to shun from the denial that Divine Providence is concerned with the transient affairs of the world. Menasseh ben Israel too views the notion of Divine Providence as a clear component of the faith system. Thus, for instance, in the fourth chapter of Nishmat Hayyim, which deals with "the matter of the transmigration of souls," Menasseh ben Israel states simply: "and if there is God in the world, the latter must be governed by Divine Providence."
It is noteworthy that at times, those hakhamim lump together these three principles - the truth of the Torah; the immortality of the soul, involving reward and punishment; and the existence of God, in a way which entails Divine Providence - and regard them as the absolute foundations of Faith. Thus, for instance, Menasseh ben Israel, says in the very same book: "On this belief in the immortality of the soul depend, learned reader, the major foundations and the principles of religion, namely the existence of God, the divine origin of the Torah and reward and punishment. For if you say that the soul dies with the body, this precludes reward and punishment. And if there are no reward and punishment and Divine Providence, precluded is the existence of God. And if God does not exist and there is no reward and punishment, what is the purpose of the divine Torah and the toil of observing the precepts? Therefore, the threefold cord is not quickly broken..." Later in the book Menasseh ben Israel discusses the "utterly wicked and the grave transgressors who have wrought iniquity, such as the heretics "apikorosim"¤ who denied God, saying He does not exist, and those who deny the divinity of the Torah, reward and punishment and the immortality of the soul, thus living a life devoid of God and free of the yoke of Law."(39)
Similarly Morteira, in a homily on the Mishpatim portion, which appears in the same book of his, says that Moses laid down his life for these particular things, which teach the essentials of our Torah... namely, the existence of God, the divinity of the Torah, and reward and punishment..."(40)
Obviously, designating these three concepts as the principles of the Jewish faith is not the original contribution of the Amsterdam hakhamim. Surely they were inspired by Joseph Albo's Book of Principles and perhaps by earlier sources as well. At any rate, the views Spinoza expressed to the monk and the Captain were such as were viewed by the hakhamim of the community to be in sharp contrast to the three principles of faith and consequently well deserving of the label "horrible heresies." (41)
Although Baruch de Spinoza 's views were considered "heresy" by Hakham Morteira and Hakham Aboab, it should be borne in mind that the excommunication of Spinoza was not enforced by them but rather decreed "with their consent." Moreover, it seems that the "Lords of the Ma'amad" had their own considerations concerning this matter. Before going into these considerations, we have to answer the second question we raised - is there any further evidence suggesting that Spinoza actually subscribed to these views at the time when he was excommunicated?
Let us mention here some indirect testimonies concerning Spinoza's views at that time.
One such testimony is to be found in the first biography of Spinoza, written by Lucas, his contemporary.(42) This biography was published in 1719, that is to say, over 40 years after Spinoza's death, and is considered to be not entirely reliable. However, it is noteworthy that in accounting for the reasons for the excommunication, apparently on the basis of the philosopher's memoirs, Lucas cites the same views of Spinoza against the truth of the Torah and the immortality of the soul as well as his claim that there is no basis in the Torah for negating the corporeality of God.
There are various pieces of evidence suggesting that close to the time of his excommunication, Spinoza himself wrote a treatise in which he explicitly expressed his attitude to the Torah and the Jewish religion. Salomon van Til, professor of theology at the University of Utrecht, was the first to testify, as early as 1684, about "a treatise against the old testament written in Spanish and entitled 'Apologetics of his Departure from Judaism.'"(43) According to Van Til, Spinoza did not publish this treatise, but presented the same ideas "more orderly" in the Tractatus Theologico- Politicus, which he published anonymously in 1670. This work of Spinoza is extinct and we can only speculate which chapters of the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus incorporate excerpts from it. It is reasonable to assume that chapter XIV, "Definitions of faith, the faith, and the foundations of faith, which is once for all separated from philosophy", is one of these excerpts. The following sentences may be considered typical to what appeared in Spinoza's lost work: "We will not... accuse the sectaries of impiety because they have adapted the words of Scripture to their own opinions... but we do accuse those who will not grant this freedom to their fellows, but who persecute all who differ from them, as God's enemies, however honorable and virtuous be their lives; while, on the other hand, they cherish those who agree with them, however foolish they may be, as God's elect."(44) After enumerating "the dogmas of universal faith,"(45) which include nothing about the truth of the Torah, the principle of reward and punishment and the principle of Divine Providence, Spinoza lists views by which "faith is not affected": "But as to what God... may be... whether fire, or spirit, or light, or thought, or what not, this, I say, has nothing to do with faith.... Everyone may think on such questions as he likes. Furthermore, faith is not affected, whether we hold that God is omnipresent essentially or potentially; that He directs all things by absolute fiat, or by the necessity of His nature; that He dictates laws like a prince, or that he sets them forth as eternal truths.... L¤astly, that the reward of the good and the punishment of the wicked is natural or supernatural..."(46)
Thus, what was considered by the hakhamim and the ma'amad as "abominable heresies" was for Spinoza not part of the principles of faith but rather what is subject to free interpretation: "I will go further, and maintain that every man is bound to adapt these dogmas to his own way of thinking, and to interpret them according as he feels that he can give them his fullest and most unhesitating assent, so that he may the more easily obey God with his whole heart."(47)
Spinoza was, however, aware of the fact that his views had been taken by many to constitute explicit blasphemy. In a 1665 letter to Oldenburg (the 30th in the standard collection of Spinoza's correspondence) he states his "reasons" for "writing a Treatise about my interpretation of Scripture": 1. The prejudices of the Theologians; for I know that these are among the chief obstacles which prevent men from directing their mind to philosophy ...; 2. The opinion which the common people have of me, who do not cease to accuse me falsely of atheism;... 3. The freedom of philosophizing, and of saying what we think; this I desire to vindicate in every way, for here it is always suppressed through the excessive authority and impudence of the preachers."(48)
Some further details can be gleaned from the available material on the analogous case of the excommunication of Daniel de Prado. As already mentioned, Brother Tomas Solano y Robles and Captain Miguel Perez de Maltranilla testified that they had met Prado as well as Spinoza. However, the text of their testimonies suggests that the witnesses met Prado and Spinoza together. According to these testimonies, the reasons for their excommunication by the community equally apply to both of them.
Many documents concerning the excommunication of Prado in 1658 have not disappeared. If it is reasonable to assume that at the same period Spinoza and Prado shared their views, at least as far as the principles of faith are concerned, we can also infer from these documents about Spinoza's views during the period of his ex-communication. In a letter written (in Latin) by Daniel de Prado, intended to prove that his excommunication was unjustified, he argues that he defended the belief in the creation of the world while he served as a reader, having to formally evaluate a certain dissertation submitted to the University of Leiden. In this defense, written five months following his excommunication, one can perceive an indirect estrangement from the view that God exists only philosophically. Even concerning the issue of reward and punishment awaiting a person after one's death, Prado argues that this idea has to be accepted as a principle of faith, even though it cannot be firmly substantiated. This assertion can be viewed as an indirect repudiation of the rejection of the principle of the immortality of the soul.
It seems that at the same time that Daniel de Prado sent this letter, his son, David de Prado, sent a letter to the ma'amad requesting them to let his father prove "that he did not sin against the Lord's holy law, which he obeys... and so that it will be demonstrated that he did not relapse even in thought from the straight way of the truth of the holy law, which he obeys." This rounds off the picture by adding another factor: an unequivocal disavowal of the rejection of the truth of the Torah.
Even if one might doubt the sincerity of the claims made by Daniel and David de Prado in view of what Spinoza and Daniel de Prado said to the monk and the Captain several months later, these excerpts clearly suggest that at the time when Spinoza and Daniel de Prado were excommunicated, the community was concerned about their attitude to these three principles of faith.
Similar evidence appears in a letter written in 1663 by Isaac Orobio de Castro, a member of the same community, in response to a missive by Prado. Entitled "A Grave Letter Against Prado, A Philosopher-Physician Who Doubted, Or Did Not Believe in, the Truth of the Scriptures And Tried to Conceal His Wickedness by Arguing That He Believed in God And the Natural Law," it includes a thorough discussion of the issue of the immortality of the soul.(49)
Also available to us are documents concerning the testimonies of some of Prado's disciples in that period. The most interesting testimony is that of Jacob Monsanto, dated the beginning of 1658: "On Monday evening, before the class started, while he was talking with me, he said, among other things: 'What reason do we have to believe in Moses' Law more than in the teachings of other sects?'... Then, after he asked me whether there are reward and punishment, I answered him: 'Is it possible to doubt this'? Does he not know that this is one of the thirteen Articles of Faith¤? To which he responded conceitedly that so far, no one has returned from the next world... He also asserted that the world had not been created but rather had always existed in the same way...,"(50) i.e., that God did not create the universe the way it is described in the Biblical story of creation.
Once again, we are back to the same three principles of faith, ones, which Daniel de Prado denied, to the chagring of the hakhamim.
A similar picture emerges from the testimonies of the disciples of Daniel Ribera, a Christian monk who joined the same community and apparently taught together with Daniel de Prado. One of his pupils testifies before the ma'amad that Ribera confided in him that in his opinion, "The soul dies together with the body"; "The holy Torah is distorted". He added that the claim about the "divine individual and universal Providence" is unacceptable.(51) Finally, let us mention Abraham Israel Pereyra, of the same time and place, who in 1666 wrote harsh words about the world, "which is nothing but arid land, full of thorns and thistles in the original version - espinas¤; a green pasture in the original version - prado¤ swarming with poisonous snakes." Just like others who wrote against Baruch de Spinoza and Daniel de Prado, Pereyra too made use of the above puns to fiercely attack the views ascribed to Spinoza and Prado. In a book he wrote in 1671, he launched a frontal attack on those Jews "who teach how to govern, as if the hand of Providence does not reach them and the universe simply directs itself" and who, following Machiavelli, "deny the immortality of the soul as well as reward and punishment."(52)
In order to answer the next question we raised - whether Spinoza's views justified his excommunication from a halakhic point of view - we have to briefly consider a prevalent popular view that Jews have never been excommunicated for their views. What follows from this view is that Spinoza was excommunicated not on the basis of his "heretic" views but rather because of his conduct: he had infuriated the hakhamim and the ma'amad of his community by violating the precepts of the Torah in public. This point was argued by Freudenthal, Klatzkin and others.(53)
Is it true, then, that Spinoza was excommunicated because of his public transgression of some precepts? It seems to us that the burden of proof rests on those who argue along these lines. Except for some obscure phrases in the proclamation of Spinoza's excommunication ("evil... deeds", "evil ways" and "monstrous deeds") that obviously lend themselves to more than one interpretation, this view is not supported by the testimonies which are at our disposal. On the contrary, according to the testimony of the monk and the Captain, Spinoza and Prado said that their excommunication resulted only from their denial of the three principles of faith: they had "observed the Mosaic law" but the congregation had ejected them because they "reached the point of atheism.".
Another indirect proof can be found in Spinoza's own words, in the Preface to his Tractatus Theologico-Politicus: "Wholly repugnant to the general freedom are such devices as enthralling men's minds with prejudices, forcing their judgment, or employing any of the weapons of quasi-religious sedition; indeed, such seditions only spring up, when law enters the domain of speculative thought, and opinions are put on trial and condemned on the same footing as crimes, while those who defend and follow them are sacrificed, not to public safety, but to their opponents' hatred and cruelty. If deeds only could be made the grounds of criminal charges, and words were always allowed to pass free, such seditions would be divested of every semblance of justification, and would be separated from mere controversies by a hard and fast line."(54)
The notion that it was Spinoza's deeds, rather than his views, which provoked his excommunication is sometimes taken to be inferred from the general assumption that "Judaism does not excommunicate for views but rather for conduct." This assumption has no real basis, unless by "views" one means thoughts those man harbors without revealing them to anybody. There is a list of twenty-four offenses for which a ban is placed on the individual. It stems from the Talmud(55) and then fully specified in the code of Maimonides(56) and in the later, Shulhan Arukh code.(57) This traditional list includes different kinds of sins, from practical transgression such as those of "whoever does manual labor on the eve of Passover after midday" or "whoever causes the blind to stumble," and up to transgressions that consist in expressing a particular opinion, such as the one expressed by "whoever slights any ordinance instituted by the Scribes, or, needless to add, any precept of the Torah." To this example, eminent authorities added every case in which the individual goes against the general consensus of the majority because by doing so he behaves as if he violates the precepts of the Torah, thus blaspheming the name of God. When this happens, it is possible to excommunicate the transgressor at once, even without first resorting to the initial measures of warning, reprimand, and expulsion from the community (niddui).(58)
Hence it is clear that from a halakhic point of view, it was possible to excommunicate a person for expressing particular views in public, provided that this expression resulted in disputes, blasphemy, or slighting the written or oral Law. Furthermore, these halakhic possibilities were not considered to fall under the category of "lawful but inadvisable." We know of excommunications imposed under such circumstances during the Sabbataian period, in the course of the ensuing Emden-Eybeschuetz controversy, and so forth.
Less known is the ban imposed by some rabbis not on expressing views, but on a serious study of books expressing particular views. Some rabbis (such as R. Asher ben Jehiel, a 13th-14th centuries authority, called "Rosh") entirely prohibited the study of philosophy, while others (R. Solomon ben Abraham Aderet, an authority of the same period, called "Rashba") prohibited only the young from doing so but reinforced the prohibition by the threat of excommunication.(59) The Shulhan Arukh code takes an approach which is conditional on the one hand but very strict on the other hand: "A scholar who studies the books of the Apikorosim lit. Epicureans, i.e., heretics¤ thus blaspheming the name of God, shall be placed under the shamta."(60) This opinion is shared by R. Joel Sirkes (1561-1640, almost a contemporary of Spinoza and author of Bayit Hadash, called "Bah") who looked down upon the kind of philosophy studied by their contemporary, the physician Joseph Abarbanel Baraboza, considering it "heresy itself."(61)
The senior hakham of the community, Saul Levi Morteira, knew all of this perfectly well. In Giv'at Sha'ul, his book of homilies, while discussing, in the context of the "Ki Thetze" portion, the punishment of the instigator, the stubborn and rebellious son, the elder who disregards the verdict of the supreme court of law and the false witnesses, he states that "...what this suggests to us is that since a thought is the act of the soul and a deed is the act of the body, the sin must be graver when it concerns the more precious and important part... though this is not viewed as such by the masses, because they judge by appearance and are concerned with the deed and not with the thought, and do not watch for the latter... And therefore it must be said that concerning these four matters, God commanded to make them known in public so that the observant shall hear them and fear, for they have all died for their thoughts and not for their deeds, and for what they were willing to do rather than for what they have actually done..."
If heretic thoughts are graver than sinful acts, one should not wonder about Hakham Morteira's willingness to apply the strong sanction of excommunication against Baruch de Spinoza with regard to those "abominable heresies."(62)
As already mentioned, the excommunication of Spinoza was not enforced by the rabbis but was rather decreed "with their consent." The body that actually imposed the excommunication was the ma'amad -the governing council of the community. Did the ma'amad have the authority to impose an excommunication? An answer to this question must address three different aspects of the authority of the ma'amad - the halakhic authority, the institutional authority within the community and the civil authority as granted by city authorities.
According to one of the popular unwarranted notions, the only body which is authorized, from a halakhic point of view, to impose excommunication is a rabbinical court of law, consisting of three rabbis. In sharp contrast to this notion, the halakha also recognizes another institutional body, which has a constitutive position - the aldermen ["tovei ha'ir"], or the heads of the congregation ["rashei ha-kahal], or the officers ["parnassim"]. The halakhic authority of the congregation, or its leaders, to enact binding regulations is based on a verse in the book of Ezra which says: "And that whosoever would not come within three days, according to the counsel of the princes and the elders, all his substance should be forfeited, and himself separated from the congregation of those that had been carried away." (10:8).
In accordance with this, R. Gershom (a 10th-11th centuries high authority, called "Me'or Ha-Golah", lit. "Light of the Exile") ruled that "even the most despised individual, once he is pointed the chief leader of the community, he is to be looked upon as a mighty person. Therefore as far as the congregations are oncerned, their decree is valid and their deeds carry weight." Thus, congregational regulations had been given an unequivocal halakhic status.(63)
The authority of the communities encompassed both civil and criminal matters, including all sorts of punishments - lashing, fines, and excommunication. The only limitation on the force of a congregational regulation was the need to get an approval, from the rabbi or rabbis, of the regulation or of a punitive act ensuing from it. The approval was required in order to ensure some preventive control of halakhic authorities over these congregational regulations.(64)
Clearly, then, from a halakhic point of view, there is, in principle, nothing that can invalidate the excommunication of Spinoza as imposed by the ma'amad, with the consent of the hakhamim.
Notice that the fact that an excommunication was proclaimed and imposed by the heads of the congregation does not necessarily limit its application in time and place. Some have held the view that an excommunication binds not only the contemporary generation who witnessed the excommunication but also their offsprings: "And even the sons they beget, generation after generation, ought to behave in conformity with what their fathers agreed upon and banned."(65) Even confining an excommunication to the boundaries of the specific community where it was enforced is not that obvious, since it has also been ruled by some halakhic authorities that an individual expelled from a community for having transgressed the law "shall be treated the same in his own town and in any other town, for he is separated from the entire people of Israel and must be treated accordingly."(66)
The excommunication had, then, a halakhic validity, and even more so, an institutional validity. In 1639, following the merging of the three Portuguese communities in Amsterdam into a single community - the Talmud Torah community - certain regulations were explicitly made to ensure the superior authority of the ma'amad with regard to whatever concerns the congregation. "The ma'amad is sovereign in its leadership of the congregation," establishes article 12 of the basic regulations of the Talmud Torah Congregation, and it "shall have authority and superiority over everybody and no person shall be allowed to contravene their Resolutions... and those who will do so... shall incur the penalty of excommunication."(67)
The functions of the ma'amad, according to other regulations, include authorizing of the writing and delivery of a letter of divorce, editing and amending books and authorizing their printing. Moreover: "Whoever issues, delivers or testifies about a divorce without the permission of the ma'amad shall be excommunicated."(68) These and other regulations clearly indicate the unchallenged authority of the ma'amad vis a vis each member of the community. A similar authority was granted to the ma'amad vis a vis the rabbis appointed by it. Thus, for instance, one of the regulations provides that "decisions concerning the laws - in the hands of the hakhamim by a majority of vote; in case of no vote - the final decision is to be made by the ma'amad; and if a hakham does not accept it - he will immediately be relieved from his duties, without pay..."Such a legal structure was not peculiar to that community of Amsterdam. In the sister community of the Portuguese Jews in Hamburg, a resolution was made in 1666 to leave the hakham the right to penalize a certain circumciser "in accordance with his wickedness, as the hakham saw fit, except that he shall not proclaim his excommunication, for proclaiming grave sins is entrusted only to the ma'amad."(69)
No direct evidence is at our disposal concerning a permit granted to the ma'amad by the city authorities to use excommunication as a punitive measure before Spinoza's excommunication. An indirect evidence of this sort of permit is found in a letter of 1683 addressed by the hakhamim of the Portuguese community in Amsterdam - Aboab, Sasportas and Oliveyra - to the heads of the Committee of the Four Countries. The letter discusses the ban imposed by the latter on the Ashkenazi community of Amsterdam for dismissing its chief rabbi, R. David Lida, who was of a Polish origin. In this letter they note with concern that this ban will provoke "hatred and resentment among the nations, particularly among the men of power, who do not approve of herem and niddui and who long ago... decreed that we are not to place under niddui or herem any one living in their country."(70) This suggests that in the years antedating this letter, the city authorities denied the heads of the community the right to excommunicate, which apparently had been previously entrusted in their power. Indeed, the Ascamot include the decision of the City authorities, as made on January 27, 1683, as well as its subsequent revocation.(71) Graetz's speculation that this prohibition resulted from the xcommunication of Spinoza(72) is groundless, for the community imposed various excommunications later on, during the Sabbataian awakening in the years 1665-66, and also, for instance, in the case of the physician Joseph Abarbanel Barboza, who was excommunicated in Amsterdam in 1677.(73)
In this context, we should mention the criticism made by Philip van Limborch, an eminent and moderate Dutch theologian, who was also the friend of John Locke, the important English philosopher. In a letter to one of his friends, dated March 12, 1662, van Limborch protests against the right of the Jewish community to excommunicate the members of the community for their opinions.(74) This too serves as indirect evidence to the fact that the ma'amad, and thus the entire community, had a well-recognized internal authority to exert the punishment of excommunication upon congregants that have relapsed.
Let us turn now to the fourth and last question we raised - did the heads of the congregation excommunicate Spinoza because his views were considered by the hakhamim as clear-cut manifestations of absolute denial of the Jewish religion?
The fact that a particular individual in the congregation held these views did not in itself constitute a complete institutional break off. One example emerges from the Prado case. According to the records of the community, in 1657, the elders of the congregation, along with the ma'amad and the hakhamim, agreed to remove the excommunication if he were willing to travel "overseas, to districts populated by Jews" who were observant of the Jewish law. Two of the parnassim tried to convince him to accept the offer and promised to help him and his family, in exchange, but he declined the offer.(75)
The text of the proclamation of the excommunication of Spinoza also mentions "promises" that the ma'amad was willing to make in order to reform Spinoza. An indirect piece of evidence concerning the contents of these promises is mentioned by Bayle but its details are not proven.(76) At any rate, it is unlikely that the ma'amad expected Spinoza to change his views in exchange for keeping these promises.
The answer lies in a different direction. The highest interest of the ma'amad was to openly maintain a stable and autonomous Jewish-Portuguese community. Some of the heads of the community - those who were prosperous merchants - also had a plain interest to maintain the economic activity of the Jews in those branches of commerce and finance which were open to members of the community.(77) As Allison points out, "[Jewish] community was a tightly knit economic group", which, as a whole, was fairly prosperous. The threat posed to the Jewish community in Amsterdam was a real one: any conspicuous deviation from the civil rule could put in jeopardy the economic existence of the community, if not its very existence.(78)
The heads of the community did not enjoy absolute autonomy. Outwardly they had to ensure that proper relations be maintained with all the hierarchical levels of government to which they were subjected either directly or indirectly. One must consider, if only quite briefly, the complex ruling system prevailing in those days in order to appreciate the political task faced by the ma'amad. They were governed at one and the same time by the municipality of Amsterdam, the council of the province of Holland and West Friesland, which consisted of representatives of the important cities of the province and representatives of the district nobility; by the "States General" council of the "Union", the federation of the northern provinces of the "Low Countries", which consisted of the representatives of the seven provinces that had signed the Union of Utrecht treaty in 1579; and occasionally by a "Stadholder", this or that prince of the House of Orange.(79) These four levels - the city, the province, the federation and the prince - were not a simple hierarchy but formed a rather intricate network of formal authorities and practical powers, each striving to maintain as much sovereignty as possible. The Stadholder, for instance, was elected by each one of the provinces. In this sense he depended on them. However, he had partial authority in appointing the mayors of those towns that were represented in the province councils. In this sense, it is they who were somewhat dependent on him. The Union army consisted of provincial units, but was headed by the Stadholder while being financially maintained by the provinces, on the basis of their relative economic strength. The province of Holland and West Friesland, which was the wealthiest, could weaken the Prince of Orange's power by stopping payments to some of the units, which it did. The prince, in turn, could use the units supported by the other provinces against a rebellious province, and so he did too.
Under such an unstable constellation of powers, the Jewish community could not put its absolute trust in either one of the sides. Several years before the excommunication of Spinoza, two crucial events took place in Holland and in the northern lowland countries which demonstrated the potential inherent in this political network for good and for bad.
In 1650, two years after the Peace of Munster was signed, according to which the King of Spain recognized that "the Lords States-Generals of the United Provinces and the respective Provinces thereof ... are free and sovereign States [and] Provinces..."'(80)thus terminating the 80-year war: William II, Prince of Orange, still saw fit to wage war with Spain so as to assist his allies in France. However, the city of Amsterdam and the entire province of Holland were not interested in war. They sought peace, welfare and prosperity. The province actually disbanded part of the army of the republic. The prince, supported by the Council of the Union, made visits to the voting towns of the province of Holland in an attempt to dissuade them from opposing him. The crisis reached its peak when the prince reached the gates of Amsterdam heading an army under the command of his cousin, count William Frederick, the Stadholder of the province of Friesland, threatening to besiege the city. Giving in to his intimidation, the city signed an agreement, according to which the heads of the city were to be replaced and the actual disbanding of the military units was revoked. Apparently, the governing system changed. However, before long the tables were turned: three months after the agreement was made, the prince died without leaving an heir who would succeed him and for many years afterwards no other Stadholder was elected by the republicans. During the time of Spinoza's excommunication, most of the provinces were not headed by any Stadholder.
Extreme upheavals of this sort in the ruling system were bound to leave their impact on such problematic communities as that community of the Portuguese Jews in Amsterdam and prompted them to cultivate political caution.
This was especially necessary since such problematic crises were not rare events. In 1651 serious disputes evolved between the Dutch republic and the Protestant commonwealth of Cromwell, who then ruled England. These disputes derived from economic issues and they escalated with Cromwell's "Navigation Order," which prohibited using of non-English vessels for importing goods to the ports of England. A few months later, a war broke out between the two countries hich severely damaged the Dutch economy, including a substantial group of the members of the Jewish-Portuguese community. The success of Cromwell's naval forces was met with profound dissatisfaction in the towns of Holland and in other towns of the Union and once again the voice of the Orange party was heard in public. The "Westminster Peace" of 1654 put an end to the war but was followed by a severe domestic crisis since the province of Holland had reached a separate secret agreement with Cromwell whereby no one of the Orange Family was to be elected as a prince. The reason behind this agreement was that the Orange Family was related to the Stuart Family, the Royal House of England and Cromwell's sworn enemy. The other provinces regarded this agreement as a violation of the treaty of the Union of Utrecht, which established the "eternal alliance and confederation" of the northern provinces and Johan de Witt, who then rose to power in Holland, defended himself by resorting to legal and pragmatic arguments.
In the midst of the war years, one of the hakhamim of the congregation, Menasseh ben Israel, planned a trip to England, to obtain Cromwell's consent for the settlement of Jews there.(81)The Amsterdam community, which had learnt its lesson about the necessity of political caution, neither dissuaded him from making this trip nor encouraged him in his mission. When he finally was about to set out, the ma'amad decided to grant him a leave of absence for the purpose of conducting personal business. Their resolution, dated December 27, 1655,(82) as it appears in the Ascamot, questions the value of this trip. Menasseh ben Israel, in his turn, wanted to be officially recognized as the missionary of the Jews. Hence, on September 2 of the same year he appealed for help to the communities of Italy and Holstein (namely, Hamburg and its sisters) but not to the Amsterdam community.(83)
All the hierarchical levels of the government which the Jews had to please, by taking necessary precautions, were of Protestant affiliation, though not all of them endorsed the Calvinist establishment, which desired to impose the Church on the State. Article xiii of the treaty of the Union of Utrecht of 1579 states:(84) "concerning the matter of religion, Holland and Zeeland shall act at their own discretion whereas the other provinces of this Union may conform to the contents of the Religious Peace Treaty ... or else they may introduce (all together or each province independently) ... such regulations as they consider proper for the peace and welfare of the provinces, towns and their particular members and for the preservation of all people, either secular or clerical, their properties and rights, provided that in accordance with the  Pacification of Ghent, each individual enjoys freedom of religion and no one is persecuted or questioned about his religion."(85) It should be understood that in context, the words "Holland and Zeeland shall act at their own discretion" disguise a position of intolerance, in contrast to what is implied from what follows in the text, for in these two provinces only the Reformed Church was granted freedom.
In 1619, when the fate of the Jewish community was at stake in the province of Holland, which included Amsterdam, the famous conflict between the Calvinist establishment and the Arminian opposition was in full force. Apparently, this was a dispute over the theological principle of predestination - whether or not human destiny and reward and punishment are predetermined. The real issue, however, was power, namely who was going to dominate - the Calvinist Church or the civil authorities of the provinces. The Arminians demanded that no Christian be persecuted for his views as long as he was faithful to the Scriptures.(86)
Neither of these camps was sympathetic to the Jews. One of the important figures in the Remonstrant opposition, Caspar Barlaeus of the theological faculty of the University of Leiden, from which he was expelled after the 1619 Synod of Dort, presented the principles of his movement in a well-known document, but when he got to the Jews he no longer advocated the principles of tolerance that he fostered. This is what he wrote: "Judge for yourself, glorious Prince, is it not a disgraceful and unjustified practice that the Jews, the overt enemies and blasphemers of our Savior, are given the right to enjoy religious freedom in the strongest city of Holland, while we, who are Christians and of the Reformed Church, are not granted this right neither there nor in any other place?"(87) The resolutions of the Synod of Dort, which symbolizes the victory of the anti-Remonstration, express similar views held by the other side. In a formal letter addressed to the federal States General, the Synod requests the following: "that there be found a way to stop the blasphemy practiced by the Jews who live amongst us as well as to prevent them from converting anybody from our faith to theirs."(88)It must be borne in mind that the "Marranos" from Portugal and Spain were likely to arrive in Holland as Christians who were supposed to be converted to Judaism.
