#49 When Being Righteous is not Enough: A Study of the Book of Job

The Book of Job (Iyov) is a philosophical discussion on the nature of divine justice in relation to human suffering. In this podcast episode, David provides a fascinating overview of the story of Job whose tragic circumstances cause him to demand an explanation from G-d on the question: Why has this happened to me? As David explores each chapter of this biblical text, he unravels the various philosophical positions as expressed by G-d, Satan, and a range of other biblical characters to this age-old question. David also draws on views expressed by the sages, rabbis, and mystics on the Book of Job and its questions.

Read the transcript.

William Blake: Job’s Evil Dreams. Public Domain.

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

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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#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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#33 The Geonic Period: Jewish History of the 6th to 10th Centuries (part 3)

The tenth-century of Jewish History is the focus of this final part of David’s series on the Geonic Period. In this podcast episode, David explores the life, characters, and contributions of some of the towering intellectual and rabbinical authorities of that period. He also discusses the incredibly influential translations, texts and Jewish resources developed by these Geonim which became central to Jewish life until today.

Manuscript of Sughrat (Socrates) belongs to a 13th century Seljuk illustrator. It is currently kept at Topkapi Palace Library, Istanbul, Turkey. Public Domain.

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#30 The Passover Seder ‘in one hour’

Every year Jewish people come together in homes around the world to share in the mitzvah of the Passover seder. But what are the essential elements of the seder? What do people need to know in order to fulfil this mitzvah? In this podcast episode, David Solomon discusses the key things people need to understand about the Passover seder, including what they are commanded to do in relation to the festival of Passover, in general, and the seder specifically. David also provides background to the Haggadah (the telling of the Passover story) and the requirements for performing this commandment.

This lecture was recorded at Ealing Synagogue in 2009.

Image: ‘Passover’ by Arthur Szyk 1948. Image supplied by Centre for Jewish History (for reuse rights see https://www.cjh.org/about/copyright-information)

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#29 Chassidism ‘in one hour’

Arising in the wake of a number of dramatic historical events of the 17th century, the Chassidic movement emerged in the first half of the 18th century under the charismatic leadership of Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer, the Baal Shem Tov, with profound effect on European Jewry. In this podcast episode, David Solomon provides an introduction and overview of Chassidism, looking at its early leaders and their ideas. David also examines the impact of the movement, how it has evolved, and the form it has come to take in the current age.

Painting by Roger David Servais – Hasidic jewish fiddler, Homage to Daniel Ahaviel, 100 cm x 130 cm, oil on canvas, 2010, R. David S.pai. Creative Commons.

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#28 Kabbalah ‘in one hour’

De-mystifing the mystical: in this podcast episode David Solomon explores the complex and profound field of Kabbalah to provide an overview of its texts and ideas, together with their historical background. David also explains exactly where popular Kabbalah comes from and provides the one thing that it is missing: context.
Image by Eliak: Version of the Tree of Life based on that which appears in the Bahir, but with the Sephiroth labelled with Latin letters, and showing both Keter and Da’ath (properly, only one would be shown, and the number of Sephiroth would therefore be ten). Public Domain.

 

 

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#27 Women of the Second Temple Period

David discusses the lives and contributions of several remarkable women who lived during the time of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Their stories are not only fascinating in themselves, but they shed a light on the era in which they lived. This podcast episode, released in advance of Purim, a festival based in a tale of female leadership and courage, comes from a recorded lecture to Jewish Studies teachers in 2019.

John William Waterhouse: Mariamne Leaving the Judgement Seat of Herod

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