Collective Apology

A Collective Apology for Millennial Jews on Yom Kippur

Part of: Alma’s Guide to the High Holidays

Yom Kippur is coming, and as if we don’t already feel plenty guilty during the rest of the year (we’re Jews, after all), this is the annual holiday when our communal guilt is amplified and on full display.

Jewish tradition offers a prayer called the Ashamnu, a literal ABCs of all our sins throughout the past year. The Hebrew word Ashamnu means “we have trespassed” or “we are guilty,” and on Yom Kippur, the Day of Repentance, congregations say this prayer aloud together as we ask for forgiveness. Why recite an alphabetical listing of our sins as a group? Because Judaism teaches that none of us is solely responsible for such major trespasses. (I think the alphabetical thing is just for show.)

I’ve always found the Ashamnu to be one of the most powerful elements of the holiday, but I don’t necessarily relate to the vague sins outlined in the prayer, e.g., “We have been stiff-necked, we have acted wickedly, we have dealt corruptly.” Hey, Jewish tradition: Can we get a little bit more specific, please? I appreciate the idea of the prayer, but I’ve always wanted to drill down a little bit further. If I’m going to repent, I’m going to repent fully!

This modern version of the Ashamnu is specifically tailored to my own sins and to those I see in others around me. I know, I know: Millennials are on the receiving end of a lot of unnecessary flack (uhh, remember that story about how we can’t afford houses because we’re spending so much money on avocados?!). But there are plenty of actions for which we ought to take communal responsibility… and maybe even communally repent.

The Jewish millennial’s Ashamnu:

For the sin of being anxious about literally everything.

For the sin of comparing my life to others on social media.

For the sin of drunk-texting people I’ve tried to cut out of my life while sober.

For the sin of too frequently prioritizing pizza over exercise.

For the sin of getting sucked into Facebook when I ought to be working… or sleeping… or anything else.

For the sin of gossiping, trash-talking, and other forms of lashon hora.

For the sin of sharing more hilarious memes than vital calls to action.

For the sin of still not figuring out how to invest my money wisely (or at all).

For the sin of being too judgmental, full-stop.

For the sin of spending more on lattes than on tzedakah.

For the sin of not calling my mother often enough.

For the sin of sometimes neglecting my relationships rather than nurturing them.

For the sin of late-night online shopping splurges.

For the sin of putting myself down instead of practicing self-love.

For the sin of staying quiet when I ought to speak out about injustices.

For the sin of making my online life look better than reality.

For the sin of not attending Shabbat services.

For the sin of watching too much trashy TV and reading too few thinkpieces.

For the sin of underestimating myself and capabilities.

For the sin of online vanity and countless Instagram selfies.

For the sin of wasting money, food, and time.

For the sin of being extra (even though I’m still not convinced it’s such a bad thing).

For the sin of coveting youth rather than appreciating age.

For the sin of zeroing in on the flaws of myself and others.

In the coming year, may we strive to do better and to be better—individually and together. L’shanah tovah umetukah, may you have a good year, and may you be inscribed for blessing in the Book of Life.

Image via Flickr/artethgray