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Do Jews Believe in Sin?

The Concept of Sin in Judaism


Do Jews Believe in Sin?

The word for "sin" in Hebrew is "chet," which means "missing the mark."

Getty Images/Irene Chan

The Jewish view of sin differs from the Christian concept of original sin. While Christian doctrine teaches that every person is born with the taint of Adam's sin upon them, Judaism believes that each person is born innocent. Jews believe that individuals are responsible for their own actions and that "sinning" occurs when someone does something wrong.

Missing the Mark

The Hebrew word for sin is "chet," which literally means "missing the mark." According to Jewish beliefs, a person sins when he or she goes astray. A sin could be actively doing something wrong, such as stealing, or it could be not doing something, such as walking by a person in need.

There are three kinds of sin in Judaism: sins against God, sins against another person, and sins against yourself. Sins against God could include making a promise you don't keep. Sins against another person could include things like saying hurtful things, physically harming someone or lying. Sins against yourself could be addiction or even depression. In other words, if despair prevents you from living fully or being the best person you can be, it could be considered a sin.

Sin and Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur, one of the most important Jewish holidays, is a day of repentance and reconciliation. The ten days leading up to Yom Kippur are called the "Ten Days of Repentance" and during this time Jews are encouraged to seek out anyone they might have offended and to sincerely request forgiveness. By doing this, the hope is that the New Year (Rosh HaShanah) can begin with a clean slate. This process of repentance is called teshuvah and it is an important part of Yom Kippur. According to tradition, prayer and fasting on Yom Kippur will only lead to forgiveness for offenses committed against God. Hence it is important that people make an effort to reconcile with others before participating in Yom Kippur services. Learn more about repentance in Judaism.

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