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.
This final part in David’s four-part Zoom series in the lead-up to Yom Kippur, The Power of Challenge, the Challenge of Teshuva, looks at the issue of repentance and forgiveness within community.
David examines three fascinating and, at times, heartbreaking stories from Jewish History of people who have:
accepted their mistakes,
sought communal acceptance of their penitence,
found revelation in teshuva.
Exploring the experiences of:
Rabbi Yonah of Girona, a medieval rabbi who explored the concept of seeking forgiveness for misdeeds from the deceased;
Uriel de Costa, a 17th-century radical thinker with a tragic story of communal punishment; and
Franz Rosenzweig, the 20th-century philosophy who found inspiration in the idea of teshuva.
In each of these episodes, David draws out the principle of individual repentance and its relationship to communal acceptance, connection, and redemption. He also provides essential historical and cultural background to the stories, giving context and depth to the ideas and events discussed.
In this Jewish History lecture, David explores the lives, contributions, and circumstances of 14 women from Tanach:
Among their numbers were:
as well as women who were distinguished for their faith, integrity, loyalty, courage, and beauty.
In addition to providing insight into the experiences of these fascinating women, David explains their historical legacies, including:
the preservation of the Davidic line
the cementing of Judaism’s attitude towards celibacy
the power of prayer
the importance of education
women’s connection to Jewish religious practice.
He also traces the changing lot of women throughout the biblical period, from empowerment to disempowerment and back again.
This is the first part of a seven-part series on women in Jewish History David delivered at the Jewish Museum of Australia in 2017. Unfortunately, only some of the talks in the series were successfully recorded. You can find existing lectures by David from that series as well as from others talks on women in Jewish History David has given here:
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.
For centuries, Jewish communities were known for producing doctors of the highest order. Even in the most profound climates of anti-semitism, kings and nobles sought the care of Jewish physicians. In this podcast episode, David examines the period he refers to as the “century of the Jewish doctor” for its examples of remarkable figures who lead the way in medical treatment and research.
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.
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.
In the wake of the global upheaval and transformation of the previous century, Jewish history of the 1300s unfolded as a mix of controversy, uncertainty, and innovation. In this podcast episode, David examines the early years of the 14th century for Jews in Europe and Asia with its many dark episodes – including expulsions, forced conversions, and plagues – occasionally offset by opportunity and reprieve, as well as remarkable intellectual and spiritual contribution. David also highlights an unexpected connection between this historical period and our own.
A Podcast on the Prophets of Israel in Tanach (Hebrew Bible)
The Trei Asar, known in English as the twelve ‘minor’ prophets, have been fundamental to the transmission of ideas and moral perspectives through the past two and a half millennia. In this podcast episode, the final instalment of this four-part series on the prophets of Israel for Elul, David explores the fascinating lives, historical context, and profound messages of these spiritual giants. In dynamic succinctness, David marches through the short but canonical texts of Hosea, Yoel, and Amos; Ovadiah, Yonah, and Micah; Nachum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah; Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. David explains the importance of each book and their contributions to Jewish and world spirituality.
Find ‘Collected Talks of David Solomon’ on the Jewish podcast rating list at Feedspot.
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