Remember the post “Praying the Alphabet” from two weeks ago? Several people have told me how much that has helped them and I’m so glad. I find I need to discover new ways to give thanks because I tend to get in a rut and say the same things over and over. “Thank you, God, for my family and friends, my house and food and clothes, and for Your love.” I wonder if God gets bored listening to me. Using the alphabet forces me to be grateful for some things I wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. “Thank you, God, for my Arms, for Babies, and for Cheese…”
We’ll end this week’s study by putting a twist on using the alphabet to help us in another aspect of prayer.
The Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur, was considered the most important high and holy day in the Jewish faith. It was the one day each year when the high priest went into the Holy of Holies to ask for forgiveness on behalf of the Israelites. A rope was tied to the ankle of the high priest, just in case he died in the presence of God, so he could be dragged out of the inner chamber. Approaching the mercy seat was serious business.
Still today, Yom Kippur includes a 24 hour fast and day-long services at the synagogue. Leading up to the Day of Atonement, there are ten days of introspection and repentance for sins, both individual and corporate. Ten days is a long stretch to keep coming up with sins to confess, so according to Jewish tradition, they use the Aleph-Bet to guide them in their penitence.
When asked why the confession of sins was to be done in alphabetical order, Rabbi Yizak of Vorki (1779–1848) answered, “If it were otherwise, we should not know when to stop beating our breasts. For there is no end to sin, and no end to the awareness of sin, but there IS an end to the alphabet!”
I confess that my confessions sound just as repetitive as my thanksgivings sometimes do. “I’m sorry, Lord, for eating too much, for general laziness, and for using snarky, sarcastic words. Again today.” Ho-hum. Perhaps alphabetizing my transgressions will force me to be sorry for some things I wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. “Forgive me, Lord, for my Attitude, for being Bossy, for Criticizing the way PB makes the bed…”
Now I see why there are ten days to prepare for the Day of Atonement. Thank goodness it only comes around once a year. At least I know that when I finally get to confessing my lack of zeal, I can stop. Until next time.