In the final part of this series, David explores messiahs of the modern period of Jewish history and the dangers of mystical attempts to bring about redemption.
Among the figures David discusses are:
Yosef Della Reina
Rabbi Avraham ben Eliezer ha-Levi
Shlomo Molcho and David haReuveni
Rabbi Ḥayyim Vital
Rabbi Chaim Luzzatto, the Ramchal
Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer, the Baal Shem Tov
Gaon of Vilna
Rabbi Nachman of Breslov
Hannah Rachel Verbermacher, the Maid of Ludmir
Rav Abraham Isaac Kook
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, the Lubavitcher Rebbe
Ideas that the lecture examines include:
a return to the apocalyptic- this time with mystical magic
the transformation of Christianity
the concept of a ‘special time’
redeeming the sparks
the antinomian messiah
kabbalistic efforts to bring redemption
sexual practices to bring the special soul
the redemptive spirit in the special soul.
David discusses the stories of these fascinating messianic figures and thinkers and unpacks their ideas, influences, and contributions to history as well as to the ever-developing notion of redemption and messianic fulfillment.
In addition to outlining the philosophical ideas of each of these figures, David reviews some of their shared intellectual themes, including their discussions on Jewish ethics, faith, and revelation, and the importance of moral relationships with others.
As always, David places these Jewish philosophers in their historical and cultural contexts, reviewing the impact of developments of the century on their thoughts and writings. In particular, he discusses the effect of the two seismic events of the twentieth century: the Holocaust and the establishment of the State of Israel.
Explaining the impact of philosophers like Rosenzweig, Kierkegaard, Buber, Cohen, and Heidegger on the work of these six thinkers, David also discusses the personal devastation experienced by Levinas over Heidegger’s embrace of Nazism.
The concept of teshuva – usually translated in English as “repentance” but literally meaning “return” – is, as David discusses in this episode, a phenomenal idea in Judaism that a person can be defined, not simply by what they do, but by their ability to change. This podcast episode, coming in advance of Yom Kippur, is unusual in that it brings together segments of lectures David has given over the years on the subject of teshuva. Starting with an in-depth examination of the Book of Yonah (Jonah), which we read on Yom Kippur, he explores Biblical and Talmudic stories that raise discussions about what we can do – and what we should do – when our behaviour is found wanting. David also explores 20th-century Jewish philosophical ideas on the meaning of teshuva for us as individuals and for the world.
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