Repentant sinner, literally ‘one who returns’ from his evil ways. That a sinner is to be encouraged to return to God and repent of his sins is stressed by the Talmudic Rabbis, following the biblical teachings about sin and repentance.
In times when conversions to other religions were not unknown among Jews, the name baal teshuvah was given especially to a convert to Christianity or Islam who had returned to the Jewish fold.
In the second half of the twentieth century, there has emerged a strong baal teshuvah movement in which the name is given to those, especially young persons, formerly estranged from or ignorant of full Jewish observance, who have now returned to the fully Orthodox way of life. The name baal teshuvah has here lost its original meaning, which bordered on the pejorative, to denote something of a status symbol.
Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies.