World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Repentance in Judaism

Article Id: WHEBN0000762379
Reproduction Date:

Title: Repentance in Judaism  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Ten Days of Repentance, Yom Kippur, Confession in Judaism, Repentance in Judaism, High Holy Days
Collection: High Holy Days, Jewish Law and Rituals, Jewish Views on Society, Repentance in Judaism
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Repentance in Judaism

Repentance in Judaism known as teshuva (Hebrew: תשובה‎, literally "return"), is the way of atoning for sin in Judaism.

According to Gates of Repentance, a standard work of Jewish ethics written by

  • "Repentance" at Jewish Virtual Library
  • Repentance in the Jewish Encyclopedia

External links

  1. ^ Yonah Ben Avraham of Gerona. Shaarei Teshuva: The Gates of Repentance. Trans. Shraga Silverstein. Jerusalem, Israel: Feldheim Publishers, 1971. Print.
  2. ^ a b c d Scherman, Nosson. "An Overview — Day of Atonement and Purity." An Overview. The Complete ArtScroll Machzor: Yom Kippur. By Scherman. Trans. Scherman. Brooklyn, NY: Mesorah Publications, 2008. XIV-XXII.
  3. ^ Theological dictionary of the Old Testament: Vol.14 p473 G. Johannes Botterweck, Helmer Ringgren, Heinz-Josef Fabry - 2004 "The noun t'suba occurs 4 times in the Dtr History, twice in the Chronicler's History and in Job."
  4. ^ Jacob J. Petuchowski, "The Concept of 'Teshuva' in the Bible and Talmud", Judaism 17 (1968)
  5. ^ Soloveitchik, Joseph. On Repentance. 253. qtd. in Telushkin, 159. See also Yonah's Shaarei Teshuva, cited above.
  6. ^ Telushkin, Joseph. You Shall Be Holy. New York: Bell Tower, 2006. Print. p. 158
  7. ^ Simon Wiesenthal. N.Y: Schocken, 1997, 164-166.
  8. ^ Lipstadt, Deborah E. Wiesenthal. The Sunflower. 183-187.
  9. ^ Yonah, 14-15
  10. ^ qtd. in Yonah, 65


See also

Rabbi Elazar said: Doing righteous deeds of charity is greater than offering all of the sacrifices, as it is written: "Doing charity and justice is more desirable to the Lord than sacrifice" (Proverbs 21:3).
Babylonian Talmud, Sukkah 49
Once, Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai was walking with his disciple, Rabbi Yehoshua, near Jerusalem after the destruction of the Temple. Rabbi Y'hoshua looked at the Temple ruins and said "Alas for us!! The place that atoned for the sins of the people Israel lies in ruins!" Then Rabbi Yohannan ben Zakkai spoke to him these words of comfort: "Be not grieved, my son. There is another equally meritorious way of gaining ritual atonement, even though the Temple is destroyed. We can still gain ritual atonement through deeds of loving-kindness. For it is written 'Lovingkindness I desire, not sacrifice.'" (Hosea 6:6)
Midrash Avot D'Rabbi Nathan 4:5

In a number of places the Babylonian Talmud emphasises that following Jewish practice, performing charitable deeds, praying, and studying Torah are greater than performing animal sacrifices and the former can be used to achieve atonement.

Jewish religious life was forced to undergo a significant evolution in response to this change; no longer could Judaism revolve round the Temple services. Instead, the destruction of the Temple spurred the development of Judaism in the direction of text study, prayer and further development of the Jewish practice. A range of responses is recorded in classical rabbinic literature, describing this shift in emphasis.

With the Roman destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, the Jewish practice of offering korbanot (animal sacrifices) ceased. Despite subsequent intermittent periods of small Jewish groups offering the traditional sacrifices on the Temple Mount, the practice effectively ended.

The end of sacrifices

Being or becoming a Jewish penitent (or returnee), is known as a Baal teshuva (Hebrew: בעל תשובה‎; for a woman: בעלת תשובה, baalat teshuva; plural: בעלי תשובה, baalei teshuva) the Hebrew term referring to a person who has repented. Baal teshuva literally means "master of repentance or return (to Judaism)". The term has historically referred to a Jew who had not kept Jewish practices, and completed a process of introspection and thus returned to Judaism and morality. In Israel, another term is used, hozer beteshuva (חוזר בתשובה), literally "returning in repentance". Also, Jews who adopt religion later in life are known "baalei teshuva" or "hozerim beteshuva".

Baal teshuva

The case of the habitual sinner is more complex. If the habitual sinner regrets his or her sin at all, that regret alone clearly does not translate into a change in behavior. In such a case, Rabbi Nosson Scherman recommends devising "a personal system of reward and punishment" and to avoid circumstances which may cause temptation toward a the sin being repented for.[2] The Talmud teaches, "Who is the penitent whose repentance ascends until the Throne of Glory? — one who is tested and emerges guiltless" (Yoma 86b).[10]

The second principle in Rabbenu Yonah's "Principles of Repentance" is forsaking the sin (Hebrew: עזיבת–החטא, azivat-hachet). After regretting the sin (Jonah's first principle), the penitent must resolve never to repeat the sin.[9] However, Judaism recognizes that the process of repentance varies from penitent to penitent and from sin to sin. For example, a non-habitual sinner often feels the sting of the sin more acutely than the habitual sinner. Therefore, a non-habitual sinner will have an easier time repenting, because he or she will be less likely to repeat the sinful behavior.[2]

Forsaking the sin

Viduy is slightly different for sins committed against God or one's self than they are for sins committed against another human. [7] True repentance requires the penitent to approach the aggrieved party and correct the sin however possible. The Jewish concept of repentance is not simply the renouncement of sin in general, but rather in the specific sin done against a specific person or group of people. Only then must one go through the introspective processes described above.[8]

Viduy (confession) is an integral part of the repentance process. It is not enough to feel remorse and forsake sin, although such feelings are a commendable first step.[5] A penitent must put his or her feelings into words and essentially say, "I did such-and-such and for that, I am sorry." Excuses for and rationalizations of the sin are not accepted at this stage of the repentance process.[2] The verbal confession need not necessarily be a confession to another person; confessing alone may allow the penitent to be more honest with him- or herself.[6]


In the Hebrew Bible, the noun teshuva occurs rarely. The verb shuv ("repent") occurs frequently.[3][4]

Hebrew Bible


  • Hebrew Bible 1
  • Viduy 2
  • Forsaking the sin 3
  • Baal teshuva 4
  • The end of sacrifices 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

According to the Talmud, repentance was among the first things God created; even before God created the physical universe (Nedarim 39b).[2] When the Temple in Jerusalem was active, a Jew was required to bring various sacrifices for certain types of sins. Although sacrifices were required, the most essential part was teshuva, the person bringing the sacrifice would confess his sins. Presently, with the Temple destroyed, atonement may nevertheless be granted by doing teshuva.

The High Holidays are times that are especially conducive to teshuva. Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) is a day of fasting during which judgment for the year is sealed. Therefore, Jews strive their hardest to make certain that they have performed teshuva before the end of the day.

Guides to the process of repentance in Judaism can be found through the rabbinical literature, see especially Maimonides' Rules of Repentance in the Mishneh Torah.

  • regretting/acknowledging the sin;
  • forsaking the sin (see below);
  • worrying about the future consequences of the sin;
  • acting and speaking with humility;
  • acting in a way opposite to that of the sin (for example, for the sin of lying, one should speak the truth);
  • understanding the magnitude of the sin;
  • refraining from lesser sins for the purpose of safeguarding oneself against committing greater sins;
  • confessing the sin (see below);
  • praying for atonement;
  • correcting the sin however possible (for example, if one stole an object, the stolen item must be returned or if one slanders another, the slanderer must ask the injured party for forgiveness);
  • pursuing works of chesed and truth;
  • remembering the sin for the rest of one's life;
  • refraining from committing the same sin if the opportunity presents itself again;
  • teaching others not to sin.


This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.