#106 The Messianic Idea in Jewish History (1)

In this new four-part lecture series, David discusses how the concept of the messiah emerges in Jewish History, beginning with the biblical period.

This first lecture examines the appearance of the messianic idea in Tanach, charting its metamorphosis towards a universal application.

David explores the development of the Jewish messianic picture throughout the books of the Hebrew Bible, including in:

  • The Book of Samuel and its discussion of the ultimate messianic figure, King David
  • The Book of Kings and its depiction of one of the most exceptional Jewish monarchs, King Hezekiah
  • The Book of Isaiah, a contemporary of Hezekiah, whose visions of messianic prophecy are foundational to Jewish eschatology
  • The Book of Jeremiah on messianic and Davidic lineage
  • The Book of Ezekiel on David the shepherd and prince
  • The Book of Daniel’s eschatological visions for the future
  • The Book of Zechariah, who made clear pronouncements on the coming of a messiah
  • The Book of Haggai, with its messianic vision of the role ascribed to the Davidic descendent, Zerubavel, charged with rebuilding Jerusalem and the Second Temple.

He also considers the messianic role ascribed to Cyrus, king of the Babylonian Empire, in Tanach and later in Jewish History.

Additionally, the lecture examines discussions by modern scholars of the implications when biblical ideas of messianism become reimaged as contemporary visions for Zionism.

Continue reading “#106 The Messianic Idea in Jewish History (1)”

#102 A Kabbalistic Journey Through Time (1)

David provides a remarkable historical overview of the origins of Kabbalah through the emergence of its early fundamental texts. The series explores numerous questions regarding the development of Kabbalah:

  • What are the key kabbalistic books to have shaped our understanding of Jewish mysticism?
  • When did they appear?
  • And what were the profound ideas they contributed which would shape our understanding of the mystical dimensions of heaven and earth?

This first lecture in the series examines three early kabbalistic texts:

  • Sefer Yetzirah,
  • Sefer Bahir, and
  • Sha’arei Orah

and discusses numerous ideas, including:

  • The creation of the universe,
  • Attributes of the sefirot,
  • Divine interaction with the world,
  • The divine flow of energy and wisdom,
  • Cosmic time,
  • The reincarnation of soul,
  • Divine male and female imagistic symbols, and
  • The patriarchs and other figures from the Bible as representations of Divine attributes.

David maps out the timeframe and locations of the development of Kabbalah through Jewish History. He explains the context of the evolution of Jewish mystical thinking, its influences, impacts, and legacy.

Continue reading “#102 A Kabbalistic Journey Through Time (1)”

#101 The Power of Change, the Challenge of Teshuva (4)

This final part in David’s four-part Zoom series in the lead-up to Yom Kippur, The Power of Challenge, the Challenge of Teshuva, looks at the issue of repentance and forgiveness within community.

David examines three fascinating and, at times, heartbreaking stories from Jewish History of people who have:

  • accepted their mistakes,
  • sought communal acceptance of their penitence,
  • found revelation in teshuva.

Exploring the experiences of:

  • Rabbi Yonah of Girona, a medieval rabbi who explored the concept of seeking forgiveness for misdeeds from the deceased;
  • Uriel de Costa, a 17th-century radical thinker with a tragic story of communal punishment; and
  • Franz Rosenzweig, the 20th-century philosophy who found inspiration in the idea of teshuva.

In each of these episodes, David draws out the principle of individual repentance and its relationship to communal acceptance, connection, and redemption. He also provides essential historical and cultural background to the stories, giving context and depth to the ideas and events discussed.

Continue reading “#101 The Power of Change, the Challenge of Teshuva (4)”

#97 Unorthodox Episodes from the Talmud (4)

This final episode of David’s four-part series entitled Unorthodox Episodes of the Talmud explores the idea of the evil inclination – the yetzer harah – with a particular focus on problems relating to sexual temptation.

David explains that sages of the Talmud discussed how few things are as powerful as the desire for intimacy. This inclination affects all people, including great spiritual leaders.

Illustrating this point, David examines two stories from the Talmud. The first concerns Rabbi Amrum the Pious, a third-century sage who lived in the Babylonian city of Naharda’ah who fights his evil inclinations. The other looks at a tragi-comic story of Rabbi Hiyya bar Ashi, a student of Rav, who condemned himself in the face of temptation.

Both stories explore moral and ethical considerations concerning intentional, transgression, culpability, and redemption. Other concepts discussed include:

  • individual and communal shame – both in this world and the world to come
  • mystical manifestations of evil
  • the psychology of guilt and self-control
  • recognition of human failings
  • the power of sexual urges
  • whether thinking about a sin carries the same weight as its enactment
  • moral karma
  • the importance of remembering and respecting human relationships in our quest to do right
  • whether suicide is permitted in certain circumstances
  • the importance of humility
  • an appreciation that we may each fail when our moral will is tested.

In examining these two unorthodox Talmudic episodes, David discusses the notion that individuals are often tested in line with their unique moral parameters; that we should be wary of placing ourselves on moral pedestals because we may be found wanting; we are all responsible for our behaviour; and that we must know our limitations and our weaknesses.

Continue reading “#97 Unorthodox Episodes from the Talmud (4)”

#94 Unorthodox Episodes from the Talmud (1)

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.

Continue reading “#94 Unorthodox Episodes from the Talmud (1)”

#93 The Twelve Minor Prophets (4)

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:

  • Hagai
  • Zechariah
  • Malachi.
Zechariah as depicted by James Tissot. Public domain.

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
  • ecstatic visions
  • the implications of changing geopolitical realities
  • false prophecy
  • 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.

Continue reading “#93 The Twelve Minor Prophets (4)”

#92 The Twelve Minor Prophets (3)

Part three of David’s lecture series on the Trei Asar, the twelve ‘minor’ prophets of Israel, examines the texts and themes of:

  • Nachum,
  • Habakkuk, and
  • Tzephaniah.
Habakkuk, the Biblical prophet, watercolor circa 1896–1902 by James Tissot. Public domain.

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
  • divine justice
  • 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. 

Continue reading “#92 The Twelve Minor Prophets (3)”

#89 The Historical Story of Tanach

 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.

For those interested, a video recording of “The Whole of the Bible in One Hour” can be found above and here https://youtu.be/qIu_iZzuTfM

Continue reading “#89 The Historical Story of Tanach”

#88 Which Period of Jewish History is Most Similar to Our Own?

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

Continue reading “#88 Which Period of Jewish History is Most Similar to Our Own?”

#87 Women in Jewish History: the Biblical Period

In this Jewish History lecture, David explores the lives, contributions, and circumstances of 14 women from Tanach:

  • Rachav
  • Devorah
  • Yael
  • Bat Yiphtach
  • Pilegesh Bagiv’ah
  • Ruth
  • Channah
  • Michal
  • Abigail
  • Bat Sheva
  • Jezebel
  • Ataliah
  • Yehosheva
  • Chuldah

Among their numbers were:

  • queens
  • prophets
  • judges
  • politicians

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:

#73 Women in Jewish History: the Second Temple Period

#14 Worlds in transition: Jewish History of the 16th Century part 3

#43 Communities in Search of Meaning: Jewish History of the 17th Century (part 3)

#50 Women in Jewish History: 18th to 20th Centuries

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

Continue reading “#87 Women in Jewish History: the Biblical Period”