Tuesday, September 10, 2013

YOM KIPPUR: Confessing our sins in English

One of the most important Mitzvot we perform in Yom Kippur is the Viduy. Viduy literally means "confession". The process of Teshuba consists in three steps: admission of our faults (hakarat haHet), confession (Vidduy) and the resolve to abandon our bad actions and habits ('azibat haHet). According to Maimonides the Mitzva of Teshuba takes place when we perform the Viduy.     

The rabbis have written different versions of a Viduy, included in the Mahzor, which we say several times during Yom Kippur. We should not read silently the Viduy. Rather we must articulate every word, whispering to ourselves the transgressions we committed or might have committed, as well as the good deeds we have failed to perform. Why? Because in a good sense, the Viduy is the culmination of the mental process of admission. Same as the concept of catharsis, only when we are capable of verbally articulate our misdeeds we have finally admitted them and we are able to change. And once that happens HaShem accepts our apologies and forgives us.

The text of the Viduy helps us identify wrongdoings that we might have forgotten or we might have unconsciously suppressed from our memory. Unlike other prayers it is absolutely imperative to understand the words of the Viduy.  The Viduy is written in Hebrew, in alphabetical order. However, if we read the Hebrew version of the Viduy and we have no idea what are we saying, then how is admission, regret and contrition going to happen? Therefore, it is not only permitted but mandatory to say the Viduy in a language that one understands.

I'm including in this Halakha a version of the Viduy based on the short Viduy used in the Sephardic Selihot. My translation is a non-literal and expanded rendition of the Viduy, adapted to our modern days. 

This text could be used in Yom Kippur alongside the other Viduyim of Yom Kippur. And hopefully, it will help us understand the main ideas of the Viduy and assist us in the process of Teshuba.