The Kol Nidre prayer was composed for the tens of thousands of Jewish Marranos in the 14th and 15th centuries who had adopted Christianity outwardly, yet inwardly and secretly continued to identify as Jews. For them, Kol Nidre was an appeal to God that those vows and oaths be annulled and that they be embraced by the God of our Jewish heritage.
For me, the power of this prayer lay in the realization that we have again fallen short of our hopes and our resolves. The plea of Kol Nidre: That we be courageous and wise enough to take an honest look into the guarded chambers of our hearts and our minds, and that we renew our resolve to bridge the gap between our conscience and our conduct, between our words and our deeds.
It was the philosopher, Rumi, who in the 13th century observed: “Yesterday I was clever so I thought I could change the world. Today I am wise, so I shall try to change myself.”
We say Needrana la Nidre…we have not lived as fully as we might, and we resolve yet again to cherish our days to live as righteously as we can. For in the end, we will all be known, not for what we achieved or accumulated, but for what we have given of ourselves.
The call of Yom Kippur that we not give up our faith that there is still much to be written in our own Book of Life, and that we, along with God, hold the pen that will write that book.