Yom Kippur: Can the Nations Also Repent?

 Who is a Hashem like You, Forgiving iniquity And remitting transgression; Who has not maintained His wrath forever Against the remnant of His own people, Because He loves graciousness! (Micha 7:18)

With Yom Kippur (Day of atonement) around the corner, Jews worldwide are preparing to fast in an effort to be angel-like as they repent and have their final judgment decided for all the sins committed in the year 5779. But what about the nations? Can they repent as well? The answer to this complex question was given in a lecture by Rabbi Richter in Kfar Tapuach (Apple Village).

The first source Rabbi Richter discuses is a Psikta Rav Kahane in the 7th paragraph in Tanchuma Haazinu says the following verse which is also the priestly blessing it states: “God will lift up his face and bring upon you peace”  יָאֵר ה’ פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ

The verse comes from the following verse:

Hashem deal kindly and graciously with you! (Numbers 6:25)

But in Hebrew, the term used lasaet panim means that there is favoritism of one over the other. Therefore, the sages ask the following question: How can God favor all of his people? The answer according to Rabbi Richter is that he doesn’t. “If a person repents, they receive favoritism in the eyes of God. But then they ask if this includes the gentile world. The answer is ‘no'” explains Richter.

Additionally, it says in Micha:

 Who is a Hashem like You, Forgiving iniquity And remitting transgression; Who has not maintained His wrath forever Against the remnant of His own people, Because He loves graciousness! (Micha 7:18)

“The sages ask if that verse applies to all people. But the sages say to the inheritors only, meaning – the Jewish people” Rabbi Richter notes.

However, on the other hand, in the 10th chapter of the Pirkei Rav Eliezer, also in the Jerusalem Talmud that the nations are “easy to repent” – meaning that they are much closer to repenting explains the rabbi.

“The Jewish people are likened to the children of a king and therefore a parent can look the other way when they sin. That’s why Jews can repent. But the relationship of the nations to God is different. They are servants of the king and for a servant, there is no room to forgive and forget” he added.

However, Bnei Yisaschar’s same book also states that although a king is not allowed to forgive and forget to protect his honor, that only applies when purposefully disrespected the king. In that instance, a king must not put his honor aside and must, therefore, judge that person accordingly. There is no room for repentance there Richter explains.

But if a gentile sinned accidentally, then even the gentile has a way to repent so long as it was not done with malice. That’s why a gentile is allowed to bring certain sacrifices to the Temple.

See his entire hour-long lecture below: