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:
The motivations, events, and impacts of the crusades
Meir of Rothenberg
The Golden Age of Spain – from the Moorish conquest to the Almohad Invasion
Shlomo Ibn Gabirol and Yehudah HaLevi
The Christian reconquest
The Ramban and the Barcelona Disputation (1263)
The revelation of the Zohar (1290).
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.
Two towering kabbalistic figures of the 16th century are examined in this third part of David’s lecture series, A Kabbalistic Journey Through Time.
David explores the ideas of Rabbi Moshe (Moses) Cordovero (the RaMaQ) and Rabbi Yitzchak (Isaac) Luria (the AR”Y), whose contributions to Kabbalah – both emerging in late 1500s in the town of Tzfat – have been seismic.
The lecture investigates the RaMaQ’s book, Pardes Rimonim (The Orchard of Pomegranates), and its exploration of:
ein sof (infinite)
the relationship between Divine influence and the sephirot
the four worlds
the immanence of the Divine in reality
the divine element in the human soul
the revelation of God in meditation, kavannot, and mystical experience.
The AR”Y did not write down his vast kabbalistic teachings. The recording of his ideas was left to his students, chief among whom was Rabbi Chaim Vital. It was Vital who compiled the book Etz Chayim (Tree of Life), the cornerstone text of Lurianic Kabbalah. This book, which was to change forever the landscape of Jewish Mystical thinking, contained many transformative kabbalistic concepts, including:
primordial man (Adam Qadmon)
the domain of chaos (tohu);
integrated configurations known as ‘partzuphim’
the maintenance and repair of the World of Emanation
the trapped sparks of lower worlds
the five levels of the individual soul
the responsibility of souls to repair the world
David provides an overview of these concepts, a picture of the men from who they emerged, the historical setting of this extraordinary revolution in mystical thinking, and the legacy of these ideas.
David’s second lecture in his series, A Kabbalistic Journey Through Time, explores the extraordinary ideas and contributions of the:
and Sefer ha-Temunah.
In his discussion of the Zohar, David examines its dynamic interpretation of the Torah and how it applies this interpretation to the structure of the sefirot. He also looks at the way the Zohar explores the cosmic links between G-d, Israel, creation, and history.
The Tikkunei HaZohar, David explains, is concerned with the Divine presence in the various domains of the universe as well as in exile. Among other things, he considers the Tikkunei HaZohar’s discussion of the feminine Divine presence – the Shekhinah – and Her quest to find unity and completion with Her male counterpart, the blessed Holy One.
The final text David examines is Sefer HaTemunah, which is predominantly concerned with the Divine in time. All things emanate from G-d and return to Him, David explains, and time is divided into cosmic cycles.
In discussing these three important texts, David provides the historical and cultural background to their emergence in Jewish history and their impact on mystical thinking. He also shows his audience the size and presentation of the books and discusses their availability for interested readers – in English, Hebrew, and Aramaic.
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.
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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