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The Gates are Closing ... or Are They?

Source Sheet by Irwin Zeplowitz
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Created September 10, 2021 · 127 Views נוצר 10 September, 2021 · 127 צפיות

The final worship service on Yom Kippur is called Neilah, which means “locking” or “closing”, related to the theme of the closing of the gates for the day and our opportunity to be sealed in the Book of Life. What, however, does it really mean to say the gates are “closing”? As the long day of fasting ends what important messages does Neilah offer for us to take with us beyond Yom Kippur for living a worthy, good life?

  1.  

    פתח לנו שער, 

    בעת נעילת שער

    כי פנה יום.

    היום יפנה,

    השמש יבא ויפנה,

    נבואה שעריך.

    Ashkenazi Machzor - Neilah

     

    Open a gate for us when the gates are being closed,

    for the day is about to fade.

    The day shall end, the sun shall set.

    Let us enter Your gates!

  2. Rabbi Alan Lew,  This is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared

     

    Rabbi Levi Yitzchåak of Berditchev said that it isn’t just that the gates of heaven are open during the Ten Days of Teshuva; what is far more significant is that an energy, an attractive force, passes through this opening during these days. This is a very subtle energy, and for most of the Ten Days, when the gates are wide open, we don’t even notice it. But during the Neilah service, as the gates begin to close and the opening becomes narrower and narrower, this attractive energy becomes more and more intense, more and more noticeable. It is precisely this energy which draws us to the Neilah service so intensely, and which inspires us to pray so fervently once there. The prayer we utter at Neilah is that most urgent of all human prayers, the prayer of the last chance. The gates of heaven are closing. We only have a few minutes left.

  3. דברים רבה ב׳

    (יב)... זֶה שֶׁאָמַר הַכָּתוּב (תהלים סט, יד): וַאֲנִי תְפִלָּתִי לְךָ ה' עֵת רָצוֹן, רַבִּי חֲנִינָא בַּר פָּפָּא שָׁאַל לְרַבִּי שְׁמוּאֵל בַּר נַחְמָן מַהוּ דִּכְתִיב וַאֲנִי תְפִלָּתִי לְךָ ה' עֵת רָצוֹן, אָמַר לוֹ שַׁעֲרֵי תְּפִלָּה פְּעָמִים פְּתוּחִים פְּעָמִים נְעוּלִים, אֲבָל שַׁעֲרֵי תְּשׁוּבָה לְעוֹלָם פְּתוּחִים.

    Devarim Rabbah 2:12

     

    As it says (Psalms 69:14), "As for me, may my prayer come to You, O Eternal, at a favorable moment. [O God, in Your abundant faithfulness, answer me with Your sure deliverance.],

     

    Rabbi Shmuel bar Nachman said to Rabbi Hannina bar Papa, the gates of prayer are sometimes open and sometimes closed, but the gates of repentance are always open.

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  5. תהילים כד: ז׳, י׳


    שְׂא֤וּ שְׁעָרִ֨ים ׀ רָֽאשֵׁיכֶ֗ם וְֽ֭הִנָּשְׂאוּ פִּתְחֵ֣י עוֹלָ֑ם וְ֝יָב֗וֹא מֶ֣לֶךְ הַכָּבֽוֹד


    מִ֤י ה֣וּא זֶה֮ מֶ֤לֶךְ הַכָּ֫ב֥וֹד יְהֹוָ֥ה צְבָא֑וֹת ה֤וּא מֶ֖לֶךְ הַכָּב֣וֹד סֶֽלָה׃

    Psalms 24: 7, 10

    Lift yourselves, gates of heaven — rise high! Be carried aloft, everlasting portals, that the Sovereign of Splendor may enter.

     

    Who is the Sovereign of Splendor?

    The eternal Soul of the universe, the Sublime —

    this is the Sovereign of Splendor.

  6. El nora alilah אֵל נוֹרָא עֲלִילָה. Composed by Rabbi Moses Ibn Ezra (ca. 1055– 1138), this piyut (religious poem) from the Sephardic tradition resounds with urgency, hope, and faith in the special power of prayers uttered in this closing hour of Yom Kippur.

     

    Our Creator, God of awe,

    God sublime, whose deeds are true,

    have compassion, grant us pardon,

    as we enter N’ilah.

     

    “Small in Number,” we are called—

    we who lift our eyes to seek You,

    and with trembling hearts, beseech You,

    in this hour of N’ilah.

     

    For You our very life pours forth:

    free us of falsehood, rid us of sin;

    Fount of forgiveness, show us Your mercy,

    as we enter N’ilah.

