Jewish thought and scripture prescribe a process of repentance, and by following this process, sinners can earn God's forgiveness. During one's life, it is never too late to repent.
The Torah claims that God wants to forgive sinners, but they must first acknowledge their sins both to themselves and to God through prayer. If an individual's prayer is sincere, God will forgive him. Although God will always listen to prayer, followers of Judaism believe the first ten days of the year are particularly effective days to pray for forgiveness. The Torah teaches that if a person repents, it's immoral for other individuals to taunt that person or remind them of their sins.
The Torah also prescribes a method of praying for repentance. After confessing a sin to God, an individual must also promise to never again transgress against God in the same way. If possible, she should also pay restitution to the wronged party, or if that person has passed away, his heir. According to the Jewish Encyclopedia, the Torah also advises an individual to perform an animal sacrifice, though modern followers of Judaism no longer observe this practice.
Another method of earning forgiveness from God is by counterbalancing one's sins with good deeds. Charitable acts like alms-giving and acting benevolently toward strangers allows individuals to express their shame over their sins and compensate for them. These acts alone are not sufficient to earn forgiveness, but, coupled with penance and prayer, charitable acts help redeem sinners. This behavior over a sustained period of time also shows God that a person no longer clings to his sinful ways.
Repentance should be a spiritual process, as the Jewish prophets disparage physical acts of remorse such as fasting or self-affliction. The ultimate goal of all repentance is to change one's spiritual and mental outlook, rather than simply punishing oneself. Since a sinner has opposed God's will, she must submit to God's authority and lead new moral life following the precepts of Judaism. Only then can she earn God's forgiveness.
- Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images