Here are this year’s versions of the “small” and “large” Yom Kippur viduim (Confessions of our sins) combining the traditional texts and our modern Israeli sins. Reciting these words may not feel like prayer because, like the traditional vidui, it is concrete and asks us to take individual responsibility for the collective sins of our society and our people. The traditional confessions were never meant to be just a collection of words that we thoughtlessly recite on Yom Kippur. They are burning words, intended to make us feel uncomfortable because they speak painful truths about our lives and our society and our people that we must confront if we are to truly engage in the kheshbon nefesh (soul searching) that is a primary task during this season. We can then engage in “teshuvah.” Often translated as “repentance,” it means to hear and answer the call of God and conscience, make an effort to turn and change, and return to our truest and highest selves individually and collectively.
Just as the High Priest in ancient times had to recite his own vidui before saying a vidui for others, we need to look at our own sins before we recount the sins of others. One misses the point if one reads these modern versions in order to criticize those we don’t agree or identify with. The vidui is in the plural, because we say that, even if I have not personally committed these sins, my society has committed the sins recited in the traditional or the modern vidui, and I therefore share responsibility. This vidui is written for those who in some way identify with Israel, and include themselves in the Israeli “we” when you recite “For the sins we have committed…” If you are not a part of the Israeli “we,” you might want to construct a similar vidui looking at the societies and communities of which you are a part, and share responsibility for.
For some the sin they must confess is always assuming the worst about Israel, while others must confess defending Israel, no matter what.
If some of the lines do not feel to you like they apply to Israeli society, please try to drop your defenses, and think again. If you still don’t think something applies, we again hope that the Torat Tzedek vidui will challenge you to create your own. Please feel free to download our vidui, then cut and paste and add and subtract to create your own personal/societal vidui. The point is to challenge you to engage in khesbon nefesh (soul searching), not to silence or intimidate. It is also possible to only recite a limited number of these texts, and concentrate on them. In many cases the first line is from the traditional viduis, and there are notes after the vidui explaining which traditional sources many of the concepts are taken from.
Most of us simply can’t be so self critical for most of the year. But, sometimes the power of the High Holy days allows us to do what we don’t manage to do at other times of the year. These viduis are not intended to be a delegitimization of ourselves, of our people, or our country. They are actually an expression of our deep faith in ourselves, our ability to return to the good that is our true selves, and our ability to improve our society.
When we engage in kheshbon nefesh about ourselves and Israel on Yom Kippur, we can then celebrate our personal and Israeli assif rukhani (spiritual harvest) on Sukkot-our attributes and accomplishments that we are proud of as individuals and as a nation. The vidui and the assif go together.