As we prepare for this day of fasting and introspection I would like to explore one of Yom Kippur’s central exercises: reciting the Viddui, the confession of sin.
There are two points to highlight about this ritual and its words.
1. The sins delineated are normal, everyday sins. The vast majority of those that make the list have to do with the misuse of words and in particular lashon hara, gossip. The suggestion is that everyone misuses, and at times abuses, words. We sometimes speak with angry tones to those we most love. Other times we recall an embarrassing story about others to elicit laughter. Everyone stands guilty of these sins. The larger point is that everyone makes mistakes. Everyone misses the mark.
Our God, God of our mothers and fathers, grant that our prayers reach You. Do not be deaf to our pleas, for we are not so arrogant and still-necked as to say before You, our God and God of all ages, we are perfect and have not sinned; rather do we confess: we have gone astray, we have sinned, we have transgressed.
No one leads a perfect life. Everyone has failings to correct, relationships to mend. But it is in our hands to repair our lives. This is the power of Yom Kippur.
2. The Viddui’s greatest power is that we do not confess alone. We do not stand by ourselves and beat our chest. Instead we do so with our community. All of the sins are recited in the plural. Unlike David’s confession of his sin with the word, chatati—I have sinned, we say, "Al chet she-chatanu—For the sin we have sinned…”
There is extraordinary power in reciting these wrongs together. It gives us added courage. We believe that our congregation makes us better individuals, that the group calls us to do more, that community helps us to transform our personal lives.
We are pushed forward by our congregation. We are pulled forward by our God. This year as we recite these wrongs and confess our mistakes let us pray that God will grant us the wisdom and strength to repair our lives. Correcting our failings is ultimately in our hands! We believe nothing is fated. We can change.
G’mar chatimah tovah—may you indeed be inscribed for life.