On December 13, 1619, after having reviewed proposals submitted to it by the renown Hugo Grotius and Adriaan Pauw, subsequently the mayor of Amsterdam, and after having studied the regulations of Amsterdam concerning this matter, the Council of the Province of the Holland and West Friesland resolved not to outline a general policy concerning the settlement of the Jews but rather to leave this matter to the exclusive discretion of each city separately. Nonetheless, this Council forbade to compel the Jews to wear special garments that would single them out. It seems that the council was pleased with the Amsterdam regulations and the proposals submitted to its consideration because it brought them to the attention of the mayors of Haarlem and Alkmaar "so that they make proper use of them." However, the proposals were not accorded an official status anywhere.(89)
The authorities of Amsterdam allowed the Jewish community to humbly maintain its way of life and they rejected the recurrent attempts made by the "Protestant Elders" to restrict the freedom of the Jews. Thus, for instance, the latter complained to the "Burgomasters" that the Jewish community expanded a "Beth Ya'akob" Synagogue by adding study halls for "Talmud Torah" and "Ets Haim". Their resolution dated March 12, 1620, states the following: "As it has been learned that the Jews are once more openly exercising their rites contrary to the ban issued by the ... Burgomasters ... I¤t has been agreed to remonstrate about this matter with ... the Burgomasters, which will be done by R. Rolandus and Cornelis Schellinger." The Burgomasters, however, dismissed the complaint.(90)
The Jewish community itself did its utmost to maintain a low- keyed demeanor. In August 1639, The first ma'amad of the Talmud Torah united congregation supplemented the basic regulations with additional ones, including a regulation which prohibited wedding or funeral processions. The reason for this, as provided in the regulation itself, was to prevent possible conflicts with non-Jews, who might be upset by the procession. A more important regulation prohibited against criticizing the Christian religion while talking with Christians or discussing religious matters with them in an attempt to convert them to Judaism, lest this would threaten the "freedom we enjoy" and would make the Jews hateful "for an act which they are not required to engage in according to religion."(91)
True, the response of the Dutch to Jews in their midst was indeed an exceptional case of tolerance in a Christian Europe that either ejected or confined the Jews in humiliating and degrading circumstances. Signs of toleration were apparent enough: "There was no Amsterdam Gettho, no yellow badge, horned hat or lock-up curfew behind gates all walls".(92) But freedom of Jews was strictly limited. As a Jewish rabbi reported in 1616, "Each of the Jews¤ may follow his own belief but may not openly show that he is of a different faith from the inhabitants of the city"(93) and there is no reason to assume that in this respect the situation changed for the better in the coming decades.
The rulers of the town or the province would not have overlooked a glaring deviation by a member of the community from the image of the Jewish resident they had in mind. Obviously, the ma'amad regarded it as its duty to prevent such striking deviations that could induce the authorities to interfere with the life of the community, depriving of liberties, imposing restrictions, punishing, and the like. They did not hold back from excommunicating, for example, David Curiel, for appealing to the civil court of the town concerning a financial dispute the investigation of which could have revealed to the municipal authorities that some couples who belonged to the congregation were married according to Jewish law but not registered as such by the civil authorities.
The tolerable image of the Jewish resident, in accordance with which the ma'amad felt it had to conduct itself in dealing with the authorities outside the community, was that of a law-abiding resident adhering to the principles of the Jewish faith. What these principles of faith are, we can deduce from various sources. Here we shall only bring evidence from the class of pledges and oaths that Jews were supposed to, or required to take.
The most frequent oath that Jews were forced to take is, of course, More Judaico. It is an oath which Jews were compelled to take in lawsuits with non-Jews, and it prevailed in Europe from the early Middle Ages until the 18th century (and in some places even later). The oath was usually imposed on Jews by non-Jews although it was meant to be conceived as authentically Jewish, stemming from the Jewish law itself. Among other reasons for imposing it on Jews was the fear that the "Kol Nidrei" prayer, of the Day of Atonement, frees the Jew from his commitments. The text of the oath varied from place to place, but usually one can find in most versions references to the existence of God "who created heaven and earth, valleys and mountains, wood, foliage, and rass"; the existence of Divine Law "that God wrote with His hand and gave to Moses on Mount Sinai; and the existence of soul which will be brought to judgment.(94)
Already on November 8, 1606, Amsterdam determined the wording of the oath to be taken by the Jews when they were appeared before the municipal courts. The Amsterdam version of the oath opens by saying - "You swear by the living God Almighty, who created heaven and earth, and by the Law he gave Moses, honestly and truthfully to answer the questions put to you..." And then it concludes by saying - "And if you answer falsely or incorrectly... that you should be plagued and punished now and forever with all the curses, plagues and such sufferings that God visited upon Israel...".(95)
Grotius, who was an Arminian and consequently a minimalist in terms of imposing religious restrictions on the Jews, proposed that every one of the Jews settling down in the province of Holland and west Friesland should be required to pledge allegiance to his faith."That is, that they believe that there is only one God, the creator and leader of everything, the source of all good, whom we should honor and worship and to whom we should pray; That Moses and the prophets wrote the truth with the inspiration of God; that after death there will be another life, in which the virtuous will be rewarded and the wicked will be punished."(96) The sanction for breaching the allegiance appears in section 13 of Grotius's proposal and it consists of "death or corporeal punishment, according to the merits of the case."(97) Although Grotius's suggestion was not put into effect, we can infer from it what a moderate Calvinist, and all the more so a non-moderate Calvinist, was willing to regard as an intolerable deviation by a Jew from the principles of his own religion.
The last example in this connection derives from Teshu'at Israel, Menasseh ben Israel's book, written several months before Spinoza was excommunicated. Setting out to dismiss the blood libel, Menasseh ben Israel says in the introduction: "I swear... by the living God Almighty, who created heaven and earth, who gave His Torah to the people of Israel on Mount Sinai, that I have never come across such a custom among the people of Israel..." He concludes by saying the following: "and if I speak falsely concerning this matter, I shall be plagued with all the plagues mentioned in the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy, I shall not behold the blessing and solace of Zion and shall not witness the resurrection of the dead."(98) One common element is shared by all of these pledges and oaths, namely the allusion to the same three principles of faith, though in somewhat different ways - the existence of God, the creator and ruler of the universe; the truth of the Torah; the existence of life in the hereafter. A departure from these three principles is not to be tolerated in a Jew, even according to the Christian minimalist. Yet these are precisely the principles denied by Baruch de Spinoza and Daniel de Prado according to the testimony of monk Thomas and his friend the Captain, a denial which induced the Jewish community to eject them from it.
Whoever preached in public that these principles are wrong not only assaulted the self-image of the Jew as emerging from the works of Hakham Saul Levi Morteira and Hakham Isaac Aboab da Fonseca and from the writings of Hakham Menasseh ben Israel. Even more importantly, he also discredited the civil and Christian image of the Jew as embodied, for instance, in these pledges and oaths. The ma'amad could not afford to ignore such an image.
Moreover, just during the months of the excommunication, the struggle that the Calvinist establishment had waged against Descartes' philosophy reached its peak.(99)On May 20, 1647, the curates of the University of Leiden made a resolution ordering the professors and regents "to avoid publishing the name of Descartes or mentioning him in theses ... as well as to avoid mentioning him and his views in their debates..."(100)Other universities followed suit despite the counter efforts by Descartes, who for years had been there. In 1656, before the excommunication of Spinoza, the Council of the province of the Holland and West Friesland resolved "that after mature deliberation and consultation upon the subject, they consider it necessary to take care by proper means that the true Theology and Holy Scripture should not be offended through liberty of philosophising or by any abuse of it" and further resolved that the professors of philosophy should take an oath that "one must believe in the divine authority more than in human judgment" as well as that, for the sake of order and peace, they should "leave off propagating the philosophemata drawn from Dr. Cartesius' philosophy, which today give offence to a number of people."(101)
At that time, the strongest person in the province was Johan de Witt. Tolerant as he was, he was not entirely free from stances prevalent during his period: two years before the above resolution was made, in the famous 1654 "Deductie" he had written at the end of the war with England, de Witt argued that there was enough binding material to keep the Seven Provinces together, including material interests, political arrangements, and "above all" religion: "And are not above all their hearts and souls united and bound together by the spiritual and divine bond of one and the same religion?"(102)
Spinoza must have been familiar at that time with some of the writings of Descartes,(103) and perhaps some of the ideas that caused the rift between him and the ma'amad and hakhamim might have been inspired by Descartes. It is not utterly implausible to assume that at that time Spinoza had already adopted from the Cartesian philosophy its methods and that these methods had led him to some of his views.
It is difficult, if not impossible, to determine the years during which Spinoza started studying Descartes' writings. Of course, Spinoza's first published work in philosophy is an exposition of Parts I and II of Descartes' Principles of Philosophy (Amsterdam, 1663). Lodewijk Meyer's preface reports that part of Spinoza's work was "dictated, to a certain pupil of his, whom he was teaching the Cartesian Philosophy".(104)The work itself quotes "Professor Heereboord of Leiden"(105)
Adrianus Heerebord was a professor of philosophy and a sub-regent of the "States Seminary" at Leiden. During the 1640's Heerebord became an admirer of Descartes and even avowed himself a Cartesian, as a result of which he was instructed by the regent "that in future he shall please to confine himself within the limits of the Aristotelian philosophy subscribed to in this Academy."(106) Heerebord was a professor at Leiden until his death in 1661. There is some indirect evidence to the effect that Spinoza may have studied at the University of Leiden after his excommunication.(107)It has seemed, therefore, reasonable assume that Spinoza was a student of Heerebord and that the former's interest in Cartesian philosophy resulted from his studies with the latter. If we are right in suggesting that Spinoza's excommunication may have been related not only to his and Juan De Prado's views but also to public discussions he may have had of Cartesian philosophy, then Spinoza's interest in Heerebord was not the cause of his interest in the philosophy of Descartes but rather its effect.
As long as Spinoza discussed his ideas or Descartes' works or other Cartesian writings in public, his acts could serve as a potential source of undesirable tension between the provincial authorities and the community and of a likely friction with the authorities of the City of Amsterdam, who were less moderate than those of the province.(108)
Thus, when the heads of the congregation failed to persuade Spinoza to conceal his views regarding the principles of faith or Cartesian philosophy, they were left, with the consent of the hakhamim, with only one proven method of averting the dangerous friction. Once Spinoza was excommunicated and the danger was over, the ma'amad was no longer interested in the views of the young philosopher and his philosophical activities.(109)
Some of our readers may by now have wondered why attention should be paid at the context of Spinoza's excommunication to Spinoza's interest in Cartesian Philosophy. Our answer involves several arguments.
There are strong reasons to assume that Spinoza's excommunication involved views he had admittedly held and deeds he had done where considered by the ma'amad to be highly sensitive. Notice, for example, that the nature of Spinoza`s views and deeds is not specified in any detail in the official proclamation of his excommunication. As has been noticed by Y. Kaplan,(110) the community's documents manifest clear marks of sensitivity and it would be only natural to interpret the lack of a detailed depiction of Spinoza's views and deeds as an indication of this sensitivity.
