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If parents have committed atrocious sins against their children such as incest, physical abuse, drugging, etc. is it considered an unforgiveable sin?

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anonjew, welcome to Mi Yodeya and thank you for bringing your important questions here. It seems to me that in this post you have 3 separate questions. I'm going to edit out the latter two questions, but I encourage you to re-ask them as separate posts; for pragmatic reasons, we like to keep it to one question per post around here. I look forward to seeing you around! –  Double AA Jul 2 '12 at 1:54
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Allow me to also emphasize that this site is not a substitute for qualified rabbinic advice. Please treat any information gleaned from here as if it came from a group of friends. Any real-life issue should be discussed in detail with a professional as appropriate. –  Double AA Jul 2 '12 at 1:59
    
@DoubleAA Shouldn't that be "Please treat any information gleaned from here as if it came from a group of anonymous internet users, who may or may not be human"? –  HodofHod Dec 27 '12 at 23:37
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5 Answers

To the best of my knowledge, there is no such thing as an unforgiveable sin. The 3 sins that are thought to be the "worst" are Murder, Idolatry, and Forbidden Relations. These are considered so severe that a Jew is commanded to let himself be killed rather than transgress them. (By contrast, every other sin can (and many times, must,) be violated to save one's own life, or the life of another.) But there are innumerable stories of people who committed these sins and repented afterwards, and their repentance was accepted.

However, be aware that repentance is not strictly a man-to-G-d act. When one has sinned and damaged someone else, their repentance necessitates at least attempting to gain the forgiveness of their victim. Sins as severe and reprehensible as the ones you mention are certainly among those for which a sinner must gain the forgiveness of their victim.

However, even if their victim does not forgive them, it doesn't mean their predicament is hopeless.


Now, while I have never heard of an unforgiveable sin, that doesn't mean that every sin can be atoned for in this world. In the times of the Sanhedrin, certain sins could only be atoned for by capital punishment. There are also stories of people doing sincere repentance and dying immediately thereafter. So it is possible that even today some sins can only be cleansed by death and (possibly) what follows thereafter.


TL;DR.

Any sin can be atoned for. Sometimes this necessitates death or even "hell". Repentance for sins that damage other people requires gaining the forgiveness of the victim.

(Sources: Numerous. For repentance always being possible see the sources on my question here. For death immediately following repentance see Avodah Zarah 17a)

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Sort of. Rambam writes (Teshuvah 4:3):

To use translation on chabad.org (their additions in brackets, my one addition in {curly brackets}:

Among these [24 {sins which make repentance hard}] are five [transgressions] for which it is impossible for the person who commits them to repent completely. They are sins between man and man, concerning which it is impossible to know the person whom one sinned against in order to return [what is owed him] or ask for his forgiveness. They are:

a) One who curses the many without cursing a specific individual from whom he can request forgiveness;

b) One who takes a share of a thief's [gain], for he does not know to whom the stolen article belongs. The thief steals from many, brings him [his share], and he takes it. Furthermore, he reinforces the thief and causes him to sin;

c) One who finds a lost object and does not announce it [immediately] in order to return it to its owners. Afterwards, when he desires to repent, he will not know to whom to return the article;

d) One who eats an ox belonging to the poor, orphans, or widows. These are unfortunate people, who are not well-known or recognized by the public. They wander from city to city and thus, there is no one who can identify them and know to whom the ox belonged in order that it may be returned to him.

e) One who takes a bribe to pervert judgment. He does not know the extent of the perversion or the power [of its implications] in order to pay the [people whom he wronged], for his judgment had a basis. Furthermore, [by taking a bribe], he reinforces the person [who gave it] and causes him to sin.

I should, however, note what he says in 4:6 (same translation):

All of the above, and other similar transgressions, though they hold back repentance, they do not prevent it entirely. Should one of these people repent, he is a Baal-Teshuvah {someone who did repentance} and has a portion in the world to come.

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+1 Also he.wikisource.org/wiki/… –  Double AA Jul 2 '12 at 5:02
    
+1. But your answer also seems to be "Not really". –  HodofHod Jul 2 '12 at 5:11
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The Rambam writes that it is considered cruel to repeatedly refuse to forgive someone who asks sincerely for forgiveness. Under normal circumstances if they ask once, twice and then a third time you must forgive them, or else you become the one in the wrong. They however do need to appease the wronged party and make amends as far as possible, such as returning stolen property, paying for damages or compensating monetarily for pain caused.

Personally, I cannot imagine putting a price on the damage caused by parental betrayal. If I recall correctly, compensation for physical pain is evaluated by asking how much money the victim would have accepted to bear that pain. It's not clear to me whether compensation for emotional pain is evaluated in the same manner, but what I imagine to be the crippling effect of the extreme scenarios above would surely not be covered by any amount of money. How could they make amends for what they have done?

I don't think this means that the child is exempted from ever contemplating forgiving such parents. While the parents may never correct or be able to correct the wrongs they did, from my reading of pop psychology part of the healing process includes letting go of resentment for the perpetrators. I imagine that would be a milestone in a lifetime of extensive therapy, and also that there are degrees of forgiveness. It is not an all-or-nothing thing.

In summary, it is not an unforgivable sin, but the child need not forgive the parents until he is ready.


I hope it is obvious that this question goes far beyond well-meant advice from the internet. The above is all my amateur opinion, and even if these principles are valid, their application to a particular case requires profound psychological wisdom more than Torah wisdom, as well as a full understanding of the circumstances and personalities involved.

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+1 Excellent!!! –  HodofHod Jul 2 '12 at 14:38
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The only sins that are unforgivable are those that are not repented of.

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there's a discussion of this exact question in the chovos halevavos shaar hateshuva ch.9

http://dafyomireview.com/article.php?docid=388#ch9

bkitzur he says yes. one can repent for any sin, although there are conditions to repentance that many people dont even know about

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