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    Bringing in a “cherem” – Ekev

    Baruch Spinoza

    Parashat Ekev tells us not to bring a cherem into our premises (Deut. 7:26). Verse 2 commands the destruction (hacharem tacharim) of any prohibited object, especially anything idolatrous.

    The cherem is an object which threatens the pure worship of God. Used as a penalty, it gave social and financial power to those who imposed it, by causing the exclusion of others from the community (though the person so designated was still obliged to observe the mitzvot). An outstanding example is the ban (excommunication) placed on Spinoza.

    In Britain the early Reform congregation was placed under a ban by the rabbinate, though from the time of Nathan Marcus Adler in the 1840s no chief rabbi was empowered to impose a cherem on anybody.

    The Dead Sea Scrolls contain a series of harsh punishments for offences which we in our age would probably regard as quite minor, such as giving hasty responses, showing bad temper, and walking out of a meeting or study session.

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