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.

 





On Yom Kippur Hashem Welcomes Us Back as His Children

13 09 2010

The following inspiring Yom Kippur article is based on a Naaleh.com class by Rabbi Michael Taubes

One of the most moving and inspiring highlights of the Yom Kippur davening is Kol Nidrei. We preface this prayer with the words, “Al daas Hamakom, v’al daas hakahal. With the approval of the Omnipresent and with the approval of the congregation.” “Hamakom” is one of the names of Hashem, which connotes that He is found in every place. Why do we specifically refer to Hashem here as “Hamakom?”

Rav Soloveitchik explains that we find the name “Hamakom” used in situations where we might think that Hashem is far away. We comfort mourners with the verse “Hamakom yinachem eschem.” We remind a person grieving over a loved one that Hashem is right there with him, feeling his pain, and that he will help him through this tragedy. Similarly, in our prayers on Monday and Thursday we say, “Hamakom yirachem aleheihem,” where we pray for people who are suffering. In times of affliction one can very easily succumb to feelings of abandonment. Therefore we emphasize that Hashem never leaves us and
that He will always stand by us come what may. During the Pesach seder we recite, “Baruch Hamokom baruch hu.” Here too, while we recount the torment of our forefathers in the midst of Egyptian enslavement, we refer to Hashem as Hamakom.

On Yom Kippur we may think that our many sins have formed a barrier between us and Hashem and that He is now far away from us. Therefore we use the name Hamakom. We inject that element of chizuk and accentuate that He is still here with us waiting patiently for our return as a loving father welcoming his wayward son back home.





Yom Kippur: The Day of Atonement

10 09 2008

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is the most solemn day of the Jewish Calender. On this day, G-d seals the fate of each person, deciding what the coming year will hold.  The Sages tell us that Rosh Hashana , the Jewish New Year, is the day when judgment is inscribed, and Yom Kippur, ten days later, is the day when the judgment is sealed.  As the final day of judgment, Yom Kippur is an opportunity for every Jew to fully repent any previous wrongdoings or faults, and merit a year full of blessing.

Atonement For All Sins

The Torah describes Yom Kippur as the “day He will forgive you, to purify you, that you be cleansed from all your sins before G‑d” (Leviticus 16:30).  The day is marked by fasting and prayer as we beseech G-d for a good year for ourselves, our families, the Jewish People and the entire world.  For 26 hours, we focus completely on returning to G-d.  We refrain from five significant acts.  There is no eating or drinking, we do not wash or anoint our bodies, no wearing leather shoes, and we abstain from marital relations.  These acts represent the material and physical aspects of our lives, and we abstain from them on Yom Kippur in order to emphasize our inner selves, and our longing for closeness to G-d.  It is also a custom to wear white clothing, signifying our desire for purity and holiness.

Repentance and Atonement are key themes throughout the day.  We beg for forgiveness for our sins of the past year and resolve to act only in accordance with G-d’s will.  Our Sages tell us that Yom Kippur can only atone for sins between Man and G-d, such as eating non-kosher food, inadequately fulfilling one’s obligation to learn Torah or pray properly, not keeping Shabbat, etc.  However, Yom Kippur cannot atone for sins between Man and his fellow Man.   Stealing from another person, slandering, or shaming someone will not be forgiven on Yom Kippur unless the sinner first begs for forgiveness from the person he has harmed.  Only once he has appeased his friend can he proceed to ask G-d to forgive him for those sins as well.  It is therefore an accepted practice among Jews to try to remember who they might have harmed over the past year and ask them for Mechila (forgiveness).

