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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    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 Aug 31 '14 at 7:51

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.

  • 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
  • As I wrote, this would contradict various verses in the Torah. You didn't mention any verses in the Torah. You just pointed to a claim by one (great) individual about verses in the Torah. Thus does not preclude someone else from disagreeing. || Your one indirect reference to verse says nothing about whether or not some sins are too great for teshuva. The closest Rambam comes to saying it is אפילו רשע כל ימיו, ועשה תשובה באחרונה--אין מזכירין לו שם רשעו, שנאמר "ורשעת הרשע לא ייכשל בה, ביום שובו מרשעו" (יחזקאל לג,יב). which isnt meant to address which sins.
    – mevaqesh
    Nov 17 '17 at 17:25
  • if you sinned you can do Teshuva. See the Rambam in Hil. Yeshodei HaTorah Ch. 5 for details. Rambam doesnt actually say anything about teshuva there. All he says is that in such a case: כל מי שנאמר בו ייהרג ואל יעבור, ועבר ולא נהרג--הרי זה מחלל את השם, ואם היה בעשרה מישראל, הרי זה חילל את השם ברבים; וביטל מצות עשה שהיא קידוש השם, ועבר על מצות לא תעשה שהיא חילול השם. Which besides for not answering as it doesnt talk about teshuva, doesn't even necessarily address the case at hand as it addresses a case of coercion, which the OP does not seem to be talking about.
    – mevaqesh
    Nov 17 '17 at 17:29

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 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
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    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. Aug 31 '14 at 20:27

There is a Rabbi on YouTube named Tovia Singer, he said the only unforgivable sin in Judaism is using Gods name in vain.

By Gods name He means the actual name

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