#59 Kabbalah: History & Ideas Since the Ari (Part One – Revelation & Concealment)

While the roots of Jewish mysticism can be found in the Torah, the past millennia have contributed numerous extraordinary developments and revelations in the field of Kabbalah. In particular, the teachings and ideas of 16th century kabbalist, Rabbi Isaac Luria, also known as the Ari, have been profoundly influential on Jewish mystical thinking, literature, and life. In this podcast episode, David provides historical context to the emergence of the Kabbalah of the Ari and then explores the two primary paths that disseminated his monumental ideas. David discusses many of the terms and concepts associated with Lurianic Kabbalah, including the sefirot, ein sof (the infinite), the four worlds, adam kadmon (primordial man), the writing of the name of G-d, tzimzum, shevirat hakelim (shattering of the vessels), the male and female aspects of G-d, and the concepts of tohu and tikkun (chaos and rectification).

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#56 The Power of Teshuva

The concept of teshuva – usually translated in English as “repentance” but literally meaning “return” – is, as David discusses in this episode, a phenomenal idea in Judaism that a person can be defined, not simply by what they do, but by their ability to change. This podcast episode, coming in advance of Yom Kippur, is unusual in that it brings together segments of lectures David has given over the years on the subject of teshuva. Starting with an in-depth examination of the Book of Yonah (Jonah), which we read on Yom Kippur, he explores Biblical and Talmudic stories that raise discussions about what we can do – and what we should do – when our behaviour is found wanting. David also explores 20th-century Jewish philosophical ideas on the meaning of teshuva for us as individuals and for the world.

Yom Kippur in the Jerusalem Temple. Illustrator of Henry Davenport Northrop’s “Treasures of the Bible,” 1894. 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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#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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#50 Women in Jewish History: 18th to 20th Centuries

A Podcast on Women in Jewish History 

From mystics and messianic figures to writers, activists, and politicians women made enormous contributions to Jewish and world history during the four centuries examined in this lecture. In this podcast episode, David explores the characters and contributions of a collection of “remarkable and extraordinary” women from the mid 18th to 20th centuries whose legacies continue to fascinate and whose work and ideas helped shape the world in which we live today.

This episode marks a milestone for the podcast: 50 episodes and a year since the podcast was launched. We thank you for joining us on this journey.

Outdoor group portrait of the women on the first board of the Weibliche Fuersorge (Care for Women Society); Frankfurt am Main. No known copyright restrictions. (see https://www.flickr.com/photos/center_for_jewish_history/3507968224)

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

A Podcast on the Book of Job in the Hebrew Bible

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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#48 Two Temples (part 4)

A Podcast on Tanach (Hebrew Bible) and Jewish History

The arrival of General Pompey into Jerusalem heralded the beginning of the end for the Second Temple and Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel. In this podcast episode, timed to coincide with Tisha B’Av, David explores the fascinating drama of the reign of Herod; the rise of Judean resistance to Rome; and the brutal and tragic consequences that came from the inevitable Jewish rebellion. David examines the final extraordinary months and days leading up to the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and the long-term ramifications of this historic cataclysm for the Jewish people.

Pompey enters the Jerusalem Temple. Painting by Jean Fouquet, after an event recorded by Flavius Josephus in The Antiquities of the Jews. 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)”

#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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