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Kehillat Shaar HaShamayim: “the community of the gates of heaven”

We have both a local and a global community

Rabbi Yonaton Halevy and wife Rabbanit Devorah Halevy
Rabbi Yonaton Halevy and wife Rabbanit Devorah Halevy

Kehillat Shaar HaShamayim

  • Contact: 3232 Governor Dr., Suite K, San Diego 858-752-1025 www.kshsd.org
  • Membership: 50
  • Rabbi: Yonatan Halevy
  • Age: 32
  • Born: San Diego
  • Formation: Ner Israel Rabbinical College, Baltimore, MD; Shehebar Sephardic Center, Jerusalem, Israel.
  • Years Ordained: 12

San Diego Reader: What denomination of Judaism is your community?

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Rabbi Yonatan Halevy: We are a Sephardic Jewish community and pre-date all the Eastern European Jewish denominations that may be familiar to the American public — such as the Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform communities. We prefer not to identify by way of denomination as any of them, though we are more traditional, so people often incorrectly consider us Orthodox. We have both a local and a global community that my wife, Rabbanit Devorah Halevy, and I co-lead together. Kehillat Shaar HaShamayim is the San Diego branch, and it means “the community of the gates of heaven.” It’s part of a much larger umbrella non-profit organization my wife and I run called Shiviti. That organization has today around the world about 3500 people related to it.

SDR: How long do you spend preparing your sermon?

RH: I teach and lecture almost every day at Shiviti – much of it is done here in San Diego and those classes are an hour and a half to two hours of study. As for my Saturday formal sermons, I don’t prepare at all. I speak from the heart… But since I study constantly, they’re filled with information I’ve gleaned over the years. But they don’t involve any formal preparation during the week.

SDR: What one book has had the most impact on your ministry?

RH: The Shulkhan Arukh. This book is the code of Jewish law written by Rabbi Joseph Karo. He was the last undisputed leader of the Sephardic Jewish community. Every Sephardic Jew around the world adheres to the codes of law that are legislated in this book. This book is what made Sephardic Judaism what it is, and we study it every day together, along with the Torah itself, obviously… Rabbi Karo took it upon himself to look at every detail of Judaism and codify one way for Jewish people to observe Judaism, not in terms of culture but in terms of practice. He brought together all the conflicting Jewish opinions, collected them in one book, gave them the respect they needed, while rallying the Jewish people around one faith all over again. He single-handedly united the Jewish people in a way no one had been able to since we were an autonomous nation in our own land more than 2000 years ago.

SDR: Where do you go when you die?

RH: People have a misconception that Jews don’t believe in heaven or hell. It’s a little more complicated than that. If we didn’t believe in reward and consequence, there would be little motivation to do anything good. My understanding is that our Sages believe we all go to the same place, but what we experience there is really the difference between heaven and hell. We go to a place full of Godliness and souls and goodness and peace, all the wonderful things we who live a God-conscious life appreciate. If we were living our whole lives God-conscious, no matter what faith, if each of us strives to be a good person and be close to God and follow the way of God, we will find ourselves after death in the greatest heaven that could ever be. If someone was running away from that their whole life — they didn’t want anything to do with it – “I don’t want God or anyone!” — they still spend the rest of their lives with God and all the rest. That’s probably the greatest hell they could ever imagine.

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Rabbi Yonaton Halevy and wife Rabbanit Devorah Halevy
Rabbi Yonaton Halevy and wife Rabbanit Devorah Halevy

Kehillat Shaar HaShamayim

  • Contact: 3232 Governor Dr., Suite K, San Diego 858-752-1025 www.kshsd.org
  • Membership: 50
  • Rabbi: Yonatan Halevy
  • Age: 32
  • Born: San Diego
  • Formation: Ner Israel Rabbinical College, Baltimore, MD; Shehebar Sephardic Center, Jerusalem, Israel.
  • Years Ordained: 12

San Diego Reader: What denomination of Judaism is your community?

Sponsored
Sponsored

Rabbi Yonatan Halevy: We are a Sephardic Jewish community and pre-date all the Eastern European Jewish denominations that may be familiar to the American public — such as the Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform communities. We prefer not to identify by way of denomination as any of them, though we are more traditional, so people often incorrectly consider us Orthodox. We have both a local and a global community that my wife, Rabbanit Devorah Halevy, and I co-lead together. Kehillat Shaar HaShamayim is the San Diego branch, and it means “the community of the gates of heaven.” It’s part of a much larger umbrella non-profit organization my wife and I run called Shiviti. That organization has today around the world about 3500 people related to it.

SDR: How long do you spend preparing your sermon?

RH: I teach and lecture almost every day at Shiviti – much of it is done here in San Diego and those classes are an hour and a half to two hours of study. As for my Saturday formal sermons, I don’t prepare at all. I speak from the heart… But since I study constantly, they’re filled with information I’ve gleaned over the years. But they don’t involve any formal preparation during the week.

SDR: What one book has had the most impact on your ministry?

RH: The Shulkhan Arukh. This book is the code of Jewish law written by Rabbi Joseph Karo. He was the last undisputed leader of the Sephardic Jewish community. Every Sephardic Jew around the world adheres to the codes of law that are legislated in this book. This book is what made Sephardic Judaism what it is, and we study it every day together, along with the Torah itself, obviously… Rabbi Karo took it upon himself to look at every detail of Judaism and codify one way for Jewish people to observe Judaism, not in terms of culture but in terms of practice. He brought together all the conflicting Jewish opinions, collected them in one book, gave them the respect they needed, while rallying the Jewish people around one faith all over again. He single-handedly united the Jewish people in a way no one had been able to since we were an autonomous nation in our own land more than 2000 years ago.

SDR: Where do you go when you die?

RH: People have a misconception that Jews don’t believe in heaven or hell. It’s a little more complicated than that. If we didn’t believe in reward and consequence, there would be little motivation to do anything good. My understanding is that our Sages believe we all go to the same place, but what we experience there is really the difference between heaven and hell. We go to a place full of Godliness and souls and goodness and peace, all the wonderful things we who live a God-conscious life appreciate. If we were living our whole lives God-conscious, no matter what faith, if each of us strives to be a good person and be close to God and follow the way of God, we will find ourselves after death in the greatest heaven that could ever be. If someone was running away from that their whole life — they didn’t want anything to do with it – “I don’t want God or anyone!” — they still spend the rest of their lives with God and all the rest. That’s probably the greatest hell they could ever imagine.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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