Is there any reason that someone who has committed horrible sins in the past (for example, mass murder) could not become a Jew? Assume, of course, that the sinner/criminal is willing to do teshuvah for his actions.

It would seem that, for example, certain historical figures placed themselves beyond the pale of ever being able to become a Jew, even if they had repented in their lifetimes. Is it correct that such people would have been categorically forbidden from becoming Jews? If so, at what level of sin is that line drawn?

  • 1
    There is no such thing as being unable to repent. Which historical figures are you referring to?
    – HodofHod
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 3:17
  • 2
    Well, one in particular comes to mind. But jutky's answer would suggest that even he could have become Jewish if he had done teshuvah in his lifetime. Correct?
    – SAH
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 12:10
  • 2
    Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/6429/…
    – jake
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 16:38

2 Answers 2


Anyone can convert to Judaism.

We find an example in Gittin 57:2 that Nevuzardan killed millions of jews and then converted.

  • Interesting, though, considering the statement from the Gemara I quoted in my answer: would the Sanhedrin have still put him to death for those murders?
    – Alex
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 16:20
  • @Alex Would kind of warning would you give him?
    – Double AA
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 16:21
  • @DoubleAA: there's no shogeg for a ben Noach, "because he should have learned [that this action is forbidden] and didn't do so" (Rambam, Hil. Melachim 10:2). So it sounds like no warning is needed.
    – Alex
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 19:00
  • @Alex But you might need warning to have him killed after conversion.
    – Double AA
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 19:10
  • @DoubleAA: doesn't look like it. See Rashi to Sanhedrin 71b, ד"ה הואיל and ד"ה לישראל, that hasraah would indeed have been needed had he committed these acts after his conversion, but not before.
    – Alex
    Commented May 29, 2012 at 19:50

A halachic source that bears on this is Rambam, Hil. Melachim 10:4 (from Sanhedrin 71b):

A gentile who converts after cursing G-d's name, worshipping false gods, engaging in relations with a colleague's wife, or killing a fellow gentile is exempt from punishment.

In contrast, if he converted after killing a Jew or having relations with a Jew's wife, he is liable...

So we see that he can indeed be accepted as a convert.

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