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A special Kol Nidrei

צדוק גרינוולד בבית הכנסת הגדול של פרנקפורט.

An Israeli journalist, Moshe Erlanger, tells the following story: "Several years ago, I was compelled at the last minute to spend Yom Kippur in Frankfurt, Germany. I rented a room in a hotel next to the main synagogue in Frankfurt, put together the pre-fast meal, and went to pray with a feeling of longing for Israel and regret for what I would be missing there.
“The main synagogue was a luxurious building with 2,000 people in attendance, the majority of whom did not pray there at any other time during the year. The cantor began with the Kol Nidrei prayer, and it was evident that he was caught up in a huge storm of emotions. He choked as his voice broke, then rose and fell. The entire crowd was moved together with him.
“At the conclusion of the service, I approached him. ‘It’s a pleasure to meet you. My name is Tzadok Greenwald,’ he said. I asked him why he became so emotional during Kol Nidrei. and he answered as follows.
“‘For many years, I have been the cantor here during the High Holy Days. As the offspring of Holocaust survivors, it is a great privilege to be a cantor, particularly here, upon this godforsaken land. Several years ago, I had an extraordinary encounter as I was leaving the synagogue at the close of Yom Kippur. The last of the crowd had already gone home to break the fast. The gabai had locked the main gate and I was leaving by a side door, tired and hungry. Near the main gate, I saw an elderly man with a white kippa pinned to his hair. He turned to me: ‘Why are the gates of the synagogue locked. When does Kol Nidrei begin? Please, answer me. Why are the gates locked?’ I was silent. My heart was suddenly torn inside me. ‘My dear friend, listen to me; Kol Nidrei was last night; Yom Kippur was today,’ I stammered. ‘The crowd has gone home; Kol Nidrei will come again next year.’ The man grabbed my hands and began to cry like a little boy. ‘I never missed Kol Nidrei. I promised my father, may his memory be blessed, that I would go every year to hear Kol Nidrei in a synagogue. This is the only connection I have with my father.’
“I knew what I had to do. ‘My dear friend, you missed nothing,’ I told him. ‘I am the chief cantor of this synagogue, come with me to hear Kol Nidrei.’ I opened the side door, I sat him down in a chair, I gave him a prayer book, and I wrapped myself in a tallit. I began to pray Kol Nidrei. This was the most powerful prayer I had ever prayed in my life. Thousands of empty chairs and just me, him, and the Holy One Blessed be He. I forgot about the fast. I was focused only on the connection between a disconnected Jew and his father, which may just as well have been the connection between me and my father – that is, our Father in heaven.
“I never saw that man again but each time I pray Kol Nidrei I think about him, and about a million other Jews like him, and about the side door' through which everyone, in the end, can enter".


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