Celebrate Rosh Hashanah with the Gates of Our Hearts and Our Minds Open

Friday, September 27, 2019
Posted by: Rabbi Samantha Safran, Director, Bobbi & Vic Samuels Center for Jewish Living and Learning

Open GatesEvery Yom Kippur, as the sun is setting and the holy day is nearing its end, we sing this prayer:

Petach lanu sha’ar,
Beit neilah sha’ar,
ki fanah yom.

Open the gates for us,
At this time when they are closing,
For the day is coming to an end.

We ask that the gates of judgment stay open a little longer, so that we can finish atoning for our wrongdoings from the past year and resolve to be better in the year to come.

Yom Kippur’s place on the Jewish calendar is a little surprising. One would think that we should atone and wipe the slate clean from the prior year before heading into a new one. And yet, we celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, first, and then we atone ten days later on Yom Kippur. Why did our sages create this seemingly incongruous order?

Perhaps the reason lies somewhere in the concept of opening and closing the gates. In fact, I couldn’t help but think of the Petach lanu prayer last week, when Tropical Storm Imelda deluged our city yet again with an ominous amount of rain, and we at the J were talking a lot about gates. Will there be enough water to trigger the newly installed floodgates in front of our building? Do we activate the gate by the Bertha Alyce School entrance so that parents and children don’t have to walk far in the rain? And how long do we leave our parking lot gates open during the storm, when our members are determining whether they should stay put or attempt to make it home or to a loved one? In the moment, gates became of the utmost importance as we grappled with urgent decisions to be made and not enough time to make them.

However, when we are surrounded by gates, our field of vision is extremely limited. Being inside a particular situation makes it tough to see outside of it. We make the best decisions we can, but often those decisions are preceded by anxiety, panic, stress, and discomfort. Naturally, we lack the hindsight and perspective that comes with the aftermath.

Which leads me back to our sages’ decision to put Rosh Hashanah before Yom Kippur. Perhaps it isn’t wise to atone for our wrongs the same year in which we committed them. Perhaps it is only when we start a new year, that we can have the perspective to look back and adequately reflect on the past one.

Petach lanu sha’ar,
Beit neilah sha’ar,
ki fanah yom.

Open the gates for us,
At this time when they are closing ,
For the day is coming to an end

This year, may we celebrate Rosh Hashanah with the gates of our hearts and our minds open; may we navigate the storms of our relationships, our jobs, our lives and try not to veer too much off course. But when we do veer, may Yom Kippur bring us the perspective and hindsight to reflect, learn and grow.

Shabbat Shalom and Shanah Tovah U’Metukah, wishing you and your loved ones a sweet and happy new year.


Rabbi Samantha


Category: CJLL