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Before Day of Atonement, confess sins to a digital goat

The Web site eScapegoating lets you anonymously share your sins with the digital world. It's like PostSecret for the Yom Kippur set.

Screenshot by Leslie Katz/CNET

In Biblical times, Jews would cast away their sins once a year by ceremonially transferring them to a goat. Most people are way less likely to stumble upon a goat in daily life in 2013 (at least on the streets of San Francisco), but a cute Internet-dwelling cartoon variety has appeared to help bear the burden.

"Atone with the eScapegoat," declares the Web app of the same name. "Like in Biblical times, only nerdier!"

Created by G-dcast, a San Francisco-based media production company aimed at raising Jewish literacy through whimsical interactive technology, eScapegoat collects anonymous confessions submitted by digital visitors. It then broadcasts them on the site, along with entertaining illustrations, passing some along to the @sinfulgoat Twitter feed. Think of it as a PostSecret for the Yom Kippur set.

"I missed work to watch all of 'Breaking Bad' in a sleep-deprived 4-day weekend," reads one confession on the site. Reads another, "Sometimes I hire a babysitter just so I can go sit in my car."

The site has been plenty busy in the days leading up to the Jewish New Year on Wednesday, which kicked off the Days of Awe, a 10-day period of introspection leading up to the Day of Atonement. During the lead-up to that day, which begins at sunset on September 13, Jews repent for transgressions of the year past, a process that includes asking forgiveness from anyone they have wronged.

"The eScapegoat is roaming the Internet collecting sins before Yom Kippur," reads the home of the blinking goat with brown and blue horns. To the tune of thousands, in fact.

Some of the confessions are amusing ("I still have 3 percent of my brain that sincerely believes I have a chance to live a long, happy life with Ryan Gosling"), but just as many touch on the more serious side of things ("I'm sorry that I harbor so much hatred," "I ended my marriage in a way that I shouldn't have," "I purposely abandoned my friend in her time of need").

All told, the chronicle of human transgressions paint an honest, and comprehensive, picture of all the ways humans can go astray. And while eScapegoating's creators largely view their project as a fun way to teach about the original scapegoat's role in ancient atonement, at least one rabbi finds the digital creature valuable in a real-world sense.

"Reading the @SinfulGoat Twitter Feed is a reminder of our imperfections, admittance of wrongdoing & longing for way back on the right path," Rabbi Jesse Olitsky tweeted.

eScapegoat isn't the first time confessing has intersected with social media. (Who could forget when following the pope on Twitter could cut your time in purgatory?) But if you're looking to see your sins scroll through Twitter on Thursday, do note that the goat is taking a break from tweeting to mark Rosh Hashanah.

Screenshot by Leslie Katz/CNET