Viduy: A "Ticket" to Olam HaBa

by Rabbi Elchonon Zohn
Founder and President of NASCK


כל המתודה יש לו חלק בעולם הבא
All who say viduy have a portion in the World to Come.
Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deiah 338:1

Based on a mishnah (Sanhedrin 6:2), the Shulchan Aruch attests that anyone who says viduy (the deathbed confession) receives Olam Haba — an infinite reward.

Imagine the kindness inherent in that promise.

The mishnah learns this from Achan, whose story is recounted in Sefer Yehoshua (Joshua, Chapter 7). In the zechus (merit) of his saying viduy, he earned Olam Haba, even though his sin was so severe that he had been condemned to death.

The Shaloh HaKodosh writes that inspiring a choleh (sick person) to say viduy is an integral aspect of bikur cholim (visiting the sick). If helping ease the physical pain, and aid the physical well-being of one who is ill is a great mitzvah, how much greater a mitzvah is it to inspire them and assure the eternal well-being of their neshamah, their soul?

Underscoring this concept is the tzavaah (ethical will) of Reb Eliezer Hagadol, which states, “One who oversees the welfare of a choleh and makes an effort to ascertain that he does teshuvah (repentance), his reward is very great…”

We are all familiar with the viduy we say in Selichos and in the Yom Kippur davening (prayer service). At the conclusion of Yom Kippur, we are cleansed and purified, and have likely taken on new kabbolos (spiritual resolutions) to help us remain so. But a short while later, many of us revert to our old habits, and return to our old routines.The viduy we say just before our passing is quite different. The atonement of the deathbed viduy is lasting.

Despite this extraordinary zechus, the Shulchan Aruch — in the very same paragraph in which it mentions the reward for saying viduy — warns that suggesting to a deathly ill person that the time has come to say viduy might frighten them to the extent that it actually hastens their demise. How can we balance these two powerful yet competing concerns?

Too many people are uncomfortable about raising the issue of viduy, and then find that it has become too late to do so. It is unfortunate that, either because of their preoccupation with the myriad challenges that illness presents, or out of fear of broaching the subject, many people allow a loved one to pass away without ever saying viduy.

We are all aware of the great kindness it is to ease the burden of a sick person, and to help them recover physically. How much more kind is it to create a path for their spiritual recovery, and put them on the road to Olam Haba? We need to overcome our discomfort and fear, say viduy ourselves when appropriate, and encourage others to do so, as well. The zechus for us both is eternal and infinite.

adapted from
When Caring Counts Most,
a publication of Chevrah Lomdei Mishnah

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