On Kol Nidrei By Cheryl Whitehead

I want to be on time

For this service, Kol Nidrei,

On this night of all nights,

On this Sabbath of all Sabbaths.

Preparations for this night are intentional—

Dinner planned out ahead of time,

Leave work early, don’t rush,

Ease calmly into this night.

No daily uniform

Of suit and leather shoes.

No worldly luxuries

To comfort me tonight.

A white, linen kittel to wear,

Reminiscent of a burial shroud—

A reminder of my mortality

And need for teshuvah (repentence).

White cloth shoes, inexpensive and basic.

White—an emulation of angels.

Repentance shall make our sins

White as snow, Isaiah 1:18.

Ironically, I am more comfortable

Without worldly luxuries

To bind and constrain,

For that is the antithesis of Kol Nidrei.

With the sun near the horizon

We don our tallit

For this night of sincere repentance,

On this Sabbath of all Sabbaths.

Tonight, is a night of paradoxes,

We arrive alone but we stand together,

Righteous and unrighteous

Before the Heavenly and earthly courts.

To annul our vows and oaths

Not YET made—

But those TO BE MADE

In this new year.

Why Kol Nidrei?

Why do we do this?

Exempt from vows and oaths? If so,

For what purpose does Yom Kippur serve?

The words of Kol Nidrei

Offer no absolution

Of vows, oaths, and commitments

To one another.

We are accountable

And need to seek forgiveness

From each other

For missing the mark.

The words of Kol Nidrei

Address the vows and oaths

Not YET made

To ourselves and to God.

Free will to plan and promise,

We can feel powerful.

No way to predict the future,

We can feel helpless.

Kol Nidrei foresees

What we cannot—

Like the riptide current

That will drown our earnest attempts to fulfill promises.

Kol Nidrei absolves

What we cannot—

That which the riptide has made

Unhealthy and unwise to pursue.

We cannot be enslaved

By these pursuits.

If Yom Kippur allows us to start anew

With forgiveness for confessed misdeeds of the past;

Then the ritual of Kol Nidrei assures us

That mercy and forgiveness will be ours in the future.

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Synagogue or Board of Directors.