Kol Nidrei

7 10 2011

Naaleh.com presents this special post from Rabbi Beinish Ginsburg about the tefilla of Kol Nidrei which is recited at the start of Yom Kippur. Visit Naaleh.com for FREE video and audio classes by Rabbi Ginsburg as well as many other esteemed Torah teachers.

Kol Nidrei is one of the most powerful tefillos of Yom Kippur. What is the significance of Kol Nidrei? On a purely halachic level, it is one form of hataras nedarim, nullification of a vow. Why does this play such a central role as we are about to enter Yom Kippur? There are different approaches in the meforshim to this question. The Rav zt”l developed the following idea[i].

The Rav explained that the central idea behind hataras nedarim is the declaration of remorse, of charata, for having made the vow.

Through the recognition that the original act was in effect a mistake, the vow is nullified retroactively. The Torah provides the authority to change his intention of vow from willful to accidental on the basis of his present understanding rather than on the basis of his state of mind at the time the vow was spoken.

We see that charata is essential to hataras nedarim.

The Rav goes on to explain that this is exactly the idea behind teshuva. The central part of teshuva is charata, we are acknowledging that the sins were done impulsively. I was not thinking when I did the aveirah. If I were thinking clearly at the time, I would not have done the aveirah. The aveirah does not reflect my present value system. This is what we are doing in the process of teshuva. So, when a Jew is hearing and reciting Kol Nidrei, he should be thinking that just like a person has the ability to have full charata to be matir neder, a person also has to have full charata for one’s aveiros and in that way to do teshuva.

This is a very powerful message. A Jew has to say to himself- How can I have possibly done that aveirah?! Hashem, I must not have been thinking clearly when I did that aveirah. Hashem, please, I am doing teshuva now. I was not thinking clearly. As the Rav writes, “The way I acted does not represent my present value system. Please accept my teshuva just like the Torah gives the authority of hataras nedarim.” Had I known then what I know now, had I been thinking then like I am thinking now, there is no way I would have even done the aveirah.

This is a beautiful p’shat. Based on this p’shat, Kol Nidrei takes on a broader, more far reaching significance. The words of Kol Nidrei focus on hataras nedarim, but the message of Kol Nidrei focuses on doing teshuva for all of one’s aveiros.

Gmar chasima tova,

B. Ginsburg

 


[i] This can be found in many places of the Rav’s writing. One is ‘Rabbi Soloveitchik on the Days of Awe’ page 73-74, 116-117.

 

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15 09 2013
RABBI YITZCHAK MEIR GOODMAN

I WAS PRESENT IN 1962 WHEN THE RAV GAVE THAT AWESOME SHIUR ON KOL NIDRE AT YESHIVA RIETS IN THE BET MIDRASH. HERE ARE SOME ADDITIONAL POINTS HE MADE:
FOR NDARIM THERE IS ALSO A LESSER METHOD CALLED “PESACH”. HIS LOVELY EXAMPLE FROM THE TESHUVOT HAGAONIM WAS OF A YOUNG MAN WHO PASSED AN ATTRACTIVE YOUNG LADY ON HIS WAY TO YESHIVA EACH MORNING. HE BEGAN CONVERSATIONS W/ HER, AND TO MAKE THE STORY SHORT, IN TIME HE PROPOSED TO HER. WHEN HE TOLD HIS FATHER AND MENTIONED HER FATHER’S NAME, HE WAS FURIOUS, BECAUSE THEY WERE ON A MUCH LOWER SOCIAL STANDING. WHEN THE SON REFUSED TO LISTEN, DAD MADE A NEDER IN FRONT OF SOME MEN THAT IF HIS SON DARED TO PERSIST HE DISOWNS HIM AND HE COULD NEVER EVEN ENTER THE HOUSE AGAIN. A WHILE LATER THE BOY ELOPED W/ HIS KALLAH TO ANOTHER TOWN AND ALL CONTACT W/HIS FATHER CEASED.SOME SHORT YEARS LATER, A MAN PASSING THE FATHER’S HOME REPORTED THAT IN THAT TOWN HE HAD ENCOUNTERED THIS SON, WHO WAS MAKING A REASONABLE LIVING AND HAD TWO GORGEOUS LITTLE CHILDREN. THE FATHER, REALIZING THAT THESE WERE HIS ONLY GRANDKIDS, RELENTED AND WANTED TO NULLIFY THE VOW. THE BET-DIN ASKED ARE YOU VERY SORRY ABOUT THAT VOW. HE ADMITTED THAT ACTUALLY HE THOUGHT IT WAS A GOOD WAY TO STOP HIS SON IN HIS TRACKS, BUT HAD HE REALIZED THAT IT WOULD NOT ACCOMPLISH HIS GOAL HE WOULD NOT HAVE MADE IT. THIS IS ALSO AN OPENING TO NULLIFY THE VOW. THUS, “CHARATA” MEANS RECOGNIZING THAT THE VOW WAS TERRIBLE OR DISGUSTING BECAUSE THE PERSON HAS REACHED A GREATER SPIRITUAL HEIGHT. THE “PESACH” IS MERELY A RECOGNITION THAT IT DIDN’T WORK, SO I AM SORRY.
THE HIGHEST TESHUVAH IS CHARATAH: THE PERSON IS TOTALLY CHANGED [BORN AGAIN] AND HIS REPENTENCE IS SEEN AS FROM LOVE OF GD [IN SUCH A CASE THE TALMUD SAYS THAT HIS PREVIOUS SINS ARE CONVERTED TO MITZVOS! – FOR HIS IS A NEW MAN]
WHAT IS A PESACH TESHUVAH? THE RAV’S EXAMPLE: A MIDDLE-AGED MILLIONAIRE W/ A BEAUTIFUL HOME ETC. FINDS THAT IN PURSUING $$$
HE HAS DEVELOPED HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE, ULCERS, AND A HEART CONDITION. HE HAS CHILDREN WHO ARE INCORRIGIBLE, FRESH, WASTING THEIR DAYS ETC. HE SEES A GOOD JEW DOWN THE BLOCK WHO IS ALSO WEALTHY, BUT HAS TIME FOR SHABBOS AND YOM TOV, W/WONDERFUL RESPECTFUL CHILDREN ETC. HE IS REMORSEFUL AND THINKS “IF I WOULD HAVE REALIZED THAT I CAN DO WELL FINANCIALLY AND TAKE TIME OFF FOR SPIRITUAL PURSUITS, I WOULD NOT HAVE THESE MEDICAL PROBLEMS, AND MY KIDS WOULD HAVE BEEN REAL MENCHEN. I AM GOING TO CHANGE MY WAYS COMPLETELY AND HOPETO AFFECT MY KIDS AS WELL. I AM TRULY SORRY FOR MY PRACTICES AND FROM TODAY ON, I WILL KEEP SHABBOS, THE HOLIDAYS, STRICTLY KOSHER,AND ALL THAT GOES WITH IT AS I RECALL FROM MY CHILDHOOD. THIS TOO IS TESHUVAH,AND ALL HIS PREVIOUS SINS BECOME ERRORS [SHOGEG].
THIS IS A SYNOPSIS OF A BRILLIANT SHIUR WHICH I NEVER FORGOT AND ACTUALLY DELIVERED ABOUT 4 TIMES IN MY LIFE.

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