Spinoza in de joodse historiografie [2]

Volgens het vorige blog bleek de meest recente omvattende joodse geschiedenis te zijn (en behalve die van Graetz (cf blog), de enige waarvan op internet iets te zien is):  

VoorkantHayim Hillel Ben-Sasson (Ed.): A History of the Jewish People. English transl., Harvard University Press, 1976. Zes verschillende geleerden van de Hebrew University in Jerusalem werkten hieraan mee.

“It has been acclaimed as the most comprehensive and penetrating work yet to have appeared in its field. Six distinguished scholars at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, have set forth here for the first time the authentic story of the Jewish past that is relevant to the Jewish present. Special attention is paid to the significant historical sources that have come to light in the past decades, to the findings of archaeological research, and to source materials in Jewish studies such as talmudic literature--sources that have too often been ignored by historians.” [Books.google]

Over Spinoza gaat het in ‘Part V The Middle Ages’, gescheven door Ben-Sasson zelf, waarin het de laatste (41e) paragraaf uitmaakt: “The Social Ideals of Jewry at the End of the Middle Ages.” Spinoza hoorde volgens deze historici dus niet in ’Part VI The Modern Period’, geschreven door S. Ettinger. Spinoza zou eerder een oude episode afsluiten dan aan het begin staan van een nieuwe. Dat is al wel  veelzeggend.

Ik citeer hier wat er in dit boek over Spinoza geschreven staat. Als je leest dat hij tijdens zijn leven slechts één boek publiceerde, krijg je argwaan inzake de deskundigheid van waaruit het geschreven is. Opmerkelijk is – wat je wel vaker tegenkomt - dat de auteur Spinoza een louter christelijk geïnspireerde visie op de joodse geschiedenis toedicht.

[p. 720] When Spinoza began to express his views in public, he clashed with the rabbis and leaders of the Amsterdam community, who excommunicated him in 1656. However, he did not remain completely isolated, but found himself a circle of Christian friends who held him in high esteem. The only effect of the ban was to remove him from the society of Jews. He earned a living by polishing lenses, while becoming one of the outstanding figures of world philosophy. He introduced his own system of divinity and morality, investigating the relationship between God and Creation and developing a pantheistic point of view. His thinking influenced and continues to influence many leading philosophers throughout the world. However, the desire for objectivity, which characterized his investigations of abstract questions, deserted him when he came to consider the relation between state and religion. His discussions of this relationship reflect the complex of tensions and animosities within the Jewish community of Amsterdam, on the one hand, and the ideas prevalent in Western Europe during the second half of the seventeenth century, on the other. In this respect the only work that Spinoza published (and published anonymously) in his lifetime is of particular importance. The others all appeared after his death. This work, which was printed in 1670, bears the Latin title Tractatus Theologico-Politicus. The purpose of the treatise was 'to explain that in a free state every man should be entitled to think what he wishes, and also to declare what be thinks'. In its historical and religious outlook, the entire work is dedicated to a critique of the Bible, and the work sets out to settle accounts with the Jewish people and their traditions. The opinions and expressions of the ancient Roman historian and Jew-baiter Tacitus and the reproaches of the early Church Fathers combined in Spinoza's consciousness when he wrote about his people's past. His own desire for liberty of conscience and his rejection of the Torah was tinged with his animosity towards the halakhah and halakhists and found expression in his characterization of the Torah and the Jewish people. One aspect of this approach is his tendency to view many Jewish laws and historical events as national and political matters affecting only the Jewish nation. In Spinoza's opinion the Torah has no spiritual value save for those aspects that it shares with Natural Law and that are therefore binding on all mortals. 'The sacred ceremonies, as found in the Old Testament at least, were laid down for the Hebrews alone and were so adopted to their kingdom that for the greater part they could be performed by the entire society but not by individuals.... Therefore they have no relationship at all with happiness . .. but they are concerned . .. with the temporal peace of the body and of the kingdom.' Nor is the Torah obligatory for the Jews since the destruction of the Temple. 'After the abolition of their kingdom the Jews are bound by the Law of Moses no more than they were before the initiation of their society and state.' The obduracy of the Jewish leaders and their hatred of other nations had led them to act in defiance of this truth. The Pharisees continued to observe the laws of the Torah even after the destruction, 'more with the intention of opposing Christianity than of finding favour in the eyes of God'. The sages and scholars of Jewry also held fast to the Torah because of their desire to rule. It would seem that the leaders of the Amsterdam Jewish community served Spinoza as a [p. 721] measuring-rod by which he judged all the leaders of his people throughout the ages.

According to him, the Jews hate all other peoples. This hatred has become second nature to them because they foster it evers day in their liturgs. Their manner of worshipping God not only differs from that of other peoples but is also contrary to them. He views the entire period of the Second Temple as one long civil war. Even good qualities that he may find in his brethren derive from their evil nature. The unity of Jewry and their present affection for one another derive from their hatred for all other peoples, and as a result all other peoples hate them. The destruction of their kingdom was because the Lord also hated them and gave them 'statutes that were not good and laws by which none could live'. He quotes the prophet Ezekiel in order to express this Christian opinion of the Torah and what it inevitably brought on the Jews who followed it. He is also of the opinion that 'when the Lord agreed that the Levites rather than the first-born should serve him after the sin of the Golden Calf, the Lord at that time wished not for their well-being but to punish them.'

Even the Maranno foundation of the Jewish community within which he had lived, and that was the direct intellectual source from which he had drawn his ideas, was attributed by him not to the spiritual strength of the persecuted Jews but to a change in the attitude of the Christian rulers towards them. He points to a difference which, in his opinion, is to be found between the behaviour of the converts in Spain and in Portugal. In Spain, where the Jews (i.e.. the New Christians) were permitted to occupy every position in the state, they assimilated, whereas in Portugal, where they were excluded from government posts, they did not assimilate. From which it follows that it is not worthwhile for the Christians to persecute the converted Jews nor to discriminate against them. Persecution restores them to their Jewish error. Good treatment may help to bring about their disappearance. Perhaps Spinoza even wished to hint that it was not worthwhile for the Christians to persecute the observant Jews, since persecution would strengthen them in their hatreth whereas a friendly attitude would lessen this hatred and bring them closer to the other peoples. He seems to imply that the martyrs who were tortured for their faith in Portugal, of whose bravery and self-sacrifice his brethren in the Amsterdam community were so proud, were simply a product of an unwise policy on the part of a single Christian kingdom and victims of their own desire for pomp and power. Spinoza makes no attempt to conceal his rancour towards the mediaeval life of the Jews and the religious and social phenomena of their ancient past from which mediaeval Jewry had drawn its strength.

He did not, however, entirely reject Jewish nationality and statehood. He considered the possibility that the Jews might return to their land and their kingdom even though he did not know how such a thing could actually come about. The embitterment of this philosopher was the first sign of the future revolts against the laws of the Torah, the nation's past and the communal structure. Like many of these rebels, Spinoza was more successful among Christians than among his Jewish contemporaries. In his own times he remained an isolated thinker cut off from the Jewish camp.

[rechtstreeks hier]