What does repentance mean

What Does Repentance Mean? Simple Explanation, Quotes, Bible verses and more

Repentance has the utmost significance in the Jewish world. . Before understanding the traditions of Repentance, one must understand what does Repentance means. For the proper and better understanding of Repentance, let’s briefly discuss the terms on the first hand. 

The Definition of Repentance

The proper interpretation of the term repentance is of utmost importance here for having a clear understanding. In the Hebrew Bible, two Hebrew terms help us to understand Repentance accurately. The first term is “nacham,” which means to turn about and change the mind towards a particular subject. 

The other word is the term sub. It has been used approximately six hundred times in the Hebrew Bible and is elucidated by terms such as turn, returns, restores, seek, and more. 

These terms have been given great significance in the Hebrew Bible. They are frequently mentioned in numerous phrases such as “to turn to the Lord with all your heart.” When you go to the Christian Bible, then there is a Greek word metanoia, which means to change the perception of an individual. 

Repentance means to change your perception about something or a particular subject. It has to do with the way you are contemplating about a specific topic or a person. In simpler words, Repentance is the situation when an individual has a perspective towards one particular subject, and after the process of Repentance, that viewpoint changes to a different attitude towards the same issue. 

Repentance’s definition According to the Cambridge dictionary is: “The act of proving that you’re remorseful for something evil you have committed earlier in your life, and desire that you wouldn’t have done it.”

What Does Repentance Mean in Hebrew?

Repentance in Hebrew: תשובה,  explicitly means the return and is pronounced as “teshuva” or “t’shuva.” Repentance in Judaism is a thing of atoning for some sin.  

According to Judaism, every person commits sins in his life on some occasions. But individuals can minimize or prevent such sinful occurrences from happening again and again by repenting from past disobedience or past wicked experiences. Therefore, the main idea of Repentance in Judaism is “noble self-transformation.”

Teshuvá is an essential concept in the rabbinic view of forgiveness, sin, and Repentance. The tradition isn’t of one mind on the steps one takes to repent of one’s sins. All acknowledge that the Repentance demands five components: identification of one’s immorality as sins, guilt, halting from sin, restoration where desirable, or disclosure. Acceptance of an individual’s wrongdoings as sins is an act of one’s intelligence and moral conscience.

It involves knowing that actions are sinful, identifying such activities in oneself as more than lapses of praxis, or analyzing one’s motives for sin as profoundly as one can. For instance, stealing from somebody can be seen not as a crime but as a sin against another human and a violation of God’s demands of us within the covenant.

The following song is called The Lord of Forgiveness (Adon Ha’Selichot) and is one of the best-known songs during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The song is based on asking for forgiveness from God and our desire to repent in the days before Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, a period of soul-searching. Every year, except in 2020 because of the corona, tens of thousands of people gathered to pray and say Selichot at the Western Wall plaza.

It includes realizing that such acts are part of deeper relatedness patterns and that they’re motivated by most of some profound and darkest elements in our being. Remorse is a feeling.

It’s composed of feelings of regret, of failure to maintain one’s moral standards. It can encompass feelings of being lost and trapped, of anguish, and maybe of despair at our sinfulness and a sense of being alienated from God or our deep spiritual roots, of having abandoned our innermost selves.

Ceasing from committing sins is neither a moral-intellectual analysis nor an emotional feeling; it’s an action. It’s a ceasing from iniquity, a desisting from those models of corrupt activity we possess and get used to. Discontinuing from sin includes stopping the sinful action, consciously repressing thoughts or fantasies about malicious activity, or making a firm commitment not to commit the evil act again. 

Restitution is the act of making better, as great one can, for any damage done. If one has been stolen, one returns the object and pays damages. If an individual has damaged another one’s character, one must try to correct the offended party’s injury. 

Confession has two forms: the ritual or the personal. Ritual admission requires the completion of the rites of exposure at their excellent flashes in society’s prayer time. Personal disclosure requires private confession where God is obliged and including one’s confession within the ceremony at the designated times.

The more particular the private confession, the better it is for the individual. An individual who goes on the steps to teshuva is known as a penitent

The tradition is quite clear. However, recognizing sin, confession, remorse, and restitution, if they’re done without desisting from sin, don’t constitute teshuva. Without ceasing one’s sinful activity, one has arrived at the preliminaries to teshuva. Real ceasing from sin is the thing that counts. 

Therefore, if an individual ceases sinful action because one is frightened to do it, that’s yet teshuva, and the individual is considered a penitent. For instance, if a person ceases to gamble compulsively because somebody frightens to beat him severely the next time he does it, such an individual is considered a penitent.

If a person ceases to steal because he has been told he will be sent to jail the next time it occurs, such a person is considered a penitent.

Moreover, if a person becomes influenced that he will be punished in his afterlife, the person is also considered a penitent. This motive to halt is more important than the earlier ones because it’s a purpose of a meaningful religious worldwide that considers the sinful as actual wrongdoing. 

Teshuva that is rooted in fear of humans and God, is known as Repentance rooted in fear and, although not the high form of teshuva, it’s the core thereof. Reform of one’s character through analysis of confession, sin, remorse, and restitution, combined with the ceasing of sinful action, is known as Repentance implanted in love. 

Repentance is embedded in love is desirable, but, without cessation of sin, reform of one’s character is useless. Maimonides, the first halakhic and the profound power of rabbinic Judaism, notes ceasing from sin as the primary tracks towards teshuva.

Rabbinic customs show us that all the actions towards teshuva are fundamental. Their interrelationship is described as a spiral that touches each of the five points and still advances with every turn. So, one can begin at any time with efforts, disclosure, judgment, Repentance, and restoration. 

Though, as one recites the levels of teshuva, over and over again, one’s judgment or remorse intensifies, one’s repair and responsibility for halting become more specific, or one’s confession becomes more profound. As one cycles through the five stages of teshuva, one’s teshuva reveals more earnest, more severe over and again.

What Does It Mean to Repent?

The step towards repenting is to shift away from sin and self-centeredness and turn to God, and prayer is one of the good ways to turn to God. If you have not pleaded sincerely, if your prayer life has befallen on tough circumstances, Lent is a good opportunity to rise and restart a friendly, tender, and frank connection with God.


The concept of teshuva, and Repentance, is at the core of Jewish theology and a cornerstone of interfaith teachings. As illustrated in Jewish education, Teshuvah involves not the experience of growing an evil eye but the decision to improve that wickedness. Quickly the consciousness and even the determination to change and not to again indulge that wrong isn’t enough in itself.


Repentance in Christianity is briefly illustrated in the Christian Bible as an invitation to people to initiate a thorough shift from one way of life to another. The Repentance (metanoia), as acknowledged for through the Bible, is a calling to a particular, complete, or final unconditional submission to God as Sovereign. Though it involves sadness or grief, it’s higher than that.


Repentance, which is Tawba in Islam, is the Islamic concept of repenting to God because of performing any sins and misdeeds. It’s a direct matter between a person or God, so there’s no intercession.

The exact definition of the Arabic word “tuba” is to return as well as is quoted in the Qur’an and hadith as proverbs of Prophet Muhammad. In the connection of Islam, it means to turn and to retreat from the past sinful and evil eye, and to resolve to abstain from them in the future firmly.


Repentance is known as an apology as an act of acknowledging one’s faults, his shortcomings, past misdeeds, and seeking to correct and make amends for them. In Indian monasteries, a gathering known as Uposatha was held each half month, at which members of the Buddhist Order who had violated the precepts apologized before the Buddha and before the other monks to purify their minds.

Bible verses about repentance

As per the Holy book Bible, the term repentance is a summon invitation for a personal, absolute, and final submission or surrender before God, the superior, and sovereign power. Though Repentance covers grief and disappointment, however, it is a lot deeper than that. It is an invitation of transformation from self-love, self-trust, and self-assertion to obedient trust and self-commitment to now live for God and his purposes. 

Examples of Repentance in the Hebrew Bible?

Some common terms in the Hebrew Bible for Repentance are sub; the verbal forms seem well over 1050 times, though translated repent 13 times, as well as the substantive Repentance, happens once in the New International Version.

More commonly, the translation is turned and returned. The two primary methods of Repentance in the Hebrew Bible were cultic or ritual (for example, expressed in public ceremonies, fasting, many displays of sorrow, liturgies, and days of Repentance), and the prophetic concept (for example, people are to return to the Lord).

To repent or to change involved submission to God’s declared will, assigning trust in him, shifting away from all sin and ungodliness. Every person was to turn from his wicked evil way. 

“If so be they will hearken, and turn every man from his evil way, that I may repent me of the evil, which I purpose to do unto them because of the evil of their doings.”

“It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the evil which I purpose to do unto them; that they may return every man from his evil way; that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin.”

“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD:”

“Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the LORD their God, and David their king; and shall fear the LORD and his goodness in the latter days.”

“Take with you words, and turn to the LORD: say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously: so will we render the calves of our lips.”

What is the repentance prayer (Judaism)?

On the auspicious event of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in the Judaism world, the  Jewish people continuously recite the following prayer.

Our God and God of our forefathers! Grant our prayers to come before You and do not hide from our request. For neither are we so superior nor frozen to say, we are faithful and should not sin,” for indeed, frankly, we have erred? May it be Your will, O Lord our God, to forgive all our sins, and pardon all our wrongs.

For our sinful actions which we have committed in Your sight through the pride of our will,

The trust is breached by committing the sin.

By committing the sin, one’s sight casts off the responsibility.

Lying and denying to help also leafs to sinful actions

By having evil eye and thoughts also one commits sin.

O God, please forgive us for all these sins. 

Give us satisfaction, exonerate us and forgive

The sins which are committed may be unknowingly. 

The sins that are committed because of wanton desires

The sins that one commits to bring their name a power and make themselves richer

O God of forgiveness, please grant us satisfaction and peace to our soul.

Forgive us for all these sins and exonerate us.

The evil eye action that I committed before you in a mocking way, 

And the evil action that I committed in front of you, God, by communicating idly.

And for the evil action that I committed in front of you by consuming extra food and water. 

And for the evil actions that I committed in front of your sight and didn’t regret before.

For all the sins that I have committed, O almighty Lord grant me mercy, 

pardon me for my sins and show us the understanding. 

Avinu Malkeinu, our ancestors, our lord king, we have committed the evil action in front of you!

Avinu Malkeinu, in Your abundant mercy, cleanses us of our guilt before You.

Avinu Malkeinu, bring us back to You in perfect Repentance.

Our Father, our King, be gracious unto us and answer us although we have no merits of our own. Promise to be with us in the hours of dismay, show the individual righteous path and show us love, shower us with mercy, and save us all from our misery. (the following song based on the last three lines)

Are there sins that cannot be repented of? (Judaism - Hebrew Bible)

Yes, in Judaism, there are a few sinful actions that are considered not to be repented. Such evil eye acts are committed against people instead of sins against God or in the heart. Such unrepented sins must not be committed firstly. 

In the scenario of the commitment of such sins by mistake or honest misunderstanding, they must be corrected and placed as the absolute right to the best of an individual’s abilities. 

A person who says I will sin and repent; that is, I will commit a sin and then repent, his repentance is useless since his desire to repent was not authentic. Offenses committed between man and his fellow man, repentance before God does not help.

The person should ask forgiveness and forgiveness from the person against whom he sinned. Also, there are three sins for which it is said that it is better for a person to die and not commit the same sins: murder, incest, and idolatry.

Can Repentance be relevant for non-religious people? 

Repentance is not at all limited to the scope and practices of religious people only. It extends to the people who are atheists or are commonly known as non-religious people as well. As now we see what Repentance truly means, we understand that Repentance is not very repugnant practice.

It is a tradition that is practiced as ought to be practiced in everyone’s life, even in the life of a non-religious person. Even the non-religious people believe and practice self-actualization or self-contemplation about their sinful and non-sinful actions.

What are the actual steps of Repentance? (Judaism)

Teshuvah, which means return or Repentance, is a generous gift from G-d, enabling the individuals to erase our sinful actions via a four-step process. The Torah states the things to us that no matter how far we deviate and as many times as we sin, G-d will wait for us to return to him through Teshuvah.

Teshuva There is four essential parts to Teshuvah:

  • Leaving the Sin
  • Regret
  • Confession Before G-d
  • Acceptance for the Future

Leaving the Sin

It consists of preventing the commission of the sinful action. An individual can not properly follow Teshuvah’s steps if he or she continues to commit the sins, even if he/she happens to correctly perform the next three steps.


Regret consists of sincerely regretting one’s wrong action. One must be genuinely ashamed or embarrassed over one’s sins.

Confession Before God

The admission of guilt or a sinful action in front of G-d comprises the initiative measures towards acknowledging the upcoming period of time, consisting of the perception continuously resolving in an individual’s heart not to do the sinful acts ever again.

Acceptance of Repentance for the upcoming time

The acceptance of guilt in front of God includes the ceremony of a verbal confession that has to be communicated aloud. The said confession ceremony expresses in terms and sentences as the admission of guilt or acceptance of sinful actions that an individual has realized in his and her heart. 

An individual must say the confession during most of the daily prayers – here is the first lines of the prayer:  

We have been culpable, we have been unfaithful, we have robbed. 

We have cast aspersions, we have been perverse, and we have acted wickedly. 

We have sinned intentionally, we have acted violently, we have falsely ascribed guilt. 

The following song is taken from the Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur prayers. The song’s lyrics are a request from God to have mercy on his “work,” the human beings, and to remind God of his love for Israel’s people.

Whether Repentance is one action or a way of life?

Repentance is a way of life. Even as per some of the experts, Repentance is commonly considered the best course of living, which will lead the individual towards a peaceful and loving long-life. 

Repentance emphasizes the holistic environment and various characteristics in an individual’s life. It acts as a source of optimism and encouragement for each sinner and believer simultaneously and is needed as a way of life for success in this world and the afterworld as well.

The significance and relation between Rosh Hashanah and Yok Kippur (Jewish holidays) and Repentance

Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah, one of the most important Jewish holidays, literally means the origin of the year, is stated as the Jewish New Year. The biblical name is known as Yom Teruah for this holiday. It’s the traditional anniversary of the creation of the globe and the creation of Adam or Eve, who are called the biblical first man or first woman.

