#112 Jewish History in Six Chapters (3)

This third instalment of David’s overview series of Jewish History explores the years between 500 and 1000 CE, known as the period of the Geonim.

In this talk, David discusses:

· The geonim, including who they were and the significance of their spiritual authority 
· The political leadership of the Reish Galuta
· The great academies of Sura and Pumbedita and their rivalries
· The decrees of Justinian
· The first attempted forced conversions
· Persecutions in Spain
· Wars between Byzantine and Sassanid Empires
· The Himyarite Kingdom
· The rise of Islam
· The conquest of Spain by the Moors in 711
· Umayyad Caliphate in Spain
· The slow shift from Babylonia – in two basic directions
· Nehemiah ben Hushiel
· Anan Ben David and the start of the Karaite movement
· The Khazars
· Charlemagne & Louis the Pious
· Amram Gaon and the beginnings of the siddur
· Hiwi of Balkh
· The decline and revival of Sura
· Saadya Gaon – the ultimate Gaon
· Rav Sherira Gaon and Rav Hai Gaon – the close of the Geonic period and the decline of Babylonian Jewry
· Chisdai Ibn Shaprut and Shmuel HaNagid – symbols of the Golden Age of Spain
· The rise of Hebrew grammar
· Rabbeinu Gershom – the father of Ashkenazi Jewry.

He explains how this period in Jewish History sees the laying of the foundations for modern Jewish life and the gradual shift in the centre of Jewish life from Babylonia to Europe. He also examines the geo-political context of this period and the influence of broader historical developments.

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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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#80 A Journey Through Jewish Philosophy (2)

This talk is the second instalment of David’s Jewish Philosophy series.

In this episode, David examines the philosophical ideas and innovations of a towering figure of the early Middle Ages, Sa’adya ibn Yusuf al-Fayumi, commonly known as Sa’adya Gaon.

Watch the lecture here.

He discusses Sa’adya Gaon’s exploration of:

– Reason and revelation, including
  • sources of knowledge – the rational versus the revelatory
  • the kavod
  • mitzvot and the commandments
– Divine uniqueness, including
  • defense against accusations of Divine corporealism
  • allegorisation of anthropomorphism
  • Divine interaction with the world
– Creation, including
  • proofs, from yesh mei’ayin
  • transcendence of G-d
– Freedom of will.

He also explores Sa’adya’s discussions on the soul and his rejection of reincarnation.

David places Sa’adya’s ideas in their historical and intellectual context, particularly in relation to Islamic philosophy, the Kalam, and contemporary discussions of religious ideas.

        

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