Dear Friends, 

 

Kol Nidre is not really a prayer, well known as it is. It is a declaration whereby we seek to annul the vows and promises that we will make in the coming year, but be unable to fulfill. But there is great debate about passage: “Does it really refer to the coming year, or did it originally refer to the vows and promises that we made in this past year and were unable to keep?”

 

And what kind of vows? Historians suggest that Kol Nidre was written during the time of the Inquisition and Expulsion from Spain in the 15th century. This was a period when Jews faced the choice of convert to Christianity, or be expelled from Spain, if not killed.  So there are many who suggest that Kol Nidre was a declaration made by those Jews who had chosen to become Christian, but who secretly continued to believe and practice as Jews. They sought to be absolved by God of the false vows and promises they had made that they would abandon Judaism and embrace Christianity.

 

What message is there here for us? Perhaps for most of us, as we reflect upon the past year, there were things about ourselves that we sought to change or improve upon. For many of us, we fell short of those intentions and failed to live up to the best that we know to be within us. For us also, Kol Nidre is a haunting melody and declaration that we seek a new start in life. Kol Nidre reminds us that “today is the beginning of the rest of your life. Struggle and wrestle to make it as rich and fulfilling as possible!”

 

For all of us, may Kol Nidre and Yom Kippur inspire us to renew our resolve to become something more than what we are today. Whatever it means to each of us: more loving, more generous, more compassionate, and more patient, etc. God grant us all the strength and the vision to look within ourselves and renew our relationship with that “self” that longs for life and blessing.

   

Shabbat Shalom       

          Rabbi David Greenberg