AMY SCHREIBMAN WALTER
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-