In the thirteenth century the stories of Ashkenaz and Spain begin to draw together. This is the great age of Christian expansion, which brings on book burning and religious disputation. It is also the age in which the kabbalah emerges as an answer to the challenge of evil.

In this episode, Rabbi Shlomo Katz shifts the fundamental prism that we experience the Holiday of Shavuot and challenges the normative approach to Torah learning altogether.

The Sages teach that Jerusalem has seventy names. Rav Mike speaks about how these names hold our relationship with the city over time, in honor of the 50th anniversary of Jerusalem’s reunification.

The twelfth century was a time of spiritual expansion as the Tosafists transformed the Talmud and the Pietists of Ashkenaz awakened new depths of the soul. Darkness grew as well, as the Crusades rolled through Europe and the terrible new accusation of the blood libel was born. But it was specifically out of this darkness that the depths emerged.

Rabbi Shlomo Katz is joined by Rabbis Ari Abramowitz & Jeremy Gimpel to discuss the inner meaning of the verses in Parashat BeHar. What does it mean when it says, “Your enemies will fall on their swords… and you will dwell peacefully in your land.”?

The national existence of the Jewish people revolves around the question – what is an Am. In this special Independence Day episode, Rav Mike takes a look at the history and theology behind Jewish national embodiment.

The origins of Ashkenazi Jewry are bound up with the rise of Christian Europe. As the kingdoms of the Middle Ages began to take shape, teachers like Rashi gave form to a kingdom of the Torah which the Jews could inhabit while living among their neighbors. But the tranquility of the early years was shattered by the horrors of the First Crudsade, and Ashkenazi Jewry would never be the same again.

The Rambam was the second famous Moses in Jewish History. His accomplishments in Jewish law and philosophy tower over his contemporaries, and are pillars of of the Torah to this very day. Nonetheless, he was the source of great controversy in his day, igniting a struggle which ended in excommunications and book burning.

Yehudah Halevi was the poet of a generation, and perhaps the most celebrated poet of medieval Spain. He also swam against the tide of philosophical rationalism and invited his readers to experience the Torah from the inside. But how did the national poet of Jewish Spain die outside the walls of Jerusalem?

The 10th and 11th centuries of Jewish life in Al Andalus were so rich and productive that they were known as the Golden Age. The Jews struck root deeply in the soil of Muslim culture, and produced warriors, philosophers and poets. In this time of passion, it was not clear what would define Am Yisrael – the call of the spirit or the call of the flesh.

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