Yom Kippur

By Rabbi Enid Lader “As you are able, please stand for the Kol Nidre Service…” Kol Nidre…Such powerful words. Words many of us might not understand, but powerful nonetheless. Powerful through the connections… and the feelings… and the memories they invoke. As we enter through the gates of Yom Kippur, Kol Nidre is there almost like an usher, welcoming and reminding us that this is it – the serious thinking and the self-reflection are about to begin. Kol Nidre has played many roles in my experiences of entering into Yom Kippur. At each stage of my life it has had a new and special meaning. As a young teenager, standing with my parents and sister as Kol Nidre was chanted by the soloist “behind the screen” – I remember feeling connected to the Jewish people over hundreds of years of its singing. At that point in my life, I associated Kol Nidre with the conversos of the Spanish Inquisition who, I had been taught, anxious to renounce their forced conversion vows, composed the Kol Nidre. What would I do if I had to publicly renounce my Judaism? Could I go “underground”? Would I be brave enough to light Shabbat candles behind closed doors so their light would not be noticed by passersby? [Since then, historical research has proven that the origin of the prayer is much earlier; yet, my questions still remain]. As a college student, I remember hearing Max Bruch’s instrumental “Fantasia on Kol Nidre” performed on the cello during our service. I was a music major… Would I someday play Kol Nidre on my viola for a congregation? As a new mother, I stood beside my husband holding our newborn daughter, listening to Kol Nidre being chanted by the cantor in the midst of an overflowing congregation. We were offering our child her first taste of High Holy Day services in a loving community. Would we live up to the vows and promises we would make as parents? As a young mother, I stood at the rear of another sanctuary, playing Bruch’s “Kol Nidre” on my viola, while my two daughters sat side by side next to their father and my parents, who had come to spend the holidays with us. After Kol Nidre was sung by our soloist and the temple choir, the congregation had been seated to listen to the prayerful echo of the instrumental version. I loved the melody, and felt our collective prayer rise with the upward movement of the scales and flourishes. I was struck by the possibility of their soaring heavenward, and returning – carrying with them the possibility of forgiveness and second chances to repair, to return, to mend. And I stand as a rabbi, chanting for my congregation, and feeling the weight of the moment. I review my congregants’ hopes and disappointments from the past year, and fervently pray that their hopes and promises for the year ahead will be fulfilled. Rabbi Jill Hammer describes the shape of our journey through the Jewish year (and our Jewish lives) not so much as a cycle, but as a spiral. Each year, we enter with new growth and experiences. In truth, we cannot experience Kol Nidre the same way each and every year. As we enter the portal to the Day of Atonement through Kol Nidre, making the time to stop and reflect upon where we are… who we are… and what we have become just might help us enter into this special experience with new eyes, new questions, and renewed hope. L’Shanah tovah tikateivu v’tehateimu – May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year. ________________________________________________________________________   Enid C. Lader is the rabbi for Knesseth Israel Temple in Wooster, Ohio and received ordination from AJR in 2010. She would love to for you to share your experiences of Kol Nidre. Send them to [email protected].