Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Kol Nidre (All Vows)

Of all the Jewish prayers, Kol Nidre is one of the most recognizable—and certainly the most controversial. Neil Diamond intoned it in order to penetrate the stone heart of his cantor father at the end of the remake of The Jazz Singer, and Al Jolson sang it, mercifully out of blackface, in the 1927 original. Max Bruch used the haunting music that accompanies the prayer to furnish the full title, and half the theme, of his celebrated adagio in 1881. Beethoven, too, borrowed the theme for the sixth movement of his String Quartet Op. 131, which had been commissioned by the heads of Viennese Jewry seeking to honor the founding of a new synagogue. Even Perry Como and Johnny Mathis recorded their own renditions in the late '50s. from Slate

Tonight more Jewish people will attend synagogue than at any other time of the year. They will flock to hear the achingly beautiful melody of Kol Nidre to begin Yom Kippur, the most hallowed, sombre day of the Jewish calendar. I'll be there, and as I have for the past fast years, I'll be delivering the d'var Torah (literally "words of Torah" ie. sermon). I'll be speaking about what forgiveness means in unforgivable times. To all my Jewish friends, g'mar chatimah tova, have a meaningful fast, may you be inscribed in The Book of Life on Yom Kippur and may the day bring you new beginnings!

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