About - Travels Through Jewish History - By Rabbi Wein
Jewish History - Early History from the Dawn of Civilization through the 21st Century:
How does Jewish history impact us today? Through a series of 116 one hour lectures on USB, noted Jewish Historian Rabbi Berel Wein uncovers the historical context of events in order to understand the origins of the Jewish people. Explore the Jewish challenge of the 21st century and the uneven beginnings of the Jewish people in all our family struggles. Follow the conquest of the land of Israel and the establishment of rule through the Jewish Nations initial rise to greatness. Its Kings, Prophets, and challenges. This Historical record is not only informative it is absolutely riveting it is a Must Have for every Library. This 116 Lecture Archive covers all of Jewish History. Below is a listing of this massive historical archive.
Features - Travels Through Jewish History - By Rabbi Wein
The Jewish Family - Early History:
How does Jewish history impact us today? Noted Jewish Historian Rabbi Berel Wein uncovers the historical context of events in order to understand the origins of the Jewish people. Explore the Jewish challenge of the 21st century and the uneven beginnings of the Jewish people in all our family struggles. Follow the conquest of the land of Israel and the establishment of rule through the Jewish Nation's initial rise to greatness. Explore the history of it's Kings, Prophets, through the First Temple's Destruction.
Explores the Second Commonwealth and its aftermath in an in-depth, engaging account of the Second Temple's rise and fall. At the close of the Babylonian Exile, the Jewish people found themselves in a time of great internal development and external challenge. The Second Temple was being built and Rabbinic leadership was being founded while Jewish culture confronted the cornerstones of Western civilization in the seductions of Greek and Roman society.
Beginning of the Second Commonwealth The Second Temple period began with circumstances much like our own: a vibrant Jewish community thrived in the exile of Babylonia, while in the Land of Israel, the Jews were beset with difficulties. Rabbi Wein retraces the dramatic events by which Ezra Ha Sofer and his successor Nechemia rebuilt the Temple. Though a shadow of the First Temple, these great Jewish leaders laid the foundations that would ultimately lead to the Temple's complete restoration.
The Men of the Great Assembly In the Second Temple period, the Jews were prevented from re-establishing the kingship in Jerusalem. In its place, Ezra and Nechemia created the Great Assembly, a legal body of 120 righteous men. Rabbi Wein details their many great accomplishments, from compiling the Tanach and siddur to fighting a war against the Samaritans. The spiritual and political achievements of the Great Assembly were responsible for preserving Jewish life not only in the glorious past but for the distant future.
The Coming of the Greeks Ancient Greek culture forms the foundation of western civilization and Rabbi Wein demonstrates how the appeal of Greek philosophy, sports, and theater held sway with many Jews and caused them to assimilate and become Hellenists. Detailing the conquests of Alexander the Great, his relationship to Shimon Ha Tzaddik and the Jews in general, Rabbi Wein portrays the years of peace Jews enjoyed under Alexandrian rule and sets the backdrop that later led to the war-torn years of the Chanukah miracle.
Hellenism and Chanukah With the death of Alexander, the Greek empire divided into two rivaling ones: the Seleucid Empire of the north and the Ptolemaic empire of the south. Precariously sandwiched between them was the Land of Israel. The deceptively peaceful period which saw the creation of the Septuagint and mass assimilation turned out to be the calm before the storm of Greek oppression, the Maccabee rebellion, and the Chanukah victory and miracle.
The Hasmoneans The victory of the Maccabees installed the Hasmonean dynasty as the new leaders of the Jewish people. Unfortunately, their early heroism did not last in succeeding generations. Their descendants in fact became among the most corrupt Jewish leaders in our history. Beginning with the rule of the righteous Shimon Ha Maccabee and ending with the tragic Yochanan Hyrcanus, Rabbi Wein sheds light on the forces that caused the precipitous descent of the Hasmonean family.
The Prushim and Tzedukim When the fearsome Alexander Yanai came to power over the Jewish world, he strengthened the position of the Sadducees, the deniers of the Oral Law. To the traditional Jews, or the Pharisees, this was grounds for civil war. Rabbi Wein brings to life the Talmudic stories which reveal Alexander Yanai's paranoia and his defiance of the rabbis which led to one of the bloodiest periods of Jewish history.
The End of Hasmoneans While Julius Caesar and Pompei struggled with each other for rule of the Roman Empire, a parallel struggle raged on between the last of the Hasmoneans dynasty. These complex events intertwined and set the conditions that brought about the end of Hasmonean rule, the rise of Herod, and Roman domination over the Land of Israel.
Herod the Great Herod, Roman governor of the Land of Israel for seventy years, was a bloodthirsty dictator. To give legitimacy to his rule, he married a Hasmonean daughter whom he loved and with whom he had children, but he loved his power even more. From his shifting loyalties within the power structure of Rome to his barbaric murder of his own children, this lecture paints a harrowing picture of treacherous times in Jewish history.
