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Take a Deep, Entertaining Online Dive Into Jewish History

by Menachem Posner

Michael Chighel, PhD, is a familiar face to viewers of Chabad.org. He first gained acclaim as host to the witty and enlightening Scroll Down: The on-point, off-beat course on the Transmission of Torah. And subsequent offerings include the ongoing weekly Parsha Perks, in which he offers Chassidic insights into an array of topics raised in the weekly Torah portion with a cast of fanciful alter-egos.

His latest course is Your Backstory Continuing, which identifies and parses major trends in Jewish history and what they mean to us today. It builds on the success of a prior course titled It’s Your Backstory: The Six Millenia That Made You Who You Are, but each class is entirely self-contained and prior participation is not required.

The first installment tackles the period of monarchy in Judaism, which lasted between the years 879 BCE to 422 BCE, termed the Golden Age of Jewish history. A careful look at Mosaic Law, the Book of Samuel and other texts provides a nuanced view of the uniquely Jewish concept of monarchy, and informs our vision of the ultimate political arrangement awaiting the Jewish people.

The second course grapples with the mysteries of prophecy, which lasted for 34 centuries until G-d called off all further prophetic communication around 352 BCE, when the second Temple was built in Jerusalem. What exactly was lost with the end of prophecy? Was anything gained by its absence? In this video lesson Chighel will examine the different shades of prophecy and prophetic mission spanning the careers of the matriarchs and patriarchs, Moses, the kings’ prophets, and the prophets of the Babylonian exile, including Jeremiah and Ezekiel.

Next up is the era of exile, examined in the light of trends such as Emancipation, Enlightenment, Assimilation and Zionism. These receive additional meaning and texture when seen alongside the Chassidic movement, which flourished alongside (and despite) them all.

The final session will further develop a Chassidic approach to history, identifying key landmarks and articulating their significance for the big picture of Jewish history.

The course will be presented on four consecutive Tuesdays, beginning May 14, streaming on Chabad.org and then available for viewing at the students’ convenience. Each lecture will be accompanied by texts, lively discussions with fellow students on Facebook, quizzes and student support at every step of the way. Although the course is offered free of charge, sign-up is required and a donation suggested.

“Dr. Chighel’s penetrating insight, broad pool of knowledge, and unique delivery ensures that you’ll be sitting on the edge of your seat each session,” attests Rabbi Zalman Refson, producer at Chabad.org/courses. “Lifelong history buffs, as well as neophytes, will find these courses to be engaging, educational and enlightening.”

To sign up for Your Backstory Continuing, visit the registration page here.

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