Yom Kippur is a time for confession, as Jews flock to synagogues to recite their sins in a lengthy litany known as the “Viduy.” Striking their hearts, the congregation chants: “we have trespassed, we have dealt treacherously, we have robbed, we have spoken slander….”

The goal of the ritual is to inspire the confessor to do better in the year to come. But what if the opposite is true? What if, as Rabbi Avi Weiss asks, all that confessing leads “to despair, to loss of confidence, even to loss of belief in one’s capacity to do good”?

Rabbi Weiss, the founding rabbi of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale in the Bronx, has proposed an “opposite recitation” of the confession, this one focusing on the good things the speaker has done. His inspiration is Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook, the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of what became Israel, who once wrote that just as there is a confession for the bad, there should be a confession for the good. Like the original, Rabbi Weiss’ new confession is an alphabetical acrostic.

“A person should also be joyous concerning the good he or she has done. It follows that just as there is a great benefit to self-improvement through confessing one’s sins, so is there great benefit to confessing one’s good deeds,” Rabbi Weiss writes.

JTA Wire Service