#113 Jewish History in Six Chapters (4)

The fourth lecture in David’s overview series of Jewish history examines the years 1000 to 1500, known as the period of the Rishonim.

The talk explores the complex and sometimes contradictory experiences of different Jewish populations over these centuries, their lives and safety often dependent on their location, rulers, and the whim of history.

In discussing this period, David primarily focuses on:

Western Europe

  • Feudal society
  • Rashi’s project
  • Ba’alei Tosafot
  • The motivations, events, and impacts of the crusades
  • The Inquisition
  • Meir of Rothenberg
  • The Rosh
  • The Tur
  • David Kimchi
  • The Ralbag.

Spain

  • The Golden Age of Spain – from the Moorish conquest to the Almohad Invasion
  • Shlomo Ibn Gabirol and Yehudah HaLevi
  • The Rif
  • The Rambam
  • The Christian reconquest
  • The Ramban and the Barcelona Disputation (1263)
  • Avraham Abulafia
  • The revelation of the Zohar (1290).

England

  • The first blood libel (1144)
  • The massacre at York (1190)
  • Raising the ransom for Richard 1 (1194)
  • The first nationwide expulsion (1290).

Filled with stories of the many remarkable Jews whose lives and work have left indelible marks on history, David reveals this five-hundred-year period to have been as rich with innovation and contribution as it is with darkness.

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#108 The Messianic Idea in Jewish History (3)

Messiahs of the post-Talmudic period to the Renaissance are the subjects of the third lecture in David’s series “The Messianic Idea in Jewish History.”

David discusses:

  • The emergence of ‘the Midrashic Messiah’
  • The concept of the false messiah
  • The disappointment of Bar Kokhba 
  • The influence of Islam on the messianic idea
  • Spiritual messianism
  • The impact of the Spanish Inquisition and Expulsion on Jewish messianism
  • Other messianic movements.

He examines several messianic figures, including:

  • Nehemiah ben Ḥushiel
  • David Alroy
  • Avraham Abulafia
  • Shlomo Molcho and David Ha Reuveni.

David also explores different messianic types, including:

  • The ‘classic’ Rabbinic messiah
  • Ishmaelic and Edomic models.

And discusses various ideas of messianic manifestations through Jewish history, including the messiah:

  • as warrior
  • as king
  • as magician
  • as persecuted
  • as kabbalist and wonder worker
  • as penitent
  • with a plan.

David examines passages from key Jewish texts which chart discussions about the concept and role of the messiah. He also provides historical context to the people, events, and developments mentioned throughout the lecture.

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#102 A Kabbalistic Journey Through Time (1)

David provides a remarkable historical overview of the origins of Kabbalah through the emergence of its early fundamental texts. The series explores numerous questions regarding the development of Kabbalah:

  • What are the key kabbalistic books to have shaped our understanding of Jewish mysticism?
  • When did they appear?
  • And what were the profound ideas they contributed which would shape our understanding of the mystical dimensions of heaven and earth?

This first lecture in the series examines three early kabbalistic texts:

  • Sefer Yetzirah,
  • Sefer Bahir, and
  • Sha’arei Orah

and discusses numerous ideas, including:

  • The creation of the universe,
  • Attributes of the sefirot,
  • Divine interaction with the world,
  • The divine flow of energy and wisdom,
  • Cosmic time,
  • The reincarnation of soul,
  • Divine male and female imagistic symbols, and
  • The patriarchs and other figures from the Bible as representations of Divine attributes.

David maps out the timeframe and locations of the development of Kabbalah through Jewish History. He explains the context of the evolution of Jewish mystical thinking, its influences, impacts, and legacy.

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#82 A Journey Through Jewish Philosophy (4)

The fourth part of David’s Jewish Philosophy lecture series considers three giants of Jewish thought from the Medieval Period:

  • Maimonides, the Rambam
  • Avraham ibn Daud
  • Rabbi Levu ben Gershon, also known as the Ralbag.

David explores the centrality of Aristotelianism for these thinkers as well as the influence of Islamic culture on Western theology and philosophy, including within Jewish circles.

Watch the Zoom lecture here.

Some of the central ideas that David examines in this talk include:

  • The Active Intellect as the agent of human knowledge 
  • The evolving intersection between philosophy and Judaism
  • The rational and the revealed 
  • The attributes of the Divine
  • The concept of Tselem
  • Prophecy
  • Miracles
  • The relationship between science, philosophy, and revelation
  • The eternity of the world 
  • The proof for the existence of Gd.

With the use of his own original illustrative graphics, David provides an overview of the ideas and contributions of these extraordinary figures. He also places all three in their respective historical and intellectual contexts.

For a historical overview of the period listen to David’s series, From the Rambam to the Zohar: Jewish History of 12th & 13th centuries, starting here.

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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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