Yom Kippur Scapegoat Activity

private mistakes are written underneath

private mistakes are written underneath

Boy, did I hesitate posting this one. “Scapegoat” seems to be one of those code words that bring out the religiously, um, fervent faster than you can say “proselytize.” Context and intention are everything. I just want to help introduce the bizarre concept of the Yom Kippur scapegoat to appropriately aged children and to tweak the idea to be a useful tool for teshuvah. (What’s teshuvah? My working definition is “turning” toward the right path and good behavior as we assess our deeds of the past year. The goal is to be the best [insert own name here] we can be.)

Consider this an enrichment activity for kids who are exploring Yom Kippur liturgy or studying the parsha Acharei Mot.

Basically, we stick our leftover mistakes* onto a goat which will be “sent away.”  Sure, we could just write something on a post-it note and press it on a goat poster, but little “Al Chet” slips slapped onto sticky, sticky Con-Tact paper are far more satisfying, and private as well. Don’t nobody know what’s written on the opposite side: not even the goat.

The scapegoat in the liturgy isn’t a individual thing, it’s a community thing. So, this would be a good activity for a school meeting or a classroom. Participants write at least one way they “missed the mark” in the last year.

Here’s the plan:

Kids (and adults) write their mistake on the back of slips of paper labelled “Al Chet,” which means missed mark (Hebrew analog for “sin”). This ties in to teaching kids about the Vidui section of the Yom Kippur liturgy, with all that weird and unforgettable chest beating.

Feel free to print my PDF template of Al Chet slips. It’s just a Word label template with Al Chet repeated in three columns. Cut the strips apart and tell kids to write on the blank side. (If they can’t write that small, then they might be too young for the whole scapegoat concept.)

Meanwhile, you have created a large, sticky goat. Of course.
This can be done in several ways. You need a paper goat outline with a cut-out belly backed with adhesive Con-Tact paper with the sticky side out. I drew a goat on poster board, painted it, cut out its innards and flipped it over to stick contact paper onto the back. Then, I backed this with another board (smeared with the same color paint). The brown shows through, but the sticky bits are on top, exposed. See another goat-making option below.

Each person walks up to the scapegoat and pushes his or her slip into the sticky Con-Tact paper. The personal missed mark is STUCK to the paper. It’s private. Only the generic “Al Chet” is visible. Soon, the goat will be covered in slips, all reading “Al Chet.”

cutout top layer, color bottom layer

cutout top layer, color bottom layer

Take a moment to enjoy the spectacle: visual evidence of a group working together as individuals who want to move through the new year as better people. Beautiful. The fact that it is on a paper goat is all the more reason to marvel. What a strange and fascinating history we share.

Then, the goat must be “sent away.” How to send away a Contact Paper goat?  And where is “away?” We can’t litter. Nor should we send it to the landfill. If we feed it into a shredder, is that “away?” Can we shove it in the recycle bin? (I’ve written to the Con-Tact people to find out if their transparent rolls are recyclable, and I’ll update this post when they respond. Fingers crossed.)

One solution is to take the goat and give it to a helper who will ceremoniously take it “away:” out of the room, out of sight, out of recovery. Later, you can recycle it in private.

ConTact paper is irresistible

ConTact paper is irresistible

*Remember, if we hurt someone in the last year, we’ve already gone to them to apologize and make restitution. We’ve had weeks to do this before Yom Kippur. The scapegoat doesn’t take care of that kind of work for us!

Other goat option: 1) Draw the goat outline and cut a piece of ConTact paper to cover the parts you like to be sticky. Glue the back of the ConTact paper to your poster, then peel to reveal the sticky side. (Some glues won’t hold the slick back of contact paper, but they might hold it enough for this project.) Trouble is, you can still see the background of the backing. This would bug me.
Is there such a thing as two-sided adhesive ConTact paper?

eScapegoat app from G-dCast
Scapegoat ritual from MyJewishLearning.com
Yom Kippur All Year Long from MyJewishLearning.com

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