[In the interest of making people's Yom Kippur more meaningful, I translated the Chayei Adam (R' Avraham Danzig of Vilna, early 19th century) explanation of the twenty-four terms in the Vidui Ashamnu, the shorter confession of sins. This effort is particularly necessary for users of the Birnbaum machzor, in light of its poor translation of this section (it only translates half of the verbs). This can easily be reformatted in a word processor to fit two sides of a single sheet. --J. Baker]The confessor must at least understand what he is saying and say the confession slowly. It is better to say the Ashamnu once with intent than to say it thrice quickly without intent. Furthermore, the words of the confession as decreed by the earlier ones appear redundant and are not clearly understood by every person. Therefore I have written their meaning as I have gathered from the books of the medieval authorities. This confession, the Ashamnu, was ordained by those poskim who decided that one need not enumerate each of his sins. Therefore they decreed to say the categories of evil acts which have been categorized by the children of Israel as derogatory. Since the sinner is negatively affected in attributes described by all 22 letters used in the Torah, it was constructed alphabetically, so a person will describe each sin under each letter, as in "Ashamnu [we have been guilty]: Achalti davar isur [I have eaten nonkosher food], and similarly for all of them.
ASHAMNU: we have been guilty, as is written (Hosea 5) "until they are made guilty and seek My face", using the language of "that soul became guilty" The Ramban explains the word in the Torah as a word of desolation, that the soul is worthy of being desolate and destroyed. We should also include here that I ate forbidden things, carcasses, nonkosher meat, bugs, worms (and it is known that in this world, no person can avoid having eaten bugs, or he may have eaten meat and then realized afterwards that it was nonkosher, or eaten wormy vegetables - this is tantamount to eating them intentionally. It is also known, and easily seen. that meat or fish may be stored in wormy bins, so one can take care to rap the food on the table prior to eating so as to knock out the worms; also the hanging baskets which may be hanging several days in the store can get wormy, as can food in the house); I ate food without saying the blessings before and after.
BAGADNU: we have betrayed, as is written (ibid.) "they have betrayed God..." The word "betrayal" denotes a person who has done good things for his neighb