A Most Generous Confession
The discomfort with my confession, Yom Kippur 1967, was not triggered by my (in my sister’s mind) many sins but when I realized I was using the words as a weapon.
“For the sin that we have sinned before You through hardness of heart (Artscroll Yom Kippur Machzor).”
I imagined my teacher, a Holocaust survivor with a terrifying and cruel temper, just beginning his list of sins and being unable to continue because he would not be able to confront his hard heart.
There was an inkling of a thought that it was my heart that was hard toward Mr. _ and that it was I who was stuck at the beginning of the “Al Chet.”
It was an emergency situation and I had to ask the Highest Authority, my father zt”l. I had to tug hard on his Tallit to catch his attention to explain my crisis.
“Say it for him,” he said, “even if you think he doesn’t care. Say it with forgiveness.”
I later asked my father whether my “confession” with forgiveness on the teacher’s behalf could really help. “Do you really think he doesn’t know? Isn’t it possible he is simply waiting for exactly that?”
I told Mr. _ what happened and he didn’t get angry; he simply said, “Thank You!”
In 1971 a former student of my father’s did his best to disgrace my father. On Yom Kippur night I asked my father how he said, “For the sin we have sinned before you by showing contempt for parents and teachers.” He knew exactly what I was asking.
“I said it for him with forgiveness and a prayer that he should be moved to repair the damage.”
I learned to recite a generous Vidui/Confession; one that included those who hurt me.
In so doing, I took a small step forward in forgiving myself.