Opening the Gates of Heaven

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Opening the Gates of Heaven

Benny Halfon
October 1, 2014
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The year is 1736; you are peasant in a faraway country ruled by a mighty king. Imagine that – against all odds – you receive an invitation to visit the palace and speak with the king. You might take a long time to prepare for this meeting, maybe even a year. When you get to the palace, you find great walls and huge gates, patrolled by armed guards. You show them your invitation and are let in. But this is not where the king is, this is just the garden; you need to go through many other doors and guards, ministers and advisors that try to prevent you from seeing to the king. You are made to wait, or maybe you have to come another day. You realize you have to be very, very persistent to get to the king.

Now imagine that, instead, the king writes in the invitation that the best date to come and visit would be September 15th. And the king gives you magic words to open the gates. You come in that day and miraculously find out that there are no guards; you say the magic words and the doors open. Everything is quiet. All of the doors are open; no one is there. No guards, no ministers, no advisors and no other guests, only you and the king. The king then calls you to come even closer and says, “My entire kingdom is at your disposal, take everything you like and as much as you like, no one will stop you.”

Welcome to Yom Kippur!

This is what Yom Kippur is about. You can have a one-on-one with the king of all kings, the Creator. In that meeting, you can take from all the treasures of his kingdom – all the blessings – for one year: divine inspiration, righteous children, prosperity, abundance of health, joy, love, happiness, enthusiasm, success, etc… in one word – LIGHT.

You can now see more clearly why Rav Berg always speaks of Yom Kippur as ‘the open bank vault’. (And if you wondered, then yes! September 15th in 1736 was the 10th day in the month of Libra, aka Yom Kippur).

Now imagine visiting the king, the one from the beginning of our story, and he offers you to take anything you want – but all your pockets and bags are almost completely full and there is very little room to take anything. Wouldn’t that be a huge missed opportunity?

The gifts that the Creator gives us on Yom Kippur are not physical, they are pure Light. If we come with all of our attachment to our physicality, it’s exactly like coming with our pockets full to the physical king. Therefore, the restrictions we engage in on Yom Kippur (no eating and drinking, no washing the body, no leather shoes, no colognes, lotions, perfumes, oils, etc.,) are merely our willingness to detach ourselves from physicality, only so the Light Force of the Creator can give us more Light. We are emptying our spiritual pockets for the sake of receiving much more and for a much longer time.

So you might ask, ‘What are the magic words that the king in our story gave to the peasant to open the gates of the palace?’

There is a whole prayer book teeming with kabbalistic connections and meditations by the Ari – Rav Isaac Luria, the Baal Shem Tov and the Rashah. We “eat” five spiritual meals (five main connections), and it is the only time in the year that we have five main connections and not three. But let me tell you a story.

It was Yom Kippur in the time of the great kabbalist, the Baal Shem Tov. The entire community gathered ahead of time, waiting in awe for the Baal Shem Tov to come in and start the powerful connection called Kol Nidrei – the Aramaic prayer that opens the gates of heaven and the holiday of Yom Kippur. The Baal Shem Tov was standing for some time by the podium, meditating, praying in silence. And then he said to the closest students around him, “The gates are closed.”

The silence and tension could be cut with a knife. In the back of the room, there was a boy that didn’t know how to write or read. He saw everybody else submerged in their prayer book and he couldn’t do so himself. This boy had great love for the Creator, and he also wanted to pray, so he did what he always did each time he wanted to pray to God: he started whistling. Everybody shushed him, a few wanted to throw him out… But then, the Baal Shem Tov turned around and said, “Stop, do him no harm, the gates are opening.”

Karen once told us that the first time he told her this story, Rav Berg said to her, “You are that boy with the whistle.”

On Yom Kippur, it is enough to come with an open heart and be this boy to open the gates of heaven for the entire world. The world needs boys like that now more than ever before.