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Text-based study enhances Torah study skills

Developed specifically for online, interactive learning

Taught by scholars with a personal interest in the subject

Engaging topics made relevant to real life issues

About the Course

How well do you know your Jewish history? It’s not an objective question, not just that anyway. It’s a profoundly personal question. You are the result of more than three millennia of Jewish history. Your habits, your quirks, your likes and dislikes, your sense of humor, the way you think, the way you see reality, the way you interact with your family, your friends, your neighbors, your fellow citizens—all of this is heavily determined by a long heritage of Jewish habits, likes, dislikes, ideas, teachings, etc.. It’s like an extension of psychoanalysis. To really get to know yourself, you need to understand your parents; to understand your parents, you need to understand your grandparents; to understand your grandparents ….

Click here for Part II of this series.

Course Syllabus

Lesson 1: Jewish Tick, Jewish Tock On the Great Jewish Clock
What is Jewish history? Is it a history like any other except that it happens to be about the Jews? Or is there such a thing as a proper Jewish “historiography,” which is to say, a properly Jewish way of telling the story? And what about the history of the rest of humanity? Is Jewish history the story of a small tribe that fancies itself “chosen” by G-d? In order to approach these questions, we have to look at the structure of the narrative of Redemption as laid out in the Torah. It’s in the story of the Exodus from Egypt in particular that we find the paradigm for the whole of Jewish history—and all of human history as seen from a Jewish perspective
Lesson 2: Paradise Lost, Paradise Found
When does Jewish history start? On what date? Well, everyone knows it begins with Abraham and Sarah. But when Abraham and Sarah entered into human history they make a huge splash because of the amount of “water” that had built up since Adam and Eve. In order to understand the first 2448 years of human history, we turn to the Midrash. It breaks history down into 7 great crises that took place in the days of Adam, Cain, Enosh, Noah, the Tower of Babel, Sodom and Gomorrah, and Abraham’s sojourn in Egypt—and 7 great revolutionary acts by which the negative effects of those crises were turned to the good by Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Levi, Kehot, Amram and Moses.
Lesson 3: The Original PTA
In order to get a grip on big chunks of time that define Jewish history, we can break it down into basic epochs, where each epoch is represented by a Jewish man or woman who acts as an “interface” between heaven and earth. In this video lesson we consider the epoch of the innocent Child which begins with Adam and Eve; the epoch of the troublemaking Adolescent kicked off by Cain; the epoch of the responsible Adult initiated by Noah; the epoch of the Parent inaugurated by Sarah and Abraham; and the epoch of the spiritual Teacher represented by Moses.
Lesson 4: Supreme Judge, Big Kehuna
Continuing the breakdown of history into basic epochs, we examine two more human “interfaces” between heaven and earth that represent these epochs. First the epoch of the Judge, which begins with the 70 elders assembled by Moses and ends with the final days of the Sanhedrin during the Byzantine period. Second, the epoch of the Kohen or Priest, which begins with Moses’s brother Aaron and ends with the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. What has Jewish history lost with the destruction of the Temple and the obsolescence of active Kohanim and active Jewish legislation?
  • Level: Intermediate
  • Length/Effort:
    4 weeks / 45 minutes per week
  • Category: Jewish History
  • Institution:
  • Cost: Free!
    (Suggested Donation$40)
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Meet the Instructor

Michael Chighel (Kigel) received his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Toronto for his dissertation on the Book of Job, after a specialization in 20th-century French and German thought. In Canada he taught in the departments of philosophy and of Jewish studies at the universities of York, Queen’s and Waterloo. He produced Passages and Messages for eleven seasons on Canadian television (CTS). Until this year he held the Rohr Chair of Jewish Studies at the Lauder Business School in Vienna, where he taught Torah, European ethics and political economy. He has translated a number of books and published various articles in Jewish thought. Michael and his family have made aliyah, and now live in Jerusalem.

  • It was a very deep and profound teaching and extremely thought provoking.

    C. Roth - NJ

  • The course gave me a deep insight into the topic and I now have a completely new understanding of the subject.

    A. Giffen - Finland

  • It surpassed my expectations, and I am still in much thought about the subject matter. A good course will leave an everlasting mark on the student, and I have been thusly marked.

    R. Cohen - PA

  • Informative, open to discussion and participation, thought-provoking, compels you to reassess your own stance in your daily life. Thank you for a delightful and stimulating course awesome presentation, handouts…

    C. Berg - California