Shana tova to my new Akiva School family! I hope that everyone had a meaningful holiday, filled with prayers, delicious meals, family and friends. As we set out on our Jewish Journey, I look forward to getting each other and to meeting everyone in the near future. Please feel free to send me messages and suggestions for topics and ideas that you would like me to address and I will do my best to get to them as we journey together.
So, in the spirit of you getting to know each other better, I have a confession. I like football. Yes, I even watch football on a regular basis, subscribe to the NFL network, and check the scores and updates. And this began even before I married my husband- a loyal New York Jets fan (and an optimist!). In grade six, I actually went to my first “real” game which was the Canadian College championship game in Toronto! So there it is, out in the open, I am a fan of football.
The point of this little confession is that we need to take confessions more seriously rather than seeing them as mere gossip material. By confessing, we acknowledge our own behaviours, and create an opportunity for self-examination and self -realization. This is one of the main themes of the service of Yom Kippur and the essence of the day itself. It is a day in which we ask God to forgive us for our sins; a day in which we deny ourselves the regular pleasures of food, drink, leather shoes and bathing. We are supposed to be angels for the day, not needing the staples of life, but suspending ourselves in the realm of prayer, introspection and self-examination. And that is why confession is so important. On Yom Kippur, one of the most significant services is the Vidui prayer, which is recited 10 times during the prayer services. In this prayer, we ask God to forgive us for our sins. And we confess them one by one. If you look closely at the tefilla, you can see that the list of sins is in alphabetical order from א to ת, following the Hebrew alphabet from beginning to end. This is not by accident. Actually, this structure is a reminder to us to thoroughly reflect about everything from A to Z that we can do better during the coming year. When we confess our sins, we enable ourselves to figure out who we are, what we really think about ourselves, and how we would like to improve.
In Judaism, the road to doing teshuva involves recognition, regret, and resolution, but requires a verbal confession. But why specifically a verbal confession? Shouldn’t it be enough to just feel regret in our hearts and think about how we could be better? But that is the Torah’s lesson: words matter. When we say something out loud, there is a certain power and seriousness that is taken on by our confession. When we enumerate our misdeeds out loud, we take ownership of our actions or lack of actions. We ask for forgiveness not just within our hearts, but with a true verbal commitment to self -improvement.
I know that I like football, but I also know that each year I have to set new goals and standards for improving my behaviours between myself and others, and between myself and God. I want to wish everyone a Gmar Chatima Tova, which is the blessing we give to one another to be inscribed in the book of life, good health, and happiness. Hopefully, we’ll have a great “kick-off” to a wonderful year and “tackle” our misdeeds in order to make this world a better place.