The Herodian Era Rabbi Wein continues his examination of the reign of Herod by dissecting his relationship with the Torah scholars of the day, and Hillel and Shammai in particular. Hillel and his students acquiesced to his rule while Shammai's students launched open rebellion. Herod's subsequent persecution of Torah scholars was merciless, yet paradoxically, to "repent" of these sins, he restored the Temple to its former beauty and contributed so extensively to the architecture of Israel that his handprint endures to this day.
Agrippa and the Coming of Christianity Two leaders named Agrippa succeeded Herod: Agrippa I, who had peaceful relations with the Jews and preserved the Torah lifestyle, and Agrippa II, who, opposite to his father, quickly became an oppressor of the Jews. With Christianity growing as a movement in Judea, the Jews dividing themselves into rival factions, and Rome cracking down on everybody, the stage was set for the tragic destruction of the Temple.
The Times of the Roman War Ancient Rome was a cutthroat world where murder was the accepted means of gaining power. Amidst this savagery lived the Jews, who espoused and lived according to principles of peace and justice. While the Roman rulers destroyed each other, a faction of Jews believed that Rome would inevitably fall. Seizing on this perceived opportunity, they arose to fight for the cause of Jewish liberation. The nine-year war that followed led to the destruction of the Temple and the worst carnage the Jews have suffered until the Holocaust.
The Destruction of Second Temple With detailed portrayals of the leading personalities and events at the darkest moment of Jewish history, Rabbi Wein brings out the traitorous dealings of Josephus Flavius, the fall of the zealots of Masada, and above all the sagacity of Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai who helped the Jewish people to maintain their faith that the Temple would someday be rebuilt.
Yavne and the Early Tanaim The preservation of the yeshiva at Yavne is the prime example of Reb Yochanan ben Zakkai's life work of keeping Jews and the Torah alive during the most turbulent of times. His five main disciples continued this life's work, doing all they could to ensure Jewish survival. Drawing on stories from the Talmud and Midrash, Rabbi Wein shows the tremendous personal integrity of the Mishnaic rabbis. Even in their disagreements, their dedication to the Jewish people was unswerving.
Bar Kochba and Rabbi Akiva Rabbi Wein explores the two central figures in the most unfortunate incidents in Jewish history. With the endorsement of Rabbi Akiva, self-made Torah scholar and beloved Jewish leader, the charismatic Shimon Bar Kochba was able to organize an army of hundreds of thousands of Jews to attempt to rise up against Roman domination. The defeat of Bar Kochba and ultimate martyrdom of Rabbi Akiva sealed the fate of the Jews for a long, bitter exi
The Beginning of the Mishna With vivid descriptions of life for the Jews after the death of Rabbi Akiva, Rabbi Wein sets the scene for the creation of the Mishnah. Between the violent rule of Hadrian and the rise of Christianity, Jews were persecuted bitterly. Yet in spite of it all, great Jewish leaders continued to arise, the enigmatic Rabbi Meir amongst him. From his relationship with his teacher "Acher" to his tragic marriage to Bruria, a scholar in her own right, we learn about the life and times of one of the pillars of the Mishnah.
The Mishnah When Antoninus succeeded Hadrian as the emperor of Rome, the Jews at last enjoyed a brief respite of peace. Rabbi Yehudah ha Nassi seized the moment by calling together a convention of Torah scholars in which the Mishnah, the first written record of Oral Law, was compiled and edited. With Talmudic stories illustrating the lives of the Mishnaic rabbis, listeners get a glimpse into the forces of genius that created the book that is the backbone of the Talmud.
The Beginning of Babylonian Talmud The Talmud can be described as a transcription of the lectures, conversations, and stories told in the great yeshivas of Babylonia for 350 years. It collected together the entire Oral Tradition - the Mishnah and Midrash. Spanning a tremendous range of topics, the give and take discussions between its rabbis are truly awe-inspiring.
Rise of Christianity After 300 years of world domination, the Roman Empire was so big and unmanageable it had to split into two. Thus, the Byzantine Empire was born, but when its emperor Constantine converted to Christianity, Jewish life grew bitter. Once again, caught in the cross-roads of war and an official doctrine of anti-Semitism, the Jews clung on in Babylonia, producing the Talmud and preserving the Torah lifestyle at all costs.
The End of the Talmudic Era With the fall of Rome, the non-Jewish world plunged into the Dark Ages, but for the Jews of Babylonia, these were times of enlightened scholarship. While war raged on in the world at large, the Talmudic scholars put the finishing touches on the monumental work which has sustained the Jews through the long centuries of exile.
The Rise of Islam In the 7th century, Islam spread like wildfire, taking down both the Byzantine and Persian Empires. With a thorough analysis of the tenets of Islamic theology, including the historical origins of the anti-Semitism of the Koran, Rabbi Wein uncovers the massive influence Islam held over the world in religion, technology, culture, and war.
