In this episode, R’ Mike describes the destruction of Jerusalem from without and from within. In order to do so he compares the perspectives of the great Jewish historian Josephus and the leading Sage R’ Yochanan ben Zakkai. In the end it is clear that the real question is not how was Jerusalem destroyed, but rather – why?

We are on the eve of destruction. As the national vessel begins to fray at the seams and the Temple’s burning looms, the cultural battle within the text of the Torah erupts. When the smoke clears from the destruction it will be the divergent understandings of God’s will as embodied in the text which will serve as the foundation of the future. But for now the battle rages.

In this episode Rav Mike discusses the persona of HiIlel the Elder. Hillel was named Nasi, prince, at the same time as Herod was king. In addition, Jesus of Nazareth was born in his lifetime. Together, these three represent competing models of the kingdom of God, and they and their followers will live out a struggle over who will be king.

Herod the Wicked or Herod the Great? In this episode Rav Mike talks about Herod’s kingdom, the final phase of Judea preceding the destruction of the Second Temple. Herod’s complex personality matched the fragmented nature of his kingdom, but the state he built was strong enough to hold off the disaster to come.

Rav Mike discusses the rise and decline of the Hasmonean dynasty, from a kingdom of priests to a  Hellenistic state. Along the way he delves into the weaknesses along which Judean society began to tear in their days and explores how they become the battle lines of the coming struggles.

In this episode Rav Mike describes the rise of Hellenistic Judaism as the background for the Hanukkah story. Judah and his brothers rose in revolt because they understood that identity is a matter of life and death. Their determination liberated the Temple, but what was the nature of the light they kindled there?

The encounter between Greek and Jewish culture was love at first sight. The two cultures were bridged by language, and one of the great products of their fusion was the Septuagint – the Greek translation of the Bible. But every translation is an interpretation, and it was not clear how long Hellenistic Judaism could walk the line between acculturation and assimilation.

R’ Mike’s ongoing history podcast. The Men of the Great Assembly lie on the other side of the mists of the Persian period from Daniel. They will begin to lay the foundations of Judaism as we know it, guiding Israel away from prophecy and toward wisdom. Aside from their place in chronology, what makes them so great?

This week Rav Mike teaches about the first return to Zion after the destruction of Solomon’s Temple and how Ezra and Nehemia rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem and the Jewish people.

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