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Nythamar De Oliveira

יב דִּבְרֵי פִי-חָכָם, חֵן; וְשִׂפְתוֹת כְּסִיל, תְּבַלְּעֶנּוּ. 12 The words of a wise man's mouth are gracious; but the lips of a fool will swallow up himself.

Steven Nadler

Hi Eric. Interesting remarks. But can you just clarify something:
On one hand you say that the community has a “duty” to “avoid facilitating a movie” about Spinoza. But then you say that “I would never personally argue that Rabbi Serfaty is obliged to keep the film crew out of the Snoge”.
If you insist that the community has a duty to keep the film crew out of the synagogue, then it would seem to follow that, on your view, the rabbi DOES have an obligation to keep them out. Unless there’s a subtle difference between ‘duty’ and ‘obligation’ here that I'm missing.
Anyway, one could argue that the problem with the rabbi's letter is not the substance -- of course he has the right to reject the request (even if there is no good reason to do so, and plenty of reasons why he should not) -- but with (a) the rudeness of the rejection; and (b) the quasi-herem against Yitzhak. Apparently Rabbi Toledano, who very graciously presided at that forum in 2015 on lifting the herem, also denied the request, but did so more politely

Eric Schliesser

Hi Steve,
My thought is that if you think Rabbi Toledano is right and/or binding on you then Rabbi Serfaty has a (defeasible) duty to decline.

Jack Stetter

Very informed with great references. Thanks Eric.
I hear that Maimonides somewhere writes that apikorous denies God's knowledge of particulars. I wonder if that rings a bell. Going to look for the source more diligently when I have time.

Anyway, like I've been saying here and there: A fanatic is right to be fearful of Spinoza.
- Jack

Eric Schliesser

Hi Jack,
Following a hint in Wikipedia, we can find a passage that might suggest this here: https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/911896/jewish/Teshuvah-Chapter-Three.htm
But the more natural reading is that Maimonides is offering a list of folk who won't go to heaven rather than an explication of what an epicouros is. (I hate to disagree with Wikipedia!)
In the passage that I link to in the post, he is explaining a word that might seem obscure in the source to his contemporaries (not fellow philosophers). In the source passage (Mishnah Sanhedrin), 'epicouros' is someone who won't go to Heaven in addition to folk who deny the resurrection. (In Medieval Arabic philosophy, the fact that God can't discern particulars is a means to deny bodily resurrection, so I can see how hasty readers might jump from one to the next etc.) But in all the passages I know in Maimonides, when he is not talking about the Greek philosopher, 'Epicourous' means someone who disrespects his teachers (or the traditional sages)--that is (to be clear what is at stake) the rabbinic tradition (and presumably with a wish to be licentious or something). [Interestingly enough, to deny the rabbinic tradition is kind of the equivalent of protestantism for a Catholic.:)]
But I am outside my area of expertise, so I would not be surprised if someone were to correct me!


Yesterday the board of the Esnoga send a letter to it's members. In the letter, they state that both Serfaty and Toledano don't agree to retract their words. However, the board didn't fire them. That makes the current board of the Esnoga, David Samama, Gideon Tahan, Marcelo Bendahan, Sara-Joan Pinto-Sietsma and
Gideon Coronel under the leadership of chair Michael Minco for 100% responsible for this ban. Members of the community and regular visitors of the Esnoga services are repelled by the behavior of the rabbi's and the board.

Marius Alexander Van Andel

It just blows my mind. Please read Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo's response to this issue. He is a rabbi and he is Dutch and foremost a Spinoza scolar. He understands Spinoza better than most of us, myself included, particularly in the context as Dutch-Jewish-Protestant society as it existed in Spinoza's time. And he is in tune with the world as it is today . . . .

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Here's a link to my past blogging (and discussions involving me) at: New APPS.


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