#42 Communities in Search of Meaning: Jewish History of the 17th Century (part 2)

A Jewish History Podcast

This podcast episode begins with an exploration of two significant moments in the second quarter of the 17th century: the contributions and controversies of the German rabbi and kabbalist Naphtali Bacharach and the horror of the Cossak uprisings in Ukraine under the leadership of Bohdan Khmelnytsky. With this background in place, David then moves to the extraordinary story of one of Judaism’s most infamous messianic figures, Shabtai Zvi, taking listeners on an incredible journey through mystical narratives, revolutionary ideas, political drama, spiritual aspirations, communal devastation, and historical consequences.

Shabbatai Tzvi as a prisoner of the Turks in Abydos. Unknown author – 1901-1906 Jewish Encyclopedia. From “Ketzer Geschichte,” 1701. Public Domain.

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#41 Communities in Search of Meaning: Jewish History of the 17th Century (part 1)

A Jewish History Podcast

With a background of war, emerging superpowers, and the Enlightenment, Jewish History of the 17th century is largely seen through the prism of communal experience. In this podcast episode, David explores the narratives and circumstances of communities across Europe, tales of emerging Jewish life in the Americas, and accounts of the situation for Jews in the Land of Israel. In examining these fascinating stories, David also weaves in portraits of individuals, showing how their contributions and situations were reflected in the broader picture of shared Jewish experience.

The old synagogue in Josefov, Prague. Public Domain.

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#40 A History of Mystical Encounters (part 4)

A Podcast on Jewish Mysticism and Kabbalah

The revelation of the Zohar saw an enormous shift in the landscape of Jewish mystical thinking, including in the techniques and ideas focused on the quest to engage with the Divine. In this podcast episode, David examines the ideas, practices, and approaches to encounters with Gd as explored in the Zohar, Lurianic Kabbalah, and Hassidism. This final instalment of David’s four-part series, A History of Mystical Encounters, also includes discussions on Maggidic revelation and Jewish mystical meditation.

The illustration below is a rendition of Tzimtzum, a concept discussed in this podcast episode. For a reminder about the sefirot illustration provided last week, please click here.

Emanation of Sefirot according to Lurianic Kabbala. Public Domain.

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#39 A History of Mystical Encounters (part 3)

A Podcast on Jewish Mysticism and Kabbalah

The Jewish mystical concept of devekut is largely concerned with ways through which a person can become closer to Gd. In this podcast episode, David discusses two of the more practiced paths towards devekut: prayer and sex. He also examines profound themes in Sefer HaBahir and touches on the fundamental kabbalistic text of the Zohar, providing a fascinating explanation of the structure and meaning of the mystical idea of the sefirot.
This episode makes reference to an illustration of the sefirot as provided in Dr. Daniel Matt’s translation of the Zohar. For copyright reasons, we have provided an alternative image of the sefirot (see graphic below).
The Kabbalistic Tree of Life with the names of the Sefirot and paths in Hebrew. Public Domain.

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#38 A History of Mystical Encounters (part 2)

A Podcast on Jewish Mysticism and Kabbalah

It is not only in Tanach (Hebrew Bible) that we find moments of human encounters with the Divine. In this podcast episode, David explores mystical encounters of this kind as described in sacred Jewish texts from the Talmudic to Medieval periods. In addition to examining the nature of these Divine encounters, David also discusses a number of Jewish mystical practices and techniques emerging from these books.

Click here to see the extract from Sefer Yetzirah discussed in this episode.

Hebrew letters as described in the ”Sefer Yetzirah.” Created by PuckSmith on January 7, 2006 with LView Pro 1.D2, Firefox 1.5 and ACDSee 3.1. Public Domain.

 

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#37 A History of Mystical Encounters (part 1)

The Jewish mystical tradition has fascinating and profound speculations about accessing divine reality. In this podcast episode, the first in a four-part series entitled ‘A History of Mystical Encounters’, David explores definitions of mysticism and its manifestations in life and texts. In doing so, he looks at different forms of Jewish mystical practice, including biblical prophecy. Unusually, this lecture also involves textual study. David examines extracts from Bereishit, Genesis, and the Book of Ezekiel (Sefer Yechezkel), and discusses mystical ideas presented and the context in which they are set.

Click on the links to download the extracts from the Books of Genesis and Ezekiel discussed in this episode.

Engraved illustration of the “chariot vision” of the Biblical book of Ezekiel, chapter 1. Public Domain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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#36 Chazal in the Age of Empires: An Overview of the Talmudic Period (part 3)

The period of the 3rd to 5th centuries (CE) saw a different type of world emerging from one that had, for centuries, been controlled by two empires: Rome and Parthia. In this podcast episode, David explores the new Jewish reality and the revolutionary innovations that resulted. In particular, he examines the extraordinary project of the Talmud, its remarkable later contributors, and allows us to understand the significance of these developments within the context of Jewish and world history.

Rabbi Ashi teaching at the Sura Academy. From Diaspora Museum, Tel Avi. Image used under Creative Commons licence https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

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#35 Chazal in the Age of Empires: An Overview of the Talmudic Period (part 2)

The consequences of the Roman destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem were devastating and yet Jewish life continued in fascinating ways. In particular, the years that followed saw Jewish spiritual and intellectual endeavours developing in profound and impactful directions. In this podcast episode, David examines the second century CE, exploring the enormous contributions of some remarkable Jewish men and women from the period. He also discusses several extraordinary events, including the conquering of Adiabene, the Kito Wars, and the second Jewish revolt.

This episode has particular resonance today as it explores the historical period which saw a brutal end to aspirations for Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel for almost two millennia. As we celebrate Yom Haatzmaut, Jewish History allows us to see, in context, the true impact of this event and the enormity of the establishment of the State of Israel.

 

Arthur Szyk,1927, Bar Kochba, watercolor and gouache on paper. Public Domain.

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#34 Chazal in the Age of Empires: An Overview of the Talmudic Period (part 1)

The rise of the influence of Chazal, the sages of the Talmud, emerged during the early phases of Roman rule over the Land of Israel.  In this podcast episode, David examines the key characters and events of the early phase of the Talmudic Period. He explores the changing focus of Jewish existence from one based on Temple worship to textual learning and laws. David also offers a range of fascinating stories preserved from the time in the fundamental texts written during this period.

Ephraim Moses Lilien, The Talmud Students, engraving, 1915. Public Domain.

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