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    Ashamnu & the alphabet – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. Why are the Yom Kippur confessions in Ashamnu listed in alphabetical order?

    A. In the days before printed prayer books, it was an aid to memory.

    Another possibility is that it tells us that sins occur from aleph to tav, from A to Z.

    But there are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet, and 24 sins in Ashamnu – one sin for each letter, plus two more for the last letter, tav.

    We do not know why the extra two were added, but there may be some significance in the fact that the number of books in the T’nach, according to the Jewish enumeration, is 24.

    This might not tell us anything about the range of human sin, but it does suggest that the antidote to sin is to be found in living by the 24 Books with their emphasis on revering God and doing His will.

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