Kol Nidre—indeed, the entirety of the High Holidays—is a dedicated moment in time when we can hesitate. It is a moment when we can, in the safety of community, feel our doubts and express our fears.
And I think we need that moment of hesitation. Without hesitation—without doubt—without acknowledging that we might fail—what does it mean to promise? To commit? To set out toward a goal?
This is our moment of hesitation. This is the moment when we gather together to acknowledge our fallibility, our connectedness, our doubt, our dependence.
It is when we acknowledge, as a community and as Jews, our very humanity.
And it is when we invite ourselves to forgive someone we always seem to leave out of the “atonement” mix: ourselves.
If we forgive others and ourselves, the classic model of Jewish atonement says that atonement is not complete until we take steps to avoid making the same mistakes. As we move through this High Holidays celebration, ask yourself: what do I want to do better this year? What will I commit myself to do?
Stop and ask: can I do it?
Then: should I do it?
Ask. Then: Hesitate.
Hesitate, because it is your chance to stop and think. It is your chance to see whether what you’re about to commit to will really be an improvement.
Hesitate, because it is hesitation that makes resolution worthwhile.
L’shana tova umetuka—may we all have a good and sweet new year—and Shabbat Shalom.