Jewish Heritage
Rabbi Dovid Saks
Yom Kippur 5776 Liberated!

Who is not stirred and moved by the hallowed tune of Kol Nidrei as the Chazan ushers in the holy day of Yom Kippur flanked by two Torah scrolls held by respected leaders of the congregation.
Yet, when examining the words and basic gist of the
declaration of Kol Nidrei, one may be left wondering why we begin the holy day of Yom Kippur with a declaration of the nullification of all vows and oaths we declared during the year. Evidently, we can take a message how significant, sacred and valued is man's unique gift of the uttered word.

Contrary to the familiar dictum that, "words are cheap", we enter the holy day of Yom Kippur with a declaration that our words, commitments and vows are not discounted; rather, each word we express has implications and consequences. This declaration, besides annulling our vows and oaths, also serves to make us aware and encourage us to appreciate how much the Almighty cherishes, treasures and prizes each word of prayer, remorse and commitment that we recite during the services of Yom Kippur!

This special energy, boost and appreciation of the gift of words should carry over to our interactions with others; our spouses, friends, family and associates, so that we promote peace and harmony by weighing what we say and considering how we say it.

Perhaps, if we follow the format of the melody of the Chazan's Kol Nidrei - where he pauses and prefaces the words with a cantorial melody - and implement this arrangement in our lives, by taking a slight pause before we react, say something negative, or press send - the holiness and impact of Yom Kippur will indeed remain with us throughout the year.

The great Rabbi, Reb Meir Shapiro o.b.m. also wondered why we begin Yom Kippur with a declaration of release of vows. He presented an insightful, reflective and introspective idea that expands the scope of the declaration of Kol Nidrei.

Reb Meir explains that during Kol Nidrei we are not only being released from our vows; we are also declaring that we be released from all improper bonds.

Within the Kol Nidrei declaration we mention variations of the Hebrew word Issur. Aside from its reference to vows, additionally, a transgression of the Torah is called an 'Issur, which means, tied or restricted.'

Essentially, when one transgresses a law of the Torah, thereby committing an Issur, he becomes 'bound' to something outside of himself which drags him down and he becomes imprisoned by it.

The theme of Kol Nidrei is to release and nullify us from all our unwanted bonds so that as we approach the holy day of atonement we set the tone that we wish to be released and untied from the shackles of sin that weigh us down and restrain us from elevating ourselves spiritually.

At the onset of Yom Kippur we declare that we are throwing off the yoke of our transgressions, thereby untying our baggage so we can approach G-d with an open heart to become improved Jews and an enhanced nation.

Someone once described to me how a noted psychologist guided a person who was carrying an immense amount of anger and issues towards a relative.

The psychologist instructed her to close her eyes and imagine that she was bound up in ropes which represented the issues associated with that relative. The psychologist then told her to form an imaginary scissors represented by her index and middle finger - and cut the cord that was wound around her - and with her eyes still closed - to image the feeling of the release of the negative energy and bond.

This technique proved effective in bringing about personal restoration with issues harbored towards another.

May I suggest that during the course of the 25 hours of Yom Kippur, we take a moment and go through this same exercise of taking out our imaginary scissors to cut the cords that represents all that weighs us down and inhibits us from attaining additional spiritual meaning in our lives.

This release exercise will enable us to gain and appreciate a renewed perspective of our relationship with the Almighty, so that along with the process of confession and remorse which we express so frequently on Yom Kippur, our Yom Kippur experience will be more meaningful, powerful and lasting!

Wishing you a most uplifting Yom Kippur - fast well!
Rabbi Dovid Saks