Saturday, 31 May 2008




Some of the models I've made along the years


Rabbi Simlai said, "Six hundred and thirteen commandments were given toMoses, 365 negative commandments, answering to the number of the days ofthe year, and 248 positive commandments, answering to the number of aman's members. Then David came and reduced them to eleven [Psalm 15].Then came Isaiah, and reduced them to six [Isaiah 63.15]. Then cameMicah, and reduced them to three [Micah 6.8]. Then Isaiah came again, andreduced them to two, as it is said, 'Keep ye judgment and dorighteousness.' Then came Amos, and reduced them to one, as it is said,'Seek me and live.' Or one may say, then came Habakkuk [2.4], and reducedthem to one, as it is said, 'The righteous shall live by his faith.'"

Makkot 23b-24a

Him who humbles himself, God exalts; him who exalts himself, God humbles;from him who searches for greatness, greatness flies; him who flies fromgreatness, greatness searches out: with him who is importunate withcircumstances, circumstance is importunate; by him who gives way tocircumstance, circumstance stands.

Erubin 13b

Happy are the righteous! Not only do they acquire merit, but they bestowmerit upon their children and children's children to the end of allgenerations, for Aaron had several sons who deserved to be burned likeNadab and Abihu, but the merit of their father helped them. Woe unto thewicked! Not alone that they render themselves guilty, but they bestowguilt upon their children and children's children unto the end of allgenerations. Many sons did Canaan have, who were worthy to be ordainedlike Tabi, the slave of Rabbi Gamaliel, but the guilt of their ancestorcaused them [to lose their chance].
Yoma 87a

And you shall love the Lord"--namely, you shall make the Lord beloved.
Yoma 86

Greater is he who acts from love than he who acts from fear.

Sota 31a

PSALM 91 (Pearls of Wisdom (2)

Chapter 91

This psalm inspires the hearts of the people to seek shelter under the wings of the Divine Presence. It also speaks of the four seasons of the year, and their respective ministering powers, instructing those who safeguard their souls to avoid them.

1. You who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, who abides in the shadow of the Omnipotent: 2. I say of the Lord who is my refuge and my stronghold, my God in whom I trust,
3. that He will save you from the ensnaring trap, from the destructive pestilence.
4. He will cover you with His pinions and you will find refuge under His wings; His truth is a shield and an armor.
5. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day;
6. the pestilence that prowls in the darkness, nor the destruction that ravages at noon.
7. A thousand may fall at your [left] side, and ten thousand at your right, but it shall not reach you.
8. You need only look with your eyes, and you will see the retribution of the wicked.
9. Because you [have said,] "The Lord is my shelter," and you have made the Most High your haven,
10. no evil will befall you, no plague will come near your tent.
11. For He will instruct His angels in your behalf, to guard you in all your ways.
12. They will carry you in their hands, lest you injure your foot upon a rock.
13. You will tread upon the lion and the viper; you will trample upon the young lion and the serpent.
14. Because he desires Me, I will deliver him; I will fortify him, for he knows My Name.
15. When he calls on Me, I will answer him; I am with him in distress. I will deliver him and honor him.
16. I will satiate him with long life, and show him My deliverance.

Friday, 30 May 2008

Ofra Haza - The Prince of Egypt film clip - Deliver us

Ofra Haza Yerushalaim Shel Zahav (Jerusalem of Gold) subbed


Avir harim zalul kayayin
Ve-rei'ah oranim
Nissa be-ru'ah ha'arbayim
Im kol pa'amonim

U-ve-tardemat ilan va-even
Shvuyah ba-halomah
Ha-ir asher badad yoshevet
U-ve-libbah homah

Yerushalayim shel zahav
Ve-shel nehoshet ve-shel or
Ha-lo le-khol shirayikh
Ani kinnor.

Eikhah yavshu borot ha-mayim
Kikkar ha-shuk reikah
Ve-ein poked et Har ha-Bayit
Ba-ir ha-attikah

U-va-me'arot asher ba-selah
Meyallelot ruhot
Ve-ein yored el Yam ha-Melah
Be-derekh Yeriho

Yerushalayim shel zahav
Ve-shel nehoshet ve-shel or
Ha-lo le-khol shirayikh
Ani kinnor.

Akh be-vo'i ha-yom la-shir lakh
Ve-lakh likshor ketarim
Katonti mi-ze'ir bana'ikh
U-me-aharon ha-meshorerim

Ki shemekh zorev et ha-sefatayim
Ke-neshikat saraf
Im eshkakhekh Yerushalayim
Asher kullah zahav

Yerushalayim shel zahav
Ve-shel nehoshet ve-shel or
Ha-lo le-khol shirayikh
Ani kinnor.

Hazarnu el borot ha-mayim
La-shuk ve-la-kikkar
Shofar kore be-Har ha-Bayit
Ba-ir ha-attikah

U-va-me'arot asher ba-selah
Alfey shemashot zorhot
Nashuv nered el Yam ha-Melah
Be-derekh Yeriho

Yerushalayim shel zahav
Ve-shel nehoshet ve-shel or
Ha-lo le-khol shirayikh
Ani kinnor.

Jerusalem Of Gold

The moutain air is clear as wine
And the scent of pines
Is carried on the breeze of twilight
With the sound of bells.

And in the slumber of tree and stone
Captured in her dream
the city that sits solitary
And in its midst is a wall.

Jerusalem of gold,and of bonze,and of light
behold I am a violin for all your songs.

How the cisterns have dried
The market-place is empty
And no one frequents the Temple Mount
In the Old City.
And in the caves in the moutain
Winds are howling
And no one descends to the Dead Sea
By way of Jericho.

