We have strayed. (Artscroll Vidui) “What are all our attainments worth if they are evil in the eyes of the Master? How could I have betrayed an eternal world for a transitory one? What have I become? I have become as the beasts and have followed my evil inclination, as a horse, as a mule void of understanding and I have strayed – Ta’iti – from the path of reason.” (Rabbeinu Yonah, The Gates of Repentance, First Gate #10)
Ta’inu is to act without thinking. It also includes performing Mitzvot or praying out of habit without thinking about what we are doing.
I function and live my life without thinking carefully about everything I do.
I make major decisions about my life, such as my level of observance, my philosophy of Judaism, where I should focus my efforts, without considering enough information.
I allow my emotions, not my reason, to determine which relationships I will repair and which I will not.
“The man that wanders – To’eh – out of the way of understanding shall remain in the congregation of the shades.” (Proverbs 21:16)
The Vilna Gaon (Commentary to Proverbs 21:16) quotes two sources to explain the verse:
When Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai fell ill, his disciples went in to visit him. When he saw them he began to weep. His disciples said to him: Lamp of Israel, pillar of the right hand, mighty hammer! Wherefore weepest thou? He replied: If I were being taken today before a human king who is here today and tomorrow in the grave, whose anger if he is angry with me does not last for ever, who if he imprisons me does not imprison me for ever and who if he puts me to death does not put me to everlasting death, and whom I can persuade with words and bribe with money, even so I would weep. Now that I am being taken before the supreme King of Kings, the Holy One, blessed be He, who lives and endures forever and ever, whose anger, if He is angry with me, is an everlasting
anger, who if He imprisons me imprisons me for ever, who if He puts me to death puts me to death for ever, and whom I cannot persuade with words or bribe with money — nay more, when there are two ways before me, one leading to Paradise and the other to Gehinnom, and I do not know by which I shall be taken, shall I not weep? They said to him: Master, bless us. He said to them,: May it be [God’s] will that the fear of heaven shall be upon you like the fear of flesh and blood. His disciples said to him: Is that all? He said to them: If only [you can attain this]! You can see [how important this is], for when a man wants to commit a transgression, he says, I hope no man will see me. (Berachot 28b)
The Gra explains that Rabbi Yochanan mentioned three things: 1) If He is angry, 2) If He imprisons me, and 3) If He puts me to death. This hints to three different ways that a person can be judged. 1) A person can be judged on his physical existence when he is alive. 2) He can be judged in Hell. 3) God says ‘I will not judge this soul. Let it wander forever.’ The third level is the punishment for Ta’inu, one who wanders through life without any meaningful sense of direction or goal.
He continues with another selection:
Said R. Joseph: Thus people say, The ladle which the artisan hollowed out, in it [his tongue] shall be burnt with mustard. Abaye said: When the maker of the stocks sits in his own stock, he is paid with the clue, which his own hand wound. Raba said: When the arrow maker is slain by his own arrows, he is paid with the clue which his own hand wound. (Pesachim 28a) The Vilna Gaon explains that we create our own realities. The three examples correspond to the three judgments listed above.
This item in the Vidui is perhaps one of the most important. It addresses the person who simply survives in life without even attempting to add meaning and direction. We create a reality for ourselves; we determine the level of judgment.
Choose a Rebbi who will direct you in making important decisions.
Make a regular Cheshbon HaNefesh – Personal Evaluation to determine if you are living with a sense of direction, purpose and meaning.
Make a list of your most important goals.