Confession of good?

​​​​​​​Many think that in order to repent one must look evil, the affair teaches us that the secret of success is actually in looking good.

Rabbi Shlomo Sobol ,

Rabbi Shlomo Sobol
Rabbi Shlomo Sobol
INN: Daniel Malichi

Rabbi Nachman of Breslov teaches us "man should seek and search to find even a little bit of good within himself, because that little good will encourage him and bring himself to joy, and through the joy he will rise from the ranks of the sinners to the ranks of the righteous and will be able to fully repent.”

There are a pair of mitzvot in our parsha: “Biyur Ma’asrot - eradication of the tithes” and “Vidui Ma’asrot - confession of the tithes”. “Biyur Ma’asrot” means that on Pesach of the fourth and seventh year of the shmitta cycle we must give away all tithes that may have accumulated in our homes. “Vidui Ma’asrot” means that when we do the mitzva of Biyur Ma’asrot, we must say verses (“I have eradicated the ma’aser from my house”, etc.) that state that we have indeed done that which we were commanded to do.

The phrase "Vidui Ma’asrot" does not appear in the Torah, but this is how the Sages call the mitzvah in Gemara Ma'asar Shani: "By mincha on the last day (of Pesach) confess. What was said in the confession? ‘I have eradicated the ma’aser from my house’.”

How does one "confession" that they have done good deeds? After all, ostensibly a confession is only appropriate when repenting of sins, as Maimonides teaches us in the laws of repentance.

Some sages have interpreted that the confession of tithes is indeed a confession of sin. The person confesses in fear that he has not set aside the tithes properly. Other sages say that only a person who has indeed held on to his tithes and not eradicated them must say a confession, and a person who is sure that he has tithed properly does not say a confession. However, that is not the deciding law.

We will try to follow in the footsteps of Rabbi Kook who interprets things in a groundbreaking way that illuminates the whole way of looking at oneself.

Just as a person is required to confess his sins, so too it is important for a person to confess his good qualities and deeds. A person who confesses only his sins may, by mistake, think of himself as evil. And when one, G-d forbid, thinks that he is fundamentally bad, he loses the mental powers to get up from falls and correct himself. On the other hand, a person who also confesses the good within himself will be able to believe in the good that is within him and rejoice in the pure divine soul that dwells within, and he will be filled with motivation and mental strength to overcome his failings, and walk the path of correction and connection to the L-rd of the world. Therefore, the sages deliberately used the same phrase of "confession" both when they engaged in confession of evil and of good.

This is a very deep point in education. Many times, in the realm of education, we tend to put the emphasis on the not-so-good part, thinking that if we confront the person with the bad, it will provoke him to return. But Rabbi Kook taught us that in order to succeed in the task of correction, one must also emphasize to the person the good that is within him, so that he will believe in himself and be filled with joy and courage, and from this he will find within himself the strength needed to raise himself up and go forward.

Rabbi Shlomo Sobol is the head of the Barkai Center for Practical Rabbinics and Community Development and the rabbi of Kehillat Shaarei Yonah Menachem community in Modi'in