The “Al Het” confession of sins is recited 10 times in the course of the Yom Kippur services. Many people who say the words and piously pound their chest have no idea what sins they are confessing to.
Many have learned to read the Hebrew with reasonable fluency but have not learned the language well enough to translate the meaning of what they are saying.
Some of the sins listed are specific, but others are somewhat general and are open to a wide range of interpretations.
But we must remember that the Hebrew text was written in era when much of what is part of our lives today did not yet exist.
In that regard, there are a number of modern-day sins that might give you food for thought and amendment if they apply to you individually or collectively. If none or very few of the extras apply to you, congratulate yourself for being a very considerate human being.Crossing the street on a red light, especially after the Yom Kippur services
Congregants coming out of synagogue at the end of Yom Kippur, in a hurry to get home, often cross the street on a red light, assuming that traffic hasn’t started yet. However, traffic starts within seconds of the holy day being over, and the transgressors are taking a big risk after spending an entire day praying for an extension of their lives.
Interrupting a conversation without apologizing
Some people think that their presence and what they have to say far outweigh the importance of anyone else.
They will approach their target as if the other person doesn’t exist and leave him/her standing there in mid-sentence, with complete disregard for how important that disrupted conversation might have been.
Talking loudly on a cellphone in public
Speaking loudly on the phone is extremely annoying to anyone within earshot. One’s private life or business dealings are of no concern to other people. The perpetrator is essentially “disturbing the peace.”Carrying on a long conversation in synagogue
Many people go to synagogue to pray and to listen to the sermon. A loud conversation disturbs their train of thought and their ability to hear the rabbi who is delivering the sermon, especially in an Orthodox congregation where there is no microphone.Loitering on the staircase of a synagogue or theater
Once a service, a film or a performance is over, people are in a hurry to leave, and loitering on the stairway impedes their progress. For people who may suffer from claustrophobia, this impediment may actually cause them to panic.
Standing in the doorway of a bus or train
People standing in the doorway of a bus or train and making no effort to move make it very difficult for other passengers to board or disembark from the vehicle. If there is room in the aisle or an empty seat, those people have no business standing there at all.Putting one’s feet up on the seat of a bus
Putting one’s feet up on the seat of a bus (with complete disregard for the sign that clearly states it is forbidden) not only soils and frays the fabric (which is often newly upholstered for just that reason) but also deters other passengers from taking the seat, forcing them to look elsewhere to sit.
Walking in front of someone who is about to take a photograph
Many pedestrians blithely walk in front of someone who is in the process of taking a photograph. The logical and courteous thing to do is to walk behind the person as one makes one’s way past him/her.
Pushing ahead in line
Many people in Israel disregard the concept of a waiting line. The really brash people take their place at the head of what purports to be a line, while others sneak into the middle. This is unfair to people who have been waiting for a long time to board a bus or get to the cashier in a supermarket.Smoking at a bus stop
It’s bad enough that people smoke in public in places not specially designated for smokers, but too many smokers hold their cigarettes outward, which emits much more smoke for a far greater distance than if it were pointed downward. Many members of the public have respiratory problems or cancer, and the cigarette smoke is detrimental to their condition.
Some smokers, not content to stay in one spot while waiting for a bus, walk back and forth, thereby forcing those who can’t bear the smoke to keep moving as well.Taking a seat on a bus designated for the elderly or people with disabilities
Seats at the front of the bus are clearly designated for disabled and senior passengers; however, they are often taken by young people, some of whom do not relinquish the seat when a disabled or elderly person gets on the bus.Yawning or coughing in public without covering one’s mouth
Yawning in public without covering one’s mouth is unsightly; and coughing in public without covering one’s mouth is unhygienic.Spitting on the pavement
It is appalling how many people in Israel engage in this offensive and unhygienic practice.Telling someone on a diet that a small piece of cake ‘won’t hurt’
If someone is on a weight-loss diet, the last thing he/ she needs is that tiny piece of cake that would be the first step in going off the diet. Not everyone is on a diet to lose weight. Some people have allergies and have to very careful about the ingredients in the food they eat.
In some cases, forbidden foods can be life-threatening.
So if someone says that he/she is on a diet of any kind, just leave him/her alone.Compromising the independence of the elderly or disabled
With the best intentions in the world, do-gooders are eager to help the elderly and disabled to cross the street. They want to carry their parcels and help them up the stairs, etc. While such actions are often appreciated, many elderly and/or disabled people have devised ways to retain their independence, and they resent it when someone automatically assumes they need help and “assists” them without first asking whether they actually do require assistance.
Hogging a buffet or bar
Far too often at a synagogue kiddush, some people who have already piled their plates don’t move away from the table so that others can approach. They resist polite efforts to get them to stand aside and ignore requests by the congregation’s officials not to attack the food until the blessing has been made over the wine.
Refusing to accept an apology
We all do things for which we are sorry. For some people, apologizing is one of the most difficult things to do. And for some people, forgiving is also difficult. But life is too short to harbor a grudge. If someone apologizes, accept it at face value and try to restore the good relationship that you had before. Otherwise, both of you are missing out.
There are many more sins of commission and omission of which we are guilty individually and collectively. Some can simply be attributed to thoughtlessness and lack of consideration for the other. When diplomatically pointed out to anyone who has erred, the response is often “Oh, I never thought of it that way.”
Yom Kippur is a time for introspection. Perhaps we should look into ourselves with greater honesty and clarity so that next year we will have fewer sins for which to repent.