- Confession and Repentance
- Confession is done in the standing position while striking the heart
- The Ten day search for forgiveness
- Maimonides writes…
- A short list of customs that focus on the special nature of the Ten Days
- The curtain that separates the sanctuary from the Holy of Holies
- The Number Ten is a symbol of sanctification (holiness)
- Five Prayer Services
Confession and Repentance:
Viduy (וידוי-confession) is inseparable from Teshuvah (תשובה-repentance). The Torah’s commandment to repent makes explicit mention of confession, not of repentance (Numbers) 5:6-7). Confessing the words “I have sinned,” is the performance of a great and meaningful act. The act of confession must be performed before repentance can be regarded as complete.
Confession is done in the standing position while lightly striking the heart:
Since confession is such a major aspect of the repentance process, it is recited during each of the five prayers of Yom Kippur:
Prayer Servce #1. Maariv (מעריב),
Prayer Service #2. Shacharit (שחרית),
Prayer Service #3. Mussaf (מוסף),
Prayer Service #4. Minchah (מנחה), and
Prayer Service #5. Ne’ilah (נעילה).
One should offer up his prayers of confession in the standing position with his head slightly bowed to express submission and contrition and in a voice audible only to one’s self (cf. the model prayer of Hannah, the prophet Samuel’s mother)…. It is customary to strike lightly with one’s fist (the right hand) the left side of one’s heart, the seat of passion and desire, while reciting each stanza of the confessional, as if to say:
“I have sinned due to the unwise counsel and wayward thoughts of you my heart.”
וַיּוֹסֶף וַיִּשָׂא מְשָׁלוֹ אֶל־אֲנָשִׁים בֹּטְחִים בְּנַפְשָׁם כִּי צַדִּיקִים הֵמָּה וַאֲחֵרִים נִבְזִים בְּעֵינֵיהֶם וַיֹּאמַר׃ שְׁנֵי אֲנָשִׁים עָלוּ אֶל־הַמִּקְדָּשׁ לְהִתְפַּלֵּל אֶחָד פָּרוּשׁ וְאֶחָד מוֹכֵס׃ וַיַּעֲמֹד הַפָּרוּשׁ לְבַדּוֹ וַיִּתְפַּלֵּל לֵאמֹר אוֹדְךָ אֱלֹהִים עַל כִּי אֵינֶנִּי כְּיֶתֶר הָאָדָם הַגֹּזְלִים וְהָעשְׁקִים וְהַנֹּאֲפִים וְגַם־לֹא כַּמֹּכֵס הַזֶּה׃ אֲנִי צָם פַּעֲמַיִם בַּשָּׁבוּעַ אֲנִי מְעַשֵׂר אֵת כָּל־אֲשֶׁר אֲנִי קֹנֶה׃ וְהַמּוֹכֵס עָמַד מֵרָחוֹק וְלֹא אָבָה לָשֵׂאת אֶת־עֵינָיו הַשָּׁמַיְמָה וְתוֹפֵף עַל־לִבּוֹ וַיֹּאמַר אֱלֹהִים סְלַח־לִי אֲנִי הַחוֹטֵא׃ אֲנִי אֹמֵר לָכֶם כִּי־יָרַד זֶה לְבֵיתוֹ נִצְדָּק מִזֶּה כִּי כָּל־הַמֵּרִים נַפְשׁוֹ יִשָּׁפֵל וַאֲשֶׁר יַשְׁפִּילָהּ יְרוֹמָם׃
And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee (Prushim, Separated One) and the other a tax collector (a Jew who was a tax agent for a Gentile occupation force; i.e. the Romans). The Pharisee (Separated One) stood and was praying this to himself: ‘Almighty One, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast (with his right hand over the left side of his heart) saying, ‘Almighty One, be merciful to me, (הַחוֹטֵא) the sinner!’ I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
The Ten day search for forgiveness:
Yom Kippur is the tenth day of the month of Tishri and also regarded as the “Sabbath of Sabbaths”. According to Jewish tradition, HaShem inscribes each person’s fate for the coming year into a book, the Book of Life, on Rosh Hashanah, and waits until Yom Kippur to “seal” the verdict. During the Days of Awe, a Jewish person tries to amend his or her behavior and seek forgiveness for wrongs done against the Holy One (bein adam la’Makom-בין אדם למקום) and against other human beings (bein adam le’chavero-בין אדם לחברה). The evening and day of Yom Kippur are set aside for public and private petitions and confessions of guilt (Viduy). At the end of Yom Kippur, trough faith in the mercy and graciousness of Adonai one can know that he has been forgiven. For it is written:
יַעֲזֹב רָשָׁע דַּרְכֹּו וְאִישׁ אָוֶן מַחְשְׁבֹתָיו וְיָשֹׁב אֶל־יְהוָה וִֽירַחֲמֵהוּ וְאֶל־אֱלֹהֵינוּ כִּֽי־יַרְבֶּה לִסְלֹֽוחַ׃
“Let the wicked forsake his way
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
And let him return to Adonai,
And He will have compassion on him,
And to Eloheinu,
For He will abundantly pardon.”
