One of the most important Mitsvot we perform in Yom Kippur is the Viduy. Viduy literally means “confession”, and it is one of the steps of Teshuba, repentance. The process of Teshuba, indeed, consists of three steps: admission of our faults (hakarat haHet), confession (Vidduy), and the decision to abandon our bad actions and habits (‘azibat haHet). According to Maimonides the Mitsva of Teshuba is fulfilled when we perform the Viduy. The Viduy records a list of many transgressions and flaws. Reading the Viduy helps us in identifying wrongdoings that we might have forgotten or we might have unconsciously suppressed from our memory.
We should not read the Viduy mentally. Rather we must articulate every word, whispering to ourselves the transgressions we committed. Why? Because the Viduy is the culmination of the mental process of taking charge. Same as the concept of catharsis, or the 12 steps programs, only when we are capable of verbally articulating our problems or vices, we have finally admitted them, and only then we are able to change. Once that happens, HaShem accepts our apologies and forgives us.
We say the Viduy in plural, confessing transgressions that we clearly know we have not committed. This teaches us that our moral responsibilities go beyond our personal accountability. In other words, when we see a friend, a family member, or anyone else over whom we have influence, acting wrongly, we should privately and politely rebuke him or her. And if we don’t, it is considered as if we share their wrongdoings. As Jews, we carry a collective responsibility.
The Viduy is written in Hebrew. Now, if we read the Hebrew version of the Viduy and we have no idea what we are saying, then how is admission, regret and contrition going to happen? That is why, unlike other prayers, it is imperative to understand the words of the Viduy. Therefore, it is not only permitted but mandatory to read the Viduy in a language that one understands.
The Viduy I’m presenting here is based on the short Viduy used in the Sephardic Selihot. My translation is a non-literal and expanded rendition of the Viduy, adapting its language to our modern days. This text could be used on Yom Kippur alongside the other Viduyim of Yom Kippur. And hopefully, it will help us understand the main ideas of the Viduy and assist us in the process of Teshuba.
Click HERE to download a printable pdf file of this English Viduy
“I make my transgression known to You, HaShem. And I do not deny my sins. For I said that it is proper to confess my sins to HaShem Almighty, and You shall forgive my transgression.“
ANA HASHEM ELOKENU
Please Oh, HaShem our God and the God of our Fathers, let our prayer come before You, and do not hide Yourself, our King, from our supplication, for we are not so insolent, nor so obstinate to say before You, “HaShem, our God, God of our forefathers, we are righteous and we have not transgressed”. Rather, we have transgressed, committed iniquity, and sinned; we, as well as our fathers and our family members:
ASHAMNU: We have sinned knowingly, fully aware that we were doing something wrong.
AKHALNU MA-AKHALOT ASUROT: We have eaten forbidden foods.
BAGADNU: We have betrayed our covenant with You. You trusted us with Your Tora and we have not honored our promise to keep Your Tora, study it and fully observe it.
BITALNU TALMUD TORATEKHA: We have wasted our free time in vanities, frivolities and nonsense, instead of studying the words of Your Tora, and come closer to You.
GAZALNU: We have robbed. We have taken, kept or spent whatever does not belong to us.
GANAVNU: We have stolen. We have stolen time from our employers. We have stolen from many people and institutions in many different ways.
GA-INU: We have been arrogant. We have acted disrespectfully with our friends, family members, colleagues.
DIBARNU DOFI VELESHON HARA’: We have spoken gossip and we have said negative things -Leshon haRa- about other people. We have spread rumors about others. Rumors that, if they were said about us, we would have felt embarrassed and hurt.
DIBARNU EHAD BAPE VE-ECHAD BALEB: We were cynics. Hypocrites. We have spoken one way with our mouth, yet felt another way in our hearts.
HE’EVINU: We have caused corruption, injustice and iniquity.
HIRHARNU HIRHURIM RA’IM BAYOM…: We have brought ourselves to have promiscuous thoughts during the day, and we brought upon ourselves impurity at night.
VEHIRSHA’NU: We have behaved wrongly and we have caused others to imitate our bad behavior.
VI’ADNU ‘ATSMENU LIDBAR ‘ABERA: We have gathered with our friends for sinful purposes. Going out to inappropriate places or indecent gatherings.
ZADNU: We have sinned deliberately.
ZANINU AHAR LIBENU…: We have let ourselves be led into transgressions by our hearts and by our eyes.
HAMASNU: We have extorted and exploited other people. We took things which do not belong to us.
HAMADNU: We have been jealous and envious of others. We were not happy, satisfied and grateful with the blessings HaShem gave us.
TAFALNU SHEQER UMIRMA: We made up lies and deceitful stories, to cover ourselves and our iniquity. To deceive our friends or our customers. To make money dishonestly.
