Can I be condemned only by my thoughts? (without doing any bad deed)

Note: This question is related to another question on this site

  • No. But how often do thoughts dwelled upon lead to action? And usually the negative (bodily gratification, sin) ones
    – user16556
    Commented Oct 9, 2021 at 18:01
  • In some cases, states of mind can be active. Please see my answer below with hypotheticals. Commented Oct 10, 2021 at 12:19

1 Answer 1


I would approach from an answer from a moral philosophy perspective based on fact patterns that could substantiate theoretically moral wrong which gives me the cue that, in fact, certain states of mind (thoughts) could arguably deemed sins from a stand point of religion:

In general a thought directed to committing a crime and knowing that a crime would be committed if such thought would manifest in action will not be a crime if it is not followed by action aimed at committing the crime.

However, if the reason is such that is outside of the control of the mind, for e.g. the state of mind is of such determination that action would follow the thought to manifest within a subjectively defined period of time, and manifest crime would ensue absent the sudden and unexpected death of a sinner-to-be, the wrong is equal morally on them as if such unexpected circumstance would not impeded the manifestation of the moral wrong.

A more halachic hypothetical relates to a question I discussed with my hazan recently:

If, instead of using Siri, you would be able to turn on the lights at home on Shabbat by a simple brain chip, would that be labor and therein a sin? Clearly.

Since even if you use Siri, you may say words that, if a phone is not present to cause the lights to turn on, would not be a sin. Just because you use different body parts to cause change in the world of nature that is inappropriate on Shabbat, it is still inappropriate. So what was the difference with the phone being present and not for one to be deemed to have sinned? The state of mind. The fact you knew the phone was there and still said what you knew would cause such change in the world that is inappropriate.

To further this and in a sense return to the first hypothetical: What if the state of mind is such that includes the (incorrect) information that the phone is on, and the determination to cause the phone to cause the lights to turn on manifests in action and the proper commands are said, but the lights not turn on merely for the reason that the battery of the phone depleted? In half jest: A sinner is born.

To look at the silent-Siri fact pattern again, let’s presume the same fact pattern, but consider this: Does merely thinking “I want Siri to turn on the lights” or “I should get Siri turn on the lights” are divisible from “Siri turn on the lights” or “Let there be light”. The former are of contemplative in nature the later are not only reflections of determination, but are manifest actions in the mind (presuming you know such technology is available to you and therefore you have the belief such sentences will cause action).

Now if the phone was dead unbeknownst to you, and you still pronounce the sentence (mentally) or manifest mental action otherwise absent the linguistic concepts like how you call your arms to action, it will still remain equally wrong morally or sinful from a halachic perspective as if the battery would be sufficiently charged and the phone was operable to carry out the mental command.

If these hypotheticals feel “less than thin air” you may consider similar fact patterns where capital sins or crimes are induced in similar technological context: Turning off autopilot or self-driving on a vehicle transporting at high speeds its otherwise unconscious single occupant by a “spell of thought”.

But, as you can see, in each of these cases we have had to consider the a determined state of mind or such actually bringing change in the world outside of the mind.

While it appears clear to me, that by any moral or religious standards, the determined or acting mind cannot, but be deemed prone to condemnable, but the contemplating one does not seem plausibily fallible to these arguments.

  • Welcome to Mi Yodeya. Answers should have sources to them. Your answer is mainly speculative.
    – N.T.
    Commented Oct 10, 2021 at 5:41
  • 1
    Welcome to MiYodeya and thanks for this first answer. Since MY is different from other sites you might be used to, see here for a guide which might help understand the site. Great to have you learn with us!
    – mbloch
    Commented Oct 10, 2021 at 6:11
  • 2
    @mbloch Thank you for the welcoming.I will review before posting anything more Commented Oct 10, 2021 at 6:16
  • @N.T. If you found any flaws in my reasoning which is merely based on the concept of agency you are welcome to point it out — including by the use of arguments of others or as you referred to it “sources”. Commented Oct 10, 2021 at 12:16

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