Answering Eleven Objections to Kol Nidrei
By Louis Kaplan
All vows,2 prohibitions, oaths, consecrations, konam – vows, konas – vows, or equivalent terms that we may vow, swear, consecrate, or prohibit upon ourselves from this Yom Kippur until the next Yom Kippur, may it come upon us for good, regarding them all, we regret them henceforth. They all will be permitted, abandoned, cancelled, null and void, with-out power and without standing. Our vows shall not be valid vows; our prohibitions shall not be valid prohibitions: and our oaths shall not be valid oaths.3
This is the text of the famous Kol Nidrei (All Vows) paragraph found in most Ashkenazic prayer books. It virtually starts the pre-Ma’ariv service on Yom Kippur. True, slightly different versions are found in prayer books by Jews who follow other rites (as will be noted later), and Kol Nidrei is not sung everywhere to the same melody. . 4 Nevertheless, the emotional-spiritual power of Kol Nidrei is such that wherever Jews live, and despite its coming so early in the service, most Jews who go to synagogue Yom Kippur evening (and often come late for other services) almost invariably want to arrive on time in order to hear Kol Nidrei chanted.
The power of Kol Nidrei to touch Jewish hearts is seemingly very strange. After all, it is not really a prayer but a legal formula with much technical vocabulary. In addition, Kol Nidrei makes no direct statement about repentance, the main theme of the Days of Awe that are Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Nor is God mentioned. Moreover, the language is mostly Aramaic (the Jewish vernacular in Babylonia and Palestine during the Talmudic period), with some Hebrew. Logically, one might wonder why Kol Nidrei has not been dropped from the mahzor. Actually, calls for its elimination are centuries old. But before considering some ob-jections to Kol Nidrei, let us account for there being a Kol Nidrei.
The Torah contains several passages regarding vows. In Numbers 30:3 we read: ‘If a man vows a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to impose an obligation on himself, he shall not break his word; according to all that comes out of his mouth he shall do.’5 Somewhat similar verses are found in Deuteronomy 23:22’24: ‘When you make a vow to the Lord your God do not delay fulfilling it, for the Lord your God will require it of you and [if you don’t fulfill it] you will have incurred a sin. But if you refrain from vowing, you will not have incurred a sin. That which has come from your lips you shall observe and do, what you have voluntarily vowed to the Lord your God which you spoke with your mouth.’
One’s word was to be kept; vows and oaths were not to be uttered carelessly, without sufficient thought. But what if an individual did vow recklessly, or what if, had a pre-existent situation been known, the vow would never have been made? In such circumstances, must the vow nevertheless be carried out?
In commenting on Deuteronomy 23:24, quoted above, Jeffrey H. Tigay wrote: ‘A vow is unconditionally binding, and the Bible mentions no procedure for an individual to have his vow annulled, even if it is impossible to keep. . . . [T]he rabbis eventually developed a system for annulling vows under the auspices of a court when necessary, as spelled out in Tractate Nedarim. The Kol Nidrei declaration recited on Yom Kippur is an example of such an annulment.’6
What was the rabbinic method of hattarat nedarim (annulment of vows)? The votary comes before a sage,7 or, if no sage is available, before a bet din (court) of three learned laymen.8 The vow is detailed9 and the votary declares he regrets making the vow.10 After careful questioning to determine whether this is the kind of vow that can beÂ retroactively uprooted,11 the sage or bet din finds a petah haratah (opening for regret) that would be sufficient reason for absolving the vow ab initio.12
One example of a petah haratah given in Mishnah Nedarim 9:4 by Rabbi Meir is that the bet din might say to the votary that had he known his vow violates an injunction in the To-rah, such as ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ (Leviticus 19:18), would the vow still have been made? If the votary replies, ‘Had I known that this was so I would not have vowed,’ then ‘indeed, it is permitted [to abrogate the vow].’
There may be some Orthodox Jews who still turn to a rabbi deeply versed in halakhah or to a bet din for rescinding vows not carried out. But undoubtedly most Jews today rely on hearing Kol Nidrei to achieve that goal.
