Thursday, October 2, 2014

vidui the necessity of confession in the teshuva process

Yom Kippur Confessions
One of the mainstays of the Yom Kippur service is the Al Chet, the confessional prayers recited no less than ten times during the hours immediately preceding Yom Kippur as well as on the day itself.
There is a dispute in the Gemara1 regarding the manner of confession. Rabbi Yehudah maintains that individual sins must be cited and acknowledged, while Rabbi Akiva holds that they need not be mentioned.
Do they disagree?
Tosafos explains2 that Rabbi Yehudah believes the sins must be mentioned “so that he feel ashamed of his sins,” while Rabbi Akiva holds that he need not cite his sins “so that he not be suspected of [also having committed] other sins.”
But why does one sage contend that feeling a sense of “shame” during confession outweighs the possibility of being suspected of other sins, while the other holds that the fear of being suspected outweighs the importance of one’s sense of shame?
“Feeling ashamed of one’s sins” is germane to one’s current repentance: When a person is truly ashamed of a sin, then his regret as well as his resolve to behave better in the future will be more intense.
Conversely, the “loss” that derives from “being suspect of other sins” relates to the future — he may lose his credibility; his being suspected of additional sins will be used by his detractors, etc.
Accordingly, the dispute of the sages hinges on3 whether current behavior is to be predicated on a (possible) future situation.
Rabbi Yehudah maintains that since mentioning the actual sins is germane to a person’s current repentance, making it more sincere, we therefore do not concern ourselves with any possible future results.
Rabbi Akiva, however, feels4 that one must reckon in the present with the effect which actions will have in the future. Therefore, although citing particular sins would have a beneficial effect on a person’s repentance, we must be wary of the damage that will result in the future. He therefore maintains that individual sins need not be cited.

Their dispute may also be explained on a deeper level: There are many levels of repentance. Generally, they are divided into two categories: “repentance out of fear” and “repentance out of love.”5
With regard to “repentance out of fear,” it is logical to assume the necessity of enumerating one’s sins. For since the person is repenting out of fear of punishment, the fear for having committed a grave sin is much greater than that for having committed a minor transgression.
Thus it follows that the person must enumerate his sins, for were he not to do so, he would be lacking in feeling about their severity, and consequently his repentance would be lacking.
Specifying the sin, however, is not so important when one “repents out of love,” inasmuch as the person is not thinking about punishment, but about his connection to G-d. Since even a minor sin causes a person to be sundered from G-d,6 no great benefit will derive from citing the actual sin; when considering a sin’s ability to sever a person’s love for G-d, all sins are quite similar.
In fact, all degrees of repentance share a common basis — the desire to return and cleave to G-d. When a person repents out of fear, it means that his coarseness conceals — even from himself — the true basis of his repentance, which is love.
Thus, Rabbi Akiva, who sees within the present its deeper and future results, also perceives the inner aspect of repentance — that even when repentance is done out of fear it is essentially being done out of love.
Enumerating one’s sins — necessary when repenting out of fear — is thus not at all crucial.
Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXIV, pp. 239-242
1.Yerushalmi, conclusion of tractate Yoma. See also Talmud Bavli, Yoma 86b; Tosefta ibid., 4:14; YerushalmiNedarim 5:4.
2.Titled Leichosh — Gittin 35b, based on the Yerushalmi, Nedarim, ibid.
3.See S’dei Chemed, Klallim, Ma’areches Zayin, Klal Aleph. See also Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XV, p. 453ff.
4.See also Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XIX, p. 70, 73ff.
5.Yoma 86a-b.
6.See Tanya, ch. 20ff. at length.

How Is Yom Kippur Observed?
How Is Yom Kippur Observed?

An overview of Yom Kippur’s traditions and customs


ainu makeinu

Yom Kippur commemorates the day when G‑d forgave the Jewish people for the sin of the Golden Calf. Forty days after hearing G‑d say at Mount Sinai, “You shall not have the gods of others in My presence; you shall not make for yourself a graven image,” the Jews committed the cardinal sin of idolatry. Mosesspent nearly three months on top of the mountain pleading with G‑d for forgiveness, and on the tenth of Tishrei it was finally granted: “I have pardoned, as you have requested.”
From that moment on, this date, henceforth known as the Day of Atonement, is annually observed as a commemoration of our special relationship with G‑d, a relationship that is strong enough to survive any rocky bumps it might encounter. This is a day when we connect with the very essence of our being, which remains faithful to G‑d regardless of our outward behavior.
And while it is the most solemn day of the year, we are also joyful, confident that G‑d will forgive our sins and seal our verdict for a year of life, health and happiness.
For nearly twenty-six hours—from several minutes before sunset on 9 Tishrei until after nightfall on 10 Tishrei—we “afflict our souls”: we abstain from food and drink, do not wash or anoint our bodies, do not wear leather footwear, and abstain from spousal intimacy. We are likened to the angels, who have no physical needs. Instead of focusing on the physical, we spend much of our day in the synagogue, engaged in repentance and prayer.


On the day before Yom Kippur, the primary mitzvah is to eat and drink in abundance. Two festive meals are eaten, one earlier in the day, and one just prior to the onset of Yom Kippur. Some of the day’s other observances include requesting and receiving honey cake, in acknowledgement that we are all recipients in G‑d’s world and in prayerful hope for a sweet year; begging forgiveness from anyone whom we may have wronged during the past year; giving extra charity; and the ceremonial blessing of the children.
Before sunset, women and girls light holiday candles, and everyone makes their way to the synagogue for the Kol Nidrei services.

On Yom Kippur

In the course of Yom Kippur we will hold five prayer services: 1) Maariv, with its solemn Kol Nidrei service, on the eve of Yom Kippur; 2) Shacharit—the morning prayer; 3) Musaf, which includes a detailed account of the Yom Kippur Temple service; 4) Minchah, which includes the reading of the Book of Jonah.
Finally, in the waning hours of the day, we reach the climax of the day: the fifth prayer, the Neilah (“locking”) prayer. The gates of heaven, which were open all day, will now be closed—with us on the inside. During this prayer we have the ability to access the most essential level of our soul. The Holy Ark remains open throughout. The closing Neilah service climaxes in the resounding cries of “Hear O Israel . . . G‑d is one.” Then joy erupts in song and dance (a Chabad custom is to sing the lively “Napoleon’s March”), followed by a single blast of the shofar, and the proclamation, “Next year in Jerusalem.”
After the fast we partake of a festive after-fast meal, making the evening after Yom Kippur a yom tov (festival) in its own right. We immediately begin to look forward to the next holiday and its special mitzvah: the construction of thesukkah.