We Have Sinned: Sin and Confession in Judaism-Ashamnu and Al Chet


A varied and fascinating look at sin, confession and pardon in Judaism.

Through a series of lively introductions and commentaries, almost forty contributors—men and women, scholars, rabbis, theologians and poets, representing all Jewish denominations—examine the history of confession in Judaism, its roots in the Bible, its evolution in rabbinic and modern thought, and the very nature of confession for men and women today.

Featuring the ...

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We Have Sinned: Sin and Confession in Judaism - Ashamnu and Al Chet

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A varied and fascinating look at sin, confession and pardon in Judaism.

Through a series of lively introductions and commentaries, almost forty contributors—men and women, scholars, rabbis, theologians and poets, representing all Jewish denominations—examine the history of confession in Judaism, its roots in the Bible, its evolution in rabbinic and modern thought, and the very nature of confession for men and women today.

Featuring the traditional prayers—provided in the original Hebrew and a new and annotated translation—this third volume in the Prayers of Awe series explores the relevance of confession today in what is bound to be the most up-to-date, comprehensive and insightful reconsideration of sin and confession in Judaism.


Rabbi Tony Bayfield, CBE, DD (Lambeth) • Rabbi Will Berkovitz • Dr. Annette M. Boeckler • Dr. Marc Zvi Brettler • Dr. Erica Brown • Rabbi Lawrence A. Englander, DHL • Lisa Exler • Rabbi Elyse D. Frishman • Rabbi Shoshana Boyd Gelfand • Rabbi Edwin Goldberg • Rabbi Andrew Goldstein, PhD • Dr. Joel M. Hoffman, PhD • Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman, PhD • Rabbi Walter Homolka, PhD, DHL • Rabbi Delphine Horvilleur • Rabbi Elie Kaunfer • Rabbi Reuven Kimelman, PhD • Rabbi Lawrence Kushner • Rabbi Noa Kushner • Rabbi Daniel Landes • Rabbi Ruth Langer, PhD • Catherine Madsen • Rabbi Jonathan Magonet, PhD • Rabbi Dalia Marx, PhD • Ruth Messinger • Charles H. Middleburgh, PhD • Rabbi Jay Henry Moses • Rabbi Aaron D. Panken, PhD • Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin, DMin • Rabbi Marc Saperstein, PhD • Rabbi Jonathan P. Slater, DMin • Rabbi David A. Teutsch, PhD • Dr. Ellen M. Umansky • Rabbi Margaret Moers Wenig, DD • Dr. Ron Wolfson • Rabbi Daniel G. Zemel • Dr. Wendy Zierler

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781580236126
  • Publisher: Jewish Lights Publishing
  • Publication date: 8/1/2012
  • Series: Prayers of Awe Series
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 250
  • Sales rank: 1,143,315
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman, PhD, has served for more than three decades as professor of liturgy at Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion in New York. He is a world-renowned liturgist and holder of the Stephen and Barbara Friedman Chair in Liturgy, Worship and Ritual. His work combines research in Jewish ritual, worship and spirituality with a passion for the spiritual renewal of contemporary Judaism.

He has written and edited many books, including All the World: Universalism, Particularism and the High Holy Days; May God Remember: Memory and Memorializing in Judaism—Yizkor, We Have Sinned: Sin and Confession in Judaism—Ashamnu and Al Chet, Who by Fire, Who by Water—Un'taneh Tokef, and All These Vows—Kol Nidre, the first five volumes in the Prayers of Awe series; the My People's Prayer Book: Traditional Prayers, Modern Commentaries series, winner of the National Jewish Book Award; and he is coeditor of My People's Passover Haggadah: Traditional Texts, Modern Commentaries (all Jewish Lights), a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award.

Rabbi Hoffman is a developer of Synagogue 3000, a transdenominational project designed to envision and implement the ideal synagogue of the spirit for the twenty-first century.

Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman, PhD, is available to speak on the following topics:

  • A Day of Wine and Moses: The Passover Haggadah and the Seder You Have Always Wanted
  • Preparing for the High Holy Days: How to Appreciate the Liturgy of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur
  • The Essence of Jewish Prayer: The Prayer Book in Context and Worship in Our Time
  • Beyond Ethnicity: The Coming Project for North American Jewish Identity
  • Synagogue Change: Transforming Synagogues as Spiritual and Moral Centers for the Twenty-First Century

Click here to contact the author.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Part I Sin and Confession in Judaism: From the Bible to Today

The Liturgy of Confession: What It Is and Why We Say It Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman 3

From Penitence to Nobility: Modes of Jewish Piety Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman 13

Sin, Sanction, and Confession in the Bible Dr. Marc Zvi Brettler 32

The Problem of Repentance: A Dilemma in Late Medieval Sephardic Preaching Rabbi Marc Saperstein 39

Six Understandings of Confession for Our Time Dr. Annette M. Boeckler 46

Al Chet in Israeli Culture: Israeli Confessions over Everything Rabbi Dalia Marx 60

Part II Ashamnu and Al Chet: The Yom Kippur Liturgy of Confession

Editor's Introduction Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman 91

Translator's Introduction Dr. Joel M. Hoffman 92

Annotated Translation Dr. Joel M. Hoffman 94

A Preamble to Confession (Ki Anu Amekha, "For We Are Your People") 94

B Vidui Zuta: The Short Confession (Ashamnu, "We Have Been Guilty …") 96

C Vidui Rabbah: The Long Confession (Al Chet, "For the Sin …") 98

Part III Ashamnu and Al Chet: As Prayer Book Editors See Them

Finding Ourselves in God Rabbi Elyse D. Frishman 111

Multiplying the Sins Rabbi Andrew Goldstein 115

For the Sin of "Unattempted Loveliness" Rabbi Edwin Goldberg 119

Manifesting as Jews Rabbi Jonathan Magonet 123

From Staid Sins of Yesteryear to Wrongdoings of Today Rabbi Charles H. Middleburgh 128

"Our Sins? They're Not All Mine!" Rabbi David A. Teutsch 134

Part IV Ashamnu and Al Chet: Interpretations for Today

We Are All Unrepentant Humanists Rabbi Tony Bayfield 141

Forgiving God Rabbi Will Berkovitz 146

For the Sin of … Poor Leadership Dr. Erica Brown 150

We Can't Really Be That Evil! Rabbi Lawrence A. Englander 155

We Have Sinned: T'shuvah in a Globalized World Lisa Exler Ruth Messinger 160

The Power of Words: Radical Creation, Radical Atonement Rabbi Shoshana Boyd Gelfand 164

What We Learn from Having So Many Sins Dr. Joel M. Hoffman 168

From First Confession to Perfection of Character Rabbi Walter Homolka 171

The Jewish "ABC Song" Rabbi Delphine Horvilleur 176

Aval Chatanu ("But / In Truth, We Have Sinned"): A Literary Investigation Rabbi Elie Kaunfer 181

Confession and Its Discontents Rabbi Reuven Kimelman 186

On Hitting Yourself Rabbi Lawrence Kushner 191

What We Do Not Know Rabbi Noa Kushner 196

Vidui and Its Halakhic Contexts Rabbi Daniel Landes 199

Putting the Performance of the Vidui in Its Context Rabbi Ruth Langer 205

Back to Zero Catherine Madsen 210

Secrets and Silence: The Hidden Power of the Un-confessional Vidui Rabbi Jay Henry Moses 214

The Remembrance of Things Past (and Future), Private (and Public) Rabbi Aaron D. Panken 218

Can "Sin" Be Redeemed? New Metaphors for an Old Problem Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin 222

"Later He Realizes His Guilt" Rabbi Jonathan P. Slater 227

Some Are Guilty, All Are Responsible Dr. Ellen M. Umansky 232

Sin, Confession, and … Forgiveness? Rabbi Margaret Moers Wenig 235

Percussing the Heart Dr. Ron Wolfson 240

Al Chet Shechatanu: Collectively We Own Them All Rabbi Daniel G. Zemel 242

Trying to Say Something, Something: Magnolia and Confession Dr. Wendy Zierler 246

Appendix A The Personal Prayers of the Rabbis (Talmud, Berakhot 16b-17a) 251

Appendix B Confessions of the Rabbis (Talmud, Yoma 87b) 254

Notes 256

Glossary 270

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