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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 מִמָּֽחֳרַ֣ת הַשַּׁבָּ֔ת מִיּוֹם֙ הֲבִ֣יאֲכֶ֔ם אֶת־עֹ֖מֶר הַתְּנוּפָ֑ה שֶׁ֥בַע שַׁבָּת֖וֹת תְּמִימֹ֥ת 
:תִּֽהְיֶֽינָה: עַ֣ד מִמָּֽחֳרַ֤ת הַשַּׁבָּת֙ הַשְּׁבִיעִ֔ת תִּסְפְּר֖וּ חֲמִשִּׁ֣ים י֑וֹם וְהִקְרַבְתֶּ֛ם מִנְחָ֥ה חֲדָשָׁ֖ה לַֽיהֹוָֽה

And you shall count for yourselves, from the morrow of the rest day from the day you bring the omer as a wave offering seven weeks; they shall be complete.You shall count until the day after the seventh week, [namely,] the fiftieth day, [on which] you shall bring a new gift offering to God. (Parashat Emor, Vayikra 23:16)

Hevre/Friends,

The greatest distance in the world is between the head and the heart, taught Rabbi Yisrael Salanter. For many, making that journey is daunting. The truth is, it’s a lifelong adventure.

In our Jewish tradition, Talmud Torah (study and education) is more than an intellectual exercise. We pour over texts, commentaries, and analyses - whether we’re studying rabbinics, science, literature, the arts, or history - not simply to fill our minds with information, but to be transformed by it. Knowledge remains incomplete not until its insights are mastered by our brains, but until they’re absorbed by our souls; until they penetrate our self-understanding and motivate us to behave with compassion, hope, and responsibility. Traversing the distance between the head and the heart is the most sacred pilgrimage of all.

It’s in this week’s parashah, Emor, where we read about how on the second day of the Passover festival, a measure of barley called an omer was brought to the Temple from the new crops, after which 49 days were counted marking the 7 weeks of the Spring harvest season. On the 50th day, Shavuot (lit. “weeks”) was celebrated, signaled by the bringing of the first fruits of the harvest, “a new gift.” 

The Rabbis added a spiritual dimension to this time by identifying these weeks as those we spent in the wilderness making our way from Egypt to Sinai. There, God and the people of Israel entered into an everlasting covenant, or brit, with one another bound by the Torah, bringing the liberation from Egypt to its ultimate conclusion: spiritual liberation; the freedom to commit ourselves to our sacred values and traditions. 

As with other festivals, we don’t just remember these events and their significance; we reenact them.  We count the 49 days during which we journey spiritually from our Pesah commitment to physical, emotional, and psychological freedom toward our Shavuot reacceptance of the Jewish responsibilities that ground and inform our being. In many ways, these weeks, too, are a journey from the head to the heart.

Consider this deeper link between the Omer offering and the 49-day journey towards Sinai. Acquiring Torah - extracting meaning and purpose from our heritage - requires a reaching into the soil of our own personal narratives and those of our people and drawing out nourishment and sustenance from them. It is this period of the agricultural harvest that inspires our intellectual harvest, readying us to stand at Sinai and to commit our lives to its moral and spiritual yield. 

The journey from the head to the heart can feel dangerous or overwhelming. Moving from what we know intellectually as true and good to a disciplined routine of true and good actions is demanding in many ways. Like the shifting landscape of the wilderness itself, it can also be confusing. As with any journey, traveling with fellow pilgrims makes all the difference. או חברותא או מיתותא, the Talmud says. ֵEither friendship or death. Fellowship and community are the fuel of self-growth and vitality. 

Today is Lag B’Omer, the 33rd day of this wilderness journey which marks the yahrzeit of Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai, venerated as the author of the mystical text known as The Zohar, which means “radiance”. We light bonfires in memory of his illuminating teachings and in celebration of the power of Torah - which in Aramaic is called “Oraita” from the word “Or” which means light - to light a life path for us whose foundation is love; love of self, other, and the holy One that unites us all.  We celebrate the power of Torah to light up a life path that leads from our heads to our hearts.

May this respite along our annual trek from Egypt to Sinai, from ethics to action, from knowing to doing, from the head to the heart, invigorate us for the final weeks of this most holy and urgent pilgrimage. And may we discover along our trails the power of our own light - individual and communal - to brighten the still-dark corners of our world. 

Shabbat Shalom,
Dini 

GroundWaves : Mondays, 8:30pm EST

April 26: Special Guest The Honorable Patricia Ann Torsney 

The Honorable Patricia Ann “Paddy” Torsney is a Canadian politician and former member of the Canadian Parliament who has become a multilateral diplomat as the Permanent Observer of the Inter-Parliamentary Union at the United Nations in New York City. She will be speaking on the Inter-Parliamentary Union to the United Nations, and global diplomacy for local change. She will be speaking about the IPU and global diplomacy for local change.

 

JOIN GROUNDWAVES ZOOM HERE.

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

May 5 Topic: Healthcare Equity

With Special Guest Dr. Shami Feinglass

    

Sha'ar is proud to present Dr. Shami Feinglass for a unique opportunity to hear from one of the country's foremost experts on healthcare equity and to engage in a deep and informative conversation about its many dimensions including economics, politics, culture, and bias. We'll explore the foundations of healthcare equity — access and outcomes — and how and why they either succeed or struggle in different systems around the world. 

We want this to be as interactive a program as possible. Please send questions for Dr. Feinglass in advance of the session to info@shaarcommunity.org.  And please invite any and all who may be interested to join us for this extraordinary opportunity

 


 

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 Morning Walk Minyan  :  Thursdays at 8:15am EST

The Morning Walk Minyan is a weekly outdoor devotional walk 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.

Please gather at the posted time at the statue in front of the Delacorte Theater just off 80th Street and Central Park West; the walk is approximately 45 minutes long. 

 All outdoor programs require participants to wear masks.

My Octopus Teacher   Watch Party & Discussion : Thursday, May 13, 7:00pm EST

 

Join the Sha'ar Climate Crew on May 13th for a watch party of the Oscar-winning Netflix Original documentary My Octopus Teacher.

The acclaimed film follows filmmaker Craig Foster as he spends a year forging an unusual friendship with a wild common octopus living in a South African kelp forest, learning as the animal shares the mysteries of her world.

Register here.

The watch party will consist of a screening of the film (1:25 hour runtime) followed by a facilitated discussion with Betsy Imershein.

Thu, May 6 2021 24 Iyyar 5781