We offer an explanation of the details of Spinoza's case being considered by the authorities of the Jewish Portuguese community as highly sensitive in terms of both the general content of his views and the particular political circumstances of expressing them publicly. The content of these views involved Spinoza's conceptions of deity, human soul and the Bible. The political circumstances of voicing his theological and philosophical views were, we suggest, directly related to the sensitive issue of Cartesian philosophy and thereby also indirectly related to the even more sensitive issues of religious tolerance and State-Church relationships. Thus, we suggest an explanation of the high degree of official sensitivity reflected in the lack of crucial details in the proclamation of Spinoza's excommunication in terms of the historical background of the political debate about Cartesian philosophy.
Secondly, notice that the wording of this proclamation, laconic as it is, mentions not only "the abominable heresies which he practiced and taught" but also "his monstrous deeds". Read carefully, it seems that under considerations were rather two different types of deeds ascribed to Spinoza. There were deeds directly related to his "abominable heresies", namely teaching them, but then there must have been additional deeds, "his monstrous deeds". If those phrases do not refer to different deeds, there is no explanation of the combination "abominable heresies, which he practiced and taught and ... his monstrous deeds". We should, then, look for an explanation of this official wording in terms of some deeds which could be ascribed to Spinoza at the time and consider "monstrous" by the authorities of his community. Our hypothesis, that before Spinoza was excommunicated he had been interested in Cartesian philosophy and had expressed this philosophical inclination in public, provides one with deeds of the required nature: they are different from acts of voicing or teaching his views of God, the soul and the Bible, and furthermore, they are considered "monstrous" by the highly cautious authorities of the community because of the association they bear with the ongoing religio-political debate about State-Church relationships. Our "Cartesian Connection" hypothesis explains several points in the wording of the proclamation of Spinoza's excommunication. Are there any readily available alternative explanations of the same facts?
There seems no reason to accept a "Karaite Connection" hypothesis. A few years before Spinoza was born, Joseph Solomon Delmedigo (also called "Yashar of Candia") spent some time in one of the congregations of the Jewish community in Amsterdam. Apparently, he could have served as an intermediate chain between the Karaites and Spinoza. On the one hand, he expressed, in two books, published by Menasseh ben Israel in Amsterdam in 1629, an unusually positive attitude towards Karaites. On the other hand, so it has been claimed,(111) marks of Delmedigo's influence may be found in Spinoza's Short Treatise on God, Man, and His Well-Being. However, no relation of any import has thus been established between Spinoza and the Karaites. First, as has been noticed by Kaplan,(112)the paragraphs in Spinoza's Short Treatise which are claimed to show an influence of Delmedigo on Spinoza are not Karaite in any sense. The fact that Spinoza carried in his library one of Delmedigo's books is also of no apparent significance.
Another seemingly possible chain between the Karaites and Spinoza would not fare better. The publisher of Delmedigo's books, Menasseh ben Israel, had some correspondence with the Karaite Zerah ben Nathan (of Troki) as a result of which he published in 1643 a certain Karaite book.(113) However, though it could hardly be imagined that Spinoza did not have any contacts with Menasseh ben Israel, it would be implausible to assume that under Menasseh ben Israel's influence, Spinoza became interested in the Karaites to an extent which outraged the ma'amad and the hakhamim. Menasseh ben Israel was no friend of the Karaites, as is clear from his writings.(114) Moreover, the Karaite writings that Spinoza could have read did not include anything which could have served as intellectual grounds for the three views which Spinoza and Juan de Prado held and which played a major role in their excommunication.(115)
We move now from the implausible "Karaite Connection" hypothesis to a seemingly possible "Quaker Connection" hypothesis. (116)
In a letter dated April 17, 1657, which has drawn the attention of Quaker historians this century, William Ames, the leader of the Quaker mission in Amsterdam at the time, wrote to Margaret Fell, a prominent Quaker in England, that "[t]here is a Jew at Amsterdam that by the Jews is Cast out (as he himself and others sayeth) because he owneth no other teacher but the light and he sent for me and I spoke toe him and he was pretty tender and doeth owne all that is spoken". It has been taken for granted by various historians, for seventy odd years now, that the said Jew was Spinoza,(117) but it has been Richard Popkin who has recently conclusively shown that one "can be certain (as certain as a sceptic can be) that Spinoza was the particular Jew who could have met Ames."
Since Ames sent his letter to Fell less than a year after Spinoza had been excommunicated, it would be only natural to ask ourselves whether Spinoza had some relationships with Ames or with other Quakers before he was excommunicated.
The wording of Ames' letter suggests that Spinoza "sent for" and then "spoke toe" him after he had been "by the Jews Cast out (as he himself and others sayeth)".
Another Amsterdam Quaker, William Caton, wrote Margaret Fell, in a letter dated November 18, 1657: "I have bene with a Jew and have showed him thy books ... And he hath undertaken to translate it for us, he being expert in several languadges." Later, on March 15, 1658, Caton writes Fell again about "the Jew that is to translate [Fell's book "A Loving Salutation"] into Hebrew". He reports that "the Jew" has the book "now, and is translating it; like he hath done the other" and adds that "the Jew that translates it, remains very friendly in his way." If we believe, with Richard Popkin, that the translator mentioned in these letters is the same Jew mentioned by Ames, then we realize that Spinoza rendered the Quakers in Amsterdam some services during 1657. If Ames was the first Quaker who met Spinoza, then the whole relationship between Spinoza and the Quakers most probably started after Spinoza had been excommunicated and there seem to be no grounds for a "Quaker Connection" hypothesis, according to which such relationships played some role in Spinoza's excommunication. However, do we have to assume that before Spinoza met Ames he had not met any other Quaker? Such an assumption would seem to us to be unwarranted.
The Quaker mission in Amsterdam started during 1656, but the young William Caton (b. 1636) made trips to Amsterdam and met Jews there already during 1655. According to some Quaker historians, Caton was in Holland "since 1655 almost constantly."(118) The Jews, he wrote later, would not permit religious debates during the Sabbath service they had in their Synagogue, "but after their Worship was ended, I and another friend had some pretty good Service with some of them in their Houses; but they are a very hard, obstinate People in their way." There is no reason to assume that Spinoza could not have been one of the Jews who conversed "in their Houses" with Caton and Samuel Fisher.(119) Recall that according to Ames' letter it was Spinoza who sent for Ames, which shows that Spinoza was interested in meeting a person most probably known to be a quaker. Moreover, when the two meet, Spinoza tells Ames that he was "cast out" by the Jews "because he owneth no other teacher but the light." The latter phrase, a typically Quaker one, could well be Ames' one rather than Spinoza's, but if one recalls that in various places in his writings Spinoza himself resorts to such Quaker terminology,(120)one has some reason to assume that it was Spinoza himself who described the reason for his being cast out by the Jews in terms of owning "no other teacher but the light".
Most importantly, Spinoza's critical view of the Scriptures is similar to the view Samuel Fisher expressed in his 1660 work. It would not be implausible to assume that Quaker views were one source of some of Spinoza and de Prado's views, held by the authorities of the Jewish community to be "abominable heresies".
If we assume that Salomon van Til's 1684 report about a treatise Spinoza wrote, entitled 'Apologetics of his Departure from Judaism` was correct and assume, furthermore, that chapter XIV of the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus incorporate excerpts from it, then the traces of a Quaker influence over Spinoza's views during the excommunication period become remarkable: "But as to what God, or the exemplar of the true life, may be, whether fire, or spirit, or light, or thought, or what not, this, I say, has nothing to do with faith...", a phrase which employs some major Quaker terms.(121)
Assuming that Spinoza had friendly relationships with Quakers in Amsterdam during 1655 and 1656, one would understand why the ma'amad and the hakhamim could become extremely concerned about Spinoza's activities. Their prudent policy was to avoid, by all means, participation of members of the community in any inter- religious debates. To indulge in arguments with the Quaker mission must have been considered pernicious, collaborating with such a mission - even worse. Indeed, since such matters were regarded highly sensitive one should not expect related official decisions such as proclamations of excommunication to be detailed.
It seems, then, that the "Quaker Connection" hypothesis has fared better than the "Karaite Connection" one. What the ma'amad took to be Spinoza's "monstrous deeds" could be his meetings with Quakers, whether for religious debates or for some other intellectual collaboration. Those deeds were, indeed, of the type required for an explanation of the wording of the proclamation of Spinoza's excommunication. They were different from acts of simply voicing or teaching his own theological or philosophical views of God, the soul and the Bible, and it is clear why the highly cautious authorities of the Jewish community would regard "monstrous" any intellectual relationships with the Quakers at the time: to oppose them might have meant to participate in religious debates between Christians and Jews, while to collaborate with them might have meant assisting them in their attempt to convert the Jews, both extremely undesirable predicaments, from the point of view of those Jewish authorities.(122)
We turn now to the last hypothesis we would like to consider in the present paper, the "Pre-Adamite Connection" hypothesis. Here too the whole discussion could not have been possible, if not for Richard Popkin's fascinating works on Isaac La Peyrere his life, work and influence.(123)
Isaac La Peyrere put forward in his books various original and influential claims. Presently we are interested in at least two of them. One of these is La Peyrere's view that the Bible is inaccurate: "I need not trouble the Reader much further to prove a thing in itself sufficiently evident, that the first five books of the Bible were not written by Moses, as is thought. Nor need anyone wonder after this, when he reads many things confus'd and out of order, obscure, deficient, many things omitted and displaced, when they shall consider with themselves that they are a heap of Copie confusedly taken."(124) Indeed, this view reminds us of one of the views for which Spinoza and de Prado said they had been ex- communicated. Secondly, we are going to ask ourselves whether the additional "monstrous deeds" of Spinoza, could be ones that involved La Peyrere's views or related activities.
La Peyrere's view that the Bible is inaccurate was set forth in much detail in his book Prae-Adamitae, published in five Latin editions (at least three of which in the Netherlands) during 1655 and in an English translation (also by a Dutch publisher) in the following year. Within a few years, the book was condemned by authorities of different civic and clergical types. Attempted refutations of it abounded.
