Is there any difference in the consequence depending on the reason one commits an aveirah?

Case A) I know that something is an aveirah and I respect halacha, but for some reason, I feel a need to break the law (not piku'ach nefesh), so I willingly break the law but retain my respect for hashem and Torah.

Case B) I reject torah and mitzvot and deny the validity of halacha so I intentionally break the law as an expression of my rejection of halacha in general and the authority of hashem over me.

The underlying action is the same -- only my intent is different. Is there a difference in how the action is viewed?

If they are the same, please stop here...

If the second is worse (because it epitomizes a bigger rejection of Judaism), then would there be value in committing an aveirah under case A to avoid someone else's committing the same act as case B?

  • 2
    Are you asking about the chiluk between meshumad l'teiavon and meshumad l'hachis?
    – Loewian
    Dec 27, 2015 at 6:12
  • what do you mean by "conseqence" and "how the action is viewed", viewed by who?
    – ray
    Dec 27, 2015 at 6:34
  • @ray one could say "in the eyes of halacha" or "the consequence were there a sanhedrin" or "in God's eyes" I guess.
    – rosends
    Dec 27, 2015 at 13:26
  • @Loewian sort of -- I don't fully understand the practical chiluk between the two (I know sometimes that in issues of wine, interest and such one is sometimes treated like a non-Jew but the details and reasoning are cloudy) but what is I break it willingly so that someone else doesn't break it for a worse reason?
    – rosends
    Dec 27, 2015 at 13:29
  • See the framework I give for Divine reward and punishment in judaism.stackexchange.com/posts/66346/revisions There is an implied answer in "We are not judged for what we did, we pay the consequences for who we are." Dec 28, 2015 at 18:39

2 Answers 2


Shulchan Aruch Yoreh De'ah 158 (with the commentary of the Shach) provides a very different consequence between the two intentions:

Yoreh Deah 158:1:

וְרוֹעֵי בְּהֵמָה דַּקָּה מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל בְּאֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל בַּזְּמַן שֶׁהָיוּ רֹב הַשָּׂדוֹת שֶׁל יִשְׂרָאֵל וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָהֶן, אֵין מְסַבְּבִין לָהֶם הַמִּיתָה, וְאָסוּר לְהַצִּילָם אִם נָטוּ לָמוּת... במֶּה דְּבָרִים אֲמוּרִים, בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל בַּעַל עֲבֵרוֹת וְהָעוֹמֵד בְּרִשְׁעוֹ וְשׁוֹנֶה בּוֹ תָּמִיד ... אֲבָל יִשְׂרָאֵל בַּעַל עֲבֵרוֹת, שֶׁאֵינוֹ עוֹמֵד בְּרִשְׁעוֹ תָּמִיד, אֶלָּא עוֹשֶׂה עֲבֵרוֹת לַהֲנָאַת עַצְמוֹ, כְּגוֹן אוֹכֵל נְבֵלוֹת לְתֵאָבוֹן, מִצְוָה לְהַצִּילוֹ וְאָסוּר לַעֲמֹד עַל דָּמוֹ.

...and Jewish shepherds of grazing animals in Israel at a time when most fields in Israel belong to Jews, one does not orchestrate their death but one does not save them from death... when is this true? Regarding a Jew who continues to violate and remains in his wickedness and constantly repeats it... but a Jew who sins, but doesn't constantly remain wicked, just he sins in order to fulfill his desires, such as one who eats un-slaughtered meat for his appetite, it is a mitzvah to save him and forbidden to watch him lose his life.

The Shach there, #3, explains that even the first rule is only by the shepherds, where Chazal made a special decree to deter them from there ways (see there for why). But by a regular thief, one would save them.

However, Yoreh Deah 158:2:

הַמִּינִים, וְהֵם שֶׁעוֹבְדִים לַעֲבוֹדַת כּוֹכָבִים, אוֹ הָעוֹשֶׂה עֲבֵרוֹת לְהַכְעִיס, אֲפִלּוּ אָכַל נְבֵלוֹת אוֹ לָבַשׁ שַׁעַטְנֵז לְהַכְעִיס הֲרֵי זֶה מִין; וְהָאֶפִּיקוֹרְסִים, וְהֵם שֶׁכּוֹפְרִים בַּתּוֹרָה וּבִנְבוּאָה מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל, מִצְוָה לְהָרְגָם. אִם יֵשׁ בְּיָדוֹ כֹּחַ לְהָרְגָם בְּסַיִף, בְּפַרְהֶסְיָא, הוֹרְגוֹ. וְאִם לָאו, יָבֹא בַּעֲלִילוֹת עַד שֶׁיְּסַבֵּב הֲרִיגָתוֹ

Heretics, which are those who serve idols, or do sins [as an act of rejetion] in order to anger [Hashem], even if it is [merely] the eating of un-slaughtered meat or wearing shaatnez to anger, this is a heretic, and apikorsim, which are those who deny the Torah and prophecy among Israel, it is a mitzvah to kill them. If one can do it publically wich a sword, do so. If not, bring it about with some excuse...

