עַל חֵטְא | Interpretive Al Ḥeyt for Yom Kippur, by Rabbi Emily Aviva Kapor-Mater

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The Al Ḥeyt (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.


Source (Hebrew) Translation (English)

עַל חֵטְא
Al Ḥeyt — For the Sin

א
 
עַל חֵטְא שֶׁחָטָאנוּ לְפָנֶיךָ בְּאֹנֶס וּבְרָצוֹן:
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.


ב
 
וְעַל חֵטְא שֶׁחָטָאנוּ לְפָנֶיךָ בִּבְלִי דָעַת:
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.


ג
 
עַל חֵטְא שֶׁחָטָאנוּ לְפָנֶיךָ בְּגִלּוּי עֲרָיוֹת:
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.


ד
 
וְעַל חֵטְא שֶׁחָטָאנוּ לְפָנֶיךָ בְּדַעַת וּבְמִרְמָה:
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.


ה
 
עַל חֵטְא שֶׁחָטָאנוּ לְפָנֶיךָ בְּהוֹנָאַת רֵעַ:
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”.


ו
 
וְעַל חֵטְא שֶׁחָטָאנוּ לְפָנֶיךָ בִּוְעִידַת זְנוּת:
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.


ז
 
עַל חֵטְא שֶׁחָטָאנוּ לְפָנֶיךָ בְּזִלְזוּל הוֹרִים וּמוֹרִים:
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.


ח
 
וְעַל חֵטְא שֶׁחָטָאנוּ לְפָנֶיךָ בְּחֹזֶק יָד:
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.


ט
 
עַל חֵטְא שֶׁחָטָאנוּ לְפָנֶיךָ בְּטֻמְאַת שְׂפָתָיִם:
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.


י
 
וְעַל חֵטְא שֶׁחָטָאנוּ לְפָנֶיךָ בְּיֵצֶר הָרָע:
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.


וְעַל כֻּלָּם אֱלוֹהַּ סְלִיחוֹת. סְלַח לָנוּ. מְחַל לָנוּ. כַּפֶּר לָנוּ:
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.


כ
 
עַל חֵטְא שֶׁחָטָאנוּ לְפָנֶיךָ בְּכַחַשׁ וּבְכָזָב:
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.


ל
 
וְעַל חֵטְא שֶׁחָטָאנוּ לְפָנֶיךָ בְּלָצוֹן:
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.


מ
 
עַל חֵטְא שֶׁחָטָאנוּ לְפָנֶיךָ בְּמַשָּׂא וּבְמַתָּן:
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.


נ
 
וְעַל חֵטְא שֶׁחָטָאנוּ לְפָנֶיךָ בְּנֶשֶׁךְ וּבְמַרְבִּית:
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.


ס
 
עַל חֵטְא שֶׁחָטָאנוּ לְפָנֶיךָ בְּשִׂיחַ שִׂפְתוֹתֵינוּ:
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.


ע
 
וְעַל חֵטְא שֶׁחָטָאנוּ לְפָנֶיךָ בְּעֵינַיִם רָמוֹת:
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.


וְעַל כֻּלָּם אֱלוֹהַּ סְלִיחוֹת. סְלַח לָנוּ. מְחַל לָנוּ. כַּפֶּר לָנוּ:
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.


פ
 
עַל חֵטְא שֶׁחָטָאנוּ לְפָנֶיךָ בִּפְרִיקַת עוֹל:
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.


צ
 
וְעַל חֵטְא שֶׁחָטָאנוּ לְפָנֶיךָ בִּצְדִיַּת רֵעַ:
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.


ק
 
עַל חֵטְא שֶׁחָטָאנוּ לְפָנֶיךָ בְּקַלּוּת רֹאשׁ:
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.


ר
 
וְעַל חֵטְא שֶׁחָטָאנוּ לְפָנֶיךָ בְּרִיצַת רַגְלַיִם לְהָרַע:
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.


ש
 
עַל חֵטְא שֶׁחָטָאנוּ לְפָנֶיךָ בִּשְׁבוּעַת שָׁוְא:
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”.


ת
 
וְעַל חֵטְא שֶׁחָטָאנוּ לְפָנֶיךָ בִּתְשׂוּמֶת יָד:
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.


וְעַל כֻּלָּם אֱלוֹהַּ סְלִיחוֹת. סְלַח לָנוּ. מְחַל לָנוּ. כַּפֶּר לָנוּ:
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.


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

The “Interpretive Al Cheyt for Yom Kippur” was first published (sans Hebrew) 17 September 2018 on the website of R’ Emily Aviva Kapor-Mater (under a CC BY license).

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