#118 Why Titus Should Have Worn a Mask

David Solomon examines Jewish discussions on the death of Titus, the Roman general who presided over the siege in Jerusalem which led to destruction of the Second Temple.

Unsurprisingly, many Jewish commentators throughout history have painted Titus, who followed his father into the role of emperor, in a negative light. However, others claimed that Titus was far from the worst Roman emperor or general for the Jewish people.

In this talk, David explores a Midrash which contends that Titus died from a gnat entering his brain via his nasal passage. This gnat, it suggests, was divine punishment bestowed upon Titus for his wicked behaviour towards the Jewish people.

David examines how this Midrash relates to historical accounts of Titus’ death as well as later discussions on this text. He also discusses kabbalistic ideas concerning this Midrash and the mystical power and purpose of Jewish history for the world.

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#117 Kabbalah on the Jewish Bookshelf

David Solomon examines the question: Which books of Kabbalah should a person have when building a Jewish library?

He also speaks for the first time publicly about completing the first-ever full English translation of the cornerstone kabbalistic text, Tiqqunei HaZohar.

David begins his presentation with a broad overview of the foundational texts required for a Jewish library, before narrowing his focus to which books of Jewish Mysticism should also be included. In doing so, he explores the background of each of the kabbalistic texts discussed, including their:

  • historical emergence
  • themes, and
  • importance within the corpus of Kabbalah.

In the final part of the talk, David discusses the background and details of his translation of Tiqqunei HaZohar.

He also provides several images which illustrate the historical development of Tiqqunei HaZohar, including sample pages from the forthcoming publication of his translation.

Find out more about David’s English translation of Tiqqunei ha-Zohar.

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#116 Torah & Text in an Age of Turmoil

David Solomon’s siyum on the Talmudic Tractate of Sotah was a (pre) Tikkun Leil presentation delivered online on the eve of Shavuot in 2020 due to COVID restrictions preventing traditional in-person learning on the first night of the festival.

The talk includes an exploration of the:

  • historical background to the development of the Tikkun Leil tradition (an all-night Torah learning program on the first night Shavuot)
  • custom to learn the Talmudic tractate of Sotah between the festivals of Passover and Shavuot
  • relevance of the Tractate of Sotah and how it prepares the Jewish people for receiving the Torah on Shavuot
  • historical period of turmoil discussed in the Tractate of Sotah and the impact on Jewish life at the time
  • importance of Torah in protecting and preserving 
  • power of gathering together to say (the prayer of) Kaddish
  • connection between the Book of Job (Iyov) and the Tractate of Sotah
  • benefit and reward of a structured practice of daily Torah learning.

#115 Jewish History in Six Chapters (6)

This final part of David Solomon’s Jewish History overview series explores the biblical period, from Avraham to the Jewish return to Zion after the Babylonian exile. The talk covers:

  • the patriarchs and matriarchs
  • the Egyptian exile and the going out of Egypt
  • the settling of the land and the period of the judges
  • the period of the kings
  • the rise of the prophets of Israel
  • the division of the united kingdom of Judah into northern and southern kingdoms
  • the destruction of the northern kingdom, Israel, by the Assyrian Empire
  • the destruction of Judah, the southern kingdom, and the temple in Jerusalem by the Babylonian Empire
  • the 70-year Babylonian exile
  • the return to Zion and the rebuilding of the temple.

David examines this period through a historical lens. He also provides content and thematic overviews of the books of the Hebrew Bible. 

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#114 Jewish History in Six Chapter (5)

David Solomon explores the past 500 years of Jewish History, from approximately 1500 to today.

In this talk, David examines each century in detail, looking at:

Sixteenth Century – 

  • Johannes Reuchlin
  • The printing of the Talmud 
  • Shlomo Molcho and David HaReuveni
  • Yosef Karo
  • Moshe Isserles
  • Azariah de Rossi
  • Donna Gracia 
  • Suleiman the Magnificent and the land of Israel 
  • The persecution of Marranos 
  • The publication of the Zohar 
  • The Ari          
  • The Maharal of Prague. 

