Pleading as the Gates Begin to Close

By Les Nelson

It is late in the afternoon of Yom Kippur. The sense that Yom Kippur is beginning to draw to a close, that time is fleeting, is palpable. The concluding service begins. The congregation grows in size and my anticipation of what for years has been been a moment that strikes at my soul, at my core, is growing. I am tempted to flip ahead in Mahzor Lev Shalem to find it, but I resist—because there is more praying, more soul searching, and more work to do before then.

Then it happens. The rabbis sit as Ari comes to the center of the bimah. Anticipation envelops the congregation. The musicians begin to play and we hear the music and the words of Petah Lanu Sha’ar. The moment has arrived when we ask that the gates be kept open for us, even as they are closing. We recognize in music and words that the day is ending.

I invite you to listen.

The final notes and words of Ari’s voice reverberate. The entire congregation sits in silence, some in tears. I sit with my eyes closed, stirred, but by what? It must be the music, the melody, and the depth of Ari’s singing that have shaken me. Even if you do not understand the words, the music is so evocative that the urgency and the pleading are palpable. At that moment, I can feel the doors closing, but not yet closed.

About Les Nelson

Les and his wife, Jill Hayman, and their children, Remy and Micah, became BJ members in 1997. Les, after serving as an officer in the US Navy for seven and a half years, had a thirty-year career at Goldman Sachs. He is a member of the BJ Board of Trustees. Les and his dog, Piper, are a Pet-Assisted Therapy Team, visiting the Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital of Columbia-Presbyterian.