Repentance in Judaism

Repentance in Judaism

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Repentance in Judaism'
Start a new discussion about 'Repentance in Judaism'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia
Repentance in Judaism known as teshuva , is the way of atoning for sin
Sin
In religion, sin is the violation or deviation of an eternal divine law or standard. The term sin may also refer to the state of having committed such a violation. Christians believe the moral code of conduct is decreed by God In religion, sin (also called peccancy) is the violation or deviation...

 in Judaism
Judaism
Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

.

According to Gates of Repentance, a standard work of Jewish ethics written by Rabbenu Yonah of Gerona
Yonah Gerondi
Yonah ben Abraham Gerondi , also known as Rabbenu Yonah and Yonah of Gerona, was a Catalan rabbi and moralist, cousin of Nahmanides. He is most famous for his ethical work The Gates of Repentance .- Biography :...

, if someone commits a sin, a forbidden act, he can be forgiven for that sin if he performs teshuva, which includes:
  • 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
    Chesed
    The Hebrew noun khesed or chesed is the Hebrew word for "kindness." It is also commonly translated as "loving-kindness," or "love." Love is a central Jewish value, and leads to many particular commandments. Chesed is central to Jewish ethics and Jewish theology...

    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.


Guides to the process of repentance in Judaism can be found through the rabbinical literature, see especially Maimonides
Maimonides
Moses ben-Maimon, called Maimonides and also known as Mūsā ibn Maymūn in Arabic, or Rambam , was a preeminent medieval Jewish philosopher and one of the greatest Torah scholars and physicians of the Middle Ages...

' Rules of Repentance in the Mishneh Torah
Mishneh Torah
The Mishneh Torah subtitled Sefer Yad ha-Hazaka is a code of Jewish religious law authored by Maimonides , one of history's foremost rabbis...

.

The High Holidays are times that are especially conducive to teshuva. Yom Kippur
Yom Kippur
Yom Kippur , also known as Day of Atonement, is the holiest and most solemn day of the year for the Jews. Its central themes are atonement and repentance. Jews traditionally observe this holy day with a 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer, often spending most of the day in synagogue...

 (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.

According to the Talmud
Talmud
The Talmud is a central text of mainstream Judaism. It takes the form of a record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, philosophy, customs and history....

, repentance was among the first things God created; even before God created the physical universe (Nedarim 39b). When the Temple in Jerusalem
Temple in Jerusalem
The Temple in Jerusalem or Holy Temple , refers to one of a series of structures which were historically located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, the current site of the Dome of the Rock. Historically, these successive temples stood at this location and functioned as the centre of...

 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.

Hebrew Bible


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

Viduy



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. 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. 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.

Viduy is slightly different for sins committed against God or one's self than they are for sins committed against another human. Abraham Joshua Heschel
Abraham Joshua Heschel
Abraham Joshua Heschel was a Polish-born American rabbi and one of the leading Jewish theologians and Jewish philosophers of the 20th century.-Biography:...

 once wrote, "According to Jewish tradition, even God Himself can only forgive sins committed against Himself, not against man." True repentance requires the penitent to approach the aggrieved party and correct the sin however possible. Thus, unlike in the repentance in Christianity, 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.

Forsaking the sin


The second principle in Rabbenu Yonah's "Principles of Repentance" is forsaking the sin (Hebrew
Hebrew language
Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

: עזיבת–החטא, azivat-hachet). After regretting the sin (Jonah's first principle), the penitent must resolve never to repeat the sin. 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.

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. The Talmud teaches, "Who is the penitent whose repentance ascends until the Throne of Glory? — one who is tested and emerges guiltless" (Yoma 86b).

Baal teshuva


Being or becoming a Jewish penitent (or returnee or born again), is known as a Baal teshuva
Baal teshuva
Baal teshuva or ba'al teshuvah , sometimes abbreviated to BT, is a term referring to a Jew who turns to embrace Orthodox Judaism. Baal teshuva literally means, "repentant", i.e., one who has repented or "returned" to God...

  the Hebrew
Hebrew language
Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

 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 practice
Halakha
Halakha — also transliterated Halocho , or Halacha — is the collective body of Jewish law, including biblical law and later talmudic and rabbinic law, as well as customs and traditions.Judaism classically draws no distinction in its laws between religious and ostensibly non-religious life; Jewish...

s, and completed a process of introspection and thus returned to Judaism
Judaism
Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

 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".

The end of sacrifices


With the Roman destruction of the Second Temple
Second Temple
The Jewish Second Temple was an important shrine which stood on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem between 516 BCE and 70 CE. It replaced the First Temple which was destroyed in 586 BCE, when the Jewish nation was exiled to Babylon...

 in Jerusalem, the Jewish practice of offering korban
Korban
The term offering as found in the Hebrew Bible in relation to the worship of Ancient Israel is mainly represented by the Hebrew noun korban whether for an animal or other offering...

ot
(animal sacrifices) ceased. Despite subsequent intermittent periods of small Jewish groups offering the traditional sacrifices on the Temple Mount, the practice effectively ended.

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
Halakha
Halakha — also transliterated Halocho , or Halacha — is the collective body of Jewish law, including biblical law and later talmudic and rabbinic law, as well as customs and traditions.Judaism classically draws no distinction in its laws between religious and ostensibly non-religious life; Jewish...

. A range of responses is recorded in classical rabbinic literature, describing this shift in emphasis.

In a number of places the Babylonian Talmud emphasises that following Jewish practice
Halakha
Halakha — also transliterated Halocho , or Halacha — is the collective body of Jewish law, including biblical law and later talmudic and rabbinic law, as well as customs and traditions.Judaism classically draws no distinction in its laws between religious and ostensibly non-religious life; Jewish...

, performing charitable deeds, praying, and studying Torah are greater than performing animal sacrifices and the former can be used to achieve atonement.
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
Midrash
The Hebrew term Midrash is a homiletic method of biblical exegesis. The term also refers to the whole compilation of homiletic teachings on the Bible....

 Avot D'Rabbi Nathan 4:5

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

See also

  • Baal teshuva movement
    Baal teshuva movement
    The Baal Teshuva movement is description of the return of secular Jews to religious Judaism. The term "baal teshuva" is a term from the Talmud literally meaning "master of repentance". The term is used to refer to a worldwide phenomenon among the Jewish people...

  • Baal teshuva
    Baal teshuva
    Baal teshuva or ba'al teshuvah , sometimes abbreviated to BT, is a term referring to a Jew who turns to embrace Orthodox Judaism. Baal teshuva literally means, "repentant", i.e., one who has repented or "returned" to God...

  • Orthodox Jewish outreach
  • Rabbi
    Rabbi
    In Judaism, a rabbi is a teacher of Torah. This title derives from the Hebrew word רבי , meaning "My Master" , which is the way a student would address a master of Torah...

  • Yeshiva
    Yeshiva
    Yeshiva is a Jewish educational institution that focuses on the study of traditional religious texts, primarily the Talmud and Torah study. Study is usually done through daily shiurim and in study pairs called chavrutas...

  • Tawbah, a similar concept in Islam
    Islam
    Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...


External links