I read in an answer on this site:

Halacha doesn't recognize the existence of the Orwell's concept of Thoughtcrime

This makes sense initially because so much of Judaism is based on actions that we do or do not take. These are usually seen as far more important than our thoughts.

One place where this paradigm breaks down though is in the Ten Commandments themselves. We are told not to covet our neighbor's property or wife or servants. This seems to be the one major example of thoughtcrime in the Torah. I can also think of no other examples of thoughtcrime in rabbinic laws, although instances may exist.

Is the prohibition on coveting recognized as unique within the framework of halacha, and does anyone write why these ideas are forbidden when other bad thoughts (say daydreaming of murdering someone when it is apparent that you won't actually do it) is not specifically forbidden in the same way?


1 Answer 1


Here are some other examples of thoughts that are considered a sin unto themselves.

  1. Believing in foreign gods (Sifrei on Bamidbar 15:39).

  2. Planning to worship idols (Kiddushin 39b).

  3. Sexual fantasies (Avodah Zarah 20b).

  4. Rejoicing in an enemy's downfall (Mishlei 24:17).

  5. Disdain for our parents and teachers (Yom Kippur Vidui).

There are also certain thought based positive commandments in the Torah, and a person who neglects to think those mandated thoughts, transgresses these commandments.

Here are some examples:

  1. The commandment to remember the story of Miriam, the sister of Moshe and Aaron, who was punished for speaking Lashon Hara about Moshe; so that we should not repeat her error [Devarim 24:9; Ramban ad loc.; Ramban, Essin, 7; Chafetz Chaim, Essin, 1).

  2. Loving your neighbor as yourself [Vayikra 19:18; Rambam, De'os 10:3; Sefer HaChinuch, 243; Chafetz Chaim, Essin, 2].

  3. Judging your fellow favorably [Vayikra 19:15; Rambam, Essin, 147; Chafetz Chaim, Essin, 3].

Please feel free to add to the list...

  • 1
    Whereas Lo Tachmod seems to not be a thought crime at all
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Dec 31, 2023 at 16:00
  • @RabbiKaii What about לא תתאוה? Dec 31, 2023 at 16:03
  • 1
    Yep: sefaria.org/…
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Dec 31, 2023 at 16:11
  • @RabbiKaii Related: When is desiring another man's property permitted judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/84708/… Dec 31, 2023 at 17:17
  • 1
    @IsraelReader Mind you, I'm not actually sure that any of the ones on your second list are actually about "thoughts". I was thinking of making this an independent post question: "remember" Miriam - is that different from "think about Miriam"? "Loving" - that's more like a character trait. "Judging" - I think you're allowed to be choshesh! It's more about how you treat them, and your attitude.
    – MichoelR
    Jan 1 at 13:02

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