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History of the Jews in Exile

Jewish History from the Destruction to Modernity

This history of the Jewish people in exile covers roughly two millennia, beginning with the Mishnaic period and continuing through to the Modern Age.

Judaism After the Destruction
The Jews in Exile
Even after the destruction of the Second Temple, the Roman persecution of the Jewish people continued. In this class we learn about the Bar Kochba revolt, as well as some of the important rabbinical leaders of the era such as R. Akiva, R. Meir and R. Shimon ben Yochai.
The Mishnah
Audio | 1:14:32
The Mishnah
The Jews in Exile
Rabbi Judah the Prince (circa 135–219 CE), also known as Rabbeinu Hakadosh, is credited with having compiled statements of earlier sages to form the Mishnah, when the Oral Law was in peril of being forgotten. In this class we also go through Maimonides’ list of the generations of Torah transmission.
The Talmudic Age
Audio | 41:14
The Talmudic Age
The Jews in Exile
After the recording of the Mishnah came the era of the sages known as the Amoraim, whose discussion became the basis of the Talmud.
The Geonim and the Golden Age of Spain
The Jews in Exile
The great sages known as the Geonim (lit., “geniuses”) were the successors to the Rabbanan Savorai, who in turn succeeded the Amoraim (about 3980–4260), after the completion of the Babylonian Talmud. Subjects covered include the rise of the Karaite movement, Jewish life under Moorish rule in North Africa, and the Golden Age of Spain.
Maimonides and the Sephardic Rishonim
The Jews in Exile
This class covers the lives of several important Sephardic scholars of the medieval period (“Rishonim”), including Rabbeinu Yitzchak Alfasi and Ibn Ezra. The bulk of the class is spent on the life of Maimonides.
Rashi and the Ashkenazic Rishonim
The Jews in Exile
This class covers the lives of several important Ashkenazic scholars of the medieval period (“Rishonim”), including Rashi and the authors of Tosafos.
The Crusades and Medieval European Jewry
The Jews in Exile
This class covers a period of severe oppression for Ashkenazic Jewry which included the Crusades and blood libels.
The Sephardic Rishonim Part II
The Jews in Exile
This class covers more of the medieval scholars (“Rishonim”) of Sephardic Jewry, including Nachmanides, R. Shlomo ben Aderet, Rabbeinu Asher, the Baal HaTurim and Rabbeinu Nissim. This class concludes with the proliferation of Kabbalah in Spain.
The End of Spanish Jewry
The Jews in Exile
This class covers the tumultuous period that included the Inquisition and the expulsion from Spain. Much of this class focuses on the life of Don Yitzchak Abarbanel.
The Golden Age of Tzfat
The Jews in Exile
After the Spanish expulsion, many prominent rabbis found their way to the city of Tzfat (Safed) in northern Israel. Among them were the Kabbalist Rabbi Isaac Luria; Rabbi Joseph Caro, the author of the Shulchan Aruch; and Rabbi Shlomo Halevi Alkabetz, composer of the Sabbath hymn “Lecha Dodi.”
Jews in Eastern Europe
The Jews in Exile
This class covers the early modern period in Eastern Europe, where Jewish communities flourished under the self-governance of the Council of Four Lands, but were later devastated with the Chmielnitzki Massacres in 1648.
The Baal Shem Tov and the Chasidic Movement
The Jews in Exile
Following a period of terrible demoralization for the Jewish people that included the Chmielnicki uprising and the Shabtai Tzvi debacle, new hope arose in the form of the Chasidic movement.
Chasidim, Mitnagdim and Enlightenment
The Jews in Exile
This class covers the growth of the Chasidic movement as well as those who opposed it (the Mitnagdim). At the end of the class, we discuss the beginnings of the Haskalah or "Enlightenment" which drew many Jews away from observance.
Challenges of the Modern Era
The Jews in Exile
The Modern Era was a time of much assimilation, but also a time of great leaders who stood up to preserve tradition such as the Chasam Sofer and Samson Raphael Hirsch. We also learn about the great philanthropists, Rothschild and Montefiore.
The Napoleonic Wars and the 1800s
The Jews in Exile
The French Revolution brought on a period of great upheaval in Europe. How did the Jewish people deal with these changes, particularly with the challenges of emancipation?
Russian Jews Under the Czar
The Jews in Exile
We close this series on the history of the Jews in exile by looking at the final century of Jewish life in Czarist Russia prior to the 1917 Communist Revolution.
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