#114 Jewish History in Six Chapter (5)

David Solomon explores the past 500 years of Jewish History, from approximately 1500 to today.

In this talk, David examines each century in detail, looking at:

Sixteenth Century – 

  • Johannes Reuchlin
  • The printing of the Talmud 
  • Shlomo Molcho and David HaReuveni
  • Yosef Karo
  • Moshe Isserles
  • Azariah de Rossi
  • Donna Gracia 
  • Suleiman the Magnificent and the land of Israel 
  • The persecution of Marranos 
  • The publication of the Zohar 
  • The Ari          
  • The Maharal of Prague. 

Seventeenth Century –

  • The Council of the Four Lands
  • The publication of Emeq Hamelekh
  • The Khmelnytsky massacre
  • Jewish Amsterdam    
  • Jews under Protestantism 
  • Menasseh ben Israel   
  • Spinoza 
  • Shabtai Zvi and Nathan of Gaza
  • The Enlightenment
  • Newton
  • Leibniz.

Eighteenth Century – 

  • The Shtetl, Berlin and Italy
  • The Emden/Eubshytz controversy
  • The Baal Shem Tov                           
  • Jacob Frank
  • The Vilna Gaon         
  • Moses Mendelssohn
  • Solomon Maimon 
  • The Haskalah
  • The Aliyot of 1740
  • The Ramchal, the Or HaChayim, and the RaShaSh
  • The American and French Revolutions.

The Nineteenth Century –

  • Rothschild
  • Napoleon
  • Emancipation 
  • The rise of “Reform” versus “Orthodoxy” 
  • Chatam Sofer
  • Samson Raphael Hirsch
  • Abraham Geiger and Samuel Holdheim
  • Wissenschaft des Judentums 
  • Montefiore
  • Jewish America.

The Twentieth Century – 

  • Herzl to the Balfour Declaration
  • The Aliyot
  • Eliezer ben Yehudah and the revival of Hebrew 
  • Rav Kook
  • The Shoah
  • The establishment State of Israel
  • Vatican 2
  • Six-Day War in 1967 
  • The Seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe
  • Chabad
  • The Golden Age of Jewish Publishing.

As always, David places Jewish History in the context of world history. He ends this lecture with a discussion on predictions for the future of the Jewish people and the world more broadly.

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#107 The Messianic Idea in Jewish History (2)

David Solomon explores the evolution of the messianic idea in Jewish history following the Second Temple era. He examines how circumstances and events propelled transformations in messianic thought. With the Temple’s destruction in 70 CE, David traces the emergence of apocalyptic notions fused to Davidic restoration hopes. He then analyses and contrasts two radically different messianic claimants who arose from this milieu – Jesus of Nazareth and Simeon Bar Kokhba.

Apocalyptic Yearnings in Late Second Temple Times

David emphasises the atmosphere of messianic tension permeating Judea in the late Second Temple period. Oppressive Roman rule prevented fulfilment of biblical redemption prophecies. This spurred apocalyptic thinking – a sense of two worlds, the imperfect present and ideal future. The Dead Sea Scrolls reflect these millenarian hopes for divinely ordained transition to a new cosmic age.

David notes scholarly debate on when eschatological expectations welded onto the Davidic messiah idea. But he argues this fusion clearly occurred by the first century BCE, shaping subsequent movements and claimants. With autonomy lost and foreign domination entrenched, only apocalyptic transformation through divine intervention could realise Jewish sovereignty and freedom.

Jesus of Nazareth – Warrior, Healer, King

This milieu generated numerous messianic figures, with Jesus of Nazareth the most impactful. While historical scepticism exists, David focuses on Jesus’ messianism rather than biographical details. He embodied the diverse facets expected of a redeemer – warrior, healer, and ultimately king of Davidic descent. However, Jesus diverged radically in rejecting violence and earthly power.

David provocatively depicts Jesus as a reform rabbi who challenged the oral law. Through his death, Jesus claimed to fulfil Torah commandments, allowing salvation by faith rather than deeds. But Christianity’s offer of individual salvation clashed with Judaism’s demands for social redemption and justice. This fault line ultimately yielded separation.

Simeon Bar Kokhba – Military Messiah

In 132-135 CE, Simeon Bar Kokhba led a rebellion against Roman rule banned central Jewish practices. With rabbinic backing, he was briefly hailed as Messiah for this defence of Judaism. But his movement’s catastrophic defeat saw him rebranded “Bar Koziba” (Son of Deception). The rabbis determined that militaristic messianic adventurism merely delayed true redemption.

David highlights the vast differences between Jesus’ non-violence and Bar Kokhba’s martial messianism. Yet both emerged from Jewish apocalyptic yearnings in this era.

David Solomon's lecture podcast on the Messianic Idea in Jewish History.
Arthur Szyk: Bar Kochba, watercolour and gouache on paper, 1927.

The Dual Messiahs – Polarities Reconciled

In the failure of these claimants, David sees the beginnings of the dual messiah concept developed subsequently – Mashiach ben David and Mashiach ben Yosef. This incorporated both perspectives, with the warrior messiah sacrificing himself to enable the Davidic king’s spiritual dominion.

David concludes that the rabbis thereby created a messianic age distinct from the future world to come. While only God can bring the ultimate redemption, our efforts can bridge the present and future by creating the just, peaceful messianic era. This idea of social transformation remains Judaism’s enduring messianic legacy.

Context and Background

To properly understand this lecture, it helps to have familiarity with the basic chronology and themes of Second Temple era Jewish history that David has explored in previous talks. Key events referenced include:

Familiarity with biblical prophecies and Talmudic teachings regarding messianic expectations provides additional useful background. David’s perspective integrates historical analysis with traditional Jewish conceptual frameworks.

Conclusion

Two radically divergent messianic manifestations emerged from the tumultuous circumstances in the late Second Temple era. The many events of this time influenced theological evolution, shaping the Jewish messianic idea as it entered its next phase. Placing Judaism’s messianism within specific historical settings in context reveals its dynamism as an evolving force throughout Jewish history.

This is an AI generated summary of a transcript made of this lecture. If you discover any errors or inconsistencies, please let us know.

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#96 Unorthodox Episodes from the Talmud (3)

The third part of David’s series, Unorthodox Episodes from the Talmud, explores a fascinating series of interconnected stories involving:

  • a high-level international diplomatic mission, 
  • undercover rabbinical espionage,
  • a cast of remarkable Talmudic rabbinical figures,
  • parental concern,
  • a curious question of Jewish law,
  • the mystical powers of the rabbis, 
  • a sighting of looted treasures from the temple in Jerusalem,
  • and a quest to overturn devastating Roman decrees.

David discusses key Talmudic personalities from the first two centuries, including:

  • Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai
  • Rabbi Yossi Ben Halafta
  • Rabbi Reuben Ben Strobilus
  • Rabbi Yossi HaGellili
  • Rabbi Eleizer Ben Yossi
  • as well as (lehavdil) Ben Tamalia.

He also provides historical context for the events discussed in the Talmudic passages, some of the prevailing cultural and religious norms of the time, and the messages that arise from this unorthodox episode of the Talmud.

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#95 Unorthodox Episodes from the Talmud (2)

Part two of David’s Zoom series, Unorthodox Episodes from the Talmud, mixes Jewish history with textual learning and fascinating storytelling.

The talk continues the story begun in the previous episode regarding Rav Kahana, a third-century sage who fled Babylonian authorities to find refuge in the Land of Israel following a violent confrontation in a rabbinical court.

In this lecture, David describes the next chapter for Rav Kahana following his arrival at the prestigious yeshiva of Tiberius. Through a series of unfortunate actions and misunderstandings, Rav Kahana finds himself once again at the centre of dramatic events involving pride, regret, and death.

As David unravels this extraordinary story, he explores:

  • key Talmudic figures and their contribution to Jewish life, history, learning, and continuity
  • the relationships and tensions between some of the great Jewish figures and academies of the time
  • the political and hierarchical structures of these rabbinical academies
  • the power of the sages and consequences of unsettling them
  • how concepts of right and wrong do not always resonate through centuries
  • the unexpectedly mystical nature of elements of the Talmud.

This lecture places in context the historical situation of the Jewish communities in Babylonia and the Land of Israel. It also reminds us of the importance of Torah scholarship in relation to the shape and influence of different parts of the Jewish world.

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#88 Which Period of Jewish History is Most Similar to Our Own?

In this lecture, David Solomon explores which period of Jewish history most resembles the present age. He emphasises that making meaningful comparisons requires qualifying terms and examining key considerations that shaped each era’s dynamics. David outlines relevant factors regarding geopolitics, governance, land control, exile status, spiritual leadership, and ethical behaviour. By analysing periods against these criteria, one can thoughtfully discuss historical parallels, beyond superficial dinner table assertions.

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#67 Great Battles of Jewish History (Part Two)

The early victories of the Maccabees over the Seleucid armies have been etched into Jewish memory in the form of the festival of Hanukkah. In this podcast episode, David examines the first four of these Maccabean victories with a focus on the insight, bravery, and military ingenuity of Judea’s guerrilla fighters. Continuing with his exploration of the role played by the geography and topography of the land of Israel in these battles, David offers a rare insight into why, how, and what was involved in these historic events. He also shares his view on the place these victories should take in our historical celebration of the miracle of Hanukkah.

For listeners to the podcast who can not see the maps David draws in this lecture, we have provided a series of graphics in pdf that capture the information provided on the whiteboard. To gain the most from this lecture, we recommend referring to these maps as you listen.

 

Find a large-size pdf of the maps here.

This Jewish history lecture includes discussions on:

  • the military tactics and might of the Seleucid armies
  • the context, details, and outcomes of the battles of Maaleh Levonah, Beit Horon, Emmaus, and Beit Tzur
  • the significance of the geography and topography of the land of Israel in determining the shape and results of these battles
  • the role of military intelligence and the rise of Jewish guerrilla warfare
  • the historical status of these events and their connection with the festive of Hanukkah

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.

#21 Priests and Princes, Power and Politics: the Rise and Fall of the Hasmonean Dynasty (Part 1)

Released in advance of Chanukah is David Solomon’s exciting exploration of the extraordinary (and miraculous) religious revolt led by the Maccabees between 167 and 160 BCE against the Seleucid Empire – the first installment of a two-part series on the rise and fall of the Hasmonean Dynasty. In this episode, David discusses the key figures of the time and examines the revolutionary military tactics used by Jewish guerrilla fighters to defeat an army that was viewed as invincible.

Maccabean revolt: David Solomon Jewish History lectures
Bernard Picart: Eleazar’s exploit as described in the Bible. Public domain.

David provides an in-depth discussion of a number of the battles occurring during the period examined in this series. The video below may help listeners gain a clearer picture of the information provided, particularly in relation to the geography and topography of the Land of Israel and how it impacted on military campaigns.

Continue reading “#21 Priests and Princes, Power and Politics: the Rise and Fall of the Hasmonean Dynasty (Part 1)”