Friday, October 07, 2011

The DovBear Kol Nidrei Project

I think I started collecting Kol Nidrei experiences in 2007. Over the years many of you have added your own. My original two posts are first, and the next batch are from last years comments.  Others are older. Please feel free to add your own.

The Big Shul Where I Grew Up and the Yeshivish Minyan I Attend Now (DovBear)


Attendance: 90 percent of the shul is in their seats by the time the pregame starts. 20-50 percent are wearing white kippot (in the childhood shul the number was higher.) Most of the women are wearing something white, too.

Pre-game: Every Torah is taken out of the Aron, and the pillars of the community are honored with the privilege of carrying them. (This is one honor that isn't auctioned to the highest bidder.) The rabbi leads the procession to the shulchan, reciting Ohr Zeruah l'tzadik every few steps. We answer him. When the men reach the shulchan they crowd around the chazan who has been waiting there, pushing in as tightly as possible. All of this began within 30 seconds of the announced start time.

The show: Takes about 10 minutes. The chazan always uses the same tune, the traditional tune that can be heard on any number of cantorial tapes. His voices gets louder each of the three times he recites it. We hum along, and answer thunderously when the time comes to scream: solachti kidvorecha. After the chazan intones the shehechayanu the Torahs are silently returned to their place.

Post game: The children exit, and the Rabbi delivers words of encouragement or rebuke, and in some years, an appeal is also conducted for some worthy charity. (not the bedek habayis fund). Marriv begins afterwards, led by the chazan, who also selects the tunes for the slichos which are sung responsively.

The Hasidic Sfard Shteeble I Used to Attend... (DovBear)

Attendance: About 15 percent of the shul is present at the announced start time which is for Tfillas Zaka, not Kol Nidrei. Aside from their kittels, very few of the men are wearing white, and many have substituted a standard black gartel for the kittel's white belt. A number of the women wear white and many have identical white kerchiefs over their wigs; some wear what look like white aprons.

Pre-game: The congregation gradually enters, and slowly the men take their seats and hunch over Tfillas Zakka, a long semi-silent prayer said in an audible whisper. In a few minutes the drone of conversation is replaced with the hum of prayer. At some point (usually within 5 minutes of the announced start time for Kol Nidrei) a gabbai slaps his hand on a table and the rebbe groans or whines or wails out a kabbalistic prayer called Kum Rebbe [name I forget. Eliezer?]. Those who know it whisper the words together with the rebbe.

The show: The Torahs are taken from the aron, and the men carrying them, also community pillars, gather around the shulchan. After they arrive, the rebbe goes to the amud (about 15 feet from the Torahs) and bleats out Kol Nidrei using a tune that is strange yet powerful in its own right, but only vagualy similar to the traditional tune. The crowd bellows the response lines, and at the end the rebbe's shehechyanu is extended into a wail that soulds like the shofar.

Post-game: When the Torahs are back in their place, Maariv begins immediately, led by the rebbe

Parallel experience of a mother who hasn't made it to Kol Nidre in many many years... (Tesyaa)

6:40 - Light candles with teenage daughters, then watch as husband in kittel and daughters in white shirts covered with sweatshirts make a quick exit. (Shul is apparently over-airconditioned).

6:45 - Scan kitchen and dining room. Thankfully spouse and older children have done an admirable job of clearing table and washing dishes before candlelighting.

7:45 - Breathe sigh of relief that developmentally delayed youngest child loves his bed and is a good sleeper. Put him to bed. (Hopefully no unwelcome surprises here).

8:00-9:00 - Entertain two rambunctious young boys. Remind them that they are not hungry. Remind them that they are fasting at least until breakfast (or later depending on age). Remind them about 40 times not to brush their teeth.

9:00 - Attempt to put boys to bed. Cajole them to be good because "Mommy's fasting". (Hey, whatever works).

9:15 - Dressed in a robe (not a white one), pick up machzor. Read text of kol nidre silently. Daven maariv. Read piyutim of interest silently. Scan text of 13 middos and wish I was davening in shul. Say some tehilim.

9:30 or so - click of front door as spouse & daughters return home. Brief exchange about how the davening went.

That's it. It's been the same for several years. Predictibility is good (I guess).

The Big Shul in Williamsburg... (Yeedle)


I daven in a big shul in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY. Since most people are married and wear kittels (white, of course) and thick wool talisim, the cooling system is turned up so the reg. temp. is a cold 55 degree. Coming with a sweater (or a [white] shawl, for the ladies) is advised.
Another tid-bit: Most women, in honor of the special occasion, don't wear any wig or all. Just a white turban or tichel. And even the few who dare come with their wigs on, make sure it's well covered, with the maximum of two inches showing in the front. (last year, two self-appointed ladies made sure that no one is "showing" too much of her wig.)

