Repentance: The Meaning and Practice of Teshuvah


In this candid and comprehensive probe into the nature of moral transgression and spiritual healing. Dr. Louis E. Newman examines both the practical and philosophical dimensions of teshuvah, Judaism's core religious-moral teaching on repentance, and its value for us-Jews and non-Jews alike#x2014;today. He exposes the inner logic of teshuvah as well as the beliefs about God and humankind that make it possible. He also charts the path of teshuvah, revealing to us how we can free ...

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In this candid and comprehensive probe into the nature of moral transgression and spiritual healing. Dr. Louis E. Newman examines both the practical and philosophical dimensions of teshuvah, Judaism's core religious-moral teaching on repentance, and its value for us-Jews and non-Jews alike#x2014;today. He exposes the inner logic of teshuvah as well as the beliefs about God and humankind that make it possible. He also charts the path of teshuvah, revealing to us how we can free ourselves from the burden of our own transgressions by:

Acknowledging our transgressions


Feeling remorse


Making restitution

Soul reckoning

Avoiding sin when the next opportunity arises

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Masterful.... [Newman's] analysis of sin and repentance is ... much clearer, much deeper, and more adequate to the phenomena of sin and repentance than any previous treatment of the subject."
Rabbi Elliot N. Dorff, PhD, rector and distinguished professor of philosophy, American Jewish University; author, The Jewish Approach to Repairing the World (Tikkun Olam): A Brief Introduction for Christians

“Blesses [us] with insights into the frailty and divinity of the soul. Dr. Newman teaches us that the past can be transformed, the sinner can be reborn, the God of justice can become the God of forgiveness. In short, he has given us the way of hope.”
Rabbi Naomi Levy, author, To Begin Again and Talking to God

“Beautiful, wise, thorough ... reminds us that our greatness will not be judged by our supposedly grand accomplishments, but by how each of us deals with our inevitable moral failings, however great or small.”
Rabbi Nancy Flam, co-director of programs, Institute for Jewish Spirituality

“In easily accessible language both religiously and psychologically informed, Newman guides us through our own return. Don’t go near the High Holy Days without this wise and inspiring moral classic.”
Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, Emanu-El Scholar, Congregation Emanu-El, San Francisco; author, The Way Into Jewish Mystical Tradition and Kabbalah: A Love Story

“Amazing. Readers seeking to redress their own misdeeds will find not only a gentle guiding toward the path of repentance but a treasury of Jewish wisdom about that path.”
Rabbi Arthur Waskow, director, The Shalom Center; author, Godwrestling—Round 2

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781580234269
  • Publisher: Jewish Lights Publishing
  • Publication date: 12/1/2009
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Dr. Louis E. Newman is the John M. and Elizabeth W. Musser Professor of Religious Studies at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. He is author of Past Imperatives: Studies in the History and Theory of Jewish Ethics; An Introduction to Jewish Ethics; and the LifeLights™ pastoral care booklet Doing Teshuvah: Undoing Mistakes, Repairing Relationships and Finding Inner Peace (Jewish Lights). Dr. Newman is available for scholar-in-residence weekends and repentance workshops.

Dr. Louis Newman is available to speak on the following topics:

  • Repentance: It's Easier Than You Think, It's Harder Than You Imagine
  • Curses and Stumbling-blocks: How to Relate to the Vulnerable among Us
  • Judaism and Politics: Is Torah Liberal or Conservative?
  • Whistle-blowing: Am I My Brother's (and Sister's) Keeper?
  • The Narrative and the Normative: The Value of Stories for Jewish Ethics

Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis, one of the most respected spiritual leaders and teachers of his generation, has been a rabbi at Valley Beth Shalom in Encino, California, for close to forty years. He is the founding chairman of the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, an organization that identifies and offers grants to those non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews threatened by the agents of Nazi savagery. He is also the founder of Jewish World Watch, which aims to raise moral consciousness within the Jewish community. Synagogues and other religious institutions are now supporting this effort across the country.

Rabbi Schulweis is the author of many books, including: Conscience: The Duty to Obey and the Duty to Disobey (Jewish Lights), Approaches to the Philosophy of Religion, For Those Who Can't Believe, Finding Each Other in Judaism, In God's Mirror, and two books of original religious poetry and meditation—From Birth to Immortality and Passages in Poetry. His Evil and the Morality of God is regarded as a classic.

Rabbi Karyn D. Kedar teaches matters of the spirit to groups throughout the U.S. She is senior rabbi at Congregation B'nai Jehoshua Beth Elohim in the Chicago area, and the inspiring author of The Bridge to Forgiveness: Stories and Prayers for Finding God and Restoring Wholeness; Our Dance with God: Finding Prayer, Perspective and Meaning in the Stories of Our Lives and God Whispers: Stories of the Soul, Lessons of the Heart and contributed to May God Remember: Memory and Memorializing in Judaism—Yizkor; Who by Fire, Who by Water—Un'taneh Tokef and All These Vows—Kol Nidre (all Jewish Lights).

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Table of Contents

Foreword: The "Yet" of Teshuvah#x2014;Turning xv

Preface: Our Human Capacity for Change xix

Acknowledgments xxi

Introduction: Exploring Teshuvah 1

Part I The Nature of Sin 13

1 Dimensions of Sin 15

2 Sin as Illness 19

3 Suffering Shekhinah 22

4 Reverence for Sin 25

5 Sin, Guilt, and Impurity 28

6 Sin Idolatry, and Truth 32

Part II Release from Sin 37

7 Between Two Absolutes; God's Demands and God's Forgiveness 39

8 Responsibility and Accountability 43

9 Freedom, Fate, and Repentance 47

10 Atoning through Sacrifice 51

11 Day of Atonement 58

12 Suffering Atones 62

13 Death as Atonement 65

Part III The Way of Teshuvah 69

14 Turning: The Meaning of a Metaphor 71

15 Step-by-Step on the Path of Repentance 77

16 It Is I 83

17 Remorse 85

18 Announce Your Sins 89

19 Apologize Yet Again 92

20 Making Others Whole Again 95

21 Soul Reckoning 97

22 Teshuvah, Complete and Unending 101

Part IV Teshuvah in Three Dimensions 105

23 Repentance, Prayer, and Righteousness 107

24 Being Fully Oneself 111

25 The Dignity of Penitents 115

26 Reconciliation and Divine Forgiveness 118

27 Teshuvah of Love versus Teshuvah of Fear 122

28 Returning to the Source 125

Part V Experiencing Teshuvah 129

29 A Theological Virtue 131

30 Devotion to Truthfulness 134

31 Cultivating Humility 137

32 God's Role in Teshuvah 140

33 One Day Ahead 145

34 Seeing the Goodness 148

35 Faith in the Certainty of Renewal 151

36 Turning Faults into Merits 153

Part VI Teshuvah Its Problems and Limits 157

37 Sinning Against Repentance 159

38 Jonah, Justice, and Repentance 162

39 Irredeemable Sinners 165

40 A Hardened Heart 170

41 Repenting to the Dead 173

Part VII Teshuvah Its Moral and Spiritual Meaning 177

42 Overcoming Guilt 179

43 As God Sees Us 182

44 Divine Freedom 185

45 Primordial Teshuvah 188

46 Past and Future 191

47 Ahead of the Righteous 195

48 Repentance and Redemption 198

49 The Mystery of Teshuvah 202

Conclusion: Teshuvah in Our Time 205

Notes 214

Suggestions for Further Reading 223

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