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In the alphabetical vidui confession, we begin with Ashamnu -- we are guilty, and we list off a series of mistakes we have made. This makes sense -- a confession requires that we own up to our sins.

The final item in the list is "תעתענו" 'titanu' which is explained in my machzor as "you have let us go astray."

While our straying is not a good thing, and we confess it directly before (as ta'inu), why would an accusation against God be appropriate for OUR confession?

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  • I read it not as an accusation, but just a statement of our having free will. If we've not been let free to go astray, what merit would there be in not going stray? How would we derive pleasure in keeping commandments if we had no choice in the matter? (It could be seen as something to be grateful for, not an accusation) Commented Sep 24, 2015 at 11:48
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    +1 I was wondering the same while using the Mesores haRav machzor. The other translations do not translate this way. The interlinear Artscroll translation reads we have scoffed, and Metzudos offers We have led others astray. In years past I've used the metzudos so this caught my eye. I was actually thinking about posting a question regarding these variations.
    – user6591
    Commented Sep 24, 2015 at 12:28
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    Follow up to @chrysanthemum's idea - IIRC< Ramba"m states regarding his discussion of free will & esp. in the argument about what happened to Pharoah when it says that G-d hardened his heart - I think Ramab"m implies that free will, itself, is a gift that G-d gives us which He can decide to take away if we don't perform HIS will. In that sense, he causes us to go astray, but it was our doing that led to it happening b/c, we allowed HIM to discard our free will.
    – DanF
    Commented Sep 24, 2015 at 21:08

3 Answers 3

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"מחזור המפורש" (Gefen, Jerusalem 5772 Ashkenaz) explains (a few times, but see page לה) that this confession means that we have lead others astray.

תעינו מן הדרך הישרה, והתינו אחרים ממנה. ‏

In a footnote there (טו), they cite another explanation:

עשינו מעשי תעתועים ומרמה. ‏

Both of these explanations are confessions, and not accusations.

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According to Wikipedia,

The last two sins (repetitions of the letter תּ) are "תָּעִינוּ תִּעְתָּעְנוּ" (taw'inu, titawnu) are usually translated as: "We went astray, We led others astray". Occasionally the last word is translated as "You (= the Deity) allowed us to go astray"—the widely used ArtScroll Siddur uses both possibilities,[3] the point being that the last word is an unusual form (not found in the Bible) that suggests a positive determination to go astray, the misuse of free will.[4] However, the translation of "You let us go astray" has been criticized as an error, and it has been suggested that the last word means "we have scoffed" or "we have mocked" or "we tricked" or "we misled others".[5]

See notes there. In addition, see this discussion which notes that Artscroll changed its translation:

The Artscroll Siddur (1984 edition) correctly translates Ti'ta'nu as "we have led others astray" using the verb letataya as it is used in the passuk "vehayiti be'einav k'metataya" ([...] as a trickster).

However in the Artscroll Yom Kippur Machzor (1986) and the Artscroll Selichot (1992) the word is translated as "You have let us go astray" which seems incorrect... Not necessarily incorrect. It follows the translation in the Chayei Adam. "You have left us to our free choice to stray".

In other words, later editions of Artscroll follow the interpretation of the Hayei Adam who maintains that תעתענו means that God has allowed us to stray (because of our previous sins), however, the simpler interpretation of the word is that it refers to our own sin (of causing others to stray or of scoffing, etc.). Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, in his machzor, translates this as "we have led others astray."

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  • +1 I like that Chayei Adam. Just checked. Its close to the very end of klal 143.
    – user6591
    Commented Sep 25, 2015 at 18:13
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This is really a question on a specific translation/interpretation of the word. The OU published an explanatory translation of Viduy. On this translation they comment:

You have let us go astray (we lost the merit to benefit from Your help);

This reminds me of the statement in the Talmud (several places, including Yoma 38b):

בא לטמא פותחין לו

One who intends to be impure (i.e. wicked - Rashi), G-d leaves the opening for him to do so.

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  • I just checked up the Chayei Adam in wfb' s answer and he shtells the ba litamei vort, but on the word Ta'inu, not Tit'anu.
    – user6591
    Commented Sep 25, 2015 at 18:14
  • @user6591, I still don't get what this is a confession to, perhaps the איכות of the sin.
    – Yishai
    Commented Sep 25, 2015 at 21:12

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