The program starts with everyone running to get a dip in the mikvah one more time, and almost everyone reminds themselves to do so a mere 5 minutes before the shkiah. Then, the shul starts getting fuller and fuller, everyone settles down with their machzorim and the rabbi gives a mussar sermon. Most people utilize the time to say tefilas zakai. Some even manage to say "kum rabun shimon" as well.

When the rabbi finishes the 30 minute sermon, which nobody listened to, the rabbi takes out ONE sefer torah (the rest remain in the ark) and circles the shul (making one hakafa). During the hakafa everyone, but I mean EVERY SINGLE ONE, pushes himself to kiss this sefer torah the rabbi is holding. Every single year kids get "injured", machzorim get lost/pages ripped etc. While making the hakafah, which takes like 10 - 15 minutes, the rabbi stops at random intervals and cries "Ohr zarua latzadik, ulyishrei lev simch".

Then the rabbi returns the sefer torah to the aron, and says a short tefillah. Another 5 minutes pass, and the rabbi, who serves as baal tefillah, starts chanting (the traditional nussach I think) Kol Nidrei and everyone quietly chants along with him. Kol nidrei is repeated 3 times, each time the volume goes up.

From there, the davenen continues as it says in machzor :)

The Israeli experience...(Micheal)

Pre game - walk to shul in Kittel and Talit, but try not to get bowled over by kids (and adults) who are getting an early start on their bikes (depending on where you live, the streets will be full of bikes and noise for the entire 25 hours of Yom Kippur - even 3 am you can hear bicycle bells and shreiks from kids enjoying the car-free environment)

I don't remember ever seeing "Tfilla Zaka" on the menu, but many people try to arrive early for shul to say it before kickoff. Every year I try to get there on time for Tfillat Zaka, every your I fail (maybe I'll be more successful tonight)

Shul itself is more likely to be school hallway or kindergarten. Very few Cathedral-like shuls in Israel that can accommodate big crowds (biggest shul here in Modi'in seats about 300, but most shuls are much smaller than that - my shul can squeeze in about 250 plastic chairs)

Don't remeber ever seeing more than 2 Sifrei Torah taken out for Kol Nidrei, but many minyanim (particularly those in a Gan or school) will only have one or 2 sfarim, so by default all sfarim are removed for Kol Nidrei.

In the shul I daven, most men are wearing a white Kipa Sruga, but that is the case on a regular Shabbat as well

No Yom Kippur Appeal, but if we're lucky we'll get a drasha of some sort.

Reform Shul....  (Susan)


Eat a big dinner because I know it's my last meal for over 24 hours. Debate with myself about how much water to drink. I don't want to be too thirsty tomorrow, but I don't want to have to get up to use the restroom during serives either.

Arrive about an hour before services start. Put some canned food in the barrels outside for the annual food drive. Chat with the spouses of the choir members, who also arrive early.

Stand on the front steps and greet people as they arrive. The senior rabbi (a woman) and Cantor (a man), as well as the choir, are wearing white robes. The two other rabbis, who are married to each other, are both wearing a kittel. Some of those who regularly come to shul, such as myself, are wearing white and no leather. The number of people wearing white is increasing slowly over the years. Most others are in regular business suits and dresses, with leather shoes and belts. Almost nobody has a head covering of any kind, however many men pick up a white kippah provided inside.

Services start within 10 minutes of the scheduled start time (which is late for us, since services usually start within a few minutes of the scheduled time). Cello plays Kol Nidre, then Cantor sings it. Is it done a third time? I can't remember.

People continue to drift in as the service continues. Eventually, the entire 2,000-seat auditorium is full. The senior rabbi delivers a sermon to a rapt crowd. She's an excellent and passionate speaker. After the sermon, upward of 100 people get up and leave as the services continue.

Services are over less than two hours after they started.

Stand at the door saying goodnight to people as they leave.

Spanish And Portuguese Version (Fear From Love)

* Majority of Shul is full ten minutes before advertised start time, everyone wears a tallit, white stripes, black stripes, blue stripes..... two guys wore kittels, one of them wasnt sefardi

* Shema Koli ten minutes after fast starts. No Tefillat Zakah, No Kum Rabbi Shimon, no Kol Nidrei, yet....

* Kol Nidrei starts ten minutes later after another Piyyut. The Sifrei Torah are held by The Rav, The President and the Two Chattanim. A different person says Kol Nidrei each time, sefardic tune.

*No appeal but a sermon before Arvit

* Arvit begins, and every word is sung until the end of tefillah, either the whole congregation joins in and says the whole paragraph together with the shaliach tzibbur or there is a system of the shaliach tzibbur saying the beginning of a sentence and the congragation saying the last two words.

*finish 3 hours after we start, beautiful.

