ISSN 1409-6900 | UDK 82+7 Blesok no. 37 | volume VII | July-August, 2004
Blesok no. 37,
A Conversation with Spinoza
– excerpt –
The name of the man who came to the Beth Jacob synagogue that morning carrying his son — born eight days earlier — was Michael Spinoza. Michael himself was born forty-five years earlier as Miguel Despinosa in Vidigere, Portugal, where his father, Isaac, had settled, moving from Lisbon and hoping that in the small town he would be able to observe the law of Moses with no fear of the Inquisition. He came into this world in 1587, exactly forty years after the establishment of the Inquisition Tribunal in the kingdom, whose principal goals were the forceful conversion of Jews and the prevention of converted Jews from going back to their original faith. He remembered a single event from his childhood: one hot summer night when he was nine he dreamt of huge fish flying in the sky with blood dripping from their mouths. It was then, in this dream, that he heard the voice of his mother, Mor Alvares, crying out to him from this side of reality. When he opened his eyes he saw his mother and father hastily grabbing a few essentials: two loaves of bread, three handfuls of salt, a knife, a few tablespoons, a needle and yarn, and some clothing. While he was stepping over the threshold of his home for the last time together with his mother and brother and sister he saw how his father Isaac kneeled in the room, pulled a plank up from the floor, took several books out and put them under his arm. Later, when recollecting their flight, he would often take out one of those books, the Torah, and read Exodus again and again. At these times, he remembered again and again the tearful eyes of Mor Alvares staring at their little house which grew ever smaller and smaller, vanishing into the distance, while no one travelling in the wagon drawn by two horses had any idea of where they were going. For a long time, from every town in which they found shelter, Mor Alvares would send a letter, which she had previously dictated to Isaac, to her brothers, not knowing whether her brothers were aware that they had been indicted by the Inquisition for professing the Jewish religion. The Alvares family always sent their letters on the day they set off for another town, in case they were caught by the Inquisitors: the letters contained only
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