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Association of Jewish Libraries Newsletter -
Another fascinating and useful series on prayer and liturgy is brought to life by Rabbi Hoffman, long-time Professor of Liturgy at Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion.
"Kol Nidre is at one and the same time both less and more than a prayer: 'less than' a prayer in that it is actually a legal formula with none of the formal characteristics that designate prayers as a distinctive outcry of the human spirit: but 'more than' a prayer in that it is an entire ritual in and of itself."
Discussing the issues raised by the moral problem of abjuring all vows, Rabbi Hoffman considers the opinions of the seventh-century geonim (Rabbinic authorities) that, speaking of Kol Nidre, "call it a foolish custom that is to be avoided" and debunks theories connecting the prayer to the suffering of conversos during the Spanish Inquisition. 38 essays explore the history of the prayer, its relation to Jewish law, its appearance, modifications and omission in the liturgy through the ages, the music and interpretation of the prayer today. The authors include a roster of well-regarded Rabbis and scholars in the American and British world of Reform, Conservative and Liberal Judaism. As is often the case in a collection of essays, there is much that is repetitive, but the reader can choose to read just a few essays and still understand them thoroughly. Includes bibliographic notes, glossary but no index.