Israel Abrahams (1858-1925) 'Ethica' "one of the most stimulating works of modern times"

Israel Abrahams was een vooraanstaand Brits-joods geleerde. In 1902 ging Abrahams naar de Verenigde Staten waar hij les gaf aan het Jewish Theological Seminary of America. Hij schreef diverse boeken over het jodendom, waarvan het meest bekend: Jewish Life in the Middle Ages (1896). [Zie méér over hem op Answers]. Ook van Israel Abrahams is Chapters on Jewish Literature (1899).

Van dit laatste boek staan enige hoofdstukken op internet. Uit Chapter XXIV. “Amsterdam in the Seventeenth Century”, waarin kort Moses Zacut, Joseph Felix Penso, Moses Chayim en uitvoeriger Manasseh ben Israel worden besproken komt ook in twee alinea’s Baruch Spinoza (altijd Baruch) aan de orde. Deze neem ik hier over. Hij werkte mee aan diverse encyclopedieën; die stijl is hier merkbaar.

“Fate rather than disposition tore Manasseh from his study to plead before the English Parliament. Baruch Spinoza was spared such distraction. Into his self-contained life the affairs of the world could effect no entry. It is not quite certain whether Spinoza was born in Amsterdam. He must, at all events, have come there in his early youth. He may have been a pupil of Manasseh, but his mind was nurtured on the philosophical treatises of Maimonides and Crescas. His thought became sceptical, and though he was “intoxicated with a sense of God," he had no love for any positive religion. He learned Latin, and found new avenues opened to him in the writings of Descartes. His associations with the representatives of the Cartesian philosophy and his own indifference to ceremonial observances brought him into collision with the Synagogue, and, in 1656, during the absence of Manasseh in England, Spinoza was excommunicated by the Amsterdam Rabbis. Spinoza was too strong to seek the weak revenge of an abjuration of Judaism. He went on quietly earning a living as a maker of lenses; he refused a professorship, preferring, like Maimonides before him, to rely on other than literary pursuits as a means of livelihood.

In 1670 Spinoza finished his “Theologico-Political Tractate,” in which some bitterness against the Synagogue is apparent. His attack on the Bible is crude, but the fundamental principles of modern criticism are here anticipated. The main importance of the “Tractate” lay in the doctrine that the state has full rights over the individual, except in relation to freedom of thought and free expression of thought. These are rights which no human being can alienate to the state. Of Spinoza’s greatest work, the “Ethics,” it need only be said that it was one of the most stimulating works of modern times. A child of Judaism and of Cartesianism, Spinoza won a front place among the great teachers of mankind.”

[Zie hier het hele 24e hoofdstuk "Amsterdam in the Seventeenth Century"]