Jessica Mujica, our friend in Asheville, N.C., talks about how an understanding of the Kol Nidrei ceremony put her marriage into focus. Check out her blog at http://thatswhatijesssaid.blogspot.com/
The Kol Nedrei
“Prohibitions, oaths, consecrations, vows that we may vow, swear, consecrate, or prohibit upon ourselves — from this Yom Kippur until the next Yom Kippur, may it come upon us for good –regarding them all, we regret them henceforth. They will all be permitted, abandoned, cancelled, null and void, without power and without standing. Our vows shall not be valid vows; our prohibitions shall not be valid prohibitions; and our oaths shall not be valid oaths.”
The Wedding Vows
We faced each other with beaming smiles.
The proclaiming of the vows began as the pastor spoke. “Will you have this woman as your lawful wedded partner, to live together in the estate of matrimony? Will you love her, honor her, comfort her, and keep her in sickness and in health; forsaking all others, be true to her as long as you both shall live?”
Then we placed the rings as we said our oaths to one another.
“I, Jessica, take you Gus, as my wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward,in good times and in bad, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health,to love and to cherish, forsaking all others, as long as we both shall live.”
“With this ring I thee wed.”
The pastor sealed the deal with, “What God has put together let no man separate…
Now by the power vested in me by the state of”…blah blah blah.
“You may now kiss the bride.”
We said these vows eight years ago and after the first year we knew we could never keep them. There are the spoken vows and there are the unspoken ones which seem to have a stronger hold than the verbalized vows. I am thankful that from the very beginning we started to see the roles as husband and wife (what the man does that the woman does not and what the woman does that the man does not) fall completely apart.
We realized we didn’t want to do marriage with roles and unspoken laws after opening our wedding gifts. A well-meaning relative gave us a Focus On The Family book about fool proofing our marriage. At this point I can’t remember the name so I did a search through focus on the family’s christian bookstore.
Good God, there’s a lot of hokey titles in there! Marriage Makeover: Minor Touchups to Major Renovations, When Sinners Say I Do, Blueprints for a Solid Marriage, Money Before Marriage, Debt-Proof Your Marriage and then there is the one a friend of mine is reading; His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage. I think I just threw up a little. Seriously? Anyway, I still don’t remember the exact title but I don’t need to. Any of the titles could have bee the one we stared at with mouths gaping.
Since when did we need to read a how-to to be married? I flipped through it and laughed out loud at some of the ridiculous statements of how to keep your fire burning and what cues to pick up on to love him better. I looked at the back cover to see a generic couple on a bicycle reminding me of the Lipitor commercial I saw. Young preppy guy with a prozac smile peddling a virtuous virgin on his handlebars, her hair blowing in the springtime breeze legs outstretched and head back laughing at a stupid politically correct joke he probably made. At closer glance we realized these goofballs were the writers.
Our First Year
My husband was an ambitious, business-owning bachelor before we got married and was known to work so hard that he sometimes slept in his own office instead of making the 35-minute commute to his one-room downstairs apartment. He worked out at the gym at 5 a.m. and wined and dined prospective real estate investors and anyone else he could network with. He played soccer and went out at night with friends for drinks…
I was likewise an ambitious career-starter who after breaking off a long-term wedding engagement settled in to make my way in the world by myself with very little money and no desire to go to school long- term. I needed a get-educated-quick program, so I signed up for radiography at the local community college. Two very full years of school and a well paid job once I got out. That was the plan anyway. I met Gus after my break-up and just as I was planning my next move into X-ray school. When we got married I had just started the extensive program with little extra time to spend with him. He, of course was fine with this because he was building his real estate empire.
So when one night the clocked ticked on past dinner, I waited to get a call from my husband telling me he would be home late. No such call. I didn’t know whether to cook a meal for both of us or to order out for myself. I called him. Left a message. I was hungry and irritated by the time he walked into the dining room.
“Well, did you get my message?” That was my greeting.
“I called you.”
“It was really loud in there. So I probably didn’t hear the phone. Oh yeah, I ran i to a friend of mine after work and we went to the pub and got a beer. He wants me to play bass in his band. His buddy just quit or they had a falling out or something. Anyway, it will be temporary until they find someone. Sounds fun, though. You can be my roadie.”
“But”, he added, “I told him I needed to check with you first since you are my wifey.” And he slow-danced back and forth with his arms stretched to me. My stomach growled at him.
This conversation was a long time ago and in fact it may have been two different situations — one where I didn’t know when he would be home and another where he nonchalantly manipulated me. But this sums up our first year.
Of course I used manipulation, too, usually emotional tactics to get my way. I pouted or got angry when he didn’t consider me first. The worst technique was ignoring him or giving him the silent treatment.
Eventually we were shown by God’s grace what we were doing and the laws we were forming for our marriage. We were shown quickly that to be married is to die to your singleness, to die to your selfish ideas and to empty ourselves of expectations. As we began to cleave to one another, we began to get tired of the milk we drank at church. We needed meat, we needed to leave Egypt. Of course this was not our decision to leave– first there was the revelation, and then there were the plagues.
My husband began to hear truth about what it is to be a believer perhaps for the first time in his life. It messed him up, it messed his business up, it messed our relationships up, but it turned our marriage into the tightest cords of spiritual desire I have ever experienced. When he told me how crazy he started to feel and about the revelations that were non-stop, I winced and felt he was preaching at me. And he was. It was hitting me too. I wasn’t ready to leave Egypt. I had to finish school. I knew that integrity was telling me, ” you aren’t there yet. Finish school with no regrets.” So I told him to wait for me until I finished school. After school ended, so did the career I thought I would get. I couldn’t run after my ideas anymore and I, too, was ruined.
Where does the Kol Nidrei fit in? After the first two years of our marriage we were called to leave Egypt and we were called to leave our marriage behind. We slowly recognized that we could not and we would not keep the vows we said on our wedding night. We knew that if we had put this marriage together, it could and most likely would fall apart. If God has us married, even we cannot separate it. I don’t think we knew that we had annulled our vows until we read about and heard Ole speak about the Kol Nidrei. I couldn’t believe there was a word, let alone a prayer, that did exactly what we had done– annulled our vows. It has been one of the most freeing ways of living. No more keeping tabs, no more brownie points, or deductions, no audits and no more New Year’s Resolutions!
So, here’s to the Kol Nidrei! May you find peace in releasing others and yourself from the vows we cannot keep.