Who was first person in history to do complete teshuva (repentance)?

4 Answers 4


The commentary often attributed to the Rosh and sometimes to one of his students, to B'reshis 4:16 (after Kayin's banishment), reads:

ויצא קין יצא כמעלים מבוראו ונגלה לו הקב״ה וא״ל גדול עונך מנשא כיון ששמע קין התחיל לעשות תשובה ואמר גדול עוני מנשוא ואמר אתה טוען עליונים ותחתונים ונקראת נושא עון אמר לו הקב״ה אתה עשית תשובה אבל מחצה עד שהוא יוצא פגע בו אדם א״ל ומה יצא בדינך א״ל אלמלא שהודיתי הייתי אבוד מן העולם באותה שעה תמה אדם ואמר טוב להודות לה׳

Or, in my own, loose translation:

"Kayin went out" [a quotation from 4:16] — he went out like someone hiding from his creator, and God appeared to him, saying "Your sin is too great to excuse". When Kayin heard this, he started doing t'shuva, saying "My sin is too great to excuse" and "You bear what is above and what is below and have been called the one who excuses sin". God told him "You did t'shuva, but halfway".

As Kayin was leaving, Adam met him and said "How did your court case come out?". Kayin told him "Had I not admitted, I'd be gone from the world". At that time, Adam marveled and said "It is good to admit to God".


The Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 84:19) says that it was Reuven. For this he was rewarded by having his descendant, the prophet Hosea, be the one to issue the call to teshuvah "Shuvah Yisrael" (Hos. 14:2, the haftarah of Shabbos Shuvah).

  • what about Cain ?
    – Koachyah
    Commented Sep 7, 2010 at 17:59
  • 1
    It's not so clear whether he actually did teshuvah; it depends on whether his words Gen. 4:13 (גדול עוני מנשוא) are a statement of regret ("my sin is too great to bear") or a rhetorical question ("is my sin too great to bear?"). Ibn Ezra and Ramban hold with the first approach, while Rashi (to that verse, and also to 4:16) says that he was insincere.
    – Alex
    Commented Sep 7, 2010 at 18:26
  • Also, Ramban says he had charata and viduy, but we don't know about azivas hacheit which is the difficult part.
    – YDK
    Commented Sep 8, 2010 at 6:02
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    Isn't there the medrish that Adam said Mizmor Shir L'yom Hashabbos after hearing that Cain had repented? ("I struck a deal with G-d" or something like that.)
    – Shalom
    Commented Sep 8, 2010 at 13:53
  • There's also the liturgy from ... is it Yom Kippur or Selichos? with each stanza listing a famous Biblical character who did repentance; I think it starts with Adam and Cain. Someone fill me in please?
    – Shalom
    Commented Sep 8, 2010 at 13:54

Avraham was Chozer Beteshuvah from a life of Idolatry to recognizing the true Boreh Olam (creator of the universe). See Rambam Hilchos Avodah Zorah.

  • 2
    Good point! And indeed the Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 39:8) has Avraham worrying about these sins of his youth, and Hashem reassuring him that they've vanished like the dew.
    – Alex
    Commented Sep 8, 2010 at 19:21

(a) (R. Yirmeyah ben Elazar): The years that Adam ha'Rishon was in Niduy (excommunication due to his sin) he propagated damaging spirits. "Va'Ychi Adam Sheloshim u'Me'as Shanah va'Yoled bi'Dmuso k'Tzalmo", implies that before this, he fathered things not in his image.

(b) Question (Beraisa - R. Meir): [After he sinned] Adam ha'Rishon was a great Chasid. When he saw that death was decreed on the world through himself, for 130 years he fasted, separated from his wife (Kayin and Hevel were already born - Rashi Bereishis 4:1) and wore belts of fig shoots on his flesh [to afflict himself].


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