The Kol Nidrei (all the vows), which opens the day of Kippur in the evening, has an obscure origin. It asks God to annul the oaths that people could do from this Yom Kippur until the next one. It has been thought that it comes from the times of the Maranas, the Jews of Spain (15th century) who were forced to receive Baptism, or die or be exiled. On Kippur they asked the Lord not to consider as valid the commitment they had accepted under threat. But according to Rabbi Natronai, a rabbi of the Academy of Sura in Babylonia in the 8th century who was one of the first composers of a siddur (prayer book) says this prayer already existed at his time. The Kabbalists have proposed another explanation: The prayer is aimed to remind the Lord that Israel owes their salvation to the annulation of an oath of God Himself. Did he not tell Moses after the sin of the golden calf: I will exterminate them (Ex 32, 10) How can the Lord take back a Word coming from his mouth?
The misdrash gives an answer: And Moses implored the Lord his God (Ex 32, 11).When Israel made the calf, Moses tried to persuade the Lord to forgive them. But the Lord said: «Moses I swore that whoever sacrifices to any god shall be devoted to destruction (Ex 22, 20). I cannot retract the oath which came forth from my mouth ». Moses replied: « Master of the Universe did you not give to me the power to declare void the oaths when you said: When a man makes a vow to the Lord or swears an oath…he shall not break his word (Nb 30, 2). It means that he himself cannot break his oath, but a sage can absolve him if he consults him. And if a sage wants his decisions be observed he must observe them himself. Since you gave me the power to cancel oaths, it is obvious that you annul your oath as you gave to others to annul them ». Then Moses wrapped himself in his garment of judge and sat down in the position of a judge, and God stood in front of him as someone who asks the annulation of his oath, as it is said: And I sat on the mountain (Dt 9, 9). And what did Moses say? A very hard word he said to Him. He (Moses) said (to God): « Do you regret your oath ? » And the Lord answered: «Yes I regret the evil that I said I will do to my people». When Moses heard this, he said (to God): «I absolve you, I absolve you». (Exodus Rabba on Ex 32, 11)
Pardon is the repentance of God, his weakness, his humility.
Sr. Anne-Catherine Avril, Notre Dame de Sion