How to have compassion on yourself - my essay, "A Pragmatic Study of Kol Nidre: Law and Compassion"

Just in time for Yom Kippur....Wait. It's not Yom Kippur. It's springtime.

We don't believe that you need to wait until the autumn to atone, repent, turn over a new leaf or clean up your act.

Call it what you may, April is a good month for cleaning out the garage of your soul.

And you can do that via compassion. There is nothing legal or magical about compassion. Release all those vows, those bad habits, bad emotions, bad relationships. So you did some stupid and mean things over the past six months. You are human. Let the bad vows go. Nullify them. Have compassion on yourself and then move on.

And so we're happy to announce the publication of Pragmatic Studies in Judaism with an essay by Tzvee Zahavy, "A Pragmatic Study of Kol Nidre: Law and Compassion".

This book is the first attempt to apply formal pragmatics to Judaic studies as a discipline as well as within the broader discipline of cultural studies.

This paper is a study of the Kol Nidre service using the methods of pragmatics. We show how that service uses legal texts to create liturgy that is designed to be an effective and powerful technology of the sacred for the creation and delivery of compassion.

We use pragmatics to examine the context of the liturgy and determine its meaning. We explain the status of the involved worshippers and overcome the ambiguity of the meaning of the prayer by paying special attention to the manner, time and place of its recitation.

The ambiguity in the case of the Kol Nidre is whether it is a legal utterance, a magical utterance or a pure liturgical utterance of compassion. We review several previous explanations of the prayer and conclude that with a pragmatic contextual elucidation of the Kol Nidre.

Download and read our paper here.

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