Rosh Hashanah is a judgment day when Jews believe that the Jewish Gods consider their people according to their deeds from the previous year, decide what the next year will be like for them, or inscribe the results in the Book of Life for the coming year.

When is Rosh Hashanah?

Rosh Hashanah is an event that consists of a 2-day celebration that initiates on the opening day of Tishrei, and according to the Jewish people’s calendar, the seventh month of the Jewish ecclesiastical year. In 2021, Rosh Hashanah in Israel will begin on the evening of Monday, September 6th, and ends in the evening of Wednesday, September 8th. 

Celebrations and Observances

Rosh Hashanah is marked and honored with prayer services in the synagogue, candle lighting in the evening, and the sharing of food. Other  Jewish cultures involve the shofar (a ram’s horn) as prescribed in the Torah. One of the essential observances of this holiday is hearing the shofar in the synagogue. 

One hundred notes are sounded daily amidst the auspicious holiday event. The shofar holiday signifies the trumpet blast from a coronation of the king. Amidst the Rosh Hashanah, the event serves as an invitation to initiate your life towards Repentance. 

The shofar ceremony itself invokes the Binding of Isaac, an event that occurred on Rosh Hashanah ceremony during which a ram took Isaac’s position as a gift to God. (Christians or Muslims remember the tale of the ram taking Isaac’s place as a token of sacrifice.) As a  Jewish culture from the immemorial time, No work is allowed on the Rosh Hashanah event. The maximum amount of the event is consumed in the synagogue, where the regular everyday services are expanded. 

Yom Kippur 

This event day is commonly designated as the Day of Atonement. It is one of the holiest days of the Jewish people’s events of the year. It majorly includes the 10 Days of Awe that starts with the Rosh Hashanah event. The entire day is dedicated to Repentance for sins that were committed during the last year.

In 2021, Yom Kippur in Israel will begin on the evening of Wednesday, September 15th, and ends in the evening of Thursday, September 16th. Jews take this day to concentrate their hearts as well as minds on their relationship with God. Fasting is expected but not needed. Several Jews dress in white as a symbol of personal purity. 

It’s traditional to wear a tallit, and prayer shawl, in the synagogue on Yom Kippur. 5 prayer services are held during Yom Kippur: Neilah, Maariv, Musaf, Shacharit, and Minchah. Each has specific readings or customs. A significant factor of the Yom Kippur services is the repeated communal confession of sins, called the auspicious “Viddui event.” 

On this day, the services finished with Neilah. The gathered people visualize the holy heaven closing doors at the end of the High Holiday period and the Holy mercy Lord closing the Book of Life for the upcoming time. The Neilah event concludes with the shofar (trumpet), which purports God’s response to true Repentance. After Yom Kippur, there’s a joyous celebration or a breaking of the fast.

The 10 Days of Repentance

The times between Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur is an indispensable element in the method of Repentance. The time cycle from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur is called the Ten Days of Repentance. This name looks in sources from the Land of Israel, including the Jerusalem Talmud. 

These days are seen as an opportunity to get changed. Or since the extremes of complete righteousness and absolute wickedness are some and far among, Rosh Hashanah events, for the majority of people, as the opening of a trial that extends unless Yom Kippur. It’s an unusual trial. Some experiments are designed to ascertain the accountability of the prior sinful actions. 

This event, nevertheless, has an added dimension: determining what may be done about future deeds. The Ten Days of Repentance are critical for the final consequence of the experiment. We know that the ultimate judgment is decided by our approach towards our sinful actions and by our experiments to improve our evil eye actions by transforming ourselves.

Quotes about Repentance

"The miracle of teshuva, repentance, is that not only do we start a new page, we go back in the past and edit the old ones.”

"Only our concept of time makes it possible for us to speak of the Day of Judgement by that name; in reality it is a constant court in perpetual session."

"Men make mistakes not because they think they know when they do not know, but because they think others do not know."

"Better an hour of repentance and good deeds in this world than a lifetime in the world to come."

"The auspicious message is that our Lord is a God of mercy, or He responds to Repentance."

"Of all acts of man, Repentance is some divine. The great of all faults is to be conscious of none."

"Repentance isn't so much remorse for what we have done as the fear of the consequences."

" Repentance is but the need for power to sin."

"Nothing erases the past. There's Repentance, there's atonement, and there's forgiveness. That's all, but that's enough."

Recommended repentance books

  1. Moll Flanders
  2. The Doctrine of Repentance
  3. Change of Heart
  4. What Is Repentance?
  5. Recovering Redemption: A Gospel Saturated Perspective on How to Change
  6. Salvation Through Repentance
  7. The Best Thing
  8. The Beginning of Everything

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