The Holy Temple in Jerusalem had several gates for people to enter. The most beautiful of them all had doors made of copper. This gate was named Nikanor’s Gate after an Egyptian Greek who grew up in Alexandria. Nikanor had converted to Judaism as a young man; and moved to Jerusalem to study Torah with the great sage Hillel, and Hillel’s teachers Shemayah and Avtalyon, both of whom were also converts to Judaism.
Most non-Jews who become Jewish are very good Jews and Nikanor was no exception. Nikanor wanted to make a special contribution to the Temple in honor of all the non-Jews who had become faithful Jews. He returned to Alexandria and commissioned skilled artists to make a pair of beautiful etched and jeweled copper doors. Up to that time all the doors of the Temple gates were made of wood. Metal doors are very heavy and difficult to move so the copper doors were made to be hollow.
When the two doors were finished, Nikanor sent them on a large ship to Israel. Half way to Israel a big storm broke out and the ship was in danger of sinking. The sailors decided the two copper doors were very heavy and should be thrown overboard. Nikanor begged them to spare one door and they agreed.
The storm got even worse and the sailors wanted to throw the other copper door overboard also. Nikanor said that they should have faith. The doors were for the Holy Temple in Jerusalem to honor non-Jews who became Jews. The God of Israel wouldn’t let the sailors drown if they helped do something good. Some sailors agreed but the others didn’t.
Nikanor told them that if they threw the other copper door overboard they would have to throw him overboard also. He held on very tightly to the door’s handle.
The sailors decided to wait a little longer and in the next hour the sea became calm. When the ship reached the port of Acco, Nikanor got off with the remaining copper door. He was very sad that only one copper door had survived. As he looked out to sea Nikanor saw something very strange. The other copper door had followed after the ship; and was now floating toward the shore.
Nikanor brought both doors to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem where they were installed in a prominent place to honor all the non-Jews who had become faithful Jews. The gate where the doors hung was called Nikanor’s Gate.
Many years later golden doors replaced all the wooden doors in the Temple’s gates. But the copper doors in Nikanor’s Gate were left as they were, as a tribute to the miracle that had occurred due to one convert’s devotion, and to honor the even greater miracle of all the generations of non-Jews who since the generation of Abraham and Sarah had become faithful Jews.