“Blessed is God who opens to us the Gates of Mercy”
A prayer recited during morning service on Yom Kippur
Curator: Andrea Simon
Medium: Reproduction, vinyl on wall
Credit: University Library, Wrocław, Poland, Ms. Or. I 1, f. 90v
Location: Kalifer Culture Hub
The images are taken from medieval Mahzors (holiday prayer books). They date back to the late 13th- early 14th century, testifying to the unity of a global diaspora that had taken Jews as far east as Afghanistan and China, and westward to the edge of the New World. On each page, the Gate frames the same key prayer: “Open unto Us,” from the morning service of Yom Kippur, asks God, on this particularly sacred day, to open the Gates of Mercy to the worshipper’s repentant heart. It is striking that each individual prays on behalf of the whole community: What is a Jew in solitude? asks Adrienne Rich in her poem YOM KIPPUR 1984.
The Gate, שער SHA’AR, is one of the most primal and passionate images in the Hebrew Bible.
It expresses both a fierce commitment to justice—Hate evil and love good / And establish justice in the gate, the prophet Amos proclaims—and the most intimate kind of personal longing for union with God, the Beloved, which is where we began.
As Ibn Gabirol’s poem tells us: ליוֹם בּוֹאך עדי That day, you will come to me.
What quest, what questions, what desire keeps you moving forward?
What “Gate long closed” do you wish to open?