The “Al Chet” is a commual confessional said ten times during Yom Kippur. (There is also the silent, personal confessional said ad nauseum, so it isn’t as easy as it sounds.)
For the Al Chet (guttural “ch”), each line starts with: “For the sin we have committed before [G-d]” and then gets pretty detailed:
under duress or willingly; by hard-heartedness; inadvertently; with immorality; openly or secretly; with knowledge and with deceit; through speech: by deceiving a fellowman; by improper thoughts; by verbal [insincere] confession; by disrespect for parents and teachers; by using coercion; desecrating the Divine Name; with evil inclination; by false denial and lying; by a bribe-taking or a bribe-giving hand; in business dealings; by eating and drinking; with proud looks; with impudence; and on and on.
After every few, we Jews ask: V’al kulam Eloha s’lichot, s’lach lanu, m’chal lanu, kaper lanu (For all of these things, G-d of forgiveness, pardon us, forgive us, let us atone.)
Generally, I really dig in deep when it comes to the sins of pride, speaking ill of someone, improper thoughts and eating and drinking. Ok, impudence, too. And, ok ok ok ok, taking G-d’s name in vain. But as a general matter, I am comfortable that the other sins are not mine in particular although on Yom Kippur we stand as a community and “own” these sins as a group.
Still, while the confessional is detailed but it is easy not to connect with the words on the page. So, at our synagogue, during Selichot (the prep holiday for the Ten Days of Sorry), our synagogue congregants write down sins for which they seek atonement. [a side note: just the “Ten Days of Sorry” comment is going to be a BIG issue for 5773 if I last so long.]
Some of the “al chets” were: littering, not recycling, abusing substances, infidelity and unprotected sex. While this may be ground-breaking in an Orthodox shul or a church, in our synagogue serving the gay, bisexual, transgendered, intersex, queer-identified community, their families and their friends (the printing is getting soooo expensive) with a social justice mandate (as if being home to everyone and literally his or her Jewish mama isn’t social justice enough), these “al chets”, too, have become rather mundane over 20 years.
But there was one “al chet” that stuck with me: for the sin that I have sinned against G-d by maligning Orthodox Jews.
Whoa!!!! That stopped me in my tracks. I used to greet Jews with a kippah (skull cap) or a sheidl (wig) as fellow travelers seeking a good, meaningful life. I learned over the years that one doesn’t inherit religious or ethical principles. So, a child with a yarmulke can be as good or as evil or as somewhere-in-between as the rest of us. Yet, they wear a costume of piety. I have learned first hand about how some kosher, Sabbath observing, “pious” Jews are not ethical, moral or righteous.
I have been crushed, disillusioned and personally harmed by the nefarious, immoral and dishonest deeds of those parading as pious, even those who are called “rabbi”. And not because they object to my sexual orientation (there is no prohibition against lesbians in Torah).
As a result, I do deal with Orthodox Jews with greater suspicion than I do others. And that is wrong. The good and right thing is to assess each person according to that person’s merits.
It all comes down to a derivative of the golden rule: Don’t judge a book by its cover.
For the sin that I have sinned by maligning all orthodox Jews on account of a few pretenders AND wanting to rip off their Yamulkes or sheidls, Eloha s’lichot (G-d of forgiveness), pardon me, forgive me, let me atone. But if the person deserves it, I want the Heavens to clap with thunder and the angels to blow those crazy little bugels, ok?
Wow, Yom Kippur is over by less than two hours and I am soooo cooked for next year. . . . . . .