AMY SCHREIBMAN WAL­TER

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - FIRST PER­SON

THERE’S NO self-help guide ex­plain­ing what a new­ly­wed should do on the oc­ca­sion of her first wed­ding an­niver­sary if she finds her­self sep­a­rated from her hus­band and liv­ing in a flat across the city from him. The man I stood un­der the chu­pah with left our mar­riage seven months af­ter we signed our ke­tubah. Af­ter the shock, there was the wait­ing: the time when this stranger liv­ing on a dif­fer­ent branch of the North­ern Line from me was still, if only in law, my hus­band. We weren’t yet di­vorced, be­cause while gets can be is­sued at any time, civil di­vorce pro­ceed­ings in Eng­land can’t be­gin un­til a year af­ter the date of mar­riage.

It was au­tumn, the High Holy Days were ap­proach­ing, and so was our an­niver­sary. When I thought of the date, I was emo­tional, know­ing that it was the day that my hus­band could legally be­gin pro­ceed­ings to end our mar­riage: some­thing I had en­tered into with such earnest­ness. A few weeks be­fore the an­niver­sary date, I was look­ing at the op­tions for High Holy Day ser­vices nearby and I discovered that Kol Nidre fell on the same date as the an­niver­sary. I felt a kind of sooth­ing com­fort in that. Though I’d never been re­li­gious, the High Holy Days had, since my mid 20s, been a time of mean­ing and re­flec­tion for me.

Hav­ing been raised in a cul­tur­ally Jewish rather than prac­tic­ing home, at this point in my life I had at­tended the Kol Nidre ser­vice no more than a hand­ful of times. Yet I knew enough about it to know that this was ex­actly where I needed to be on my first wed­ding an­niver­sary. Not out to din­ner, not at home in my pa­ja­mas, but in shul. And I wanted to know more about Kol Nidre, this soul­ful evening which co­in­cided with such an im­por­tant date in my life. One of my best friends, Leigh, was vis­it­ing me from New York that week and we made a plan to go to shul to­gether.

I had, a few days be­fore the an­niver­sary, come across an es­say on­line by Rabbi Eric Solomon of Raleigh, North Carolina, en­ti­tled “Ex­am­in­ing the Mys­tery of Kol Nidre.” He writes: “Kol Nidre is an Ara­maic phrase which means far more than its lit­eral trans­la­tion, All Vows.

“This state­ment of the an­nul­ment of vows has be­come such a dom­i­nant part of the Jewish re­li­gious psy­che that it is com­monly used to des­ig­nate the whole of the Yom Kip­pur Eve ser­vice; its melody is so daunt­ing that hear­ing the first few bars can send shiv­ers down the spine.” See­ing the phrase ‘an­nul­ment of vows’ in black and white made me well up with tears.

Of course, I un­der­stood that the Kol Nidre dec­la­ra­tion is not sup­posed to rep­re­sent the an­nul­ment of vows made un­der a chu­pah; that is what a get is for, and mine would come four months af­ter Yom Kip-

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