6.01 THE TEN DAYS OF TESHUVA: THE MEANING OF THE AL CHET CONFESSION
THE PURPOSE OF THE AL CHET
When one begins to look at the task of teshuva, it can be overwhelming. We have done so many things wrong over the past year that it is hard to know where to begin. Do we take out a list of the Taryag Mitzvos and ask, what were all my transgressions on mitzvah number 1, and number 2 etc.?” That doesn’t seem to be the direction to go in, for it would be very time consuming and very draining.
The answer is much simpler. We must come up with a plan for spiritual growth that, in the future, will lead us to abandoning our transgressions. If we could find the central roots of our transgressions and attack them had on, eventually, most of our transgressions would fall away. That is the goal of the Teshuva process.
This is the secret of the “Al Chet” confession that we say so many times on Yom Kippur. R. Dessler (zt”l), in his famous work, Miktav M’Eliahu. points out that the Al Chet confession is not a list of sins, per se, but rather it is a list of the roots of sins. Each one of the sins that are listed is a root cause for sin and, therefore, if you look carefully at the list it might be quite helpful in figuring out what the central problem is that is dragging you down.
Therefore, before Yom Kippur arrives, it is very important to sit down and learn what the Al Chet Confession is and make it relevant. In it is the answer to what might be holding us back from greatness. The following presentation is a questionnaire designed to help you find out which are the areas that you need to be working on.
After you have gone through the transgressions listed and have found areas of weakness, make your plan on these areas. But please remember, change is a process that doesn’t happen immediately. Don’t choose too many things to work on in your plan. It might just be too overwhelming. (Please see sheet numbers 12 and 15 for further information).
1.For the sin that we committed before You under duress and willingly.
Explanation of under duress – These are the sins that you committed because you thought you were not in control, but you really were, on a certain level. If you had not put yourself into compromising situations, or even if you had, but had taken the trouble to make fences, you would not have committed the transgressions you did.
Did I put myself into compromising situations and then when I transgressed said it was accidental?
Did I rationalize that had no choice but I really did? (e.g. you davened in a fast minyan and then xxcomplained that you had no cavanah, or you spent time with people who speak loshon hara and then xxcomplained that you ended up speaking it, etc.)
Did I make “fences” so that I won’t transgress?
Do I have a penalty system set up so that I won’t do certain sins?
Even if something did happen to me that was not in my control, did I ask “why did G-d do this to me”?
Willingly – Did you sin because you wanted to indulge in a pleasure?
2.For the sin that we committed before You through having a hard heart
Did I ignore the poor and the weak?
Did I ignore helping people who are not frum? Did I pay attention to their pain?
Was I kind, compassionate and loving when I needed to be?
Do I feel the pain of the Jewish Nation?
Did I give charity to the poor in a cold way?
3.For the sin we committed before You without thinking (or without knowledge)
Do I act like a judge in all my dealings with the world, weighing out what is right and what is wrong?
Do I remind myself constantly of the major goals of my life?
Do I consciously involve G-d in my life?
Am I learned in halacha?
Do I have a goal to be a thinking individual?
4.For the sin that we committed before You through the things we blurted out with our lips.
Do I think before I speak?
Do I often make hasty outbursts?
Do I often make hasty vows or oaths?
Do I often make hasty promises?
5.For the sin that we committed before You in public and in private
Sins In public – Did I do foolish or sinful things to attract attention or approval?
Did I do mitzvos in public, that if I was in private I would not have done them?
Was I modest with my accomplishments?
Sins in private – Do I reassure myself that since no one sees I am free to sin?
Have I denied that G-d exists because of the sins that I did in private?
Do I realize that doing sins in private, in many ways, harms my relationship with G-d in a more serious xxway than doing them in public?
When I was alone did I realize that Hashem was alone with me?
6.For the sin that we committed before You through immorality
Did I have any improper thoughts?
Did I look at anyone that I shouldn’t have?
Did I talk to anyone that I shouldn’t have?
Did I tell any improper jokes?
Do I realize immorality is a major obstacle to
achieving closeness with G-d?
7.For the sin that we committed before You through harsh speech
Did I speak to anyone in a harsh and forceful manner?
Did I express my opinions in a too forceful, non-holy manner?
Did I speak in a soft spoken, sensitive manner when it was necessary?
8.For the sin that we committed before You with knowledge and deceit
Did I use knowledge in a deceitful way?
Did I use knowledge to deceive others?
Did I use knowledge to deceive myself (i.e. did I rationalize sins in order to do what I wanted to)?
Did I use knowledge to circumvent the spirit of the law?
Did I show off with my knowledge of the Torah in order to impress others?
9.For the sin that we committed before You through inner thoughts.
Did I think in a negative way about people?
Did I fantasize about doing sin?
Did I think about G-d in my deepest emotions?
10.For the sin that we committed before You through wronging a friend
Did I defraud my friends?
Did I wrong friends by hurting their feelings?
Did I take advantage of my friends even though they trusted me?
11.For the sin that we committed before You through insincere confession
When I confessed to G-d on Yom Kippur did I do so with sincerity and honesty?
Did I keep my commitments that I made in my confessions to G-d?
Do I realize that keeping my commitments to G-d will lead to self-respect?
Do I confess to G-d when I do something wrong?
12.For the sin that we committed before You while in a gathering of people dedicated to negative things.
Was I in any gathering that led to discussions of negative things?
Was I in any gathering that led to negative activities?
Did I associate with moral and ethical people?
Are you looking to associate with the proper people?
13.For the sin that we committed before You willfully and unintentionally.
Did I sin out of a desire to demonstrate my independence of G-d’s authority (G-d forbid)?
Did I sin in an unintentional way that had an aspect of carelessness to it?
Could it have been avoided? Could I have taken the proper precautions to avoid doing that sin xxunintentionally?
14.For the sin that we committed before You by degrading our parents and teachers
Did I have contempt for my parents in my mind?
Did I verbally express my contempt?
Do I realize how much they have done for me?
Do I respect my parents?
Do I realize that the way to wisdom is to respect teachers and as a result receive the transmission of the xxTorah?
Do I respect my teachers?
Do I appreciate my teachers for all the good that they have done for me?
15.For the sin that we committed before You by exercising power
Did I sin by taking advantage of the weak?
Do I realize that it is not the Jewish way to throw your weight around?
Did I force someone to do something against his will?
16.For the sin that we committed before You through desecrating G-d’s name
Did I give a bad impression of being a religious Jew to someone and therefore desecrated G-d’s xxname?
Did I misuse my power as a role model by sinning or doing something that I shouldn’t be doing?
Did I smile to people?
Was I dressed properly?
17.For the sin that we committed before You with foolish speech
Did I sin by talking about stupid things?
Do understand that speaking words of Torah is the way to become a great person?
Do I associate with people who speak words of Torah in their spare time?
18.For the sin that we committed before You with vulgar speech
Did I sin by contaminating my mouth with vulgar speech?
Did I sin by hearing it?
Did I protest when I heard it?
Did I always express myself in the holiest and most pleasant way possible?
19.For the sin that we committed before You with the yetzer hara (evil inclination)
Have I incited my lusts and my urges?
Have I put myself into situations that do this?
Have I used the tools and techniques that I know are able to control my yetzer hara?
20.For the sin that we committed before You against those who know and those that did not know
Have I wronged people to their faces?
Have I wronged people behind their backs?
21.For the sin that we committed before You through bribery
Have I been influenced or bribed to do sins because of flattery?
Have I been influenced or bribed to do sins because of favors?
Have I been influenced or bribed to do sins because of money?
Do I realize that money is the biggest pull on one’s honesty and integrity?
When didn’t you do the right thing because you wanted approval?
22.For the sin that we committed before You through denial and false promises
Have I sinned through denial of the truth to others?
Have I sinned through denial of the truth to myself?
Have I sinned through false promises?
Did I say any untruth in the slightest way?
Do I realize that the mark of a great man is that he is as meticulous about truth as possible?
23.For the sin that we committed before You through Loshon Hara (negative speech)
Have I spoken Loshon Hara?
Do I know the laws of Loshon Hara?
Do I know the laws well?
Did I try to avoid talking about people as much as possible?
Do I realize that this is one of the keys to the redemption?
24.For the sin that we committed before You through being scornful (or scoffing)
Did I ridicule serious things?
Did I scoff at true concepts?
Did I mock someone who tried to criticize me?
25.For the sin that we committed before You in business
Have I been scrupulously honest in every financial transaction that I made?
Do I realize that this area is what usually ruins people’s integrity more than any other?
Do I realize that integrity is the mark of every great man?
When I was successful in business did I give G-d credit for the success?
26.For the sin that we committed before You with food and drink
When I ate, did I let the animalistic part of myself take control?
Have I spoken words of Torah at the table?
Have I sinned by not keeping kashrus properly?
Did I have gratitude to G-d for providing me with food?
Have I said blessings over food properly?
Have I wasted food?
Have I eaten unhealthy foods?
27.For the sin that we committed before You with different types of monetary interest
Do I know the Torah laws on taking interest?
Have I taken or given any loans with interest without a heter iska (a special contract that permits interest xxtransactions)
Have I made a profit as a result of someone else’s misfortune or downfall?
Am I greedy?
Am I stingy?
28.For the sin that we committed before You by having an outstretched neck (with head held high)
Have I shown arrogance through body language?
Do I walk in a humble manner?
Do I present myself in a humble manner?
29.For the sin that we committed before You with eye movements
Did I look at someone in a flirtatious way?
Did I wink at someone who I should not have?