The Early Gaonic Period Jewish leadership in 7th century Babylonia was divided into two spheres. The Exilarch held political and economic power while the Gaonim, the heads of the yeshivas, controlled all religious matters. But because these is so much overlap between political and religious life, this division was a recipe for disaster. Rabbi Wein narrates the power struggle that gave rise to the deviant movement of the Karaites and details the works of Torah scholarship that arose to combat them.
Mid-Gaonic Period-Saadia Gaon Life is seldom quiet for a Torah leader, and this was certainly true for Rabbi Saadia Gaon, author of the first book of Jewish philosophy for the masses, "Emunos v'Deos". He fought and won three major battles in his life, thus establishing the primacy of Babylonia over all Jewish communities worldwide, defeating the corrupt Exilarch Dovid ben Zakkai, and sending the Karaite movement on the path to its ultimate downfall.
Beginnings of Ashkenazic & Sephardic Jewry Rabbi Wein treats us to a double-screen show as he describes the development of the Sephardic and Ashkenazic communities. Contrasting Islamic and Christian relations with the Jews, Rabbi Wein shows the political and religious forces that shaped each community. He also analyzes the contributions of the Torah giants of each: the Rif and Rabbeinu Gershom.
End of the Gaonim to the Beginning of the Rishonim The year 1000 is the transitional year between the periods of the Gaonim and the Rishonim. The center of Jewish life became Spain - not Babylonia. Rabbi Wein paints the picture of how Jews rose to wealth and prominence there, including the spell-binding story of the career of Shmuel Ha Nagid, Jewish prime minister of Granada, symbolizing an unparalleled moment of hope in Jewish history.
Development of Spanish Jewry "The Golden Age" of Spain was not only a period of relative peace and prosperity for the Jews, it also saw a "renaissance" of Jewish poetry and philosophy. A lesson in how peaceful times can spawn creativity, the parallels and differences to modern Jewish society become eminently clear.
The Age of Rabbi Yehuda Halevi Rabbi Yehudah HaLevi, "poet laureate" of the Jewish people, lived at the height of the Golden Age of Spain, but every peak is also the turning point toward decline. As tolerance for the Jews was starting to wane, Jews were forced to defend their religion, a central theme of the classic work, the Kuzari. With an analysis of this book and its philosophy, as well as a discussion of Abraham Ibn Ezra, a contemporary much influenced by Rabbi Yehudah HaLevi, Rabbi Wein captures the spirit of the lives, works, and times of these great Jewish thinkers.
Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon Doctor, mathematician, philosopher, and Torah scholar, Maimonides is an unparalleled genius in Jewish thought. Yet his prolific work raised terrible controversy; his books were even burned. Hear about his life and times, and discover why it is said of him: "From Moses to Moses there arose none like Moses."
Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon's Writings Of all Maimonides' works, "The Guide to the Perplexed" is the most controversial. Labeled as heretical and even burned, it remained the definitive book on Jewish philosophy for six centuries. Rabbi Wein examines the theological issues this great work raised, including its unrelenting position on free will, and shows why it aroused so furious a reaction.
Rabbi Moshe Ben Nachman Famed for his classic Torah commentary, Nachmanides was the first to legitimize the use of Kabbalah and a great defender of his predecessor Maimonides despite their philosophical differences. He lived during the Christian re-conquest of Spain and was the first of many Torah scholars forced into staged debate with the Church. Because his debate was first, there was no censorship, and his victory makes for one of the most exciting episodes in Jewish history.
Christian Re-conquest of Spain The Christian re-conquest of Spain from the Moslems was a gradual process which spelled terrible trials for the Jews. Between forced conversions, the Inquisition, and frequent pogroms, Rabbi Wein chronicles the fearful descent from glory days to tragedy.
Ashkenazic Jewry in France Dating back as far as the third century and possibly earlier, the Jewish communities in Provence, the Rhineland, Paris, and Troyes were sizable and flourishing in the Middle Ages. Forced into the occupation of money lending, they fulfilled France's economic needs yet also became its scapegoats. Yet against this bleak backdrop, Torah institutions were miraculously able to thrive.
The House of Rashi More than any Torah scholar who ever lived, Rashi made the Talmud accessible to the Jewish people. With specific examples of Rashi's tremendous contributions to Jewish thought, Rabbi Wein demonstrates why the epithet "the teacher of Israel" so perfectly fits this great master.
The First Crusade The terrifying climate of this "holy war" comes to life as Rabbi Wein reads the anti-Semitic sermons with which the Church inspired its knights and warriors. Those speeches, dripping with hatred, leave no surprise as to why the Crusaders killed tens of thousands of European Jews and decimated the Jewish community in the Holy Land. Yet once again, the light of the Jews shone through. Not only did we survive this bloody war, but amidst this chaos, Rashi produced his timeless works of Torah scholarship.