Jerusalem of gold,and of bronze,and of light
Behold I am a violin for all your songs.

But as I come to sing to you today,
And to adorn crowns to you( tell your praise)
I am the smallest of the youngest of your children
(i.e.the least worthy of doing so)
And of the last poet(i.e.of all the poets born).
For your name scorches the lips
Like the kiss of a seraph
if I forget thee,Jerusalem
Which is all gold...

Jerusalem of gold,and of bronze,and of light
Behold I am a violin for all your songs.

We have returned to the cisterns
To the market and to the market-place
A ram's horn(shofar)calls out( being heard)on the Temple Mount
In the Old City
And in the caves in the moutain
Thousands of suns shine-
We will once again descend to the Dead Sea
By way of Jericho!

Jerusalem of gold,and of bronze,and of light
Behold I am a violin for all your songs.

Exodus - Trailer (1960)

Patton Speech - George C. Scott as General George S. Patton

Thursday, 29 May 2008


I couldn't help it. I was drinking my coffe, in a Café near my house, when the conversation betwen two women seated at a table just in front of me called to my attention. Usually I don't listen to the conversation of others, but the passion they were using in their dialogue, made me, unwillingly, aware of what they were saying.
The two women were talking about their children. I don't remember much of what they said to each other, but one phrase remained; one woman was saying to the other:
-My little daughter asked me yesterday one curious thing to wich I wasn't able to give an answer. She said to me: mom, why you, adults, always demand that we, kids, must do what we have promised to do ? Instead, you, grown up, break your promises most of the time.
And that's all I kept from the conversation. But enough to arise in my mind serious thoughts.
When we are kids the adults teach us to draw a line between what is right and what is wrong. They always make us honour our promises: -young man (or girl) you must do what you have promised to do, or: - you gave your word, now you must honour it, and still: - a promise is a promise and can't be broken no matter the costs, etc...
But what happens when we grow up ?
Generally the "real world", the one that was left to us, slowly turn our concepts and distort them into something awfully different from the notions we were taught in.
Society makes you a liar; one little lie here, one more tomorrow, and, soon, you'll be distorting truth to the conveniences of your career. And this goes on and on until you hit the top; then you're the image of success but also a "travesti" of a human being.
Blessed are the ones who keep, along their earthly life, the heart of a child. I think this is true and I always ask the Allmighty to keep me that way.
A shame that some politicians I know are unable to think the same way.


Lone Sloane is a highly influential science fiction character created in 1966 by the French cartoonist Philippe Druillet.

Lone Sloane's first episode was that of Druillet's very debut, Mystère des Abîmes, published in 1966. The following stories were published on the French magazine Pilote from February 1970 to April 1971. The series was subsequently revamped by the author for the magazime Metal Hurlant.

The stories are set in a future, generic year 800 after the Great Fear. Lone Sloane, after his spaceship has self-destroyed, is launched in the space and caught by an abstract entity, He Who Seeks. He is therefore thrown into a different dimension, turned into a cursed space rogue and freebooter with red eyes and strange powers. Here he found himself caught in an inter-galactic struggle featuring space pirates, gigantic robots, dark gods and other-dimensional entities. In a way not so different from Silver Surfer with Galactus, or Ulysses with Greek Gods, he is compelled to wander without an end in a universe which is alien to him. A striking feature is also the quasi-Baroque style of Druillet's pages, which renders in a personal way Lovecraft's space nightmares mixed with M.C. Escher's influences.


Le Mystère des Abîmes ("The Mystery of the Abyss"), 1966
Le Trone du Dieu Noir ("The Throne of the Black God"), Pilote N°538, 1970
Les Iles du Vent Sauvage ("The Isle of the Doom Wind"), Pilote N°553, 1970
Rose, Pilote N°562, 1970
Torquedara Varenkor: Le Pont sur les Etoiles ("The Bridge over the Stars"), Pilote N°569, 1970
O Sidarta, Pilote N°578, 1970
Terra, Pilote N°598, 1971
Delirius (written by Jacques Lob), Pilote N°651-666, 1972
Gail, Metal Hurlant N°18-27, 1975-1976
Chaos, 2000

External links


A great graphic novel by Marvel. A book I just found some time ago. Here's the front and back covers


Wednesday, 28 May 2008


A 500-Year-Old Memory

Another tragic date in Jewish history

by Rabbi Jules HarlowSpecial to the Jewish Week

1506 is a tragic date in Jewish history. Most people do not know why. 1492 is well known as the year when Jews were expelled from Spain.1948 is on our minds this year as we celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel. These are just three of the dates we must remember.

Remembering is an integral part of being Jewish. We are happy to recall 1948 not only because we celebrate Israel's independence, but because so many dates in Jewish history commemorate tragedy. I do not subscribe to what Professor Salo Baron derogatorily labeled the lachrymose theory of Jewish history, since we do have plenty to celebrate, much to be proud about. Nevertheless, it is essential to remember our tragedies as well as our triumphs, since they too are part of who we are.

Our tragedies include the destruction of the two ancient Temples in Jerusalem in 586 BCE and in 70 CE, the expulsion from Spain in 1492, a pogrom in Poland in 1648, Kristallnacht in 1938, and the overwhelming horrors of the Shoah multiple times in each year from the late thirties to the middle forties of the twentieth century.

In 1506, in Lisbon, Portugal, thousands of Conversos (Jews who had been forcibly baptized en masse as Catholics in 1497) were massacred in a public square near the Dominican Convent .The date is not familiar to most Jews throughout the world, and it seemed to have been absent from public awareness in the city of Lisbon. When you walk through this pubic plaza in the center of Lisbon, you would have no way of knowing about the horrors that were inflicted upon Jews on that very site.

