Yom Kippur is the final day of judgment. The last prayer of Yom Kippur, just as the sun is setting, is called "Ne'ilah", meaning "the locking" (of the supernal heavenly gates).

Ne'ilah is a state of grace and a spiritual dimension that lasts for the entire coming year….

The kabbalists explain that there are five levels to the soul: Nefesh is connected to our actions, Ruach to our emotions, and Neshama to our intellect. These three levels are contained within the body. The fourth level, Chaya, connects us to heaven; Yechida, our heavenly soul root, is hewn from G‑d's throne of Glory and so is always in ecstasy as it dwells in G‑d presence. It is only at the time of Ne'ilah, once a year, that we are able to connect to this fifth and highest aspect of our soul.

The conventional understanding of the title, "Ne'ilah", is that soon no more of the prayers of the Jewish people will be allowed to enter heaven because the gates of prayer are closing. The implication is that we must hurry and get in our last words before it is too late.

The Chasidic masters explain it differently. They say that specifically at this most powerful and spiritually potent time, the Jewish people are being locked in with G‑d. This leads to a completely different inference: Ne'ilah is a state of grace and a spiritual dimension that lasts for the entire coming year. We have been given the gift of connecting to G‑d with the Yechida of our soul.

It follows then, that Sukkot, which begins four days after Yom Kippur, and Simchat Torah, are eight/nine days of celebration that are all the more joyful because they follow our positive Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur judgment. Therefore, being happy is an important and overriding aspect of these days, displaying confidence that the Almighty has heard and accepted our prayers.

The Four Species of Sukkot, the lulav, etrog, myrtle and willows, are not only symbols of our victory, they also hint towards the unity of the Jewish people. The sukka, the mitzvah that we fulfill by immersing ourselves in it, is G‑d hugging us. Literally! On Simchat Torah we dance with the Torah while it is closed. We are so focused and satiated on our connection to G‑d and His Wisdom that we do not even need to know what it says!

In addition to the special Torah portions that we read each day of Sukkot, the portion that we must draw our inspiration at this time is the final portion of the Torah, Zot Habracha. It ends with the words, "All the signs and wonders that Moses did in sight of the Jewish people." (Deut. 34:12) Rashi brings the traditional explanation that these words refer to Moses breaking the first set of the Tablets of the Law at the time of the sin of the Golden Calf.

Being happy is an important and overriding aspect of these days….

In the Chasidic text Beit Avraham it is explained why these are the last words of the Torah: Knowing there is a problem is the most important part of the solution. It is a tragedy if a person has fallen from the spiritual level he had attained previously and doesn't know it. For this there is no cure. Alternatively, if a person feels his loss and shouts in despair about it, he has hope to resolve his problem in a positive way. If Moses had not broken the tablets, our people would not have felt the great blemish and loss. The verse hints to the awakening of the nation to the seriousness of their sin and opens their hearts to heaven.

It will take a lifetime to fix all of our bad traits. The least we need to accomplish at this point is to know we have a ways to go. This is why the Torah ends with these words on Simchat Torah, only to begin again immediately with, "In the Beginning G‑d created…", the opening verses of the Torah, signifying our ability to strengthen ourselves and make a truly fresh start.

May this be a year of spiritual and physical advancement for the Jewish people, and may we see the final redemption now!

Chag Someyach and Shabbat Shalom!

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