#57 Wine and the High Holidays

Wine has played a central role in Jewish life from the very beginning. In this podcast episode, David draws together the themes of wine, the High Holidays, Kabbalah, and the natural world in a talk given in New York in 2008. David explores the significance of wine in Jewish culture and spirituality, its status and influence as demonstrated in an array of stories from the Bible and Jewish History, and the fascinating discussions in Jewish mystical texts about the role and attributes of wine in relation to the Jewish people and their Divine connection.

The Grapes of Canaan by James Tissot. Public Domain.

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#53 The Prophets: Jeremiah

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

It is impossible to understand the impact of the prophets of Israel without placing them in their historical and cultural contexts. In this podcast episode, David sets the fascinating historical background to the emergence of the second of the ‘major prophets’, Jeremiah (Yeremiyahu). He expands on the powerful and challenging messages that Jeremiah delivers to his contemporaries – many of which still strongly resonate today. David also examines the life and character of this remarkable but reluctant prophet, including his struggle with the demanding responsibilities placed upon him by G-d and the consequences that this enormous role in Jewish History would have for him.

Rembrandt: Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem. Pubic Domain.

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#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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#45 Two Temples (part 1)

A Podcast on Tanach (Hebrew Bible) and Jewish History

This episode is the first instalment of David’s next four-part series, Two Temples, launched to coincide with the beginning of the Three Weeks—a period of mourning in the Jewish calendar that marks the destruction of the first and second temples in Jerusalem. In this podcast episode, David examines the construction of the First Temple during the reign of King Solomon. He then explores the major events, personalities, and challenges of the earlier years of the First Temple period, including brutal dynastic struggles, the rise of the institution of the prophet, and the ever-present threats from other nations.

Salomon de Bray: The Queen of Sheba before the temple of Solomon in Jerusalem. Public Domain.

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#44 Communities in Search of Meaning: Jewish History of the 17th Century (part 4)

A Jewish History Podcast

The final lecture in this four-part series provides a fascinating overview of the closing decades of the 17th century and the historical events and characters that would prepare the world for the new century. In this podcast episode, David examines the extraordinary stories of a Portuguese explorer; of the reputed appearance of the lost ten tribes; of the well-argued lobbying that allowed Jews to return to England; of the enormous spiritual and intellectual whirlwind that was Baruch Spinoza; of communal tragedy in Yemen; and of the remarkable story of a mass immigration to the Land of Israel that went terribly wrong – only to be resolved in the 21st century.

Emanuel de Witte, Interior of the Portuguese synagogue in Amsterdam. Public Domain.

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#42 Communities in Search of Meaning: Jewish History of the 17th Century (part 2)

A Jewish History Podcast

This podcast episode begins with an exploration of two significant moments in the second quarter of the 17th century: the contributions and controversies of the German rabbi and kabbalist Naphtali Bacharach and the horror of the Cossak uprisings in Ukraine under the leadership of Bohdan Khmelnytsky. With this background in place, David then moves to the extraordinary story of one of Judaism’s most infamous messianic figures, Shabtai Zvi, taking listeners on an incredible journey through mystical narratives, revolutionary ideas, political drama, spiritual aspirations, communal devastation, and historical consequences.

Shabbatai Tzvi as a prisoner of the Turks in Abydos. Unknown author – 1901-1906 Jewish Encyclopedia. From “Ketzer Geschichte,” 1701. Public Domain.

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#33 The Geonic Period: Jewish History of the 6th to 10th Centuries (part 3)

The tenth-century of Jewish History is the focus of this final part of David’s series on the Geonic Period. In this podcast episode, David explores the life, characters, and contributions of some of the towering intellectual and rabbinical authorities of that period. He also discusses the incredibly influential translations, texts and Jewish resources developed by these Geonim which became central to Jewish life until today.

Manuscript of Sughrat (Socrates) belongs to a 13th century Seljuk illustrator. It is currently kept at Topkapi Palace Library, Istanbul, Turkey. Public Domain.

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#15 Worlds in Transition: Jewish History of the 16th Century (part 4)

Scholars, doctors and adventurers are the focus of this podcast episode, the final talk in David Solomon’s series on the 16th century. David explores figures of the second half of the 1500s, from Europe to the Americas, who made extraordinary contributions in science and medicine, mysticism and rabbinic literature, commerce and politics, and global exploration. These remarkable people and their works influenced contemporary and future Jewish life and helped shape the world that was to emerge in the following century.

Marranos: Secret Seder in Spain during the times of inquisition, an 1892 painting by Moshe Maimon. Public Domain.

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#8 From the Rambam to the Zohar: Jewish History of the 12th & 13th Centuries (Part 2: 1150-1200)

The second half of the 12th century is the focus of this podcast episode. David Solomon explores Jewish History through the eyes and contributions of individuals and the broader perspectives of nations. He examines the life and work of towering figures like the Rambam (Maimonides), the significant contributions made by Torah commentators and translators of the period, the observations of a famed Jewish traveller, the rise of a new mystical movement, and the impact of a false messiah. The podcast also discusses the ongoing consequences of the crusader campaigns, the regeneration of Jewish communities in Germany, Jewish life in Bagdad, the establishment of a Jewish presence in China, the forced conversion of the Jews of Yemen, and the consequence of the Third Lateran Council on the status of Jews in the Middle Ages.

Maimonides teaches about the ‘measure of men’ (compared to the earth and the universe, men is very small). Public domain image.

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#7 From the Rambam to the Zohar: Jewish History of the 12th & 13th Centuries (Part 1: 1100-1150)

The first half of the 12th century was  rich with Jewish intellectual and spiritual contribution but it was also marred by hardship and violence. Framed by a background of large empires and changing power structures, this podcast examines the impact that historical events like the first two crusades, the Blood Libel, the first reconquista of Spain and the Almohad invasion had on Jewish communities from Europe to the Land of Israel. David explores the lives and works of leading Jewish figures, including those known as the Rishonim, whose contributions were profoundly impactful on world Jewry as well as other important developments in culture, language, religion and society.

A scene of Ibn Ezra practicing Astrology with an Arabic manuscript being held by the men that flank him to either side. [Public domain]

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