Kol Nidrei

Lit. ‘all vows.’ The evening services which opens the Day of Atonement, declaring an annulment of all vows from the previous year. The worshiper asks that God null all vows made hastily or unknowingly, i.e. those that cannot or have not been fulfilled. In most traditions, the Kol Nidrei prayer that opens the evening service is recited three times in succession, in order to ensure that all members of the congregation will have sufficient opportunity to recite this important prayer. The origin of Kol Nidrei is unknown, however the first mention of collective recitation of this prayer is found in the responsa of the Babylonian geonim from the beginning of the 8th century C.E. The text and musical setting varies within in the different rites; for example, in most Sephardic communities, Kol Nidrei is recited as a call and response between the Hazzan and the congregation, while the Ashkenazi melody alternates between recitative declamation and highly melismatic coloraturas sung by the hazzan alone.

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