Q. Why do we recite the Kol Nidrei declaration on Yom Kippur?
People are sometimes buoyed up by emotion and promise the world. “Now that I have recovered from illness I will be in shule every week… I love you so dearly that I will never leave you for a day… I hate you so much that I will never speak to you again… I am so annoyed with the chazan that I’m not coming to shule any more…”
Some of the promises we make are magnificent and beautiful, others foolish and cruel. We should never promise things to other people unless we intend to keep them, and if we regret our promises we have to secure the other person’s forgiveness and forbearance.
Kol Nidrei, however, involves promises made to God (or ourselves) at a moment when we may not have been realistic or practical. How can we face the Almighty with unfulfilled or unfulfillable promises on our conscience?
Hence Kol Nidrei ensures that we show God our regret for having promised too much, and our request that He hold us back from promising what we cannot deliver.