Return in Judaism:
repentance, atonement,
higher ascent
High Priest Offering Sacrifice of a Goat
In the Hebrew Bible:
Biblical Altars
Temple in Jerusalem
Prophecy in the Temple
Jacob-angelSynagoga TykDveikut
Confession in Judaism
Atonement in Judaism
Love of God
Awe of God
Mystical approach
Ethical approach
Jewish meditation
Jewish services
Torah study
In the Jewish calendar:
AlphonseLévy ShofarJudenbad Speyer 6 View from the first room downMaurycy Gottlieb - Jews in the Synagogue 1878
Month of Elul · Selichot
Rosh Hashanah
Shofar · Tashlikh
Ten Days of Repentance
Kapparot · Mikveh
Yom Kippur
Sukkot · Simchat Torah
Ta'anit · Tisha B'Av
Passover · The Omer
Contemporary Judaism:
Baal teshuva movement
Jewish Renewal

Part of a series on
<center>Star of David        Lukhot Habrit        Menora
Portal | Category
Jewish religious movements
Orthodox (Haredi · Hasidic · Modern)
Conservative · Reform
Reconstructionist · Renewal · Humanistic
Rabbinic · Karaite
Jewish philosophy
Principles of faith · Kabbalah · Messiah · Ethics
Chosenness · Names of God · Mussar
Religious texts
Tanakh (Torah·Nevi'im·Ketuvim)
Ḥumash · Siddur · Piyutim · Zohar
Rabbinic literature (Talmud·Midrash·Tosefta)
Religious Law
Mishneh Torah · Tur
Shulchan Aruch · Mishnah Berurah
Kashrut · Tzniut · Tzedakah · Noahide laws
Holy cities
Jerusalem · Safed · Hebron · Tiberias
Important figures
Abraham · Isaac · Jacob
Moses · Aaron · David · Solomon
Sarah · Rebecca · Rachel · Leah
Rabbinic sages
Jewish life cycle
Brit · Pidyon haben · Bar/Bat Mitzvah · Marriage
Niddah · Bereavement
Religious roles
Rabbi · Rebbe · Posek · Hazzan/Cantor
Dayan · Rosh yeshiva · Mohel · Kohen/Priest
Religious buildings & institutions
Synagogue · Beth midrash · Mikveh
Sukkah · Chevra kadisha
Holy Temple / Tabernacle
Jewish education
Yeshiva · Kollel · Cheder
Religious articles
Sefer Torah · Tallit · Tefillin · Tzitzit · Kippah
Mezuzah · Hanukiah/Menorah · Shofar
4 Species · Kittel · Gartel
Jewish prayers and services
Shema · Amidah · Aleinu · Kaddish · Minyan
Birkat Hamazon · Shehecheyanu · Hallel
Havdalah · Tachanun · Kol Nidre · Selichot
Judaism & other religions
Christianity · Islam · Judeo-Christian
Abrahamic faiths · Pluralism · Others
Related topics
Antisemitism · Zionism · Holocaust

In Judaism, atonement is the process of causing a transgression to be forgiven or pardoned.

In Biblical Hebrew

The triliteral root of the verb "to atone" and the noun "atonement" (כפר) is also the root of the related verb "to cover" (Gen 6:14) and noun "a cover" (of a container, Ex. 25:17), the noun "a ransom" (Ex. 21:30, see also Ex. 30:11-16), and the names of things that normally cover or protect that which is within them (asphalt: Gen. 6:14, frost: Ps. 147:16, villages: Chron. I 27:25, cups or bowls: Ez. 1:10). In Mishnaic Hebrew, the same root often has the meaning "to annul" or "to deny" (כפר במלוה: deny having received a loan, כפר בעיקר: deny a principle of the faith, etc.); this meaning may also be interpretively read in some biblical usage, e.g. Is. 28:18.

The subject of the verb "to atone" may be the one whose forgiveness is sought (Deut. 21:8), the one seeking forgiveness (Gen. 32:21), or a third party. The last case, which is most common, usually (but not exclusively; cf. Ex. 32:30, Num. 25:13) refers to a kohen (priest) in performance of Temple service.

In Rabbinic Judaism

In Rabbinic Judaism, atonement is achieved through some combination of

  • repentance
  • Temple service (e.g. bringing a sacrifice, not now possible)
  • confession
  • restitution
  • the occurrence of Yom Kippur (the day itself, as distinct from the Temple service performed on it)
  • tribulations (unpleasant life experiences)
  • the carrying out of a sentence of corporal or capital punishment imposed by an ordained court (not now in existence)
  • the experience of dying.

Which of these are required varies according to the severity of the sin, whether it was done willfully, in error, or under duress, whether it was against God alone or also against a fellow person, and whether the Temple service and ordained law courts are in existence or not. Repentance is needed in all cases of willful sin, and restitution is always required in the case of sin against a fellow person, unless the wronged party waives it.

The following table, based on Maimonides (Hil. Teshuva 1:1-4), gives an outline of the requirements for atonement in sins between man and God:

Duress Error Willfulness
Positive commandment none none Repentance + confession or Yom Kippur Temple service
Negative commandment none none Repentance + confession + Yom Kippur or Yom Kippur Temple service
Severe negative commandment none Sin offering (if Temple exists) in some cases + confession Repentance + confession + Yom Kippur + tribulations or Repentance + confession + Yom Kippur Temple service
Profaning God's Name Repentance Sin offering (if Temple exists) in some cases + confession Repentance + confession + Yom Kippur + tribulations + dying

The sentence of an ordained court (when available) can also substitute for Yom Kippur + tribulations + dying. It is important to note that once a person has repented, he can be close to and beloved of God, even if his atonement is not yet complete (ibid. 7:7).

In other Jewish denominations

Some Jewish denominations may differ with Rabbinic Judaism on the importance or mechanics of atonement. Consult the articles on specific denominations for details.

Compared with Christian idea of atonement

While Christianity developed its concept of atonement out of the same roots in the Hebrew Bible (Christian Old Testament), the different theology of Christianity led it to develop that concept in ways distinctly different from Judaism. In Christianity atonement is given to those believing in the atoning ability of the human sacrifice of Jesus. No text, not one, in the Hebrew Bible speaks positively about human sacrifice (Deu 12:31). The blood of Jesus was not put on the only place (the altar in the temple (see Deu 12:4-18)) where sacrifices could be done to atone for (unintentional (see Lev 4:2)) sin. Using the texts of Judaism, Tanakh or "old testament", atonement from the death of Jesus is impossible.

Ad blocker interference detected!

Wikia is a free-to-use site that makes money from advertising. We have a modified experience for viewers using ad blockers

Wikia is not accessible if you’ve made further modifications. Remove the custom ad blocker rule(s) and the page will load as expected.