I have seen it claimed that the Rambam in Shemona Perakim chapter 8 says that if the Torah specifies a punishment, someone must commit the sin, it is just unknown who exactly will earn the punishment (thus if the Torah prescribes that an idolatrous city must be burnt, there will be an idolatrous city meeting the criteria at some point).

I am looking for the exact language because it seems completely illogical. According to that reasoning, when Adam was commanded not to eat from the tree with a prescribed punishment, then someone must have eaten from the tree at some point.

And someone must have ascended Har Sinai (Shemos 19:12) and been executed, etc.

So every warning of punishment must inevitably happen it means that the Torah is prescribing that sin must happen, which would be the opposite of its purpose.

It also seems to lack a basis. If it is because לא ציווה הקדוש ברוך הוא לתוהו (Hilchos Melachim 11:2), well it could be that prescribing the punishment scared people into not doing it, thus the prescription of the punishment was successful and had a purpose.

And if the interpretation of the source in Shemona Perakim is correct, how can we answer these problems with the idea?

  • judaism.stackexchange.com/q/84904/- the Rambam, if this quote is accurate, must hold like those who say בן סורר ומורה, עיר הנדחת, ובית המנוגע all happened.
    – DonielF
    Aug 21, 2017 at 21:04
  • The prohibition of a sin does not mean that someone must do it. It means that someone could do it. You are mixing this up with a prophesy that someone is probably going to sin. Thus, Adam was forbidden to eat the frui, and the prohibition did not mean that someone was going to violate the commandment. The prophesy that the descendants of Avraham would serve a "strange" nation, meant that someone was going to do this, but it could have been done by someone who did not deserve punishment as a result. Thus, the Egyptians deserved punishment for what they did and the way they did it. Aug 21, 2017 at 22:10

1 Answer 1


The relevant passage is indeed in the 8th chapter of Shemonah Ferakim. In discussing the issue of free choice, he addresses the question of whether the prediction that the Egyptians would oppress the Jews indicated that they didn't have free will. He claims that it doesn't since there was no indication of who in particular would sin. Rather, he claims that it is no different than God saying: "In the future there will be people who sin and people who obey." That observation does not negate their free will. Similarly, other predictions that Israel would sin in the future do not indicate a lack of free will, for individuals are not named. In passing he writes that a general prediction that someone will sin, is no more problematic than the very prohibition against the sin, and the associated stated penalties. These would never exist if they would not be executed, but nevertheless, in no way undermine an individual's free choice. The following are his words according to R. Shilat's translation:

מזה, אומרו לאברהם: +בראשית טו, יג+ "ועבדום ועינו אותם" וכו'. אמרו: הלא תראה שכבר גזר על המצרים שיעשקו את זרע אברהם, ומדוע ענשם, והם מוכרחים, אין מנוס להם מלשעבדם כמו שגזר? ותשובת זה, שזה כאילו אמר יתעלה, כי העתידים להוולד - יהיה מהם ממרה ונשמע, וצדיק ורשע. וזה אמת, ולא בזה המאמר יחוייב פלוני הרשע להיות רשע בהכרח, ולא פלוני הצדיק להיות צדיק בהכרח. אלא כל מי שהיה מהם רשע - בבחירתו היה, ואילו רצה להיות צדיק - אכן היה, ואין מונע לו. לפי שההודעה לא היתה על איש איש, עד שיאמר: כבר נגזר עלי, אלא באה על הכלל, ונשאר כל איש בבחירתו על עיקר הטבע. וכן כל איש ואיש מן המצרים אשר עשקום ועשו להם עוול, אילו רצה שלא לעושקם - היתה לו הבחירה בזה, לפי שהוא לא גזר על איש שיעשוק.

וזאת התשובה בעצמה היא התשובה על אומרו: +דברים לא, טז+ "הנך שוכב עם אבותיך וקם העם הזה וזנה אחרי אלהי נכר הארץ". שאין הפרש בין זה ובין אומרו: מי שיעבוד עבודה זרה - נעשה בו כך וכך, לפי שאם לא יהיה שם לעולם מי שיעבור - יהיה האיום לבטלה, ויהיו הקללות כולן לבטלה, וכן העונשים אשר בתורה, ולא בגלל מציאות דין הסקילה בתורה, נאמר שזה אשר חלל השבת - מוכרח על חלולו, ולא בגלל הקללות יחוייב שנאמר, שאותם שעבדו עבודה זרה וחלו בהם הקללות ההן - נגזר עליהם בעבודתה. אלא בבחירתו עבד כל מי שעבד, וחל עליו העונש, +ישעיהו סו ג - ד+ "גם המה בחרו בדרכיהם וכו' גם אני" וכו'.

R. Qafih's translation of the relevant line is quite similar:

כי אין הבדל בין זה ובין אמרו שכל העובד עבודה זרה נעשה בו כך וכך לפי שאלו לא היה שם לעולם מי שיעבור היו כל האיומים לבטלה והיו כל הקללות כולן לבטלה וכך כל העונשין שבתורה

  • This doesn’t seem to answer the main part of the question, the OP’s problems with this statement. But +1 for a source.
    – DonielF
    Aug 21, 2017 at 22:08
  • @DonielF The main part seems to be whether Rambam said it. (That is the only thing he asks until the last line, and that is the subject of the title). Perhaps the last line should have been asked separately. || I should hope I could find it. It was my reference to it 2+ years ago that prompted this question in the first place.
    – mevaqesh
    Aug 21, 2017 at 22:13
  • Thank you for the source. I think his meaning is the exact opposite of how you are portraying it, so my other questions are answered as well.
    – Yishai
    Aug 22, 2017 at 1:12
  • Ok...? (15-characters) @Yishai
    – mevaqesh
    Aug 22, 2017 at 1:34

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