I came upon an answer today that caused me to pause.

The question asked, "Why do all women deserve to suffer for one woman's sin?"

The answer began by summarizing Ariza"l:

both Adam and Chava's soul were made up of all the souls of all generations, as they were the progenators of the human race, so whatever they did would imprint and affect all future generations...when Chava caused Adam to sin, she caused damage not only to her soul, but also that damage became imprinted upon all future souls.

It continued:

The Gemara says in Shabbos 55a:

אמר רב אמי אין מיתה בלא חטא Rav Ami said: "There is no death without sin

The Gemara says in Bava Basra(17a):

תנו רבנן ארבעה מתו בעטיו של נחש

The Rabbis learned: "There were four who died only on account of the "Hit of the Snake"

Rashi explains:

בעטיו של נחש - בעצתו של נחש כלומר לא היו ראוין למות אלא שנגזרה גזירת מיתה על כל תולדותיו של אדם הראשון בעצתו של נחש בעטיו תרגום של עצתו כדכתיב (דניאל ו) אתייעטו כל וגו' וכן התיב עטא וטעם (שם ב):

The hit of the Snake: from the advice of the snake, meaning that really before the sin, it was fitting to die, but it was decreed upon the progeny of Adam Harishon that they would be subject to death.

This sounds like the Christian doctrine of Original sin, perhaps most concisely summarized by a verse in the Christian book of Romans 5:12:

Therefore, just as through one person sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all, inasmuch as all sinned

However, Judaism seems to make clear, "The doctrine of original sin is totally unacceptable to Jews." while also indicating that there may be things in the Talmud that coincide with it.

Is the the concept of the damaged soul truly Jewish? Is it different than the Christian concept of original sin, as described in the references presented above?

I'm interested in an Orthodox Jewish perspective.

  • 1
    The source your quote to propose that Judaism doesn't accept original sin is weak at best. The Gemara I quoted in my answer that you reference in your question is very clear that there is such a concept. Thus the exception of the four that died only due to the nachash. Jul 21, 2016 at 19:55
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    "meaning that really before the sin, it was fitting to die" is a mistranslation and should be "meaning that they were not fit to die"
    – msh210
    Jul 21, 2016 at 20:01
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    Just a thought: The "inasmuch as all sinned" part of your quotation from Romans -- I'm not seeing that in the Jewish sources you cited. I'm unfamiliar with the Christian ideas, but maybe that's the part that's deemed "totally unacceptable" by the Web site you link to.
    – msh210
    Jul 21, 2016 at 20:02
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    1) I don't think that everyone agrees with that comment from the Ariza"l (the Ramban, for example, seems to disagree in his Viku'ach). 2) Ariza"l's idea of damage to souls does not imply that those souls are guilty or have sinned. 3) Judaism believes that physical death became part of the world as a consequence of Adam and Eve's sin, but that no one is guilty of sin unless they personally committed a sin. 4) Verses in Genesis about "sin crouch[ing] at the entrance," "the inclination of man's heart is wicked," etc. only talk about an inclination to sin, not inherent guilt or sinfulness.
    – Fred
    Jul 21, 2016 at 21:30
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    @Sarah There is a similar dichotomy in Christianity. Maybe in some denominations. But generally speaking, Christians believe that a person is sinful from birth and needs to be saved or that a baby who dies unbaptized can't go to heaven. Judaism rejects these sort of notions: People do not need to be saved; unless they behave improperly or shirk their obligations (and remain unrepentant), they will be fine. (Incidentally, for contrast, a child who dies uncircumcised is not culpable according to Judaism unless he reaches the age of majority and chooses not to be circumcised).
    – Fred
    Jul 21, 2016 at 23:09

2 Answers 2


You cannot really appreciate Jewish theology in a meaningful way from answers on the Internet. This requires years of study, and knowledge of context.

For example, the first quote, which was the opinion of Rabbi Ami (and derived from an interpretation of a verse), is refuted and rejected by the gemara, which concludes (Shabbat 25b):

וש"מ יש מיתה בלא חטא ויש יסורין בלא עון ותיובתא דרב אמי תיובתא:

And thus we derive that there is death without sin and suffering without iniquity. And this is a forceful refutation / rejection of Rav Ami.

(And really, a nuanced reading would perhaps offer a different (homiletic, attitudinal) understanding of Rabbi Ami, which I won't get into here, except to request that you not read my statement and think you understand "Judaism's" attitude towards this very complicated topic.)

