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Release of Vows

Release of Vows

Kol Nidrei


All vows, prohibitions, oaths, consecrations, restrictions, interdictions or equivalent expressions of vows, which I may vow, swear, dedicate, or which I may proscribe for myself or for others... Let our vows not be considered vows...

Starting very softly, Kol Nidrei begins. It is sung three times, louder and louder, as if entering a spiritual Palace and coming closer to the Eternal King.

The words of the Kol Nidrei prayer refer to cancelling vows. In medieval Spain, Jews were forced at sword-point to swear that they will abandon Judaism. It is said that on Yom Kippur they would gather together and formally cancel any such vows, past or future. They could then pray on the Sacred Day with a clear conscience.

Today, no-one forces us to deny Judaism. But our spiritual weakness often leads us to feel that we are restricted, tied down or trapped in various ways and therefore prevented from full self-expression as Jews. Such as - "I would like to eat kosher but I must eat with my clients at West End restaurants..." Or - "I simply do not have the time to put on Tefilin"...

These limitations are a form of "vow," a pledge to not grow Jewishly. On Yom Kippur, in response to our sincerity, G‑d dissolves away all these restrictions. Whatever our apparent normal commitments and pledges to material and secular values, on Yom Kippur we are given freedom and can openly express total love and dedication to G‑d.

Then, when the sacred day draws to a close, it is up to us...

By Dr. Tali Loewenthal, Director of Chabad Research Unit, London, UK, and a frequent contributor to the weekly Torah reading section; based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
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Anonymous Carolina Beach, NC, USA October 8, 2011

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