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Welcome to Sha’ar

"My success as a rabbi isn't going to be measured by how many people I inspire to live my Jewish life, but by how many people I can inspire to live their own authentic Jewish life."

Rabbi Adina Lewittes

Shabbat Shalom 

מַכֵּ֥ה אִ֛ישׁ וָמֵ֖ת מ֥וֹת יוּמָֽת׃ וַאֲשֶׁר֙ לֹ֣א צָדָ֔ה וְהָאֱלֹהִ֖ים אִנָּ֣ה לְיָד֑וֹ וְשַׂמְתִּ֤י לְךָ֙ מָק֔וֹם אֲשֶׁ֥ר יָנ֖וּס שָֽׁמָּה

One who fatally strikes a person shall be put to death. If they did not do it by design, but it came about by an act of God [unintentionally], I will assign you a place to which they can flee. (Shemot 21:12-13)

The court is required to build direct roads to the cities of refuge, to keep them in repair and to have them made wide. All obstacles and obstructions must be removed from them...“Refuge, Refuge” was written at all crossroads so that the [inadvertent] murderer should recognize the way and turn there. (Rambam, Laws of Murderers 8:5)


It’s hard to walk the streets of Israel without noticing the signs on apartment blocks and office buildings that read “מקלט/Shelter” with directions to the secure area that, since 1951, all edifices are required to have in the event of an attack. 

But the obligation for Jewish societies to provide areas of refuge for those whose lives might be endangered goes back even further; way back to this week’s parasha, Mishpatim, which introduces the biblical idea of ערי מקלט/Cities of Refuge. 

If someone inadvertently killed another, it was common for the victim’s family to take revenge by seeking out the killer and murdering them. To protect the accidental killer, the Torah required that cities of refuge be established throughout the land to which they could flee from any avengers. As we began to explore in our Justice Beit Midrash this week on the topic of Immigrants, Refugees and Asylum Seekers, many today consider the sanctuary movement a modern expression of this mitzvah to provide shelter to those in our midst fleeing the mortal dangers of their violent and oppressive homelands.

The various requirements regarding the cities’ locations, size and accessibility are expanded upon in later books of the Torah, the Talmud and medieval codes. But the one detail that fascinates me is Rambam’s reference to the signposts that needed to be placed at all crossroads indicating where the cities were, making it easier for the person at risk to find them.

This makes sense in modern-day Israel where, in the event of an attack, directing people to shelter is critical. But in the biblical model, and certainly in the modern sanctuary model, if someone is seeking shelter from another who looks to do them harm, don’t we need to carefully direct them to safety without making it too obvious to those chasing them where they’re sheltering? Road signs to a city of refuge might have helped the accidental murderer, but it might also have helped their pursuers!

At the end of the day, a city of refuge is of no use if those who need it can’t find it. And so the community is required to make sure that the roads leading to it are accessible, maintained and well-marked.

There is another parallel to a city of shelter within the Jewish world today. As we live through this life-threatening pandemic, community has become a place of emotional, spiritual and social refuge. It’s not only our bodies that are at risk, but also our souls as we wrestle with the existential, moral and religious crises the pandemic has created. In the protective embrace of community we may not discover all the answers to our questions, but we can find the inspiration to continue asking them.

It's our duty, then, to make access to our community clear and unfettered. Sha’ar’s open and inviting gateways into Jewish life lead to shared sanctuaries of study, reflection, exploration and celebration. And, as we take our place in Sha’ar’s varied settings, we each become, as the Rebbe suggested, a living signpost declaring for all who seek reprieve and renewal, “Refuge, Refuge,” welcoming them into our sanctuary of hope and love.

Shabbat Shalom,

Virtual  Megillah Reading  :  Thursday, February  25th   at   5:45pm EST


Join Dini, Andi and family for a warm and friendly virtual Megillah reading on Purim night, Thursday Feb 25, at Toronto's Beth Haminyan, home shul to several Sha'ar members, including Sherry Kelner who will be chanting part of the Megillah. Minha at 5:45pm followed by Ma'ariv and Megillah reading. The text of the Megillah will appear on your screens. Have a grogger at the ready (and some hamantaschen in case you get hungry). A costume contest is part of the festivities!! Beit Haminyan will make a donation to Ve'ahavta in honor of the winner.

Congregation Beth Haminyan is celebrating its 47th year as a vibrant and energetic shul in midtown Toronto. Tfilot are led by members and include a weekly Dvar Torah, a weekly children's service and program and an excellent kiddush.  We offer traditional, participatory davening on Shabbat and all holidays, as well as an egalitarian service held at various times throughout the year. Our regular location on Shabbat is at the West Prep Public School, 70 Ridge Hill Avenue, Toronto. Find out more about us at


Join on Zoom here.

(Password: Minyan)

GroundWaves with Special Guest  Susan Roy, Esq :   Monday, March 1 at 8:30pm EST


Susan Roy is currently the Immediate Past Chair of the NJBSA Immigration Law Section; and the Legislative Coordinator for the Municipal Court Section. Sue has been a previous speaker at the Mercer County Bar Association Xtreme CLE program, as well as numerous NJSBA and NJICLE panels. She is also the Vice-Chair of the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s NJ Chapter.


Sha'ar Justice Beit Midrash 2020/2021   : Wednesday, March 3,   7:00-8:30PM EST  


Rabbi Rachel Grant Meyer is the Rabbi-in-Residence at HIAS, the world’s oldest, and only Jewish refugee resettlement agency. She develops materials, resources, and programs that educate American Jews about refugee issues, connecting the plight of contemporary refugees to Jewish values and history, and she travels around the United States teaching and speaking about the global refugee crisis.

In the traditional style of a Beit Midrash (House of Study), we’ll combine wrestling with sources together with guided teachings focused on a range of societal issues: civic responsibility, democracy, leadership, race, immigration, healthcare, income inequality, climate, and more. Each unit will be capped by a visit with a leading activist or advocacy organization to build the bridge between learning and doing, and to catalyze the transformational impact of our study.

For more information click here.

Shabbat Morning Service  :   Saturday, March 6   at   10:00am EST



Join us for a Shabbat filled with music and spirit. 

Find the virtual Siddur here.
Register here.

SAVE THE DATE : Book Talk with Author Nessa Rapoport : Thursday, March 11 at 7:30-8:30pm EST




Join us in welcoming Nessa Rapoport back to Sha'ar for a discussion and Q&A of her book Evening.

Please submit your questions for Nessa beforehand to

Register here.
Purchase Evening here.

Evolve Podcast -   Human Composting: Good for the Environment, But Is It Kosher?



 Listen to Dini speak about green approaches to death and burial with Rabbi Seth Goldstein in an engaging episode of the Evolve  podcast entitled "Human Composting: Good for the Environment, But Is It Kosher?"

Listen to the podcast here.

Sat, February 27 2021 15 Adar 5781