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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)
  1. BiblesMakeGoodTP

    1...2...3......YAAAAAAY JEEEWS! (well they are the chosen ones you know...)

    September 13, 2013 at 5:09 pm |
  2. Aanity

    foolish humans defy Tiamat. your time will come heretics...

    September 13, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      My time came when I was watching Phoebe Cates in FT@RH.

      September 13, 2013 at 5:09 pm |
      • God

        I saw.

        September 13, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
  3. Apple Bush

    Yom Kippur is better than Phoebe Cates taking her top off in FT@RH.

    September 13, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      Yom Kippur is better than Whhhhhheeeeeeet Thins.

      September 13, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
  4. Apple Bush

    Yom Kippur is better than Wendy cooking your hamburger personally in nothing but an apron, pigtails in.

    September 13, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
    • Rational Thought

      To be honest, I pretend not to notice every time Wendy slips those juicy bacon slices between the lettuce and the tomatoes.

      September 13, 2013 at 5:55 pm |
  5. children of Israel

    Come out of the matrix, Satan is using sound waves, and bright shiny things to blind you, the Devil feeds off emotions. The truth makes you free. (Exodus 13:15)

    September 13, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
    • Ken

      I'd say that all belief in gods plays on people's emotions, causing them to put aside their better judgment and accept things that they normally wouldn't.

      September 13, 2013 at 5:04 pm |
      • Apple Bush

        Ken, the word we use for that is stupidity.

        September 13, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
      • Ken

        I use to be a believer, but I don't think that I was "stupid" back then. I did live Jesus though, and I think that's how they hook most people. They teach you to love Jesus like he was a real person, actually love him better than every real person you know, including your family. Once that's in place, you tend to reject any criticism of Jesus outright, more than you would any real person you love. It makes an excellent firewall to reasonable arguments against the belief in Christ.

        September 13, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
      • Apple Bush

        Ken, again, there is a word for that. Stupidity. I never shared your stupidity. Never believed. Not necessary. People can think for themselves if they wish.

        September 13, 2013 at 5:34 pm |
    • BiblesMakeGoodTP

      Jesus was a black dude was a very special man...
      Jesus was a black dude, not a skinny white guy with a tan...

      Fiction...you gotta love it!

      September 13, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
      • Apple Bush

        IF he existed, he would have been whatever color Palestinian dudes are. Closer to black than white I think.

        September 13, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
  6. Apple Bush

    Yom Kippur is better than working the bottom of the slide at the water park. Someone has to retrieve those tops.

    September 13, 2013 at 4:57 pm |
  7. Apple Bush

    Yom Kippur is better than being the little brother of the head cheerleader.

    September 13, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
  8. Apple Bush

    God, who is God is Jesus, who is the lamb of God who is God and a Ghost who is Jesus who is God.

    September 13, 2013 at 4:52 pm |
    • TXJew

      So Christianity has 1.5 billion followers, dominates the American calendar, the airwaves, and has access to virtually every aspect of people's lives, but Christians still have to find a little Jewish story and need mark it with their "Jesus" scent like a crazed alpha-dog in heat?

      September 13, 2013 at 5:01 pm |
      • Apple Bush

        Yes, I believe so.

        September 13, 2013 at 5:04 pm |
      • BiblesMakeGoodTP

        It's all part of the big stupid program of stupidity that we like to call....

        MONO-THEISM

        September 13, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
  9. Apple Bush

    Is Yom Kippur better than pleasuring yourself in a warm waterfall with no one around for miles? (or perhaps a secret admirer?)

    September 13, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
  10. children of Israel

    Satan loves signs and symbols, like doing math and learning science. The most high God and his people read and write. (Numbers 24:17) *Numbers 24:19 Out of Jacob..

    September 13, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      Satan loves my Appletini.

      September 13, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
  11. Reality # 2

    The real sinners, 1.5 million Conservative Jews (~10% of the world's Jewish population) and their rabbis and their sin?

    In their New Torah for Modern Minds (The Tree of Life), they state:

    “Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses.

    (prob•a•bly
    Adverb: Almost certainly; as far as one knows or can tell).

    September 13, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      Agreed. Modern minds will not be accepted.

      September 13, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
    • TXJew

      I missed the part of Torah that declares honesty a sin. It's Plato who endorses the "noble lie."

      September 13, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
  12. Apple Bush

    Ken wasn’t sure which way to turn at the next corner. If he turned left to go north he would eventually find the mountains. South took him right by the check point. There was no way to continue straight. East was a brick wall; the Christians ones.

    September 13, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
  13. rh

    One thing I don't get. If *He* knows you mean *God*, and *you* know you mean *God*, but you put in a "-" for o & d, are you really fooling him into thinking that you aren't taking his name in vain?

    I mean seriously, that is up there with skinning the sacrificial offering, and putting the entrails all fancied up with the skin and head, and then putting the meat in an unappetizing presentation, and then your God says "Hey, yeah, I want the nice looking stuff" and gets duped.

    September 13, 2013 at 4:32 pm |
  14. Happy Yom Kippur!

    Fasting, Praying and Repenting!!! What a blessed way to ring in the New Year! 🙂

    Much better than watching the ball drop, kissing and creating some champagne fizz! 😦

    September 13, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      It's a lot better than making love to Melissa Milano.

      September 13, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
    • Sefora

      Blessed Yom Kippur!

      💐

      September 13, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
    • lroy

      Christianity came out of Judaism, basically (Jesus was a Jew...so was his mom; all the apostles were Jews). Christians read the Old Testament including the Torah (first five books..."Good Educators Love Notre Dame").

      This is like REALLY WEIRD stories I have read that Catholics "supposedly" write their sins on a piece of paper and the priest burns them...sorry folks, doesn't happen that way either. Either way, the moral is try not to sin in the first place.

      September 13, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
  15. children of Israel

    Will the world let mankind put a chip in them like a dog? (Exodus 11:7)

    September 13, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
  16. Eric Price

    Whats the guy doing with the goat? There is only one reason for pushing a goat up to the edge of a cliff and that is so they push back.

    September 13, 2013 at 4:14 pm |
  17. Mike

    nonsense – more fairy tails

    September 13, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
    • 616

      "tails"?

      You are a twit.

      September 13, 2013 at 4:08 pm |
      • He's Dead Jim

        Sometimes, the best things in life come in the form of a four letter word... twit. I read it five minutes ago and I'm still chuckling.

        September 13, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
    • Lisa

      If you get excited by fairy tails then you don't have very much to brag about, do you?

      September 13, 2013 at 5:17 pm |
      • 616

        Why are all of the pseudo-intellectuals focused on the backsides of Feys? Are they that stupid?

        September 13, 2013 at 7:05 pm |
  18. Honey Badger Don't Care

    “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.

    Continued...

    "because it is so F'ing stupid to believe in this nonsense."

    September 13, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
    • Apple Bush

      It is not nonsense if you don't believe that it is true on the fact of the matter but not true where one needs to restore faith in the coming belief system of a future that will need falsehood as much as truth for balance BUT not to the point of admitting guilt.

      September 13, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
  19. Lisa

    Isn't Jesus just the Christian version of a scape goat?

    September 13, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
    • Honey Badger Don't Care

      Yes, pretty much.

      God sacrificed himself, to himself in order to create a loophole in a system that he himself created.

      In other words, we-tod-id.

      September 13, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
    • ME II

      Yes

      September 13, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
    • Meredith S.

      He is the Lamb of God.

      September 13, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
      • Lisa

        Lambs, goats, it was all the same for the shepherds back then. Stew! 🙂

        September 13, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.