When and where Kol Nidrei was written, and by whom, are unknown. It goes back to at least the ninth century, for Hai bar Nahshon, Gaon (head of the academy) in Sura, 885’896, noted: ‘It is the practice of the people in our region to say on Yom Kippur Kol Nidrei . . .’13
But what the masses practiced did not always find favor in the eyes of the geonim. Rav Am-ram, also a Gaon at Sura (c. 858’c. 871), wrote a responsum to the Jews of Barcelona in which he listed and commented on the order of prayers. Seder Rav Amram Gaon is the oldest extant order of prayers for the Jewish year. His acidic comment on Kol Nidrei was: ‘But the holy academy sent word that this is a foolish custom and it is forbidden to practice it.’14 However, by ‘around the year 1000, some form of [the] Kol Nidrei declaration appears to have gained general acceptance in Babylonia and in the far-flung Jewries which accepted Geonic authority.’15
As to where Kol Nidrei was written, scholars differ. Some opt for Palestine, while most researchers of the last 40-plus years favor Babylonia.16 Its author remains a mystery.
Why did a number of geonim (and some other learned Jews) oppose Kol Nidrei?
First, there was unease about taking vows at all, since there was a likelihood that many of them might not be fulfilled. In Nedarim, the very Talmudic tractate devoted to vows, including how to annul them, this opinion is stated: ‘One who vows is as though he has built bamah [high place for unlawful sacrifice], and if he fulfills it [i.e., the vow] is as though he sacrificed on it.’17
Second, there may have been uncertainty concerning the right to set aside vows. As Tigay pointed out, the Torah contains no procedure for preventing an individual’s vow from taking effect.18 Furthermore, the Sages themselves admitted that ‘[The rules about] release from vows hover in the air and have nothing to support them [except Numbers 30:3’16].’19
Related to this is a third reason for adverse criticism of Kol Nidrei. Ascribing the posi-tion to Gaon Natronai, the Rosh (Asher ben Yehiel, 1250’1327, Toledo, Spain) said: ‘If Rava did not believe that the law allowing for anticipatory invalidation of future vows should be taught to the public, all the more so should one not annul or teach about how to annul vows and oaths that were already undertaken . . . thus we do not accept nor do we practice haratah [‘regret’ method].’20
What is ‘anticipatory invalidation of future vows’? According to Mishnah Nedarim 3:1, ‘A person may say, ‘Let no vow that I vow later be binding, provided he is mindful of this [stipulation] at the moment of his [later] vow.’21 This procedure is only applicable to vows of prohibition, such as when an individual vows not to drink, or eat, or similar life-threatening restrictions.22
Fearing that with such a loophole many people would vow needlessly and not fulfill their vows, Rava opposed openly teaching about anticipatory invalidation of vows: ‘Rav Huna bar Hanina wanted to lecture thereupon [i.e., concerning the invalidation of future vows] publicly. But Rava remonstrated with him, ‘The Tanna has intentionally obscured the law [of anticipatory invalida-tion by providing a defective text in Mishnah Nedarim 3:1], so the vows should not be treated lightly, but you desire to teach it publicly!”23
So, according to Natronai Gaon (via Rosh), if how to uproot future vows should not be taught publicly, how much the more so regarding past vows! And, in Natronai’s time (ninth century), Kol Nidrei only mentioned absolving past vows: ‘from the previous Yom Kippur until this Yom Kippur.’24
Although opposed to teaching publicly anticipatory invalidation of future vows, Rava realized there were situations when retroactive absolving of vows would be proper and others when it would not. He said that if the vower remembered the original provision ‘and he declares, ‘I vow in accordance with my original intention [that every vow I may make in the future shall be null],’ his [later] vow has no reality. But if he does not declare thus, he has cancelled his stipulation and confirmed his vow.’25
With Rava’s possible latter situation in mind, one can see how Kol Nidrei would be needed to invalidate future vows that were made without verbal confirmation of the earlier anticipatory abrogation.
