Exodus 34:6-7 says,

וַיַּעֲבֹ֨ר יְהוָ֥ה ׀ עַל־פָּנָיו֮ וַיִּקְרָא֒ יְהוָ֣ה ׀ יְהוָ֔ה אֵ֥ל רַח֖וּם וְחַנּ֑וּן אֶ֥רֶךְ אַפַּ֖יִם וְרַב־חֶ֥סֶד וֶאֱמֶֽת ׀ נֹצֵ֥ר חֶ֙סֶד֙ לָאֲלָפִ֔ים נֹשֵׂ֥א עָוֺ֛ן וָפֶ֖שַׁע וְחַטָּאָ֑ה וְנַקֵּה֙ לֹ֣א יְנַקֶּ֔ה פֹּקֵ֣ד ׀ עֲוֺ֣ן אָב֗וֹת עַל־בָּנִים֙ וְעַל־בְּנֵ֣י בָנִ֔ים עַל־שִׁלֵּשִׁ֖ים וְעַל־רִבֵּעִֽים׃

What distinction is being made between the words עָוֺן and פֶּשַׁע—which are “borne”—and חַטָּאָה—which is certainly not left unpunished?

EDIT: This question arose out of my misunderstanding of the text. The version I read every morning doesn't have all of the accents, so I wasn't aware of where the athnach is in the verse. I had been reading, “bearing עָוֺן and פֶּשַׁע, but certainly not leaving חַטָּאָה unpunished”. That made me wonder what the difference between those words was (which I suppose is a legitimate thing to ask anyway), but the question only arose because I was reading the verse wrongly.

1 Answer 1


Rashi to this passuk explains that עון refers to sins committed on purpose, while פשע refers to sins committed rebelliously - not because the sinner wants whatever the sin is, but that he wants to spite the Creator. Here he doesn't explain what חטא refers to, but there's really only one option left, that of accidental sins. For more on the topic, take a look at this thread.

  • Does it make sense then that the פשע is borne (if I am interpreting the metaphorical meaning of that word correctly), whereas a חטא appears to be treated more severely?
    – adam.baker
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 14:12
  • I don't understand. The word נשא applies to each of the three types of sins.
    – DonielF
    Commented Oct 20, 2016 at 15:59
  • Oh, I see that I had been ignoring the placement of the athnach. That helps a lot! Thank you.
    – adam.baker
    Commented Oct 22, 2016 at 9:05
  • @adam.baker Considering that there was confusion as to what your question was exactly, please consider editing it to reflect you actual issue. Than Doniel can edit his clarification from the comments into the body of his answer and get upvotes and possibly an accepted mark. This would help the site. Thank you.
    – user6591
    Commented Feb 16, 2017 at 22:47

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