Adapted from my sermon at MSU’s Hillel on Yom Kippur

  • I'm sorry I spanked a homeless person with a spoon
  • Sometimes I pass gas near a group of my students and let them blame each other.
  • Thanks to my road rage, my 3 year old daughter has learned an impressive assortment of curse words.

I did not write these. I did, however, produce the app they were submitted to. It was a project for my company, G-dcast.

The app, eScapegoat, got some great press on everywhere from NPR to CNN to the WSJ. It kicked off a month and ten days before Yom Kippur at the beginning of Elul, and sent the user through these screens:


It asked people to share a secret. Something they’re sorry for, and have had a tough time admitting to and telling others. We didn’t know what to expect.

From @SinfulGoat, I tweeted 100’s of the sins people had entered, sorting through the chaff of thousands. While sorting, I was amazed by just how many people go through the same self doubt and issues that I do.

  • I stopped praying sometime last year. Over a year ago. I just started again a few days ago. It felt like cheating.
  • I have lied to my husband about the state of our finances.
  • Feel like a horrible mom sometimes.
  • I cheated at Words with Friends

As I read through confession after confession, certain themes came out. For instance:

  • I cheated on my boyfriend and then lied about the severity of it
  • I'm sorry that I sometimes put down my husband and act pedantic.
  • I blame men when I don’t want to date them when actually I am the problem
  • I cheated on the only man who ever truly loved me.
  • I was never in love with my fiancée and I should have told her.
  • I'm sorry I didn't leave my wife earlier then I did.... I found a woman who appreciates me for who I am
  • I'm sorry that I gave my ex-wife such a hard time.

The confessions ranged from the lighthearted:

  • I brushed my teeth with my friend's toothbrush and then lied about it to her.
  • My sister and I stole our bubbe’s false teeth to make maracas.
  • I'm sorry for becoming a Pinterest addict.

To the incredibly dark:

  • I still need to atone for when I was ten and told a girl who had just lost her dad to "Drop dead like your dad."
  • I lied about the rape. Now it's part if my personal narrative and I can't undo the lie.
  • I’m sorry I couldn’t put my family back together (and didn’t really try)

The majority of sins were sent in over and over again with shifted phrasing by different people. We all go through these same inner torments but keep it bottled up. Yom Kippur asks us to let it out. To share in how we all have the same struggles.

  • I lied to a friend to avoid going to his party.
  • I'm sorry that I have gained so much weight.
  • I'm sorry that I whined so much, especially when my life is really excellent.
  • I'm sorry that I give in to despair instead of taking action

The project evolved into something greater than the sum of its parts and made me acknowledge how we are all going through these same struggles, and don’t need to go through them alone. The undercurrent of so many of the sins surprised me: Not being open with those around you. The point of Elul and Yom Kippur is not to admit to sins anonymously. It’s to take the time to go to those you know and set it right,  clean the air. You’re not really atoning unless you make the pact to never do the sin again. The difficulty in apologizing isn’t admitting to it, but in making a conscious choice to shift your behavior.

  • I skipped classes during school simply so I could stay home and have a Netflix marathon
  • I sometimes put the phone down when talking to my mom. She chats away and doesn't know I'm not listening.
  • I almost never answer the phone when my dad calls, even though I always cash the checks he send me. Sorry

It’s incredibly hard to promise to not do something again. It’s why we come back to this every year.

Finding a way to truly unload is an age old struggle, dating back long before anyone dreamed up the scapegoat 1,000’s of years ago. We all have problems that pull at us. So many times, what makes it a struggle, is the decision to take it on alone. To keep it bottled in. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The act of atoning is the act of opening up.


We asked people to share a secret. A confession. I learned a lot sorting through them, but for me, there was one big take away:

More than anything, aspire to be as open as possible with those you love (and those you don’t yet know you love).

That’s the secret I hope to take away.

Gmar Chatima Tova.

May you all be Inscribed in the Book of Life.

All Illustrations in this post created by

Madelyn Lee

for the eScapegoat project. And as long as we're on the subject, check out 


, if you're ever looking for a quality web app programmer. Coming up with the idea, marketing the app and testing and tweaking it was a collaborative effort of the entire


team. I coordinated a lot of the spinning plates, but this was a massive collaborative undertaking where so many people made such a major difference. I'm inclined to do an entire other post walking through the process of its creation. We'll see.

Judaism, SpeakingJeremy Shuback