     

    Be our true and faithful shelter;

    embrace us in grief, console us in pain;

    seal us for honor, contentment, and joy,

    in this hour of N’ilah.

     

    With grace and compassion

    oppose the oppressors, bring judgment to foes;

    oust the ones who war against us,

    as we enter N’ilah.

     

    Recall our mothers, remember our fathers;

    renew their righteousness in our days.

    Be near to us as You were to them,

    in this hour of N’ilah.

     

    Proclaim for us a year of favor;

    restore the unity to Your flock.

    Return this remnant to its glory,

    as we enter N’ilah.

     

    Daughters and sons, be worthy of your years —

    may they be many, and filled with joy!

    Bless us, Avinu, bless us with gladness,

    in this hour of N’ilah.

     

  7. Gates of Heaven שַׁעֲרֵי אַרְמוֹן. This liturgical poem (piyut) by Rabbi Simeon ben Isaac Abun (ca. 925-1020 CE) was written to introduce the K'dushah - a vision of the heavenly host joining the congregation of Israel in proclaiming God's glory. Focusing on the mutual love and loyalty that unite God and the Jewish people, the poem evokes an exhausted community yearning for a glimpse of heave: transcendent beauty and meaning. 

  8. שַׁעֲרֵי אַרְמוֹן

    מְהֵרָה תִפְתַּח לְבוֹאֲרֵי דַת אָמוֹן:

    שַׁעֲרֵי גְנוּזִים

    מְהֵרָה תִפְתַּח לְדָתְךָ אֲחוּזִים:

    שַׁעֲרֵי הֵיכָל הַנֶּחֱמָדִים מְהֵרָה תִפְתַּח לִוְעוּדִים:

    שַׁעֲרֵי זְבוּל

    מַחֲנַֽיִם מְהֵרָה תִפְתַּח לְחַכְלִילִי עֵינָֽיִם:

    שַׁעֲרֵי טָהֳרָה

    מְהֵרָה תִפְתַּח לְיָפָה וּבָרָה:

    שַׁעֲרֵי כֶֽתֶר

    הַמְיֻמָּן מְהֵרָה תִפְתַּח לְלֹא אַלְמָן:

    Gates of Heaven

     

    Gates of Your Presence! A Vision of Glory!

    Open them now to the red-eyed and weary from fasting and prayer.

    Gates of Purity! Gates of Radiance!

    Open them now to the people who glow with inner light.

    Gates of Sovereignty! Gates of Strength!

    Open them now to the people You have never abandoned.

     

    Gates of Your Presence! A Vision of Glory!

    Open them now to the red-eyed and weary from fasting and prayer.

    Gates of Purity! Gates of Radiance!

    Open them now to the people who glow with inner light.

    Gates of Sovereignty! Gates of Strength!

    Open them now to the people You have never abandoned.

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  10. אָמַר לוֹ נִמְשְׁלָה תְּפִלָּה כְּמִקְוָה וְנִמְשְׁלָה תְּשׁוּבָה כַּיָּם. מַה מִּקְוָה זוֹ פְּעָמִים פְּתוּחָה פְּעָמִים נְעוּלָה, כָּךְ שַׁעֲרֵי תְּפִלָּה פְּעָמִים נְעוּלִים פְּעָמִים פְּתוּחִין, אֲבָל הַיָּם הַזֶּה לְעוֹלָם פָּתוּחַ, כָּךְ שַׁעֲרֵי תְּשׁוּבָה לְעוֹלָם פְּתוּחִין.

    Prayer is likened to a mikveh and teshuvah (return/repentance) is likened to the sea. Just like a mikveh is sometimes open and other times closed, so too the gates of prayer are sometimes open and other times closed, but the sea is always open, so too with the gates of teshuvah, they are always open.

  11. Closing Words: How to Live a Worthy Life

                  From Deathbed to Rebirth

  12. (ד) וכאשר תבין זה, תבין גם כן מה שאמרו רז"ל בפרק המפלת (נדה ל:) כשהולד יוצא לאויר העולם, בא מלאך וסטרו על פיו, ומשכח ממנו כל התורה. למה אמרו "סטרו על פיו". כי הוא זה אשר אמרנו לך, כי הפה, שנעשה בו אדם חי מדבר גשמי, הוא משכח ממנו כל התורה.

    The Sages said (Babylonian Talmud, Niddah 30b): When the newborn emerges into the air of the world, an angel comes and strikes it on the mouth and makes it forget the whole Torah. Why does the angel strike it on the mouth? For it is by way of the mouth that the newborn becomes a living, speaking human being; and by the same blow on the mouth, the angel makes the infant forget the whole Torah.

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