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Begin Again

By: Rabbi Jason Knapel

The concept of  Hatarat Nedarim on Erev Rosh HaShanah (and in fact on erev Yom Kippur in Kol Nidre) has always bothered me. Why is it so important to be matir a nedar at this time? I understand the importance of it in general and the harshness of the ohnesh - but there are many other important mitzvot /prohibitions that could be focused upon.

When we look more carefully at hatarat nedarim, maybe there is a deeper message that is important for this time of year. A neder is baggage that we take with us – once said or accepted we cannot get rid of it unless we fulfill it or are matir it. Chazal, in instituting hatarat nedarim, wanted to give us a message that at Rosh HaShanah we have the ability to start a new life – to start off fresh. Often we feel like we are locked into a certain role, way of life, conduct, behavior personality. We feel this way because others see us this way and more often than not we see ourselves this way – we see the negative, we see the failure and we cannot get out of it – we feel this is who we are and this is what G-d has assigned to me and that is all. We feel that the circumstances which surround us won’t let us be any different. A person with this mindset is exactly that - set. The only way that he or she can live happily is to live up to this low expectation and go on with life. Hatarat Nedarim tells us we can get rid of the baggage – we can start fresh every Rosh Hashanah. We are not the same nor do we have to be and even if it is difficult it is never impossible.

This time of year for some is a time of fear for what they have done in the past. For others it is a time of depression for the path they have taken that they can’t get out of for whatever reason. BUT, in reality, Rosh HaShanah is a time of simcha because Hashem wants us to realize we can make a fresh start, we can change and if we do, Avinu SheBaShamayim looks at the new us not the old. This is the time of growth, where great heights can either be achieved or at least strived for.

I wish all of you a Shana Tova, full of bracha, hatzlacha – and may you all realize it is your tefillot that help Klal Yisrael every year.  May Hashem answer all our Tefillot beratzon!

Shana Tova

Rav K




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