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Until further notice, all outdoor events will require participants to wear a mask, and all other events will continue to be held virtually.

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 

וּסְפַרְתֶּ֤ם לָכֶם֙ מִמָּחֳרַ֣ת הַשַּׁבָּ֔ת מִיּוֹם֙ הֲבִ֣יאֲכֶ֔ם אֶת־עֹ֖מֶר הַתְּנוּפָ֑ה שֶׁ֥בַע שַׁבָּת֖וֹת תְּמִימֹ֥ת תִּהְיֶֽינָה׃עַ֣ד מִֽמָּחֳרַ֤ת הַשַּׁבָּת֙ הַשְּׁבִיעִ֔ת תִּסְפְּר֖וּ חֲמִשִּׁ֣ים י֑וֹם וְהִקְרַבְתֶּ֛ם מִנְחָ֥ה חֲדָשָׁ֖ה לַיהוָֽה׃

And from the day on which you bring the sheaf of elevation offering—the day after the sabbath—you shall count off seven weeks. They must be complete: you must count until the day after the seventh week—fifty days; then you shall bring an offering of new grain to God. (Vayikra 23:15-16)

Hevre/Friends,

I have a confession: there are nights when I forget to count the Omer. It seems a simple enough commitment to fulfill, and yet, it eludes me now and then during these seven weeks. I’m evolved enough to forgive myself these omissions. (I’m still working on forgiving myself for late night snacking.) What’s really troubling is the apparent unforgiving nature of our tradition.

A question arises in halakhic literature about one who forgets a night of counting the Omer: may they pick it up the next day or have they ruined, and forfeited, the whole 49-day ritual? You guessed it: there’s a debate among scholars. One side argued they should just continue the next night and move forward. The other argued that the whole undertaking has been undermined and there’s no redeeming it. How did the tradition rule? Right again: we compromised. One who forgets a night can pick it up the next day, BUT, you no longer get to say the blessing over the counting.

As Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, z”l, points out, this specific halakhic debate hinges on a larger one: is the counting of 49 days of the Omer one single mitzvah, or is each day’s counting an individual mitzvah? If it’s the former and you forget a day, it’s game over. But if it’s the latter, why shouldn’t you be able to pick it up again even as you reckon with having missed an opportunity to fulfill a mitzvah on the night you forgot? If we forget to daven one day, or we simply don’t daven, does that mean we can never pray again? To be one who prays isn’t itself a mitzvah; it’s our daily devotions and reflections that fulfill our religious mandate to be in conversation with the holy One.

While the compromise of counting but not blessing honors the scholars who debated the legal issue, it feels undignified to me as a practitioner. It feels punitive. So here’s another confession: when I resume my counting after forgetting a night, I say the blessing. If only all my rebellions were so sanctimonious! 

But there is something deep lurking within the custom of withholding the blessing in the wake of missing a night of counting the Omer, something we shouldn’t so quickly dismiss.

My friend and master educator Rachel Brodie challenged us this week in a teaching of hers at the Jewish Studio Project which Andi and I sponsored in honor of Andi’s mother Mavis’ 92nd birthday. Rachel asked: what if the mitzvah isn’t actually the counting itself, but rather remembering to count?

What if the blessing bestows holiness upon the arduous task of recalling every night for 49 nights in a row events that unfolded thousands of years ago? What if the blessing hallows memory itself, the core feature of Judaism’s prescription for a promising future?

There are things we are not permitted to forget. We are reminded of some of them during this week of what Rabbi Donniel Hartman refers to as the modern Jewish High Holy Days - Yom Hashoah, Yom Hazikaron, and Yom Ha’Atzmaut - days and nights filled with memories of those who perished in the Shoah, of those who lost their lives to war and violence in Israel, and memories of the miraculous - and ongoing - renewal of the Jewish State. Along with the dead, we must not forget the living and our obligations to them, be they loved ones or strangers. We must not forget those who are struggling to stay alive.

When we consider that the Omer blessing might actually be sanctifying memory itself, it becomes a clarion call to do whatever it takes to remember our obligation to remember. 

