What Is Neilah?

The Neilah service is the fifth and final service of Yom Kippur. It consists of some opening prayers, the Amidah, the cantor's repetition of the Amidah, Avinu Malkenu ("Our Father, Our King"), a declaration of our faith, the sounding of the Shofar, and some closing prayers.

Read: Why Blow Shofar After Neilah?

What Does Neilah Mean?

Neilah means "closing the gate." As the awesome day of Yom Kippur comes to a close, and our future is being sealed, we turn to G‑d to accept our sincere repentance and new resolutions, and ask that He seal us in the Book of Life, granting us a new year replete with goodness and happiness. The Ark remains open for the entire Neilah service, signifying that the Gates of Heaven are wide open to our prayers and entreaties.

How Does Neilah Climax?

The apex of the service, the emotional peak, is when we pronounce, in unison, three verses proclaiming G‑d as our G‑d.

First we recite the Shema — "Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One." It is written that when we recite this verse, every Jew should have the intention of giving up his or her soul for the sanctification of G‑d's name, and this intention will be considered as if we have indeed withstood the test to sanctify the Divine Name.

Then we recite the next verse — "Blessed be the name of the glory of His kingdom forever and ever" — three times, together. This is followed by the declaration of G‑d's unity, "G‑d - He is the Only G‑d" — first recited at Mt. Carmel by the prophet Elijah — seven times, in the most ardent way. The shofar is then sounded, one long sound, and the Neilah service ends with the prayer: "Next Year may we be in Jerusalem!"

Read: What Happens After Neilah?

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