14th Elul – vidui – the acknowledgement we need to hear ourselves say

Elul 14  22nd August

 “The first step towards repentance, which is the most essential and at the same time the most difficult, is confession, or rather the admission to oneself that one has sinned. It is not God who needs a confession from us, for God knows us through and through: in fact much better than we know ourselves. But we ourselves stand very much in need of honest and unreserved confession. It is to our own selves that we must admit that we have done wrong” (Samson Raphael Hirsch)

The Hebrew word for confession is “vidui” coming from the root ידה  the same root that we have for giving thanks/acknowledging and indeed the same root for the name “Judah” from whom we take our own identity.

The verbal form for confession is in the “hitpael” – the reflexive form of the verb. We should be acknowledging to ourselves how are lives are going, adding up the debit and credit columns of our behaviour in the past year, reflecting on who we are and who our best selves might be.

When we recite the endless vidui’s in the coming days and weeks, the generic lists in alphabetical order of sins we may or may not have been party to, it may feel like a ritualised abasement without really touching our deeper selves. That is why it is so important to remember – it is not God who needs our confession or acknowledgment or even our praise – but we ourselves who need to accept and acknowledge our sins of omission and commission, and who need also to acknowledge and accept the good things we have done, and encourage ourselves to do more of the latter than the former.

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