Spinoza, the Great Jewish Heretic, Can Only Be Properly Understood in His Jewish Context

More than most other scholars of the 17th-century Sephardi philosopher Benedict Spinoza, Steven Nadler has paid attention to his subject’s Jewish upbringing, and the influence of rabbinic thought on his work. Nadler argues, for instance, that Part V of Spinoza’s magnum opus, the Ethics, can only be understood with reference to its “Jewish philosophical context,” as a “kind of dialogue with Maimonides.” In an interview with Nigel Warburton, Nadler explains more about Spinoza’s background:

There are lots of myths about Spinoza and one of them is that he was training to be a rabbi. But we know from the documents of the period that he’d had to cut short his formal schooling because his father died and he was needed to take over the family importing business. So, he passed through the primary levels of the Jewish community’s school and the middle levels, but we know his name does not appear anywhere on the rosters for the upper classes, where Talmud was taught. . . . [H]e was, in many respects, what one early scholar called an “autodidact” but, at the same time, he had a very good grounding in Jewish texts, including Jewish philosophy.

At the age of twenty-three, the philosopher was expelled from the Portuguese Jewish community of Amsterdam, which placed him under a erem, or ban:

As erem documents go, it was quite long. Usually a erem document in Amsterdam in this period was just a couple of sentences saying “so-and-so has been put under erem for assaulting a rabbi,” or something like that, and you’re told how the person will be able to make amends and reintegrate himself into the community. In Spinoza’s case, by contrast, it’s a relatively long document, full of curses and damnations, expelling him from the people of Israel, seemingly for good, without offering any means of restitution or reintegration.

It’s in Portuguese. . . . A lot of translations have been very loose, for example, they use the word “excommunication.” In fact, that word doesn’t appear. The Amsterdam Portuguese invented a word, enhermar, which means to put under erem, combining the Hebrew with Portuguese. So I think a more literal translation is better.

Read more at Five Books

More about: Benedict Spinoza, Heresy, Moses Maimonides, Philosophy, Sephardim

Hizballah Is Learning Israel’s Weak Spots

On Tuesday, a Hizballah drone attack injured three people in northern Israel. The next day, another attack, targeting an IDF base, injured eighteen people, six of them seriously, in Arab al-Amshe, also in the north. This second attack involved the simultaneous use of drones carrying explosives and guided antitank missiles. In both cases, the defensive systems that performed so successfully last weekend failed to stop the drones and missiles. Ron Ben-Yishai has a straightforward explanation as to why: the Lebanon-backed terrorist group is getting better at evading Israel defenses. He explains the three basis systems used to pilot these unmanned aircraft, and their practical effects:

These systems allow drones to act similarly to fighter jets, using “dead zones”—areas not visible to radar or other optical detection—to approach targets. They fly low initially, then ascend just before crashing and detonating on the target. The terrain of southern Lebanon is particularly conducive to such attacks.

But this requires skills that the terror group has honed over months of fighting against Israel. The latest attacks involved a large drone capable of carrying over 50 kg (110 lbs.) of explosives. The terrorists have likely analyzed Israel’s alert and interception systems, recognizing that shooting down their drones requires early detection to allow sufficient time for launching interceptors.

The IDF tries to detect any incoming drones on its radar, as it had done prior to the war. Despite Hizballah’s learning curve, the IDF’s technological edge offers an advantage. However, the military must recognize that any measure it takes is quickly observed and analyzed, and even the most effective defenses can be incomplete. The terrain near the Lebanon-Israel border continues to pose a challenge, necessitating technological solutions and significant financial investment.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Hizballah, Iron Dome, Israeli Security