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It's Yom Kippur, and this goat wants your sins
The force behind eScapegoat is G-dcast, a San Francisco nonprofit working to making Jewish learning fun.
September 13th, 2013
10:46 AM ET

It's Yom Kippur, and this goat wants your sins

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:

The High Priest took two goats. He sacrificed one and then he laid his hands on the other, transferring the community’s sins into it. Then, he sent the SCAPEGOAT off into the wilderness.

From the goat’s perspective, neither path ended well.

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.

The app gives users the ability to type their confessions in a Twitter-friendly format. (Image courtesy G-dcast)

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.”

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Holidays • Judaism • Social media

soundoff (491 Responses)
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    September 21, 2013 at 5:12 am |
  2. Randy

    Jesus wants u to come to him as you are whether u are gay straight or what ever he wants to save you from your sins, he can heal you from your gay life style because that life style is a sin and ask him to help u with that, he wants to save you sanctify you and baptize you with the Holy Ghost, you have to read the bible for your self, except a man be born again he can't enter the Kingdom of God and you have to live a holy life before him because Heaven is a holy place and not a mustard seed of sin will enter.

    September 19, 2013 at 2:21 pm |
  3. okay

    perverts, our atheists, all one or two of them, who don't work and have no loved ones, nothing to do and are destroyed by bitterness, love to trash various denominations and believers expecting to justify their faith in nogods.

    like racists who point to certain actions of a few of the race they hate.

    September 18, 2013 at 8:01 pm |
  4. julieejulia

    my neighbor's mother makes $75 hourly on the internet. She has been out of a job for seven months but last month her check was $17185 just working on the internet for a few hours. more tips here.....http://x.co/2MvnS

    September 17, 2013 at 2:09 pm |
    • hello

      and all her bosses names are John...

      September 17, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
      • canuckview

        ..and in order for her to earn $17K at $75.00 an hour, she'd have to work 229 hours a month. Hardly "a few hours "...

        September 19, 2013 at 3:33 pm |
  5. Ann

    Well, better an e-goat than a real animal.

    The old testament had some sick stuff in it.

    September 16, 2013 at 10:56 am |
    • hello

      go to the web site Caesar's Messiah and learn some more strange stuff about the bible.

      September 17, 2013 at 5:52 pm |
  6. Yaakov

    From the book 300 times 0 on Amazon

    The concept of Atonement is another point of disagreement between Christianity and Judaism. Christians believe that only the shed blood of the perfect Lamb of God [Jesus] is capable of washing away sin. Besides the logical problems with this concept, such as God creating a world with sin and having everyone go to Hell until after the death of Jesus some 4,000 years after creation, the Hebrew Bible never required human sacrifices for atonement. It is incomprehensible how one can believe that a loving and merciful God would create a world containing sin, yet would not give mankind a way to atone for it until a 4,000 year waiting period was completed for the death of his son. This is tantamount to creating an office building and not putting fire exits in the structure until an actual fire broke out, by then it would be too late. The means [repentance] was built into the very fabric of creation. The fire exits were built, before the office building opened for business. In Judaism, repentance has always been a necessary and accessible means of atonement since the very moment of creation.

    Judaism has always held belief in the biblical concept of Teshuvah, which means “return to God”. When someone is penitent and feels remorse and regret for the sins they have committed, they are immediately returned to favor with God and all their sins are forgiven. To a Jew, the most important question is not “how are we saved?” which is what Christians ask, but how can I best serve my God? As such, God gave the Jewish people 613 commandments to help us improve our lives and build a stronger connection to him. The more we strive to follow the commandments, the closer we come to understanding God and his role in our lives. Let us look at how the Torah instructs both Jews and Gentiles on the proper way to get saved.

    Isaiah 1:16 – Wash, cleanse yourselves, remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes, cease to do evil. Learn to do good, seek justice, strengthen the robbed, perform justice for the orphan, and plead the case of the widow. Come now, let us debate, says the Lord. If your sins prove to be like crimson, they will become white as snow; if they prove to be as red as crimson dye, they shall become as white wool.

    God requires more than just faith; he also requires that we stop doing evil and perform acts of kindness. In fact, Isaiah 3:10 says “Tell the righteous it will be well with them, for they will enjoy the fruit of their deeds”. As Jews, we believe that what we do in this world, directly impacts us in the next which is why God is so concerned with how we live. A Gentile who lives a life of kindness and love for his fellow man is guaranteed a place in Heaven.

