Hello to all of us who will be atoning, and hoping that we find mercy, not justice through that process. (Boy, do I need all the kindness I can get, and I suspect I’m not alone.) And a big hiya! to everyone just going about their daily business. We’ll raise a glass to you tomorrow evening (after three stars have come out)
As most (all?) may know, Yom Kippur begins with the Kol Nidre chant: a ritual statement in Aramaic dating back at least to the early Middle Ages, sixth century or a little later. It formally annuls all vows or oaths to God taken in the prior year. Its inclusion at the start of a day dedicated to the atonement for all our misdeeds, whether known to us or not, has a complicated and not fully known origin, and was the subject of some controversy (surprise! Jews argue over stuff!) from very early days.
But it is a powerful ritual: the cantor chants it three times as two members of the congregation hold Torah scrolls on either side of the singer–thus turning the synagogue into a formal court. And it demarcates the day and its thoughts to come from the secular time that congregants are leaving behind for a piece. Here’s the Wikipedia entry if you want a bit more.
It has a melody that is absolutely recognizable to those who’ve spent any Yom Kippurs in Ashkenazi synagogues, and that melody has been turned into a score that can be played with great power. And that’s the reason for this post: here’s Yo-Yo Ma’s rendition of it from last night, performed in honor of a recent Harvard undergraduate cellist who also served as the Harvard Hillel student president:
If I have offended anyone here, whether explicitly or by implication, consciously or by accident, I ask your forgiveness.
May everyone who observes have an easy fast.