YA’ATSNU ‘ETSOT RA’OT: We have given bad advice to friends or peers, advising them to do what was good for us rather than what was good for them. We betrayed their trust, giving biased guidance, prioritizing our personal gain and interest.
KIZABNU: We have lied to friends and family members.
KA’ASNU: We have overreacted. We have lost our tempers. A sin which the rabbis compared with idol worshiping because of its irrationality and destructiveness. We have lost our patience with our children or students and got angry at them unfairly.
LATSNU: We have acted frivolously. Doing wrong things that later we have regretted. We have lost consciousness of the nature of time and the shortness of our life. We have wasted precious time in foolishness, time which we will never be able to recover back.
LOTSATSNU: We have mocked and ridiculed others. We have bullied others. We have embarrassed friends and relatives in public. We have called other people with embarrassing nicknames.
MARADNU: We have acted rebelliously toward You. We knew what was the right thing to do in Your eyes, and yet we acted differently, out of arrogance and vanity.
MARINU DEBAREKHA: We have disobeyed Your words. We did not care to study, learn and understand what You have commanded us.
NI’ATSNU: We have infuriated You, by repeatedly and deliberately committed the very same transgressions for which we have regretted before, and for which we have asked forgiveness from You in the past.
NI-AFNU: We have been disloyal to our spouse.
NISHBA’NU LASHAV VELASHEQER: We have sworn in vain and falsely.
NADARNU VELO SHILAMNU: We have promised, yet we have not fulfilled our promises. We have not kept our words. We have pledged money to charity and Tsedaqa, and we have not fulfill our promises.
SARARNU: We have been deviant. We have abandoned the path of righteousness.
SORERIN UMORIM HAYNU: We have been disrespectful and rebellious to elders, to Tora scholars and to our teachers.
‘AVINU: We have committed injustice. We have been insensitive to the suffering of others. To the needs of the poor. To the sentiments of the orphans. To the feelings of the widow.
‘ABARNU AL MITSVOT ‘ASE… We have failed in performing Your commandments. We have transgressed Your prohibitions. We have violated commandments which deserve the highest punishment (Karet).
‘ABARNU AL HILUL HASHEM: We have desecrated Your Name. When by our wrong behavior, by our misdeeds and dishonesty, we have caused others, Jews or gentiles, to think or talk negatively about the People of Israel and about You: the God of Israel.
PASHA’NU: We have sinned willfully, defying openly and without shame Your word, Your commandments and Your will.
PAGAMNU BE-OT BERIT QODESH: We have desecrated the sign of our pact, the Berit Mila, by committing sexual offenses and having a promiscuous behavior.
TSARARNU: We have oppressed other human beings, Jews or gentiles. We have mistreated and abused our employees, our maids, and those who work with us or for us. We have humiliated and hurt those who deserve our patience, respect and kindness.
TSI’ARNU AB VA-EM: We have caused suffering to our parents by disobeying them, by being disrespectful to them, by not honoring them and by not taking good care of them as we should, violating thus the Fifth of the Ten Commandments.
QISHINU ‘OREF: We have been stubborn, narrow minded and obstinate. We did not change our minds or opinions, even when we knew that we were wrong. We acted arrogantly when we did not ask forgiveness from our friends and relatives for having offended them.
QILQLANU TSINOROT HASHEFA‘: We have denied from ourselves receiving all Your blessings. We rejected the means by which You bestow upon us Your abundance. We have chosen to willfully ignore everything You have commanded us, which is for our own good.
RASHA’NU: We have been wicked. Through our wickedness we have hurt and caused pain to our friends, children, family members and loved ones.
RA’IM LASHAMAYIM... We have acted wickedly against You and against our peers. We acted according to our poor judgement, ignoring Your Infinite Judgment, as expressed in Your Tora.
SHIHATNU: We have corrupted ourselves. We have learned how to deceive and lie. And at the end, deception became part of our personalities.
SHIQARNU: We have spoken falsely and deceitfully.
SHIHATNU ZERA QODESH…: We have wasted our holy seed. We did not keep our eyes clean and pure. We have looked deliberately at inappropriate images, causing the seeds of life to be wasted.
TI’AVNU: We have committed abominations. We have performed the actions that You abhor and which You taught us to reject: injustice, oppression, deception.
TA’INU VETI’ATANU: We have taken the wrong paths. We have dragged other people to join us in our wrong ways. Pushing them to commit the same sins we committed, to make us feel less uncomfortable. We have given the wrong example to our sons and daughters, and those who naturally learn from and imitate what we do. We have not inspired our children with a good example ,and we have failed in teaching our children-the souls that You have entrusted in our hands-avoiding what is wrong at Your eyes.
VESARNU: We have turned away from Your commandments and from Your Laws. And at the end, our rebellion has not served us any good. You are Just and Righteous in Your Judgment and in Your verdict. We admit that whatever befalls us is our own fault and responsibility. You have taught us to seek righteousness, but we have brought wickedness upon ourselves.