September 13th, 2013
10:46 AM ET
By Jessica Ravitz, CNN
(CNN) – Calling all Jews! Your confessional clock is ticking.
With Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement – starting at sunset Friday (and ending the following night), this is your last chance to wipe your slates clean of the wrongs you’ve committed over the past year.
Oh, sure, you’ll be able to participate in a communal confession of sins Saturday in synagogue. But we know as well as you do that your community won’t hear everything you did.
It’s time to fess up.
Blending ancient tradition with modern innovation, there’s a newish Jewish Web app to help you lighten the load of guilt and spill your bad deeds. It’s called eScapegoat, and the whimsical tool lets you type your confessions in a Twitter-friendly format and see others’ also.
Best of all, you can remain utterly anonymous. Rabbis might call this cheating. We’re having too much fun to care.
“I claimed the soup was vegan. It wasn’t,” wrote one sinner.
“I yell at people from my car, even if they aren’t driving poorly,” shared another.
“I am hot with shame that my son only has a brown belt in his Kung Fu training,” said a third.
The force behind this endeavor is G-dcast, a San Francisco nonprofit committed to making Jewish learning fun through animated videos, apps and more.
The organization’s name, if anyone’s confused, is written this way because in the Jewish tradition it’s considered a no-no to write the name of God – hence the hyphen.
Calling the Web app eScapegoat is a play on a practice observed during biblical times when the Temple still stood in Jerusalem and sacrifices were offered for atonement.
Here’s how it worked way back then during what we now know as Yom Kippur, according to the confessional tool:
You, dear friends, can’t rely on some wandering, set-up-to-die goat to do your bidding – which is why you are commanded to make public confessions in synagogue during Yom Kippur.
But that doesn’t mean burdens can’t be laid on a virtual goat, too. Right?
The Web app was launched on August 9 during the first week of Elul, the month on the Jewish calendar that precedes the High Holy Days – which start with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and end 10 days later with Yom Kippur.
Elul is the time when Jews traditionally self-reflect, look back on their year, take stock of how they behaved and think about what they can do better.
And if they can replace “crappy mobile device time with meaningful mobile device time,” all the better, said Sarah Lefton, G-dcast’s executive director and producer.
By Thursday night, nearly 5,000 confessions had been “laid on the goat,” Lefton reported. And nearly 21,000 “goaters,” or Web app visitors, had stopped by.
A compilation of some of G-dcast’s favorite sins, so far, also were released as the eScapegoat approached his final hours.
Someone at G-dcast set out to categorize the kinds of sins that were coming in earlier this week. The resulting themes, Lefton said, generally focused on lying, Internet use, anger, gossip, lack of time spent with loved ones and cheating.
Some of the confessions have been downright heavy.
“I should have had the baby,” one wrote, according to Lefton.
“I was never in love with my fiancée and should have told her,” said another on the Twitter account set up to list sins, aptly named @Sinfulgoat.
Also spotted was the one who wrote in, “For cutting, starving and disrespecting my body.”
Did Lefton, 40, and the others expect such seriousness?
“No. I didn’t. At all,” she said. “But the generation after me is so into oversharing, so it shouldn’t surprise me. But it still does.”
Another surprise has been the number of confessions directly related to Judaism. Several illustrated the tensions some Jews face this time of year.
“My family is no longer interested in practicing Judaism. I resent them for it. I feel they’ve taken something from me,” wrote one person.
“I’m sorry for all the sins I committed that I didn’t even know were sins because I lost touch with my Judaism,” another said.
And a third: “I am going to Las Vegas on Yom Kippur … That cannot be good …”
Lefton doesn’t want anyone thinking eScapegoat is a substitute for the real deal.
“This Web app is in no way trying to replace public confession,” she said. “We designed it as a lighthearted warm-up for the Day of Atonement. But if people are getting something more profound out of it, that’s great.”
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