#58 How to Convert the Pope: Successful and Failed Attempts to Bring the Messiah

The messianic idea has been part of Jewish thought since the writings of the prophets who developed the notion that a restored Israel, housing the presence of the Divine, could lead to a transformed world. In this podcast episode, David explores the idea and manifestation of messianism in Judaism and examines several fascinating examples of people who have claimed – or been proclaimed – to be the messiah. David discusses the circumstances, characters, and influence of these remarkable figures and their impact on Jewish life, doctrine, and history.

Image from an illuminated page from Abraham Abulafia’s Light of the Intellect (1285). Public Domain.

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#39 A History of Mystical Encounters (part 3)

A Podcast on Jewish Mysticism and Kabbalah

The Jewish mystical concept of devekut is largely concerned with ways through which a person can become closer to Gd. In this podcast episode, David discusses two of the more practiced paths towards devekut: prayer and sex. He also examines profound themes in Sefer HaBahir and touches on the fundamental kabbalistic text of the Zohar, providing a fascinating explanation of the structure and meaning of the mystical idea of the sefirot.
This episode makes reference to an illustration of the sefirot as provided in Dr. Daniel Matt’s translation of the Zohar. For copyright reasons, we have provided an alternative image of the sefirot (see graphic below).
The Kabbalistic Tree of Life with the names of the Sefirot and paths in Hebrew. Public Domain.

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#38 A History of Mystical Encounters (part 2)

A Podcast on Jewish Mysticism and Kabbalah

It is not only in Tanach (Hebrew Bible) that we find moments of human encounters with the Divine. In this podcast episode, David explores mystical encounters of this kind as described in sacred Jewish texts from the Talmudic to Medieval periods. In addition to examining the nature of these Divine encounters, David also discusses a number of Jewish mystical practices and techniques emerging from these books.

Click here to see the extract from Sefer Yetzirah discussed in this episode.

Hebrew letters as described in the ”Sefer Yetzirah.” Created by PuckSmith on January 7, 2006 with LView Pro 1.D2, Firefox 1.5 and ACDSee 3.1. Public Domain.

 

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#10 From the Rambam to the Zohar: Jewish History of the 12th & 13th Centuries (Part 4: 1250-1300)

Throughout Europe, Jewish life in the second half of the 13th century existed under economic and theological oppression. There were national expulsions; country-wide promotions of the blood libel; sermons to convert Jews; papal bulls; forced disputations; massacres; and organised kidnappings. However, this fifty-year period also saw profoundly important developments in Jewish mysticism, law and commentary. Surroundings these elements are the fascinating stories of individuals and communities whose lives and works shaped the Jewish narrative of the future as well as the broader world.

Rembrandt: Philosopher in Meditation. Public Domain

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