Elijah Benamozegh (Livorno, 1823-1900) was a highly-respected Italian rabbi of Moroccan heritage. He was well-versed in Kabbalah, the study of Jewish mysticism and, in his works, connected Kabbalistic and philosophic sources to delineate his conception of God. He argued, inter alia, that Torah and science are in complete harmony, and his religiously tolerant model called for the legitimacy of diversity of faiths and worships.
In this paper, I aim to show that Benamozegh’s conception of the Divine – and thus his philosophy and theology – was based on a reading of Kabbalistic sources about God that was heavily influenced by Baruch Spinoza’s philosophy on the nature of the Divine, and in particular, by the Spinozist-inspired concept of “God’s attributes.” This comparison between Benamozegh and Spinoza will enable us to better understand Benamozegh’s bold argument in favor of religious tolerance, but also how and why he succeeded in challenging the traditional concept of heresy, all while using terminology provided by traditional Jewish sources and from within the rabbinic paradigm.

issue 12 / December 2017 by Gabriel Abensour