I will likely continue to side with those who permitted saying the blessing even after missing a night of the Omer. And I will look for a nice Omer counter! But I know that I will still miss a night now and then. And while that particular day of the 49-day wilderness journey from Egypt to Sinai, from Pesah to Shavuot, from slavery to freedom, will be my loss, I will feel the ritual sting of having forgotten, and the next blessing I make will strengthen my resolve to remember. 

Shabbat Shalom
Dini

The Israeli-Palestinian Joint Memorial Day Ceremony Wednesday, April 14, 2021 at   5:00pm EST

Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day, is a solemn day on which Israelis remember those they have lost in the years of war and conflict. By also acknowledging the pain of those living on the other side, the Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day Ceremony offers us all the choice to walk a new path: the path of respect, equality, freedom – and ultimately peace. The ceremony is hosted by Combatants for Peace & The Parents Circle–Families Forum.

Join us to view the ceremony as a community by registering here.

The program should run approximately 1:30 hours, after which we will break until the Justice Beit Midrash begins at 7:00pm. Following the JBM, at 8:15pm, we will mark the transition from Yom Hazikaron to Yom Ha'Atzmaut with a brief Havdalah ritual.

Sha'ar Justice Beit Midrash 2020/2021  : Wednesdays,   7:00pm-8:15pm EST  

April 14 Topic: Healthcare Equity 

Following the JBM, at 8:15pm, we will mark the transition from Yom Hazikaron to Yom Ha'Atzmaut with a brief Havdalah ritual.

 

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.
REGISTER FOR JUSTICE BEIT MIDRASH HERE.

The Sunset Stroll Minyan & The Morning Walk Minyan :   Tuesdays at 5:30pm EST &   Thursdays at 8:15am EST

Sha’ar announces a new, creative weekday morning & evening minyan!

Due to the great success of the Morning Walk Minyan, we've added an evening edition! The events are weekly outdoor devotional walks through Central Park for those who wish to expand their experience of prayer to include nature as a sanctuary for fellowship and embodied spirituality; framed by kavanot / intentions and the Mourner’s Kaddish.

For both walks, please gather at the posted time at the statue in front of the Delacorte Theater just off 80th Street and Central Park West; both walks are approximately 45 minutes long. Please visit our website for weather-related updates.

To listen in on the Minyan, register to receive the Zoom link & dial-in information. Click here for the Morning Walk and here for the Sunset Stroll.

For all outdoor programs, please visit our homepage for weather-related updates. All outdoor programs require participants to wear masks.

Shabbat Nature Walk and Learning in honor of Earth Day. BYO Kiddush!    Saturday, April 17, 2021   at 11:30am - 1:30pm EST

Celebrate Shabbat in anticipation of Earth Day on April 22 by joining Sha’ar for a devotional nature walk followed by an informal BYO Kiddush.

Meet at 11:30am at the northeast corner of Central Park West and 77th Street, near the Alexander von Humboldt Monument, across the street from the Museum of Natural History and the NY Historical Society.

All outdoor programs require participants to wear masks.

Sign up here. Please check the our homepage prior to Shabbat in case of any weather-related changes.

GroundWaves : Mondays, 8:30pm EST

April 19: Special Guest Raffi Schieir

Raffi Schieir is an experienced leader in the recycled plastic industry serving as chair of Europe’s main plastic recycling conference (ICIS 2017) and founded Bantam Materials LTD over one decade ago. Raffi established the fully traceable and certified Prevented Ocean Plastic program that provides reliable income streams for coastline collectors and recyclers in developing countries. Raffi is a social entrepreneur with truth in recycling and solutions at meaningful scale at the core of what he does.

JOIN GROUNDWAVES ZOOM HERE.

LBGTQIA Discussion Group : Sunday,  April 25, 5:00pm EST

An open, participant-driven conversation facilitated by Rabbi Adina Lewittes for LGBTQIA seekers of Jewish community and Jewish spirituality 

All are welcome.

Register here.

Wed, April 14 2021 2 Iyyar 5781