The Reconstructionist Shul... (Tziporah)

Attendance: Yes, most everyone is seated by the time we start; the people still walking around chatting are either service big-wigs, showing off that they're part of running this thing, or people who come only once/year and have a lot of people to say "hi" to that they haven't seen in a while. Moms are trying to round up the kids and get them settled into the childcare before it gets quiet, stopped repeatedly by the old people who want to talk about "how big" everyone is getting.

Pre-game: I think one of the rabbis or somebody usally says something or does a reading or whatever to make everyone shut up. Then both Torahs are taken out, and the rabbis carry them around the shul in different directions, singing "Ohr Zeruah" along with the congregation, trailed by Board members, etc. It takes FOR-fricking-EVER. Everyone wants to touch the Torahs and the rows are too long for everyone to reach it, so some scuffling ensues. (Very genteel scuffling, of course).

The show: For the last several years, the first rendition of Kol Nidrei has been done with a cello and some other instrument. Several of us are horrified by this; some refuse to attend b/c of it; others find it nice and "contemplative." Phhbt. With a Bad Cohen on the ritual committee, they're lucky it's not worse. Anyway, then it's usually the rabbi and one of our lay leaders with a great voice, and the third time is a chorus that always includes the old ladies with the horribly wobbly voices that make you wince. Thank G-d it's over.

Post-game: Torahs get put away, then there's a neverending procession of readings, speeches, prayers, whatever, all the way through to the Amidah/kaddish, and finally the feature event of the evening: the rabbi's sermon. This is what most of us are looking forward to, since it's the junior rabbi who actually has a formaleducation and can link HH Days themes to something relevant and make it interesing.

After the sermon, there's a vast rustle and buzz as people try to exit before the President/Vice President get up and beg for money and more volunteers. It's not pretty.

The Yeckish Shul... (Mar Gavriel)


"Talles" is scheduled for some time around sunset, or slightly afterward. People start to shuffle in at least 10-15 minutes earlier, but there are always people running in at the last moment. All married men (after Shono Rishôno) wear kittels (as they do on RH, as well). We use the terms "kittel" and "sargenes" interchangeably. Virtually all the women wear white.

"Talles" is when the one rabbi, the other rabbi, and finally the chazzen for KN/ma'ariv sing the berocho over the talles, with great pomp and circumstance, before donning it. After the chazzen is done, each man (married or not) dons his talles. All who are wearing kittels wear all-white talleisim, whereas bachelors and men in Shono Rishôno wear their ordinary black-striped talleisim

At this point, the chazzen puts his talles over his head and entire body, and hunches over the shtender, to silently whisper a personal prayer -- I assume הנני העני ממעש, or one of the other ones printed in the book. When he is done, he removes the talles from his head, and the rabbi, who is standing next to him, proclaims: "בישיבה של מעלה ובישיבה של מטה, על דעת המקום ועל דעת הקהל, אנו מתירין להתפלל עם העבריינים."

Then, the chazzen, in a quiet voice, begins "Kol Nidrei", in the old tune. The congregation hums along for some parts. This is then repeated in a louder voice, and finally in an even louder voice.

When this is done, we say the line
ונסלח לעל עדת בני ישראל ולגר הגר בתוכם כי לכל העם בשגגה
a single time, and then Shehecheyonu. The congregation responds a rousing "Omein!" to the chazzen's Shehecheyonu, and then the chazzen sits down.

The rabbi then gives his YK sermon, the only time that he speaks over the whole 25 hours. Usually, this lasts until nightfall, at which point we begin Borachu. In years when there has been persecution of Jews somewhere in the world, or violence in Israel, the sermon has been curtailed, in order to have time to recite some Psalms before Borachu.

The whole procedure is beautiful in its simplicity.

No Torah-scrolls, no Tefillo Zakko, no Kom Rebbi Shim'ôn, no appeal for money.

UK Orthodox Experience.(SM)

Everyone to be sat in seat before Yomtov. 50% are. The rest arrive - in their cars - after.

Tefillas Zaka, what's that? Oh you mean the thing that meshugana SM says when he won't respond to everyone's greetings. Kum Rebbe Shimon - ?

Kittel - I wear one. So does the Rabbi, the Chazzan and perhaps 5 other people.

Bigwigs take Sefer Torah out of ark and parade them to Bimah. Chazan makes meal of Kol Nidre - must still be hungry. It is the standard tune but by the time he's done it and the choir has helped it doesn't feel like it.

Appeal for UJIA (Israel). Sermon.

Ma'ariv. The songs are well known so people stop talking when they are being sung - more or less. Otherwise there is a steady hum throughout. This is better than on RH when you cannot hear the Chazzan or yourself.

3 hours later - home.

(Which is why, although I have no affinity for their beliefs, I go to Chabad for Neilah, daven for the Old Age home shacharit and mincha and teach the rest of the time, fitting in my davenning wherever I am and in the quietest place I can find.)

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