#108 The Messianic Idea in Jewish History (3)

Messiahs of the post-Talmudic period to the Renaissance are the subjects of the third lecture in David’s series “The Messianic Idea in Jewish History.”

David discusses:

  • The emergence of ‘the Midrashic Messiah’
  • The concept of the false messiah
  • The disappointment of Bar Kokhba 
  • The influence of Islam on the messianic idea
  • Spiritual messianism
  • The impact of the Spanish Inquisition and Expulsion on Jewish messianism
  • Other messianic movements.

He examines several messianic figures, including:

  • Nehemiah ben Ḥushiel
  • David Alroy
  • Avraham Abulafia
  • Shlomo Molcho and David Ha Reuveni.

David also explores different messianic types, including:

  • The ‘classic’ Rabbinic messiah
  • Ishmaelic and Edomic models.

And discusses various ideas of messianic manifestations through Jewish history, including the messiah:

  • as warrior
  • as king
  • as magician
  • as persecuted
  • as kabbalist and wonder worker
  • as penitent
  • with a plan.

David examines passages from key Jewish texts which chart discussions about the concept and role of the messiah. He also provides historical context to the people, events, and developments mentioned throughout the lecture.

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#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.

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#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.

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#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. 

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#83 A Journey Through Jewish Philosophy (5)

In this fifth instalment of his Jewish Philosophy lecture series, David explores two significant Jewish thinkers living in Spain in the 14th and 15th centuries:

  • Hasdai Crescas
  • Yosef Albo.

Watch the lecture here: https://youtu.be/uZ0C8w28boc

He examines the philosophical contributions of Hasdai Crescas, including his ideas on:

  • Divine knowledge replaced by Divine love
  • Divine omniscience, providence, and omnipotence
  • Prophecy
  • Free Will
  • The purpose of the world and the happiness of the soul.

Crescas, who was known for his critique of Aristotle, had revolutionary ideas that would pave the way towards a new humanism.

David then discusses Yosef Albo, a student of Hasdai Crescas, and Albo’s ideas on:

  • The existence of God
  • Revelation
  • Reward and punishment.

Albo recognised true faith through a series of derivatives (shorashim), known as:

  • Unity
  • Incorporeality
  • Eternality
  • Perfection
  • God’s interested omniscience
  • Revelation through prophets
  • The authenticity of the prophets
  • Individual providence.

His ideas led to a systematic theological restatement of Jewish belief on the eve of a new philosophical era.

With late Medieval Spain as the historical setting for both of these extraordinary figures, David provides their fascinating but fraught historical backgrounds, including the impact of the 1391 massacres in Barcelona on Crescas and the disputations at Tortossa for Albo.

For a historical overview of the period, watch David’s series ‘Hope in Darkness: Jewish History of the 14th & 15th centuries’ here.

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#80 A Journey Through Jewish Philosophy (2)

This talk is the second instalment of David’s Jewish Philosophy series.

In this episode, David examines the philosophical ideas and innovations of a towering figure of the early Middle Ages, Sa’adya ibn Yusuf al-Fayumi, commonly known as Sa’adya Gaon.

Watch the lecture here.

He discusses Sa’adya Gaon’s exploration of:

– Reason and revelation, including
  • sources of knowledge – the rational versus the revelatory
  • the kavod
  • mitzvot and the commandments
– Divine uniqueness, including
  • defense against accusations of Divine corporealism
  • allegorisation of anthropomorphism
  • Divine interaction with the world
– Creation, including
  • proofs, from yesh mei’ayin
  • transcendence of G-d
– Freedom of will.

He also explores Sa’adya’s discussions on the soul and his rejection of reincarnation.

David places Sa’adya’s ideas in their historical and intellectual context, particularly in relation to Islamic philosophy, the Kalam, and contemporary discussions of religious ideas.

        

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#78 Passover Revelations

The mystical interpretation of the festival of Passover (Pesach) is the focus of David’s latest podcast episode, a concentrated Kabbalah lecture delivered this week during chol hamoed Pesach.

Kabbalistically, Pesach marks the birth of a nation, following its liberation from slavery. But it also represents the beginnings of the creative project of the people of Israel, tasked with placing transcendent divine consciousness into a pre-existing world.

