In Judaism is there a concept of being a sinner.

What I mean by that is in the xhristian religion, most everyone considers themselves a sinner. Would not the point be to consider yourself righteous and not a sinner?

  • 1
    There is the concept of sinning which we own up to as part of repentance אָֽנוּ עַזֵּי פָנִים וּקְשֵׁי עֹֽרֶף לוֹמַר לְפָנֶֽיךָ יְהֹוָה אֱלֺהֵֽינוּ וֵאלֺהֵי אֲבוֹתֵֽינוּ צַדִּיקִים אֲנַֽחְנוּ וְלֺא חָטָֽאנוּ אֲבָל אֲנַֽחְנוּ וַאֲבוֹתֵֽינוּ חָטָֽאנוּ and there is the idea that most people are beinonim sefaria.org/Flames_of_Faith.4?lang=bi . What exactly are you looking for?
    – rosends
    Oct 12, 2022 at 13:13
  • 1
    The Rambam says that there are three types of people: righteous, wicked, and in between (beinoni). He says that you should view yourself as beinoni and therefore realize that merely one act of evil can make you become a wicked person, but on the other hand just one act of righteousness can tilt the balance in favor of being a righteous person Oct 12, 2022 at 15:54
  • @CuriousYid The Alter Rebbe in Tanya talks about this at greath length also.
    – Shmuel
    Oct 12, 2022 at 18:31

2 Answers 2


The Gemara in Kiddushin 40a says:

The Sages taught: Always a person should view himself as though he were exactly half-liable and half-meritorious.

When is one "half-liable"? The Gemara further explains that this is the case if a person transgresses one prohibition. He then "tilts his balance to the scale of liability" so to speak.

So yes, there is a concept of being a "sinner". We are people, we sin, but nevertheless, G-d gave us "tools" to improve ourselves and to do teshuva, in order to "tilt the balance". To be more meritorious. This is echoed by the sefer פירוש רבינו יונה על פרקי אבות עם הארות וביאורים.

כן שיתחזק לעשות לפחות מצוה נוספת כדי להכריע עצמו לכף זכות על כל אחד ללמוד ממנו לעשות חשבון זה ולהתחזק במצוות ובמעשים טובים

The rough translation is that we should strengthen ourselves to do one more mitzvah, so as to convince ourselves that we are righteous. We should learn from this that we need to increase in doing more mitzvos and acts of kindness.

The Alter Rebbe in Tanya (Likutei Amarim, chapter 1) says:

We find in the Gemara five distinct types—a righteous man who prospers, a righteous man who suffers, a wicked man who prospers, a wicked man who suffers, and an intermediate one (Benoni). It is there explained that the "righteous man who prospers" is the perfect tzaddik; the "righteous man who suffers" is the imperfect tzaddik. In Raaya Mehemna (Parshat Mishpatim) it is explained that the "righteous man who suffers" is one whose evil nature is subservient to his good nature, and so on. In the Gemara (end ch. 9, Berachot) it is stated that the righteous are motivated by their good nature,... and the wicked by their evil nature, while the intermediate men are motivated by both, and so on. Rabbah declared, "I, for example, am a Benoni" Said Abbaye to him, "Master, you do not make it possible for anyone to live," and so on.

To understand all the aforesaid clearly an explanation is needed, as also to under-stand what Job said [Bava Batra, ch. i], "Lord of the universe, Thou hast created righteous men and Thou hast created wicked men,..." for it is not preordained whether a man will be righteous or wicked.

In "Lessons in Tanya", there is a explanation on this chapter that reads:

When the Alter Rebbe states that the beinoni has never transgressed, he does not mean that the beinoni never sinned in his life as a human being but that in his life as a beinoni, he has no history of sin. The beinoni’s present spiritual state is such that sin—in the past as well as in the future—has no place in his life. He would not sin even if he were subject to the same temptations and trials which led him to sin in the past. It is therefore true to state that from the perspective of his present state, he has never sinned.

Likewise, the Alter Rebbe’s statement that the beinoni “will never sin” is to be understood in the same vein. The intention is not that it is impossible for him to sin; he does not, after all, lose his freedom of choice. Rather, as explained above, his present state is such that it precludes his sinning in the future, despite the trials that the future may bring.

So, there is a concept of a sinner, but we are able to be a "beinoni", e.g. a “intermediate man”. That means "in whom the evil of the animal soul never attains enough power to conquer the “small city”

  • Yes. In Judaism, being a sinner has a completely different meaning. It means you are capable of sin, and the reason you are made that way is for a purpose that Hashem needs achieved, and to find out more, read Tanya!
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Oct 13, 2022 at 10:35
  • The OP said "in the xhristian religion, most everyone considers themselves a sinner" - well, every human sometimes does a sin, G-d forbid. However, that does not mean you should focus on that sin, you should divert your thought to dwell on the positive, as the Alter Rebbe writes. Accept that we are not flawless, and move on :).
    – Shmuel
    Oct 13, 2022 at 11:53

We are taught in the Mishnah:

Rabbi Shimon said...And be not wicked in your own esteem.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .