Neilah Blessing

A thing I wrote for Ne'ilah (the service at the end of Yom Kippur) that I thought I would share...

[Edited to add: I feel like using the word "thing" above undermines the depth of these words - that was not the intention.]


Neilah Blessing

Our liturgy tells us that the gates of teshuva, of return, are closing. This sacred moment in our communal calendar is coming to an end. My head says to reflect, to process, to ask what we have learned and where we are headed, my heart is panicking that I forgot something or someone, and my gut wants you to know that I will hold the gates open for you. Given that Yom Kippur is as much about embodied experience as it is prayer, I am going with my gut.

So let me be clear - 
I wilI hold the gates open for you. I will jump between the clanging metal and put my body in between the meeting point of the two sides. I will put my hands out and push, throwing my body weight against them if necessary. I will put my hand in front of the closing elevator or subway doors. I will hold the gates open for you.

But wait. Hold up. Which of the gates are closing? 
My mind is racing through the rabbinic sources that I’ve learned - maybe the gates are open through Shmini Atzeret?! I’m certain that the Talmud teaches that the gates of tears never close, which is good because I’ve been doing a lot of crying. And what is it that it says about the gates of prayer?

The truth is that I don’t believe in gates anyway. Or at least I don’t believe that they lock.

So let me ask you - 
Is your heart softer? 
Do you feel lighter? 
Are you ready to move forward into the world with vulnerability and love, boldly building the world that you want to live in?

The gates are closing. They are closing because we can not stay in this iteration of sacred community forever. Or even for a minute longer than the sun allows. They are closing because the world outside needs our prayer, because the world outside needs us.

I will hold other gates open for you. 
I will hold the gates of my heart open. 
I will hold the gates of my soul open. 
I will be ready to give and to receive. 
It is through these gates that I will walk boldly and take action. 
It is through these gates that overflowing love and righteousness will flow, Gd willing, to inspire me to seek justice.

Chevre. Friends. Community. 
All of you. 
I will hold these gates open for you. And trust that you will do the same for me -- though let me tell you this latter work is so much more difficult. 
But I am ready. 
The world has taught me that I have no other choice.
Today has shown me that I am up to the challenge.

Adonai, my God, and God of my ancestors. Help us keep these gates open to each other. Remind us that the gates to you are always unlocked. Show us that you are always willing, and that love and righteousness and justice are always available.

Adonai do this for the sake of the world, for the sake of your holy creation. 
Adonai, do this for me, for us, and for all who suffer.

Ana Adonai. Please, my Gd. 
Hatzlicha nah. May we be successful.
Ana Adonai. Hazlicha nah.