In this Zoom lecture series, David explores several fascinating episodes described in the Talmud.
This first lecture in the series discusses an unusual Talmudic incident involving disloyalty, self-righteousness, contempt, justice, death, restitution, escape, and consequences.
As with many stories from the Talmud, this incident is set during a time known as the Amoraic period – between the 3rd and 4th centuries CE – when the centre of Jewish life was based in Babylonia. It concerns an investigation of a concept in halacha, Jewish law, known as mesirah – an action in which a Jewish person hands over another Jewish person or their property to a non-Jewish authority.
In the story, a rabbinical court (beth din) summons a man poised to inform on his neighbour to the Babylonian government. This man’s disdain for the authority of the beth din results in unexpected and grave consequences.
David examines the details and text of this remarkable event as well as the context and significance of the Talmudic figures involved. He also:
explains the relevance of the legal issue in its historical context
draws parallels between these historical incidents and recent issues of Jewish law
explores variations in definitions of right and wrong, justice and injustice
describes and contextualises the figures described in the passage
reminds us of the details and relevance of the historical setting in which the incident is set.
The Talmudic passage discussed in this lecture can be found towards the end of Tractate Bava Kamma, page 117a.
In the final lecture in his series on the twelve ‘minor’ prophets of Israel, the Trei Asar, David examines the prophets who lived during the period after Israel’s return to Zion, following the Babylonian exile, namely:
With their unique post-exilic messages, these three prophets addressed the concerns of a population grappling with rebuilding Jerusalem after generations away. Some of the ideas expressed in their powerful prophetic books include:
the need to rebuild the leadership of Israel
the importance of building a new temple in Jerusalem
a call to do teshuva
rebuilding oneself through dialogue with God
the failure of previous generations
creating righteous leadership
the implications of changing geopolitical realities
the end of the prophetic epoch.
David closely examines key passages of these biblical texts, explaining their meaning and the implications of their messages.
As always, he places the prophets, their lives, and their words in historical context. He also emphasises the lasting importance of their ideas for the Jewish people as a nation and for us all as individuals.
Part three of David’s lecture series on the Trei Asar, the twelve ‘minor’ prophets of Israel, examines the texts and themes of:
While these three books are short in length, David explains the importance of each, their place in the prophetic continuum, and how they sit in relation to significant moments in biblical and world history.
The lecture delves into the prophets’ exploration of:
the destruction of Assyria
the rise of Babylonia
the destruction of the enemies of Israel
the destruction of sinners
the fall of Jerusalem
the need for teshuva and self-improvement
justice for the nations
the role of God in history
the power of the God of Israel.
David provides a historical framework for each of the prophets. He reviews the details of their lives and puts the enormity of their words into context.
In this Jewish History lecture, David follows the chronological narrative of the Tanach (Hebrew Bible), outlining the key figures and events of the biblical period, including:
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 provides an overview of the spiritual and geopolitical driving forces behind the events of this period. He also explains the historiographical status of the various phases of the bible.
This lecture, recorded in Israel in 2009, is an adaptation of David’s popular talk “The Whole of the Bible in One Hour.” It provides a concise historical overview of the biblical period but, unlike The Bible in One Hour, does not explore the ideas and themes of Tanach in depth.
In this fascinating lecture, David explores the timeline of Jewish History in search of a period that most resembles the current situation for the Jewish people.
Roving from biblical times to an era commonly referred to as the Dark Ages, David analyses the situation of the Jewish people during six distinct historical moments. As part of this analysis, he also compares and contrasts Jewish political and territorial autonomy in the land of Israel with that experienced in contemporary times.
Additionally, David outlines the broader geopolitical situations of these eras and how such background considerations reflect our own.
The lecture also explores ethical and philosophical factors of interest, ending with an inspiring note for a possible alternative picture for Israel and the Jewish people in the future.
David delivered this lecture in 2020 as a Zoom presentation for Chabad Glen Eira. While no visual recording of the talk was made, the Youtube video for this episode combines an audio recording of the lecture with graphics David shared during his Zoom presentation. Visit https://youtu.be/CcnddTlJdRo
In this Jewish History lecture, David explores the lives, contributions, and circumstances of 14 women from Tanach:
Among their numbers were:
as well as women who were distinguished for their faith, integrity, loyalty, courage, and beauty.
In addition to providing insight into the experiences of these fascinating women, David explains their historical legacies, including:
the preservation of the Davidic line
the cementing of Judaism’s attitude towards celibacy
the power of prayer
the importance of education
women’s connection to Jewish religious practice.
He also traces the changing lot of women throughout the biblical period, from empowerment to disempowerment and back again.
