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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 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 …

Where to begin? Jewish history is huge. Three thousand years plus. You can jump in at any point and go deeper and deeper into all kinds of wonderful details. But it helps to start with a grasp of the whole thing. This is what we want to offer with “Your Backstory”: a comprehensive grasp of the entire story, cover to cover, and an idea of the single “historiographic principle” underlying the whole shebang. Come … get to know yourself a little better ….

Click here for Part I of this series.

Course Syllabus

Lesson 5: The King
May 14, 2019
Do Jews really want to see the return or Jewish monarchy in the Messianic era? Why? What is the advantage of a monarchical government over a liberal democratic one? The answer requires a peek into the relatively short period between 879 BCE to 422 BCE, the Golden Age of Jewish history. Not only are there rabbis, kohanim, judges, and prophets to guide the Jewish people in their pursuit of material and spiritual success, this period is crowned by the “interface” of a King. We look at the rise of Jewish monarchy from King Saul to King Solomon and then the decline after that that leads to the exile in Babylon. How does the King “interface” subsequently serve as the model of the Messianic era?
Lesson 6: The Prophet & The Interface Apocalypse
May 21, 2019
Was it easier to believe in G-d during the age of prophecy? Prophecy lasted for 34 centuries until G-d called off all further prophetic communication around 352 BCE, when the second Temple was built in Jerusalem. The last prophet was Malakhi. What exactly was lost with the end of prophecy? Was anything gained? In this video lesson we examine the different shades of prophecy and prophetic mission spanning over the careers of the matriarchs and patriarchs, Moses, the kings’ prophets, and the prophets of the Babylonian exile, including Jeremiah and Ezekiel.
Lesson 7: Turning Exile Inside Out
May 28, 2019
The historian Arnold J. Toynbee called Judaism a “fossil civilization.” Was he just an anti-Semite? Or there some truth to his statement? Was it meant as an insult? And even if it was, could it not also be taken as a compliment? In this video lesson, we take up the second half of Jewish history—from 70 CE until today—the “painful” and “boring” half. The half full of massacres and pogroms, and of Jewish scholars scribbling by candlelight. But wait. Is this half really so “boring”? Or is there something wrong with our historiography? Against the background of Emancipation, Haskalah, Assimilation and Zionism, we offer a Chassidic approach to history.
Lesson 8: Major Trends In Introverted History
June 4, 2019
Further developing and sharpening our Chassidic approach to history, we look at the great moment of “introversion.” How did the “interface” of Judge become the Talmud? How was the spiritual function of the Kohen absorbed in the history of Kabbalah? How was the King internalized into the powerful longing for Moshiach? How, in general, is the whole second half of Jewish history oriented to the Messianic Era?
  • Level: Intermediate
  • Length/Effort:
    45 Min/per week
  • Category: Jewish History
  • Institution: Chabad.org
  • Language: English
  • Cost:
    (Suggested Donation $40)
    Donate Here
    Registration Required

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.

  • This was an amazing course and well done. I was hesitate at first about the ability to "connect" with the subject and and amazed how my life focus has changed after just 4 weeks. Thank you Rabbi Stein and Chabad.org Courses. Shabbat Shalom.

    Joanne Y. - Israel

  • I loved everything about this course. It was obviously very well planned and delivered. The quality of your online course surpasses those which I have taken from university.

    Terry T. - USA

  • My husband, my son and I listen to chabad.org and these courses are our school. We really thank you for this wonderful opportunity!

    Celia R. - USA

  • The instructor did an excellent job! I really enjoyed this course. I think it's a topic that's relevant to everyone--each of us has a soul, after all. I am looking forward to future offerings!

    Katy C - USA