#84 A Journey Through Jewish Philosophy (6)

The sixth instalment of David’s Jewish Philosophy lecture series considers two renowned, sometimes controversial, philosophers living during the Enlightenment:

  • Baruch Spinoza, and
  • Moses Mendelssohn.

Watch the lecture here: https://youtu.be/IC_bZTM55yA

In the first part of this Zoom lecture, David examines the ideas and impact of Baruch Spinoza, including the ultimate cause of his excommunication from the Jewish community. He explores concepts developed by Spinoza in his books:

In the first part of this Zoom lecture, David examines the ideas and impact of Baruch Spinoza, including the ultimate cause of his excommunication from the Jewish community. He explores concepts developed by Spinoza in his books:

Tractatus Theologico–Politicus (Theologico-Political Treatise), which provides a defence of secular thought, and

Ethics, which discusses:

  • reality is God
  • the universe (God) is necessary and determined
  • miracles do not exist
  • there is no free will
  • the pursuit of reason leads to freedom.

For Moses Mendelssohn, David explains, the challenge was to reveal religion in the Age of Reason. Mendelssohn’s book, Jerusalem, explores:

  • the Torah as revealed law
  • differences in nature and the laws of the Jewish people
  • reason as the true religion of humanity
  • the test of religious truth and its effect on conduct.

As with previous lectures, David provides historical context for both philosophers, describing their 17th and 18th century worlds. He also tackles some of the beliefs and misconceptions about these figures, many of which have carried through to today.

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#74 Revelation & Revolution: Jewish History of the 18th Century (1)

In this Jewish history lecture, David explores the early years of the 18th century, heavily overshadowed by two significant and difficult events of the 1600s – the cataclysm of the Khmelnytsky Massacres and the enormous reverberations of disappointment that followed the false messiah, Shabtai Tzvi.

The Sounding of the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah, illustration circa 1733–1739 by Bernard Picart from “The Ceremonies and Religious Customs of the Various Nations of the Known World”, dated between circa 1733 and circa 1739. Public domain.
He discusses Jewish communities of importance in the 1700s – Prague, Amsterdam, Thessaloniki, and Livorno. He also explores the lives, contributions, controversies, and legacies of notable figures associated with these communities, including:
  • Glückel of Hameln
  • David Nieto
  • Nehemiah Hayyun
  • Moses Hagiz
  • Tzvi Ashkenazi, known as the Chacham Tzvi
  • Jonathan Eybeschutz
  • Jacob Emden
  • Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, known as the Ramchal.

David also addresses the impacts of:

  • the Enlightenment
  • the rise of capitalism and mercantilism
  • changes in political structures and government.
This remarkable hundred-year period not only contained a vast collection of towering individuals, but also brought a range of cultural, intellectual, and spiritual developments that would shape the modern Jewish world.

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#60 Kabbalah – History & Ideas Since the Ari (Part 2)

The teachings of Rabbi Isaac Luria, the Ari (AR”Y), have been profoundly influential on Jewish mystical thought of the past five hundred years. In this episode of the podcast, the second lecture in a series exploring post-Lurianic Kabbalah, David discusses the historical background, lives, and ideas of two iconic Jewish intellectual and spiritual figures – the Vilna Gaon and Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto. In doing so, he examines their remarkable contributions to kabbalistic thought on G-d, the world, and Divine revelation.

Listeners who find this material new or challenging may wish to refer to the glossary of kabbalistic terms provided here. 

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#41 Communities in Search of Meaning: Jewish History of the 17th Century (part 1)

A Jewish History Podcast

With a background of war, emerging superpowers, and the Enlightenment, Jewish History of the 17th century is largely seen through the prism of communal experience. In this podcast episode, David explores the narratives and circumstances of communities across Europe, tales of emerging Jewish life in the Americas, and accounts of the situation for Jews in the Land of Israel. In examining these fascinating stories, David also weaves in portraits of individuals, showing how their contributions and situations were reflected in the broader picture of shared Jewish experience.

The old synagogue in Josefov, Prague. Public Domain.

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