Maimonides identifies confession as a religious obligation. Summarizing the vast biblical and rabbinic literature regarding confession that preceded him, and adding some embellishments of his own, Maimonides writes: "With regard to all the precepts of the Torah, affirmative or negative, if a person transgressed any one of them, either willfully or in error, and repent and turn away from his sin, he is duty-bound to confess before G-d, blessed be He, as it is written (this and preceding verse); this means confess in words, and this confession is an affirmative commandment. How does one confess? The penitent says: "I beseech you, O Lord, I have sinned, I have acted perversely, I have transgressed before you, and I have done such and such, and I repent and am ashamed of my deeds, and I never shall do this again." This constitutes the essence of the confession. The fuller and more detailed the confession one makes, the more praiseworthy he is." Maimonides, Hilkhot Teshuvah 1:1. Confession of sin became both a public and a private activity. The prayerbook contains public confessionals, recited during communal prayer, such as those recited on the Day of Atonement, as well as private confessionals such as the deathbed confessional. Regarding private confession, Isaiah Horowitz records that his father made private confession of his sins three times daily: "And every night before he would retire he would list the deeds he performed that day. Then, he would sit alone and contemplate them. He would scrutinize the actions he performed not only that day but all the days of his life up until that point." Horowitz, Shnei Luhot ha-Brit. 3 Vols. Jerusalem: Edison, 1960, p. 171b.
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