The Age of Rabbeinu Tam Rashi's traditions and teachings were preserved by his grandchildren, the Baalei Tosfos, and of these, Rabbeinu Tam emerges as the most powerful scholar amongst them. From their disputes to their contributions, Rabbi Wein reveals the origins of the Ashkenazic tradition of Talmud study for each and every Jew.
Expulsions & Burnings: the 13th Century Forced out of France by the Second Crusade, the students of the Baalei Tosfos fled to England, only to be followed by the same wave of Christian fanaticism and anti-Semitism that was sweeping Western Europe. Rabbi Wein relates the terrible calamities that fell the Jews of medieval England, from the blood libel at Norwich to the Third Crusade of Richard the Lion-Hearted. Yet in spite of all the violence, it was the burning of the Talmud that forced the Jews out of England and into yet another land of exile.
The Ashkenazim Come to Spain When times are bad, God sends leaders. This lecture follows the succession of Torah luminaries from the Maharam of Rottenberg to his student the Rosh, the first Ashkenazi to settle in Spain, to his son the Baal Ha Turim. Their enormous impact on Jewish life gives rise to the question of why the Ashkenazi approach to Judaism consistently supercedes the Sephardi.
The Black Death That the Jews suffered fewer deaths in the Bubonic Plague than the rest of Europe is a fact attributed to superior practices in hygiene, all of which are reflected in Jewish Law. Tragically, the lower death rate amongst Jews served only to further infuriate the already anti-Semitic masses, and entire Jewish cities were burned and its people killed. In this unparalleled calamity in world history, the Jews suffered the most horrific fate of all.
The End of Spanish Jewry The final hundred years of Jewish life in Spain mark one of the bitterest periods of Jewish history. Under Torquemada, the Church's fanatic push toward conversion became the Inquisition, an instrument for torture and death. Yet in one of the ironic twists of history, while the royal couple Ferdinand and Isabella favored Torquemada, they also favored their three Jewish advisors. Rabbi Wein recounts the heroism of Don Isaac Abarbanel who attempted to use his influence to save the Jewish people and who accepted expulsion and a life of Torah over a protected life without it.
The Jews and the Renaissance The rise of arts and sciences in the Renaissance brought a new spirit to Europe, and the watershed invention of the printing press was the most revolutionary of the period. For the "people of the book," this was especially true. The great works of Jewish scholarship and law were made accessible to the masses. Yet while the Renaissance brought about the spread of ideas, it also allowed charlatans to flourish. Rabbi Wein concludes this lecture with the stories of the false messiahs, Dovid Ha Reuveni and Eldad Ha Dani.
The Marranos The re-establishment of Sephardic communities after the expulsion from Spain is testimony to the Jewish will to survive. Rabbi Wein traces the revival of Jewish life in Italy, Turkey, North Africa, Holland, and the Land of Israel. Spiritually and economically, the Jews rebuilt themselves and even prospered. Possibly their greatest challenge of all was the acceptance of the Marranos, the hidden Jews who had converted under pressure and now wanted to return.
The Jews Come to Poland In the 15th century, King Kasimir of Poland invited Ashkenazi Jews to settle there hoping to harness their purported penchant for money making. Happy to leave the inhospitable environment of Western Europe, the Jews accepted and made a pun of the name of their new host country, "Poh lin," which in Hebrew means "here we will sleep." Though it took several centuries before this initial first impression proved to be a catastrophic error, Jewish life and Torah scholarship flourished in Poland and became the foundation of Eastern European Jewry.
Rabbi Yosef Caro From amongst the Spanish exiles emerged the great Torah genius Rabbi Yosef Caro who settled in Safed. During his lifetime, a movement to revive the Sanhedrin arose but was so vehemently opposed, it never took hold. Rabbi Caro's encyclopedic work the Shulchan Aruch became a substitute Sanhedrin, a guide to Jewish Law for every Jewish home. With the additions of Ashkenazic law and custom by Rabbi Moshe Isserles and the advent of the printing press, this monumental book became the universal legal authority for the Jewish people.
The Reformation Though it occurred several centuries before the Jewish reform movement, the Protestant Reformation was not only a historical parallel to it, but its precursor. Rabbi Wein describes the life and personality of Martin Luther, details his objections to the Catholic Church, and describes his relations with the Jewish people. He hoped to court and convert them, but when he was rebuffed, he wrote some of the most anti-Semitic treatises in history, later quoted verbatim in Nazi propaganda. This lecture leaves no doubt as to why Martin Luther was a force to be reckoned with, the first man to topple centuries of Church authority.
Kabbalah The mystical teachings of Kabbalah revealed by Rabbi Isaac Luria and his students sought to explain the reason for the long, bitter exile. Lurianic Kabbala teaches that the entire world is full of hidden sparks of holiness, and the task of the Jews is to release those sparks across the world by serving God. These ideas gained enormous influence on Jewish thought, opening the door for the Hasidic movement two centuries later.
