Chapter 2: The Jewish People’s story, the early period

In order to understand the Jewish community of today – we need to examine all sorts of phenomena that explain why the Jewish community today, in different places in the world, looks the way that it does. We need to understand too, why the idea of Jewish community has been so central to Jews for thousands of years. 

For this and the next two chapters, we will be following the strange path of the Jewish community as it wends its way through time, changing and developing as it encounters new situations and finds itself forced to adapt to strange and often difficult circumstances. We will see how the framework and the content of the lives of our ancestors changed and indeed revolutionized themselves in the three periods in question. Let us now open our story and plunge into the first period: how does the whole story begin?

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Chapter 3: The Jewish People’s story, the pre-modern period

In this chapter we will examine the dynamics of Jewish community in the emerging Diaspora center. We will see the growth and the decline of great Jewish communities, each with their own Rabbinic leadership in different parts of the world. The basis had been laid in Palestine. The results were to be seen throughout the world. The story of the Jews was changing yet again.

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Israel and Babylonia – 23

A Jewish diaspora has existed since the times of the First Temple. The balance of power between Eretz Yisrael and the diaspora was in a constant flux, depending on the sizes of the communities, their economic and political wellbeing, and the existence of a temple which served as the religious center for the Jewish world. In this unit we’ll look at Eretz Yisrael-diaspora relations in the time of the second Temple and after its destruction, always keeping in mind the (somewhat striking) parallels with phenomena we observe today. As an example of a large and powerful community (somewhat like the North-American Jewish community today?) we will examine in more detail the Babylonian community. We’ll look at the two Talmuds, one from Babylonia and the other from Eretz Yisrael, to see the differences and why they emerged, and examine one particular story which appears in both Talmuds, with subtle but telling difference.

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