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The Kotzk Podcast

The Kotzk Podcast

By Jordan Wosnick
Join hosts Jordan Wosnick and Rabbi Gavin Michal for a Kotzk-inspired look at some of the lesser-known events, books, and people in Jewish history. New episodes every three to four weeks, based on articles from the Kotzk Blog,
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Kotzk Podcast Ep012: The Turkish Jews still wave
Jews from Turkey and some Syrian communities have the unusual practice of waving to one another just prior to reciting the silent Amidah prayer. This ancient custom was first described in writing in the 17th century, and although many mystical and technical explanations have been advanced, its true origin remains unknown. In this episode, Gavin and Jordan explore the reasons for the custom and how it has been described -- and discouraged -- over the centuries. Read the original blog post at
April 06, 2021
Kotzk Podcast Ep011: Radical Rav Kook
Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook (1865-1935) was a fiercely independent thinker, and one of the leading figures of the emerging Religious Zionist movement in pre-State Mandatory Palestine. He held "unorthodox" views that were condemned by the religious world in his era, and the study of his writings is discouraged in many communities even to this day. In this episode, Gavin and Jordan explore Rav Kook's radical views on the interface of spirituality and halacha, of rationalism and mysticism, of the religious world and the atheist world, Rembrandt, vegetarianism, and much more. Read the original article at
February 28, 2021
Kotzk Podcast Ep010: Angels in Rabbinic literature: can we pray to them?
Most Jews would readily agree that angels exist in Judaism -- they are mentioned in many places in the Chumash, and we incorporate them into hymns such as Shalom Aleichem. Interestingly, the Mishnah does not mention angels at all, and there was a vigorous debate among the Rishonim commentators as to the reality of angels. In this episode, Gavin and Jordan discuss the history of angels in Rabbinic thought, the rational and mystical approaches, and modern reactions to liturgical texts that invoke angelic intervention.  Read the original articles at and
January 14, 2021
Kotzk Podcast Ep009: The origins of a latecomer davening in full, at the expense of reciting the Amidah with the community
What's the proper course of action when one arrives late to synagogue, and the service has already begun? Though traditional sources emphasize the importance of reciting the Amidah with the community, and recommend that latecomers change the order of their tefillot to accomodate this, many people have the practice of reciting the entire service in order -- no matter what. In this episode, Gavin and Jordan discuss the origins of this custom in early 18th-c. Amsterdam, the cultural climate that made its chief proponent stand out so much, and the long Rabbinic debate that ensued. Read the original article at
December 08, 2020
Kotzk Podcast Ep008: We have books, we don't need teachers or permission to teach
In the time of the Mishnah and Talmud, the Halachic tradition was passed down orally, from teacher to student. The canonization of the Talmud in written form provided new pathways for the dissemination of Rabbinic teaching, and by the time of the Tosafists (12th-13th c., northern France), influential Rabbis were asserting the right to teach and even to contradict local Rabbinic authorities. In this episode, Gavin and Jordan discuss the cultural environment that made this possible, and some of the prominent figures who advocated for a massive change to the transmission of Judaism.  Read the original article at
October 30, 2020
Kotzk Podcast Ep007: Was Rashi a mystic?
Jewish mysticism of 11th century Ashkenaz (Germany and northern France) was not Lurianic Kabbalah, but rather a much more primal form of mysticism based on the Merkava and Heichalot texts of the Rabbinic or Geonic periods. Despite some statements to the contrary, it appears that the great commentator Rashi -- known for his extensive and comprehensive commentaries on the Tanach and the Talmud -- was aware of these mystical traditions. In this episode, Gavin and Jordan discuss the evidence for Rashi's mysticism and where he might have learned it, with a side-discussion on the real reason why we spill drops of wine at the Passover seder. Read the original blog post at
September 03, 2020
Kotzk Podcast Ep006: Geniza document reveals first stirrings of anti-Maimonidean sentiment in Egypt
The Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides (often referred to by his Hebrew acronym, RaMBaM) has come to be seen as the intellectual leader of the rationalist approach to Jewish tradition. However, his writings attracted fierce opposition from the Egyptian Jewish community of his day, which was deeply influenced by the mystical approaches of its Muslim neighbours. In this episode, Gavin and Jordan discuss documents from the Cairo Geniza, including a chance finding of a letter from a close associate of the RaMBaM that provides a window onto the controversies around his philosophical ideas. Read the original blog post at
August 09, 2020
Kotzk Podcast Ep005: The shift from Babylonia to the West and the desperate need to re-establish Rabbinical authority
The Babylonian Geonim were the successors of the Rabbis of the Talmudic era, and were the pre-eminent Rabbinic authorities between the 7th and 11th centuries. On the death of Rav Hai Gaon -- the last of the Geonim -- in 1038, the centre of gravity of the Jewish world shifted westward. The major Jewish communities in Europe and North Africa each wished to be seen as the true inheritors of Geonic authority. In this episode, Gavin and Jordan discuss the lines of evidence each community used to support its claims to pre-eminence, and the dangers of an over-emphasis on inherited tradition.  Original article at
July 19, 2020
Kotzk Podcast Ep004: Why is Masada absent from halachic discussion?
The siege and mass suicide of the Zealots at Masada in 73 CE is legendary in Jewish history, but the Rabbis of both the Mishnaic and subsequent eras do not mention it at all. In this episode, Gavin and Jordan explore some possible reasons for this, and discuss how suicide for theological or military reasons has been addressed in halacha.   Original link:
June 22, 2020
Kotzk Podcast Ep003: R' Yaakov Koppel Lifschitz -- A Sabbatean who influenced the Ba'al Shem Tov?
R' Yaakov Koppel Lifschitz was an early-18th-century Kabbalist whose key writings -- the Sha'ar Gan Eden ("Gateway to the Garden of Eden") and the Siddur Kol Ya'akov -- evinced strong Sabbatean influences. They, in turn, were held in very high esteem by the Ba'al Shem Tov. In this episode, Gavin and Jordan explore Lifschitz as a possible link between Shabbetai Tzvi's legacy and the early years of the Hassidic movement, with some digressions into R' Nachman of Breslov's attitude toward rationalism.  Read the original article at
May 31, 2020
Kotzk Podcast Ep002: Shabbetai Tzvi, as reported in the newspapers of his day
The events surrounding messianic claimant Shabbetai Tzvi's rise to fame coincided with the emergence of newspapers in western Europe. In this episode, Gavin and Jordan discuss how Shabbetai Tzvi was portrayed in these newspapers, both during his heyday in the mid-17th century and after his apostasy and imprisonment in 1666. Read the source article at
May 18, 2020
Kotzk Podcast Ep001: Shabbetai Tzvi - Roots Run Deep
The messianic claimant Shabbetai Tzvi rocked the Jewish world in the mid-17th century, counting perhaps half the Jews of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East among his supporters. Though he is often treated as a footnote in Jewish history, his influence persisted for centuries after his conversion to Islam in 1666. In this episode, Gavin and Jordan discuss the story of Shabbetai Tzvi, tracing his legacy through the 18th and 19th centuries and into the present day.    Read the source article at
May 04, 2020
Kotzk Podcast Ep000: About the Kotzk Podcast
Hosts Jordan Wosnick and Rabbi Gavin Michal introduce the Kotzk podcast, discussing Gavin's Kotzker Rebbe-inspired approach to Jewish history and thought.
May 04, 2020