Did I “express” loshon hara with eye movements?
Did I stare impolitely at someone?
Did I look at people doing mitzvos?
Did I look at the righteous people?
30.For the sin that we committed before You by endlessly babbling
Do I tend to have conversations with no meaningful content?
Do I tend to sound like a chatterbox?
Do I concentrate on what I say?
Do I say brachos properly?
Do I say prayers properly?
31.For the sin that we committed before You with haughty eyes
Did I look at people with an inner feeling of superiority?
Did I love each Jew with warm and loving eyes?
32.For the sin that we committed before You with a strong forehead (you were brazen)
Do I have the Jewish attribute of shame?
Have I lacked the attribute of shame?
Do I stand before G-d in shame?
33.For the sin that we committed before You in throwing off the yoke
Have I accepted the responsibility for doing all of the mitzvos?
Have I accepted the responsibility of living with G-g?
Have I accepted the responsibility of learning Torah when I should be?
Do I love all Jews?
Am I a responsible person?
Do I keep my commitments?
Am I lazy?
34.For the sin that we committed before You in judgement
Have I judged G-d unfairly?
Have I judged people unfairly?
Have I made an effort to judge people positively?
Can I judge truth properly?
35.For the sin that we committed before You entrapping a friend
Have I taken advantage of family and friends and put them in a situation where they couldn’t say no to xxdoing you a favor?
Have I manipulated family and friends? Have I violated the trust of people who have confidence in me?
Did I entrap a friend to do averas with me?
36.For the sin that we committed before You through a begrudging eye
Was I stingy?
Was I jealous?
Did I find ways not to give tzedaka?
Was I unwilling to do favors when I should have?
Do I think about other people as well as myself?
37.For the sin that we committed before You through light-headedness
Do I walk around as if the Al-mighty is standing right before me?
Do I behave properly in the Beis Midrash?
Do I behave properly in the Beis Knesset?
Do I behave properly at the Kosel?
Do I talk about proper things in the above places?
Did I have excessive levity?
Do I treat religious books with the proper respect?
38.For the sin that we committed before You by being stiff-necked?
Am I unreasonably stubborn?
Do I think that I am always right?
Have I been single-minded and lost my objectivity when I really wanted something?
39.For the sin that we committed before You by running to do evil?
Have I hurried to commit sins?
Was I motivated to do averas?
Do I walk in the proper way?
Did I slow down to say brachos and daven?
Do I run to do mitzvos?
Do I run to the Beis Knesset?
40.For the sin that we committed before You through telling people what others said about them
Have I turned people against each other?
Do I know the laws against richilus?
Do I realize that richilus can destroy a society?
41.For the sin that we committed before You through vain oath taking
Have I sworn oaths in vain?
Have I sworn falsely?
Did I use G-d’s name in trivial ways?
Do I realize how careful I must be with Hashem’s name?
42.For the sin that we committed before You through baseless hatred
Have I hated people, on a personal level, instead of disagreeing on issues?
Have I hated people instead of their evil deeds?
Do I realize that when people sin it is mostly because of confusion and weakness?
43.For the sin that we committed before You in the matter of extending the hand
Have I put forth my hand to help people?
Have I joined hands with wicked people?
Have I stretched forth my hand to the poor and the needy?
44.For the sin that we committed before You through confusion of the heart
Have I not gotten the answer I needed because of laziness?
Have I not worked out issues because of laziness?
Have I not gotten the answer that I needed because I did not want to get the answer?
Do I know what I am living for?
Do I have proper goals?
WHAT DO YOU DO AFTER YOU HAVE FINISHED THE QUESTIONNAIRE?
After you have gone through the list and you find areas of weakness, these are the areas to make your plan on. But please remember, don’t make your plan on every single area of difficulty. Choose the areas that will be the most effective in solving your other problems. Change is a process that doesn’t happen immediately. Don’t choose too many things to work on in your plan. It might just be too overwhelming. (Please see sheets number 12 and 15 for further information on the rate of change and how to do teshuvah). By choosing the areas that are the root problems this will. allow for the greatest success in the teshuva process.
MAKING FINAL PREPARATIONS FOR YOM KIPPUR
Yom Kippur is tomorrow night. The day we have been preparing for is now just around the corner. It is very important to finalize and complete all your preparations in these last few hours left.* One who has prepared well will now taste the fruits of his labors on Yom Kippur.
One who studies Torah in order to teach, Is given the means to study and to teach; and one who studies in order to practice, Is given the means to study and to teach, to observe, and to practice (Perkl Avos 4.6).
This concludes the High Holy Day series. I hope that it has proven helpful in increasing the awareness of the ideas needed to make these important days meaningful and procluctive. Gmar Chasima Tova.
* Even on Yom Kippur itself progress can still be made, even from scratch. But we all know that it would be foolish and reckless to count on this.