Saturday, September 30, 2017

A Collective Apology for Millennial Jews on Yom Kippur


Yom Kippur is coming, and as if we don’t already feel plenty guilty during the rest of the year (we’re Jews, after all), this is the annual holiday when our communal guilt is amplified and on full display. 

Jewish tradition offers a prayer called the Ashamnu, a literal ABCs of all our sins throughout the past year. The Hebrew word Ashamnu means “we have trespassed” or “we are guilty,” and on Yom Kippur, the Day of Repentance, congregations say this prayer aloud together as we ask for forgiveness. Why recite an alphabetical listing of our sins as a group? Because Judaism teaches that none of us is solely responsible for such major trespasses. (I think the alphabetical thing is just for show.)

I’ve always found the Ashamnu to be one of the most powerful elements of the holiday, but I don’t necessarily relate to the vague sins outlined in the prayer, e.g., “We have been stiff-necked, we have acted wickedly, we have dealt corruptly.” Hey, Jewish tradition: Can we get a little bit more specific, please? I appreciate the idea of the prayer, but I’ve always wanted to drill down a little bit further. If I’m going to repent, I’m going to repent fully!


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