“For the sin of not walking through the doors God opens for me.”
That was what a rabbi I dated many years ago, when I was in my 20s and living in Los Angeles, said as we performed the tashlich ritual. Tashlich literally means “casting off,” and the ritual involves tossing pieces of bread into a body of water to represent the sins we are trying to shed between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement.
It is, of course, the mother of all sins, encompassing the rest. I think of it every year during tashlich, which I now do with my family and synagogue community at Clark’s Pond in Bloomfield, N.J. But I never quite shared my rabbi-boyfriend’s spiritual sureness that life is a series of doors God opens or closes, and in any case I like to get a little more specific.
“For the sin of talking more than listening” is one I’m repenting for this year. For the sin of moving too fast and doing too much, which is another way of saying not being present enough. For getting angry too quickly at the husband. For not taking good enough care of my body. For not reading more books. For not spending enough time talking to our reporters.
In what I hope is becoming an annual ritual, we asked readers to share the sins they’ll be repenting for as we enter Yom Kippur. It’s a way to personalize and make more real the “al chayt” prayer we recite multiple times during the holiday liturgy. The responses poured in — about family and community, COVID-19 and climate change, work and school and home, politics and personal habits.
A selection of our collective sins are below. To add your own, please email email@example.com.
G’mar chatimah tovah — may you have, as they say, “a good final sealing.” And an easy fast.
—JODI RUDOREN, editor-in-chief
For the sin of impatience. Always trying to get somewhere too fast, too soon, too tired to make a difference.
— JUDYE JACOBS
For being too quick to criticize and being self righteous. For telling people what they need and have to do instead of suggesting what they might consider. For making every excuse possible for not exercising. For not following my own advice to myself on what I need and have to do.
An unethical business decision. And not giving my dad enough credit in raising me.
—ADAM NOVAK, 33, Boise, Idaho
For the sin of passing by a homeless person on Broadway and not reaching into my pocket or purse to give him/her some money.
For the sin of using too much plastic and not paying enough attention to the impact on the environment.
For the sin of not spending enough time visiting sick and dying people.
—NANCY K. KAUFMAN, 61, New York
No sympathy for COVID deniers. I wish them bad luck. And then I feel bad. As the provider of all said, “Judge not for you to be judged.” So I need to learn to accept that which I can’t change.
For the sin of multi-tasking and not truly paying attention.
—SHELLEY KRIEGER, head of school, Merkaz, The Community High School for Jewish Studies, Bridgeport, CT.
Getting annoyed with people who are doing their best, just like me.
—REBEKAH, 24, Idaho Falls, Idaho
The sin I’m repentant for is saying and thinking negative thoughts about my son-in-law and daughter-in-law. My daughter-in-law doesn’t call enough, my son-in-law was out of a job for over a year and I said that he wasn’t looking hard enough, leaving my daughter to support the family. I’m sorry for thinking badly about the partners of my son and daughter.
So sorry, Lester, for getting mad when you can’t do things because of your schizophrenia.
—MEGAN PAZNIK, president, Chelsea Videos
For the sin of posting too many pictures of my new grandson during his first year of life when I know so many people who will never get to be grandparents.
—RABBI PAULA MACK DRILL, West Caldwell, N.J.
Not paying enough attention to my younger sister in a nursing home.
—CAROL L. GINSBURG
Becoming exasperated with my caregivers, whose only job is to help me every day.
—CAROLE STEIN, 72, Boynton Beach, Florida
Every day, I walk my dog several miles throughout our neighborhood, and almost every day she will leave a “deposit” somewhere. Most days, I’ll pick it up; most days. For those days that I look around, see no one, and leave, may I be forgiven. And may this be the worst sin I ever commit — but, in truth, it is probably the least of my sins.
—MIKE BARINBAUM, 75, Scottsdale, Arizona
My sin: Leaning too heavily on venting. I don’t believe venting is a bad thing; when multiple people struggle with one problematic individual, it really helps to share experiences and get a level check on one’s own behavior. Through sidebars and discussions with others, one can ask, “Is it him, or is it me?” Getting the thoughts of others is important in maintaining our own mental health and for building a truer sense of the big picture.
However, we can sometimes lean too much on talking to others and too little on talking to the individual who’s causing the strife. It might not be healthy to bond with colleagues over a common enemy if it means that no one’s actually working to solve the problem through direct and honest conversation with the weak link.
So while I will continue to use venting as a relief valve, I hope to rely on it less in the year to come and instead tackle problems head-on when appropriate.
— E.D., California
For the sin of sometimes paying less attention to my family than to my profession, and being obstinate when presented with the evidence of my mistake.
For the sin of not practicing “tzimtzum” — that is, for not withdrawing from spaces of note that others should occupy.
And for the sin of demanding in others the same standards I place upon myself.
—RABBI JONATHAN BIATCH
Squandering my talents and being lazy, taking the easy way.
For the sin of making my daughter uncomfortable.
For the sin of hopelessness in the face of rising injustice and oppression.
—RACHEL RUBIN GREEN, 67, Los Angeles
Being too often an angry and impatient caregiver for my wife.
—SHOSHANA, 80, Berkeley, California
For being happy when my friends with “perfect” children are suddenly dealing with challenges and the reality that their kids have problems, too.
This year especially, I ask forgiveness for the sin of impatience: with my beloved husband for moving so slowly; with my colleagues who send liturgy ideas for Yom Kippur right up to the beginning of Kol Nidrei; with my board and board president for harping on what our congregation can’t do rather than what it can; with Jews who are entirely comfortable with what they don’t know about Judaism.
—RABBI DVORAH ILANA PLONIT
I repent for the sin of believing that I will never change, even while repenting of it.
I repent for the sin of sarcasm when sincerity is warranted.
I repent for the sin of laziness. I do a lot but also, don’t do a lot. And for the sin of thinking that I never do enough.
I repent for the sin of never being satisfied with my lot, of always looking for the next newest, best thing.
I repent for the sin of isolating myself from my community.
I repent for the sin of preaching progressive politics when I want to remain as comfortable as I am, and somehow being comfortable with the cognitive dissonance of that.
I repent for the sin of not being even a little bit repentant for truly hating, hating deep in my heart, vaccine-refusers, COVID-deniers and all trumpians everywhere. I’m REALLY going to have to work on that one. But I will try.
—CHANA BATYA, New York City
For the sin of being crabby to my wonderful daughter who is my greatest support.
—MORA ANN GREGG
For being so angry all the time. Bottling things up. And being so hard on myself and others. Amy, I’m sorry. Wes, I’m sorry. I’m sorry you had to see that. For wasting the heartbeats I’ve been blessed with.
—ANONYMOUS, New Jersey
I repent of my sin of finding too many reasons to delay or postpone needed medical treatment (surgery, actually) on my lower back. This avoidance ends today, as I will undergo the necessary pre-surgical tests in order to schedule the surgery.
And I repent of an additional, related sin: that of allowing my fear to get in the way of having this necessary surgery, for which I have been reminded each day with constant pain and steadily reduced mobility.
—MICHAEL BAUCH, 67, Staten Island, New York
What are you repenting for this year? Send your “personal al chayt” to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll add it to this article.