This gap in memory was filled this year in Lisbon with the placement of a memorial marker near the site of the massacre. The memorial is a simple, inclined half-sphere designed by the accomplished Portuguese Jewish architect, Graca Bachmann. Here is a translation of the Portuguese text inscribed atop the marker within a Magen David:

In memory of the thousands of Jewish victims of fanatic religious intolerance,murdered in the massacre that began on the 19th of April, 1506, in this place.
A verse from Job (16:18), in Portuguese and in Hebrew, is inscribed on the square base that supports the sphere.
"Earth, do not cover my blood; let there be no resting place for my outcry!"

In 1506, the city of Lisbon suffered a plague accompanied by a drought. Those who could leave the city, including the royal court, left. Fear and hysteria pervaded Lisbon, whose citizens prayed daily for water and for compassion. Professor Yosef Yerushalmi's important monograph on the events of 1506 (Hebrew Union College Annual Supplement, Cincinnati, 1976) includes a description of the probable immediate cause of the massacre. The Dominican Convent in Lisbon attracted crowds who were praying for relief. A light that seemed to be emanating from a crucifix over the altar of a chapel was interpreted to be a divine sign. It attracted large crowds of citizens eager for a miracle. The crowd one day included "one of the Hebrews recently enlisted in the ranks of the baptized," a New Christian. He made a remark that was interpreted as blasphemy. According to one account, he asked, "How can a piece of wood work wonders?" An enraged crowd beat him to death, and his body was dismembered and burned in the square in front of the Convent. His brother, who complained about this outrage, met the same fate. This began a three-day massacre and burning of an estimated two to four thousand Conversos, also known as New Christians, Jews who had been forcibly baptized in 1497. The mobs of citizens who roamed through Lisbon violating and killing Jews were incited by Dominican friars, one of whom preached a sermon against the "Jews" that day, accompanied by outbursts from other friars that included: "Heresy! Destroy this abominable people!"

King Manuel, under whose authority thousands of Jews had been forcibly baptized in 1497, was not in the city at the time. Upon his return he arrested the two the Dominicans who had led the riot. They were executed, along with forty or fifty other conspirators. He then granted permission to all New Christians to leave Portugal, contradicting his order in 1497 that forbade any New Christian to leave the country. King Manuel also abolished legal discriminations against New Christians. The lives and the property of the New Christians (Conversos) who remained in Lisbon were never endangered during the remainder of his reign. After his death the persecution resumed.

In 2006, the 500th anniversary of the massacre, the Jewish Community of Lisbon proposed to the Lisbon City Council that a suitable memorial for the victims be placed at the site of the massacre, at the Community's expense. In 2008, the Lisbon City Council unanimously approved that proposal. The Council also approved a proposal of the Catholic Church to place a sculpture in the square commemorating the words of reconciliation pronounced by the Patriarch of Lisbon, Dom Jose da Cruz Policarpo, in the year 2000:

"The historical location in the center of Lisbon, where we meet in friendship, has in the past been the stage of intolerable acts of violence against the Hebrew people. We should not forget the sad fate of the Cristaos Novos: the pressures for their conversion, the popular uprisings, the suspicions, the denunciations, and the frightening Inquisition trials.

"As the community with a majority of believers in this city for the last thousand years, the Catholic Church fully recognizes that her memory is deeply stained by these words and this behavior ---so often carried out in her name--- which are unworthy of human dignity and of the Gospel she preaches."

On April 22, 2008, the Patriarch of Lisbon, who proclaimed those words, participated in the dedication ceremony together with the Rabbi of the Jewish Community, and representatives of other religious communities in the city.

Another important feature of the day was the dedication of a marker to be placed on the square by the Lisbon City Council proclaiming Lisbon "City of Tolerance."

April 22, the date chosen by the Lisbon City Council for the dedication ceremony, this year is the first Intermediate Day of the Holiday of Passover. The three-day-massacre in 1506 also began during the month of April, April 19 to be exact. Professor Yerushalmi has pointed out that, according to the normative Jewish calendar, Passover in 1506 began on April 9. But the Conversos in Lisbon postponed their own celebration until April 17, the day after the holiday had ended according to the Jewish calendar. Such postponements were not uncommon in the Converso, New Christian, community. They hoped to escape detection by gathering to observe a festival on "the wrong day."

Those in attendance at the memorial dedication will include a group of descendants of Jews persecuted in Portugal before and during the Inquisition. They call themselves bnei anousim, descendants of those who were forced to convert. They also refer to themselves as "survivors" ---"survivors of the Inquisition." During the past two years, my wife Navah and I have been teaching bnei anousim who want to become halakhic Jews, to return to the heritage that was so cruelly snatched from their ancestors. They turned to Masorti Olami, the international arm of the Conservative movement, for help and guidance. To date, eight of them have fulfilled all of the requirements and have come before the Masorti Beit Din in London for conversion. They will be among many others of similar background in the Jewish community who trace their families back to victims of religious persecution in Portugal because of their Jewish origins and who are now dedicated to maintaining and perpetuating Jewish life in Lisbon.

It is the hope and prayer of all people of good faith in Lisbon, as elsewhere, that the City of Tolerance will now be free of the intolerance of the past.

Rabbi Jules Harlow, founding editor of The Rabbinical Assembly, is editor and translator of Conservative liturgy.


Baruch or Benedict de Spinoza (Hebrew: ברוך שפינוזה‎, Portuguese: Bento de Espinosa, Latin: Benedictus de Spinoza) (November 24, 1632February 21, 1677) was a Dutch philosopher of Portuguese Jewish origin. Revealing considerable scientific aptitude, the breadth and importance of Spinoza's work was not fully realized until years after his death. Today, he is considered one of the great rationalists of 17th-century philosophy, laying the groundwork for the 18th-century Enlightenment and modern biblical criticism. By virtue of his magnum opus, the posthumous Ethics, Spinoza is also considered one of Western philosophy's definitive ethicists.

Spinoza lived quietly as a lens grinder, turning down rewards and honors throughout his life, including prestigious teaching positions, and gave his family inheritance to his sister. Spinoza's moral character and philosophical accomplishments prompted 20th-century philosopher Gilles Deleuze to name him "the absolute philosopher."[1] Spinoza died in February 1677 of a lung illness, perhaps tuberculosis or silicosis caused by fine glass dust inhaled while tending to his trade.


Family origins

Spinoza's ancestors were of Sephardic Jewish descent, and were a part of the community of Portuguese Jews that grew in the city after the Alhambra Decree in Spain (1492) and the Portuguese Inquisition (1536) had led to forced conversions and expulsions from the Iberian peninsula. [2] Some historians argue the Spinoza family had its remote origins in Spain; others claim they were Portuguese Jews who had moved to Spain and then returned to their home country in 1492, only to be forcibly converted to Catholicism in 1498[citation needed]. Spinoza's father was born roughly a century after this forced conversion in the small Portuguese city of Vidigueira, near Beja in Alentejo[citation needed]. When Spinoza's father was still a child, Spinoza's grandfather, Isaac de Spinoza (who was from Lisbon), took his family to Nantes in France. They were expelled in 1615 and moved to Rotterdam, where Isaac died in 1627. Spinoza's father, Miguel, and his uncle, Manuel, then moved to Amsterdam where they assumed their Judaism.[citation needed] Manuel changed his name to Abraão de Spinoza, though his "commercial" name was still the same.

Early life and career

Baruch Spinoza was born in Amsterdam, in the Netherlands. His mother Ana Débora, Miguel's second wife, died when Baruch was only six years old. Miguel was a successful importer/merchant and Baruch had a traditional Jewish upbringing; however, his critical, curious nature would soon come into conflict with the Jewish community. After wars with England and France took the life of his father and decimated his family's fortune, he was eventually able to relinquish responsibility for the business and its debts to his brother, Gabriel, and devote himself to philosophy and optics.

Controversial ideas and Jewish reaction

Spinoza became known in the Jewish community for positions contrary to normative Jewish belief, with critical positions towards the Talmud and other religious texts. In the summer of 1656, he was issued the writ of cherem (Hebrew: חרם, a kind of excommunication) from the Jewish community, perhaps for the apostasy of how he conceived God, although the reason is not stated in the cherem. The terms of his cherem were severe.[3] He was, in Bertrand Russell's words, "cursed with all the curses in Deuteronomy and with the curse that Elisha pronounced on the children who, in consequence, were torn to pieces by the she-bears."[4] It was never revoked. Following his excommunication, he adopted the first name Benedictus, the Latin equivalent of his given name, Baruch; they both mean "blessed". In his native Amsterdam he was also known as Bento (Portuguese for Benedict or blessed) de Spinoza, which was the informal form of his name.

After his cherem, it is reported that Spinoza lived and worked in the school of Franciscus van den Enden, who taught him Latin in his youth and may have introduced him to modern philosophy, although Spinoza never mentions Van den Enden anywhere in his books or letters. Van den Enden was a Cartesian and atheist who was forbidden by the city government to propagate his doctrines publicly. Spinoza, having dedicated himself completely to philosophy after 1656, fervently desired to change the world through establishing a clandestine philosophical sect. Because of public censure this was only eventually realized after his death through the dedicated intercession of his friends.

During this period Spinoza also became acquainted with several Collegiants, members of an eclectic sect with tendencies towards rationalism. Spinoza also corresponded with Peter Serrarius, a radical Protestant and millennarian merchant. Serrarius is believed to have been a patron of Spinoza at some point.[citation needed] By the beginning of the 1660s, Spinoza's name became more widely known, and eventually Gottfried Leibniz and Henry Oldenburg paid him visits, as stated in Matthew Stewart's "The Courtier and the Heretic.".[citation needed] He corresponded with Oldenburg for the rest of his short life. Spinoza's first publication was his Tractatus de intellectus emendatione. From December 1664 to June 1665, Spinoza engaged in correspondence with Blyenbergh, an amateur Calvinist theologian, who questioned Spinoza on the definition of evil. Later in 1665, he notified Oldenburg that he had started to work on a new book, the Theologico-Political Treatise, published in 1670. Leibniz disagreed harshly with Spinoza in Leibniz's own published Refutation of Spinoza, but is also known to have met with Spinoza on at least one occasion[citation needed], and whose own work bears certain striking resemblances to certain key parts of Spinoza's philosophy (see: Monadology).

When the public reactions to the anonymously published Theologico-Political Treatise were extremely unfavourable to his brand of Cartesianism, Spinoza was compelled to abstain from publishing more of his works. Wary and independent, he wore a signet ring engraved with his initials, a rose and the word "caute" (Latin for "cautiously"). The Ethics and all other works, apart from the Principles of Cartesian Philosophy and the Theologico-Political Treatise, were published after his death in the Opera Posthuma edited by his friends in secrecy to avoid confiscation and destruction of manuscripts.

