Repentance in Judaism
|Repentance in Judaism Teshuva
|Repentance, atonement and
higher ascent in Judaism
|In the Hebrew Bible|
|Altars · Korban
Temple in Jerusalem
Prophecy within the Temple
|Confession · Atonement
Love of God · Awe of God
Meditation · Services
Tzedakah · Mitzvot
|In the Jewish calendar|
|Month of Elul · Selichot
Shofar · Tashlikh
Ten Days of Repentance
Kapparot · Mikveh
Sukkot · Simchat Torah
Ta'anit · Tisha B'Av
Passover · The Omer
|In contemporary Judaism|
|Baal Teshuva movement
Jewish Renewal · Musar movement
A Jewish penitent is traditionally known as a baal teshuva (lit. "master of repentance" or "master of return") (Hebrew: בעל תשובה; for a woman: Hebrew: בעלת תשובה, baalat teshuva; plural: Hebrew: בעלי תשובה, baalei teshuva). An alternative modern term is hozer beteshuva (Hebrew: חוזר בתשובה) (lit. "returning in repentance").
Repentance and creation
When to repent
One should repent immediately. Because of Judaism's understanding of the annual process of Divine Judgment, Jews believe that God is particularly open to repentance during period from the beginning of the month of Ellul through the High Holiday season, i.e. Rosh HaShanah (the Day of Judgement), Aseret Yimei Teshuva (the Ten Days of Repentance), Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), and according to Kaballah, Hoshana Rabbah.
How to repent
- 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;
- 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.
Forsaking the sin
The second of Rabbenu Yonah's "Principles of Repentance" is "forsaking the sin" (Hebrew: עזיבת–החטא, azivat-hachet). After regretting the sin (Rabbenu Yonah'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 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).
When the Temple in Jerusalem is active, a Jew is also required to bring various sacrifices for certain types of sins, and to perform a version of the viduy confession ritual as part of the sacrificial ritual.
In a number of places the Babylonian Talmud emphasises that performing charitable deeds, praying, and studying Torah are more meritorius than animal sacrifice, and that the former can replace animal sacrifice when the Temple is not active.
- 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
- 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
- Baal teshuva
- Baal teshuva movement
- Jewish Ethics
- Orthodox Jewish outreach
- Seven Laws of Noah
- Tawbah, a similar concept in Islam
- Penance, a similar concept in Christianity
- 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.
- Yonah Ben Avraham of Gerona. Shaarei Teshuva: The Gates of Repentance. Trans. Shraga Silverstein. Jerusalem, Israel: Feldheim Publishers, 1971. Print.
- Yonah, 14-15
- qtd. in Yonah, 65
- 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."
- Jacob J. Petuchowski, The Concept of 'Teshuva' in the Bible and Talmud, Judaism 17 (1968)