Ha'azinu + Yom Kippur | 12 Tishrei 5782 | September 18th, 2021 | Issue 911

This edition is dedicated
in loving memory of
Miriam Rivka bat Chaim z"
Mordechai Yosef ben Yitzchak David Friedland z"l
Menashe z"l ben Mordechai Yosef z"l and Miriam Friedland

Yitzchak ben Pinchas HaCohen z"l
Rabbi Reuven Aberman z"l
What is in this week's newsletter

'One Who Loves Tanach'

A short Dvar Torah for Parashat Haazinu (5 min)

Die Hard

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Why Kol Nidrei?

Daniel Damboritz
Bachur, New York (2002-2003)
Currently Attorney, Partner in High Tech Group at Yigal Arnon & Co

Click Here for the PDF version

Each year, Jews end their seuda mafseket (the meal before the fast) and rush to Shul, men dress in their kittles (a traditional white robe) and their talitot, and prepare themselves for the Kol Nidrei prayer.

However, once the shaliach tzibbur (cantor) begins chanting the old historic text of Kol Nidrei, accompanied by a melody that carries with it a heavy emotional weight accumulated over the ages, we quickly realize that it is no more than an annulment of past vows and a declaration that future vows should be null and void.
Many have wondered why Yom Kippur begins with Kol Nidrei. The Torah is very clear how important it is to keep your vows, as we are told in Bamidbar 30:3: "איש כי ידור נדר, לא יחל דברו" – “If a man vows a vow… he shall not break his word.” The Talmud in Tractate Shabbat 32b indicates how severe it is to renege on a vow, by stating that:
"בעוון נדרים בנים מתים כשהן קטנים" 
“Because of the sin of unfulfilled vows, a person’s children die when they are young.”

Later, Chazal (the Sages) teach that while a person cannot break his vow, a Beit Din (a rabbinical court) may annul a vow if they are convinced that there was no anticipation of the consequences of the vow.
Still, Kol Nidrei has a spellbinding effect on us all, and we do not quite know why. It remains unclear why the opening section of the Day of Atonement would begin with the release of a person from his vows. Is hatarat nedarim (release of vows) really the ideal prayer to bring us to do Teshuva?

I saw written, and heard several talmidim (students) of Rav Yosef Dov Halevi Soloveitchik zt”l recalling his annual public Teshuva lectures, saying that Rav Soloveitchik suggested that the two congregants wearing Tallitot and holding Sifrei Torah, together with the shaliach tzibbur form a Beit Din.
At this stage, the shaliach tzibbur cries out:
 "על דעת המקום ועל דעת הקהל, בישיבה של מעלה ובישיבה של מטה, אנו מתירין להתפלל עם העבריינים"
“With the consent of the Almighty, and consent of this congregation, in a convocation of the heavenly court, and a convocation of the lower court, this Beit Din is providing a ruling that the transgressors are permitted to pray with the community.”
This is extremely meaningful – this lower court allows, on this one special Day of Atonement, people who have been excommunicated by the community, to pray amongst the community. Perhaps on this Day of Atonement, these transgressors will find a way to repent their actions and be able to rejoin the community.

The Beit Din then call upon the heavenly court to forgive the congregation, stating that the members of the congregation were not aware of the consequences of their actions. The shaliach tzibbur and the lower court plead with G-d to forgive the congregation for their actions over the course of the past year, stating the terminology a Beit Din uses when asked to release a vow – had the people understood the consequences of their actions, they would have never done them in the first place.
In the very next part of Kol Nidrei the cantor calls out the verse "ונסלח לכל עדת ישראל ולגר הגר בתוכם כי לכל העם בשגגה"  - Forgive the entire congregation of the children of Yisrael and the stranger amongst them, for the entire people sinned unintentionally.
The Beit Din is asking that the community be forgiven because their actions were not deliberate, all their actions were unintentional. To which G-d answers the shaliach tzibbur with – "סלחתי כדבריך" I have pardoned them as you have asked. Sigh of relief.

Rav Soloveitchik had another insight of Kol Nidrei, in light of the sin of the Golden Calf, where the pasuk describes Moshe Rabeinu praying that Bnei Yisrael be spared from punishment. The Torah uses the unique word  "ויחל" (“Va’yechal”) to express Moshe’s prayer, and the Talmud in Tractate Berachot 32a, suggests that the Torah used this word because of its similarity to another word, that is directly connected to the annulment of vows, as mentioned above "יחל"  – “yachel.” Rav Soloveitchik suggested that this prayer was “an attempt by Moses to annul G-d’s vow to destroy the Jewish people.” Just as we stated above, no person (not even G-d) is able to annul his vow unless and until a Beit Din terminates the vow. So too, we recite Kol Nidrei – it is structured in such a way that the shaliach tzibbur, with the two congregants holding the Sifrei Torah who together form a Beit Din, release G-d from this vow to punish Bnei Yisrael for the sins of the past year.

When the vow is annulled, we all chant with joy "שהחיינו וקיימנו והגיענו לזמן הזה" – Blessed are You, Lord, our G-d, King of the Universe, Who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion.

For more Divrei Torah on the parsha click here

The Torah - not just another app!

Rabbi Benjy Rickman
Former shaliach in Capetown (1998- 99)
Currently Head of Kodesh in King David High School Manchester and Assitant Rav at Holy Law Shul

Click Here for the PDF version

We are blessed to be living at a time when Torah knowledge is so accessible. Apps give us a fully stocked Jewish library on our phones. Baruch Hashem there are more young people studying in Yeshivot and Seminaries than ever before in history. However, in this golden age of Torah study and access to Torah , I am not sure whether we also have the reverence and respect for the Torah that existed when Torah was harder to study and seforim were treasured as prized items.  If the world of apps brings Torah closer it also makes it just one of a million apps that can be downloaded. Together with the latest games or news feeds we now have a Torah library.

This week’s Torah portion contains a well known pasuk. 

Ki shem Hashem Ekrah- when I call out the name of Hashem, Havu godel Le’lokeinu- attribute greatness to our G-d.

When we hear Hashem’s name or words of Torah {which according to the Kaballah is considered entirely names of Hashem} we need to respond with a focused appreciation towards the giver and author. We cannot just lounge around feet up swiping our devices or listening as we travel to work. Our minds and hearts must be alive to Hashem. The Gemarah is Massechet Brachot 21a teaches this lesson:

And from where is the mitzva by Torah law to recite the blessing over the Torah before it is read, derived? As it is stated: “When I declare Hashem’s name, give glory to our G-d” , meaning that before one declares Hashem’s name by reading the Torah, he must give glory to G-d.

Remember that Chazal saw the omission of birkat Ha’Torah as the cause of the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash. The inability to fully appreciate Torah as the word of Hashem leads to its message being just one more, amongst a cacophony of noise that makes up our day. 

After Moshe completed the Song of Haazinu the Torah says: “And when Moshe finished reciting all these words to all Israel, he said to them: Take to heart all the words with which I have warned you this day. Instruct them to your children, that they may observe faithfully all the terms of this Teaching.

Rashi explains that “it is necessary for a person that one’s eyes, heart and ears, should all be attentively directed to the words of the Torah.” Availability and access are precious gifts of modern living. It is up to us to show how much we cherish the gift but immersing ourselves fully in the experience. At this time of the year, many people look to enhance their Mitzva performance. When we hear a good song all our body moves. The lyrics and tune grip us and transform us. The same must be true of the Torah. Let us treasure the song of Haazinu and hear, feel and see it’s message. The reason is found in the very next pasuk “For this is not a trifling thing for you: it is your very life.”

For more Divrei Torah on the parsha click here

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