Eliezer Shore has lectured on a wide variety of topics, and is available to speak at synagogues, college campuses, Jewish outreach programs, and similar organizations. The topics below are drawn from his university courses, articles and personal studies. They can be presented as full courses, mini-courses or as individual lectures.
Hasidism– Eliezer has studied and taught many aspects of the Hasidic movement for over twenty-five years: its philosophy, its historical development, and its contemporary expressions. Drawing on classic and modern texts, he seeks to uncover the fire of this mystical movement in its inception, as well as its relevance for today.
The following are some of the topics he has presented:
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Introduction to Jewish Mysticism - A broad historical and conceptual overview of Jewish mysticism, from ancient times until the present. Central themes and historical periods are examined through a close reading of primary texts.
- What is mysticism?
- What is Kabbalah?
- Biblical Mysticism
- Rabbinic Prohibitions
- Merkava Mysticism
- Language and the Sefer Yetzirah
- The esoteric nature of the Torah
- Early, Medieval Kabbalah
- Abraham Abulafia
- The Nature of the Sefirot
- The Zohar
- R. Isaac Luria's innovations
- The Kabbalah of R. Yehudah Ashlag
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Contemporary Spirituality in America and Israel – These lectures seek to address the fundamental question: Why be Jewish today? Is the answer merely cultural and ethnic, or can we find a deep, spiritual justification for maintaining our faith? Many great thinkers, from the beginning of the 20th century until today, see in Judaism a source of personal, spiritual renewal. These lectures examine the thought of several important Jewish philosophers, who are seeking to extract personal and contemporary relevance from our ancient tradition.
Thinkers and topics examined:
- Martin Buber
- Abraham Joshua Heschel
- Mordechai Kaplan
- R. Yehuda Ashlag and the Kabbalah Center
- Chabad Hasidism
- Contemporary Women's Spirituality
- R. Yitzchak Ginsburgh
- Michael Lerner and Jewish activism
- Zalman Schachter and Jewish Renewal
- Arthur Green and the Reconstructionist movement
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Judaism and Environmentalism – Judaism has important things to say, both philosophically and practically, about our place as human beings in the world. What are our rights and responsibilities concerning the environment? Is there an alternative world-view to our contemporary consumerist culture? Can ancient Jewish texts hold the key to humanities survival in the upcoming centuries?
- Ecological Themes in the Bible
- Man-Nature Relationship
- Uncovering environmental issues in Jewish texts
- Bal Tashchit
- Shemitta and Yovel
- Ishmael (by Daniel Quinn)
- Green belts and Levitical Cities
- Pollution and Public Property
- Tikun Olam
- Kabbalah and Environmentalism
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Spirituality in Education: Education is not merely about transmitting information, it is about transforming our students. This lecture examines sources drawn from Hasidic texts that seek to develop a pedagogy of the heart. How can we engage students in the deeper issues of the topic being studied? Where is there room for creativity and student input? What techniques can be used to engender classroom discussion and student engagement?
- What is spirituality?
- The role of Peak Experiences
- Stages of Spiritual Growth
- The nature of Torah in Hasidism
- God calls through the Torah
- Torah LeShmah - Devekut in Torah study
- Interiorization and personal meaning
- Learning Torah with heart
- Redeeming Torah from below
- Torah latent within the students
- Dealing with distractions: inclusion versus exclusion
- Teaching with a listening heart
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Language and Mysticism in Kabbalah and Hasidism - An examination of the unique use (or transcendence) of language in kabbalistic and hasidic philosophy.
- Aphophatic versus Kataphatic Mysticism
- Uses of non-semantic language in mystical traditions
- The Baal Shem Tov on Prayer
- Dealing with Foreign Thoughts
- Truthfulness in Prayer as a mystical technique
- Mysticism of the World-to-Come
- R. Nachman and Hitbodedut
- Desire and its Linguistic Transformation
- Speech and Spiritual Engenderment
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Torah and Cinema – The cinema has been called the “new temple,” in that it both reflects and defines what people believe in today, from moral and existential values to issues of faith, fate and humanity’s place and role in the cosmos. This is true even of movies whose content is not overtly religious: the presence of meaning in mass media is inescapable. The lectures examine the unstated (or at times overt) religious assumptions of contemporary cinema.
