1. Biography Bento (in Hebrew, Baruch; in Latin, Benedictus: all three names mean "blessed") Spinoza was born in 1632 in Amsterdam. He was the middle son in a prominent family of moderate means in Amsterdam's Portuguese-Jewish community. As a boy he had undoubtedly been one of the star pupils in the congregation's Talmud Torah school. He was intellectually gifted, and this could not have gone unremarked by the congregation's rabbis. And then, on July 27, 1656, Spinoza was issued the harshest writ of herem, or excommunication, ever pronounced by the Sephardic community of Amsterdam; it was never rescinded. To all appearances, Spinoza was content finally to have an excuse for departing from the community and leaving Judaism behind; his faith and religious commitment were, by this point, gone. 2. The Ethics is an ambitious and multifaceted work. 2.1 God or Nature “On God” begins with some deceptively simple definitions of terms that would be familiar to any seventeenth century philosopher.