    Hosea 14:2 “Take words with you and return [Teshuvah] to the Lord. Say to him: Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously, that we may offer the bulls [sacrifices] of our lips”. Here, Hosea shows us that words enable us to return to the Lord If we ask him to forgive our sins, he will; this is the concept of repentance.

    Psalms 51:16 & 17 “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise”. King David shows us that sacrifices are not needed or wanted; God requires only a broken heart. If one is truly repentant, God always forgives. We do not need anyone’s shed blood to atone for us.

    Hosea 6:6 “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings”. Once again, no sacrifice needed or wanted. God just wants our acknowledgement.

    Jonah 2:1 & 9 “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the Lord”. Again we see that Jonah’s song of thanks to the Lord was considered a sacrifice. God heard his call and saved him.

    Psalms 50:14 “Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me”. God desires the “sacrifices” of prayer and thank offerings for salvation. He does not desire the blood of goats or of men.

    Psalms 40:6 “You take no delight in sacrifices or offerings. Now that you have made me listen, I understand you do not require burnt offerings or sin offerings.” It doesn’t get clearer than this.

    1 Samuel 15:22 “But Samuel replied: "Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams”. Here, Samuel clearly shows that “faith” is only part of the equation. Obeying the voice of the Lord is better than sacrifice.

    The Hebrew word for sacrifice is ‘Korban’ which is a derivative of the word ‘Karov’ meaning to ‘come close’. The concept of sacrifice is not that the blood itself atones for you; the concept of a sacrifice is that you feel remorse that it should have been you that is punished to die, but instead, an innocent animal is being killed because of you. The blood provides a way to help you atone and ‘come closer’ to God. The purpose of the sacrifice was that when you participate in slaughtering an animal, you commit yourself to try and sin-less because you don't want to take another creature’s life. The sacrificial process was designed to develop compassion, remorse and sensitivity in the offender; however, since the intentional sinner is unapologetic and lacks these necessary characteristics, the sacrifice cannot absolve him of guilt. This is why the Bible specifically states that the sacrifices were only for unintentional sins [Leviticus 4:2, 4:13, 4:22, 4:27, 5:15 and 5:18]. This is extremely logical because if someone sins intentionally, knowing full well that they would need to slaughter an animal, they really don’t care that another living creature must die and therefore the sacrifice itself will not expiate the sin.

    The only way to completely atone for intentional sin is through repentance and this is the concept of the sacrifice. Now, blood was the best way for atonement because it required the sinner to play an active role in the sacrificial process by giving up and slaughtering his own animal, however not everyone owned animals which is why God arranged alternate processes to give flour and money as atonement offerings. Exodus 30:15 states “The rich shall give no more, and the poor shall give no less than half a shekel, with which to give the offering to the Lord, to atone for your souls. You shall take the silver of the atonements from the children of Israel and use it for the work of the Tent of Meeting; it shall be a remembrance for the children of Israel before the Lord, to atone for your souls." The fact that the Bible says that the money was atonement for your souls, shows that blood alone was not needed. In addition to money, when people were unable to give an animal they were permitted to use fine flour for the sin expiation process. Leviticus 5:11 “But if he cannot afford two turtle doves or two young doves, then he shall bring as his sacrifice for his sin one tenth of an ephah [measurement] of fine flour for a sin offering. He shall not put oil over it, nor shall he place frankincense upon it, for it is a sin offering. However, the flour and money also only worked when repentance was part of the process. In fact, money is still used as an offering today in conjunction with other forms of repentance. God provided Yom Kippur, the Day

    of Atonement, [Leviticus 16:30] once a year to atone for our sins. We are to afflict our souls by fasting, which is abstinence from eating or drinking for a 25 hour period. The Torah says in the passage that the day itself atones for our sins, once again, only if we are penitent.

    Using this logic, it now becomes crystal clear why all the prophets above said God doesn't need sacrifices. It was because the whole purpose of the sacrifice was only to make you repent, if someone repents than that is truly what God wants. Active participation in the sacrificial process was the means through which the person was able to ‘come close’ to God in order to feel remorse. The concept that Jesus died for the sins of the world, and that the sinner had no part in the atonement process completely contradicts the entire point of the Korban Sacrifice. If however, we actively repent and feel remorse for our transgressions we come close to God through our own actions and do not require an animal sacrifice. Human sacrifice and specifically the sacrifice of the Messiah was never part of the Jewish atonement or salvation process. This concept was born from the integration of other cultures and beliefs into the Christian faith. This has never been part of the Jewish belief system and runs contrary to its very foundation.

    September 15, 2013 at 9:05 pm |
    • What

      Ok, so...you're paragraph or rather page, is ridiculous. Besides ripping verses outta context like a stay at parent searching for coupons, you clearly have a low understanding (if at all) about Christianity and Judaism. CNN, I think honestly, you should make people take a test or something before allowing people to make comments. Just something that says "Yes, I have at least the intelligence of an 18 year old who actually did well in school" before people are able to write on here. Ridiculous. Now someone's going to read this guy's page and go "Oh, well how about that, never knew that before," and do you know why? Because it's not real. This guy has no idea what he's talking about and yet he gets to ramble on. Well...I'm done reading your crappy reports and comment sections CNN, you've successfully turned another educated person away, and what do you care honestly, every time you turn away someone who understands logic and reason, you bring in 10 more lowly people with degrees from state college (I mean, "yes, they're ph.ds, but from state college??? that shouldn't really count, or at least should be considered the equivalent of a masters degree at a good school).

      September 16, 2013 at 7:48 am |
      • Yaakov

        @What, so please tell me what part of my post doesn't make sense? I'm curious to hear specifically what you disagree with. By the way, I'm the author of the book 300 Times 0 who studied for 16 years to be an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi so I would hope I know a thing or two about Judaism.
        Yaakov.

        September 16, 2013 at 10:47 am |
        • sam stone

          what makes you think man is sinful?

          September 17, 2013 at 7:12 pm |
      • hello

        go to the web site Caesar's Messiah for interesting info on the bible.

        September 17, 2013 at 6:01 pm |
      • Karl

        Your book is as boring as all religious text so yay good job you did it. I read the first 12 words and moved on. Just like the critics of your book. If any even bothered

        September 20, 2013 at 8:24 pm |
  7. naturechaplain

    Good wishes for the holyday to Jewish friends. And. . .justice for E-Goats! Unfortunately, as a former Christian, well acquainted with sin and confession and the whole bloody business of sacrifice to appease Someone who thinks that shows "love," I question the whole ancient story, all the animals killed, all the trees cut down (for temples and churches and crosses and "holy books") and all the human beings left to feel separated again and again from the universe, Nature, each other and their "gods." Anyway, this is all debatable and somehow people need to get along, faith or no faith. So, once again, a good Yom Kippur to those who believe it.

    September 14, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
    • william mason

      Si­nce I st­ar­t­ed fre­­el­anci­­ng I'v­e be­en br­in­gin­g i­n $­9­0 bu­ck­­s/h… I s­i­­t a­­t ho­m­e a­n­d i a­m do­in­g m­­y wo­rk fr­om m­y la­pt­op. Th­℮ be­st th­ing i­s th­a­t i g­­et mo­­re ti­­me t­­o sp­­e­­nt wi­th m­y fa­mily a­n­d wi­th m­y ki­ds a­nd i­n th­­e sa­me ti­me i ca­n e­a­rn en­oug­h t­o su­pp­­ort them... Y­ou c­a­n d­o i­t t­oo. St­­art her­e-­-­-­-­>g­i­­g­­2­­5­.­­­ℴ­

      September 15, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
  8. Sue

    In that case, "we don't know." is a good answer, not "we are certain that a god did it".

    However, we can certainly conclude that the Christian god does not exist, since Christian doctrine is multiply wrong, and internally inconsistent and self-contradictory.

    September 14, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
    • hello

      Sue you might like to visit the web Site Caesar's Messiah...

      September 17, 2013 at 6:03 pm |
  9. Txjew

    Talkabout lazy. Science never claims absolute truth. There is conditional truth or proximate truth. The Big Bang is as close to the truth as science can get (so far). Karl popper would even say a fact is useful, rather than true. If an atheist is claiming absolute truth, then he is making a religious claim, not a scientific one.

    September 14, 2013 at 5:17 pm |
  10. jojo

    Scapegoating is immoral

    September 14, 2013 at 2:27 pm |
    • hello

      Read the book Caesar's Messiah by Joseph Atwill for the details on the bible and that scapegoat stuff too. How the Roman Flavian family plagiarized the jewish myth to make their Christian myth and why.

      September 17, 2013 at 6:06 pm |
  11. Hell and destruction are never full

    :)

    September 14, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
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