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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 

פְּסָל־לְךָ֛ שְׁנֵֽי־לֻחֹ֥ת אֲבָנִ֖ים כָּרִאשֹׁנִ֑ים

Carve for yourself two tablets of stone like the first (Shemot 34:1)

וְיִקְח֣וּ אֵלֶיךָ֩ פָרָ֨ה אֲדֻמָּ֜ה תְּמִימָ֗ה אֲשֶׁ֤ר אֵֽין־בָּהּ֙ מ֔וּם אֲשֶׁ֛ר לֹא־עָלָ֥ה עָלֶ֖יהָ עֹֽל

[Instruct the Israelite people] to bring you a red cow without blemish, in which there is no defect and on which no yoke has been laid. (Bamidbar 19:2)


After Moshe breaks the Luhot HaBrit, God tells him to prepare another set of stones for the second tablets to be inscribed with the commandments:
פְּסָל־לְךָ֛ שְׁנֵֽי־לֻחֹ֥ת אֲבָנִ֖ים כָּרִאשֹׁנִ֑ים/carve for yourself two tablets of stone like the first...
Why is the word “לְךָ֛/for yourself” included? Why isn’t it just “פְּסָל/carve two tablets of stone”?  

Ibn Ezra notes that the extra word is for emphasis. Whereas the first tablets were received passively by Moshe, these were to be a joint Divine-human effort, hence, “carve for yourself.” The second set of commandments is the one that endured because Moshe was actively involved in making them, just as our own Jewish commitments help sustain their sanctity. 

But Ibn Ezra also notes how this formulation is similar to the earlier command to Avraham, “לך לך/ go forth to yourself.” The Mei Hashiloach interprets that command to mean “go forth to find your authentic self, to learn who you’re meant to be.”

“Carve for yourself” has a similar message: record these commandments as the pathways to living your most righteous life. But the message goes even deeper if we read it as “carve yourself.”

We’re not summoned to the Brit, the covenant, to sit back and receive the gifts of sacred responsibilities. Rather, we’re to shape and sculpt ourselves into beings worthy to receive and strong enough to embrace the gift of Torah and her holy, ennobling obligations. More than open our arms, we need to open our hearts and minds; to carve and mold our values, morals, and priorities.  We need to make ourselves a tablet on which the ever unfolding Torah of the Jewish people can continue to be inscribed.

This week, all of our Sha’ar programs have been preparing us for this Refugee Shabbat, sponsored by HIAS. GroundWaves hosted Susan Roy, a prominent immigration attorney and former immigration judge. Our Justice Beit Midrash hosted HIAS’ Rabbi Rachel Grant Meyer. Watch the recordings here and here. Tomorrow at our Shabbat service we’ll welcome Jorge Pillcorema, an Ecuadorian asylum grantee who will share his story.

Even in these last few days we’ve configured ourselves and our community to manifest our conviction that all human beings are to be treated with dignity and respect, especially those who are vulnerable. In doing so, we've deepened our readiness for the mitzvah of welcoming the ger, the stranger seeking a home among us.

Let this past week and this Shabbat not remain isolated in the calendars of our hearts; let them inspire and motivate us to act in the weeks, months and years ahead. After all, “פְּסָל־לְךָ֛/carve yourself” is not a one-time commandment; it’s one that is fulfilled over the course of a lifetime, over and over again. Indeed, it is the very task of life to constantly be in a state of becoming.  Never think you’ve grown all you can grow, that you have become all you can become. For the journey is never-ending. There is always more wisdom to discover and integrate. There are always more people to love and honor.

Shabbat Shalom,

Shabbat Morning Service  with Special Guest Gorge Pillcorema:   Saturday, March 6   at   10:00am EST





Refugee Shabbat 2021 is a moment for congregations, organizations, and individuals in the United States and around the world to dedicate a Shabbat experience to refugees and asylum seekers.

Find the virtual Siddur here.
Register here.

GroundWaves with Special Guest  Vanessa Wruble :   Monday, March 8 at 8:30pm EST


Vanessa Wruble is the co-founder and lead organizer of the Women’s March on Washington, where she served to right the imbalance of power, fight on behalf of all marginalized people, and ensure the end of structural patriarchy. She went on to co-found and lead March On, whose campaign "March On The Polls" is credited with substantially shifting the power balance in the country.


Sha'ar Justice Beit Midrash 2020/2021   : Wednesday, March 10,   7:00-8:30PM EST  


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.




Watch our Justice Beit Midrash session with Rabbi Rachel Grant Meyer of HIAS who brought passion, insight and guidance to the issues of refugees and responsible immigration reform and how we can each make a difference.


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.

Fri, March 5 2021 21 Adar 5781