(The one who wrote the answer also didn't have to go to Bava Bathra for the four who died due to the Snake. Perhaps he was unaware, but this is the continuation of the gemara in Shabbat, which is part of the gemara's refutation of Rabbi Ammi's idea. The combination, by the answerer, of Rabbi Ammi with that other statement, such that those four thus have "sin", is thus explicitly against that gemara, which considers it a refutation.)

The "kick" (not hit) of the snake is that reality was set that mankind was mortal due to the incident in the Garden of Eden. This is an interpretation of Genesis 2:17:

כִּי, בְּיוֹם אֲכָלְךָ מִמֶּנּוּ--מוֹת תָּמוּת

for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die

as well as in the depriving of the opportunity to eat from the Tree of Life in Genesis 3:23, that having knowledge of good and evil is inconsistent with eternal life.

This is a decree upon the world, and the way the natural laws of the world have been set. It is not a condemnation of the moral status of the righteous.

Meanwhile, based on the link you provided, this is Original Sin:

Original sin is the doctrine which holds that human nature has been morally and ethically corrupted due to the disobedience of mankind's first parents to the revealed will of God. In the Bible, the first human transgression of God's command is described as the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden resulting in what theology calls the Fall of mankind. The doctrine of original sin holds that every person born into the world is tainted by the Fall such that all of humanity is ethically debilitated, and people are powerless to rehabilitate themselves, unless rescued by God.

Nothing in the Talmud indicates ethical debilitation, or that they require rescuing by God or Jesus, or else they will burn in Hell forever. A person starts out with a blank slate, and based on good deeds, he will be rewarded, and based on bad deeds, he will be punished.

Indeed, the very website you linked made this distinction explicit:

Eastern Orthodoxy, Judaism, and Islam acknowledge that the introduction of sin into the human race affected the subsequent environment for mankind, but deny any inherited guilt or necessary corruption of man's nature.

I would note that Orthodox Judaism is not monolithic, and I cannot speak for every possible opinion out there. And when you get to the territory of kabbalah, besides being something which often not everyone agrees to (see e.g. how the Vilna Gaon, a kabbalist, did not take Arizal's kabbalah as axiomatic), it is beyond the layman's ability to truly understand.

Also, in general, your questions on this site which suggest Jewish parallels to Christian beliefs have the, perhaps unintended, undertone that, therefore, though Jews have not realized it until now, "Judaism" endorses Christianity. I am uncomfortable and not pleased with that (quasi-missionary) direction. Yes, there are enough opinions out there, and there is enough nuance in those opinions on a variety of subjects, that one can easily draw parallels between one and the other. That doesn't mean that the overall thrust is the same.

  • +1 very nice. But what of the Rabi Ami/Arizal opinion? Is that paralleled? True the 'saving' doesn't exist, but what of the underlying idea of sin?
    – user6591
    Jul 22, 2016 at 12:18
  • Rabbi ammi is saying that all death (or perhaps, if taken out of the discussion of the gemara, premature death) is because of a sin the person did, even (as Rashi says) beshogeg, unintentionally. Nothing to do with original sin. As for arizal, neither I nor anyone else here is a kabbalist, so we have no idea what he means. It might be something as simple as putting spiritual mechanics as to how the sin with the snake brought death to humanity. Jul 22, 2016 at 12:38
  • If my posts create a "quasi-misionary" atmosphere I too am not comfortable or pleased. I would that all such missionary endeavors to the Jews cease and loath that I ever was part of an institution that would call the Jew to abandon the laws God gave them for perpetual generations in exchange for mere creed and life of disobedience. I think Christianity dangerous for the Jew. Moreeover, I perceive Israel/Judah to be God's people whom He chose to be a holy nation, among whom He could dwell. You are His priests on the earth; that is why I ask you. Thank you for your very helpful answer.
    – user2411
    Jul 22, 2016 at 12:54
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    @Sarah even if well intentioned, and interesting, there's a site policy putting comparative religion questions off topic. Perhaps ask on meta if you need guidance on what is appropriate.
    – user6591
    Jul 22, 2016 at 13:18
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    Josh, I had a brief conversation with Isaac Moses in chat about this. I am very concerned, after reading your reflections, that my posts might have any missionary effect. He suggested, since that is your concern as well, that I collaborate with you, possibly in chat, to bring my posts back on topic and clear them of any such dangers. If there are particular posts you refer to, I would gladly put the effort into cleaning them up, maybe starting with this one.
    – user2411
    Jul 22, 2016 at 14:00

It's an excellent question Sarah and one that requires careful consideration and thoughtful reflection.

