When the Persian King Cyrus the Great sponsored a Jewish return to the Land of Israel to rebuild a temple in Jerusalem he launched an era in Jewish History known as the Second Temple Period. In this podcast episode, David explores the first four centuries of the Second Temple Period. Beginning with the return from exile in Babylonia, he charts a historical path through Alexander’s conquest, examining the consequences of Hellenism on Jewish life. David then discusses the extraordinary rise of the Hasmonean Dynasty, its ultimate decay, and final disastrous consequences.
The latter years of the First Temple period saw the Kingdom of Judah contending with dangers posed by the politics of the region and the fluctuating strengths and flaws of the reigning Judean kings. In this podcast episode, David examines the eighth to sixth centuries BCE. He discusses the perilous journey of the nation of Israel amid a changing geopolitical landscape; the rise and influence of the prophets of Israel; and the profound impact and historical reverberations of Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of the First Temple and the exile of the Jewish people into Babylon.
Nebuchadnezzar camp outside Jerusalem. Artist unknown but Illustration from Petrus Comestor’s ‘Bible Historiale’, France, 1372. Public Domain. Continue reading “#46 Two Temples (part 2)”
This episode is the first instalment of David’s next four-part series, Two Temples, launched to coincide with the beginning of the Three Weeks—a period of mourning in the Jewish calendar that marks the destruction of the first and second temples in Jerusalem. In this podcast episode, David examines the construction of the First Temple during the reign of King Solomon. He then explores the major events, personalities, and challenges of the earlier years of the First Temple period, including brutal dynastic struggles, the rise of the institution of the prophet, and the ever-present threats from other nations.
The final lecture in this four-part series provides a fascinating overview of the closing decades of the 17th century and the historical events and characters that would prepare the world for the new century. In this podcast episode, David examines the extraordinary stories of a Portuguese explorer; of the reputed appearance of the lost ten tribes; of the well-argued lobbying that allowed Jews to return to England; of the enormous spiritual and intellectual whirlwind that was Baruch Spinoza; of communal tragedy in Yemen; and of the remarkable story of a mass immigration to the Land of Israel that went terribly wrong – only to be resolved in the 21st century.
In this podcast episode, David examines the lives, contributions, and influences of six significant Jewish women from the 17th century. In exploring the individual stories of these poets and scholars, merchants and messianic figures, David provides fascinating insight into different areas of Jewish life in the 1600s as well as into the remarkable – and sometimes unexpected – responsibilities, opportunities, and accomplishments of Jewish women from the time.
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.
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 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.
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.