A [secular Jewish] Facebook friend posted the following as his status: "Commit a sin twice and it will not seem a crime. - Jewish proverb."

I am unsure about what he thinks this means, and more unsure about what it actually does mean or what its source is. Googling the phrase finds many sites listing it as a 'Jewish proverb,' but no sources are provided.

Any idea where this comes from, whether it is a 'Jewish proverb,' and what it might mean? My best guess is that it is meant to dissuade one from sinning even once because subsequent sins would be then be easier on the conscience...?

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    Dave, Welcome to mi.yodeya, and thanks for the excellent question. I've heard that proverb too, with I think another clause - something like "Commit a sin three times and it will seem like an obligation." It seems to me that this must be in the Talmud somewhere, but I don't know where. Please consider registering your account on mi.yodeya so you can take full credit for your contributions and have access to all of the site's features.
    – Isaac Moses
    Jan 20, 2010 at 17:07
  • Just to clarify, a sin done multiple times is not OK! The sinner just feels like it's OK. They get used to it. It becomes "who they are." They think to themselves Oh, X religious obligation? I don't do that. An examples of this is somebody who says "I'm not shomer (negiah)"as if that gives them permission to do whatever they want. Or "I don't have to make a point of making Asher Yatzar, I don't do that." Why not? I just don't. Hmm...that's not a very good reason! -Rebbetzin HaQoton Oct 31, 2013 at 8:10

1 Answer 1


It appears in the Babylonian Talmud (c. 350) several times; one such occurrence is in the last chapter of Yoma, which addresses the notion of repentance. (Page 87a):

דאמר רב הונא אמר רב כיון שעבר אדם עבירה ושנה בה הותרה לו הותרה לו סלקא דעתך אלא נעשית לו כהיתר

"As Rav Huna said in the name of Rav, once a person sins once and repeats it, it becomes permitted for him. What? You mean permitted? No, it appears to him as though it's permitted."

The proverb is used there in the context of explaining that while repentance works, don't try to say "oh I'll just do a bunch of sin/repent cycles", as the sin appears less wrong each time, making genuine repentance harder.

Just glancing at the cross-reference notes on the standard printed edition, it appears that the same proverb appears several other times in the Babylonian Talmud (Yoma 86b and 87a; Moed Katan 27b; Kidushin 20a and 40a; Sotah 22a (23a? the print is fuzzy); Arachin 30b. I can't tell you off-hand the exact context in which each is quoted. Isaac, I've also heard the "do it three times and it feels like an obligation" quote; it's most likely in one of the above locations.

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    Shalom, I do not think I would have been able to find this on my own. Thank you!
    – Dave1
    Jan 21, 2010 at 15:17
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    AFAIK, the "do it three times" part isn't anywhere in the Talmud; it was added by Rabbi Yisrael Salanter, founder of the Mussar movement (Lithuania, 1810-1883).
    – Alex
    Jan 21, 2010 at 20:30
  • @Alex - Are you sure that Rabbi Salanter was the one to have said that? Jun 5, 2012 at 21:32
  • @AdamMosheh: I've heard it over the years, and it's printed in Daf Al Hadaf to Kiddushin 40b (citing Yalkut Divrei Assaf). But no, I don't know its ultimate source.
    – Alex
    Jun 6, 2012 at 19:16

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