Al Chet -

Traditional Text of Yom Kippur Confession

1 John 1:9 (HNT); detail from Maurycy Gottlieb (1856-1879)

The traditional viduy (a confessional prayer consisting of two parts, Ashamnu and Al Chet) is written using the first person plural: "We have sinned..." since kol Yisrael arevim zeh bazeh - "All Israel is responsible for one another."

The Ashamnu is an alphabetic acrostic, consisting of 24 lines (the last letter of the alphabet, the letter Tav, is used three times). Each sin is usually expressed as a single word along with a verb in the past tense, in the first person plural: "We have done x..."  When the Ashamnu is recited, everyone stands, with head bowed in regret, and with each sin mentioned, gently beats his fist over his heart:

Ashamnu - we have tresspassed
Bagadnu - we have dealt treaturously
Gazalnu - we have robbed
Dibarnu dofi - we have spoken slander
He'evinu - we have acted perversly
etc... (in Hebrew alphabetical order) 


Traditionally al chet (עֵל חֵטְא), or the long confession, is recited no less than ten times during the course of the five Yom Kippur services. It is written in alphabetical order to assure us that there is an end to the litany of sins:
 

  1. For the sin which we have committed before You under duress or willingly.
  2. And for the sin which we have committed before You by hard-heartedness.
  3. For the sin which we have committed before You inadvertently.
  4. And for the sin which we have committed before You with an utterance of the lips.
  5. For the sin which we have committed before You with immorality.
  6. And for the sin which we have committed before You openly or secretly.
  7. For the sin which we have committed before You with knowledge and with deceit.
  8. And for the sin which we have committed before You through speech.
  9. For the sin which we have committed before You by deceiving a fellowman.
  10. And for the sin which we have committed before You by improper thoughts.
  11. For the sin which we have committed before You by a gathering of lewdness.
  12. And for the sin which we have committed before You by verbal [insincere] confession.
  13. For the sin which we have committed before You by disrespect for parents and teachers.
  14. And for the sin which we have committed before You intentionally or unintentionally.
  15. For the sin which we have committed before You by using coercion.
  16. And for the sin which we have committed before You by desecrating the Divine Name.
  17. For the sin which we have committed before You by impurity of speech.
  18. And for the sin which we have committed before You by foolish talk.
  19. For the sin which we have committed before You with the evil inclination.
  20. And for the sin which we have committed before You knowingly or unknowingly.

    For all these, God of pardon, pardon us, forgive us, atone for us.
     
  21. For the sin which we have committed before You by false denial and lying.
  22. And for the sin which we have committed before You by a bribe-taking or a bribe-giving hand.
  23. For the sin which we have committed before You by scoffing.
  24. And for the sin which we have committed before You by evil talk [about others].
  25. For the sin which we have committed before You in business dealings.
  26. And for the sin which we have committed before You by eating and drinking.
  27. For the sin which we have committed before You by [taking or giving] interest and by usury.
  28. And for the sin which we have committed before You by a haughty demeanor.
  29. For the sin which we have committed before You by the prattle of our lips.
  30. And for the sin which we have committed before You by a glance of the eye.
  31. For the sin which we have committed before You with proud looks.
  32. And for the sin which we have committed before You with impudence.

    For all these, God of pardon, pardon us, forgive us, atone for us.
     
  33. For the sin which we have committed before You by casting off the yoke [of Heaven].
  34. And for the sin which we have committed before You in passing judgment.
  35. For the sin which we have committed before You by scheming against a fellowman.
  36. And for the sin which we have committed before You by a begrudging eye.
  37. For the sin which we have committed before You by frivolity.
  38. And for the sin which we have committed before You by obduracy.
  39. For the sin which we have committed before You by running to do evil.
  40. And for the sin which we have committed before You by tale-bearing.
  41. For the sin which we have committed before You by swearing in vain.
  42. And for the sin which we have committed before You by causeless hatred.
  43. For the sin which we have committed before You by embezzlement.
  44. And for the sin which we have committed before You by a confused heart.

    For all these, God of pardon, pardon us, forgive us, atone for us.

    And for the sins for which we are obligated to bring a burnt-offering.

    And for the sins for which we are obligated to bring a sin-offering.

    And for the sins for which we are obligated to bring a varying offering [according to one's means].

    And for the sins for which we are obligated to bring a guilt-offering for a certain or doubtful trespass.

    And for the sins for which we incur the penalty of lashing for rebelliousness.

    And for the sins for which we incur the penalty of forty lashes.

    And for the sins for which we incur the penalty of death by the hand of Heaven.

    And for the sins for which we incur the penalty of excision and childlessness.

    And for the sins for which we incur the penalty of the four forms of capital punishment executed by the Court: stoning, burning, decapitation and strangulation.
     

For transgressing positive and prohibitory mitzvot, whether the prohibitions can be rectified by a specifically prescribed act or not, those of which we are aware and those of which we are not aware; those of which we are aware, we have already declared them before You and confessed them to You, and those of which we are not aware --- before You they are revealed and known, as it is stated:The hidden things belong to the Lord our God, but the revealed things are for us and for our children forever, that we may carry out all the words of this Torah. ForYou are the Pardoner of Israel and the Forgiver of the tribes of Yeshurun in every generation, and aside from You we have no King who forgives and pardons.

Note: For the full text of the Ashamnu and Al Chet, consult a good Machzor (מחזור), or prayer book for the High Holidays, such as the Koren Sacks or Artscroll Machzorim.

 

Confession is vitally important for Messianic Jews and Christians, since it both reminds us of our great need for God's intervention in our lives, and also helps us walk in the truth. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). Yeshua regularly fasted as did His disciples. 

Eschatologically, Yom Kippur represents the national restoration of Israel at the end of the Great Tribulation period, but it also is a reminder of the terrrible cost of sin in our lives. Sin is so offensive and the debt is so great that it took nothing less than the sacrifice of Yeshua Himself in order to secure our reconciliation with God. We therefore should tremble with fear before God in reverent gratitude of His mercy toward us.


 



 


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