Emerging from a cave after twelve years of isolated Torah study, Rabbi Shimon Yohai went on to become one of ancient Israel’s most celebrated Kabbalists and leaders of the Jewish people.
Lectures in Jewish History and Thought. No hard questions, please.
Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai (d. c. 85 ce) was one of the most influential figures in ancient Jewish history. Emerging from the ruins of the destroyed Temple, Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai led the Jewish people through the dangerous first years after the devastation of the last remnants of their state by the Romans. A disciple of Hillel, he was of the “national-realist” school that favored tactical surrender to the overwhelming power of the Roman Empire. In his most famous act, he arranged to fake his own death in order to escape his enemies among the Zealots to negotiate a peace treaty with Vespasian, who would later become Emperor. “Give me Yavneh and its scholars,” asked Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai, setting in place the foundation for the existence of Judaism after the Temple could no longer serve as the center of Jewish religious life. Part of the Jewish Biography as History series available at http://www.jewishhistorylectures.com.
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New for the Season of Repentance: a translation and modern commentary on Rabbi Moshe Cordovero’s classic of Jewish ethics, the Date Palm of Devorah (Tomer Devorah). Learn the Thirteen Levels of Mercy and discover how to forgive others (and yourself). Please visit http://www.jewishhistorylectures.org and click on “The Kabbalah of Forgiveness” for excerpts and videos. Publication date: Rosh Hodesh Elul (August 26-27, 2014).
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888) articulated a strategy to allow Jews their traditional observances while participating actively in the modern world. Criticized from both the left and the right, his thought remains highly influential into the 21st century.
Founder of the famous Yeshiva of Volozhin, Rabbi Hayim ben Yitshad was one of the most influential proponents of traditional Talmudic study of the early 19th century. The author of Nefesh haHayim, he articulated a cogent response to the growing Hasidic movement.
Rabbi Moshe Isserles was an exceptionally important Polish Jew of the 16th century. His commentary on the Code of Jewish Law brought Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jewry together to an unprecedented degree, and established the ascendancy of Polish Jewry over the older German community.
Rabbi Israel Meir Kagan, better known as the Chofetz Chaim for his classic work on the sanctity of speech, was one of the major Rabbinic leaders of the late 19th and early 20th century.
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Moses Maimonides (1135-1204) was one of the greatest minds the Jewish people ever produced: philosopher, jurist, physician, and an extremely prolific writer who left us classics like The Guide for the Perplexed and the Mishneh Torah. For several years I have been in the habit of reviewing his Laws of Repentance in the weeks leading up to the High Holy Days, and last year I published a translation and brief commentary on this phenomenal and moving work of Jewish spirituality. I’ve just released an updated second edition of that translation and commentary, and I am happy to offer it to the larger public as a free download during the annual season of repentance and renewal. Please feel free to visit this SITE and enter in coupon code PE59F. You may download it for free in a file optimized for your e-reader (Kindle, iPad, Nook, etc.) or in a PDF file suitable for printing. If you really prefer a hard copy, you may purchase one here, enter code ABM36FKK for 20% off. It’s not a big deal, no seriously original scholarship or anything, just my private Rosh Hashanah exercise that I am happy to share with others. Enjoy it in good health!