The Tefillot of Yom Kippur

There are five specific tefillot, prayers, throughout Yom Kippur: Maariv, Shacharit, Mussaf, Mincha, and Neila.  The highlight of each of these prayers is the Vidui (confession), which is recited twice during each of these five prayers.  Perhaps the most famous prayer of Yom Kippur is not one of the five prayers at all, but an introductory prayer to the Yom Kippur service, the Kol Nidrei. Kol Nidrei is the soft, supplicating prayer that precedes the tefillah of Maariv.  In this short prayer, we exclaim that, tonight, we allow everyone, both the wicked and the righteous, to join together in prayer to Hashem.  We then ask Hashem to nullify any vows and promises that we’ve made over the last year, so that we may begin the coming year with a clean slate. 

Maariv, the Prayer after Nightfall, which is recited after the sun sets and Yom Kippur begins, is different from any other holiday Maariv service. It is the only Maariv prayer that includes Selichot, special supplications for forgiveness. The selichot prayers feature many repetitions of the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy, the special prayer that G-d taught Moshe Rabbeinu, Moses, when He forgave the sin of the Golden Calf. 

Shacharit, the Morning Prayer, follows the regular pattern of Shacharit for Holidays, and also includes Vidui in the private Shemoneh Esrei and the chazzan’s repetition of the Shemoneh Esrei.  Many piyutim (prayer poems) proclaiming G-d’s Sovereignty versus Man’s impotence, are added to the chazzan’s repetition of the Shemoneh Esrei. The Shacharit prayer ends with the Reading of the Torah, which describes the Kohen Gadol’s service in the Beit Hamikdash (the Temple) on Yom Kippur, and with Yizkor (the Memorial Prayer for the Deceased), which is recited on every holiday.

In the times of the Temple, an extra sacrifice was brought in honor of every holiday.  Now that we don’t have a Temple, Mussaf, the ‘Additional Prayer,’ is added to every holiday Morning Service.  The Shemoneh Esrei of Mussaf describes the sacrifice that was offered in the Temple on the holiday.  The Mussaf of Yom Kippur relates the unique service of the High Priest in the Beit Hamikdash on Yom Kippur.  On Yom Kippur, the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) sacrificed special sacrifices in order to atone for himself, his family, his tribe, and the Jewish People.  The Mussaf prayers beautifully describe the many steps of purification and atonement performed by the Kohen Gadol, climaxing with the once-a-year entry of the Kohen Gadol into the Kodesh HaKedoshim (Holy of Holies).  During this time, a red thread was hung outside the Beit Hamikdash while the Kohen Gadol was in the Kodesh Hakedoshim.  If the service in the Kodesh HaKedoshim was performed properly, the red thread miraculously turned white, symbolizing G-d’s forgiveness of His People.  The people would then joyously accompany the Kohen Gadol to his home.  One who fervently recites these Mussaf prayers is considered to have actually witnessed the Yom Kippur service in the Temple, and therefore merits the same level of atonement.

Mincha, The Afternoon Prayer, features a reading of the Book of Jonah, which describes Yona Hanavi’s (Jonah the Prophet), attempt to ‘escape’ the prophesy of G-d by leaving Israel, and his subsequent suffering on the boat and in the innards of a large fish.  The theme of the Book of Jonah is repentance; the repentance of Yona Hanavi, the sailors on the ship, and the non-Jewish city of Ninveh are all described.

The last tefillah of the day is Neila, literally the Locking of the Gates.  This prayer is the climax of Yom Kippur.  Recited just before nightfall, we desperately beseech G-d for His mercy before the Heavenly books are closed.  We end the tefilla with a powerful Acceptance of G-d’s Sovereignty, Kabbalat Ol Malchut Shamayim, as the whole congregation cries out the Shema in unison, and follows by affirming our complete faith in G-d by reciting other pesukim of faith repeatedly.

Although Yom Kippur is a serious time, there is an undercurrent of joyful hope. We believe that G-d will accept our sincere repentance and forgive us for our sins, allowing us to build a relationship of love and trust with Him again. The day ends with a shofar blast and singing of “Next Year in Jerusalem” usually accompanied by singing and dancing.

To learn more about Yom Kippur as well as the Yom Kippur Davening (Prayer), check out these Torah video classes at www.naaleh.com: