I am not Jewish but I would like to know what the Torah has to say on the topic of repentance. How can one be reborn and rid of previously committed sins? How about if the sins were done as a child?


Your desire to set things right is very commendable. But first a word of caution. The Jewish idea of both sin and repentance is very different than the same concepts as explained in the teachings of other religions.

Since I don't know you, I will give you the short answer, because I am afraid that otherwise, it is too easy for me to miss the mark.

According to Judaism, repentance has three main components: remorse for our mistakes, resolve not to repeat them, and ideally, putting into words, to G‑d, that we blew it. Articulation of our blunder destroys the "body" of sin, while our remorse and resolve realigns the energy we put into the sin — the energy that acts as the sin's "soul." And depending on the intensity and profundity of our regret and our determination to set things right, we either can simply free the spiritual energy that we locked into an impure realm, or we can actually elevate this energy to a pure realm, a holy realm. But this second sort of repentance is not easily achieved. It means that we've reached deep inside of ourselves, to our core, and "restored" its proper balance with G‑d. And this, in a nutshell, is the Jewish idea of "rebirth." It's return. Returning to G‑d, of course, the Source.

(If you so inclined, click here for many more longer, comprehensive articles on the topic.)

As for your question about transgressions committed by a child: As children, we lack the maturity to fully appreciate the enormous difference between right and wrong. Consequently, we are not held accountable in the eyes of G‑d for the mistakes we make as children. Nonetheless, our sages teach that it is praiseworthy to make amends for the sins of our youth as well.

I want to conclude by sharing a novel insight expounded by the chassidic teachings. Although repentance is usually associated with feelings of bitterness and contrition, repentance must also be accompanied by joy. Why? Because before returning to G‑d we were distant from Him, our misdeeds separating us from G‑d. But since G‑d is kind and compassionate, He surely accepts our apologies for our wrongdoing, and sits us up beside Him again.

What better reason is there to be happy?

Rabbi Eliezer Danzinger for