David explains the mystical manifestation of Pesach as the concept of da’at, a term best translated in this context as ‘conscious awareness.’ It is one of a number of advanced kabbalistic ideas and descriptions contained in this talk.

Drawing on ideas and insights from Rabbi Isaac Luria, David maps out the mystical relationships between past, present, and future and how this relates to the eternal connection between the Jewish people and the Divine.

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#71 A Prophetic Revolution In One Hour

In the first millennia BCE, the prophets of Israel launched an unprecedented spiritual revolution, the impact of which has resonated throughout the ages and across the world. In this fascinating lecture, David presents an overview of the twelve ‘minor’ prophets of Israel. Although their messages contained profound insight, analysis, and inspiration, these prophets are known in English as ‘minor’ because their books are short compared to those of the ‘major’ prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. With lightning speed and characteristic clarity, David takes us through the story of these prophets and reminds us of the remarkable relevance of their words for us today.

In this podcast episode, David examines the life and ideas of the following prophets:
  • Hosea
  • Joel (Yoel)
  • Amos
  • Obadiah (Ovadiah)
  • Jonah (Yonah)
  • Micah
  • Nachum
  • Habakkuk
  • Zephaniah
  • Haggai
  • Zechariah
  • Malachi
He places these prophets in their historical context, looking at the following periods and events:
  • life in the northern Kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of Judea (Judah)
  • the destruction of the northern kingdom by the Assyrians
  • the assault on Jerusalem by the Assyrians
  • the defeat of the Assyrians by the Persians
  • the Babylonian exile
  • the return to Zion and the rebuilding of Jerusalem under the proclamation of Cyrus
  • the beginning of the Second Temple Period.
David delivered this talk in 2015 at the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung.

#68 Great Battles of Jewish History (Part Three)

Beginning in the year 66 CE, the Jewish Revolt in the land of Israel launched a decades-long conflict with the Roman Empire. In this podcast episode, David examines three Roman sieges of Judean fortified towns and cities, culminating in the devastation of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70CE. He describes the key characters during this period, including the Jewish commander-turned-historian Josephus and the Roman general Vespasian, a master of siege warfare. David also creates a vivid picture of each of the battles, setting the scene, recreating the tensions, and leading us to the inevitable catastrophic end.

For listeners of the podcast, we have provided a series of maps and pictures of the battle locations in pdf as a substitute for David’s illustrations on the whiteboard.

This Jewish history lecture includes discussions on the:

    • historical context leading up to the Jewish Revolt of 66 CE
    • political and geographical necessities for Rome in subduing the Jewish rebellion
    • character and military experience of Vespasian
    • strengths and flaws of the Jewish commanders, including Elazar ben Shimon and Josephus
    • devastation of Jewish factionalism and zealotry
    • military capabilities and technological ingenuity of the various forces, including the importance of engineering
    • role played by the environment and terrain in the sieges
    • use of military intelligence
    • catastrophic destruction and the enormous loss of life
    • implications for Jewish life in the land of Israel.

Maps

Archeological sites

Find more of David Solomon’s podcast, with dozens of lectures on Jewish history, the Bible, Jewish philosophy, and Kabbalah here.

        

This four-part series was recorded at Caulfield Shule in 2019.

#66 Great Battles of Jewish History (Part 1)

The earliest detailed accounts we have of military contests between the Jewish people and their enemies are found in the Bible. In this podcast episode, the first in a four-part series on great battles of Jewish History, David examines three events from the books of Judges and Samuel in which the Jewish people experience war. Beginning with an in-depth exploration of the fundamental role played by the geography and topography of the land, David explains how an understanding of these details can transform our historical picture of the tactics, leadership, and circumstances of those involved. He also discusses other significant elements that led to the success or failure of each military test and how figures like Devorah and Barak, Gidon, and Saul each fared in these critical moments of individual and national survival.

For listeners to the podcast who can not see the maps David draws in this lecture, we have provided a series of graphics that capture the information provided on the whiteboard. In order to gain the most from this lecture, we recommend referring to these maps as you listen.

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