If a person is able to make choices in this world, and especially if a person is able to disbelieve that there is a Divine order of any type, how does it make sense for a person's soul to be punished for his sins?

Look at it another way: the person's human intellect is granted free choice. His soul, therefore, has little influence on his physical body's actions. If a person sins in this world, it's almost as if the soul is hijacked by the body and cannot control its own fate. How, then, can the soul of the person be punished in the World to Come for sins committed in this world?

  • is your question basically, how can man be punishes if G-d gave him the choice to sin? Commented Aug 25, 2014 at 17:28
  • Everyone has a choise to sin or do a mitzvah but it take a lot of effort. Commented Aug 25, 2014 at 17:31
  • @naf no, my question is as stated above.
    – Seth J
    Commented Aug 25, 2014 at 18:21
  • @dovid that's nice.
    – Seth J
    Commented Aug 25, 2014 at 18:21
  • 1
    Is the assumption of your question that your soul is not related to your intellect? Commented Aug 26, 2014 at 1:05

4 Answers 4


This sounds similar to Antoninus's question to Rebbi on the bottom of Sanhedrin 91a.

[Antoninus asked Rebbi:] The body and the spirit can each get out of punishment. The body will say the soul sinned! From the moment he left me I lay here still as a stone in the grave. The soul will say the body sinned! From the moment I left him I have flown around like a bird.

Rebbi answered:
Let me give you a parable:
A king had a beautiful garden of fresh sprouting fruit and placed two watchmen to guard it. One could not walk and one could not see. The cripple said to the blind man 'I see beautiful fresh sprouts in the garden. Place me on your shoulders and we will eat them'. Days later the king returned and demanded to know where his fruits were. The cripple defended himself by saying 'can I walk to get them?' The blind man said 'do I have eyes to see?'. So the king took took the cripple and placed him on the blind man and judged them together.

So too Hashem will bring the nishama and throw it into the body and judge them together.

As it says in psalms 50 'He calls to the heavens above and to the earth to judgement with him. Calling to the heavens above is the soul, and to the earth to judgement is the body.

  • I think your quote addresses a much better question than the one asked, but I don't think the original question got as far as this - it seems he was assuming the soul doesn't have any faculties for which you could hold it accountable. Commented Aug 26, 2014 at 3:23
  • @ yez thats true. I was going to address that but my thumbs started to hurt:) But we definitely see the leading role of the sole. Whether or not it is swayed by animalistic desires is inconsequential. The sole makes the final decision and deserves punishment.
    – user6591
    Commented Aug 26, 2014 at 3:29
  • You should learn to use your other fingers also when you type! +1 anyways, as I think an answer to the question is included in your point, as you say. Commented Aug 26, 2014 at 3:31
  • You know that old adage about the room full of monkeys with typewriters? Well it wouldn't work with smartphones till they get true opposable thumbs.
    – user6591
    Commented Aug 26, 2014 at 3:41

the person's human intellect is granted free choice. His soul, therefore, has little influence on his physical body's actions.

The question seems to assume that the soul is an outside force, whereas the intellect is the actual self.

Rabbi Bentzion Shafier defines "The 'I' who is talking to you" as a combination of the animal soul, and the G-dly soul.

This is why a person can simultaneously desire to sin, and desire not to sin. The animal soul provides the drive for the pleasure of doing the sin, and the G-dly soul provides the drive for wanting to do the right thing, and serve G-d properly.

If the animal soul wins out on a given trial, it was still the essential human being - the "I" - who chose to sin. As such, a person can deserve punishment for sinning. Of course, G-d doesn't want to punish us:

Cast away from yourselves all your transgressions whereby you have transgressed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit, and why should you die, O house of Israel! For I do not desire the death of him who dies, says the Lord G-d: so turn away and live!" (Ezekiel 18:31-32)

I'll see if I can find a shorter source, but this concept is explained very well here


the soul is the innermost being of the person as Rabbi Chaim Vital says in shaarei kedusha part 3

We have also clarified the matter of the good and evil inclinations in a man. They are two forms added to a man besides his soul. And they are light from the angels (good inclination) and light from the klipos (evil inclinations), outside of the good inclination and external to it. But being that the soul itself is innermost than all of them, and being that it is the essence of a man, therefore it is in his power to tilt the free will to the place that he wants - because he (the soul) is greater than them. Now, his primary desire is towards the good inclination, because it is holy like him and also near to him. But for the body, it's primary desire is to the evil inclination, because both are from the side of evil (physicality), and also they are closer to each other. It is because of this that there is a battle between the physicality and the soul. Because since the soul cannot do the mitzvot except through the body, which tends towards the evil inclination, because of this there is a great difficulty to subjugate it (the evil inclination).

We have clarified that the soul has the power of choosing to follow the good inclination, but since it needs the actions of the body, it has great exertion in subjugating the evil inclination. And understand this well, that after death there is no (main) punishment neither to the soul nor the body until they re-join together like before death. (in the time of the resurrection)

see also part 1

the body of a man is not the man himself. Rather the body is called the "flesh" of the man, as it is written "Skin and flesh You have clothed me, and with bones and sinews You have covered me" .(Job 10:11). It is also written "on the flesh of a man, do not annoint" (Ex. 30:32). So, the man is the inner part. But the body is a kind of garment which the intellectual soul wears, and it is the man himself. After death, the intellectual soul sheds the garment of the body and wears a different spiritual garment in its place...

  1. The soul's punishment precedes the WTC, you mistook it for the "world of souls" that one arrives after his death. WTC is the "final" state of the whole world where there's no more change.

  2. This simplest way of thinking about the reward/punishment system is in terms of thermodynamics - any system reaches its equilibrium by cooling down the particles that are too hot (let's call them the wicked that took too much from their lives) and heating up the particles that are cool (call them the pious that took too little from their lives). So that equilibrium precedes the WTC that knows no change or "flow of energy" - there are no Mitzvos or sins, one's spiritual state can no more be changed.

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