The Dawn of the 17th Century The 17th century saw the beginnings of capitalism, and the Jews were at the forefront of it, despite the trauma of the Spanish expulsion. Rabbi Wein examines the Jewish community in the port city of Amsterdam, including the life of its most famous heretic, Baruch Spinoza. Winds of change would soon sweep through Europe, and the Jews anticipated and adjusted to them well in advance.
Tach V'Tat 1648-1649 In the 1600's, Poland was a feudal land in which the peasants' resentment against the landlords had reached its boiling point. The mercenary soldier Bogdan Chmielnitzki organized an army of Cossacks, peasants, and outlaws whose aim was to overthrow the Polish nobility. Because the Jews held the precarious position as middlemen between landlord and peasant, tens of thousands were massacred in the rebellion. Though Torah scholarship thrived before and after this cataclysmic event, it marked the beginning of the downfall of Jewish life in Eastern Europe.
Shabsai Tzvi Troubled times for the Jews always raise messianic hopes, and in the troubled 17th century, the charismatic Shabsai Tzvi, with much help from his "publicist" Nathan of Gaza, proclaimed to the world that he was the messiah. His following spread from the Mediterranean to Eastern and Western Europe to the point that people sold their homes and moved to the Holy Land in anticipation of the redemption. But under pressure from the Ottoman Sultan, Shabsai Tzvi converted to Islam, proving himself a charlatan and false messiah. The cynicism and skepticism that resulted from this debacle allowed for an erosion of Jewish leadership that continues to exist until today.
Regrets and Recrimination The sixty years following the Shabtai Tzvi debacle saw a tremendous backlash against former followers and suspicion of all Kabbalists. Into this atmosphere arose the great mystical genius Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto who met with fierce opposition, particularly from Rabbi Yaakov Emden, a leading rabbi in Hamburg. Fiercer still was Rabbi Emden's clash with Rabbi Yonasan Eibeschutz, whom he accused of being a supporter of Shabtai Tzvi. These contentious times which split the Jewish world are the watershed for modern Jewish history.
The Coming of Reform When the Enlightenment ideals of secular humanism swept Western Europe, King Frederick the Great of Prussia tried the experiment of granting rights to the Jews. One of the beneficiaries of this experiment was Moses Mendelssohn, who became the founder of Reform Judaism. A genius and a scholar, his proposals to solve anti-Semitism were nonetheless gravely mistaken.
Reform and the Enlightenment After Mendelssohn, the leadership of Reform Judaism passed to Abraham Geiger, who changed its doctrine drastically. Claiming that Reform Judaism was the essential Judaism, Geiger nonetheless denied the Torah and Talmud and adopted many practices from the German Church. The tensions between assimilation, traditionalism, and Jews' relationship with non-Jews continue to play themselves out, but in this lecture, Rabbi Wein delves into the specific example of how these conflicts were felt in the Napoleonic wars.
Chassidus 1 Drawing on both Chassidic stories and historical events, Rabbi Wein analyzes the revolutionary impact of the Baal Shem Tov on Eastern European Jewry. His emphasis on serving God with joy revitalized Judaism for the simple Jew. It took 70 years for Chassidus to be accepted as mainstream, but in its beginnings, the leading rabbis of Vilna opposed it vehemently, suspicious of what seemed a dangerous fringe movement.
Chassidus 2 The Maggid of Mezritch, successor to the Baal Shem Tov, was largely responsible for building Chassidus into a widespread movement that attracted Jews in all sectors of Eastern Europe. But as the movement grew, its opposition grew increasingly violent. Rabbi Wein recounts the bitter events of this terrible conflict and analyzes the counter-revolution in Chassidus with the elitist movement founded by the Rebbes of Pschicha.
The Gaon of Vilna The city of Vilna was known as "the Jerusalem of Lithuania"and it was the scholarship of Rabbi Eliyahu of Vilna that made it so. Known for his superhuman schedule of Torah learning in which he very seldom slept, the Gaon was not only a giant in Torah and Talmud but deduced from the Holy Writings knowledge of science, mathematics, and music. Called "the father of the yeshiva movement,"higher Jewish education bears the stamp of his ideas.
Napoleon Napoleon's impact on Jewish history loomed as large as his affect on the world. With the express goal of assimilating Jews, he convened a "Sanhedrin" that would answer to him. He appointed 71 Jews of diverse backgrounds: some Torah scholars and some Reform leaders. While the majority of French Jews were only too eager to embrace his agenda, his invasion of Eastern Europe distracted him from his "Sanhedrin", but overall, he hastened assimilation more than any other non-Jewish leader in history.
