Attitudes toward Repentance

Jewish thinking tries to strike a balance between responsibility and forgiveness.

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Yet no Jewish thinker has ever wished to be rid of the whole idea of sin and repentance. It can be seen from an examination of the sources quoted above that the teachings on these subjects strike on the whole a balance between childish irresponsibility and softness, for which saying "sorry" is enough, and the kind of morbid guilt for which nothing done to repair the wrong is ever enough. The need to find peace in one's soul; to shed the guilt load by constructive means, namely, by making good the harm that has been done; the renewal of one's personal life; reconciliation with God and with other human beings; all these would be accepted by all religious Jews, whatever their particular stance, as tests of a mature religious personality.

There is no Judaism, whether ancient or modern, without teachings about the evil of sin, as there is no Judaism without teachings about the high value of repentance. Both sin and repentance are religious concepts. It is before God that one sins and it is God who pardons.

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Rabbi Louis Jacobs

Rabbi Dr. Louis Jacobs (1920-2006) was a Masorti rabbi, the first leader of Masorti Judaism (also known as Conservative Judaism) in the United Kingdom, and a leading writer and thinker on Judaism.