According to Rabbi Dessler's idea of a "bechira point", if something is beyond my bechira point and I transgress it, does that mean that I won't be punished for it because it is beyond what I'm currently capable of?

  • Great Q, ... I assume part of the formula revolves around how that guy acts with the things that are within his bechira point? :) Sep 23, 2022 at 16:15
  • @DavidKenner the idea as far as I understand it is that the "bechira point" is the zone of decisions that you need to make - anything above that is something that is too much for you and anything below is something that you won't even consider (eg. murdering a random person in the street). Sep 23, 2022 at 16:59

2 Answers 2


Let me explain my understanding of Qunterus haBechirah by example...

Someone who smoked for the past 20 years will have a very hard time quitting. It is so far from their nequdas habechirah. (Although it is in reach! If anyone reading this is addicted to smoking, don't give up!)

So, Hashem won't judge them for endangering their lives with the next cigarette as He would if I were dumb enough to take my first one.

But why is the person addicted today?

Were they raised by a couple of heavy smokers, so that they never pictured anything else? Well, they are a tinoq shenishba (like a child who was raised by in captivity, who couldn't know any better than the example their captors set). And Hashem makes allowances.

But if they had a moment where they had a real choice whether or not to smoke that first cigarette, then their second... With those puffs, they put on the table the current addiction and the cigarette they are now smoking without even considering on the table. They knew addiction to a dangerous substance was the probable outcome and chose it anyway.

So today's mistake is part of 20 years ago's sin. And any punishment would be for that.

In the reverse, for me, refraining from shoplifting isn't much of a challenge. To me, the challenges related to theft hit when it comes to parts of my income tax form. To a tzadiq, that's easy, the challenge lies on something more refined.

This is why Rabbi Abba says (Yevamos 121b):

הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מְדַקְדֵּק עִם סְבִיבָיו כְּחוּט הַשַּׂעֲרָה

The Holy One is exact with those who surround Him [i.e. when judging tzadiqim] like the [width] of a strand of hair.

Because that is where their challenges lie.

Our current judgement lies in simply one thing: Are we getting close to the Tzelem Elokim we were made to be? Which direction is the nequdas habechirah moving in?

(Being judged on your spiritual "velocity" rather than on where you are was the topic of an answer I wrote yesterday.)

  • Thanks - another great answer that gives me more food for thought! I would think that even someone who chose to start smoking years ago with the knowledge that it was a bad thing to do and now regrets that but finds it difficult to stop wouldn't necessarily be punished for each extra cigarette though as they have now got to the point where they want to do teshuva for that? I would imagine that these things are quite complicated as well - eg. if someone started smoking as a way to deal with intense stress then they may have some degree of leniency vs someone who did it just to "be cool". Sep 24, 2022 at 19:56

I don’t remember where but I saw that Rav Hutner writes that the answer is “no” but it makes zero practical difference when it comes to doing Teshuva because no one can know if what they did was really beyond their point of bechira.

The Mishnas Rav Ahron (who doesn’t seem to completely agree with the nekudas hebcahira concept to begin with) says that not doing Teshuva may in itself be the cause of punishment because showing you don’t regret the behavior is showing acceptance of the fact you did it. (an example of that would be, knocking someone over because you lost your balance due to some other force isn’t a reason for him to be upset at you , not saying “you’re sorry” afterwards gives him a reason to be upset .

  • "no" I won't be punished, or "no" that isn't correct and I will be? :-) Sep 24, 2022 at 19:44
  • I also feel that it does make a practical difference because I don't feel quite as much guilt, dread and inadequacy if that is the case. Sep 24, 2022 at 19:45
  • "no" you won't be punished but point is you shouldn't feel less guilt. Dread and inadequacy should be removed by Teshuva
    – Schmerel
    Sep 25, 2022 at 0:52
  • There is only so much teshuva a person is capable of doing at once, and I don't think that covers more than a fraction of the aveiros for most people Sep 25, 2022 at 7:27

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