Could Spinoza's excommunication have been related to the notoriety of La Peyrere's book? As usual, we have to consider various types of indirect evidence.
Menasseh ben Israel has been shown by Richard Popkin to be one of the very few thinkers of the time to have taken some of La Peyrere's seriously. Although Menasseh ben Israel was interested mostly in La Peyrere's Messianic views, rather than his Biblical criticism, he was familiar with La Peyrere's works on both subjects. At the end of his 1656 Vindiciae Judaeorum, Menasseh ben Israel mentions a work of his, entitled Refutatio libri qui titulus Praeadamitae, as ready for publication. No doubt that he was familiar at the time with La Peyrere's work on men before Adam. Undoubtedly, however, Menasseh ben Israel was familiar with the work he at least intended to refute.(125) It seems it would not be utterly implausible to assume that some information about La Peyrere or his views reached Spinoza through Menasseh ben Israel.
Spinoza himself owned a copy of a 1655 edition of the Prae Adamitae and though we have no evidence as to when did he purchase or obtain it, it would seem unwarranted to exclude the possibility that Spinoza read La Peyrere's book before he was excommunicated.(126)
Assuming that the views for which Spinoza was excommunicated were, at least to some extent, related to La Peyrere's Pre-Adamite theory, is there any related way of ascribing to Spinoza some additional deeds or activities, those "monstrous deeds" mentioned in the proclamation of his excommunication?
A possibility which suggests itself is related to a group of adherents of the Pre-Adamite theory which was formed in Amsterdam when the Prae Adamitae was published in 1655. In his Anti-Prae-- Adamitae, published in Amsterdam 1659, Paul Felgenhauer reports that the author of Prae Adamitae had visited Amsterdam from the fall of 1654 to the spring of 1655. This visit and the ensuing publication of several editions of his book within a year seem to have provided the appropriate background for creating a group of intellectuals intrigued by La Peyrere's views. The existence of such a group is reported already by Samuel Desmartes in his Refutatio Fabulae Prae Adamiticae, published in Groningen 1656. The 1743 Jesuit Dictionnare Universal (de Trevoux) adds, in its "Preadamite" entry, that the group was in existence for a short time only.(127)
Richard Popkin has recently pointed out the possibility that "Spinoza and his friends ... may have constituted the sect of Preadamites that Desmartes and others were so worried about."(128) If we assume that Spinoza and de Prado were members of a group, let alone a sect, of intellectuals who express in some public form their keen interest in the book Prae Adamitae and its theories, we can imagine the resentment felt by the ma'amad of the Jewish Portuguese community against its members being actively involved in what has already infuriated some of their Christian neighbors to the extent that the Province authorities of Holland and Zeeland condemn it, in a resolution dated November 26, 1955, for being against their interests. For the cautious ma'amad public participation in such a scandalous affair constitutes "monstrous deeds". This is the "Pre- Adamite Connection" hypothesis which suggests itself.
We have discussed four "connection" hypotheses: a Cartesian, a Karaite, a Quaker and a Pre-Adamite. Having rejected the "Karaite Connection" hypothesis, are there any reasons for preferring one of the remaining alternatives over the other two?
Notice, first, that all the three remaining hypotheses provide us with some explanation of another interesting detail in the proclamation of Spinoza's excommunication. Recall that the operative part of the proclamation instructs all members of the community not to "read any treatise composed or written by" Spinoza. What treatise had Spinoza already "composed or written"? And why "composed or written" rather than simply "composed"?
According to the "Cartesian Connection" hypothesis those writings may have been philosophical works, either expositions "written" by Spinoza of philosophical works that had been "composed" by Descartes and exposited by Spinoza, or else ones "composed" by Spinoza himself, within the controversial Cartesian framework of philosophy. According to the "Quaker Connection" hypothesis those writings may have included Spinoza's reply to the ma'amad and hakhamim, incorporated in part in the Tractatus Theologico- Politicus. According to the "Pre-Adamite Connection" hypothesis those writing may have been parts of La Peyrere's Prae Adamitae, later to appear in Spinoza's Tractatus Theologico-Politicus.
Secondly, we would like to point out that those three "connection" hypotheses are, in a sense, compatible with each other. Spinoza may well have used, though in different ways, all these three sources of inspiration, in developing his own views. Indeed, Spinoza and his friends can be easily imagined taking part in public discussions of Cartesian philosophy, Quaker views and the Pre-Adamite theory, as well as in similar ones.
1. The official version of the excommunication appears on page 408 of the Book of Ordinances (Livro dos Acordos de Nacao e Ascamot), henceforth: Ascamot (both volume A, which we leave unmarked, and volume B). The book is in the Municipal Archives of Amsterdam, and is numbered PA 334/19. back
2. The English translation of this part of the proclamation, in the Encyclopaedia Judaica entry on Spinoza (Vol. 15, Jerusalem, 1971, pp. 275-282), is different from our one, twice quite significantly so (p. 276), but we won't presently go into the details. back
3. Translations of Spinoza's excommunication proclamation abound, but they are often quite inaccurate. Consider, for example, the phrase from the words "the Lord will not" to the words "in this book of the law". Those are two verses from the book of Deuteronomy (29: 19-20) and they appear in traditional wordings of the ex- communication, e.g., in the book Kol Bo, the famous late 13th or early 14th century collection of laws. Although the latter book was available to Jacob Klatzkin, when he was writing his book, Baruch Spinoza (in 1923), he translated the proclamation of Spinoza's excommunication by using an inaccurate paraphrase. Apparently he did not notice that this is the exact wording of these verses. To these very days, such unsuccessful paraphrases keep cropping out, from time to time, in the accounts of the excommunication of Spinoza. back
4. I.S. Revah, "Aux origines de la Rupture Spinozienne: Nouveaux documents sur l'incroyance dans la Communaute Judeo- Portugauese d'Amsterdam a l'epoque de l'excommunication de Spinoza", Revue des Etudes Juives, CXXIII (1964), pp. 359-431. Prado's dossier is on pp. 391-401 and Ribera's on pp. 402-408. back
5. It appears in the collection Kol Bo (our note 3). The proclamation of Spinoza's excommunication uses, strictly speaking, an abridged form of the Kol Bo version. back
6. See H.P. Salomon, "La vrai excommunication de Spinoza", in: Forum Literarum, H. Bots and M. Kerkhof, eds., Amsterdam-- Maarsen, 1984, pp. 181-199. See also R. Melnich, From Polemics to Apologetics: Jewish-Chrisitian Rapprochement in the 17th Century, Amsterdam, Assen, 1981, pp. 57-58. back
7. See, for instance, the proclamation of Juan De Prado's excommunication, Ascamot pp. 427-428. See also Yosef Kaplan, "The social functions of the herem in the Portuguese Jewish community of Amsterdam in the Seventeenth Century", in: Dutch Jewish History, J. Michman, ed., Jerusalem, 1984, pp. 111-155, (henceforth: Y. Kaplan, Herem), esp. p. 140. On the relation between the wording used in Uriel da Costa's 1618 excommunication and the one used in Spinoza's case, see Salomon, Op. Cit. back
8. See Yosef Kaplan, "The 'Karaites` in Amsterdam in the beginning of the Eighteenth Century", Zion 52 (1987), pp. 279-314 (Hebrew). back
9. Ascamot, p. 427. The text of the excommunication can be found in I.S. Revah, Spinoza et le Dr. Juan de Prado, Paris, 1959, pp. 58-60. back
10. Ascamot, p. 557. See also Yosef Kaplan, "The Attitude of the Leaders of the Portuguese Community to the Sabbataian Movement", Zion 39 (1974), pp. 204-205 (Hebrew). back
11. By mistake, the above-mentioned "Spinoza" entry of the Encyclpaedia Judaica says that the proclamation was "signed by Saul Levi Morteira and others". back
12. His book was published by L. Fuks and R.G. Fuks-Mansfeld in Studia Rosentaliana, IX (1975). back
13. We have dealt with this issue elsewhere. See, Asa Kasher and Shlomo Biderman, "When Was Spinoza Banned?", Studia Rosentaliana, XII (1978), pp. 108-110. back
14. John Colerus, The Life of Benedict de Spinoza, "Done out of French", London, 1706, p. 31. Das Leben des Benedict von Spinoza, edited by C. Gebhardt, Heidelberg, 1952, includes a German translation of this biography. Although it seems impossible to argue for a certain legal distinction between "herem" and "shamta" to be in existence in the 17th century Jewish life, one should notice that there had been a long tradition of understanding "niddui" as being practically different from "herem". In the Talmud (Mo'ed Katan, 15a) it is being said that "one put under niddui may teach and others may teach him; he may be hired and others may be hired by him. One put under herem neither teaches others, nor do others recite it for him; he is not hired, nor are others hired by him". See the entry "herem" in the Talmudic Encyclopedia, Vol. 17, Jerusalem, 1983 (Hebrew), p. 325. (Additional material will appear in the entry "niddui".) For the history of this practical distinction in later periods, see S. Assaf, Punishments in Post- Talmudic Periods, Jerusalem, 1922 (Hebrew), pp. 32-34. Colerus' report and our own explained observation of the different dates mentioned with respect to the proclamation of Spinoza's excommunication should perhaps cast some doubt on the view that the formal distinctions between niddui, herem and shamta were not applied in practice. Cf. R. Bonfil, Rabbinate in Renaissance Italy, Jerusalem, 1979 (Hebrew), p. 45, note 130, and Y. Kaplan, Herem, p. 139, note 78. back
15. See Revah's book (our note 9), pp. 61-68, and his article (our note 4). See also his articles, "Aux Origines de la Rupture Spinozienne: nouvel examen des origines de deroulement et des consequences de l'affaire Spinoza-Prado-Ribera", Annuaire de College de France, 70 (1970), pp. 562-568; 71 (1971), pp. 574- 589; 72 (1972) pp. 641-653. One may assume that Reiko Shimizu ("Excommunication and the philosophy of Spinoza", Inquiry 23 (1980), pp. 327-348) was not aware of the existence of those reports, when he wrote that "there is no reliable record of anything done or said by Spinoza against the faith in his early life." (p. 331). back
16. On Menasseh ben Israel's scholarly Jewish reputation, see Asa Kasher, "How important was Menasseh ben Israel?", in: Menasseh ben Israel and His World, Y. Kaplan, H. Mecoulan & Richard H. Popkin, eds., Leiden, 1989. back
17. A. Altmann, "Eternality of Punishment: A Theological Controversy within the Amsterdam Rabbinate in the Thirties of the Seventeenth Century", Proceedings of American Academy for Jewish Research, XL (1972), pp. 1-88. back
18. Ibid, p. 43 back
19. Ibid, pp, 41-42 back
20. Morteira, Gi'vat Sha'ul, Amsterdam Edition, 1645, portion Thetzave. back
21. A. Altman , (our note 17), pp. 55-88. back
22. Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Teshuvah, Chapter 3, Paragraph 6. Maimonides refers to the first mishnah in Sanhedrin, chapter 11: "All Israel have a portion in the world to come... But the following have no portion therein: He who maintains that resurrection is not a Biblical doctrine, that the Torah was not divinely revealed, and an epikoros. (Hebrew-English Edition of the Babylonian Talmud, Epstein edition, London, 1969. back
23. Richard Popkin has weighty arguments in favor of the claim that in the case of Uriel d'Acosta forgery exceeds reliable information. See his "Spinoza and La Peyrere", The Southwestern Journal of Philosophy, III (1977), pp. 172-195, esp. p. 177ff and p. 191, note 2. See also, Y. Kaplan, Herem, pp. 134-135 and 141-142.
