#118 Why Titus Should Have Worn a Mask

In this Jewish History lecture given for the fast of Tisha B’Av, David examines Jewish discussions on the death of Titus, the Roman general who presided over the siege in Jerusalem which led to destruction of the Second Temple.

Unsurprisingly, many Jewish commentators throughout history have painted Titus, who followed his father into the role of emperor, in a negative light. However, others claimed that Titus was far from the worst Roman emperor or general for the Jewish people.

In this talk, David explores a Midrash which contends that Titus died from a gnat entering his brain via his nasal passage. This gnat, it suggests, was divine punishment bestowed upon Titus for his wicked behaviour towards the Jewish people.

David examines how this Midrash relates to historical accounts of Titus’ death as well as later discussions on this text. He also discusses kabbalistic ideas concerning this Midrash and the mystical power and purpose of Jewish history for the world.

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#111 Jewish History in Six Chapters (2)

This Jewish History lecture is the second talk from David Solomon’s six-part overview series. The lecture examines the first five hundred years of the common era (0 to the year 500 or 3760 to 4260 in the traditional Hebraic calendar), known in Jewish History as The Talmudic Period.

This period covers the destruction of the Temple by the Romans; the failure of the Bar Kochba Revolt which destroyed any serious hope of independent Jewish Statehood; the transition to Babylonia as the centre of the Jewish world; and the formation of the Talmud – the most influential Jewish document after the Bible.

The Talmudic Period is divisible into two distinct sub-periods:

  • The Tannaitic, and
  • The Amoraic.

In exploring the Tannaitic Period, David discusses the history of the first century, leading up to the destruction of the Second Temple, as well as:

  • The census revolt
  • The founding of Tiberias
  • Helena of Ediebene
  • Greek-speaking Jewish tensions
  • Caligula’s idol and the delegation of Philo of Alexandria
  • The Great Revolt of 66CE
  • Zealots, sicarii, and others
  • The Kohanim and the Idumeans
  • The arrival of Vespasian and Titus
  • Agrippa II and Berenice
  • Tiberias Julius Alexander (nephew of Philo of Alexandria)
  • The establishment of Yavneh
  • The destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple
  • The last stand at Masada
  • The influence of Yavneh and the rise of Rabbi Akiva
  • The second Jewish revolt
  • The third revolt led by Bar Kochba and supported by the elderly sage Rabbi Akiva, ending in the tragedy at Beitar
  • The renaissance of the rabbis
  • The students of Rabbi Akiva
  • The end of the Tannaitic Period with the compilation and editing of the Mishnah by Rabbi Yehudah HaNassi.

David then explores the Amoraic Period beginning with the career of Abba Arikha (Rav) and the transition of the centrality of Jewish life to Babylonia, which included:

  • The academy of the Sidra
  • The establishment of the Mishna as the central curriculum of study
  • Sura, Nahardea, and Pumbedita.

David discusses the creation of the Gemara, an analytic exploration of the Mishna, and:

  • The importance of the Braitta and the Tosefta
  • The Palestinian Talmud (Talmud Yerushalmi)
  • Rav Ashi, Ravina, and the sealing of the Babylonian Talmud.

He also examines anti-Jewish persecutions in Babylonia at the end of the Talmudic Period and the independent state of Mehoza.

As always, David puts these elements of Jewish History into a broader framework of world history, looking at:

  • The rise of Christianity
  • The division of Rome
  • The adoption of Christianity by Constantine
  • Julian the Apostate
  • The fall of Western Rome and the rise of Byzantium
  • The Persian Empire
  • Zoroastrian religion
  • Gnosticism, Neo-Platonism, and other major ideas.

This is an edited lecture of a live talk given in 2020 for Chabad South Africa and Daminyan Shule in Melbourne. It is the second part of David’s six-part overview series of Jewish History.

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#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

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#73 Women in Jewish History: the Second Temple Period

In this absorbing Jewish history lecture, David examines the stories and contributions of nine remarkable, often powerful, Jewish women from the period of the second temple in Jerusalem, including:

  • Queen Esther
  • Judith (Yehudit)
  • Hannah and her seven sons
  • Hannah Maccabee
  • Queen Salome (Shlomtzion)
  • Queen Miriam
  • Queen Mariamne
  • Berenice
  • Drusilla.

David also explains how the changing political and cultural landscape impacted women’s rights, roles, and opportunities during a period that included:

  • Persian rule
  • Hellenic rule
  • Hasmonean rule
  • Roman rule.

Moreover, he provides historical background and context to this time in Jewish history, packed with complex political intrigue, military machinations, civil war, and regime changes.

Watch a video slideshow of the podcast lecture on Youtube below.

    

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#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.

#54 The Prophets: Ezekiel

A Podcast on the Prophets of Israel in Tanach (Hebrew Bible)

The Book of Ezekiel has been enormously influential on Jewish spirituality for two-and-a-half millennia, including as the foundational inspiration for subsequent Jewish mystical ideas and texts. In this podcast episode, David examines the life and work of the Prophet Ezekiel (Yechezkel), believed to be among the first wave of exiles taken into Babylon. It is in the Book of Ezekiel, largely set during the Babylonian exile after the destruction of the First Temple, that we find an array of profound concepts about ethical existence and societal responsibility that remain startlingly relevant until today – in particular, we can extract much from Ezekiel’s insights into teshuva and Jewish spiritual practice in times of change and uncertainty. David also explores other remarkable elements of the book, including the extraordinary descriptions of G-d’s chariot and the valley of the dry bones, as well as providing insights into the social, political, and spiritual turbulence of the time.

Scan of a Gustave Doré engraving “The Vision of The Valley of The Dry Bones” – 1866. Public Domain.

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Tisha B’Av – Why Titus should have worn a mask

As part of an online Tisha B’Av event for HaMayan in Melbourne, David gave a talk entitled ‘Why Titus should have worn a mask’

0:00 Joe Lederman: From a Valley of Death; Memories & Revival
37:00 Eicha; led by Dr. Gideon Pinczower (multimedia)
1.06:30 David: Why Titus should have worn a mask
1.34:35 Kinnot; Rabbi Dovid Shmerling

#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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#5 Players upon Thrones: Kings and Queens of Israel part 5

The period of the Josianic kings, from Menasheh to Zedekiah, was the last chapter for the Judean Kingdom before the Babylonian exile. This podcast explores the personalities and actions of these kings and the overall historical setting of their reigns, including the domination and fall of the Assyrian Empire, the defeat of Egypt, and the rise and supremacy of Babylon. David looks at the lead up to the destruction of the Temple, the Babylonian exile, the return to Zion and the project to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem.

James Tissot – The Flight of the Prisoners [Public domain]

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