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The cherem against Spinoza says the following:

The Lords of the ma'amad, having long known of the evil opinions and acts of Baruch de Espinoza... We order that no one should communicate with him orally or in writing, or show him any favor, or stay with him under the same roof, or within four ells of him, or read anything composed or written by him.

Source: Wikipedia.

Does this mean that Jews today are forbidden from reading his texts? Does the manner in which one might read Spinoza's texts matter, such as whether they were assigned in a class?

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This is a community excommunication. This is not universally binding halacha. –  rosenjcb Dec 8 '13 at 10:11
similar –  Double AA Dec 8 '13 at 15:24
It could be forbidden just due to Kefira –  Shmuel Brin Dec 8 '13 at 17:49
@ShmuelBrin Except most of it isn't Kefira. The cherem applied/s (apparently) to anything he wrote. –  Double AA Dec 9 '13 at 15:27

1 Answer 1

Someone asked this to Rav Meir Mazuz Shlita here:

אשתי מורה ועושה תואר שני בתנ"ך במכללה דתית [מהזרם הציוני דתי]. במהלך אחד הקורסים, נתבקשו ע"י מרצה אחד, לקרוא מאמר של שפינוזה. וכן דברו שם על בקורת המקרא. כששאלה אשתי את המרצה [חובש הכיפה] שידוע שהרבנים אוסרים לשמוע דברים מסוג זה, אמר: איפה הרב עובדיה [שליט"א] פוסק שאסור? האם אפשר לקבל מקורות לאיסור? [גם על קריאת בקורת המקרא, וגם התיחסות לשפינוזה ודעותיו].

To summarize, the man's wife was required to read Spinoza for college.

Rav Mazouz responded:

ספינוזה ידוע ככופר בעיקר ומומר, אין שום היתר לקרוא בספריו (לא שנו אלא באפיקורס נכרי, אבל באפיקורס ישראל כל שכן דפקר טפי. גמרא סנהדרין). כל מבקרי המקרא אינם מאמינים בתורה מן השמים. ולכן ספריהם פסולים. רק מותר להביא דבריהם בהרצאה על מנת להפריך אותם.

To summarize: It is absolutely forbidden to read his works. The only exception would be mention of his views in a lecture in order to refute them (which would be permitted).

Thus, he holds that even as assigned reading it is forbidden.

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I guess the real question is, how are you supposed to know what to bring in a presentation in order to reject, if you haven't ever read it? –  Double AA Aug 12 at 5:14
Seems like a poor summary. "רק מותר להביא דבריהם בהרצאה על מנת להפריך אותם" might be a very apt description of what goes on in an education course at a religious institution. –  Double AA Aug 12 at 5:15
@DoubleAA okay, I'll add it. I debated the relative merits of brevity versus accuracy, and figured that since the OP made no reference to a religious institution or attempted refutation, but rather asked about the עיקר הדין of whether it is permitted; not exceptional cases, I chose to omit it, for you, however, I will add it. –  mevaqesh Aug 12 at 5:19

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