דִּרְשׁוּ יְהוָה בְּהִמָּצְאֹו קְרָאֻהוּ בִּֽהְיֹותֹו קָרֹֽוב׃
Seek the Adonai while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near!
In reference to the the admonition of Isaiah, Maimonides writes, “Even though repentance and pleading for forgiveness are always appropriate, they are even more appropriate in the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and the Day of Atonement, when they are immediately accepted, as it is written, “Seek out the Lord while He makes Himself available” (Hilchos Teshuvah 2:6).
A short list of customs that focus on the special nature of the Ten Days:
A number of customs have been developed to focus on the special nature of the Ten Days and thereby affect significant changes in our character in a brief amount of time. The following is a short list of these customs::
Custom #1. Greater care is exerted in the performance of mitzvot and extra stringencies are assumed.
Custom #2. An extended version of Selichos is recited daily (except on Erev Yom Kippur when it is shortened considerably).
Custom #3. The Kaddish is amended slightly with the addition of the word u’le’eila, which emphasizes the exalted nature of the Almighty.
Custom#4. The Shabbat that occurs during the Ten Days of Repentance is known as Shabbat Shuva (שבת שובה), for the Haftora portion begins with the words, “Shuva Yisrael” (שובה ישראל) (Return O’ Israel), a passionate exhortation to the nation to repent sincerely and completely. It is customary to attend a lecture dealing with the laws of Yom Kippur and repentance on this day as well.
The name Shabbat Shuva is commonly translated as, “Shabbat of Return.” It can also be translated as, “The Recurring Shabbat,” and understood as a symbol of the recurrent state of Shabbat that we will enjoy in the End of Days (אחרית הימים) with the coming of the Messiah.
Custom #5. The Ark is opened and the Avinu Malkeinu (אבינו מלכנו) prayer is recited twice daily, Shacharit and Minchah.
Custom #6. Four additions are inserted into the daily Amidah:
A. “Remember us for life, O King, Who desires life, and inscribe us in the Book of Life, for Your sake, O Living Mighty One.”
B. “Who is like You, Merciful Father (אב הרחמן), Who recalls His creatures mercifully for life!”
C. “And inscribe for a good life all the children of Your covenant.”
D. “In the Book of Life, blessing and peace and good livelihood, may we be remembered and inscribed before you – we and your entire nation the House of Israel, for a good life and for peace.”
Custom#7. During the Ten Days of Teshuvah (Repentance), two blessings in the Amidah are also modified slightly to allude to the fact that these days are a time of judgment when the Adonai displays His Sovereignty:
A. The words, “HaEl HaKodosh” (the Almighty, the Holy One) are replaced by “HaMelekh HaKodosh” [the King, the Holy One] the one who forgets to make this change must repeat the Amidah.
B. The words, “Melekh Oheiv Tzedakah U’Mishpat” [King who loves charity and justice], are replaced with “HaMelekh HaMishpat” [The King of Justice]. Forgetting to make this change does not obligate one to repeat the Amidah.
Custom #8. Each of the Ten Days of Repentance corresponds to one of the Ten Commandments, in sequence. Ideally, one should focus on improving himself in that day’s particular commandment throughout each of the ten days. It is noteworthy that the two days of Rosh Hashanah during which we declare the Adonai’s sovereignty and oneness, correspond to the first two commandments which are, “I am the Adonai-Eloheinu and “You shall not worship elohim (deities) of others,” and Yom Kippur, the day in which we are to abstain from all physical temptation, corresponds to “you shall not covet (chamad)…”
The curtain that separates the sanctuary from the Holy of Holies:
On Yom Kippur, as with Rosh Hashanah, a white satin parokhet (curtain which adorns the ark in the synagogue, brings to remembrance the curtain which separated the sanctuary from the Holy of Holies in the Temple). The white satin curtain is hung in place of the heavy velvet one used at other times.
