Thursday, September 1, 2011

Repentance and verbal confession

In his Mishne Torah, Maimonides dedicates ten chapters to the subject of Teshuba (repentance). In those chapters he describes and explains the technical issues involved in the process of repentance. He deals in length with the idea of freedom of choice and its relationship to Teshuba, and most interestingly, he clarifies the Jewish view on afterlife and the World to come ('olam-habba). On the last chapter he elaborates on the proper way to serve God: if we should serve God expecting a reward or out of our unconditional love for Him. In this month, Elul, I will try B'H to cover some of these important issues.

At the very beginning of Hilkhot Teshuba (The Laws of Teshuba 1:1) Maimonides clarifies that Teshuba, understood as: 1.Admission of our wrong behavior. 2. Repentance and 3. Resolution to change our behavior, is a prerequisite for the performance of the Mitzvah which is explicit in the Torah: the Viduy, or "confession".

"When one repents and returns from his sin, he must confess before God... as it is written: (bamidbar 5:6) "...and they shall confess the sin that they committed". This refers to a oral confession. This confession is positive commandment".

Oral or verbal confession is said to the exclusion of a mental confession. Similar to psychoanalysis, where the patient begins his metal healing when he or she is able to articulate his trauma, in the process of Teshuba, we reach the level of 'admission of our sins' only when we are able to articulate our transgressions with words, not with thoughts. Bad habits might remain forever in our subconscious mind unless we articulate them.

Confessing and verbalizing is the ultimate way of admitting our mistakes, which is the most important step we must take to arrive to the goal of the Teshuba process: positive behavioral change.

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