Jewish Russia 1800-1850 Eastern European Jewry of the 19th century saw a tremendous decrease in the infant mortality rate which resulted in a population explosion, but despite this positive change, the Czar made sure the Jews faced grim times. Not only were Jews restricted from living anywhere but in the Pale of Settlement, Jewish children were conscripted into the Russian army as young as age ten. With stories of how the cantonist thread led to desperate measures, criminal behavior, and resentment against the rabbinate, Rabbi Wein captures the spirit of these harrowing years of Jewish history.
The 1850's For the Jews of Eastern Europe, the 1850's were a decade of relative quiet in an otherwise tumultuous century. Yet during this respite, many Jews saw an opportunity to assimilate, and this opened the window for the haskalah. Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsch, with his unique contributions, effectively stemmed the tide of assimilation. By delving into his life, as well as that of philanthropist Moses Montefiore, Rabbi Wein renders two inspiring portraits of the great Jewish leaders of the mid 19th century.
Haskalah As the Reform movement spread from Western to Eastern Europe, it took on a new form called the haskalah, which came in many varieties. Some believed in the creation of a Yiddish culture while others embraced Marxist ideologies. In every type, however, the express goal was the abandonment of traditional Judaism. But the haskalists underestimated the strength of traditional Jews and met with resistance from three main movements: Chassidus, the yeshiva movement, and the mussar movement. Because of them, the haskalah lost much of its steam and would have become completely marginalized had it not been for its adoption of Zionism which gave it new life.
The Yeshivos 1 Rabbi Wein traces the development of the first and greatest of the yeshivos of Eastern Europe, the Volozhiner Yeshiva. From Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin's vision to the yeshiva's growth and success, and even the disputes over who would assume leadership, Rabbi Wein takes us through all stages of its history. Though ultimately the Czarist government forced it to close, the yeshiva movement became the fulfillment of Rabbi Chaim Volozhiner's plans. The educational system it implemented created the Torah leaders of succeeding generations up until the present day.
The Yeshivos 2 While the yeshiva movement spread throughout White Russia, the Lemberg Yeshiva in the Austro-Hungarian Empire was also growing, but in a fashion quite distinct from its contemporaries. Rabbi Wein examines the curriculum and cultural surroundings that made Lemburg unique, focusing particularly on the most influential Torah giant of that region, the Chasam Sofer.
The Mussar Movement Rabbi Yisroel Salanter, founder of the mussar movement, said his aim was to reform Jews, not Judaism. Aware that Torah study did not necessarily guarantee good character, he designed specific methods of self-improvement for all Jews. Because his methods corrected the very flaws the haskalah aimed to criticize, they hated his movement more than any other in traditional Jewry. Only a man of impeccable character himself could represent such high principles, and Rabbi Wein's summary of his life and accomplishments makes it clear that this was so.
The Mussar Movement The mussar movement was the sworn enemy of the haskalah and because the battle between these two forces occurred at the dawning of the media age, it became a propaganda war in the Jewish newspapers. Opposition to mussar only intensified after the death of its founder Rabbi Yisroel Salanter so that his successor Rabbi Yitzchok Blazer faced criticism from both outside and within Orthodox Jewry. Rabbi Wein details the achievements of the great rabbis at the helm of the mussar movement and their phenomenal success in combating assimilation.
The Lovers of Zion The early history of the Jewish resettlement of the Land of Israel involves a colorful cast of characters and gripping struggle. The Jews always had a presence in Israel, though it dwindled severely as a result of the Crusades. Revival began as the Spanish exiles re-established themselves in the Holy Land, and when the Ashkenazim began immigrating in the 1700's, the Jews became the majority population in Israel once again. In the 1860's, the Chovevei Tzion movement arose in Eastern Europe, promoting a mass return to Israel. Attracting both religious and secular Jews and the financial backing of Baron de Rothschild, this varied and idealistic group opened the doors for Zionism.
The New World The population explosion in Jewish Eastern Europe in the 19th century brought about a rise in anti-Semitism from which millions chose to flee. With memoirs from the immigrants who lived it, the dream of "Golden America" and disappointing realities come into focus.
The New AntiSemitism : The Dreyfus Trial The famed Dreyfus trial in which a Jewish officer in the French army was falsely accused of spying unleashed political forces in the world that the accused himself never understood. Though some prominent French journalists, most notably Emile Zola, decried this heinous miscarriage of justice, the virulent anti-Semitism that convicted Dreyfus would eventually destroy European Jewry.
Political Zionism Among the many journalists who covered the Dreyfus trial was Theodore Herzl, an assimilated Jew who, until the trial, accepted assimilation as the solution to anti-Semitism. Shocked at the violence of the crowd, Herzl concluded that in order to survive, Jews must leave Europe and establish their own state in the Land of Israel. Furthering the path set by the Chovevei Zion, he convened the first World Zionist Congress to determine how to implement his plan. Strange bedfellows were made amongst both the movement's supporters and its opponents, but the historical impact of Zionism is an indisputable fact of modern history.
