Confession, Viduy

We will learn the Viduy prayer, in which we confess to our sins using the plural – together with Am Yisrael.

Resource Ages: 9-11, 12-14


Ashamnu – we have trespassed;
Bagadnu – we have dealt treacherously;  Gazalnu – we have robbed; Dibarnu dofi – we have spoken slander;  He’evinu – we have acted perversely; V’hirshanu – we have done wrong; Zadnu – we have acted presumptuously; Hamasnu – we have done violence; Tafalnu sheker – we have practiced deceit; Ya’atsnu ra we have counseled evil; Kizavnu – we have spoken falsehood; Latsnu – we have scoffed;  Maradnu – we have revolted; Niatsnu – we have blasphemed; Sararnu – we have rebelled; Avinu – we have committed iniquity; Pashanu – we have transgressed; Tsararnu – we have oppressed; Kishinu oref – we have been stiff necked; Rashanu – we have acted wickedly; Shichatnu – we have dealt corruptly; Tiavnu – we have committed abomination; Ta’inu – we have gone astray; Titanu – we have led others astray.

(From the Machzor for Yom Kippur, Ashkenazi rite)

אָשַׁמְנוּ. בָּגַדְנוּ. גָּזַלְנוּ. דִּבַּרְנוּ דֹּפִי. הֶעֱוִינוּ. וְהִרְשַׁעְנוּ. זַדְנוּ. חָמַסְנוּ. טָפַלְנוּ שֶׁקֶר. יָעַצְנוּ רָע. כִּזַּבְנוּ. לַצְנוּ. מָרַדְנוּ. נִאַצְנוּ. סָרַרְנוּ. עָוִינוּ. פָּשַׁעְנוּ. צָרַרְנוּ. קִשִּׁינוּ ערֶף. רָשַׁעְנוּ. שִׁחַתְנוּ. תִּעַבְנוּ. תָּעִינוּ. תִּעְתָּעְנוּ:

(מתוך מחזור ליום כיפור, נוסח אשכנז)

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Foundations for Planning

Essential Questions

  • How do I grow as a result of the Jewish calendrical cycle?
  • How do Jewish practices reflect Jewish values?
  • How does the idea that Jews everywhere celebrate the same holidays and pray the same prayers connect me to the Jewish community?

Content Questions Related to the Essential Questions

  • What is the role of expression and speech in the process of cheshbon nefesh (soul searching) and teshuva (repentance)?  
  • What responsibility do I bear for the actions of others?
  • What difficulties are encountered in the process of cheshbon nefesh and teshuva?

Background for Teacher

The Viduy or confession forms part of the daily morning service, but most Jews are familiar with it as part of the Yom Kippur service. The prayer is composed as a acrostic, where the sins appear according to Hebrew alphabetical order. A surprising feature...

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The Viduy or confession forms part of the daily morning service, but most Jews are familiar with it as part of the Yom Kippur service. The prayer is composed as a acrostic, where the sins appear according to Hebrew alphabetical order. A surprising feature of the prayer is that it is worded in the first person plural (we have sinned), highlighting the idea that “all Jews are responsible for one another.” Each individual is responsible not only for their own actions, but also for those of the people around them. The plural form reminds us that an individual’s actions are often the result of the influence of the society or community in which they live. While reciting the prayer, many people beat their chest or heart as a symbolic expression of remorse. The fixed format of a prayer on such a personal subject invites discussion regarding the advantages and disadvantages of routine prayer as distinct from personal devotion and spontaneous prayer.

Optional Hooks
In-Depth Discussion
Suggested Activities
Further Study
  • Listen to the Viduy prayer on the Songs and Prayers website – the site presents versions and tunes from various communities.

Click here to view our consolidated list of suggested interactive pedagogies for classroom discussion.

  1. A central part of the process of cheshbon nefesh and repentance on Yom Kippur is the confession for our sins over the past year, along the lines of the sins mentioned in the Viduy prayer. Why is it hard for us to admit to our sins?
  2. Try to explain why our tradition decided that confessing our sins to God is an essential part of the process of change. How can reciting this prayer help someone in their process of cheshbon nefesh?
  3. It is surprising that a prayer about such personal matters (our sins) appears in the plural (we have sinned). Offer an explanation for this. What do you think about the fact that the prayer appears in the plural?
  4. What benefit can come from a prayer that follows a fixed wording and is recited by everyone? What disadvantages does this bring? How can we add a personal touch to the fixed prayer?
  5. Why do you think the person who composed this prayer chose to write it in alphabetical order? What messages was he trying to convey? (If the students pray regularly, you could ask them if they can think of other prayers that are also written in alphabetical order – such as Ashrei or El baruch gadol de’ah).
  6. Many people beat their chest while reciting the Viduy prayer. Why do you think this custom developed? Think of another example of a Jewish custom where a symbolic act expresses an idea.
  7. For older students: The first word in the prayer is Ashamnu – we have trespassed or been guilty. This is the keyword for the whole prayer. Is the feeling of guilt important? How can guilt be problematic?
  • Every word in the Viduy prayer refers to an action that is the product of various factors. Pick one of the words and compose a short conversation between two people describing the action for which they needed to express remorse (the students can just draw the speech balloons without the characters).
  • Compose a modern-day Viduy prayer in alphabetical order. You could divide the class into groups and allocate a few letters to each group. Each group has to think of words beginning with the allotted letters.
  • Look at the exhibit Vidduy: The Musical, created by the Israeli artist Dov Abramson. Abramson invented a musical instrument with 22 keys engraved with the keywords from the Viduy prayer. He commented that his creation relates to a paradox often experienced between the upbeat tune used to sing the prayer, which seems to contradict the serious and difficult character of the words. Abramson offers an explanation for this paradox in the form of a story: There was once a carpenter who chanted the Viduy prayer in a joyous melody. When people asked him why, he replied: “When a man breaks a valuable vessel, it is common for him to sing joyfully while engaged in its repair, as there is nothing quite like the wonderful joy of repair.”Abramson adds that the instrument is played in a manner that brings to mind the beating of the fist on the heart – the gesture that accompanies the Viduy – hopefully producing a melody that reflects the wonderful joy of repair.
  • Read together the poem Happy New Year, Ruti by Dalia Bar-El. The poem explores the ways we express remorse. 
  • Study the source Asking for Forgiveness, which emphasizes the need to ask forgiveness from our fellow humans, and not only from God. 
  • It’s important to know how to ask for forgiveness and express remorse, but it’s also important to know how to forgive. Study Maimonides’ warning that “a person must not be cruel and refuse to make peace,” as well as the excerpt from Chaim Potok’s novel The Chosen.  
  • Look at the painting Jews Praying in the Synagogue on Yom Kippur by Maurycy Gottlieb (an alternative is Oppenheim’s Yom Kippur Eve). The artist depicts himself at different stages of his life in the painting. What meaning does this convey?
  • A longer version of the confessional prayer appears in the prayer Al Chet (“For the Sin“), also known as Haviduy Hagadol or the Great Confession. Here is a contemporary version of this prayer with words that are relevant to our times.