All For The Boss
‘Praiseworthy Is One Whose…Sins Are Covered’
A necessary component of teshuvah is viduy, verbally confessing one’s sins. The Gemara (86b) cites a dispute between R. Yehuda b. Bava and Rabbi Akiva as to whether one may make a general confession for all one’s sins (e.g., “I have sinned”), or whether one must specify one’s sins. The Mechaber (Orach Chayim 607:2) rules that it is preferable to specify one’s sins, but a confession is valid even if one doesn’t.
The Mechaber adds, however, that one who prays out loud (i.e., a chazzan) should not specify his sins (so as not to reveal his sins to others). The Rema, in his glosses, notes that a chazzan is permitted to recite the Al Chet prayer out loud even though it specifies various sins because it is a universal text and does not pertain specifically to his own sins.
The Mechaber’s ruling is based on the statement of Rav, who derives from Psalms 32:1 – “Praiseworthy is he who conceals his sin” – that it is improper to publicize one’s sins. Rashi explains that the greater the number of people present when one commits a sin (or who are made aware of one’s sin), the more damage done to Hashem’s honor. Rashi (Sotah 7b s.v. “man demafrit”) adds that publicizing one’s sins is a brazen demonstration that one is not embarrassed by them (and this may dampen the Torah commitment of others).
Public Record, The Innocent
There are several cases where divulging one’s sins is permitted and even necessary. In these cases we apply the verse, “Mechaseh pesha’av lo yatzliach – One who conceals his sins will not succeed” (Proverbs 28:13).
Rav says that if one’s sins are already publicly known, one should confess in public (because a public confession increases his shame and remorse – thus facilitating his teshuvah).
R. Zutra bar Tuvia says in the name of Rav Nachman that sins against one’s fellow man should be confessed in public (see Rashi).
The Gemara (Sotah 7b) states that if the public wrongly suspects an innocent person of having committed a sin, the real sinner should make a public confession in order to vindicate the innocent party.
As A Source Of Inspiration
The Nesivos (in the Palgei Mayim commentary on Eichah 1:18) and the Beis HaLevi (Al HaTorah, Parshas Vayera) assert that a sinner suffering physically may publicize his sins and reveal the real reason for his suffering. Doing so increases Hashem’s honor, for by revealing the real reason for his affliction the sinner justifies Hashem’s actions.
The Shemuos Chayyim (Yoma 86b) submits that a ba’al teshuvah may (of his own volition) reveal his past misdeeds for the purpose of inspiring and influencing others to return to Hashem. He can serve as an example, explaining how he personally succeeded in abandoning his corrupt past and was able to find the true path to Torah.
About the Author: RABBI YAAKOV KLASS, rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. RABBI GERSHON TANNENBAUM, rav of Congregation Bnai Israel of Linden Heights, Boro Park, Brooklyn, is the Director of Igud HaRabbanim – The Rabbinical Alliance of America.
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