Berachos 61b:

תניא רבי יוסי הגלילי אומר צדיקים יצר טוב שופטן שנאמר ולבי חלל בקרבי רשעים יצר רע שופטן שנאמר נאם פשע לרשע בקרב לבי אין פחד אלהים לנגד עיניו

Rabbi Yose HaG'lili said: The righteous are judged by their good inclination... the wicked are judged by their evil inclination...

What does it mean to be judged by the good or evil inclination? If they judge differently, why should the righteous and wicked be judged by different standards? Does not each one get what he deserves, and is there not an objective standard of judgement?

  • "Vekhol ma'asekh baseifer nikhtavim... mei'eilav yiqarei..." All your actions write themselves in effects on your soul, and that "book" reads itself in your judgment. If RAYK's read didn't seem to me to be more grammatical, I would chalk this down to another problem the unified theory of sekhar va'onesh trivializes. Commented Feb 18, 2016 at 15:07

3 Answers 3


According to the tanya it means that the righteous have removed the evil inclination to the point where the good inclination is the "presiding judge" and as such the righteous person does not normally have evil desires.

The wicked person through sin has given control to the evil inclination and so it is the "presiding judge" and so most of his natural thoughts are of non-good things.

And the "average person" the two inclinations are evenly matched and so his natural desires are evenly split between good and evil.

Understand that the tanya definition of righteous evil and average are different then one might expect. Not 51% mitzvos 49% sins makes one a righteous person, a rasha the reverse and an average person split evenly. Rather he defines them by how much one has removed his evil inclination and allowed his good inclination to take over.

See tanya chapters 1, and 10-13 (in 1 and 13 he actually quotes the Gemara in question)


The Rav Kook, in his book Ein Aya on this segment (9, 221), reads it differently from your translation (in my opinion, this also fits the verses that were brought as "proofs" better).

The term "יצר הטוב שופטן" is explained by the Rav Kook as "the yezter hatov serves as their judge" - not that it judges them, but that their judgement (of other things) is managed by their yetzer tov.

We judge everything with our mind - so our mind is the judge. However, the Rav Kook explains that this isn't exactly true. We do not judge things coldly and purely logically. All "ענייני המוסר", issues of morality, cannot be clearly and coldly cut and judged by the mind. Eventually, it comes down to one's "יושר הלב" - the "moral health" of one's nature.

So a person's moral feelings are intertwined with each and every moral judgement that his mind decrees. If he is righteous, his "judge" will be his yezer hatov - his good morality. And if he is evil, those evil feelings will affect his judgement, and his "judge" will be yetzer hara.

One last question. Since most people are "בינונים" - between righteous and evil - they have both yetzarim affect their judgement. So maybe in this case we can say that their "judge" is the pure mind - it has both sides and therefore can decide logically.

But no, this is not true. Morality cannot be judged in itself. It is always connected to the inner feelings and nature of the person judging. So they too cannot judge things 100% with the logical, pure mind. Both yezters will affect their judgement - both their good and bad inclinations. Therefore, obviously, it is better to be righteous, so that one's judgements can be as true as possible in our life.

  • I'm not sur that Sechel is only the logical capacity of the mind, the rishonim identify Yetser Hatov as Sechel. But it has not the equivalent signified that we know for the modern hebrew word Sechel that is Intelligence in common language. The 'ratio' is not the same thing and include many faculties. (I am not a specialist).
    – kouty
    Commented Feb 18, 2016 at 15:33
  • 1
    שופטן would mean השופט שלהן more readily than שופט אותן; the latter is far less prone to contraction. It takes an RAYK to notice, I guess. I think the Tanya, Liqutei Amarim ch. 13 is saying something similar chabad.org/library/tanya/tanya_cdo/aid/7892/jewish/… But I am far from an authority on Chabad Chassidus. (The end of ch. 1 biased me against it before learning the majority of the Tanya.) Commented Feb 18, 2016 at 15:35
  • @kouty: Is that in the rishonim? I saw it in the opening of R' Yisrael Salanter's Igeres haMussar, but I didn't know he had an earlier source. (Heb: daat.ac.il/daat/mahshevt/mahadurot/igeret-2.htm , English: aishdas.org/igeresHamussar.pdf ) Commented Feb 18, 2016 at 15:38
  • @MichaBerger Totally agree, it's a very subtle grammatical distinction, but a very important one. It also fits better with the verses ("ולבי חלל בקרבי" means that he has only a yetzer tov, which explains why he judges things that way. We don't encounter the idea of a yetzer judging a person, since that's not what a yetzer is about). The Tanya also agrees to this interpretation as you pointed out.
    – Cauthon
    Commented Feb 18, 2016 at 15:39
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    @kouty - I am impressed with that implied intellectual honesty. "לעולם יהא אדם ירא שמים בסתר, ומודה על האמת, ודובר אמת בלבבו..." Kudos! Commented Feb 19, 2016 at 17:45

The verb to judge is used from retrospective and prospective points of view. As in a trial in court. We need to judge the quality of the pasted acts and we need to decide for practical consequences. Action may be soon from many points of view and lead to practice conclusions. Following his method a man will become a Tsadik or a Rasha. The first step of the lecture is that Yetser Tov is to prevail rational though over passion and Yetser Ra is the contrary (one promotes the needs of the soul, the other the needs of the body, see Maaloth Hamidoth). The judge is the one who decides what will be executed.

See Noam Elimelech Shofetim in bottom left of the page. He treats the retrospective judgement and shows two points of view: Criticism and accreditation.

The Tanya also treats the topic from the first point of view about a deep layer of the mind.

When I say rational it means Sechel, ratio.

In summary: two competitive points of view lead and maintain two different states of the Human. Tsadik and Rasha. But everybody wants to be tsadik, one way leads to success and the second does not.

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