Especially at this time of year (around the high holidays), we are to reflect on ourselves and do an accounting of our soul (heshbon nefesh). But all people are good at rationalizing what they do. That makes doing heshbon hanefesh harder. I am seeking what in industry might be called "job aids", that is, tools to avoid such rationalizations. What such tools exist? Do any reflect input by psychological experts as to what to look for that might indicate rationalization is at work? Are there categories of topics to consider? (Yes, there are a few lists in the YK machzor and elsewhere in the davening, but only category titles are listed with little detail.) Any suggestions will be appreciated.


2 Answers 2


hitbodedut - speaking it all out to G-d. At least with Him you know that you can't fool Him and that He knows the real truth. This forces you to reflect on your true motives.

see also the Yesod HaTeshuva by Rabeinu Yonah where he recommends doing a personal vidui (confession) 3x a day to God

And this confession will distance him from all sin and transgression. Because if a sin comes his way, he will be careful from it, and he will say in his heart "how could I do this great bad thing and then to confess on it. And I will be of those of which it is said, (Tehilim 78:36) 'Nevertheless they did flatter him with their mouth, and they lied unto him with their tongues. For their heart was not right with him, neither were they stedfast in his covenant.'

  • How might or does hitbodedut work? Where might one start? Is the Yesod HaTeshuva by Rabeinu Yonah available in English?
    – Yehuda W
    Sep 16, 2015 at 19:15
  • 1
    @YehudaW rough translation here dafyomireview.com/287
    – ray
    Sep 16, 2015 at 21:11

Seeking tips for avoiding rationalizing when doing heshbon nefesh (self-accounting)

One of the classic examples of self deception can be found with David.

2 Samuel 12:5-7 And David's anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the LORD liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die: And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity. And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul;

God had to send Nathan to break through the blindness that had come over David. While most of us do not run nations, we all can become equally blind.

Deuteronomy 6:10-12 And it shall be, when the LORD thy God shall have brought thee into the land which he sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give thee great and goodly cities, which thou buildedst not, And houses full of all good things, which thou filledst not, and wells digged, which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive trees, which thou plantedst not; when thou shalt have eaten and be full; Then beware lest thou forget the LORD, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name.

Of course prosperity always is a soporific such that we “forget" the Lord. When we get comfortable, we see little need for God and become more concerned with what we can achieve for ourselves.

“Forgetting” God is our chief problem. If we remember him, we are able to maintain humility. What other perspective can we have if we know ourselves in truth and know God.

Proverbs 15:33 The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility.

If we can hold a reverential view of God, we begin to see him in truth. If we see ourselves as incapable of pleasing him in our own strength, we begin to see ourselves in truth. It is truth that is the key to any useful self-appraisal.

Psalm 25:5 Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.

Psalm 51:6 Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.

Psalm 145:18 The LORD is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth.

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