Rabbi Stuart Gershon has written a thorough exploration of the Jewish prayer service and ritual known as Kol Nidrei. A moving and dramatic synagogue service that inaugurates Yom Kippur, it is known by most Jews but is widely misunderstood. Jewish tradition is grounded in the seriousness of the power of the spoken word and may be understood only within that framework. Kol nidrei is viewed as a vehicle through which absolution is automatically granted for unfulfilled vows. Rabbi Gershon demonstrates that kol nidrei functions as a remedy for this grave problem of unfulfilled vows. The spoken word takes on a reality independent of human control, and no vow already in force can be revoked. Only by means of a legal fiction, whereby the retroactively annulled vow is treated as if it had never taken shape, can the vower be spared the grave consequences of an unfulfilled vow. Kol nidrei is the formula for one such legal fiction. The first book-length study of its kind, this volume explains the origins and halakhic basis of kol nidrei; details the debates concerning kol nidrei over the centuries; illustrates the way kol nidrei functions in modern times; provides appendices, variant texts, and musical arrangements; and investigates thoroughly the powerful ritual of kol nidrei.
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