The First Aliyah Zionism caught fire in many Jewish hearts, and in the years between 1881 and 1901, several thousand Jews immigrated to the Land of Israel. Rabbi Wein paints the picture of the struggles the early pioneers faced in farming arid, disease-ridden land amidst hostile Arab neighbors. But as their labor bore fruit, the hatred of the Arabs was only further exacerbated. Rabbi Wein concludes this memorable lecture with a reading of anti-Zionist propaganda, eerily reminiscent of the language of Hamas today.
Beilis, Kishinev, and the Kaiser History gains a human angle with factual illustrations which characterize the personalities of Kaiser Wilhelm and Czar Nikolai, cousins who led Europe into World War I. Amidst their ostenatious shows of military prowess, terrible crimes were perpetrated against the Jews. Rabbi Wein highlights two pivotal events, the Kishinev pogrom and the blood libel of Mendel Beilis, omens that the worst losses of World War I would be suffered by the Jews.
Zionism, Uganda and Palestine Like so many Jewish movements, the early Zionist Congresses were full of factions. When Britain offered the Jews the opportunity to colonize Uganda, Herzl wanted to accept, but he met with fierce opposition. Reading from the autobiography of Chaim Weizman, Rabbi Wein captures this dispute, including criticisms of Herzl for relying on the good will of Western powers, viewed as capricious at best. History resolved that argument, but a second, more persistent ideological war followed between the secularists and the Orthodox, creating rifts which unfortunately have yet to heal.
The Coming of the Great War The atmosphere in Europe in the years before World War I can be likened to an unlit powder keg of dynamite. The underlying tension between rivaling empires needed only slight provocation before exploding into war. But unknown to many, much in the same way that the First World War was the precursor to the Second, the ravages of the war uprooted hundreds of Jewish communities and set the patterns that would ultimately blaze into the Holocaust.
The First World War From the famed assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand to the intricate military tactics and errors, Rabbi Wein shows how the First World War changed the face of both world history and Jewish history. Between the battles on the Eastern front of Russia, which destroyed the infrastructure of Jewish life in Eastern Europe, and England's battle with the Ottoman Empire, from which it ultimately gained control of Palestine, for better and worse, the Jews were irrevocably impacted by "the war to end all wars."
The Treaty of Versailles The peace treaty meant to settle World War I angered all sides and planted the seeds for the next war. Not only did the attempts to disarm Germany backfire with Hitler's rallying cry for vengeance, the divisions of the defeated Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires created countries harboring ancient ethnic rivalries. Caught in the middle of each and every conflict was the Jews. Yet this same treaty which caused so much damage offered the Jews one ray of hope. By mandating Palestine to British control, the Jews believed the Balfour Declaration would finally bear fruit and a Jewish State would be established at last.
British Mandate over Palestine The Balfour Declaration was a document full of contradictions. On one hand, it seemed to promise the Jews a national homeland, but stipulated that the Arabs must approve. Yet the League of Nations enforced it so that Britain controlled the Land of Israel. Reading from letters and court documents of the time, Rabbi Wein represents British sympathy to the Arabs and their maneuverings to undo their own promise. Through it all, the pictures of two Jewish leaders emerge: that of Sir Herbert Samuel, a traditional Jew and Lord High Commissioner of Palestine, and of the controversial Chief Rabbi, Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook.
The Third Aliyah The wave of Jewish immigration to the Land of Israel in the 1920's shaped the character of the future state more than any other. Including such notables as Ben Gurion and Golda Meir, young idealists came and through back-breaking labor, turned the desert into a nation. But the Arabs would not accept this influx of Jews peaceably and began a campaign of terror, riots, and pogroms. Most tragically of all, the British response was therefore to restrict Jewish immigration to Palestine at a time when escape from Europe was becoming more and more of an imperative.
Jewish Europe Between the Wars With a country-by-country breakdown, Rabbi Wein depicts the unsettling period between the two world wars in which anti-Semitism was fomenting everywhere. Whether Jews lived in Russia where Stalin ruled, in Poland where laws restricting Torah observance were official government policy, or in Germany where Jews were the scapegoats for the country's defeat, their future was grim. Coupled with restrictions on immigration to Palestine and the United States, in these harrowing times, for the Jews there truly was no safe place to escape.
The Coming of Hitler Probably no other personality in history has brought about as much psychological speculation as Hitler's. Rabbi Wein's narrates the significant events in Hitler's life: his obsessive anti-Semitism, clear even in his early adolescence, his military service in World War I, and his growing political career. Though he spelled out his intentions quite plainly in Mein Kampf, people in power inside and outside Germany made the tragic miscalculation that they could control him, the result being twelve years of carnage unsurpassed in all of human history.
