"In Elul the important thing is, I am doing tshuvah for all the gates that were open to me and that I didn't enter." - Reb Shlomo Carlebach, zt"l
This is a picture of Ala, the Jewish Temple Mount policeman who (somewhat relentlessly) accompanied me all over Har HaBayet on Tisha b'Av this year. Here is is standing in the doorway to the gate where Jews are asked to exit the Temple Mount (if they can be permitted to enter in the first place, after enduring delays, humiliation and all sorts of patience-trying indignities inflicted simply because they can).
Ala made a big impression on my as he confided the only way he can do his job, day after day, of harassing Jews who eventually do make it up to Har HaBayet by preventing them from praying and hustling them off the scene as soon as possible, is by closing off his own heart.
"I must close my heart, every day, or I can't do my job," he said to me. "What would happen if you opened your heart, to your own people and your own Jewish soul?" I asked with tears in my eyes, seeing the suffering he denied even to himself. "I would die," he replied simply. "And I would lose my job," he said as an afterthought.
What gates are open to me - literally and figuratively - which I didn't go through myself this past year? What parts of my own heart must I close on a daily basis, simply to be able to survive? What chances did I let pass me by, what connections went unmade, what moments of intimacy were possible which slipped away simply because I was afraid I myself would die - die to my own status quo, die to to my own comfort zone, to my sense of autonomy, to my own ego?
What are the gates that are still open, even a crack, before me - even now? Is there an "Ala" in my heart, blocking the way, keeping me disconnected from my own truth?
"Open to me the Gates of Righteousness, I will enter them and thank G_d" - Psalm 118