#85 A Journey Through Jewish Philosophy (7)

In this Jewish Philosophy lecture, David explores the ideas and contributions of four philosophers:

  • Nachman Krochmal
  • Hermann Cohen
  • Franz Rosenzweig, and
  • Martin Buber   

who lived from the late 18th to early 20th centuries.

This post-Enlightenment period saw a movement from reason to existentialism, influenced by Kierkegaard, Kant, and Hegel.

David’s examination of these Jewish philosophers reveals:

  • Nachman Krochmal and his consideration of the religious versus the good
  • Hermann Cohen and his emphasis on a return to Jewish sources and the concepts of being and becoming
  • Franz Rosenzweig and his replacement of Enlightenment universalism with three modes of relationship between the Divine, the world, and humanity – as well as creation, revelation, and redemption
  • Martin Buber and his exploration of dialogic relationships and expressed in his work “I and Thou.”

In his discussion of these four remarkable thinkers, David provides historical background to Jewish life in Europe – including the impact of emancipation and assimilation – and how this played out in the individual stories of these figures.

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#83 A Journey Through Jewish Philosophy (5)

In this fifth instalment of his Jewish Philosophy lecture series, David explores two significant Jewish thinkers living in Spain in the 14th and 15th centuries:

  • Hasdai Crescas
  • Yosef Albo.

Watch the lecture here: https://youtu.be/uZ0C8w28boc

He examines the philosophical contributions of Hasdai Crescas, including his ideas on:

  • Divine knowledge replaced by Divine love
  • Divine omniscience, providence, and omnipotence
  • Prophecy
  • Free Will
  • The purpose of the world and the happiness of the soul.

Crescas, who was known for his critique of Aristotle, had revolutionary ideas that would pave the way towards a new humanism.

David then discusses Yosef Albo, a student of Hasdai Crescas, and Albo’s ideas on:

  • The existence of God
  • Revelation
  • Reward and punishment.

Albo recognised true faith through a series of derivatives (shorashim), known as:

  • Unity
  • Incorporeality
  • Eternality
  • Perfection
  • God’s interested omniscience
  • Revelation through prophets
  • The authenticity of the prophets
  • Individual providence.

His ideas led to a systematic theological restatement of Jewish belief on the eve of a new philosophical era.

With late Medieval Spain as the historical setting for both of these extraordinary figures, David provides their fascinating but fraught historical backgrounds, including the impact of the 1391 massacres in Barcelona on Crescas and the disputations at Tortossa for Albo.

For a historical overview of the period, watch David’s series ‘Hope in Darkness: Jewish History of the 14th & 15th centuries’ here.

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#75 Revelation & Revolution: Jewish History of the 18th Century (2)

This week David examines the beginnings of Chassidism, one of the most influential Jewish spiritual movements to emerge in the modern Jewish world. He discusses key individuals who launched – and developed – this extraordinary revolution and explores the central ideas and contributions of Chassidism to Jewish history, practice, religion, and life. As part of this fascinating Jewish history lecture, David focuses on the lives and ideas of:

 

  • The Baal Shem Tov – Shivchei HaBesht
  • Avraham Gershon of Kitov
  • Maggid of Mezeritch
  • Yaakov Yosef of Polnoyye
  • Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev
  • Shneur Zalman of Liadi
  • Nachman of Breslov.

He examines remarkable concepts developed by early Chassidic leaders, including:

  • the sparks of love
  • the light of the intellect
  • conversations with G-d.

as well ideas like:

  • devekut
  • hashgachah pratit
  • exile of the soul and raising the sparks
  • prayer over study
  • the ecstatic service of the heart
  • the spiritual importance of joy
  • love of every Jew
  • the idea of the tzaddiq.
Hasidic couple in New York, painting by Roger David, 150 cm x 201 cm, oil on canvas, 2016. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hasidic_couple_in_New_York,_painting_by_Roger_David.jpg

David also maps out the historical context of this remarkable phenomenon. He discusses opposition that emerged in large parts of the Jewish world to Chassidic ideas and practice and the destructive nature of some of these conflicts. He also considers a number of interesting developments that resulted in Jewish history in the wake of Chassidism.

#60 Kabbalah – History & Ideas Since the Ari (Part 2)

The teachings of Rabbi Isaac Luria, the Ari (AR”Y), have been profoundly influential on Jewish mystical thought of the past five hundred years. In this episode of the podcast, the second lecture in a series exploring post-Lurianic Kabbalah, David discusses the historical background, lives, and ideas of two iconic Jewish intellectual and spiritual figures – the Vilna Gaon and Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto. In doing so, he examines their remarkable contributions to kabbalistic thought on G-d, the world, and Divine revelation.

Listeners who find this material new or challenging may wish to refer to the glossary of kabbalistic terms provided here. 

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#59 Kabbalah: History & Ideas Since the Ari (Part One – Revelation & Concealment)

While the roots of Jewish mysticism can be found in the Torah, the past millennia have contributed numerous extraordinary developments and revelations in the field of Kabbalah. In particular, the teachings and ideas of 16th century kabbalist, Rabbi Isaac Luria, also known as the Ari, have been profoundly influential on Jewish mystical thinking, literature, and life. In this podcast episode, David provides historical context to the emergence of the Kabbalah of the Ari and then explores the two primary paths that disseminated his monumental ideas, through the works of rabbis Chayim Vital and Israel Sarug.

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#54 The Prophets: Ezekiel

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

The Book of Ezekiel has been enormously influential on Jewish spirituality for two-and-a-half millennia, including as the foundational inspiration for subsequent Jewish mystical ideas and texts. In this podcast episode, David examines the life and work of the Prophet Ezekiel (Yechezkel), believed to be among the first wave of exiles taken into Babylon. It is in the Book of Ezekiel, largely set during the Babylonian exile after the destruction of the First Temple, that we find an array of profound concepts about ethical existence and societal responsibility that remain startlingly relevant until today – in particular, we can extract much from Ezekiel’s insights into teshuva and Jewish spiritual practice in times of change and uncertainty. David also explores other remarkable elements of the book, including the extraordinary descriptions of G-d’s chariot and the valley of the dry bones, as well as providing insights into the social, political, and spiritual turbulence of the time.

Scan of a Gustave Doré engraving “The Vision of The Valley of The Dry Bones” – 1866. Public Domain.

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