Spinoza's Heresy: Immortality and the Jewish Mind

By Steven Nadler | Go to book overview

7 Immortality on the Amstel

In 1614 the Portuguese Jews of Amsterdam were finally able to secure land for a community cemetery. They had to go outside the city limits of Amsterdam—whose authorities had already twice denied their request, in 1606 and 1608—to Ouderkerk, a small village just a few miles south of the city. The road to Ouderkerk follows the course of the Amstel River, from which the city originally got its name, Amstelodam. The part of the city in which the Jews tended to reside, Vlooienburg, was right beside the river, and the Portuguese would move their recently departed upstream to Ouderkerk by barge.

On bicycle, the trip from what is now called the Jodenbreestraat—'Jews Broad Street'—to the cemetery takes about a half hour, if the wind is not against you. Heading away from the center of town down the main boulevard that once formed one of the central axes of the Jews' prosperous neighborhood, one passes Rembrandt's house and, at the end of the street, the magnificent synagogue that the expanding Talmud Torah congregation built for itself in 1675. After turning right and crossing to the far side of the Amstel over a bridge, a left turn puts you on a narrow road that hugs the river all the way to Ouderkerk. Spinoza, one of his early biographers tells us, left the city of Amsterdam soon after his eviction from the Sephardic community to live op de weg naar Ouwerkerk, 'on the way to Ouderkerk'; he may have been referring to a residence on this road. 1 It is a very scenic

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Spinoza's Heresy: Immortality and the Jewish Mind
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Spinoza's Heresy iii
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgements xiii
  • Contents xv
  • Abbreviations xvi
  • 1: Cherem in Amsterdam 1
  • 2: Abominations and Heresies 16
  • 3: Patriarchs, Prophets, and Rabbis 42
  • 4: The Philosophers 67
  • 5: Eternity and Immortality 94
  • 6: The Life of Reason 132
  • 7: Immortality on the Amstel 157
  • Conclusion 182
  • Bibliography 213
  • Index 223
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