Is a Compassionate God Unforgiving?

This week’s Torah portion of Behaloscha (Numbers 8:1-12:16) contains God’s instruction to give individuals a second chance to offer a Passover offering if they were unable to do so on Passover.

This special offering is called Pesach Sheni, the “second Passover” and provides an important spiritual lesson we can apply to our lives.

Although God desires that we pursue a life of goodness and holiness, we are not expected to be perfect. If perfection were the only option for mankind, God would not have provided us with the opportunity to repent to rectify our mistakes.

Giving us a second chance is a beautiful demonstration of God’s compassion, mercy, and loving-kindness.

I find it disturbing that some Christians claim there is an “unforgivable sin.” They site Mark 3:28 to claim that if someone rejects or questions their belief in Jesus, they will never get a second chance to accept him.

This all or nothing view is antithetical to Judaism.

Many Christian theologians agree and reject the idea of an unforgivable sin as a dogmatic misinterpretation of the New Testament.

Why would some Christians take such a radical position and promote the idea of an unforgivable sin?

Based on the writings of Dr. William Sargant in his seminal work “Battle for the Mind” I believe the “unforgivable sin’ is used to manipulate and frighten individuals so they will not question their beliefs. Sargant considered this a form of brainwashing.

Asking questions is fundamental to Judaism, as King Solomon said, “the first to state his case seems right until another comes forward and examines him” (Proverbs 18:17).

Additionally, those Christians who denounce the idea of an unforgivable sin point out that the New Testament says, “examine everything carefully” (1 Thessalonians 5:21) and “test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (1 John 4:1).

God gave us many gifts. This includes a mind to make thoughtful and meaningful decisions.

Faith plays an essential role in Judaism; however, faith does not exempt us from thinking things through. As it says, “A wise man will hear and increase in learning” (Proverbs 1:5) and “fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7).

May this Shabbat enhance our appreciation of God’s compassion, and may we take advantage of the multiple opportunities we are given to appreciate God’s wisdom and to strengthen our spiritual connection to Him.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz