#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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#65 Kefitzat Haderech – Instant Travel

Kefitzat haderech, roughly translated as instant travel, is an idea in Judaism that a person can travel from one location to another in a moment – a type of Jewish teleportation. In this podcast episode, David discusses this fascinating concept and its place in Jewish life and texts. He explains four methods for achieving instant travel and the place teleportation will have in messianic times. David also describes several intriguing episodes in Jewish history in which this extraordinary mode of movement is said to have occurred.

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#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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#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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