Incidentally, the Rosh countered Rava’s concern that if the masses knew about anticipatory invalidation, they would become irresponsible in vows. He maintained that the Jews of his time were cautious when it came to making vows.26
For Jews of the 21st century, vowing is a rarity. However, when some Jewishly knowledgeable Jews state something they intend to do, their words may be followed by the verbal disavowal, ‘B’li neder‘ (‘Without it being a vow’). Also, there are Orthodox synagogues where ‘shnodder-ing’ takes place. Based on the Hebrew word she-nadar (who has vowed), ‘shnoddering’ refers to a monetary pledge for the synagogue or rabbi that is made by a person called up to the reading of the Torah.
Returning to objections to Kol Nidrei, let us consider a fourth reason, one not directly related to legal matters. Salo Baron, arguably the greatest Jewish historian of the 20th century, suggested that some geonim were unwilling to endorse Kol Nidrei because they disagreed with the occult power to harm an individual or society that was imputed to unfulfilled vows, particularly in mystical circles:
At times geonic leadership, yielding to popular pressure, accepted such [liturgical] innovations27 willingly: on other occasions it yielded only after a hard struggle. The geonim of Sura, for example, condemned the recitation of the Kol nidre prayer with its magic fear of the vows unwittingly broken, as a ‘foolish custom’ (Natronai) long after those of Pumbedita had submitted to popular clamor for it.28
Baron offered a possible rationale for objections to Kol Nidrei, but ‘magic fear of the vows unwittingly broken’ is almost certainly not a factor today. Modern Jews, overwhelmingly, do not believe in the magic power of broken vows, although unfulfilled vows may cause a person psychological and, thereby, physical harm.
However, we do know the basis of certain definite dissents. It was argued, for instance, that Kol Nidrei did not meet the Talmudic requirement of going to a sage or bet din for hattarat nedarim (annulment of vows). (This is a fifth objection.) Is the sh’liah tzibbur (representative of the congregation) who chants Kol Nidrei always (or ever) a legal scholar? The hazzan is obviously not a bet din!
This was answered by Ravyah (Eliezer ben Joel HaLevi of Bonn, 1140’1225), who said that although the sheliah tzibbur may not be a sage, he may absolve those present of their vows because the majority of the congregation has agreed to give him that authority.29
On this matter, too, the Rosh asserted that a sage must be sought only if a vow to be negated involves a mitzvah. But Kol Nidrei does not involve mitzvah vows.30 As for a bet din, the Rosh maintained that if the congregation recites Kol Nidrei with the prayer-leader, then the requirement of a bet din has been satisfied.31
(When I served as a congregational rabbi, I asked an observant Jew to stand next to me, behind the hazzan, during the chanting of Kol Nidrei. As I informed the congregation, the three of us would form a bet din of sorts.)
But what about the Talmudic requisite for a petah haratah (opening for regret)? Again the Rosh rebutted this (sixth) argument: There must have been haratah if an individual did not fulfill a vow!32
Actually, the challenge had been rebutted earlier by Solomon ben Samson (11th century, Worms, Germany). He declared, ‘He who hears the prayer-leader [chant Kol Nidrei], it is as if the prayer-leader expresses regret on his behalf, and the vow is nullified by means of haratah.’33
Haratah eventually found its way into Kol Nidrei with the words ‘khul’hon ‘iharatna v’hon’ (‘regarding them all we regret them’).
The most radical change in Kol Nidrei‘s wording was made by Rabbenu Tam (Jacob ben Meir, 11th century, France, a grandson of Rashi). He insisted that Nedarim 23b was referring not to past vows but to future ones. His finding fault with the Kol Nidrei of his time (our seventh objection) was with the words ‘mi-yom kippurim she’avar ad yom kippurim zeh‘ (‘from the previous Yom Kippur until this Yom Kippur’). Therefore, he altered the wording, acknowl-edging that the idea had been his father’s: ‘Kol Nidrei, which we say on Yom Kippur eve, my father emended to read “yom kippurim zeh ad yom kippurim haba” (from this Yom Kippur until next Yom Kippur), may it come upon us for good: regarding them all, we regret them.’34
Because of his fame, Rabbenu Tam’s emendation came to be accepted by the overwhelming number of Ashkenzic congregations.35 However, Sephardim in Western lands, as well as Jews in the Balkans and Italy, retain the earlier past-year language. Oriental Sephardim utilize a Kol Nidrei that mentions both former and future vows.36
An eighth protest against Kol Nidrei was that in remitting promises it weakened a Jew’s word. Indeed, from the Middle Ages to as late as the 19th century, Jews in some countries were forced to take the infamous Jewish Oath when testifying in Christian courts. The more judaico, oath ‘according to Jewish custom,’ was administered not only to avoid affirming non-Jewish religious doctrines,37 but also because many Gentiles feared Jews would lie and that they could have their court oaths negated by hearing Kol Nidrei or by the action of a Jewish court.38
To counteract such Gentile thinking, as well as the notion held by many Jews that Kol Nidrei did invalidate all vows, Rabbenu Tam declared that only nidrei atzmo (vows imposed on oneself) are nullified by Kol Nidrei.39 This explanation was in keeping with Mishnah Yoma 8:9: ‘For transgressions between a person and God, Yom Kippur effects atonement: for transgressions between a person and his fellow human being, Yom Kippur does not effect atonement until his fellow is appeased.’
After the dawn of the Enlightenment and Emancipation for Jews, two more objections were raised against Kol Nidrei. One (the ninth by our count) was that it was morally offensive and, with some influential Gentiles aware of that, keeping Kol Nidrei in the synagogue service might hinder full equality for, and acceptance of, Jews.40 Jews might be deemed unde-serving of the same political, economic, educational, and social rights as Christian citizens.41
The other objection (number ten), related to the preceding one, was that Kol Nidrei seemed so contrary to the convictions of general enlightened society. Especially to Reform Jews and their progressive Christian compatriots, good religion should be rational, ethically oriented, and morally uplifting.42 Kol Nidrei did not seem to meet those standards.
As a result of such challenges, Kol Nidrei was dealt with in various ways. Of course, many Yom Kippur services included the traditional Kol Nidrei text. However, some Re-form prayer books published in Germany, Austria, England, and the United States eliminated it.43 Even Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, the 19th-century founder of neo-Orthodox Judaism in Germany, omitted Kol Nidrei from his synagogue service for several years.44
In the 20th century a number of non-Orthodox synagogues resorted to various devices in dealing with Kol Nidrei. Some substituted a psalm (usually number 130 or 103), or a hymn, or an original prayer.45 Others modified the text.46 Wherever possible, however, the much-beloved traditional melody was retained.47
Significantly, in Gates of Repentance, the American Reform movement’s 1978 prayer book for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the full, unaltered text of Kol Nidrei appears.48 It is exactly that of the standard Orthodox Ashkenazic version. This is surely indicative of Reform Jewry’s comfortable sense of acceptance as full Americans, agreement with their rabbinical leadership’s explanations of why Kol Nidrei can be chanted by educated and morally sensitive people, lack of fear of castigations that might be leveled against Jews and Judaism, evidence of a comfortable Jewish ethnicity, and a major sign of Reform Judaism’s increasing return to Jewish traditions.
It is likely that some Jews of centuries past and in the 20th century have been puzzled, even annoyed, by the mostly Aramaic, archaic technical language of Kol Nidrei (an eleventh objection). But cannot such language be viewed, at least, as a picturesque, sentimental carryover of ancient Jewish legalese? Its underlying purpose we moderns can accept: our yearning to be absolved of unfulfilled vows to ourselves and God, our desire to start afresh.
