Friday, October 7, 2011

On Yom Kippur's Kol Nidre and Anti-Semitism - Update**

Kol Nidre as interpreted by Max Bruch is a very beautiful piece of music and for the last few years I've had the habit of listening to different 'covers' of it in the days before Yom Kippur to help me get into the mood. I'm not even sure if that's a kosher thing to do, I just know that it compels and helps me to dig into myself to find out what needs to be atoned for.

Anyway, I didn't learn until fairly recently that the Kol Nidre prayer has quite a reputation among the anti-Semites because, as Michael Weiss explained in Slate a few years ago, "'s evidence that Jews are duplicitous and two-faced. The trouble has to do with a misconstrued doctrine of pre-emption. The full text of the prayer reads:

"All vows, obligations, oaths, and anathemas, whether called konam,konas, or by any other name, which we may vow, or swear, or pledge, or whereby we may be bound, from this Day of Atonement until the next (whose happy coming we await), we do repent. May they be deemed absolved, forgiven, annulled, and void, and made of no effect; they shall not bind us nor have power over us. The vows shall not be reckoned vows; the obligations shall not be obligatory; nor the oaths be oaths.

"As stand-alone statement, divorced of its context and Talmudic source material, it does seem to suggest that there's no such thing as a promise or oral contract affirmed in Judaism. But, of course, context is everything, and the prayer refers only to personal vows—those made by man in relation to his own conscience or to God, not interpersonal ones made by man to his fellow man. Contrary to claims made by perplexed exegetes such as David Duke, Kol Nidre was not invented as a sinister tribal clause to cheat gentiles or one another with impunity." 

Read all of Weiss's article here and get your Wikipedia background here. Another excellent explication is by Laurence Grossman in Jewish Ideas Daily. And here is Perry Como giving it such a sincere rendition. I don't know how he came to make this recording, but it's lovely. BTW, Max Bruch, who wasn't Jewish was primarily interested in incorporating 'folk music' into his own compositions.

G'mar chatimah tovah.

**Post Yom Kippur update: MartinPeretz, as usual, wanders around while making his point about the significance of Kol Nidre and, while he's at it, skewers Nicholas Kristof's, as usual, stupid and lazy op-ed published on the eve of Yom Kippur.

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