Nizakher Venikatev: A Reflective Guide for Ne’ilah
What transitions have you encountered this year that you were able to move through with ease? What transitions have been difficult?
Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson notes of Ne’ilah that the task of squeezing into the “sacred lures us towards our own optimal greatness … it is precisely the paradox that allows us to squeeze ourselves through, self-surpassing, as is our God.” Have you had to practice spiritual tzimtzum (self-contraction) this year? What was needed of you in that moment?
The very end of Yom Kippur finds us reciting key biblical verses affirming God’s sovereignty, as well as the Shema, followed by one last tekiah gedolah of the shofar. How has this moment resonated for you in the past: has it been one of rededication, of urgency, of groundedness, or of something else? How do you want to approach this moment this year?
In the sanctuary, the last few remaining moments of the gates of mercy remaining accessible are ritualized through the practice of keeping the doors of the aron ha-kodesh open through the Ne’ilah service. In this moment, our access to not only mercy but also to Torah is acute. What learning would you like to delve deeper into in the coming year?
Many therapists are familiar with the “doorknob revelation,” where a patient discloses important information right as the session ends. Have you ever shared something essential right at the last minute? How did it feel for you and for the others affected?
Journal briefly: Is there a moment or mistake from this year that has been difficult to let go of during these Ten Days of Awe? Write about it: What happened? Who was involved? What might it feel like to let go of this last ache from the year?
While Ne’ilah heralds the end of the Ten Days of Awe, it is also a powerful moment of reflection. What is the spiritual work you accomplished over the past ten days? What are you most proud of?
The late author Terry Pratchett famously said, “There is always time for another last minute.” What spiritual work are you looking to continue in the new year of 5781?
One beloved BJ Ne’ilah tradition is to bring children and young families into the sanctuary right at the end of the service, to hold candles in the darkness just before havdalah. Try bringing some of this ritual to your bedtime routine, maybe with a flashlight or an electronic candle. What feels important to say right at the last minute before the lights go out? What are you still holding onto through Yom Kippur?