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.
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.
David discusses many of the terms and concepts associated with Lurianic Kabbalah, including:
ein sof (the infinite)
the four worlds
adam kadmon (primordial man)
the writing of the name of G-d
shevirat hakelim (shattering of the vessels)
the male and female aspects of G-d
the concepts of tohu and tikkun (chaos and rectification).
Listeners who find this material new or challenging may wish to refer to the glossary of kabbalistic terms provided here
The revelation of the Zohar saw an enormous shift in the landscape of Jewish mystical thinking, including in the techniques and ideas focused on the quest to engage with the Divine. In this podcast episode, David examines the ideas, practices, and approaches to encounters with Gd as explored in the Zohar, Lurianic Kabbalah, and Hassidism. This final instalment of David’s four-part series, A History of Mystical Encounters, also includes discussions on Maggidic revelation and Jewish mystical meditation.
The illustration below is a rendition of Tzimtzum, a concept discussed in this podcast episode. For a reminder about the sefirot illustration provided last week, please click here.
De-mystifing the mystical: in this podcast episode David Solomon explores the complex and profound field of Kabbalah to provide an overview of its texts and ideas, together with their historical background. David also explains exactly where popular Kabbalah comes from and provides the one thing that it is missing: context.
Throughout Europe, Jewish life in the second half of the 13th century existed under economic and theological oppression. There were national expulsions; country-wide promotions of the blood libel; sermons to convert Jews; papal bulls; forced disputations; massacres; and organised kidnappings. However, this fifty-year period also saw profoundly important developments in Jewish mysticism, law and commentary. Surroundings these elements are the fascinating stories of individuals and communities whose lives and works shaped the Jewish narrative of the future as well as the broader world.
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