First, please bear in mind that the subjects mentioned in the 'answer' you found are borrowing heavily from the Prophets, midrashic and kabbalistic sources. So many of the ideas presented are to be understood allegorically, meaning interpretively, according to traditions passed down from generation to generation.

It is also appropriate to point out that your question is both timely and relevant from the perspective that we are living in great anticipation of the complete and final redemption spoken of throughout the Torah. And as we are reminded in the Aleinu prayer, during that time, all the inhabitants of the earth will come to serve the Creator together, like is discussed in the censored section of the Mishnah Torah, Laws of Kings and Their Wars, chapter 11 at the end.

But, the plans of the creator of the world--no person can understand them for our ways are not the same as His ways and our plans are not His plans. And all of these things about Jesus of Nazareth, and about that Ishmaelite who rose after him--they are only to make the path for the King Messiah straight, and to fix the whole world for worshipping G-d together, as it is said, "For I will give the peoples clear speech, for them all to call out the name of G-d, and to worship Him with one purpose (Zephaniah 3:9) How? The whole world is already filled with the words of the Messiah, and the words of the Torah, and the words of the Mitzvot, and these words have been spread on distant islands, and to many peoples of uncircumcised hearts, and they deal with these words, and with the mitzvot of the Torah--they say 'These mitzvot were true but they are already nullified in this time, they aren't applicable forever.' And they say, 'There are things hidden in them, and they're not just a simple meaning, and the Messiah already came and revealed their secrets.' And when the King Messiah rises for real, and he succeeds, and he is lifted up and exalted, they will immediately return and will know that their ancestors passed down lies to them and that their prophets and their ancestors made them do wrong.

The essential difference between the Jewish and Christian view of 'original sin' is about the source of sin.

The Christian concept is that 'sin' originates through a second 'power', which they refer to as the devil or Satan. The Christian view is that this 'power' is in a state of rebellion against G-d. It implies that there are two 'G-ds'. G-d created things in a state of perfection and without blemish. There is no sin and no death. And this was, according to Christian teaching, what G-d desired. Satan rebelled and challenged G-d and claimed dominion for himself. And this evolved into Satan influencing the serpent, who in turn influenced the first woman, who in turn caused sin to come into the world and then caused all other created things to sin and this caused death. And like you find in the fifth chapter of Romans which you cite, all of creation can only be saved from this terrible consequence by accepting Jesus as your personal intermediary between you and G-d.

But such an idea is contrary to Jewish teaching and is a denial of G-d's unity like is taught in Mishnah Torah, Sefer Maddah, Chapter 1:1 and 1:5-6.

The foundation of foundations and pillar of wisdoms is to know that there is a Primary Cause and He causes to exist all that exists. And everything that exists from Heaven to Earth and everything in between would not exist except from the truth of His existence.

G-d is one. He is not two and not more than two. Rather, He is one and His unity is unlike the unity of anything else that exists in the world. He is not like one genus that includes many individuals. And He is not like one body that can be divided into parts and extremities. Rather, His unity is such that there is no unity like His in the world. If there were many gods, they would possess bodies and forms, because things which are counted as equal in their existences are not separate one from the other, except in regard to the events that happen to bodies and forms. And if the Creator had a body and a form, He would have a time period and an end, because it is impossible to be a body that does not have a time period. And everything which possesses a time period and an end, also possesses an time period and limit to its power. And our G-d, blessed be His name, since His strength has no end and nothing to disrupt it - since the sphere revolves continuously (forever) - His strength is not the strength of a body. And since He does not have a body, events do not occur to Him as they occur to bodies, which can be split and divided by something else. Therefore it is impossible that He be anything but one. And the knowledge of this matter is a positive commandment, as it says, "The L-rd is our G-d, the L-rd is One" (Deut. 6:4).

And so the question still remains, 'What is the source of sin according to Jewish tradition and the Torah?'

This is discussed, among other places in Bereshit Rabbah which explains that the final events of the six days of creation, meaning the creation of Adam HaRishon, his division into two (Adam and Chava) and the subsequent 'dressing in skins', meaning becoming dressed in physicality, were actually the ultimate expression of the paradigm which G-d had intended from the very beginning of creation and even before creation. It follows the same model as the single light of the first day and that light being divided into two great lights, followed by one of those lights being reduced in stature.

And this paradigm follows what is discussed in kabbalistic literature about the light or expression of G-d creating the 'Makom Panoy' (empty place) and then bringing about the reintroduction of that first light via the 'Kav' and its interaction with the 'Reshimah' or 'residue' inside the Makom Panoy. And this paradigm also is the model of conception, gestation and birth.

