NASO 5773 – Time to confess
Like any sane person, I was shocked at the news from Cleveland, USA, last week.
Three young ladies were kidnapped and held for over a decade, during which time they were subjected to horrendous cruelty and pain.
Predictably, there has been much soul-searching as to how such things still happen in this day and age. How could no one have noticed? What could have been done better to prevent this?
"They shall confess the sin that they committed" [Our Sidrah, 5:7].
The word confession in Hebrew is Viduy, which involves verbal acknowledgement that a wrongful act was committed, which one is now prepared to remedy. The most recognised form of Viduy is conducted on Yom Kippur as we beat our breast whilst enumerating all the things we may be accountable for.
Curiously, although confession (part of the repentance process) is recognised as one of the 613 Mitzvot, the act of repentance itself is not.
Because there is no requirement to repent. When one is ready to make amends, then the Torah demonstrates how this is achieved, but the individual is under no obligation to do so.
Essentially, if one's remorse is to be genuine, it must come from the heart without any outside interference or coercion.
The Torah does not legislate for things which must come as a person's own initiative. But as mature adults, it most certainly is expected.
As America (and our own country) tries to understand the evil which is in our midst, we can feel pleased that the perpetrator is now in custody.
Now, however, is the time to engage in collective 'confession', to admit society's failings in which nasty actions take hold, and where evil is allowed to flourish.
RABBI MENDEL LEW