The Rambam at the end of his 13 principles in the introduction to Sanhedrin really makes this distinction:

וכאשר יהיו קיימים לאדם כל היסודות הללו ואמונתו בהם אמתית הרי הוא נכנס בכלל ישראל וחובה לאוהבו... ואפילו עשה מה שיכול להיות מן העבירות מחמת תאותו והתגברות יצרו הרע הרי הוא נענש לפי גודל מריו ויש לו חלק. וכאשר יפקפק אדם ביסוד מאלו היסודות הרי זה יצא מן הכלל וכפר בעיקר... וחובה לשנאותו ולהשמידו

When one accepts all of these principles... he is included in the category of "Yisrael" and it is a mitzvah to love him... and even if he does a sin out of desire or the overpowering of his evil inclination, he is punished according to the extent of his rebellion and he has a portion [in the World to Come]. But when one rejects one of these principles, he leaves the category [of Yisrael] and denies everything... and it is an obligation to hate him and obliterate him

Firstly, the Rambam writes that one is punished according to the extent of their rebellion. But more fundamentally, the Rambam defines someone who accepts the system of belief which binds him to Torah and mitzvos (see here for more on that) as being included in Yisrael, and one should love them, and one who rejects that system is out of the category and one is obligated to hate them.

Regarding if one would therefore commit a violation of the first type in order to stop someone else from committing a violation of the second type, there is a very on-point Tosefos in Shabbos 4a s.v. וכי אומרים. The Gemara there says that אין אומרים לאדם חטא כדי שיזכה חברך - we do not tell someone to sin in order that their friend merit (in not sinning). Tosefos, to resolve a conflict with another Gemara, writes that if the sinner is sinning through no fault of yours and unrelated to you, you are not obligated, and are indeed prohibited, from doing a minor sin to save him. Alternatively, Tosefos says that if the sinner is sinning wantonly, you are not obligated, and are indeed prohibited, from doing a different sin to prevent his sin. Both of these lines of reasoning apply to this case, with the conclusion that you would not sin to stop his sin.

  • Just to reinforce your point regarding who the Talmudic sages were talking about (per the Rambam): People who would "violate fundamentals of the Torah for the purpose of angering HaShem, disdainfully and brazenly" (Hil. 'Avoda Zara 2:5), "persecute the Jewish people, and try to induce people to turn away from HaShem" (Hil. T'filla 2:1). So basically, self-declared enemies of HaShem and the Jewish people who did their utmost to destroy the Jewish people both physically and spiritually.
    – Fred
    Dec 28, 2015 at 6:51
  • Also of interest is your answer here: judaism.stackexchange.com/a/34712.
    – Fred
    Dec 28, 2015 at 6:57
  • so then can I break a law if my only reason is in order to prevent someone else from breaking it if his reason is to anger Hashem?
    – rosends
    Dec 28, 2015 at 11:40
  • @Danno Sorry, forgot about the follow-up question. I'll edit. Dec 28, 2015 at 13:05
  • @Danno I edited. Dec 29, 2015 at 4:33

The Gemara in Nazir 23b states: אמר ר"נ בר יצחק גדולה עבירה לשמה ממצוה שלא לשמה.

There is clearly a concept of doing an Aveirah for a good reason, as having some merit. The Gemara there brings the story of Yael seducing Sisra as a proof that even though sleeping with him was an Aveira, but she got rewarded for it. It goes as far as to say that such an Aveira is greater than a mindless Mitzva!

Also worthwhile noting is Avos 2:1, which says: והוי מחשב הפסד מצוה כנגד שכרה, ושכר עברה כנגד הפסדה. No direct source at this point, but I've heard this Mishnah explained (according to the Mekubalim) as clearly stating that there is indeed potential growth in any Aveira, but it needs to be weighed against the more likely damage.

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