A Confession of Communal Complicity: A New Al Chet For Yom Kippur

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Photo credit: The Times, Middle East

I’ve written a new Al Chet prayer that we will be using during Yom Kippur services at Tzedek Chicago. The Al Chet is part of the Vidui – or Confession – in which the congregation stands up and publicly confesses the sins of their community. It is at its core, an open statement of communal complicity. 

I’ll say no more because I think the words really do speak for themselves. Feel free to share and use.

 

We say together:

עַל חֵטְא שֶׁחָטָאנוּ לְפָנֶיךָ
Al chet she’chatanu lifanecha…
(For the wrong we have done before you…)

Al chet she’chatanu lifanecha for forgetting that we were all once strangers in a strange land;
Ve’ al chet she’chatanu lifanecha for preferring militarized fences to open borders.

Al chet she’chatanu lifanecha for supporting trade policies and murderous regimes that uproot people, families and communities;
Ve’ al chet she’chatanu lifanecha for drawing lines and turning away those who come to our country seeking a better life.

Al chet she’chatanu lifanecha for demonizing migrants as threats to be feared;
Ve’ al chet she’chatanu lifanecha for labeling human beings as “illegal.”

וְעַל כֻּלָּם אֱלוֹהַּ סְלִיחוֹת סְלַח לָנוּ, מְחַל לָנוּ כַּפֶּר לַנוּ
Ve’al kulam eloha selichot selach lanu, mechal lanu, kaper lanu.
(For all these, source of forgiveness, forgive us, pardon us, receive our atonement.)

Al chet she’chatanu lifanecha for internalizing and assenting to racist ideologies;
Ve’ al chet she’chatanu lifanecha for allowing oppressive systems to continue unchecked.

Al chet she’chatanu lifanecha for our complicity in regularly profiling, incarcerating and murdering people of color;
Ve’ al chet she’chatanu lifanecha for denying fair housing, public schools and greater opportunity to our black and brown communities.

Al chet she’chatanu lifanecha for dehumanizing, excluding and murdering gay, lesbian, trans and queer people;
Ve’ al chet she’chatanu lifanecha for shaming and stigmatizing the infirm, the mentally and physically disabled, and the elderly.

וְעַל כֻּלָּם אֱלוֹהַּ סְלִיחוֹת סְלַח לָנוּ, מְחַל לָנוּ כַּפֶּר לַנוּ
Ve’al kulam eloha selichot selach lanu, mechal lanu, kaper lanu.
(For all these, source of forgiveness, forgive us, pardon us, receive our atonement.)

Al chet she’chatanu lifanecha for buying into and promoting the ideology of American exceptionalism;
Ve’ al chet she’chatanu lifanecha for oppressing other peoples and nations in the name of American power and influence;

Al chet she’chatanu lifanecha for profiting off of weapons of death and destruction;
Ve’ al chet she’chatanu lifanecha for contributing to the increased militarization of our nation and our world.

Al chet she’chatanu lifanecha for expanding our military budget while we cut essential services here at home;
Ve’ al chet she’chatanu lifanecha for believing that militarism and violence will ensure our collective security.

וְעַל כֻּלָּם אֱלוֹהַּ סְלִיחוֹת סְלַח לָנוּ, מְחַל לָנוּ כַּפֶּר לַנוּ
Ve’al kulam eloha selichot selach lanu, mechal lanu, kaper lanu.
(For all these, source of forgiveness, forgive us, pardon us, receive our atonement.)

Al chet she’chatanu lifanecha for the destruction of homes, expropriation of land and warehousing of humanity;
Ve’ al chet she’chatanu lifanecha for a brutal and crushing military occupation.

Al chet she’chatanu lifanecha for blockading 1.8 million Gazans inside an open air prison;
Ve’ al chet she’chatanu lifanecha for repeatedly unleashing devastating military firepower on a population trapped in a tiny strip of land.

Al chet she’chatanu lifanecha for wedding sacred Jewish spiritual tradition to political nationalism and militarism;
Ve’ al chet she’chatanu lifanecha for rationalizing away Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people.

וְעַל כֻּלָּם אֱלוֹהַּ סְלִיחוֹת סְלַח לָנוּ, מְחַל לָנוּ כַּפֶּר לַנוּ
Ve’al kulam eloha selichot selach lanu, mechal lanu, kaper lanu.
(For all these, source of forgiveness, forgive us, pardon us, receive our atonement.)


