August 23, 2019 |

Internet confession or Rambam's way?

Web master, for I have sinned
By Stephanie Simon | Tribune Newspapers: Los Angeles Times
September 2, 2007
- In the hush of a warm afternoon, Rev. Larry Solan waits for sinners.
The veteran priest sets aside a half-hour every Saturday to hear the failings of his flock at St. Mark Catholic Church. On a typical week, he sees two penitents, perhaps three. Some weeks, no one comes.Confession is not what it used to be in the Roman Catholic Church; cultural and theological shifts have pushed the age-old sacrament aside.
Church leaders have tried to revive interest in the sacrament with tactics as varied as radio ads (in Washington, D.C.) and a strip-mall chapel dedicated solely to confessions (a few doors down from a tanning salon in Albany, N.Y.). The Vatican has even allowed priests to do away with the wooden confession booth in favor of more relaxed face-to-face encounters.
Outside the Catholic Church, too, the rite of confession is being reshaped, this time by Protestant megachurch pastors who see it as a self-help tool for the lost and lonely -- and as a marketing opportunity for themselves.
Click over to IveScrewedUp .com, and a black-and-white Goth-tattoo-style graphic bursts onto the screen. You're invited to type in a description of your sins, along with your age and hometown. Click "send" and it's done; you've confessed -- to the Web master of Flamingo Road Church, a Florida congregation affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention."
Catholics can try, which invites you to fill a shopping cart with your sins (choices include vainglory and use of Ouija boards). The site then calculates an appropriate penance -- say, 228 Hail Marys and 43 Our Fathers. Another church-sponsored site,, pushes the concept of healing even further. Anyone can comment on posted confessions, starting an anonymous dialogue with the sinner: "you need therapy. get it now."

The Jewish way?
In Chapter 1, Section 1 of the Laws of Repentance, Maimonides wrote: "With regard to all the precepts of the Torah, both affirmative and negative, if a person transgresses any one of them, either willfully or in error, when he repents and turns away from his sin, he is under a duty to confess before God, blessed be He, as it is said, 'when a man or woman shall commit any sin that men commit...they shall confess their sin which they have done' (Numbers 5:6?7)--this means confess in words; and this confession is an affirmative precept."

And Maimonides continues:
"How does one confess? By saying, 'I beseech Thee, 0 Lord, I have sinned, I have acted perversely, I have transgressed before Thee, and have done thus and thus, and lo, I am contrite and ashamed of my deeds and will never do this again. This constitutes the essence of confession."
"This constitutes the essence of confession"--these are the core components and basic framework of confession. Of course, various additions may be made, but they must always center around the three fundamental components, which are: 1) acknowledgment of sin ("I have sinned, I have acted perversely, I have transgressed'); 2) remorse ("I am contrite and ashamed of my deeds'); 3)resolution for the future ("I will never do this again'). These three stages constitute "the essence of confession." And Maimonides adds: "The more one confesses and elaborates on this matter, the more praiseworthy he is. ... Even if one has decided to abandon sin and to radically alter one's way of life, it does not amount to a complete act of repentance; without confession acquittal is denied. Confession is mandatory not only for those who, having sinned are obligated to bring sacrifices, but also for "those who have incurred the judicial penalty of death or punishment of stripes"--"they do not attain acquittal through death or [by the punishment of]stripes, until they repent and confess. Similarly, one who inflicts a wound on another person or causes him monetary damage, is not acquitted even after he has paid [the injured party] what he owes him, until he confesses and penitently resolves never to commit the same offense again..."

Note carefully that only the first half of the formula of confession which Maimonides sets forth as obligatory is identical with the formula employed by the High Priest in the Temple on the Day of Atonement ("I beseech Thee, 0 Lord! I have sinned …;" cf. Mishnah Yoma 3:8). In place of the second half ("I am contrite and ashamed ... I will never do this again"), the High Priest used to offer a prayer and say: "I beseech Thee, 0 Lord, acquit me of the iniquities and the transgressions and the sins which I have committed before Thee!" Maimonides deleted the prayer portion from the formula of remorse ("I am contrite and ashamed and resolution for the future ("I will never do this


Jonathan Ginsburg

Joined: September 26, 2007

Rabbi Jonathan Ginsburg and hs wife Rabbi Avigail Ginsburg, have developed amny online jewih eductional programs including conversio to Judaism, hebrew scool, bnai mitzvah training, para rabbis, Introduction to Judaism, and Judaism explained to Christians. He has developed over 550 videos of...

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