The gemara in Sotah 3a states:

ריש לקיש אמר אין אדם עובר עבירה אא"כ נכנס בו רוח שטות שנא' (במדבר ה, יב) איש איש כי תשטה אשתו תשטה כתיב

Reish Lakish says: A man commits a transgression only if a spirit of foolishness [shetut] enters him, as it is stated: “If any man’s wife goes aside [tisteh]” (Numbers 5:12) written tishteh

Q: What is this "spirit of foolishness" referring to- what does it mean?

(thinking out loud 🤔)

  • are we literally talking about a spirit?
  • if so, where would such a spirit come from
  • what would trigger this spirit
  • couldn't one argue that sinning is beyond a person's control? After all, the aveirah was committed when the person was overtaken by said "spirit"
  • 2
    pashtut. A man has a war against the Yetser, if the Yetser is victorious, the man behavior is insane. The example of Sota illustrates very good the process. The war with the Yetser is to spend energy not to be in Ychud. This is a little war. The married woman can easily avoid Ychud. But she decided to make this Avera. Afterward, it's almost impossible for him to avoid the relationship with the man because of a Ruach Shtut. I assume the Ruach Shtut is the second step of the process.
    – kouty
    May 9, 2019 at 6:22

2 Answers 2


Kuntres U'mayan (1:1-4) explains that man's (the highest of all creations) pleasure should be in spiritual matters, and especially in wisdom, because that is his advantage over all creations. When one decides instead to take pleasure from one of the physical levels of pleasure (eating, art, etc.), not only is he not fulfilling his purpose on this world, but he is also dragging himself down to the level of animals! Thus, it is indeed quite foolish to follow the instigation of the Yetzer Hara.


I believe the Gemara is saying that the only way a person could willfully sin thereby separating themselves from the One & Only, the Greatest Good Imaginable, & the Source of all life, blessing, & goodness is if he’s gone mad with lust & is literally out of his right mind, it therefore follows that a spirit of foolishness must have momentarily entered him bec sinning is so incredibly illogical

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