For so many Jews the traditional melody of Kol Nidrei is hauntingly, powerfully, captivating.49 Kol Nidrei is chanted three times. Increasing in volume with each repetition, moving from melancholic remorse to assertive confidence, we read into those precious Kol Nidrei moments what we will: our desire to make new beginning in living more responsibly, which includes more care in our speech and promises; an awareness of, even a sympathy for, those Jews who, having converted (sometimes forcibly) to Christianity or Islam, risked punishment or death to hear Kol Nidrei as a sign of their real allegiance and of their hope that God would forgive them; a feeling of oneness with Jews of every generation and land; a quiet, yet defiant proclamation that am Yisrael chai, the Jewish people lives ‘ and is determined to live on!
The eleven intellectual objections to Kol Nidrei — and more could have been listed — vanish in the solemn, inspirational mood created by the music of, and the feeling elicited by, Kol Nidrei. The heart overwhelms the head.
1The text is that of Mahzor for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, second edition, ed. Jules Harlow (New York: The Rabbinical Assembly, 1978), p. 352.
2For a concise explanation of the meaning of ‘vows,’ ‘prohibitions,’ and other terms in Kol Nidrei, see Nosson Scherman, The Complete ArtScroll Machzor: Yom Kippur (Brooklyn, N.Y.: Mesorah Publications, 1986), pp. 58’60.
3Except for the bracketed words ‘from the last Yom Kippur until this Yom Kippur, and,’ which appear on page 59 of The Complete ArtScroll Machzor: Yom Kippur, the translation is from that prayer book. This is because the trans-lation in the Harlow-edited mahzor (see note 1), as in some other prayer books, deviates too much from a literal translation.
4Stuart Weinberg Gershon, Kol Nidrei: Its Origin, Development, and Significance (Northvale, N.Y. and London: Jason Aronson, 1994), pp. 149’157, provides musical notation for eight different melodies. Also see pp. 93’96.
5This passage mentions a ‘vow’ and an ‘oath.’ In a vow, an individual states, ‘I take upon myself’ to prohibit something to myself. With an oath, the wording is, ‘I swear to do (not to do)’ the following. See Encyclopaedia Judaica, corrected edition (Jerusalem: Keter Publishing House, 1972), s.v. ‘Vows and Vowing,’ vol. 16, p. 227. Cf. Jacob Milgrom, The JPS Commentary: Numbers (Philadelphia and New York: Jewish Publication Society, 1990), pp. 488’490.
6Jeffrey H. Tigay, The JPS Torah Commentary: Deuteronomy (Philadelphia and Jerusalem: Jewish Publication So-ciety, 1996), p. 219. However, in Numbers 30:4’6 we are told that a vow by an unmarried woman living in her fa-ther’s house can be cancelled by that parent on the day he learns of her vow. Also, Numbers 30:7-13 relates that a married woman’s vow may be annulled by her husband on the day he becomes aware of it.
8Bekhorot 36b, 37a.
10Nedarim 21a, 22b.
11Mishnah Nedarim 3:1 begins: ‘Four kinds of vows the Sages declared not binding: vows of incitement, vows of exaggeration, vows made in error, and vows [that cannot be fulfilled by reason] of constraint.’ Mishnah Nedarim then proceeds to give examples of each kind.
12Mishnah Nedarim 9:1’10.
13Wolf Leiter, ed., Sha’arei Teshuvah (1802: reprint ed., New York: Philip Feldheim, 1946), Nedarim, #143. Quoted by Gershon, p. 62.
14Daniel Goldschmidt, ed., Seder Rav Amram Gaon (Jerusalem: Mossad HaRav Kook, 1971), p. 163. See Gershon, p. 69.
15Hayyim Herman Kieval , The High Holy Days: A Commentary on the Prayerbook of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, ed. David Golinkin and Monique Susskind Goldberg (Jerusalem: Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, 2004), p. 271.
16Gershon, pp. 61-64. Cf. Kieval, p. 268 and p. 329 (note 13); Encyclopaedia Judaica, s.v. ‘Kol Nidre,’ vol. 10, p. 1147.
17Nedarim 22a. It is Rabbi Nathan’s remark.
18See note 6.
19Mishnah Hagigah 1:8.
