Project Genesis

Atonement Without Blood

Question: I have a question about the Holiday Yom Kippur: I thought according to the Torah, there is only one way to receive atonement for our sins- through the blood that makes atonement for our sins. How do we do that on Yom Kippur?

Answer: Animal sacrifices done correctly are one way to atone for some sins, but not necessarily the best way. Furthermore, if a person knows something is a sin and does it anyway, there is actually no sacrifice that will give him atonement!

Here are a sampling of a few other forms of bloodless action for atonement that are spoken of by G-d in the Torah:

Exodus 22:1 – PUNITIVE DAMAGES -

“If a man steals an ox, or a sheep or goat, and slaughters it or sells it, he shall pay five cattle in place of the ox, and four sheep in place of the sheep.”

Exodus 22:2 – RESTITUTION -
“...He shall make restitution.”

Exodus 30:15 – MONEY -
“The rich shall not give more and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel, when they give the offering to the Lord, to make atonement for your souls.”

Leviticus 5:11-13 – FLOUR -
“But if he be not able to bring two turtledoves, or two young pigeons, then he that sinned (an unintentional sin) shall bring for his offering a tenth part of an Efa or fine flour for a sin offering…and the priest shall make atonement for him in regard to his sin…and he shall be forgiven…”

Hosea 14:2 – WORDS -
“...We will offer the words of our lips instead of calves.”

Psalms 51:18-19 – A CONTRITE HEART -
“For You desire not sacrifice; or else I would bring it: You take delight not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of G-d are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart.”

Kings 8:49-50 – PRAYER -
“...Hear their prayer and their supplication in Heaven, Thy dwelling place…and forgive your people that have sinned against you, and all their transgressions…”

Eliahu Levenson

2 Follow-ups »

  1. If we intentionally sin, how can we be forgiven?

    If one knows an action is sinful and does the action anyway, sacrifices do not atone. Other methods of atonement remain open to a person however. For capital crimes, the death penalty, administered through legal means, death may become part of the atonement process. For lesser sins, there is incarceration, restitution, punitive actions, prayer, contrition, and more.

    Very important is sincerity, verbal confession to G-d, and a heartfelt expectation that one will never again commit that offense.

    We do what we can do and pray that forgiveness will come.

    Comment by ATR — November 6, 2007 @ 1:22 pm

  2. If you have a contrite heart for your sin, is there a way that you will know for certain that you are forgiven?

    There are multiple problems with this.

    First off, one may deceive himself into believing he has a contrite heart. People are pretty good at making themselves believe almost anything. A contrite heart requires deep and sincere reflection and genuine sorrow. One has to work hard at it.

    Will a contrite heart affect forgiveness? It depends on multiple factors. If it is a sin against man, such as theft or many others, then one must seek forgiveness from those sinned against. That would go along with the contrite heart. Often a contrite heart is not enough. Read the other examples that were listed. They may be needed as well.

    When all is said and done, will G-d forgive a person with a contrite heart? Only G-d knows. We have to try our best and hope to find acceptance.

    Regards, Eliahu Levenson

    Comment by ATR — November 19, 2007 @ 12:31 pm

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