This is the first part of a seven-part series on women in Jewish History David delivered at the Jewish Museum of Australia in 2017. Unfortunately, only some of the talks in the series were successfully recorded. You can find existing lectures by David from that series as well as from others talks on women in Jewish History David has given here:
Although many of the remarkable developments in 18th-century Jewish life were set within the boundaries of Europe and Ashkenazi Jewry, so much was happening beyond this region.
In this fascinating podcast episode, David explores some of the most remarkable events, personalities, and contributions of Jews in the Sephardic communities of the 1700s, centred in the:
Land of Israel.
In doing so, he discusses:
R. Emmanuel Chai Rikki
R. Chayim Abulafia
R. Chayim ibn Attar, the Or Hachayim
R. Shalom Shar’abi, the Rashash.
He also relays stories of some of the most notable emissaries from the Land of Israel to the diaspora, including:
R. Haim Yosef David Azulai ben Yitzhak Zerachia, the Hida
R. Moshe Malchi
R. Raphael Carigal.
The lecture also considers developments in the “new world”, including:
In the Americas –
and in the colony of New South Wales, which was to become part of Australia –
David concludes the lecture by returning to Europe in the final years of the 18th century to look at the enormous changes happening across the continent and their implications for Jewish life in the coming century.
In this podcast episode, David examines a phase in 18th century Jewish history that he calls the ‘zenith of rabbinics’ for its extraordinary collection of learned rabbis. Among this ensemble of remarkable figures, one man towered over the rest – Elijah, the Vilna Gaon.
The Gra, as the Gaon of Vilna was also known, was an unparalleled prodigy in Jewish textual study and methodology, with an almost incomprehensible knowledge of Torah. David explores the life and contribution of the Gra and why he is one of the most revered Torah scholars of the past millennium. He also discusses the life and work of the Gra’s greatest student, Rabbi Chayim of Volozhim.
The 18th century also saw the rise of a new phenomenon in Jewish history, known as the Haskalah, the Jewish Enlightenment. Two enormously important figures to launch this seismic shift in Jewish life were the philosophers:
Moses Mendelssohn, often called the father of the Haskalah, and
Other intellectuals of note in the early days of the Haskalah that David mentions were:
Naphtali Herz Wessely.
Through the story of these impressive intellectual figures, David paints a picture of the historical circumstances, rights, challenges, and emerging opportunities for 18th century European Jews.
Providing background to this discussion, he also explores the legal and political reforms of:
Frederick the Great
David concludes with a discussion of another important figure from the 18th century, Meyer Amschel Rothschild, founder of an unprecedented banking dynasty. As a result of its tremendous business success, the Rothschild family pioneered a new type of Jewish participation and influence in broader society, stretching to the highest echelons of the European establishment.
This week David examines the beginnings of Chassidism, one of the most influential Jewish spiritual movements to emerge in the modern Jewish world. He discusses key individuals who launched – and developed – this extraordinary revolution and explores the central ideas and contributions of Chassidism to Jewish history, practice, religion, and life. As part of this fascinating Jewish history lecture, David focuses on the lives and ideas of:
The Baal Shem Tov – Shivchei HaBesht
Avraham Gershon of Kitov
Maggid of Mezeritch
Yaakov Yosef of Polnoyye
Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev
Shneur Zalman of Liadi
Nachman of Breslov.
He examines remarkable concepts developed by early Chassidic leaders, including:
the sparks of love
the light of the intellect
conversations with G-d.
as well ideas like:
exile of the soul and raising the sparks
prayer over study
the ecstatic service of the heart
the spiritual importance of joy
love of every Jew
the idea of the tzaddiq.
David also maps out the historical context of this remarkable phenomenon. He discusses opposition that emerged in large parts of the Jewish world to Chassidic ideas and practice and the destructive nature of some of these conflicts. He also considers a number of interesting developments that resulted in Jewish history in the wake of Chassidism.
In this Jewish history lecture, David explores the early years of the 18th century, heavily overshadowed by two significant and difficult events of the 1600s – the cataclysm of the Khmelnytsky Massacres and the enormous reverberations of disappointment that followed the false messiah, Shabtai Tzvi.
He discusses Jewish communities of importance in the 1700s – Prague, Amsterdam, Thessaloniki, and Livorno. He also explores the lives, contributions, controversies, and legacies of notable figures associated with these communities, including:
Glückel of Hameln
Tzvi Ashkenazi, known as the Chacham Tzvi
Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, known as the Ramchal.
David also addresses the impacts of:
the rise of capitalism and mercantilism
changes in political structures and government.
This remarkable hundred-year period not only contained a vast collection of towering individuals, but also brought a range of cultural, intellectual, and spiritual developments that would shape the modern Jewish world.
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