What halachically constitutes a rasha- Wicked person?
Are there parameters with which to determine someone's status in this area?

  • Welcome to Mi Yodeya. This is a much better phrased question than your previous one. You might want to delete that one, then. – DanF Apr 10 '18 at 17:55
  • I can't delete it. When I first asked the question as Rochel I was signed in as a guest and can't get back to that account to log in. Then when I updated with a password, I also modified the user name thinking it would update automatically but it didn't. – Mama Rochel Apr 10 '18 at 18:16
  • Possible duplicate of Is the Baal Hatanya being too harsh with his definition of Rasha? – DonielF Apr 10 '18 at 18:28
  • I read through that one and it didn't really answer the question. It seemed to be debating a different aspect, like whether we are all considered to be reshaim. I'm looking for a more specific list of behaviors. Yes, technically any sin is bad, but doing xyz consistently constitutes a rasha in our common understanding of such things and I wanted to know that list according to halacha. What tips the scales between benonim and reshaim? – Mama Rochel Apr 10 '18 at 18:33
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    @mbloch moderators can't merge accounts, but it looks like the other (unregistered) account only has the one question, which Mama Rochel has re-asked here, so I can delete that question and the account will just linger (no harm done). Mama Rochel, now that you've registered this one you shouldn't have any more problems with getting access to your own questions. Sorry for the confusion. – Monica Cellio Apr 10 '18 at 20:30

The Torah Prohibits a Rasha to bear witness as it says Shemos 23:1 "אל תשת רשע עד"
(see Sanhedrin 27a).

The Rambam defines the parameters of a Rasha Hilchos Eidus 10:2 and 10:4:

אי זהו רשע כל שעבר עבירה שחייבין עליה מלקות זהו רשע ופסול שהרי התורה קראה למחוייב מלקות רשע שנאמר והיה אם בן הכות הרשע ואין צריך לומר מחוייב מיתת בית דין שהוא פסול שנאמר אשר הוא רשע למות.

What is a Rasha? Anyone who commits a sin that is liable to Lashes and he is disqualified from the Torah as it says "and when the rasha is liable to malkus" (nearly every negative Mitzva is liable to 39 lashes) and that goes without saying someone is a Rasha commiting a sin which is liable to the death penalty who is referred to as a Rasha Lamus (to die).

ועוד יש שם רשעים שהן פסולין לעדות אע"פ שהן בני תשלומין ואינן בני מלקות. הואיל ולוקחים ממון שאינו שלהם בחמס פסולין שנאמר כי יקום עד חמס באיש. כגון הגנבים והחמסנים אע"פ שהחזיר פסול לעדות מעת שגנב או גזל. וכן עד זומם אע"פ שהוזם בעדות ממון ושלם הרי זה פסול מן התורה לכל עדות. ומאימתי הוא נפסל מעת שהעיד בבית דין. אע"פ שלא הוזם על אותה עדות אלא אחר כמה ימים. וכן המלוה ברבית אחד המלוה ואחד הלוה שניהם פסולין לעדות. אם רבית קצוצה עשו הרי הן פסולין מן התורה

And some People called a Rasha even though they do not qualify for lashes, since they have taken money that doesnt belong to them, they are obligated to pay back but they still transgressed a commandment in the Torah and are unfit to testify as the Torah says Eid Chamas:Some who steals secretly or publicly or one who was an eid zomem and owed money compensation, and someone who lent with interest or borrowed with interest (from fellow Jew).

  • Interesting that the Rambam defines Rasha differently in Teshuvah 3:1 – DonielF Apr 10 '18 at 18:28
  • @MamaRochel almost all 365 negative (thou shalt nots) commandments qualify as far as being liable to malkus or death. the exceptions are still sins but avoid such penalty due to Tradition. It is very hard in a note to explain all the exceptions and rules; but the Talmud does. Anyway, even sins not liable to malkus are evil acts and those who violate them are also wicked. – David Kenner Apr 10 '18 at 19:11
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    This seems to be a pretty strict definition! According to this, I think the majority of us might considered resha'im, then! Does teshuva cancel this status? What about those that are unaware that they sinned? – DanF Apr 10 '18 at 22:59

Exodus 2:13 "He went out on the second day, and behold, two Hebrew men were quarreling, and he said to the wicked one (Hebrew: "rasha"), "Why are you going to strike your friend?"

