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Singing Confessions

Written by Rabbi Yehoshua Alt, 28/9/2019

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Singing Confessions

On Yom Kippur, while we say אשמנו, בגדנו...; we have become guilty, we have betrayed…, we sing it to a tune. If one were to enter court, would he sing his sins? So, why do we recite this in a tune?


The Gemara says the Shofar is blown when we sit and again when we stand כדי לערבב השטן; to confuse the Satan.[1] Rashi explains that the Satan is unable to prosecute, as he is confounded when he hears how we hold Hashem’s Mitzvos so beloved. R’ Akiva Eiger (1761-1837) asks that just because the Mitzvos are beloved to us, that is why he doesn’t say over our sins?


The Gemara teaches that זדונות נעשו כזכיות; through Teshuva out of love, willful sins are counted as merits.[2] This is what Rashi means- once the Satan will see that the Mitzvos are beloved by us, as we do it in a loving way, so he is scared to relate our sins since for each sin he says, it will increase our merits and Mitzvos.


In this light, we can comprehendיבקש את עון ישראל...[3]; the iniquity of the Jews will be sought…as sins are there to increase our merits. With this, we can grasp why Hashem is exacting in judgment with Tzadikim כחוט השערה[4]; even to the extent of a hairsbreadth- minor misdeed. This is because each minuscule infraction can be transformed into merits through Teshuva. In light of what we said, we can explain why we recite אשמנו... with a tune, since it will all turn into merits through our Teshuva.

Rabbi Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R’ Mordechai Friedlander Ztz”l for close to five years. He received Semicha from R’ Zalman Nechemia Goldberg. Rabbi Alt has written on numerous topics for various websites and publications. He lives with his wife and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes and teaches. The author is passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance.

[1] Rosh Hashana 16b

[2] Yoma 86b. The analogy is given of a magnificent diamond that was given to a craftsman to polish. However, it fell and got ruined. It was then given to an expert craftsman who turned the scratches into a gorgeous design by drawing a few more lines. Now, besides being a diamond, it also had a beautiful design carved into it, as he took the scratch and made something beautiful. We can do the same with our bad traits, as we can use it to make us better so that we will have a beautiful design on the diamond that is our Neshama.

[3] Yirmiya 50:20

[4] Yevamos 121b

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