October 07, 2016
For this Shabbos Shuva, I wanted to share a thought of Rav Yochanan Zweig shlita regarding Kol Nidre and really all of Yom Kippur. Hope you find it meaningful. Have a great Shabbos and Gmar chasimah tovah.
The Kol Nidre service is essentially an annulment of oaths and vows; a shortened version of the Hatoras Nedarim that is performed after Shacharis on Erev Rosh Hashanah. Why is our most solemn day of the year ushered in with the concept of vows and oaths?
Rambam (Yad Hilchos Teshuvah 1:1) implies that the primary aspect of repentance is "Vidui" - the verbalized confession of one's sins. Why is verbalization of sins such an important component of the process?
Targum Onkelos (Bereishis 2:7) explains the possuk "And he blew into [Adam's] nostrils a living soul" that Hashem imbued Adam with the ability to speak. This was a replication, as it were, of Hashem's power of speech given to man. In other words, just as Hashem created the world with words (see Avos 5:1), man was similarly endowed with the ability to create new realities through speech.
This is the essence of how a prohibition of a neder can take effect and become a binding commitment. Man can transform the reality of an object from being permitted to prohibited. So too is the process of repentance. Essential to the teshuvah process is the verbalization of a sincere heartfelt confession along with the commitment to sin no more. Through speech alone, man can transform his reality from being a sinner to being penitent.
This is the message of Kol Nidre; through our speech we effectuate our transformation. The concept of oaths and vows, then define the nature of Yom Kippur. This is the day we use our speech to beseech Hashem to transform us through his forgiveness.