in Judaism, a moral transgression (or sin) against God or man. It may vary from grievous to slight and is the opposite of mitzwa (commandment), understood in the broad sense of any good deed. Whereas Jews are taught to prefer death to the willful commission of any of the three major 'averot (idolatry, the shedding of innocent blood, and adultery and incest), they may commit lesser 'averot (e.g., violate the sabbath) to preserve human life. On Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, one atones only for those 'averot against God, while those against a fellow man must be remedied in person as soon as possible

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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