The Number Ten is a symbol of sanctification (holiness):
The number Ten symbolizes perfect holiness as the aim on the most sacred day of the year.
The Ten Days of Repentance are concluded on the tenth of Tishri. The Viduy (Confession of Sins) begins with an immersion (baptism) of repentance, and is recited ten times on the Day of the Atonement to coincide with the tradition that the High Priest pronounced the name of Adonai ten times when he invoked Divine pardon on Yom HaKippurim.,Yom HaKippurim also recalls the Ten Commandments, which serve as a testimony to the Messiah our Righteous One. For only the Messiah has continuously lived a perfect life. The Ten Commandments also bear witness to us because by the grace of Adonai on the day of resurrection we will be transformed into the likeness of the Messiah our Tzaddik; then we too will be perfect as the Messiah and our heavenly Father are perfect.
There are Ten Sayings of Messiah on forgiveness provided in the Four Hebrew Gospels located at the beginning of the Brit HaChadashah.
These Ten Sayings of the Messiah on the subject of forgiveness are directly related to the Ten Days of Yamim Noraim and especially the Tenth Day of Yom Kippur. A summary of Messiah’s Ten Sayings regarding the practice of both the “giving” and “receiving” of forgiveness is provided in chapters eleven through twenty of this writing on the Messiah in Yom Kippur.
Five Prayer Services:
The Yom Kippur prayer service includes several unique aspects.
One unique aspect of the Yom Kippur prayer service is the actual number of prayer services. Unlike a regular day, which has three prayer services (Ma’ariv, the evening prayer; Shacharit, the morning prayer; and Mincha, the afternoon prayer), or a Shabbat or Yom Tov, which have four prayer services (Ma’ariv; Shacharit; Mussaf, the additional prayer; and Mincha), Yom Kippur has five prayer services. In the Scriptures the number five speaks of the fullness of the Graciousness of Adonai. The prayer services also include private and public confessions of sins (Viduy) and a unique prayer dedicated to the special Yom Kippur avodah (service) of the Kohen Gadol in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. The five prayer services are:
Prayer Service #1. The Ma’ariv (מעריב), the evening prayer service: The Ma’ariv (evening) service consists of the recitation of Kaddish (קדיש), the Shema (שמע), the Amidah (תפילת העמידה-standing prayer), along with the confession of sins and additional prayers (selichot) that are recited only on the night of Yom Kippur. In addition, liturgical poems (piyyutim-פיוטים) are recited as well. Most of the service on the night of Yom Kippur is spent reading from a machzor (מחזור-High Holiday prayer book). The Ma’ariv service is chanted in a different style and additions to the Amidah are made, including the Viduy (confessional). The obligation of Viduy derives from Torah: “If a man or woman sins against his fellow man, thus being untrue to the Almighty…, they must confess the sin that he has committed” (Numbers 5:6-7). Notice the plural personal pronoun used in the confession. This indicates that the sin of an individual is also borne by the community. Viduy is said in the plural because in the unified life of Israel the misconduct of one member is the corporate responsibility of all the other members (Shavu’ot 39a).
Viduy prayers comprise two main sections: the Ashamnu (We have trespassed), a shorter, more general list of sins (“we have been treasonable, we have been aggressive, we have been slanderous” – sometimes sung) and the Al Chet (אל חת), a longer, alphabetically arranged, and more particular list of sins (“for the sin that we have sinned before you forcibly or willingly, and for the sin that we have sinned before you by acting callously”). When viduy is recited, you should strike the breast of the left side of the heart lightly (with your right hand) as if to say, “You (my heart) caused me to sin” (Mishnah Berurah 603:7).
We believe that the source of all our sins is the disobedience (against G-d) that resides deep within our hearts (our spiritual being).
This means that we believe that the source of all our sins is the disobedience of our hearts (spiritual rebellion). This is why the only permanent solution to the problem of sin is that we receive from the Father the Gift of a New Heart that will never lead us into sin (i.e. the Gift of the Unfailing Heart).
Viduy is recited ten times over the course of the five services of Yom Kippur, paralleling the Ten Commandments which have been violated (and paralleling the Solution of the New Heart that is contained in the ‘Ten Sayings of Messiah,’ found in chapters 11-20 of this document).