20Rosh to Yoma 88b, where he ascribed this position to Natronai. Quoted by Gershon, p. 69.
21In Nedarim 23b, when discussing this mishnah, it says: ‘And he who desires that none of his vows made during the year shall be valid, let him stand at Rosh Hashanah and declare ‘Every vow which I make in the future shall be null.” In the Soncino Press’s edition, there is this note to these words:
This may have provided a support for the custom of reciting Kol Nidre (a formula for dispensation of vows) prior to the Evening Service of the Day of Atonement (Ran.). The context makes it per-fectly obvious that only vows where the maker abjures benefit from aught or imposes an interdict of his own property upon his neighbour are referred to’. Though the beginning of the year (New Year) is mentioned here, the Day of Atonement was probably chosen on account of its great so-lemnity. But Kol Nidre as part of the ritual is later than the Talmud. . . .
Isidore Epstein, The Babylonian Talmud, Seder Nashim (London: Soncino Press, 1936), vol. III, p. 68, note 1.
In line with what Nedarim 23b says about Rosh Hashanah being the time for anticipatory invalidation of future vows, some Jews still observe this course of action:
Pious Jews still follow a procedure based on this original practice. After the morning service on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, they petition a ‘court’ of three learned men to hear declarations pertaining both to vows unwittingly neglected during the year past and those which might be improperly made during the year about to begin. There is also an appropriate response on the part of the court.
Kieval, p. 68; p. 328, note 11.
In standard editions of the Mishnah, Bertinoro, (Obadiah ben Avraham Bertinoro, c.1450’c.1515, Italy) comments on ‘va-ya’amod b’rosh hashanah‘ (‘and let him stand at Rosh Hashanah’): ‘lav davqa ele hu ha-din b’khol ‘et sheyirtzah z’man sheyiqva‘ï€¢ (‘not necessarily [only on Rosh Ha-shanah], but the same applies at all times that he might want and at any period that he might designate’).
22Rosh to Nedarim 23b. See Gershon, p. 24.
24Daniel Goldschmidt, ed., Seder Rav Amram Gaon, p. 162. Quoted by Gordon, p. 30. For an English-Hebrew vol-ume containing the Hebrew version of Amram’s Kol Nidrei, see High Holyday Prayer Book, translated and annotated by Philip Birnbaum (New York: Hebrew Publishing Company, 1951), p. 491.
27The liturgical innovations included giving more attention to the angelic host. This is evident in the words which came to start the Kedushah: ‘n’kadesh et shim’kha ba’olam k’shem she-maqdishim bishmei marom‘ (‘We will sanctify Your name in the world as they sanctify it in the highest heaven’). Another example is the practice of finishing the Amidah, then walking backwards three steps while bowing to the angels on God’s left and to those on the right (cf. I Kings 22:19). See Salo Baron, A Social and Religious History of the Jews, second edition (New York and London: Columbia University Press, and Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1958), vol. VII, p. 77.
28Baron, ibid. p. 78.
29Sefer Ravyah, ed. Avigdor Aptowitzer, part 2 (Jerusalem: Harry Fischel Institute, 1964), Masekhet Pesachim, 528. See Gershon, p. 85.
30Rosh to Yoma 88b, end, #28. Cited by Gershon, pp. 87’88.
32Rosh to Yoma 88b, end, #28. See Gershon, p. 88.
33Moshe Hershler, ed., Siddur Rabbenu Shlomo (Jerusalem, 1971), #101. Quoted by Gershon, p. 76.
34Sefer HaYashar (Vienna, 1811): reprint edition (Shai Publications, 1959), #144. See Gershon, pp. 79-80. Kieval explains that Meir ben Samuel and his son, Rabbenu Tam, ‘excluded vows taken during the past year, be-cause the Talmud states that vows already contracted cannot be annulled unless the votary explicitly states the con-tent of his vow and voices penitence for his change of heart (haratah) before a legal expert or a court of three learned laymen.’ Kieval, p. 272.
