Friday, October 07, 2011

Rabbi Frand on Kol Nidre

A Guest Post By E. Fink
Cross-posted from my home blog:

Tonight is Yom Kippur. Across the world, millions of Jews will usher in the solemn day of Yom Kippur with the ancient prayer of Kol Nidre.

Nothing could be more strange.

Yom Kippur is the day of repentance. Kol Nidre is a prayer that annuls our vows. That is a very unlikely way to begin Yom Kippur. Yet, not only do we begin Yom Kippur with Kol Nidre we tremble when the familiar tune is chanted. Then, we end the prayer with ונסלח לכל עדת בני ישראל כי לכל העם בשגגה. "And all the congregation of the children of Israel shall be forgiven".

Why do we begin Yom Kippur with Kol Nidre and what relationship is there between the Kol Nidre prayer annulling our vows and the statement of ask for forgiveness for the congregation of Israel?
Says Rabbi Frand: Throughout the year, many of us take on additional practices to enhance our observance. We may be stringent in various matters to protect ourselves from sin. It is possible even that we would disassociate ourselves from others as a result of our personal stringencies. It is possible we could feel an air of superiority for keeping these practices.

These additional practices have the status of a vow.

Kol Nidre annuls these vows. It would be impossible to stand before God Almighty and beg for forgiveness would we be individuals at odds with our brothers and sisters. If we separate ourselves with these stringencies we stand divided before God.

Kol Nidre levels the playing field.

All those stringencies are removed by the Kol Nidre prayer. One is free to re-initiate them after Yom Kippur. But on Yom Kippur we stand united. No personal preferences, stringencies and personal practices stand between us.

Therefore, we conclude Kol Nidre with ונסלח לכל עדת בני ישראל כי לכל העם בשגגה. The entire congregation can stand before God as one.

We can come to God to ask for forgiveness strengthened by our unity once we get rid of whatever minor practices we may have that can divide us.

The key is to come together. The key is unity.

I mentioned in a previous post [see: Making The Post Yom Kippur Meal Meaningful] that there is no Jewish observance that is more universal than fasting and coming to The Shul on the Beach Yom Kippur. Everyone [almost] does it.

Aside from the beauty that we can find in our unity, it is the ultimate tool in our hands as we ask the Almighty to forgive us. Let us enter this day with unity, leave it with unity as well but most importantly maintain that unity for the future.

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