Later life and career

Spinoza's house in Rijnsburg from 1661-3, now a museum

Spinoza relocated from Amsterdam to Rijnsburg (near Leiden) around 1661 and later lived in Voorburg and The Hague respectively. He earned a comfortable living from lens-grinding. While the lens-grinding aspect of Spinoza's work is uncontested, the type of lenses he made is in question. Many have said he produced excellent magnifying glasses, and some historians credit him with being an optician (in the sense of making lenses for eyeglasses). He was also supported by small, but regular, donations from close friends. He died in 1677 while still working on a political thesis. His premature death was due to lung illness, possibly the result of breathing in glass dust from the lenses he ground. Only a year earlier, Spinoza had met with Leibniz at The Hague for a discussion of his principal philosophical work, Ethics, which had been completed in 1676. This meeting was described in Matthew Stewart's The Courtier and the Heretic. [5] Spinoza never married, nor did he father any children. When he died, he was considered a heathen anti-religionist by the general population, and when Boerhaave wrote his dissertation in 1688 he attacked the doctrines of Spinoza. He claimed later that defense of Spinoza's lifestyle cost him his reputation in Leiden and a post as minister.

Dutch Port cities as sites of free thought

Amsterdam and Rotterdam were important cosmopolitan centers where merchant ships from many parts of the world brought people of various customs and beliefs. It is this hustle and bustle which ensured, as in the Mediterranean region during the Renaissance, some possibility of free thought and shelter from the crushing hand of ecclesiastical authority. Thus Spinoza no doubt had access to a circle of friends who were basically heretics in the eyes of tradition. One of the people he must have known was Niels Stensen, a brilliant Danish student in Leiden; others were Coenraad van Beuningen and his cousin Albert Burgh, with whom Spinoza is known to have corresponded.


The opening page of Spinoza's magnum opus, Ethics

Substance, Attribute and Mode

"These are the fundamental concepts with which Spinoza sets forth a vision of Being, illuminated by his awareness of God. They may seem strange at first sight. To the question "What is?" he replies: "Substance, its attributes and modes". Spinoza, Carl Jaspers p.9

Spinoza's system imparted order and unity to the tradition of radical thought, offering powerful weapons for prevailing against "received authority." As a youth he first subscribed to Descartes's dualistic belief that body and mind are two separate substances, but later changed his view and asserted that they were not separate, being a single identity. He contended that everything that exists in Nature/Universe is one Reality (substance) and there is only one set of rules governing the whole of the reality which surrounds us and of which we are part. Spinoza viewed God and Nature as two names for the same reality, namely the single substance (meaning "to stand beneath" rather than "matter") that is the basis of the universe and of which all lesser "entities" are actually modes or modifications, that all things are determined by Nature to exist and cause effects, and that the complex chain of cause and effect is only understood in part. That humans presume themselves to have free will, he argues, is a result of their awareness of appetites while being unable to understand the reasons why they want and act as they do. The argument for the single substance runs as follows:

1 Substance exists and cannot be dependent on anything else for its existence

2 No two substances can share the same nature or attribute.

Proof: Two distinct substances can be differentiated either by some difference in their natures or by some difference in one of their alterable states of being. If they have different natures, then the original proposition is granted and the proof is complete. If, however, they are distinguished only by their states of being, then, considering the substances in themselves, there is no difference between the substances and they are identical. "That is, there cannot be several such substances but only one."[6]

3A substance can only be caused by something similar to itself (something that shares its attribute).

4 Substance cannot be caused.

Proof: Something can only be caused by something which is similar to itself, in other words something that shares its attribute. But according to premise 2, no two substances can share an attribute. Therefore substance cannot be caused.

5 Subtance is infinite.

Proof: If substance were not infinite, it would be finite and limited by something. But to be limited by something is to be dependent on it. However, substance cannot be dependent on anything else (premise 1), therefore substance is infinite.

Conclusion: There can only be one substance.

Proof: If there were two infinite substances, they would limit each other. But this would act as a restraint, and they would be dependent on each other. But they cannot be dependent on each other (premise 1), therefore there cannot be two substances.

Spinoza contended that "Deus sive Natura" ("God or Nature") was a being of infinitely many attributes, of which extension and thought were two. His account of the nature of reality, then, seems to treat the physical and mental worlds as one and the same. The universal substance consists of both body and mind, there being no difference between these aspects. This formulation is a historically significant solution to the mind-body problem known as neutral monism. The consequences of Spinoza's system also envisage a God that does not rule over the universe by providence, but a God which itself is the deterministic system of which everything in nature is a part. Thus, God is the natural world and He has no personality.

In addition to substance, the other two fundamental concepts Spinoza presents, and develops in the Ethics are


By attribute, I mean that which the intellect perceives as constituting the essence of substance.
and Mode:

By mode, I mean the modifications of substance, or that which exists in, and is conceived through, something other than itself.

Spinoza was a thoroughgoing determinist who held that absolutely everything that happens occurs through the operation of necessity. For him, even human behaviour is fully determined, with freedom being our capacity to know we are determined and to understand why we act as we do. So freedom is not the possibility to say "no" to what happens to us but the possibility to say "yes" and fully understand why things should necessarily happen that way. By forming more "adequate" ideas about what we do and our emotions or affections, we become the adequate cause of our effects (internal or external), which entails an increase in activity (versus passivity). This means that we become both more free and more like God, as Spinoza argues in the Scholium to Prop. 49, Part II. However, Spinoza also held that everything must necessarily happen the way that it does. Therefore, there is no free will.

Spinoza's philosophy has much in common with Stoicism in as much as both philosophies sought to fulfill a therapeutic role by instructing people how to attain happiness (or eudaimonia, for the Stoics). However, Spinoza differed sharply from the Stoics in one important respect: he utterly rejected their contention that reason could defeat emotion. On the contrary, he contended, an emotion can only be displaced or overcome by a stronger emotion. For him, the crucial distinction was between active and passive emotions, the former being those that are rationally understood and the latter those that are not. He also held that knowledge of true causes of passive emotion can transform it to an active emotion, thus anticipating one of the key ideas of Sigmund Freud's psychoanalysis.