35Despite Rabbenu Tam and other proponents of Kol Nidrei, there were communities in the Middle Ages where Kol Nidrei was not recited because the paragraph’s word were held to make it likely that some people would vow reck-lessly. See Gershon, p. 89: Kieval, pp. 274 and 331 (note 30).
36Gershon, pp. 91, 145-147: Kieval, p. 273. Jacob Emden (1697-1776, German) and the renowned Vilna Gaon (Elijah ben Solomon Zalman, 1720’1297, Lithuania) favored references to past and future vows in Kol Nidrei. See The Complete ArtScroll Machzor: Yom Kippur, p. 58, note to ‘mi yom kippurim she-‘avar.‘ Both versions are found in some current Ashkenazic prayerbooks: e.g., The Complete ArtScroll Machzor:Yom Kippur, p. 58, where the text reads ‘mi yom kippurim [she-‘avar ad yom kippurim zeh u-mi-yom kippurim] zeh ad yom kippurim haba’ (‘from Yom Kippur [that passed until this Yom Kippur, and from Yom Kippur] this until the coming Yom Kippur’): The New Mahzor for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, compiled and edited by Sidney Greenberg and Jona-than D. Levine (Bridgeport, Conn.: Media Judaica, 1977), p. 70 (the past tense is in the text, the future tense is at the bottom of the page following an asterisk).
37Jacob Marcus, The Jew in the Medieval World: A Source Book, 315-1791 (Cincinnati, Ohio: Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1938), p. 49. On p. 50 there is an English translation of the Jewish Oath used in Frankfort-on-the-Main courts about 1392. Marcus notes that in Frankfort police courts a Jewish Oath was still being used in 1847.
38Gershon, pp. 97-98. Cf. Louis Jacobs, The Jewish Religion: A Companion (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), s.v. ‘Kol Nidre,’ p. 307.
39Sefer HaYashar, #144. Cited by Gershon, p. 80.
40Gershon, pp. 98-99.
41Ibid. Note, too, the sentence in Robert M. Seltzer, Jewish People, Jewish Thought: The Jewish Experience in History (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1980), p.582: ‘The primary intention of the early reformers was to establish that Judaism was a fully modern religion and one of the acceptable denominations of Germany.’
42Seltzer, p. 557, regarding the general Enlightenment’s emphasis on ‘the perfecting of moral, rational man.’
43Gershon, pp. 99-100, 105’107.
44Joseph Telushkin, Jewish Literacy: The Most Important Things to Know About the Jewish Religion, Its People, and Its History (New York: William Morrow and Company, 1991), p. 569. Cf. Gershon, p. 100.
45Gershon, pp. 102-113.
46Ibid. Particularly interesting are Mordecai M. Kaplan’s 20th-century struggles with Kol Nidrei. They are discussed in Mel Scult, Judaism Faces the Twentieth Century: A Biography of Mordecai M. Kaplan (Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press, 1993), pp. 287-290. In his New York City congregation, the Society for the Advancement of Judaism, Kaplan proceeded in this order to: omit Kol Nidrei in favor of Psalm 130; have the hazzan chant Psalm 130 while those worshippers who wished recited the traditional Kol Nidrei silently; restore Kol Nidrei with certain word changes. Kaplan is the ideological father of the Reconstructionist movement. Interestingly enough, that movement’s High Holy Day prayer book contains, unchanged, the centuries-old wording. See Kol Haneshamah: Prayerbook for the Days of Awe (Elkins Park, PA: Reconstructionist Press, 1999), p. 694.
47Gershon, pp. 103-105. The text may have embarrassed some Jews, but the emotional power of the melody seemed to stir all. Note, for instance, a resolution adopted by the Central Conference of American [Reform] Rabbis in 1930: the movement’s temple hymnal should include Kol Nidrei’s melody but omit its words. See Gershon, p, 110.
48Gates of Repentance: The New Union Prayer Book for the Days of Awe, ed. Chaim Stern (New York: Central Con-ference of American Rabbis, 1978), p. 252.
49See note 4.