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Nikanor's Gateway

                                        Nikanor’s Gate           by Rabbi Allen S. Maller


In the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, there were a pair of copper and bronze gates called the Nikanor gateway. Nikanor was an Egyptian Greek from Alexandria, who had chosen to become a Jew, and now lived in the land of Israel. Most non-Jews who become Jewish are very good Jews.

Nikanor the convert, wanted to make a special contribution to the Holy Temple. So he traveled to his home town of Alexandria in Egypt, and payed skilled experts from Corinth, to make a pair of elaborately designed copper and bronze covered doors for the Holy Temple.

When the beautiful pair of doors were finished, Nikanor took them on a ship to return to the land of Israel. Half-way to his destination, a severe storm broke out. The ship tossed and tilted and was in danger of sinking. The sailors decided the large doors made the ship too heavy and had to be thrown overboard. Nikanor begged them to spare one of the doors and they agreed.

When throwing one door overboard didn’t help much, they wanted to throw the other door overboard, too. Nikanor grabbed hold of the door and said that if they threw the second copper and bronze door into the sea, they would have to throw him in with it. The sailors decided to wait a little longer, and after a while the sea became calm.

When the ship reached the port of Acco, in the Land of Israel, Nikanor descended from the ship with the remaining door. He looked out to the sea, grieving for his other beautiful and now lost door. Suddenly, he noticed something coming in closer to the shore from behind the ship. It was the other door floating to the shore!

What a great miracle. The door had somehow attached itself to the ship and followed it to the land of Israel. Nikanor brought both of the doors to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, where they were installed in a central place between the outer courtyard of the women and the three inner courtyards of the men. These copper and bronze doors became known as Shaar Nikanor - the Nikanor Gateway

Many years later, all the large gates in the Temple were replaced by gates covered with gold. However, the copper and bronze gates of Nikanor the convert, were not replaced, as a tribute to the miracle that occurred to them, due to Nikanor the convert’s devotion and dedication.

For a person’s dedication to Judaism, and the feelings in one’s heart, have a value greater than silver or gold, and greater than birth or ancestry. (based on Talmud Yoma 38a)

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