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Are there any sins that Hashem will not forgive, even if the person does teshuva sincerely and completely? I'm wondering if, perhaps, the "big three" of idolatry, murder, and deviant sexual behavior are unforgivable, because they have special status in other ways.

If there are unforgivable sins, which are they? I'm looking for sourced answers.

I am thinking of this in the context of Tanya which, at least to my understanding, explores the issue of how a person would give up hope if they saw themselves as a rasha (evil person). Are there other sources that suggest one will be condemned to gehanom no matter what they do but Hashem doesn't want us to know that because we'd be too depressed to learn of this. I'm kinda thinking of the way doctors years ago thought it better not to inform a patient of a terminal illness because they would lose hope.]

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Do you know what a spoiler is? – Y ez Aug 31 '14 at 3:25
That sounds like the Tanya being taken out of context. Perhaps a mareh makom? In general your hypothesis seems to imply a decided Platonian aproach as far as repentance goes and borders on completely antiJewish. By the same token, you can suggest there is no punishment & God made up stories about punishment to trick us into behaving. – user6591 Aug 31 '14 at 3:41
Most certainly the three cardinal sins can be forgiven. Chillul Hashem can only be forgiven upon death. Otherwise, אין לך דבר העומד לפני התשובה - so the answer is no, there is always hope for salvation. @user6591, The Tanya reference would seem to be to chapter 1. – Yishai Aug 31 '14 at 3:49
Just read that chapter, thanks Yishai. Definitely taken out of context. Rasha does not equal unable to do tshuva. – user6591 Aug 31 '14 at 4:07
What's your source for the 3 cardinal sins being unforgivable? OTOH the Rambam does have a list of people for whom Teshuva is so difficult, as to be considered "impossible". See Hil. Teshuva Ch. 4 for details. mechon-mamre.org/i/1504.htm – Danny Schoemann Aug 31 '14 at 7:51
up vote 4 down vote accepted

While I don't claim to know much Tanya (and indeed, the only reason I know what you're referring to is because it's in the first chapter, which is about as far as I got), the way I understood that exchange was if someone viewed themselves as a Rasha, then other issues could arise from that (i.e. depression), but not that a person couldn't do Teshuva. It would just be more difficult, as his mindset would be working against him.

And before I get to the main part of my answer, I'll head off comments by saying, no, I do not know where the sources for these statements are off the top of my head, so if anyone else does, I will gladly edit them in:

To the best of my knowledge, the Gemara and Midrashim are filled with cases of people who did Teshuva after living what some would consider the worst of lives. Even one of the greatest Amoraim, Reish Lakish, originally was a reformed bandit.

I believe there is only one case in the Gemara where someone was told (via a Bas Kol - Heavenly Voice) that 'everyone could do Teshuva except for Acher'. Even in that case, it seemed like the Tanaim themselves might have disagreed with the Bas Kol, as Rabbi Meir (a student of Acher) implied that Acher could still do Teshuva. (One explanation for the Bas Kol that I remember hearing, again I don't remember the source, is not that Acher couldn't do Teshuva, just that he wouldn't be given Siyata DiShemaya - Divine Assistance)

As to your comment in the beginning of your question about not being forgiven for the 3 cardinal sins, do you have a source for that? As Yishai also commented, I don't believe they are unforgivable. While one might still be obligated in a punishment on this Earth, which might in itself be the Teshuva, G-D has His own 'accounting', where a person could be forgiven.

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Consider the case of Nevuzaradan who killed all those people to appease the blood of the murdered zecharyah (a navi and kohen). See the kinos and Sanhedrin 7. He ran away, did teshuvah and converted. If he can be forgiven (after having done at least 2 out of the three) then everyone has a chance, if he sincerely tries – sabbahillel Aug 31 '14 at 4:17
@sabbahillel and salmononius2. Thank you for your responses. You have given great examples and hope that all can be forgiven by Hashem. – JJLL Aug 31 '14 at 15:37
R' Chaim Friedlander said that the bas kol that R' Elisha Ben Abuya heard was meant to be part of his nisayon, to make doing teshuva harder for him (as a consequence of him making it harder for himself, but that's another story). According to R' Friedlander, even the bas kol was only meant to mislead him. – Y ez Aug 31 '14 at 20:27

You wrote:

I understand that mainstream Judaism says that all sinners can do teshuva and will be forgiven their sins.

It's not only mainstream Judaism that belives in the concept of Teshuva!

Teshuva is explicitly mentioned in the Torah - see the Rambam on Teshuva who documents various mentions of Teshuva in the Torah.

In Chapter 4 the Rambam also mentions various sins for which it's almost impossible to do Teshuva, for technical reasons, but not because there is any sin for which one cannot do teshuva of one really tried.

For example: If you steal from the public - as in a busy shopkeeper who cheats on his weights, it's almost impossible for him to do teshuva as he has no idea whom to return the monies to and how much he stole from each person over the years.

You claim:

The only exception is if one committed one or more of the three "cardinal sins" of idolatry, murder and deviant sexual behavior.

The above is a false assertion. While you should choose to be killed rather than do any of these 3 sins, if you sinned you can do Teshuva.

See the Rambam in Hil. Yeshodei HaTorah Ch. 5 for details.

You ask:

Are there other sources that suggest one will be condemned to gehanom no matter what they do but Hashem doesn't want us to know that because we'd be too depressed to learn of this.

As I wrote, this would contradict various verses in the Torah.

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Thank you @Dannyschoeman for your answer. The reason I said mainstream Judaism is simply because I do not know Reform Judaism's perspective on sin and forgiveness. The following source does suggest that one cannot not be forgiven for murder since the murdered cannot obviously forgive. Still not sure that Hashem forgives for that sin. jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/repentence.html. – JJLL Aug 31 '14 at 15:05
.......ince I do not understand Hebrew, I take your word that Rambam said that one can do teshuva even for one of the three cardinal sins.Applying Talmudic logic, then that would suggest if one can be forgiven (by Hashem) for the most severe sins, then one would surely be forgiven for a lesser sin. I am rewording my OP but I am tending to mark your answer "answered" – JJLL Aug 31 '14 at 15:06

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