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Spinoza is considered one of the critical foundations of modern western thought However since he was of Jewish background and sought to expand on what he was taught by Jewish tradition it is safe to say that much of modern western thought is based partly on Jewish ideas through Spinoza Though there is not a whole lot written in English covering exactly what Spinoza learned and thought during his early years a comparison of Spinozas writings with Jewish writings offers a great deal of insight into how he was influenced by those ideas From all accounts Baruch Spinoza who later changed his name to the Latin equivalent Benedict Spinoza was a shining light in the Jewish community He quickly mastered Hebrew and studied at quite an early time the Talmud His teachers among them Rabbi Saul Levi Morteira had great hopes for him Though Spinoza did not wish to follow his successful fathers footsteps as a merchant Spinozas father grew proud that his son showed such inspiration in Jewish thought and was on his way toward becoming a rabbi It is said that the study of the Talmud trained his intellect particularly through reasoning by analogy and that his study of the Haggada had a great and permanent influence upon his code of living Knight 1 Indeed when people looked back on his life the peasants loved him for his good nature and the learned respected him for his intellect He never accepted more money than he needed and he was generally reverent toward others Though a modest man his critique of the scriptures did not sit well with his teachers Spinoza noted more the problems the scriptures created than the solutions they tried to propose For Spinoza it seemed the more he studied and thought the more the Jewish doctrine turned into questions After studying the Bible then moving on to the Talmud Spinoza looked into the writings of Maimonides Levi ben Gerson
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