Five hundred year later, we hear again about Shaar Hamayim. The Mishnah, in tractate Sukkah (Chapter 5), describes the carnival atmosphere during Sukkot. "One who has never experienced the water-drawing festival of Sukkot, Simchat Beit HaShoeva," says the ancient text, "has never experienced joy." In preparation for the water offering at sunrise, the leaders of the Jewish community would join in all night celebrations including music, dance, gymnastics and juggling torches! Water was drawn from a well outside Shaar Hamayim, brought through the Water Gate accompanied by blasts of the shofar, and then poured as libations beseeching God for rain and a bountiful harvest. Shaar Hamayim aspires to double face Torah and today's generation of thirsty Jews by blending education with celebration as we reclaim our inheritance.
The Water Gate, Shaar Hamayim, was one of 13 gates surrounding the courtyard of the Jerusalem Temple. In the Bible (Nehemiah 8), Ezra reads the Torah to men, women, and children at the gate upon their return from the Babylonian exile. He translates the Torah into Aramaic—since the returning refugees had forgotten Hebrew in the intervening years—and then he explains what the Torah means to this group of pioneers thirsty for Torah. Steven Fraade, a contemporary scholar at Yale University, describes Ezra as “double facing.” Ezra was facing the Torah at the same time he was facing his people. His task, like ours, was to interpret the Torah in the face of his people's unique circumstances, challenges, and opportunities. That was 458 BCE—nearly 2500 years ago.
Shaar Hamayim promotes Jewish learning as one path of integrating the breadth and depth of Jewish wisdom into our own journeys of walking humbly with, and within, the LORD. Shaar Hamayim offers a Talmud Torah program for 10th-12th graders which will both expose students to the foundational texts of Jewish culture and promote a Yiddishe kop by engaging in the critical thinking exercises of our ancestors but from a modern perspective. We also program educational events and offer curricular consulting.