Since the beginning of last semester, “Jewish Literacy,” the tome of short entries on everything a Jew should know by Joseph Telushkin, has been my bathroom book. It’s perfectly suited to that because it’s dived into one- to three-page summaries of each topic.
In entry #112, Baruch Spinoza, Telushkin writes (emphasis mine):
Spinoza’s excommunication by the rabbis of Amsterdam when he was in his mid-twenties was caused by his denial of angels, the immortality of the soul, and God’s authorship of the Torah. Communal leaders warned Spinoza the desist from such heresies, and when the warnings went unheeded, they issued this ban: “Cursed shall he be when he goes out and cursed shall he be when comes in. May the Lord not forgive his sins. May the Lord’s anger and wrath rage against this man, and cast upon him all the curses that are written in the Torah. May the Lord wipe his name out from under the Heavens; and may the Lord destroy him and cast him from all the tribes of Israel…”
Which is darkly hilarious, if you think about it. Today, Spinoza is widely studied and known, both by Jews and non-Jews. His name is far from wiped out? But who can name any of the rabbis that excommunicated him?