Yesterday on Slate (apparent my new go-to blog for Jewish content other than Mixed Multitudes), Michael Weiss shared the history of the Kol Nidrei prayer. He goes into the controversial nature of annulling all oaths:
As stand-alone statement, divorced of its context and Talmudic source material, it does seem to suggest that there’s no such thing as a promise or oral contract affirmed in Judaism. But, of course, context is everything, and the prayer refers only to personal vowsâ€”those made by man in relation to his own conscience or to God, not interpersonal ones made by man to his fellow man. (MORE)
I think there is a little more to be said than “prayers mean different things out of context.” Nearly all of Judaism can be seen that way. Talking donkeys, stoning children for being rude to their parents, and countless other details from Jewish texts don’t necessarily make sense in today’s world, taken out of context or not.
Doesn’t the way modernity forces us to interpret religion give a whole new take on ancient liturgy?