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This Year, Kol Nidrei Means Something Different To Me

Written by Joshua Basofin
September 15, 2021

Tonight is the eve of Yom Kippur, and Jews will gather together for a tradition dating back to the 8th Century. We will hear Kol Nidrei, a beautiful, haunting, and inspiring chant that literally means “All Vows”. The prayer begins with an expression of repentance for all unfulfilled vows, oaths, and promises made to God during the year. It is spiritual preparation for the atonement we will seek the following day.

This year, my unfulfilled vows feel different. At this pivotal moment in human history, with an impending climate crisis only we can avert, I keep asking myself if I’ve kept my vow to fight climate change.

Have I done all I can for the climate action movement? Have I put myself – my body – on the line? Have I made my voice heard loud enough? Have I adequately changed my own lifestyle to reduce my carbon footprint as much as possible? I vowed that I would do everything in my power to protect this planet and our climate for all beings. Can I face God tomorrow and say I’ve accomplished that?

Tonight, Kol Nidrei will be a reminder of the unfinished work. Climate scientists tell us we have less than ten years to accomplish a fundamental shift to a low carbon world in order to avert a climate catastrophe. I will use this moment to rededicate myself to the task. Perhaps next year, on Kol Nidrei, I can stand before God with a different perspective. Perhaps not. Either way, there is work to be done.

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