The fourth lecture in David Solomon’s overview series of Jewish history examines the years 1000 to 1500, known as the period of the Rishonim.
The talk explores the complex and sometimes contradictory experiences of different Jewish populations over these centuries, their lives and safety often dependent on their location, rulers, and the whim of history.
In discussing this period, David primarily focuses on:
The motivations, events, and impacts of the crusades
Meir of Rothenberg
The Golden Age of Spain – from the Moorish conquest to the Almohad Invasion
Shlomo Ibn Gabirol and Yehudah HaLevi
The Christian reconquest
The Ramban and the Barcelona Disputation (1263)
The revelation of the Zohar (1290).
The first blood libel (1144)
The massacre at York (1190)
Raising the ransom for Richard 1 (1194)
The first nationwide expulsion (1290).
Filled with stories of the many remarkable Jews whose lives and work have left indelible marks on history, David reveals this five-hundred-year period to have been as rich with innovation and contribution as it is with darkness.
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.
In the 1500s, Jewish life was shaped by many remarkable figures among whom were a number of powerful and learned Jewish women. In this third podcast episode on Jewish History of the 16th century, David Solomon examines the lives and contributions of some of these influential Jewish women and explores the extraordinary impact they had on politics and commerce, culture and ideas, as well as Jewish life, learning and religious practice.
The historical period from King Joash (Yehoash) to King Hezekiah (Heskiyahu), exploring the histories, personalities and fates of these kings and all those in between is the focus of this episode. David discusses the House of Jehu and the circumstances that led to the end of the Northern Kingdom. He provides an overall picture of the region at the time, including the kingdoms’ geo-political competition with Aram and the rise of Assyria. Tune in for another action-packed lecture.
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