Kol Nidrei

September 28th 2017

Vows and Oaths: The Curious Introduction to the Holiest Day of the Year 

Kol Nidrei is the haunting and moving melodious introduction to Yom Kippur. This bizarre prayer urging us to annul our vows, seems an incongruous choice to begin proceedings with. It also seems entirely unconnected to the theme of the day - atonement. Why do we begin the holiest day of the year with the prayer of Kol Nidrei?

Making a vow is no simple matter. It is like "Playing God". How so? If someone were to say, “Apples are forbidden to me in the same manner that other objects are forbidden” - then the Torah law states that apples then indeed become as forbidden to him as pork. In other words, a vow enables us to “Play God” and to possess the power to alter reality itself. In effect, that person created another prohibition.

We all know the power of words, how they can make or break a person. The Jewish masters called mankind "the speaker" and identified speech as our uniquely human trait. We begin Yom Kippur, the most significant day of the year, by declaring that our words are sacred. We cannot even begin to talk to God about repentance, atonement or forgiveness, before establishing that our word is one that can be trusted.

May we all use our words wisely and be sealed in the Book of Life for the year to come.