Loved Ones' Vidui

person lying on hospital bed with caregiver by their side

Introduction

The Vidui is a traditional confessional prayer recited by, or on behalf of, an individual whose death seems imminent. It is a personal prayer aimed to help people reconcile with God. While many people have experience with the traditional Vidui experience, we have come to believe that the ritual can be enhanced by including loved ones more fully in the ritual experience. The goal is to create a moment to help you say what you want and need to say. This suggested text is intended as an aid, and can be adapted in any way you like. It can be recited entirely in English or with the Hebrew, whichever way is most comfortable for you.

Loved ones should also feel free to add personal thoughts to the text provided. For example, if there are multiple loved ones, you may wish to add that you will take care of one another. If there are specific things that the individual taught you, you may wish to mention them as part of expressing gratitude.

According to Jewish tradition, authentic words of the heart are appropriate at all times. Saying these words to a loved one is not an expression of giving up hope. Many people recite Vidui and then recover. Additionally, the time of death can be unpredictable or chaotic, and Jewish tradition teaches that the soul lingers. If it was not possible or appropriate to offer these words before death, it is certainly appropriate to offer them afterward.

Some people may find it helpful to frame this Vidui ritual with a niggun, a wordless melody, as a way of creating sacred time together. You may want to consider Jewish or secular songs that had meaning to your loved one. If you’re looking for suggestions, you can consult this Niggun Collective (http://nigun.community/type/audio/), which is regularly being updated with new melodies.

In planning this ritual, you may wish to consult with a rabbi, cantor, chaplain, or other spiritual caregiver, or to have them present for the ritual itself or for processing afterward.


Take a moment to focus on your breathing, and if possible, matching it to your loved one’s breathing. If you wish, sing a niggun for a few minutes, summoning focus and entering sacred time.

.אָנָּא, כַּפֶּר לִי עַל כָּל-חַטֹּאתַי שֶׁחָטָאתִי

I’m sorry. I know that I have not been perfect. I have made mistakes.

I hope you will forgive me for the times I have disappointed you, hurt you, and angered you. I know, too, that you are a human being, and all human beings make mistakes. I forgive you.
 

וַיֹּאמֶר ה' אֶל־אַבְרָם לֶךְ־לְךָ מֵאַרְצְךָ וּמִמּוֹלַדְתְּךָ וּמִבֵּית אָבִיךָ אֶל־הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר אַרְאֶךָּ׃

וְאֶעֶשְׂךָ לְגוֹי גָּדוֹל וַאֲבָרֶכְךָ וַאֲגַדְּלָה שְׁמֶךָ וֶהְיֵה בְּרָכָה׃

Adonai said to Abram, “Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, And I will bless you; I will make your name great, And you shall be a blessing” (Genesis 12:1–2).

Thank you for the many blessings you have given me, spoken and unspoken. What you have taught me will always remain with me, informing who I am and who I will become. You are important to me, and you always will be.

Thank you for being the person you are, for loving me. I love you.

.וְהוּא אֵלִי וְחַי גֹּאֲלִי, וְצוּר חֶבְלִי בְּעֵת צָרָה

V'hu Eli, v'hai go'ali, v'tzur hevli b'et tzarah. (From Adon Olam)

God is the source of my life; I turn to God in my time of grief.
In grieving I will find resilience. I will miss you, and I will hurt, but I will not be alone.

שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל ה׳ אֱלֹקינוּ ה׳ אֶחָֽד.

Shema yisrael, Adonai eloheinu, Adonai ekhad.

Hear, O Israel: Adonai is our God, Adonai is One.

Let your words linger in the air for an extra moment. Then, return to the niggun, the wordless melody, you sang earlier. Pour any unexpressed thoughts and feelings into your singing. Sometimes a niggun can capture that which cannot be put into words. Conclude the niggun whenever it feels right to stop.

Complete Ceremony

Found in: Preparing for Death

Tags: vidui

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