24. See Altmann, (our note 17), p. 51. back
25. Ibid, p. 41.back
26. Ibid, pp. 41, 42, 50. back
27. Ibid, p. 76. back
28. Ibid, p. 86. back
29. Ibid, pp. 83-84. back
30. Ibid, pp. 52-54. back
31. Ibid, p. 86. back
32. Menasseh ben Israel, Nishmat Hayyim, Amsterdam, 1652 (reprinted in Jerusalem, 1968), Introduction. back
33. Ibid. back
34. Morteira, Gi'vat Sha'ul, Amsterdam Edition, 1645, portion Ekev. back
35. Ibid. back
36. Altmann, (our note 17), p. 88. back
37. Altmann (our note 17), p. 87. back
38. Gershom Scholem defines sefirot in early Kabbala as the "ten stages of emanation that emerged from Ein-Sof God as Absolute¤ an form the realm of Go'ds manifistations in His various attributes. Every single sefirah points to an aspect if God in his capacity as Creator, forming at the same time a whole world of divine light in the chain of being." (Encyclopeadia Judaica, Jerusalm, 1971, Vol. 14, Col. 1104-1105. back
39. Op. Cit. (our note 32), Chapter 4, Paragraph 4. back
40. Morteira, Gi'vat Sha'ul, Amsterdam Edition, 1645, portion Mishpatim. back
41. The radical nature of those "horrible heresies" should perhaps be stressed. They involved more than "expression of criticism of traditional and established Judaism", namely denials of what was deemed utterly fundamental by both the Jews and their Christian neighbors. This suggests the need to somewhat revise Yosef Kaplan's taxonomy of acts of transgression and ensuing acts of ex- communication, in his "The transformation of Jewish society in the XVIth and XVIIth centuries" [forthcoming], section V. back
42. See J. Freudenthal, Die Lebengeschichte Spinoza's, Leipzig, 1899, pp. 3-24. back
43. See Revah's book (our note 9), p. 40. back
44. Used here is R.H.M. Elwes' English translation of the Latin Tractatus Theologico-Politicus (1670), as published in 1883. In the Dover 1951 republication, the sentences we quoted are on pp. 182-183. back
45. Ibid, p. 186f. back
46. Ibid, p. 187-188. back
47. Ibid, p. 188. back
48. Used here is A. Wolf's translation, as published in his edition of the correspondence, 1928, p. 206. Notice that reason 2, related to false accusation of atheism, seems to be inconsistent with the report we mentioned of the Spanish monk and Captain, according to which Prado and Spinoza had said they were excommunicated because "they reached the point of atheism". There are at least two possible explanations of this seeming inconsistency. First, that the latter description of their views is due to the "reporters", not to Spinoza or Prado themselves. Secondly, the letter Spinoza wrote to Oldenburg in 1665 reflected his views and predicament at the time, which could be different from those expressed by Prado or Spinoza more than six years earlier. back
49. For the details, see Yosef Kaplan, From Christianity to Judaism: The Life and Work of Isaac Orobio de Castro, Jerusalem, 1982 (Hebrew). back
50. Revah (1964) (out note 4), pp. 394-395. back
51. See Yosef Kaplan's From Christianity to Judaism, (out note 49), p. 282. All the documents which were produced during the inquest held against Prado and Ribera can be found in the Municipal Archives of Amsterdam, (number PA 334/882). back
52. This account is based on Kaplan, Op. Cit., pp. 282-283. back
53. See: J. Freudenthal, Op. Cit., (our note 42); Hebrew ed., Vilna, 1909, p. 48; J. Klatzkin (our note 3), 3rd ed., Tel- Aviv, 1954, p. 158, note 11. back
54. Spinoza, Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, (our note 44), Preface. back
55. Berakhot, 19a, where the list is not specified. A comment is made to the effect that there are 24 references to the power to excommunicate for a certain reason. The ensuing discussion mentions just a few of the references. back
56. Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Talmud Torah, 6:14. back
57. Yoreh De'ah, 334. back
58. In this context we were assisted by the material at the disposal of Talmudic Encyclopedia editorial board, even before the entry "herem" was printed. We thank the editors for letting us use the material. See also Y. Kaplan, Herem, p. 115.back
59. Rashba, Responsa, Livorno, 1755, Vol. 1, 414-418 (Hebrew); See also A.S. Halkin, "The ban on the study of philosophy," P'raqim, Yearbook of the Sckocken Institute for Jewish Research of the JTS of America, E.S. Rosenthal, ed.. Vol. 1, Jerusalem, 1967-8, pp. 35-56 (Hebrew). back
60. Yoreh De'ah, 334. back
61. Old Bayit Hadash Responsa, Ostrog, Arzenberg, 1834, res. V (Hebrew). back
62. In this paper we are not going to circumscribe what the members of the ma'amad or the hakhamim consider at the time to be practical vices. An illuminating case, which shows how difficult it would be to carry out such a delimitation, is that of their attitudes towards the Ashkenazim (tudescos), or at least quite a number of them, whose "... vices, were¤ alien to morality and ways" of Judaism. See: Y. Kaplan, "The attitude of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews towards Ashkenazi Jews in Amsterdam in the XVIIth century", in: Changes in Modern Jewish History, Jerusalem, 1987, pp. 389-412 (Hebrew). back
63. See H. Mechoulan, "Le'herem` a Amsterdam et l'excommunication de Spinoza", Cahiers Spinoza 3 (1979/80), pp. 117-134, esp. pp. 119ff and 130ff. back
64. See J. Katz, Tradition and Crisis, New York, 1961, p. 101. back
65. Rashba, Responsa, Livorno, 1755, Vol. 3, res. 411, p. 81a (Hebrew). See also, M. Elon, Jewish Law: History, Sources, Principles, Jerusalem, 1973, ch. 19, p. 591 (Hebrew). back
66. Bah's Commentary on Tur Yoreh De'ah, 334. For the 1639 case of Moses Hamis Orta, who was excommunicated by the Amsterdam community because he had already been excommunicated by the Hamburg community, see Y. Kaplan, Herem, p. 138. back
67. Ascamot, pp. 77-78. The regulations can be found in full in W. Chr. Pieterse, Daniel Levi De Barios als Geschiedschrijver van de Portugees-Israelietische Gemeente te Amsterdam in zijn 'Triumpho del Govierno Popular', Amsterdam, 1968, Appendix 14, pp. 155-167. back
68. See A. Wiznitzer, "The merger agreement and regulations of Congregation Talmud Torah of Amsterdam 1638-1639", Historia Judaica, XX (1958), pp. 109-132. back
69. Regulation 20 (our note 67). On related aspects of the authority of the ma'amad, see Y. Kaplan, Herem. back
70. Pinkas Va'ad Arba Arazot, (edited by Israel Halperin), Jerusalem, 1945, pp. 186-193 (Hebrew). back
71. Ascamot B, pp. 67-69. back
72. Z.(H.) Graetz, History of the Jews, (Hebrew edition: Warsaw 1890-1899), Vol. 8, p. 536. back
73. Another piece of indirect evidence is Hugo Grotius' proposals which we have already mentioned. However, as should be recalled, these proposals were not officially approved. See also Y. Kaplan, Herem, p. 146, note 91, for a 1670 related decision of the Amsterdam magistrates. back
74. See K.O. Meinsma, Spinoza und sein Kreis, Berlin, 1909, p. 521ff. back
75. See Revah (our note 4). back
76. See P. Bayle, Dictionaire Historique et Critique, Rotterdam, 1702, Vol. III. back
77. See H.I. Bloom, The Economic Activities of the Jews in Amsterdam in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, Port Washington and London, 1973. back
78. H.E. Allison, Benedict de Spinoza: An Introduction, New Haven and London, 1987, p.3f. back
79. Here and in the sequel we rely on the detailed description of the religious and political history of the low countries can be found in the following books of P. Geyl: The Revolt of the Netherlands (1555 - 1609), 2nd ed., London, 1958; The Netherlands in the Seventeenth Century, Part I, 1609-1648; Part II, 1648-1715, London, 2nd ed. 1961,; History of the Low Countries: Episodes and Problems, London and New York, 1964. back
80. See P. Geyl, The Netherlands in the Seventeenth Century (our note 79) , p. 154. back
81. See C. Roth, A Life of Menasseh Ben Israel, Philadelphia, 1934. back
82. Ascamot, pp. 397-398. back
83. On Menasseh ben Israel's attempts to readmit the Jews to England, see David S. Katz, Philo-Semitism and the Readmission of the Jews to England 1603-1655, Oxford, 1982, pp. 190-231. Jacob L. Teichner, in his paper "Why was Spinoza banned?", The Menorah Journal 45 (1957), pp. 41-60, argued that Spinoza was excommunicated because he was involved in Menasseh ben Israel's attempts to readmit the Jews to England. Given the attitude of the ma'amad towards Menasseh ben Israel himself at the same time, this hypothesis seems quite implausible. Indeed, it is incompatible with the evidence accumulated since Teichner argued for it. Part of Teichner's argument rests on a mistaken ascription to Menasseh ben Israel of a treatise written by Saul Levi Morteira. (This treatise was later published by Altmann see our note 17¤, who in turn does not mention Teichner's previous discussion of it.) back
84. Quoted from Texts concerning the Revolt of the Netherlands, E.H. Kossman and A.F. Mellnik, eds., Cambridge, 1974, pp. 169- 170. See also the additional article of the treaty, dated 1 February 1579, which is an "explanation of the xiiith article", pp. 172-173. back
85. A copy of the document can be found in H.H. Rowen (ed.), The Low Countries in Early Modern Times: A Documentary History, New York, 1972, Doc. 16, pp. 73-74. back
86. On Jacobus Arminius and the Arminians, see P. Geyl, The Netherlands in the Seventeenth Century, (our note 79), Part I, pp. 41-46. back
87. Rowen (our note 85), Doc. 28, p. 132. back
88. Ibid, Doc. 28, p. 137. back
89. Register Van Holland en West Vriesland Van den Jaaren 1613- 1619, p. 1165. See also appendix to Meijer's edition of Grotius' Remonstrantie (note 96 below). back
90. In this paragraph we used F.J. Dubiez, The Sephardi Community of Amsterdam, (no place and date of publication mentioned), where a similar 1629 remonstration which was rebuffed by the City authorities is also mentioned. back
91. See our note 68. back
92. S. Schama, The Embarrassment of the Riches: An Interpretation of the Dutch Culture in the Golden Ages, London, 1987, p. 587. back
93. Ibid, p. 589. back
94. See Encyclopaedia Judaica, Jerusalem, 1971, Vol. 12, cols. 1302-1304. See also P.H. Albert, "The Jewish Oath in Nineteenth Century France", Tel Aviv University Spiegel Lectures in European Jewish History, 3, 1982. back
95. See Bloom, (our note 77), p. 20, note 93. back
96. See J. Meijer, Hugo de Groot (Grotius): Remonstrantie nopende de Ordre dije in de Landen van Hollandt ende Westvrieslandt dijent Gestelt op de Joden, Amsterdam, 1949, pp. 116-132. back
97. Op. Cit., pp, 117, 122. back
98. See Roth, p. 265. back
99. See S.L. Thijssen-Schoute, Nederlands cartesianisme, Amsterdam, 1954. back
100. Ibid, p. 102. back
101. See P. Geyl, (our note 79), Part II, pp. 107-109. back
102. Ibid, Part II, pp. 106-107. back
103. It is noteworthy that the practical warning which concludes the excommunication of Spinoza refers to "a tract composed or written by him". We assume that this concerns books he has written himself or copied from others, as was customary during that period. Perhaps these were Descartes' works or the writings of Isaac Pereyra. back
104. The Collected Works of Spinoza, edited and translated by Edwin Curley, Vol. I, Princeton, 1985, p. 227. On Lodewijk Meyer, see C.L. Thijssen-Schoute, Lodewijk Meyer en diens Verhouding tot Descartes en Spinoza, Leiden, 1954;--republished in the author's Uit de Republiek der Letteren, 'S-Gravenhage, 1967, pp. 173-192. back
105. Ibid, p. 345. back
106. P. Geyl, (our note 79), Part I, p. 219. See also Thijssen- Schoute, op. cit., pp. 97-101. back
107. See Revah (our note 4), pp. 32 and 36. Richard Popkin and Edwin Curley mention this possibility, without invoking any additional evidence or reason. back
108. There is no reason to assume, with Shimizu (our note 15), that the hakhamim of the community at the time "were interested in current trends of philosophy", including Cartesian philosophy (op. cit., p. 331). back
109. It is not known of any discourse written by a member of the community during Spinoza's lifetime and against him. Even after his death only few treatises of this sort were written. Many years after Spinoza was excommunicated, the community still desisted from being involved in an open debate on the questions of religion if it was problematic from the point of view of the relations with the dominant Christian environment. In 1687 the ma'amad resolved that debates with Christians on the questions of the various systems of faith were forbidden "in public as well as in secret because they are dangerous to our existence...". Indeed, one may safely assume that when the ma'amad forbade participation in theological discussions with Christians back in 1640 (Ascamot, p. 73), they had exactly the same considerations in mind. back
110. Y. Kaplan, Herem, pp. 32-35. Kaplan mentions cases of recorded cancellations of some excommunication where there is no record of its being proclaimed or imposed. Indeed, this is not the only possible way of manifesting sensitivity in official records. back
111. J. d'Ancona, "Delmedigo, Menasseh ben Israel en Spinoza", Bijdragen en Mededeelingen van het Genootschap voor de Joodsche Wetenschap in Nederland IV (1940), p. 133ff. back
112. Yosef Kaplan, "The 'Karaites` in Amsterdam in the Beginning of the XVIIIth Century", Zion 52 (1987), pp. 279-314. See p. 294 (Hebrew). back
113. For the references, see Y. Kaplan, Op. Cit., pp. 290-292. back
114. See Y. Kaplan, Op. Cit., footnotes 52 and 53.back
115. According to the Karaite creed, God is a creator, who revealed himself to Moses and to other prophets, which means that God is personal and does not exist only philosophically. Secondly, God sent through Moses the Torah, which contains the perfect truth. Thirdly, God rewards every person according to one's way of life. back
116. In this section we rely on Richard Popkin's related works, in particular his Introduction to Richard H. Popkin and Michael A. Singer, Spinoza's Earliest Publication?, The Hebrew Translation of Margaret Fell's A Loving Salutation to the Seed of Abraham among the Jews, wherever they are scattered up and down upon the Face of the Earth, Assen-Maastricht, 1987, pp. 1-15, and his paper "Spinoza and Samuel Fisher", Philosophia 15 (1985), pp. 219-236. To be sure, in these publications, Popkin does not put forward the "Quaker Connection" hypothesis we are going to discuss. back
117. This has been taken for granted even when Ames' letter to Fell is not under consideration. For example, in the Biographical Index of Early Quaker Writings 1650-1700, H. Barbour and A. O. Roberts, eds., Grand Rapids, 1973, we find under "William Ames", that he "probably knew Spinoza at Amsterdam" (p. 581). back
118. Ibid, p. 587. back
119. On Fisher see Popkin's paper and book (our note116) and the references thereof. back
120. Popkin's paper on Spinoza and Samuel Fisher shows the important influence Fisher's 1660 work, The Rustick's Alarum to the Rabbies, had on Spinoza, as reflected in his Tractatus Theologico-Politicus. back
121. Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, (our note 44), p. 187. On the Quaker significance of the notion of "light", see, for example, A Brief Dictionary of Quakerism, published by the Friends Home Service Committee, London, 1958: ""[T]he inward light": the light which shines in the darkness and shows us the way God would have us take." Richard Popkin mentions Spinoza's use of Quaker terms in his Tractatus and quotes this phrase as well as another one, but does not note that they are both taken from chapter XIV of the Tractatus, which is assumed to be particularly related to Spinoza's views during the excommunication period. The phrase we quoted from the Tractatus can, of course, taken to include a Christian clause, namely "the exemplar of the true life", but it may well be an addition Spinoza made while preparing the Tractatus for publication. Another sentence Popkin quotes from the same chapter of Spinoza's Tractatus does not lend itself to a similar analysis and could not have appeared in the original Apology: "He who firmly believes that God, out of the mercy and grace with which He directs all things, forgives the sins of men, and who feels his love of God kindled thereby, he, I say, does really know Christ according to the Spirit, and Christ is in him." (Loc. Cit.) back
122. There was a third possibility and it was actually applied by Menasseh ben Israel: "He usually just explained the Jewish view on various matters, and explained it so that it is not necessarily or obviously contradict basic Christian claims." Richard H. Popkin, Isaac La Peyrere (1596-1676), Leiden, 1987, p. 103, but see also p. 200, note 40. One may doubt whether this method was approved by the ma'amad, but be it as it may, they could not have entrusted Spinoza and de Prado with applying it under such sensitive circumstances, knowing what their theological and philosophical views were at the time. back
123. In this section we rely on Richard Popkin's book on La Peyrere (see our note 122) as well as on his papers "Menasseh ben Israel and Isaac La Peyrere, I", Studia Rosenthaliana VIII (1974), pp. 59-63 and "Menasseh ben Israel and Isaac La Peyrere, II", Studia Rosenthaliana XVIII (1984), pp. 12-20. back
124. Men before Adam, Book IV, ch. 1, (English edition 1656¤, p. 208.) See Popkin, loc. cit., pp. 48-49. back
125. This work has never been found and one may wonder whether it has ever been completely written . back
126. The above mentioned chapter XIV of Spinoza's Tractatus Theologico Politicus does not seem to express La Peyrerean views. Other parts of the Tractatus, which do seem to be related to La Peyrere's book (see Popkin, Op. Cit., our note 122¤ p. 86) belong to a later period. back
127. It seems that on this point Richard Popkin has recently become less sceptical than he used to be. Whereas in his book The History of Scepticism from Erasmus to Spinoza (Revised ed., 1979), Popkin mentions Desmartes' report and the related "Pre- Adamites" entry in Diderot's Encyclopedia, he adds that the "claim about the sect has been repeated in later encyclopedias, though there is no evidence such a sect existed." (p. 220). It is not clear why a 1656 report about a 1655 group is no evidence at all. Perhaps the difference between an intellectual group and a "sect" is what gave rise to Popkin's remark. In any case, in his recent book on Isaac La Peyrere, it seems he admits that such a group did exist. No qualification accompanies his references to Desmartes' report (p. 81 and p. 195) and to the Universal Dictionary of Trevoux (pp. 121-122 and p. 205) and elsewhere it simply taken for granted (p. 87). back
128. Ibid, p. 87. back