ABRAHAM’S TENT | 5779 – Week #4: What is the Jewish concept of Sin and Salvation?

*Disclaimer: In the next weeks, I begin a series covering concepts in Judaism. It is not exhaustive, but it is meant to go over in a general way what are Jewish beliefs and where they are found in the Hebrew bible (What Christians call the “Old Testament”).
These articles are for education purposes only.  If you have further questions, you should ask your religious leader, or you can email me, for further information.  (End of Disclaimer)*

So, this week we will tackle the two concepts that are quite different from those of other religions: Sin and Salvation.
We will first look at sin as a concept. In Judaism there are two types of sins you can commit: unintentional and intentional.

Unintentional ones are ones that you do by mistake and those are the ones that are forgiven and a “Korbanot/ Sacrifices are meant for once you’ve righted the wrong you unintentionally have caused.  Let me state also that blood is not required for the unintentional sin you committed.

 In fact, in every case, flour is sufficient for public remission of the sin (Leviticus 5:11-13).  Actually, all you need to do to be forgiven by G-D for any sin is repentance and restitution (Ezekiel 18:21-22, Hosea 6:1-6). The Hebrew word for “Repentance” is “TeShuvah”. TeShuvah literally means to “Turn Around (on the path)”.

  In Judaism, sins are forgiven when we sincerely stop doing what is wrong and turn around and head back to observance.  
Intentional sins are ones we do with malice of forethought.  We want to and know we are doing the wrong thing, and we do it with impunity. Those sins have no Korbanot/Sacrifice.

Intentional sins fall into two levels of punishment: “Kareth”/Cutting off or Shunning, and Capital offenses, (Death Penalty).

The Shunning Offenses are those where we do not observe the Sabbath,  Passover, eating un-kosher foods, or other requirements that as a Jewish person you are commanded to do, like circumcising your sons at 8 days (Gen. 17:14, Exodus 12:19, 31:14 , Lev. 7:20, etc. ). You can always be returned to the community if you sincerely redeem your actions.
Those with a death penalty, for the most part, are ones we put people in jail for: Murder, Rape, Theft, etc.


So sin is a personal issue as well as a national issue.

Yom Kippur is the day we as a nation repent together. Our actions are those that are personal and as a community. Its purpose is to join together and share the burdens of our sins together.

This now brings us to the concept of Salvation in Judaism:  
Salvation, which is “Yeshuah” in Hebrew, literally means “G-D is our deliverance”. Salvation is a national not a person action.  One can be forgiven for a sin, but it is our communal repentance that gives our national salvation. We see in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, and the other prophets that Salvation and punishment is a national action. This is why Israel is warned that if we don’t keep the commandments that we will be removed from the Land (of Israel) (Deut. 28, 30:1-21, Psalm 9:14-16) The “Salvation” that King David sings of in the Psalms is due to the fact he is King and as such he represents the entire nation of Israel.  
So repentance of sins and salvation are different.

Our personal actions together make a cumulative effect as to the community, state, and, the nation.
Both are required for the health of ourselves, our family and the world around us.

Once we realize that we are on the wrong path; the moment we turn around, G-D has already forgiven us, and remembers it no longer (Ezekiel 18:21-22).  

Next week: The concept of the Afterlife in Judaism

Dir. Rel. Ed and History