Spinoza's philosophy seems to have also some traits in common with that of Advaita Vedanta, a sampradhya or school of thought in Hinduism, especially as expounded by Adi Shankara. These Indian philosophers from the 8th and 11th centuries respectively emphasize the notion of one reality (substance here), Brahman and the notion of attributes (which could be construed as an interpretation that is similar to that of Spinoza). Although Schopoenhaur was the first European to have access to Hindu scripture, the question arises as to whether Spinoza may have had access to Indian philosophical texts.

Some of Spinoza's philosophical positions are:

The natural world is infinite.

Good and evil are related to human pleasure and pain.

Everything done by humans and other animals is excellent and divine.

All rights are derived from the State.

Animals can be used in any way by people for the benefit of the human race, according to a rational consideration of the benefit as well as the animal's status in nature.[7]

Ethical philosophy

Encapsulated at the start in his Treatise on the Improvement of the Understanding (Tractatus de intellectus emendatione) is the core of Spinoza's ethical philosophy, what he held to be the true and final good. Spinoza held a relativist's position, that nothing is intrinsically good or bad, except to the extent that it is subjectively perceived to be by the individual. Things are only good or evil in respect that humanity sees it desirable to apply these conceptions to matters. Instead, Spinoza believes in his deterministic universe that, "All things in nature proceed from certain necessity and with the utmost perfection." Therefore, nothing happens by chance in Spinoza's world, and reason does not work in terms of contingency.

In the universe anything that happens comes from the essential nature of objects, or of God/Nature. According to Spinoza, reality is perfection. If circumstances are seen as unfortunate it is only because of our inadequate conception of reality. While elements of the chain of cause and effect are not beyond the understanding of human reason, our grasp of the infinitely complex whole is limited because of the limits of science to empirically take account of the whole sequence. Spinoza also asserted that sense perception, though practical and useful for rhetoric, is inadequate for discovering universal truth; Spinoza's mathematical and logical approach to metaphysics, and therefore ethics, concluded that emotion is formed from inadequate understanding. His concept of "conatus" states that human beings' natural inclination is to strive toward preserving an essential being and an assertion that virtue/human power is defined by success in this preservation of being by the guidance of reason as one's central ethical doctrine. According to Spinoza, the highest virtue is the intellectual love or knowledge of God/Nature/Universe.

In the final part of the "Ethics" his concern with the meaning of "true blessedness" and his unique approach to and explanation of how emotions must be detached from external cause in order to master them presages 20th-century psychological techniques. His concept of three types of knowledge - opinion, reason, intuition - and assertion that intuitive knowledge provides the greatest satisfaction of mind, leads to his proposition that the more we are conscious of ourselves and Nature/Universe, the more perfect and blessed we are (in reality) and that only intuitive knowledge is eternal. His unique contribution to understanding the workings of mind is extraordinary, even during this time of radical philosophical developments, in that his views provide a bridge between religions' mystical past and psychology of the present day.

Given Spinoza's insistence on a completely ordered world where "necessity" reigns, Good and Evil have no absolute meaning. Human catastrophes, social injustices, etc. are merely apparent. The world as it exists looks imperfect only because of our limited perception.

Pantheism controversy

Main article: Pantheism controversy

In 1785, Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi published a condemnation of Spinoza's pantheism, after Lessing was thought to have confessed on his deathbed to being a "Spinozist", which was the equivalent in his time of being called an atheist. Jacobi claimed that Spinoza's doctrine was pure materialism, because all Nature and God are said to be nothing but extended substance. This, for Jacobi, was the result of Enlightenment rationalism and it would finally end in absolute atheism. Moses Mendelssohn disagreed with Jacobi, saying that there is no actual difference between theism and pantheism. The entire issue became a major intellectual and religious concern for European civilization at the time, which Immanuel Kant rejected, as he thought that attempts to conceive of transcendent reality would lead to antinomies (statements that could be proven both right and wrong) in thought.

The attraction of Spinoza's philosophy to late eighteenth-century Europeans was that it provided an alternative to materialism, atheism, and deism. Three of Spinoza's ideas strongly appealed to them:

the unity of all that exists;

the regularity of all that happens; and

the identity of spirit and nature.

Spinoza's "God or Nature" provided a living, natural God, in contrast to the Newtonian mechanical "First Cause" or the dead mechanism of the French "Man Machine."

Modern relevance

Tractus Theologico-Politicus, a name Wittgenstein later paid homage to in his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

Late 20th-century Europe demonstrated a greater philosophical interest in Spinoza, often from a left-wing or Marxist perspective. Notable philosophers Gilles Deleuze, Antonio Negri, Étienne Balibar and the Brazilian philosopher Marilena Chauí have each written books on Spinoza. Deleuze's doctoral thesis, published in 1968, refers to him as "the prince of philosophers."[8] Other philosophers heavily influenced by Spinoza include Constantin Brunner and John David Garcia. Stuart Hampshire wrote a major English language study of Spinoza, though H. H. Joachim's work is equally valuable. Unlike most philosophers, Spinoza and his work were highly regarded by Nietzsche.

Philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein evoked Spinoza with the title (suggested to him by G. E. Moore) of the English translation of his first definitive philosophical work, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, an allusion to Spinoza's Tractatus Theologico-Politicus. Elsewhere, Wittgenstein deliberately borrowed the expression sub specie aeternitatis from Spinoza (Notebooks, 1914-16, p. 83). The structure of his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus does have certain structural affinities with Spinoza's Ethics (though, admittedly, not with the latter's own Tractatus) in erecting complex philosophical arguments upon basic logical assertions and principles. Furthermore, in propositions 6.4311 and 6.45 he alludes to a Spinozian understanding of eternity and interpretation of the religious concept of eternal life, stating that "If by eternity is understood not eternal temporal duration, but timelessness, then he lives eternally who lives in the present." (6.4311) "The contemplation of the world sub specie aeterni is its contemplation as a limited whole." (6.45) Furthermore, Wittgenstein's interpretation of religious language, in both his early and later career, may be said to bear a family resemblance to Spinoza's pantheism.

Spinoza has had influence beyond the confines of philosophy. The nineteenth century novelist, George Eliot, produced her own translation of the Ethics, the first known English translation thereof. The twentieth century novelist, W. Somerset Maugham, alluded to one of Spinoza's central concepts with the title of his novel, Of Human Bondage. Albert Einstein named Spinoza as the philosopher who exerted the most influence on his world view (Weltanschauung). Spinoza equated God (infinite substance) with Nature, consistent with Einstein's belief in an impersonal deity. In 1929, Einstein was asked in a telegram by Rabbi Herbert S. Goldstein whether he believed in God. Einstein responded by telegram: "I believe in Spinoza's God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fates and actions of human beings."[1] Spinoza's pantheism has also influenced environmental theory. Arne Næss, the father of the deep ecology movement, acknowledged Spinoza as an important inspiration. Moreover, the Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges was greatly influenced by Spinoza's world view. In many of his poems and short stories, Borges makes constant allusions to the philosopher's work, though not necessarily as a partisan of his doctrines, but merely in order to use these for aesthetic purposes--a common tactic in Borges's work.

Spinoza is an important historical figure in the Netherlands, where his portrait was featured prominently on the Dutch 1000-guilder banknote, legal tender until the euro was introduced in 2002. The highest and most prestigious scientific award of the Netherlands is named the Spinoza prijs (Spinoza prize). Spinoza's work is also mentioned as the favourite reading material for Bertie Wooster's valet Jeeves in the P. G. Wodehouse novels.

See also


1-^ Deleuze, 1990.
2-^ Magnusson, M (ed.), Spinoza, Baruch, Chambers Biographical Dictionary, Chambers 1990, ISBN 0550160418
3-^ Tel Aviv University: "Why Was Baruch De Spinoza Excommunicated?", by Asa Kasher and Shlomo Biderman
4-^ Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy Allen & Unwin (1946) New Ed.1961 p.552
5-^ Lucas, 1960.
6-^ Ethics, Pt. I, Prop. V, Proof.
7-^ Ethics, Pt. IV, Prop. XXXVII, Note I.: "Still I do not deny that beasts feel: what I deny is, that we may not consult our own advantage and use them as we please, treating them in a way which best suits us; for their nature is not like ours...." (Emphasis added to quotation.)
8-^ Deleuze, 1968.


Deleuze, G. (1968) Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza trans. Martin Joughin (New York: Zone Books)

Deleuze, G. (1990) Negotiations trans. Martin Joughin (New York: Columbia University Press)

Lucas, P. G. (1960) "Some Speculative and Critical Philosophers", in I. Levine (ed.), Philosophy (London: Odhams)

Popkin, R. H. (2004) Spinoza (Oxford: One World Publications)

Morgan, Michael L. (ed.), "Spinoza: Complete Works", (Indianapolis/Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company, 2002). ISBN 0-87220-620-3


By Spinoza

ca. 1660. Korte Verhandeling van God, de mensch en deszelvs welstand (Short Treatise on God, Man and His Well-Being). [2].

1662. Tractatus de intellectus emendatione (On the Improvement of the Understanding). Project Gutenberg

1663. Principia philosophiae cartesianae (Principles of Cartesian Philosophy, translated by Samuel Shirley, with an Introduction and Notes by Steven Barbone and Lee Rice, Indianapolis, 1998). Gallica.

1670. Tractatus Theologico-Politicus (A Theologico-Political Treatise). [3]

1675/76 Tractatus Politicus (Unfinished)

1677. Ethica Ordine Geometrico Demonstrata (The Ethics) Project Gutenberg. Another translation, by Jonathan Bennett.

1677. Hebrew Grammar.

About Spinoza

Gabriel Albiac, 1987. La sinagoga vacía: un estudio de las fuentes marranas del espinosismo. Madrid: Hiperión D.L. ISBN 84-7517-214-8

Etienne Balibar, 1985. Spinoza et la politique ("Spinoza and politics") Paris: PUF.

Boucher, Wayne I., 1999. Spinoza in English: A Bibliography from the Seventeenth Century to the Present. 2nd edn. Thoemmes Press.

Boucher, Wayne I., ed., 1999. Spinoza: Eighteenth and Nineteenth-Century Discussions. 6 vols. Thoemmes Press.

Damásio, António 2003. Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain, Harvest Books,ISBN-13: 978-0156028714

Gilles Deleuze, 1968. Spinoza et le problème de l'expression. Trans. "Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza".

———, 1970. Spinoza - Philosophie pratique. Transl. "Spinoza: Practical Philosophy".

Della Rocca, Michael. 1996. Representation and the Mind-Body Problem in Spinoza. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-509562-6

Garrett, Don, ed., 1995. The Cambridge Companion to Spinoza. Cambridge Uni. Press.