15 Comments on “A Confession of Communal Complicity: A New Al Chet For Yom Kippur”

  1. 2skipper says:

    Difficult for me. But the truth must be told and we must take communal responsibility as Jew and human Beings. Then we we must begin the process of doing something so these wrongs must not be continued. I will be there listening and atoning for all the injustices that night and the next day and to take action to help this world be a place for all Human beings to live in peace. Thank you Brant for being there to guide us on Yom Kippur

  2. Nancy Bruski says:

    Powerful! The only missing piece for me is the personal failings that we as a community also accept and live with on a daily basis. I’m sure there are other places in the liturgy for us to repent our personal failings, but I remember feeling moved by the group expression of moral failings in our day to day dealings with one another as well. God knows, there is enough evil in the world for us to work against, yet don’t we also have to acknowledge, perhaps publicly and together, the personal failings that may cause us to turn away from these wrongs in our world? Just a thought…

  3. Curtis Cohen says:

    Powerfully ignorant…

  4. i_like_ike52 says:

    Here’s some more you can add to your “liberal/progressive” shopping list:
    (1) Al Chet for using electricity in our homes, some of it from coal-fired power plants contributing to global warming.
    (2) Al Chet for driving cars which also contribute to air pollution and global warming.
    (3) Al Chet for eating meat which also contributes to global warming and other ennvironmental problems.
    (4) Al Chet for buying low-priced products produced by exploited workers in China, Southeast Asia, Bangladesh, Africa, etc
    (5) Al Chet for eating food which does not come form “sustainable agriculture”.
    (6) Al Chet for briinging children into the world which will make yet another generation of people who think “America is exceptional” and buy products made by exploited workers and who will continue to pollute the world by breathing out CO2 and using electricity and driving.

    See, there is no end of things you “liberals/progressives” can feel guilty about! I am so impressed by the “love of humanity” you people are always demonstrating.

  5. To say. Violence begats violence Is true. Peace should always be the main reason for relieving the pressures of war. The state of Israel should not be a state of military might. When will Israel learn.

  6. Sonia says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Brant, and for allowing us to borrow it. Hugs to you

  7. Adam says:

    Must be Chicago; sounds like the Al Chet’s as written by Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

  8. madams12 says:

    Thank you Rabbi Brant….were these the words offered in any synagogue I would return to judaism….but the denial, bigotry & unvarnished racism demands I shall not unless/until people own up to their complicity.
    Thank you however for offering these words as atonement for people of conscience now. It is comforting to read/hear them now.

  9. vic proulx says:

    Shalom, may we – and all the world – learn to practice kindness, righteousness, blessing and a love of live (all life) and a love of peace. Shalom.

  10. Andrew says:

    You should also write an “Al Chet” for dishonestly exploiting the Arabs living in Israel to further your career and your racist hate filled agenda. You should write an “Al Chet” for you and your allies regarding your consistent Holocaust minimization and Holocaust denial by your fellow kapos at JVP. Another “Al Chet” should be written for the bullying you engage in and the hate you spew. Finally, you should write an “Al Chet” for the Arab refugees which your allies in terror allies Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, Syria have created.

  11. Laura says:

    Finding myself a passionate unbeliever, I ceased calling myself a Jew years ago. Most of the Tribe’s feelings about Israel/Palestine haven’t helped bring me any closer to the fold. But you are inspiring to me. Thank you for speaking truth to power. We will get there. Keep spreading the quiet message of peace and love, and it will rise over the racist braying.

  12. Rabbi Brant, Thank you for your courage to speak the truth in the face of mean-spirited attacks such as the one above, and for your moral stance in our troubled world. You are a true spiritual leader and an inspiration for Jews and non-Jews alike.

  13. Jay Rehak says:

    Rabbi, while many folks seem to want to marginalize your congregation, I laud you for your courage in acknowledging the violence that is occurring in Israel. In my heart, I honestly believe even the most ardent supporters of Israel understand that killing or marginalizing people is contrary to “God’s law” however an individual chooses to interpret that law. I do not hear hate from you, I hear your pain filled cry that all people be respected. All people. All people. All people.


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