Rashi comments:

Why are you going to strike: Although he had not struck him, he is called wicked for [merely] raising his hand [to strike him]. [From Talmud Sanhedrin 58b]


Deut. 25:1 "If there is a quarrel between men, and they approach the tribunal, and they [the judges] judge them, and they acquit the innocent one and condemn the guilty one (Hebrew:"HaRasha")"

(My comment: Obviously the person being condemned in a random case as a "rasha" does not need to be completely evil. They simply are found to have been "condemned" regarding the narrow scope of the subject matter in their particular court case.)

  • Chabad.org translation.

We see from here that there is a concept to say that once a person initiates any action that is evil (such as attempting to hit someone) they are called wicked because of that. This is true even if they happen to be righteous regarding other things.

The Tanya gives other single examples of a "rasha" in chapter 1 (based on Talmudic passages) such as:

violating any Rabbinical prohibition (and it certainly goes without saying, a Biblical one), missing out on performing any positive commandment, being able to protest something wrong, but avoiding it, even neglecting enough Torah study.

However, the Tanya (ch 1 continued) also records the well known idea that when sizing up a person as a whole, if they have more good deeds than bad ones, they are considered righteous in judgment in general; but if they have a majority of sins they are considered wicked. (see Rambam Laws of Repentance 3:1 and Talmud Rosh HaShannah 16b with Rashi there.)

So there are two ways to view a person as righteous or wicked; and both are valid.

1) Focusing on the individual action at the moment.

2) Looking at their overall record in general.

But either way, there is possibly good and bad in everyone.

Oh and yes, bad middos (bad character traits) may also qualify to condemn a person. For instance, The Rambam says: "Anyone who gets angry is as if he worshipped idols" (see: Anger is a form of idolatry)

Also R' Yochanan says in the name of R' Shimon bar Yochai: "anyone who is arrogant is as if they have worshipped idols." - Talmud Sotah 4b

But, once a person repents, they are considered righteous. - see Talmud Kiddushin 49b.

  • Arrogance and anger go hand in hand, as an arrogant person is more prone to anger, correct? – Mama Rochel Apr 10 '18 at 19:39
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    @David Kenner I have always been intrigued by this subject of anger. In Rambam's language he calls 'anger' "כעס". This is translated as being angry or displeased, but also as hot or swollen (like chometz), like in Gittin 70a. By human beings it is viewed as a bad personality trait, something to avoid. And yet by G-d, we see Him getting angry (חרון אף) in the Torah repeatedly like BeMidbar 25:4. We are told to know G-d in all His ways, meaning to emulate Him. This would seem to also mean in regard to anger. What is the difference between the anger mentioned by Rambam and anger exhibited by G-d? – Yaacov Deane Apr 10 '18 at 22:30
  • @MamaRochel Yes, both are like idol worship. Both are from the same source , and yes arrogant people tend to fall into anger easily. The Rambam says that all chracter traits may be worked with in moderation, but arrogance and anger must be completely eliminated. – David Kenner Apr 10 '18 at 22:32
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    @YaacovDeane Regular anger is a sign that a person is so insecure, they don't believe anything outside themselves is important or will help them. Therefore when they are afraid they become angry to try and secure their position (which position is arrogance to begin with as it is preservation of exclusive self, like territory). Charon af is more like complete indignation against evil. It is not based on selfish fear. It is recognizing and not tolerating evil. If we in turn hate evil because Hashem hates it, then we are serving Him. Agree with my definitions? :) – David Kenner Apr 10 '18 at 22:36
  • @MamaRochel "arrogant person is more prone to anger". Not necessarily. IIRC, Ramba"m who makes a strong point about anger, allows a teacher to be angry at his students in order to teach them a positive lesson and have them behave properly. There are numerous reasons as to why people get angry. But, I find that arrogance doesn't cause much anger, actually. Most arrogant people I've met are so egotistical that they're aloof to anyone else's concerns or opinions to let anything anger them. If anything, they cause others to be angry at them! – DanF Apr 10 '18 at 23:04

Here is a Halachic definition of Rasha. Contextually, it is used to define personnel who cannot serve as a legal witness.

Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 34:2:

איזה רשע כל שעבר עבירה שחייבים עליה מלקות ואצ"ל אם חייבים עליה מיתת ב"ד ל"ש אם עבר לתיאבון ל"ש אם עבר להכעיס

Who is a Rasha? One who overrides a prohibition which is subsequently punishable by legal whipping; and certainly one who has overridden a prohibition punishable by legal death. This definition does not change because of the perpetrator’s intention, may it be out of passion or desire to anger God through rebellion.


Not a definitive answer. But, I happened to have come a crossed this Tosfos today. See: Tosfos in Arachin 16b D"H V'anavah She'lo L'shma. His last words are לא ישר אלי, דהוה רשע גמור״"


Someone who is a חוטא ומחטי את הרבים. Someone who wins and causes others to sin.

The mishna in Avos (5:18) says

: כָּל הַמְזַכֶּה אֶת הָרַבִּים, אֵין חֵטְא בָּא עַל יָדוֹ. וְכָל הַמַּחֲטִיא אֶת הָרַבִּים, אֵין מַסְפִּיקִין בְּיָדוֹ לַעֲשׂוֹת תְּשׁוּבָה. משֶׁה זָכָה וְזִכָּה אֶת הָרַבִּים, זְכוּת הָרַבִּים תָּלוּי בּוֹ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים לג) צִדְקַת ה' עָשָׂה וּמִשְׁפָּטָיו עִם יִשְׂרָאֵל. יָרָבְעָם חָטָא וְהֶחֱטִיא אֶת הָרַבִּים, חֵטְא הָרַבִּים תָּלוּי בּוֹ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (מלכים א טו) עַל חַטֹּאות יָרָבְעָם (בֶּן נְבָט) אֲשֶׁר חָטָא וַאֲשֶׁר הֶחֱטִיא אֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל:

Anyone who brings merit to the many, sin does not result from him. And anyone who brings the many to sin is not given enough [time] to repent. Moshe -- who was meritorious and brought merit to the many; the merit of the many is appended to him, as it is stated (Deuteronomy 33:21), "He fulfilled the righteousness of God and His statutes with Israel." Jeroboam -- who sinned and caused the many to sin; the sin of the many is appended to him, as it is stated (I Kings 15:30), "for the sins of Jeroboam that he sinned and that he caused Israel to sin."

The Orchos Tzaddikim elaborates on this:

וההולך בדרך זה יזכה את הרבים, כי הוא נושא חן בעיני כל רואיו, וכל מעשיו וסדרי ענייניו מקובל להם, ותמיד הם משבחים אותו, ומתוך כך הם חומדים לעשות כמוהו, וכל אדם יברך את בנו שיהיה כמו פלוני, ובזה הוא מקדש השם ברוך הוא. אבל המתגאה הוא מחלל השם ברוך הוא ומחטיא את הרבים, והוא דומה לנבלה שהיא מושלכת בשוק, וכל עובר ושב מניח ידו על חוטמו עד שיעבור: כך המתגאה הוא מגנה את התורה ולומדיה, ומרחיק בני אדם מן התורה, כי אומרים: מה תועלת יש בתורה אחרי אשר לומדיה רעים?! ומתוך כך פורשים הן מן התורה.

And he who walks in this path will cause the many to be meritorious, for he will be liked by all who see him and all his deeds and the manner of them will be acceptable to them. And always will they praise him and every man will bless his son that he be like this modest man. And thus he sanctifies the Name of God, Blessed be He. But he who vaunts himself, profanes the Name of God, Blessed be He, and causes others to sin, such a person can be compared to a carcass that is cast out into the street and every passerby puts his hand to his nose until he passes by. Thus is the arrogant man — he puts the Torah to shame and those who study it, and causes people to shun the Torah, for they say, "What worth is there in the Torah if those who study it are evil?". And reasoning thus, they turn away from Torah.

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