Friday, August 27, 2010

VIDUY: Why should I confess my sins in plural?

17th of Elul, 5770

As I’ve mentioned before, there are different texts of the Viduy (confession). In all versions, however, the transgressions are mentioned in alphabetical order. There is an additional element all texts of Viduy share: we confess our sins in plural. We do not say: ashamti (I am guilty) bagadti (I’ve betrayed You) but ashamnu, bagadnu (we are guilty, we have betrayed You).


One of my teachers, rabbi Baruch Garzon from Madrid, Spain, sent me recently the following conversation he had with his son Abraham when he was 12 years old:

“Daddy, I cannot lie in the Tefila... I assure to you that I have not committed all the sins that we mention in the Vidduy. Some things I did, but the majority, I did not!.

- You are right, Abraham. Our Rabbis are not forcing to you to lie. No one is saying that you committed all those sins. The Vidduy is in plural because we also are responsible for the mistakes committed by other people, sometimes because we have given our collaboration knowingly, and other times because we have seen them and we did not say anything. In both cases, we are accomplices; we share a responsibility and we must confess our fault. Not to complain, at times when we must do it for the sake of HaShem, is also a serious offense”.

Shabbat Shalom!


Thursday, August 26, 2010

VIDUY: Specific and personalized.

16th day of Elul, 5770

There is a discussion among the rabbis regarding the performance of the Mitzva of Viduy, confession of our sins. Should we be specific and detail our transgressions when we confess or is it enough just to mention generally: ”I've sinned, I made mistakes, I've rebelled against You”?.

Maimonides asserts that we should specify our own sins. His evidence is that when Moshe Rabbenu addressed God to ask forgiveness for the sin of the 'golden calf' he said: “This people committed a great sin, they made for themselves a god of gold' (Shemot 32, 31). Moshe specified the nature of their 'great sin'.

Following Maimonides' opinion, our Rabbis elaborated different versions of the Viduy, enumerating the possible transgression we might have committed. As we whisper each category of transgressions, we should focus and introspect in each specific area, and reflect if indeed we might have committed a sin in that area, admitting it and determining not to repeat it again.

Moreover, many rabbis advice that, before Yom Kippur we should retire to ourselves for a while to honestly review our misdeeds and bad habits in our hearts. Then we should write our own personalized list of transgressions in a piece of paper or a post-it-note or and attach it t our personal Machazor (=prayer’s book) and when we say the Viduy go over our own personal list, admit, regret and determine to abandon our bad deeds.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

VIDUY: Becoming aware of our misdeeds

15th of Elul, 5770

There is no fixed text for the Viduy (confession). There are several versions of it, some more or less detailed and comprehensive than others. What all the texts have in common is that the ‘sins’ are listed by alphabetical order. This has a practical reason: it is easier to remember. Which is important especially when saying the Viduy by heart, with our eyes closed and in a regretful mood.

Every day in Shacharit and Mincha we say the standard short Viduy, Ana haShem Elokenu… where for each letter of the alphabet we mention just one kind of sin we might have committed. In this brief Viduy the wording is deliberately non specific and very general: ashamnu: we have been guilty. bagadnu: we have betrayed (our covenant with You). gazalnu we have robbed, etc.

During the Selichot we have a second Viduy, a bit more elaborated.

In letter Gimel, for example, it adds: gainu, we have been arrogant.

Dalet: After mentioning that we have spoken gossip and slander (lashon hara) it also says: we have spoken one way with our mouth and felt differently in our heart.

There is a third Viduy, much more detailed. It is called ‘Viduy hagadol’, the large confession. Viduy haGadol was elaborated by Rabbenu Nissim Gaon and it enumerates hundreds of possible transgression we might have committed.

The Viduy helps us become aware of our trasngressions, especially those misdees we might have forgotten.

Today, in Jewish history:

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

VIDUY: Understanding the basics

14th of Elul, 5770

Yesterday we explained that the process of Teshuva is done by the Mitzva of Viduy, confession of our transgressions.

Maimonides says:

‘How does one confess? He says: ‘I implore You, God, I’ve erred, I’ve sinned, I’ve rebelled before You, by doing this and that… Behold, I regret and I’m embarrassed of my deeds, and [I’ve resolved] never to repeat this again’.

Let’s analyze Maimonides’ words.

We can clearly see three different levels of transgressions, according to the sinner’s intention. Obviously, the more awareness when the transgression is committed, the more severe the sin is perceived.

I’ve erred (chatati). I have made a mistake in judgment. I did not have the full intention of transgressing Your Mitzvot, but I was not careful enough to prevent them (Negligence).

I’ve sinned (‘aviti) I knew I was doing something wrong, I did it consciously, but I wasn’t strong enough to control myself.

I’ve rebelled (pash’ati). A transgression done provocatively. I want to show or state –generally in front of others- that the Torah or the Chakhamim are wrong.

… this and that… should be understood as a blank space. We should enumerate in here the specific sins for which we wish to repent.

We will see BH tomorrow that there many texts of Viduy. The difference between the various versions is the extent of the blank space …by doing this and that…


Monday, August 23, 2010

VIDUY: ‘Confessing our sins’ is the deepest admission.

13th of Elul, 5770

The Mitzvah of Teshuba –repentance- takes place when we recite the Viduy. Viduy means ‘confession’, and it consists on the articulation and enumeration of our transgressions, after we have identified them and regretted.

Maimonides explains "When one does return from his sin, he must confess before God Almighty, Blessed is He, as it says: 'they shall confess their sin that they committed' (Bamidbar 5:7), this ‘Viduy’ is a positive commandment (Hilchot Teshuba 1:1)

Without Viduy the Mitzva of Teshuba cannot take place.

We do not disclose our sins in front of other people or a rabbi, but right in front of God Almighty, whispering to ourselves our transgressions.

The torah says that God Almighty knows “the secrets of the universe, and the hidden-most mysteries of all the living creatures, nothing is hidden from You and nothing is concealed from Your eyes". Now, if God knows our sins better that we do, for what purpose must we enumerate them before Him?

Similar to psychoanalysis, where the patient begins his metal healing when he or she is able to articulate his trauma, we have reached the level of ‘admission of our sins’ only when we are able to articulate our transgressions with words, not with thoughts.

Viduy has to be anticipated by hakarat hachet -admission of our misdeeds- and followed by azibat hachet , our determination not to repeat the sin.