Seventeenth Century –

  • The Council of the Four Lands
  • The publication of Emeq Hamelekh
  • The Khmelnytsky massacre
  • Jewish Amsterdam    
  • Jews under Protestantism 
  • Menasseh ben Israel   
  • Spinoza 
  • Shabtai Zvi and Nathan of Gaza
  • The Enlightenment
  • Newton
  • Leibniz.

Eighteenth Century – 

  • The Shtetl, Berlin and Italy
  • The Emden/Eubshytz controversy
  • The Baal Shem Tov                           
  • Jacob Frank
  • The Vilna Gaon         
  • Moses Mendelssohn
  • Solomon Maimon 
  • The Haskalah
  • The Aliyot of 1740
  • The Ramchal, the Or HaChayim, and the RaShaSh
  • The American and French Revolutions.

The Nineteenth Century –

  • Rothschild
  • Napoleon
  • Emancipation 
  • The rise of “Reform” versus “Orthodoxy” 
  • Chatam Sofer
  • Samson Raphael Hirsch
  • Abraham Geiger and Samuel Holdheim
  • Wissenschaft des Judentums 
  • Montefiore
  • Jewish America.

The Twentieth Century – 

  • Herzl to the Balfour Declaration
  • The Aliyot
  • Eliezer ben Yehudah and the revival of Hebrew 
  • Rav Kook
  • The Shoah
  • The establishment State of Israel
  • Vatican 2
  • Six-Day War in 1967 
  • The Seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe
  • Chabad
  • The Golden Age of Jewish Publishing.

As always, David places Jewish History in the context of world history. He ends this lecture with a discussion on predictions for the future of the Jewish people and the world more broadly.

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#113 Jewish History in Six Chapters (4)

The fourth lecture in David Solomon’s overview series of Jewish history examines the years 1000 to 1500, known as the period of the Rishonim.

The talk explores the complex and sometimes contradictory experiences of different Jewish populations over these centuries, their lives and safety often dependent on their location, rulers, and the whim of history.

In discussing this period, David primarily focuses on:

Western Europe

  • Feudal society
  • Rashi’s project
  • Ba’alei Tosafot
  • The motivations, events, and impacts of the crusades
  • The Inquisition
  • Meir of Rothenberg
  • The Rosh
  • The Tur
  • David Kimchi
  • The Ralbag.

Spain

  • The Golden Age of Spain – from the Moorish conquest to the Almohad Invasion
  • Shlomo Ibn Gabirol and Yehudah HaLevi
  • The Rif
  • The Rambam
  • The Christian reconquest
  • The Ramban and the Barcelona Disputation (1263)
  • Avraham Abulafia
  • The revelation of the Zohar (1290).

England

  • The first blood libel (1144)
  • The massacre at York (1190)
  • Raising the ransom for Richard 1 (1194)
  • The first nationwide expulsion (1290).

Filled with stories of the many remarkable Jews whose lives and work have left indelible marks on history, David reveals this five-hundred-year period to have been as rich with innovation and contribution as it is with darkness.

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#109 The Messianic Idea in Jewish History (4)

David Solomon explores messiahs of the modern period of Jewish history and the dangers of mystical attempts to bring about redemption.

Among the figures David discusses are:

  • Yosef Della Reina
  • Rabbi Avraham ben Eliezer ha-Levi
  • Shlomo Molcho and David haReuveni
  • Asher Lemlein
  • Rabbi Ḥayyim Vital
  • Shabbetai Zvi
  • Rabbi Chaim Luzzatto, the Ramchal
  • Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer, the Baal Shem Tov
  • Jacob Frank
  • Gaon of Vilna
  • Rabbi Nachman of Breslov
  • Hannah Rachel Verbermacher, the Maid of Ludmir
  • Rav Abraham Isaac Kook
  • Theodor Herzl
  • Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, the Lubavitcher Rebbe

Ideas that the lecture examines include:

  • a return to the apocalyptic- this time with mystical magic
  • the transformation of Christianity
  • the concept of a ‘special time’
  • end times
  • prophecy
  • redeeming the sparks
  • the antinomian messiah
  • redemptive consciousness
  • kabbalistic efforts to bring redemption
  • sexual practices to bring the special soul
  • the redemptive spirit in the special soul.

David discusses the stories of these fascinating messianic figures and thinkers and unpacks their ideas, influences, and contributions to history as well as to the ever-developing notion of redemption and messianic fulfillment.

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