"Worst" is subjective so a broad overview and several inputs would be appreciated

Worst can mean: The sin that brings about the greatest punishment (already mentioned); the sins that most distance one from God; sins that remove ones entire share from the world to come https://www.sefaria.org/Pirkei_Avot.3.11?lang=bi&with=all&lang2=en ; sins that push us furthest from the ultimate purpose of creation.

Feel free to add more definitions and bring more answers and debate which definition most finely encapsulates "worst"

  • 2
    The basic answer is we don't know exactly so you should be careful about all if them (Avot 2:1). All the posts below are just guesses, sometimes educated ones.
    – Double AA
    Commented Nov 12, 2017 at 13:00
  • 1
    Can I offer a completely different approach to this answer? According to "לפום צערא אגרא", the worthiest Mitzvah would be for a person the hardest one to observe (as for Abraham "ירא אל-קים אתה), so the worst Aveirah will also be a personal matter - for one it can be eating non Kosher, for other Bitul Torah.
    – Al Berko
    Commented Nov 16, 2017 at 19:51

3 Answers 3


Rambam writes in Hilkhot Yesodei HaTorah (5:4) that idolatry is the worst sin.

Similarly, his son Rabbenu Avraham writes in HaMaspik L'ovdey Hashem (ed. Wincelberg pg. 47) that the worst sin is idolatry.


I am not sure it is "subjective"

Shulchan Aruch e"h 23.1 says wasting seed.

But the commentary says it is not literal since in Sefer Chasidim it says that to avoid relations with a married woman or a nidda you should do it (so they are worse) (but you should then either fast for 40 days in the summer or sit in the cold in the winter)

Then there is from shulchan aruch y"d 2.5 that:
idol worship and desecrating Shabbos (or yom kippur) publicly (for reason see Simla hadasha 2.16) and any avaira done in spite
make you considered like a non Jew regarding the whole Torah except regarding marriage. (e"h 44.9)

Related e"h 123.2,5

And also from shulchan aruch y"d 157:
you have the 3 to die for Idol worship, forbidden relations,and murder (shabos is not to die for since it is better to desecrate one Shabbat so that you can keep many)

  • Why mention something if it isn't literal? That's just misleading.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Nov 12, 2017 at 8:06
  • @mevaqesh I guess the same reason that the shulchan aruch mentions it (the op asked for many inputs I guess this counts)
    – hazoriz
    Commented Nov 12, 2017 at 8:08
  • No. The Shulhan Arukh's goal was to scare people not to spill seed by exaggerating; not to give a comprehensive list of sins by their severity.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Nov 12, 2017 at 13:44
  • Besides for the ShA not being an answer to the question by your own admission, you haven't clarified why you think that being considered like a non-Jew is indicative of the worst aveira. Furthermore, Simla Hadasha never says (there) that it applies to other sins, nor does Shulhan Arukh HaRav you link to. Furthermore, he does not say that he is halakhically equivalent to a gentile in every way, that is you addition.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Nov 12, 2017 at 23:30
  • Even among the 3 to die for you haven't told us which is the worst...
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Nov 12, 2017 at 23:31

The Rambam to Pirkei Avot 2:1 (thanks to @DonielF for the pointer) writes that there are eight levels of punishment, the most severe of which is stoning (skila) - see also Hilchot Sanhedrin 14:4. In 7:4 he lists the sins for which one gets stoning

  • [a male] who sleeps with his mother, with the wife of his father, with his daughter-in-law, with a male, [or] with an animal
  • a woman who causes an animal to sleep with her
  • the blasphemer
  • the idolater
  • one who gives of his children to Molekh [a particular form of idolatry], the ba'al 'ov [necromancer] and yid'oni [soothsayer]
  • one who desecrates the Sabbath
  • one who curses his father or mother
  • one who sleeps with a betrothed maiden
  • the mesit [one who entices an individual to commit idolatry]
  • the mediach [one who entices a city to commit idolatry]
  • the sorcerer and the wayward and rebellious son

see the continuation of the mishna and commentaries for all the conditions attached to actually being punished this way.

  • the stoning itself is the recovery (teshuva)
    – hazoriz
    Commented Nov 12, 2017 at 9:33
  • sefaria.org/Mishneh_Torah,_Repentance.1.2?lang=bi and halacha 4 there
    – hazoriz
    Commented Nov 12, 2017 at 9:42
  • 2
    Related: Rambam to Avos 2:1 writes that there are eight levels of punishment, the most severe of which is Skilah and the least severe of which are things for which one is not even chayiv makkos. Kareis is listed at level 5 (with 1 being the worst).
    – DonielF
    Commented Nov 12, 2017 at 12:38
  • @DonielF many thanks for this - I have edited with credits to you
    – mbloch
    Commented Nov 13, 2017 at 2:55
  • @DonielF but from what he wrote on Sanhedrin it seems karet is number one והעונש החזק הכרת sefaria.org/Rambam_on_Mishnah_Sanhedrin.10.1
    – hazoriz
    Commented May 6, 2019 at 16:18