Question: Why are some consequences (such as punishments, penalties) in Torah Law permanent, with no appeal or way to alleviate? I am looking for a general covering this topic ideally using an answer that case studies the point that once a wife has cheated on her husband they are no longer allowed to remain married ever again.

Background: What is the concept of forgiveness as it relates to relationships between people in Judaism? Are there forgiven and unforgivable sins? Forgiveness means forgetting any hurt or feeling of revenge, does it depend on whether the person regrets it or does it not depend on it? Does forgiving mean having previous relationships again?

Observing the Torah this of forgiveness is a very strange concept for me but it seems to exist in the Jewish core, the common people and here I include myself see the Torah as a set of laws and punishments, with no scope for the law to punish an interval of repentance or forgiveness, even the concept of teshuvah that I've done here still has many doubts. It is said that God forgives everything, even the most vile sinner but apparently men have sins that cannot be forgiven such as adultery on the part of the wife since adultery on the part of the husband towards his wife is not recognized, he has to separate from her.

So how is this structured in Judaism? I want to hear the whole story if that segmentation exists.

There are similar questions already asked on this site that I have already seen but not with doubts like mine, so do your best to offer an adequate answer to each of the points in doubt, you don't need to answer all of them, you can answer all or just one

  • Similar : judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/87837/… May 16, 2023 at 16:56
  • Court is one thing and the personal mistakes I am referring to are another. If there has been a murder, it is clear that the victim will not be able to forgive the killer even if he repents. What Jewish sin is brought to court today? There is no such court, so forgiveness remains, so what? Is there forgiveness for any sin?
    – Thales
    May 16, 2023 at 17:53
  • Forgiveness and restitution are separate things. There are some sins that cannot be "fixed", but forgiveness is always possible. Forgiveness can come in two ways, either the victim can forgive on their own, which means completely letting go of any grudge of bad feelings, or the aggressor can apologise and try to ignite the compassionate forgiveness of the victim. There are some rules that if an aggressor sincerely tries a certain number of times and the victim refuses to forgive, they can be considered as forgiven in halacha. Is that the sort of thing you are asking about?
    – Rabbi Kaii
    May 16, 2023 at 18:06
  • Possible duplicate: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/87899/…
    – Rabbi Kaii
    May 16, 2023 at 18:07
  • 1
    Not sure what is being asked here. The "Background", in particular, needs to be reworded. It's unclear what you are trying to express. But if you are trying to understand the Torah viewpoint concerning an adulterous wife, as contrasted to a wife only suspected of adultery, the place to look is Hoshea the Prophet. He understood that the Jewish people are compared to G-d's bride (like at the giving of the Torah) & asked about your questions. G-d told him to go & marry a working prostitute and raise a family with her. See chapter 14 regarding the subject of forgiveness. May 17, 2023 at 17:47

2 Answers 2


It seems you are conflating a few different ideas. There is obtaining forgiveness from G-d (not being punished for the sin), forgiveness from the person you harmed, and there is undoing all effects of the sin.

The first can be done with sincere teshuva. If one sincerely regrets the sin and resolves himself not to do it again, possibly with extra steps depending on the sin, etc, one can obtain forgiveness from G-d for even the worst sins. This means that on Rosh Hashana, or when one goes up to heaven, or any other time one is being judged for his sins, this one isn't counted as a sin, and one isn't punished for it. Note that, if the sin harmed another person, one must first obtain their forgiveness before G-d will consider forgiving your sin.

The second can be done by sincerely asking the person you harmed for forgiveness. There are provisions for if the person has already died, in which case one may have to go to their grave with ten men to ask for forgiveness, or if the person won't grant forgiveness after being sincerely asked some number of times. After this, the sin is forgiven by the person, and is eligible to be forgiven by G-d.

Even if a sin is completely forgiven, it can have some effects that can't be undone, regardless how much one regrets the act. This is the concept of "what is crooked will not be able to be straightened" (Ecclesiastes 1:15). If one has a child out of wedlock, the child will not be un-born just because he did teshuva. If one's sin has any lasting effects, they may not ever be able to be undone.

In the case you mention, a woman can never go back to being with one man if she was ever with another man afterwards. This includes if she divorced her first husband, and then the second one died/divorced her/etc - she cannot get remarried to her first husband. Obtaining forgiveness from her husband and doing teshuva does not undo the fact that she was with another man. Not everything can be undone.

  • What if she was divorced from her first husband, then had relations with a second man but did not marry him, and now wants to go back to her original husband?
    – Joel K
    May 17, 2023 at 4:03
  • @JoelK Good question. Saul gave his daughter Michal to David and then she gave it to Paltiel, did David want her back even though he implies that there was no relationship but there was no marriage?
    – Thales
    May 17, 2023 at 15:46
  • @JoelK Then indeed she's permitted to her original husband (Shulchan Aruch, Even Haezer 10:1).
    – Meir
    May 18, 2023 at 16:15
  • @Meir In which case the final paragraph of this answer is not very precise
    – Joel K
    May 18, 2023 at 17:12
  • @JoelK you are right, I will be editing it once I find some information I'm looking for
    – Esther
    May 18, 2023 at 17:27

Laws are designed to ecnourage good behavior. When a woman knows her sin will not be forgiven, she will be less likely to cheat.

Similarly, the Mamzer punishment is designed to deter parents from intending to bear a child through an illegal relationship.

Sins between man and God are also not entirely forgivable, as implied in the Talmed whenever quoting the verse "that which is bent cannot be made straight."

Much of the lore about repentance is designed to create visualizations which help keep a person's behavior optimal, before or after sin.

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