#57 Wine and the High Holidays

Wine has played a central role in Jewish life from the very beginning. In this podcast episode, David draws together the themes of wine, the High Holidays, Kabbalah, and the natural world in a talk given in New York in 2008. David explores the significance of wine in Jewish culture and spirituality, its status and influence as demonstrated in an array of stories from the Bible and Jewish History, and the fascinating discussions in Jewish mystical texts about the role and attributes of wine in relation to the Jewish people and their Divine connection.

The Grapes of Canaan by James Tissot. Public Domain.

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#55 The Prophets: The Twelve ‘Minor’ Prophets

A Podcast on the Prophets of Israel in Tanach (Hebrew Bible)

The Trei Asar, known in English as the twelve ‘minor’ prophets, have been fundamental to the transmission of ideas and moral perspectives through the past two and a half millennia. In this podcast episode, the final instalment of this four-part series on the prophets of Israel for Elul, David explores the fascinating lives, historical context, and profound messages of these spiritual giants. In dynamic succinctness, David marches through the short but canonical texts of Hosea, Yoel, and Amos; Ovadiah, Yonah, and Micah; Nachum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah; Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. David explains the importance of each book and their contributions to Jewish and world spirituality.

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Sophonie s’adressant au peuple. Valenciennes – BM – ms. 0007 (f. 183). 16th century. Public Domain.

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#54 The Prophets: Ezekiel

A Podcast on the Prophets of Israel in Tanach (Hebrew Bible)

The Book of Ezekiel has been enormously influential on Jewish spirituality for two-and-a-half millennia, including as the foundational inspiration for subsequent Jewish mystical ideas and texts. In this podcast episode, David examines the life and work of the Prophet Ezekiel (Yechezkel), believed to be among the first wave of exiles taken into Babylon. It is in the Book of Ezekiel, largely set during the Babylonian exile after the destruction of the First Temple, that we find an array of profound concepts about ethical existence and societal responsibility that remain startlingly relevant until today – in particular, we can extract much from Ezekiel’s insights into teshuva and Jewish spiritual practice in times of change and uncertainty. David also explores other remarkable elements of the book, including the extraordinary descriptions of G-d’s chariot and the valley of the dry bones, as well as providing insights into the social, political, and spiritual turbulence of the time.

Scan of a Gustave Doré engraving “The Vision of The Valley of The Dry Bones” – 1866. Public Domain.

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#53 The Prophets: Jeremiah

A Podcast on the Prophets of Israel in Tanach (Hebrew Bible)

It is impossible to understand the impact of the prophets of Israel without placing them in their historical and cultural contexts. In this podcast episode, David sets the fascinating historical background to the emergence of the second of the ‘major prophets’, Jeremiah (Yeremiyahu). He expands on the powerful and challenging messages that Jeremiah delivers to his contemporaries – many of which still strongly resonate today. David also examines the life and character of this remarkable but reluctant prophet, including his struggle with the demanding responsibilities placed upon him by G-d and the consequences that this enormous role in Jewish History would have for him.

Rembrandt: Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem. Pubic Domain.

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#52 The Prophets: Isaiah

A Podcast on the Prophet Isaiah in Tanach (Hebrew Bible)

The Prophets of Israel were a unique and revolutionary spiritual phenomenon with profound impact across the ages. In this podcast episode, the first of a four-part series on the prophets scheduled for Elul, David examines the context, character, and inspirational message of the Prophet Isaiah (Yeshayahu), the first of the ‘major prophets’. In doing so, David discusses how relevant the words and influence of this remarkable biblical figure – and particularly, his insight into the concept of teshuva – remain for us today.

Isaiah; illustration from a Bible card published by the Providence Lithograph Company. 1904. Public Domain.

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#51 Women in Jewish History: 20th to 21st Centuries

A Podcast on Women in Jewish History 

Recent decades have seen many examples of Jewish women who have significantly influenced Jewish history and, more generally, world history. In this podcast episode, David examines the characters and contributions of more than 20 extraordinary Jewish women from the past hundred years. He explores their fascinating and sometimes poignant life stories as well as their important work in fields including science, the arts, politics, commerce, and religion.

Rachel Bluwstein. Public Domain.

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#47 Two Temples (part 3)

A Podcast on Tanach (Hebrew Bible) and Jewish History

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.

Image: Français : La clémence de Cyrus II le Grand envers les Hébreux. A depiction of the biblical character, Emperor Cyrus the Great of Persia, who permitted the Hebrews to return to the Holy Land and rebuild G-d’s Temple. Public Domain.

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#46 Two Temples (part 2)

A Podcast on Tanach (Hebrew Bible) and Jewish History

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)”

#45 Two Temples (part 1)

A Podcast on Tanach (Hebrew Bible) and Jewish History

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.

Salomon de Bray: The Queen of Sheba before the temple of Solomon in Jerusalem. Public Domain.

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#44 Communities in Search of Meaning: Jewish History of the 17th Century (part 4)

A Jewish History Podcast

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.

Emanuel de Witte, Interior of the Portuguese synagogue in Amsterdam. Public Domain.

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