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Hashem spoke to Moshe, saying. "Speak to the Children of Israel - A man or woman who commits any of man's sins, by committing treachery toward Hashem, and that person shall become guilty. They shall confess the sin that they committed…" (Bemidbar 5:5-7).
The Torah commands us to confess our sins in order to be forgiven of them. This is especially important before one dies, since he will never have another chance to do so. In the Holy Books it is written that at the last moments preceding a person's demise, the battle between his or her Yetzer Tov (Good Inclination) and Yetzer Ra (Evil Inclination) is the fiercest. The Yetzer Ra knows that the person has the opportunity to correct all of his evildoings, his entire life, by truthfully regretting them all, right before he dies. In that event, all of the Yetzer Ra's successes until then will become futile.

On the other hand, the Yetzer Tov knows that the person has the opportunity to reject all of the mitzvahs he did his entire life, by regretting that he had done them. In that event, all of the Yetzer Tov's successes until then will become futile. Therefore, each of them tries with all of his might to influence the dying mortal to go in his direction.

In the book Shevet Mussar (in chapter 27), Rabbi Eliyahu Hakohen, ztvk"l, tells a very frightening story (Reb Ely Lopian, ztvk"l, told it a bit differently). A Rabbi told him that his father had traveled to a place where he met a group of sinners who had always denied the existence of Hashem and the truth of His Torah. They had violated every commandment and had always done whatever they saw fit. One day, one of them became deathly ill and was bed-ridden. All of his friends came to visit him and they were amazed to hear him beg them to save him. He described very clearly that he could see the Angel of Death before him, with his sword outstretched, ready to cut him to pieces. But even more startling was that the dying man began to describe the terrible punishments which are applied to those who have sinned as he and his friends did. He began to itemize the sins which they had committed and he cried bitterly and begged everyone who visited him to save him from the tragedy which awaited him. The entire scene was a great Kiddush Hashem (sanctification of Hashem's Holy Name) and the people who witnessed it decided that they would abandon their own evil ways right now and not wait until they were at the threshold of Hell.

The father of the dying man called for the Rabbis, and they asked the sick man what he saw. He told them that he is not hallucinating but that he sees clearly the Angel of Death who is showing him all of the torment awaiting him as soon as he dies. The Rabbis suggested to him that he recite the Shema and confess all of his sins so that he may be forgiven. To their utter amazement, the dying man replied adamantly, "No. I will not say that because the Satan, who is standing before me, said that if I say that, he will torture me, but if I don't he will save me from my sickness!" And with that he began to speak blasphemies despite the Rabbi's pleas that he say Shema and confess. Before long, the wretch's unfortunate soul left him as he declared, "I will not say Shema Yisrael," and he died denying the unity of G-d.

Therefore it is very important to confess our sins while we still have the chance, and to pray to Hashem that no evil powers confuse us when our time comes to leave the world, after one hundred and twenty years, and that we should be in complete control of our senses to regret our mistakes and confirm our beliefs, and go on to blissful eternity in the World-to-Come.

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Jerusalem, Israel