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    Father, forgive me

    Painting by Zalman Kleinman

    Confessing our sins (the Viddui) is part of every Yom Kippur service.

    There are two versions, the long Vidduí (Al Chet) and the short one (Ashamnu). Both are alphabetical lists, but the wrongs they confess are not what we would expect.

    There is no mention of disdain for keeping kosher, no mention of being unreliable in observing Shabbat, no mention of neglecting the davening, no mention of failing to put on tefillin.

    The lists enumerate ethical sins, wrong attitudes like selfishness, callousness and malicious speech, not the kind of things that most of us take too seriously.

    What is also unexpected is the way we list the sins – not with a solemn groan of guilt but with an almost joyful mood of elation. You would even think we celebrate the sins, and according to Chassidic custom this is actually the truth – like the cleaner in the palace who sings as she sweeps up the dirt, so do we sing at getting the sins off our chests and cleansing ourselves.

    One more strange feature: we do not address our confession to a priest, pastor, rabbi or sage – but to God Himself. Rabbi Akiva says in the Mishnah (Yoma 8:9), “How fortunate you are, O Israel. Before whom do you cleanse yourselves, who grants you atonement? Your Father in Heaven!”

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