Sunday, September 19, 2010


Sat 18 Sep 2010
Yom Kippur service
Congregation Adat Reyim
Dr Maurice M. Mizrahi

 -The Neilah is the concluding service on Yom Kippur. It was not always part of the liturgy.  It was introduced in Talmudic times (Jerusalem Talmud, Berachot 45a).
-Some 2000 years ago a certain Rabbi Levi said: God said in Isaiah 1:15:

Even if you pray profusely I will not answer, [because] your hands are full of blood.
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-He concluded that if your hands are not full of blood AND you pray profusely you WILL be answered!  It’s a promise.  He turned the negative-sounding biblical verse into something positive.  So the Sages added Neilah to increase the chance that our prayers will be answered on Yom Kippur.

-50 years ago this minute, I was standing in Shaar HaShamayim synagogue in downtown Cairo, Egypt, where I grew up.  The people were tired, sleepy, hungry.  The prayers were down to a low monotone.  They did not want to hear about the origin of the Neilah service.  They wanted the Neilah itself.  Then came the Neilah song.  The transformation was something to behold.  All of a sudden, everybody woke up and started singing at the top of their voices, with great enthusiasm, with abandon and a feeling of liberation!

-What they sang was "El nora 3alilah", by Moses Ibn Ezra.  It’s on page 775b of the Enhanced Edition of the machzor.  If you don’t have that, it’s in the High Holy Day Supplement.  If you don’t have either, your response is to sing, every two verses:
El nora 3alilah, el nora 3alilah
Hamtsi lanu mechillah, besha3at hanne3ilah
which means:
God of Awe, God of Awe,
Grant us pardon at this hour when the gates are closing.
The first letters of the verses form an acrostic, "Moshe Hazzak".


El nora 3alilah

El nora 3alilah, el nora 3alilah
Hamtsi lanu mechillah, besha3at   hanne3ilah

M'tei mispar kru-im, lecha  3ayin  nose-im
Umsaldim bechillah, besha3at  hanne3ilah

Shofchim lecha nafsham, m'cheh  fish-3am  v'kha-chasham
Hamtsi em mechillah,  besha3at  hanne3ilah

Heye lahem lesitra, v'chal-tsem   mim-era
Vechat-mem  lehod ulgillah, besha3at  hanne3ilah

Chon otam verachem, vechol  lochets  v’lochem
3asseh vahem  p'lillah, besha3at  hanne3ilah

Zechot  tsidkat  avihem, v'chadesh  et  yemehem
Kekedem ut-chillah, besha3at  hanne3ilah

Kra na shanat ratson, vehashev sh'erit hatson
L'ahaliva  v'ahalah, besha3at  hanne3ilah

Tizku  l'shanim rabbot, habbanim  veha-avot
Beditsa  uv-tsahala, besha3at  hanne3ilah

Michael sar Yisrael, Eliyahu v'Gavriel
Basru  na  ha-geula, besha3at  hanne3ilah

The Sephardic greeting for the season is not “L’shanah tovah” but a line from the song we just sang:

Tizku l’shanim rabbot
May you merit many years

The response is:
Tizkeh v’tichyeh
May you merit and live


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