And this infinitely repeating system is what is transmitted through the Torah. The same Torah which is described as 'G-d's will' and which G-d 'looked into' two thousand years before the creation. The same Torah which said 'Adam sinned' two thousand years before the creation, meaning before the creation of Adam HaRishon.

In other words, the source of sin is also from the Creator of everything and ultimately serves and expresses His will.

The reference from the Ari z"l, which is from the opening chapters of Sha'ar HaGilgulim, is only expressing the unity and common purpose of all mankind which is to serve the 'Owner of all' (Koneh HaKol) like is said in the opening blessings of the Amidah prayer.

And so this brings us to try to better understand the words of Rav Ami quoted above that, "אין מיתה בלא חטא". This is commonly translated as, 'there is no death without sin.' But the word 'חטא' has several different meanings aside from 'sin' or 'error' or 'mistake' which help to give understanding to this teaching. 'חטא' also has a meaning of cleansing like is found in Mishnah Yoma 5:5 and also the Talmud on the same subject, Yoma 58b and similarly Chullin 27a. 'חטא' also has a meaning of 'to cause someone to be generous or lenient' like is found in Kohelet Rabba on 9:18.

So this suggests that the process of introducing 'death' to the world is in order to have a process of cleansing and to cause G-d to reveal His quality of generosity and leniency. This is the concept of 'teshuvah' and G-d's 13 aspects of mercy.

And this leads to the final discussion in the answer that you cited. Namely, the Aggadic expression from the Sages, "תנו רבנן ארבעה מתו בעטיו של נחש".

This translates as 'The Rabbis learned that four died as a result of the fangs of the serpent' (The 'serpent' mentioned here is the 'Nachash'.)

To which the person writing that answer then brought Rahsi's comment on this statement:

בעטיו של נחש - בעצתו של נחש כלומר לא היו ראוין למות אלא שנגזרה גזירת מיתה על כל תולדותיו של אדם הראשון בעצתו של נחש בעטיו תרגום של עצתו כדכתיב (דניאל ו) אתייעטו כל וגו' וכן התיב עטא וטעם (שם ב):

'Through the fangs of the serpent' - Through the advice of the serpent. That is to say that they were not deserving of death except through the decree of death on all the descendants of Adam HaRishon. 'Through the advice of the serpent', the word for advice 'בעצתו' in Aramaic is 'בעטיו' (which translates in Hebrew as 'its fangs'), like is written in Daniel 6:8 and 2:14.

So Rashi is explaining this Aggadic teaching according to the plain grammatical meaning. But that raises the additional question of what exactly is this 'serpent' (נחש). Serpents have fangs, but they do not give advice.

And so, if we accept what Rashi points out, that the Rabbis were pointing to an unusual 'inner teaching' through this expression that is associated with the book of Daniel, we need to ask what is the nature of this teaching. How does the letter 'ט' in the word 'בעטיו' become the letter 'צ' of the word 'בעצתו'?

This happens through the kabbalistic permutation taught to the Prophets called 'Ick-Bachar' (אי״ק-בכ״ר). The letters of the alphabet are divided into ones, tens and hundreds. They are interchangeable and imply specific concepts and spiritual transformations when they are exchanged.

So for example, the 'Aleph' can be exchanged for the 'Yud' or the 'Kof' and the 'Beit' can be exchanged for the 'Kaf' or the 'Reish', and so on. In the case of the letter 'Tet', it is interchangeable with the letters 'Tzadik' and final 'Tzadik'.

And if this is the nature of the teaching being discussed, then it would be relevant to apply similar kabbalistic transformations to the idea of the 'serpent' (נחש) in order to understand exactly who this is giving 'advice'.

The letter 'Nun' in Nachash (נחש) is equal to the sum of the letters 'Mem' and 'Yud' (מ״י).

And this suggests that the 'Nachash' giving this advice here can also be understood to mean 'Moshiach' (מישח). That the one who ultimately is destined to be responsible for completing this whole process, the entire purpose of creation, the concealing of G-d's light, the introduction of death and bringing the entire world to return to G-d through teshuvah and eternal life, is the one who gives the advice, namely our righteous Moshiach.

So the Jewish view is that what you are calling 'original sin', something absolutely negative according to the Christian view, is actually part of G-d's plan and is according to His will. It is positive and will result in the bestowing of His blessings of true good upon all of creation.

  • There is only One and that One is G-d. Yaakov you expressed yourself beautifully. Thank you for that.
    – Digityogi
    Jul 23, 2016 at 15:45

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