Reflections on Al Chet / Missing the Mark – for a Shmita Year

sunThe section of High Holiday liturgy known as al chet has always been fascinating to me because it is a collective rather than an individual confession of sins. I ask forgiveness for these sins each year even though I know that I am guilty of some but not all of them. But I repeat them all every year. Why? Is there a sense in which each of us, on some level, is responsible and accountable for the sins of our community? Of the world?

Is the recitation designed to absolve us of our sins? Or to focus our awareness on them as sins? Should it be a prompt toward changing our own personal behavior? Can it also be an opportunity to inquire how we can participate in strengthening the community as a whole?

Below you will find some of the additional sins I will contemplate as I spend a portion of my time this year focused on my relationship with the Earth, the sacred medium through which we receive the blessings of health, well being, and ultimately, peace.

For the sin which we have committed before You out of hopelessness, believing that we are powerless;

For the sin which we have committed before You because we are distracted and overwhelmed by choices;

And for the sin which we have committed before You on account of having become resigned to what seems inevitable.

For the sin which we have committed before You by failing to raise our voice;

For the sin which we have committed before You by failing to lift our pen;

And the sin which we have committed before You by allowing despair to sap our will.

For the sin we have committed against You by taking more than we need;

And for the sin we have committed against You by creating systems that make waste easy and invisible.

For the sin we have committed against You by failing to let the land rest.

And the sin we have committed against You by introducing poisons into the food chain of all life.

For the sin we have committed against You by ignoring what happens to our waste once it leaves our hands;

And for the sin we have committed against You by blocking from our minds the consequences of our actions.

For the sin we have committed against You by destroying the birthing places, in the sea, in the sky, and on the land, which are the source of new life;

For the sin we have committed against You by benefiting mutely from systems that violate our conscience;

And for the sin we have committed against You by of elevating efficiency as a value above compassion and justice.

For the sin we have committed against You by failing to go out into nature each day to reflect on Your magnificence and Your compassion for everything which holds the breath of life;

For the sin we have committed against You by failing to learn the names and life stories of the plants and animals who are also our neighbors;

And for the sin we have committed against You by failing to teach our children about the majesty of Your Creation and the joy to be found in loving and caring for it, as beings created in Your image.

For the sin we have committed against You of valuing the present above the future.

For the sin we have committed against You of destroying Your magnificent creatures, not to fulfill our own need for life, but to make trinkets and objects for our pleasure;

And for the sin which we have committed against You by failing to weave our lives more seamlessly into Your great cycle of birth, life, death, decay and absorption into new life.

For all these, God of pardon, pardon us, forgive us, atone for us.

2 thoughts on “Reflections on Al Chet / Missing the Mark – for a Shmita Year”

  1. Thanks for your thoughts, Deirdre, and thanks to Beth for directing our attention to it. I like where your reflexions on shmittah have taken you. I also have been contemplating what it would mean to trust ha-Shem more for the sabbatical year… I put a lot of trust in being supported thru the years, but am i doing all i can to sustain ha-adamah so she can feed me? That’s ha-cheit.

    1. Beautiful, Pablo. Trusting in HaShem, while working to make sure all the strands that must be in place to keep the web whole and strong for all who depend on it are strengthened and repaired.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *