Was Yitzchok a Tzadik? Rashi in Bereshit 28:13 says Yitzchok was blind and that his​ Yetzer Harah left him. Does that imply that he had an evil inclination when he wasn't blind?

What about King David? The stories with Bathsheba.

What about Yehudah and Tamar?

(Looking also for an answer according to the Tanya.)

  • 1
    "Was Yitzchok a Tzadik" - I'm not denying that he is called that by most religious people. But, very few people in Tanac"h, are definitely called "tzaddikim". The only one I can think of was Noach, actually. So, what makes you think that people such as Yitzchok and David, etc. qualify as being "tzadikim"? Is there a specific definition? For that matter, what makes them more of a tzaddik than you or I?
    – DanF
    Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 18:30
  • Please clarify if you are only asking according to the Tanya.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 18:49
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    @mevaqesh not only according to the Tanya. Also according to the Tanya. I'll accept either answer.
    – larry909
    Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 20:57
  • @DanF David (Shmuel 1:24:18)
    – DonielF
    Commented Nov 24, 2017 at 20:51
  • @DanF good point
    – larry909
    Commented Nov 24, 2017 at 21:06

3 Answers 3


You are asking many questions. I will answer the one in the title.

The gemara says explicitly that, the greater a person, the greater his yetzer hara (Sukka 52a)

כל הגדול מחבירו יצרו גדול הימנו

Anyone who is greater than another, his evil inclination is greater than his.

  • 1
    Is that statement referring to a Tzadik?
    – larry909
    Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 21:01
  • Not directly, but by definition a tzadik is greater than another, therefore he has a greater evil inclination
    – mbloch
    Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 21:03
  • but maybe it's only talking about regular people, excluding Tzadikin.
    – larry909
    Commented Nov 24, 2017 at 8:05
  • I understand now where you are going and wrote up a second answer that hopefully will work better for you
    – mbloch
    Commented Nov 24, 2017 at 9:22

I answered elsewhere according to the gemara but you asked for a response according to Tanya as well. The definition of a Tzadik in Tanya is different from the way we use the word today (e.g., "this rav is a real tzadik").

R Nadav Cohen explains this in chapter 1 of this book on Tanya (see also here), which I summarize

According to the Torah basic level of interpretation, a person is judged only according to his deeds, i.e., that which we can see on the surface. As such, all he has to do is perform more mitzvot than sins to be considered a Tzadik.

But the accurate usage of the title Tzadik means that the person is a Tzadik in his entire essence and being. According to the Torah's deeper and more inner level of interpretation, a person is measured by his true nature.

Tanya explains a person has two souls, an "animal soul" (focused on physical needs and desires) and a "Godly soul" (who desires only to connect to his source: God). These two souls wage an intense, constant battle deep within us, yet they strike a different balance in each person.

This provides us with new parameters for understanding who is a Tzadik. In a Tzadik, the battle between the two souls is over and the winner is the Godly soul. It subdued the animal soul, took it prisoner and gave it a completely new identity. Not only has it stopped opposing the Godly soul, it actually changed sides. As a result the Tzadik never sins, does only good deeds and mitzvot and has absolutely no desire or interest in anything outside the realm of holiness, mitzvot, and goodness - not in his actions, words, or even a single thought.


There are several different definitions of a tsaddik that are used in various ways. Here are 3 that I have heard:

1) Someone whose good deeds outweighs their bad

  • Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish, an ex-highwayman

2) Someone who has a yetzer hara but he tends to master it

  • e.g. Moshe who did sin occasionally

3) Someone who is so in tune with God that his yetzer hara is of negligible strength

  • e.g. The Baal Shem Tov as he is described. This definition may be more in tune with the Tanya but in this definition a tsaddik is a subset of "righteous person".

As for Rashi describing Itzchak's situation as being without yetzer hara, it appears that this is referring to the fact that Itzchak is extremely old and frail and at the end of his life. His yetzer hara has left him in the sense that he is unlikely to have lusts in the manner as Yehuda did with Tamar. Technically this would be Tsaddik type #3, but this is a trivial case. Someone in a coma is also type #3

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