#76 Revelation & Revolution: Jewish History of the 18th Century (3)

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
  • Salomon Maimon.

Other intellectuals of note in the early days of the Haskalah that David mentions were:

  • David Friedlander
  • Solomon Dubno
  • 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
  • Joseph II.

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.

Mendelssohn, Lavater and Lessing, in an imaginary portrait by the Jewish artist Moritz Daniel Oppenheim (1856). Collection of the Judah L. Magnes Museum

#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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#72 The Century of the Jewish Doctor

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.

Watch the lecture here.

In this fascinating Jewish history lecture, David explores the lives and contributions of four outstanding doctors of the 16th century:

  • Moses Hamon
  • Garcia D’Orta
  • Amato Lusitano
  • Roderigo Lopez.

In doing so, he also discusses:

  • the schools of medicine which trained Jewish physicians and the circumstances under which this occurred
  • the reasons behind the demand for Jewish physicians by monarchs across Europe and Asia
  • Jewish contributions to anatomy, herbalism, naturalism, infectious disease, and the synthetisation of eastern and western medicine in the 16th century
  • the continuing impact of the Inquisition on Jewish life and the precarious existence of ‘new’ Christians
  • the embrace of Jewish refugees from the Iberian Peninsula by the Ottoman Empire
  • the expansion of India as a destination for Jews and the spectre of the Portuguese Inquisition.

        

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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.

#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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#62 Hope in Darkness: Jewish History of the 14th & 15th Centuries (Part One)

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.

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#55 The Prophets: The Twelve ‘Minor’ Prophets

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.

Sophonie s’adressant au peuple. Valenciennes – BM – ms. 0007 (f. 183). 16th century. Public Domain.

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