Teshuva: Returning to My True Self


Dear Rabbi,

Teshuvah, repentance, seems illogical. True, a sinner should change his ways going forward. Yet, by what logic can a previous sin be forgiven? Why shouldn’t a person be punished for the bad he has done?




  1. Your way of thinking is correct if a person transgresses man-made law. The court will hold the person accountable and punish him accordingly. At times, the court may use discretion and not assess punishment, but the person cannot follow a clear path to achieve amnesty. He will be punished even if he shows regret, begs for mercy and promises to not repeat the wrongdoing.

    However, in Judaism we are concerned with how God judges our actions. He is the only true Judge. And God has taught us in the Torah that if a person does teshuva, He will “delete” the transgression as far as He is concerned. The person will not be punished by the one Above for any wrongdoing for which the person did teshuva.

    However, this does not mean that there are no consequences for wrongdoings that involve another person, such as theft. Being sorry for the theft will keep the sinner out of jail and will not erase the need to return the stolen property.

    In other words, teshuva helps to wipe one’s slate clean for matters between the person and God. Such as Shabbat desecration or eating chametz (leaven) on Passover. And even for matters between one person and another, teshuva helps immensely. For example, although a thief who makes restitution and seeks forgiveness from his victim will still be subject to punishment by an earthly court, teshuva purifies a person’s record in the Heavenly realms and for the World to Come.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team