The returning of one's soul to G‑d at the end of its journey in this world is probably the most profound moment in a person's life. It is for this purpose that our sages prepared a special set of prayers called Viduy, "Confession," to be recited before one departs from this world. These prayers evoke G‑d's mercy, and bring great atonement upon the person.
Viduy reminds us that what really matters is our relationship with G‑d and with our fellow man, and not material possessions or accomplishments. It is a truly powerful message for everyone.
Preparing for the Viduy
One should not delay reciting Viduy out of fear that it may be a bad omen. Many people have recited the Viduy and gone on to live many long years. In fact, saying the Viduy is helpful for one's recovery, as sincere repentance brings merit to the person and can nullify a severe decree from Heaven.
It is best for Viduy to be recited with a clear mind. Therefore, one should say it before he becomes too weak. If one cannot speak, he may say the Viduy in his heart.
Below are some laws concerning the recitation of the Viduy. However, it is a good idea to seek the guidance of a competent rabbi in these final moments.
Viduy is recited by both men and women of any age.
It is recited on any day, even on Shabbat and Jewish holidays and on days when Tachnun (supplications of forgive- ness) are not recited.
Before reciting the Viduy one should endeavor to ask forgiveness from those whom he may have caused pain or hardship.
It is advisable to clear the room of crying relatives so that one may concentrate fully on his prayers.
It is customary to wash one's hands ritually before reciting Viduy. Take a large cup of water in the left hand, pour it over the entire right hand, covering up to the wrist. Take the cup in the right hand, and pour it over the entire left hand, covering up to the wrist. Repeat two additional times.
Men should wear a Kippah or Yarmulka, and a pair of Tzitzit (four-cornered garment with ritual fringes). Some also don a Gartel (special prayer sash).
If the person's children are present, he should exhort them to follow the ways of the Torah.
Once Viduy is recited, and death seems imminent, one should not leave the person alone. Those who remain with the person should recite Psalms for his recovery.
The Viduy Prayers
While there are various customs concerning the order of the Viduy prayers, or different additions, the underlying theme remains the same. We have presented a common format below. One may also add prayers or Psalms as one wishes.
Try to recite the entire Viduy. If it is not possible, say at least from Adon Olam onwards. If one is even further pressed, one should recite the verses from Shema Yisroel onward. The least one should do is say "Let my death be an atonement for my sins," and recite the verse of Shema. (these prayers are to be found in
Prayers for the Final Moments)
Hebrew and Transliteration:
I acknowledge before You, Lord my G‑d and the G‑d of my fathers, that my recovery and my death are in Your hands. May it be Your will that You heal me with total recovery, but, if I die, may my death be an atonement for all the errors, iniquities, and willful sins that I have erred, sinned and transgressed before You, and may You grant my share in the Garden of Eden, and grant me the merit to abide in the World to Come which is vouchsafed for the righteous.
Our G‑d and G‑d of our fathers, may our prayers come before You, and do not turn away from our supplication, for we are not so impudent and obdurate as to declare before You, Lord our G‑d and G‑d of our fathers, that we are righteous and have not sinned. Indeed, we and our fathers have sinned.
We have transgressed, we have acted perfidiously, we have robbed, we have slandered. We have acted perversely and wickedly, we have willfully sinned, we have done violence, we have imputed falsely. We have given evil counsel, we have lied, we have scoffed, we have rebelled, we have provoked, we have been disobedient, we have committed iniquity, we have wantonly transgressed, we have oppressed, we have been obstinate. We have committed evil, we have acted perniciously, we have acted abominably, we have gone astray, we have led others astray. We have strayed from Your good precepts and ordinances, and it has not profited us. Indeed, You are just in all that has come upon us, for You have acted truthfully, and it is we who have acted wickedly.
One may add the "Long Confession" found in the Yom Kippur prayer book.
Following the Confession, recite the following:
Master of the universe, may it be Your will that my passing be in peace.
Concentrate strongly on G‑d and His unity,and on the event of the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai.