The Maharal of Prague said, “All the month of Elul, before eating and sleeping, a person should look into his soul and search his deeds, that he may make confession.”
During the vidui portion of High Holiday services, we “confess” by reading/praying a long of “sins” or “wrongdoings” in some, many, or all of which we may have engaged in the last year. This is an activity that I have always found rather remote; which I did but with which I didn’t connect.
This year, I’ve been participating in a month-long intensive mindfulness program with the Institute for Jewish Spirituality. And I spent this last weekend in a weekend Elul retreat with Rabbi Yael Levy.
I have learned that vidui doesn’t just mean to confess.
It can also mean to thank, to praise or to acknowledge.
This is a sense of vidui to which I can connect. As I sit and contemplate, my intention is to open my heart and my mind, to acknowledge the truth of who I am. This means going beyond acknowledging just the things I did wrong, or could have done better, and being willing to ask forgiveness to those who I have wronged in any way.
It means acknowledging the things I have done well. The positive contributions I have made to others in my life, as well as the positive contributions they have made to my life And it means feeling thanks before giving thanks for all of that.
And so this year, when I follow the advice of the Maharal of Prague, I am confessing in the fuller sense: thanking, praising and acknowledging the full range of who I have been this year, and thinking about how that aligns with my deeper sense of who I am.
As part of this confession, I am following the advice of Rabbi Levy and thinking about four things, with an “ayin tov” – “a good eye” which is a theme for the coming 5779, where 79 is from the letter “ayin” (70) and the letter “tet” (9) which is the first letter of the word tov):
- What are the ways in which I acted well, let my self-shine, this year?
- What are the things I’d like to do differently – stated in the positive: what are the things I’d like help turning toward (Teshuvah)?
- What are the ways in which I want to continue to shine in the coming year,
- What quality, intention, or picture do I want to place before my eyes all year to guide my ways – stated in the form of a phrase: “Let me keep before my eyes …. To guide my ways.”
I invite you to join me, adapting the questions as you wish.