Gatens, Moira, and Lloyd, Genevieve, 1999. Collective imaginings : Spinoza, past and present. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-16570-9, ISBN 0-415-16571-7

Gullan-Whur, Margaret, 1998. Within Reason: A Life of Spinoza. Jonathan Cape. ISBN 0-224-05046-X

Hampshire, Stuart 1951. Spinoza and Spinozism , OUP, 2005 ISBN-13: 978-0199279548

Jonathan Israel, The Radical Enlightenment, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

———, Enlightenment Contested: Philosophy, Modernity, and the Emancipation of Man 1670-1752, 2006 (ISBN 0-19-927922-5 hardback)

Lloyd, Genevieve, 1996. Spinoza and the Ethics. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-10781-4, ISBN 0-415-10782-2

Kasher, Asa, and Shlomo Biderman. "Why Was Baruch de Spinoza Excommunicated?"

Kayser, Rudolf with an introduction by Albert Einstein. Spinoza: Portrait of a Spiritual Hero. New York: The Philosophical Library, 1946.

Arthur O. Lovejoy, 1936. "Plenitude and Sufficient Reason in Leibniz and Spinoza" in his The Great Chain of Being. Harvard University Press: 144-82 (ISBN 0-674-36153-9). Reprinted in Frankfurt, H. G., ed., 1972. Leibniz: A Collection of Critical Essays. Anchor Books.

Pierre Macherey, 1977. Hegel ou Spinoza, Maspéro (2nd ed. La Découverte, 2004).

———, 1994-98. Introduction à l'Ethique de Spinoza. Paris: PUF.

Matheron, Alexandre, 1969. Individu et communauté chez Spinoza, Paris: Minuit.

Nadler, Steven, 1999. Spinoza: A Life. Cambridge Uni. Press. ISBN 0-521-55210-9

Antonio Negri, 1991. The Savage Anomaly: The Power of Spinoza's Metaphysics and Politics.

———, 2004. Subversive Spinoza: (Un)Contemporary Variations).

Michael Hardt, trans., University of Minnesota Press. Preface, in French, by Gilles Deleuze, available here.

Pierre-Francois Moreau, 2003, Spinoza et le spinozisme, PUF (Presses Universitaires de France)

Stoltze, Ted and Warren Montag (eds.), The New Spinoza (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997.

Smilevski, Goce. Conversation with SPINOZA. Chicago: Northwestern University Press, 2006.

Yovel, Yirmiyahu, "Spinoza and Other Heretics", Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1989.

External links

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to:
Baruch Spinoza

Wikisource has original text related to this article:
Benedictus de Spinoza

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
Baruch de Spinoza
Susan James on Spinoza on the Passions Philosophy Bites podcast
Spinoza and Spinozism - BDSweb
Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy - Spinoza
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:
Spinoza's Psychological Theory
Immortality in Spinoza
BBC Radio 4 In Our Time programme on Spinoza
Spinoza: Mind of the Modern - audio from Radio Opensource
Infography about Baruch Spinoza
Spinoza Museum in Rijnsburg (Dutch)
Works by Baruch Spinoza at Project Gutenberg
Refutation of Spinoza by Leibniz In full at Google Books
More easily readable versions of Ethics Demonstrated in Geometrical Order and Treatise on Theology and Politics
A Theologico-Political Treatise - English Translation
Political Treatise - English Translation
A letter from Spinoza to Albert Burgh

Tuesday, 27 May 2008


Abraham Zacuto (Hebrew: אברהם זכות, Portuguese: Abraão ben Samuel Zacuto) (c. 1450 – c. 1510) was a Sephardi Jew astronomer, astrologer, mathematician and historian who served as Royal Astronomer in the 15th Century to King John II of Portugal. The Zagut crater on the moon is named after him.

Zacuto was born in Salamanca, Spain circa 1450. He studied astronomy at the University of Salamanca and taught there as well. He later was for a time teacher of astronomy at the universities of Zaragoza and then Cartagena. He was versed in Jewish Law, and was rabbi of his community.

With the general expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492, Zacuto took refuge in Lisbon, Portugal. Already famous in academic circles, he was invited to court and nominated Royal Astronomer and Historian by King João II, a position which he held until the early reign of Manuel I. He was consulted by the King on the possibility of a sea route to India, a project which he supported and encouraged. Zacuto would be one of the few who managed to flee Portugal during the forced conversions and prohibitions of departure that Manuel I enacted, in order to keep the Jews in Portugal as nominal Christians for foreign policy reasons (see History of the Jews in Portugal).

He died in the Ottoman Empire, to where he had escaped, ca. 1510.


Zacuto perfected the astrolabe, which only then became an instrument of precision, and he was the author of the highly accurate Almanach Perpetuum that were used by ship captains to determine the position of their Portuguese caravels in high seas, through calculations on data acquired with an astrolabe. His contributions were undoubtedly valuable in saving the lives of Portuguese seamen, and allowing them to reach Brazil and India.

While in Spain he wrote an exceptional treatise on astronomy/astrology in Hebrew, with the title Ha-jibbur Ha-gadol. He published in the printing press of Leiria in 1496, property of Abraão de Ortas the book Biur Luhoth, or in Latin Almanach Perpetuum, which was soon translated into Latin and Spanish. In this book were the astronomical tables (ephemerides) for the years 1497 to 1500, which were instrumental, together with the new astrolabe made of metal and not wood as before, to Vasco da Gama and Pedro Álvares Cabral in their voyages to India and Brazil respectively.

In 1504, while in Tunisia, he wrote a history of the Jewish people, Sefer Hayuhasin, since the Creation of the World until 1500, and several other astronomical/astrological treatises. The History was greatly respected and was reprinted in Cracow in 1581, at Amsterdam in 1717, and at Königsberg in 1857, while a complete edition was published by Filipowski in London in 1857.
External links
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...