Emily Aviva Kapor-Mater

Interpretive Al Cheyt for Yom Kippur

17 September 2018

The Al Cheyt (literally meaning "For the sin…") is a confessional litany recited on Yom Kippur. It is an alphabetical acrostic; each one of its verses starting with a successive letter of the aleph-beit, to represent not only the moral failings that are specifically enumerated there, but the fullness of every way in which we missed the mark in the previous year.

I wrote this interpreted version of the Al Cheyt several years ago and used it at Havurat Shalom in Somerville, Massachusetts over Yom Kippur.

Al Cheyt — For the Sin

Aleph

Be-ones u-ve-ratzon: We have sinned against You unwillingly and willingly. We keep ourselves ignorant of things we find unpleasant, and ignore them when they come before us.

Beit

Bi-v'li da'at: We have sinned against You by misusing our minds. We harbor hateful thoughts, hold grudges, and let wounds fester. We use our intellects as a weapon.

Gimel

Be-gilui arayot: We have sinned against You by sexual immorality. We fail to stand against child trafficking and to stand up for the rights of sex workers, and we fail to acknowledge a moral difference.

Dalet

Be-da'at u-ve-mir'mah: We have sinned against You knowingly and deceitfully. We foresee the consequences of our actions and go ahead with them anyway, choosing the easy route to personal fulfillment.

Heh

Be-hona'at re'a: We have sinned against You by wronging others. We tell half-truths and lie by omission. We say "I'm fine" when what we mean is "I need help".

Vav

Be-vi'dat z'nut: We have sinned against You by supporting immorality. We allow evil to flourish and remain silent while atrocities are committed. We stand on our neighbors' blood.

Zayin

Be-zilzul horim u-morim: We have sinned against You by deriding parents and teachers. We ignore our elders, and think of them as a burden. We assume that not everyone has something to teach us, so we fail to learn from all people.

Ḥet

Be-ḥozek yad: We have sinned against You by strengthening our grasp. We become violent and we lash out. We strike at others and use our fists instead of our consciences. We support violence in the world when the "good guys" are doing it.

Tet

Be-tum'at s'fatayim: We have sinned against You by impurity of our lips. We spread gossip and slander. We lie to ourselves and say "I know it's loshon hora, but…" We do not practice right speech.

Yud

Be-yetzer ha-ra: We have sinned against You by not resisting the impulse to evil. We succumb to our desires and our base emotions, and we do not fight back. We know we might not win the fight, so we just don't engage.

Ve-al kulam, Eloah seliḥot, selaḥ lanu, meḥal lanu, kaper lanu.

And for all of them, God of forgiveness, forgive us, pardon us, let us atone.

Kaf

Be-chaḥash u-ve-chazav: We have sinned against You by fraud and falsehood. We overrepresent ourselves and our talents. We take on obligations we know we will be unable to meet.

Lamed

Be-latzon: We have sinned against You by scoffing. We assume we know better, and we tell people that they're doing it wrong. We give unsolicited advice, and we are not grateful for others' efforts.

Mem

Be-masa u-ve-matan: We have sinned against You by dishonesty in business. We return items six months past their return-by date. We lose our tempers at store workers making minimum wage. We buy from large chains to save a buck while promoting the virtues of supporting small, locally owned businesses.

Nun

Be-neshech u-ve-mar'bit: We have sinned against You by charging usurious interest. We fudge numbers for our customers and on our taxes, and we excuse ourselves by saying the 1% are so much worse. We don't give our spare change to homeless people who sleep on the street because we don't like the look of their clothes.

Samekh

Be-si'aḥ sif'toteinu: We have sinned against You by idle chatter. We fritter away our time in small talk. We stare at screens and interrupt time with our loved ones by taking text messages. We let Twitter and Facebook overwhelm our lives.

Ayin

Be-einayim ramot: We have sinned against You by haughtiness. We look down our noses at people who don't measure up to our standards. We stare at people who are different. We exile people with mental or physical disabilities from our presence. We assume everyone is just like us and nobody could possibly be—or want to be—different.

Peh

Bi-f'rikat ol: We have sinned against You by shirking responsibility. We don't want to do things because they're hard. Even easy things we don't do because they're inconvenient. We let the garbage sit around the house and the laundry stay undone. We let sloth and inertia dictate the pace of our lives.

Tzadi

Bi-tz'diyat re'a: We have sinned against You by plotting against others. We are exclusionary and form cliques, and talk about outsiders behind their backs. We form schemes and plans to make other people do what we want them to.

Quf

Be-kalut rosh: We have sinned against You by irreverence. We laugh inappropriately. We tell racist jokes in the presence of other white people. We say "I know this is tasteless, but…" and get defensive when we are called out.

Resh

Be-ritzat rag'layim le-hara: We have sinned against You by rushing to do evil. We fall into patterns and form habits. We run off to do things we know we shouldn't be doing.

Shin

Bi-sh'vu'at shav: We have sinned against You by taking vain oaths. We have selective memories, and fib about what we do remember. We "swear to God" when what we really mean is "please believe me".

Tav

Bi-t'sumet yad: We have sinned against You by breaching trust. We violate the confidence of others. We say "without naming names" when everyone knows who we mean. We say "I can't talk about this publicly" and then we do it anyway. We do not regard other people as sacred.

Ve-al kulam, Eloah seliḥot, selaḥ lanu, meḥal lanu, kaper lanu.

And for all of them, God of forgiveness, forgive us, pardon us, let us atone.