Films examined and their themes:
- The Matrix - Reality, Illusion, Freedom and Self-Integrity
- Gattaca - Willpower and the Transcendence of Limitations
- Pay it Forward - Legislating morality
- The Butterfly Effect - Teshuva and Changing the Past
- Crash - Divine Providence Hidden in History
- The Secret - The Power of Bitachon (trust)
- Pursuit of Happyness - Happiness of Having or of Being
- Inglorious Basterds - The Roots and Justification of Revenge
- Donnie Darko - Franz Rosenzweig's Vision of Redemption
- Fight Club - Authenticity and Divine Immanence
- Forrest Gump - Simplicity and Hashgacha Pratis
- X-Men (1 & 3) - Antisemitism and Assimilation
- God on Trial - Approaches to the Holocaust
- I am Legend - Theories of Theodicy
- The Believer - Jewish Self-Hatred and the Jewish Spark
- Avatar - G-d and the Transcendence of Nature
- The Village - The Nature of Fundamentalism
- Shutter Island/Vanilla Sky - Transcending Personal Illusions
- Doubt - Religious Doubt and Certainty
- Freedom Writers - The Power of a Good Eye
- Pi - Three Schools of Kabbalistic Thought
- Memento - Constructing Reality and Divine Epistemology
- Inception - Free Will and Divine Foreknowledge
- The King's Speech - Speech and Revelation
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- Religion in War and in Peace – The role of religion in facilitating peace in current international conflicts, particularly those of Israel and its neighbors, has often been overlooked by official negotiators, even though individuals and groups adhering to fundamental religious values are often the decisive players on both sides of the conflict. This series of lectures examine Jewish religious approaches to war and peace. How were wars justified and fought in the bible, and how do those ancient paradigms affect contemporary thinkers. Does “religious war” still exist and how does it relate to the contemporary Israeli concept of “purity of arms.” What is the role of religion in conflict resolution, and what sources can be drawn upon to formulate a uniquely Jewish approach? Are ideological differences based upon religious beliefs truly black and white, or can we develop a theology of peacemaking. What are the religious foundations of the return to Zion, and who are the key thinkers and their arguments, both pro and con, from the writings of R. Abraham Isaac and R. Tzvi Yehuda Kook, to current radical, mystical religious Zionists, as well as religious anti-zionists, such as Satmar and the Neturei Karta.
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- Whose Who in Israel: As the homeland of the Jewish people, Israel contains the greatest and most varied concentration of Jews in the world. Who are all these people walking the streets? Why do they dress they way they do, and what does their clothing signify? What is their past, and what are their dreams? On what do they agree, disagree and how do they manage to live together? Lecture will be accompanied by a powerpoint presentation.
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- The Body in Judaism – The body is more than just an object in the world; it is even more than a part of us. The body is a social construct, a cultural marker – it is a focus on how we think about such issues as personal identify, beauty, relationships, spirituality and redemption. Judaism has a rich and varied set of understandings as to what the body is and how we are meant to relate to it. This course will examine various approaches to the body, from the time of the Bible under modern and post-modern times. Themes will include biblical issues such as the visions of the God’s Body, ritual purity, kashrut and other bodily rituals, Kabbalistic and medieval and Hasidic approaches to the body, as well as contemporary post-modern, spiritual approaches.
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- Judaism and Buddhism - An honest appraisal of the similarities and differences between these two great religions. Why are so many Jews attracted to Buddhism? Is there a single truth underlying all religions? Do such concepts as Emptiness, Enlightenment and Dharma have a Jewish equivalent? What are the fruits of current Buddhist-Jewish dialogue, both practically and theoretically (such as Jewish mindfulness or Buddhist activism)?
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