REPRINTED FROM THE UNION OF REFORM JUDAISM’S: REFORMJUDAISM.org Ten Minutes of Torah Series
The N’ilah service on late Yom Kippur afternoon is notable for its image of the Gates of Repentance closing their doors. At this late and hungry hour, for the final time during the Day of Atonement, we are summoned to repentance. The fact that many Sages argue we can actually delay our atonement to the end of the Sukkot holiday does not lessen the drama of the moment.
At the end of N’ilah, often as the sun has set, we will hear the final blast of the shofar. We will also declare the most essential teaching of the entire season: God is Merciful! We actually chant this seven times, just to make sure we get the point. The Gates are closing, but the mercy of God never ends.