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Attonement for Sin

Path: Spirituality and Money Sin, Attonement for

Without sacrifices how do we atone for our sins?

"The primary aspect of atonement was, and still is, Teshuvah: regretting and correcting (to the extent possible) the actual wrongdoing. No matter the punishment or sacrifice, the sin is not atoned until the person first does Teshuvah: regreting his action, resolving never to repeat it, and confessing (i.e. asking forgiveness for) his sin before G-d. Only after these conditions are met, is the sacrifice accepted as an offering on the altar in the Temple, bringing an additional level of atonement." by Rabbi Shalom Hazan


There is no place where the Hebrew Bible says that animal sacrifice is the only means of atonement

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Repentance - Teshuvah

Repentance: The Meaning & Practice of Teshuvah

How can we repent to those we have wronged? Almost every day, in ways large and small, we hurt others, most often those closest to us, in ways that we regret. These inevitable shortcomings, if not addressed and redressed, bring guilt and shame in their wake, undermine our relationships, and can even erode our selfesteem. We want to undo what we have done, but how?

Reclaiming The Self


Teshuvah is one of the great gifts of life. Through Teshuvah we are able to return from pain, fragmentation and confusion to a place of greater unity and well-being, to our authentic self. RECLAIMING THE SELF offers a glimpse into a world with-out the damaging influence of past negativity - where misdeed is transformed into merit.


Atonement for sins is discussed in the Hebrew Bible, known to Christians as the Old Testament. Rituals for atonement occurred in the Temple in Jerusalem, and were performed by the Kohanim, the Israelite priests. These services included song, prayer, offerings and animal sacrifices known as the korbanot. The rites for Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, are prescribed in the book of Leviticus chapter 15. The ritual of the scapegoat, sent into the wilderness to be claimed by Azazel, was one of these observances (Lev. 16:20-22).

A number of animal sacrifices were prescribed in the Torah (five books of Moses) to make atonement: a sin-offering for sins, and a guilt offering for religious trespasses. The significance of animal sacrifice is not expanded on at length in the Torah, though Genesis 9:4 and Leviticus 17 suggest that blood and vitality were linked. It should be noted that modern conservative Jews and Christians argue that the Jews never believed that the aim of all sacrifice is to pay the debt for sins - only the sin-offering and the guilt offering had this purpose; modern scholars of early Jewish history, however, often disagree and argue that this division came later. Later Biblical prophets occasionally make statements to the effect that the hearts of the people were more important than their sacrifices - "Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams" (I Samuel 15:22); "For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgement of God rather than burnt offerings" (Hosea 6:6); "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart" (Psalm 51:17) (see also Isaiah 1:11, Psalm 40:6-8).

Although the animal sacrifices were prescribed for atonement, there is no place where the Hebrew Bible says that animal sacrifice is the only means of atonement. Hebrew Bible teaches that it is possible to return to God through repentance and prayer alone. For example, in the books of Jonah and Esther, both Jews and gentiles repented, prayed to God and were forgiven for their sins, without having offered any sacrifices. [5] Additionally, in modern times, most Jews do not even consider animal sacrifices. On the High Holidays of Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur - also known as the Day of Atonement-, and the ten-day period between these holidays, repentance of sins committed is based on specialized prayers and hymns, while some Jews continue the ancient methods of sacrifice. An example of a common method of "sacrificing" for the sake of repentance is simply to drop bread into a body of water, to signify the passing of sins and the hope for one to be written into the Book of Life by God once again. This is especially emphasized on what is arguably the holiest Jewish holiday, Yom Kippur.

Repentance in itself is also a means of atonement (See Ezekiel 33:11, 33:19, Jeremiah 36:3, etc.) The Hebrew word for repentance is teshuvah which literally means to "return (to God)." The prophet Hosea (14:3) said, "Take with you words, and return to God." Judaism teaches that our personal relationship with God allows us to turn directly to Him at any time, as Malachi 3:7 says, "Return to Me and I shall return to you," and Ezekiel 18:27, "When the wicked man turns away from his wickedness that he has committed, and does that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive." Additionally, God is extremely compassionate and forgiving as is indicated in Daniel 9:18, "We do not present our supplications before You because of our righteousness, but because of Your abundant mercy."[5]

Note that modern Judaism's views on sin and atonement are not identical to those in the Hebrew Bible alone, but rather are based on the laws of the Bible as seen through the Jewish oral law.


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