Before sunset on the eve of Yom Kippur (“Day of Atonement”): The Kol Nidrei (כָּל נִדְרֵי-written in Aramaic not Hebrew) Service: The evening prayer service begins with the Kol Nidrei (“all vows”), an Aramaic chant that declares null and void any promises made during the previous year (Sephardim) or for the coming year (Ashkenazim). Kol Nidrei is actually considered a “legal procedure,” and therefore entails the use of various halakhic (legal) formulations such as recitation three times before a minyan (a group of at least ten men), before sundown, and so on. Normally tallit (prayer shawls) are worn only in the morning service, but during Yom Kippur, they are worn during all of the services. The Aron Ha-Kodesh (אהרון קודש-Torah cabinet) is left open while the Torah scrolls are carried around the synagogue before Kol Nidrei to indicate that the Gates of Repentance are open.
Prayer Service #2. The Shacharit service, the morning prayer service: The Shacharit (morning) service is not unlike other services for festivals during the Jewish year. The traditional morning prayers, the recitation of the Shema and Amidah, and the Torah reading are all part of the service.
During the Torah reading service there are six aliyot (separate readings by different people), one more than on other holidays (though if Yom Kippur occurs on Shabbat, there are seven aliyot).
The Yizkor Service: The Yizkor portion of Yom Kippur functions as a memorial service for family members who have died. Traditionally it is recited following the Torah reading of the Shacharit service, though some communities do it in the early afternoon.
The Torah’s name for the Day of Atonement is Yom Ha-Kippurim, meaning “the day of covering, canceling, pardon, reconciling.” Under the Levitical system of worship, the High Priest would sprinkle sacrificial blood upon the Kapporet — the covering of the Ark of the Covenant—to effect “purification” (i.e., kapparah) for the previous year’s sins. Notice that Yom Kippur was the only time when the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies and invoke the sacred Name of Adonai to offer blood sacrifice for the sins of the people. This “life for a life” principle is the foundation of the sacrificial system and marked the great day of intercession made by the High Priest on behalf of Israel.
Prayer Service #3. The Mussaf service, an additional prayer service: The Musaf (additional) service immediately follows the morning service and is divided into two parts: the repetition of the Amidah (by the cantor) and the “Avodah” service, which recounts the priestly service for Yom Kippur in ancient times. In four places of the service, some people might prostrate themselves (during the re-telling of the High Priest and his confessions). After this, a portion of the service is devoted to the retelling of how some early Jewish sages were martyred during the reign of the Roman emperor Hadrian. The Musaf service ends with the “Aaronic benediction” (i.e., birkat kohanim).
Prayer Service #4. The Mincha service, the afternoon prayer service: The Minchah (afternoon) service includes a Torah reading service (Leviticus 18), another repetition of the Amidah, and the recitation of the Our Father Our King, “Avinu Malkenu” poem. In addition, since it focuses on the importance of Teshuvah (repentance) and prayer, the entire Book of Jonah is recited as the Haftarah portion of the Torah service.
Prayer Service #5. The Ne’ilah service, the closing prayer service: According to tradition, on Rosh Hashanah the destiny of the righteous (the tzaddikim) are written in the Book of Life, and the destiny of the wicked (the resha’im) are written in the Book of Death. However, many people (perhaps most people) will not be inscribed in either book, but have ten days — until Yom Kippur — to repent before sealing their fate. On Yom Kippur, then, a final appeal is made to Adonai to be written in the Book of Life. The word ne’ilah comes from a word which means “closing” or “locking” the gates of heaven (or the Temple Gates). The appeal to have our names sealed in the Book of Life” is made at this time. This closing service has a sense of urgency about it, and concludes with a responsive reading of the Shema, with the phrase “barukh shem kavod malkhuto l’olam va-ed” said aloud three times, and the phrase “the Adonai He is Elohim (i.e., Adonai hu ha-Elohim) is repeated seven times by the entire congregation (1 Kings 18:39).
In the time of the Second Temple the High Priest would say the sacred Name (YHWH) three times during the Yom Kippur avodah.
During each confession, when the priest would say the Name, all the people would prostrate themselves and say aloud, Baruch shem K’vod malchuto l’olam va’ed (“Blessed be the Name of the radiance of the Kingship, forever and ever”). This declaration is followed by a long, final blast of the shofar (i.e., tekiah gedolah), the “great shofar,” to remind us how the shofar was sounded to proclaim the Year of Jubilee Year of freedom throughout the land (Leviticus 25:9-10). Worshipers then exclaim, “L’shanah haba’ah b’Yerushalayim!” (לשנה הבאה בירושלים