American Jewry before WW II Jewish integration into American life has been so successful, it is easy to forget that it came at a terrible cost. With historical fact and personal remembrances of his own years in public school, Rabbi Wein captures the pressures on Jews to assimilate into "the melting pot." Out of this environment grew the Conservative movement whose aim was to preserve traditional Judaism for fear it would disappear altogether. Though those dire predictions were wrong and Jews today can express their Jewishness freely, this lecture will remind every American Jew that even in the not-too-distant past, our existence here was not so rosy.
The Second World War World War II was the most destructive war in all of world history, and Rabbi Wein looks at it from a military point of view, outlining its most pivotal battles, from Hitler's initial invasion of Poland, to the blitzkrieg over England, and ultimately to the race to build the atom bomb. Also analyzing the strategies and miscalculations of the leaders and generals of the war years, listeners get a glimpse of the fear and passion that swept the world in the great effort to defeat Hitler.
Destruction of European Jewry
Rabbi Wein opens this most serious of topics with an acknowledgment that no lecture can accurately depict all the horrors of the Holocaust or answer the nagging philosophical questions they raise. Nevertheless, Rabbi Wein demonstrates how Hitler's intense propaganda campaign created a genocidal environment. The German people became so desensitized to human life that the original anti-Jewish boycotts became anti-Jewish riots, and how riots descended yet further into the mass shootings by the einzatzgruppen and ultimately, into indescribable torture and the killing camps.Guilt and Horror
After the world saw the atrocities committed in the Holocaust, they realized it was a blot against them. For a brief time, therefore, public opinion of the Jews was relatively positive. But the Jews had more battles to fight. War refugees were desperate to enter Palestine, but England was doing its best to appease the Arabs and turn them away. This earned them censure in the Western World, and under pressure, England agreed to leave Palestine and let the UN determine its future. The spectacular events that followed, on both the diplomatic and military fronts, culminated in the creation of the State of Israel.The State of Israel
The theological significance of the Jews' gaining a state of their own is hotly debated until today, but wherever you stand on the issue, the urgency of the times rings through loud and clear as Rabbi Wein describes the battles of the War of Independence and the Jewish victory against monumental odds.The Ingathering of Exiles
In its incipient years, hundreds of thousands of Jews immigrated to Israel, most of whom were refugees from the Holocaust or from Arab-dominated countries. While the fledgling state began to absorb these new immigrants, some of whom had never seen such basics as indoor plumbing, its leaders also struggled to get the government, military, and economy up and running. Though some of the early problems have persisted and will seem ironically familiar, many others were met and solved with acumen that will both astonish and impress.The Sinai Campaign
Once Israel had won its War of Independence, the world sympathy that had granted the Jews a national homeland proved to be short-lived. General Nasser of Egypt, with a vision of a Pan-Arab empire with himself at the helm, launched a campaign of terrorism and shelling on Israel. By 1956, Israel took a pre-emptive strike against Nasser and invaded the Sinai Desert, reaching the Suez Canal within four days. Under world pressure, Israel was forced to withdraw and gained no protection for itself anyway. Especially in light of current events, Ben Gurion's criticism that this was a "wasted war" becomes abundantly clear.The Changing Face of Jewish Life
This inspiring lecture, full of Rabbi Wein's anecdotes and personal remembrances, illustrates the massive assimilation of Jews worldwide after the Holocaust. Yet somehow, in spite of it all, the surviving Torah leaders of Eastern Europe took on the rebuilding of the Jewish people as their personal mission. Rabbi Wein tells the stories of his acquaintance with such gedolim as Rabbi Aharon Kotler, the Satmar Rebbe, and Rabbi Joseph Breuer, which will stir the heart of any listener.The Six Day War
Perhaps the most euphoric moment in Israeli history was the recapture of the Old City. With the original live news broadcast of the IDF soldiers at the Western Wall and Rabbi Wein's personal recollections, both the terror and the victory come to life.The Yom Kippur War
The years immediately after the victory of the Six Day War were marked by optimism, not only in Israel, but amongst Jews worldwide. Russian Jews were released from behind the Iron Curtain and immigration to Israel grew stronger. But the defeated Arabs were recouping their losses and in a surprise attack on Yom Kippur 1973, devastated the Israeli army. Though Israel miraculously staved off the attack, the war cost thousands in casualties and death. Moreover, it created a sea change in Israeli attitude, a rise in pessimism and insecurity that continues to trouble us to this day.
The Struggle for Survival The political "earthquake" that shook Israel after the Yom Kippur War toppled the Labor government and replaced it with Menachem Begin and the Likud. Just as the conservative Nixon made peace with China, it took right-wing Begin to give back the Sinai Desert for the sake of peace. This lecture, given in 1987, grapples with the issues of the peace process and settlements back then, and the perspective of those years is particularly enlightening. Most moving of all, however, is Rabbi Wein's electrifying conclusion about the Jews place in history.