Why “Kol Nidrei” ?

On the eve of Yom Kippur 5784 / 2023

We know that Kol Nidrei (“all vows”) is the Hebrew and Aramaic declaration made in the synagogue before the evening service begins on Yom Kippur. That”Kol Nidre” is a very emotional moment in our lives – is a much known phenomena – experienced annually by the most religious, as well as the least affiliated Jews. The time, start of Yom Kippur, the atmosphere in Shul, and not least – the very sentimental, centuries old melody, all contributes to the “lofty” feeling. The words however, seem to be almost “technical”.  We are all “releasing our vows”. So why is it so important to do this at the most inspiring time of the year?  Many explanations were given to it. May I add one more…?

If a person  does a (new) “good deed” three times – it (Halachically) becomes obligatory – for that person. And if he wants to stop doing it – he has to seek a special “release of vows” procedure.  The reason seems to be that by doing it three times in a row – he is now shown a personal commitment to it, and hence the need to have this revoked if he wishes to stop it. This might not be of great concern to us, as we might not do so many non-obligatory deeds anyhow…However – it might be relevant on the flipside: 

When we approach Yom Kippur, and we do a little exercise of our own “checks & balances”, we (myself – all too often) find matters with which we dealt with wrongly, during the past year.  However – as these “violations”, either between  myself and G’d, or between myself and other people, have now become my “normal behaviour”  – it might be quite difficult to change…

Perhaps, here comes the very emotional time of “Kol Nidre” and might represent my attempt to release myself from my negative obligations, acquired over the last 12 months, and give another chance for a clean start in the matters in which I constantly erred. 

I will try it this year, as we say: with G’d’s help. 

Warm regards and Gmar Chatima Tova

Rabbi Chaim Michael Biberfeld