Obviously, no one is inherently evil. All humans are constantly in battle with their evil inclination and we have to actively work to groom positive traits within us.

That being said, do the sages ever speak of individuals who are destructive or their negativity is such where they become a threat to everyone around them?

I don't mean physical violence but a person whose inability to deal with their own internal struggle results in that "bleeding out" into the lives of those around them. Like their negativity and inability to address their own issues results in it spreading to others like a virus.

Does such a concept exist?

  • Do you mean someone who is a bad influence on others, or someone who actively attempts to cause others to sin?
    – DonielF
    Oct 14, 2018 at 18:24
  • 1
    Would a metzora count? Oct 14, 2018 at 18:30
  • 1
    @DonielF I'm speaking in regards to someone who isn't consciously trying to make other people sin but their nature is such that they actively spread negativity or drag people down with them. A person who won't recognize their actions are self-destructive and believe they're "normal" but at the same time they normalize this behavior in family/friends and thus it drags them down as well.
    – user15672
    Oct 14, 2018 at 18:40
  • 2
    So, a person upon whom Chazal say אוי לרשע אוי לשכינו? Like Korach, whose mere presence was enough to drag down Shevet Reuven, or Miriam bas Bilgah, whose wickedness influenced her Mishmar to the point that the whole group was punished for her sins (very end of Sukkah)?
    – DonielF
    Oct 14, 2018 at 19:57
  • 1
    Avri, to clarify, would a depressed person be an example of the type of person you are describing.
    – JJLL
    Dec 16, 2018 at 23:55

2 Answers 2


Such a person as Miriam bas Bilgah (or her parents, for that matter)?

Sukkah 56b:

אלא למ"ד מרים בת בילגה שהמירה דתה משום ברתיה קנסינן ליה לדידיה אמר אביי אין כדאמרי אינשי שותא דינוקא בשוקא או דאבוה או דאימיה ומשום אבוה ואימיה קנסינן לכולה משמרה אמר אביי אוי לרשע אוי לשכינו

According to the opinion [that the Mishmar of Bilgah was punished because of] Miriam bas Bilgah, who converted from Judaism - because of his daughter, we punish him?! Abaye said, “Yes, like people say: ‘The speech of a child in the market - either from his father or from his mother.’” And because of his father and mother we punish the whole Mishmar? Abaye said, “Woe unto the wicked, woe unto his neighbor.”

This concept is actually sourced in a Halacha regarding Tzara’as on a house, in Negaim 12:6:

מִכָּאן אָמְרוּ, אוֹי לָרָשָׁע אוֹי לִשְׁכֵנוֹ, שְׁנֵיהֶן חוֹלְצִין, שְׁנֵיהֶן קוֹצְעִין, שְׁנֵיהֶן מְבִיאִין אֶת הָאֲבָנִים.

From here they said, “Woe unto the wicked, woe to his neighbor.” Both remove [the stones], both scrape [around them] and both bring the [new] stones.

Now, both of the above sources discuss being punished along with the wicked. Do we ever find that others actually sin as a result of the wicked? Yes; Rashi quotes this concept in Bamidbar 16:1 in reference to Korach:

בִּשְׁבִיל שֶׁהָיָה שֵׁבֶט רְאוּבֵן שָׁרוּי בַּחֲנִיָּתָם תֵּימָנָה שָׁכֵן לִקְהָת וּבָנָיו הַחוֹנִים תֵּימָנָה, נִשְׁתַּתְּפוּ עִם קֹרַח בְּמַחֲלָקְתּוֹ — "אוֹי לָרָשָׁע אוֹי לִשְׁכֵנוֹ".

Since Shevet Reuven dwelled to the south, and Kehas and his children [including Korach] dwelled to the south, they partnered with Korach in his argument - “Woe unto the wicked, woe unto his neighbor.”

Rashi says this earlier in Bamidbar 3:29 as well:

וּסְמוּכִין לָהֶם דֶּגֶל רְאוּבֵן הַחוֹנִים תֵּימָנָה — אוֹי לָרָשָׁע אוֹי לִשְׁכֵנוֹ, לְכָךְ לָקוּ מֵהֶם דָּתָן וַאֲבִירָם וּמָאתַיִם וַחֲמִשִּׁים אִישׁ עִם קֹרַח וַעֲדָתוֹ, שֶׁנִּמְשְׁכוּ עִמָּהֶם בְּמַחֲלָקְתָּם (תנחומא):

And next to them is the camp of Reuven who camped to the south - “Woe unto the wicked, woe unto his neighbor.” Therefore from them were Dasan, Aviram, and 250 men struck with Korach and his assembly, for they were drawn with them in their argument.

(This application of the concept is further mentioned in Yalkut Shimoni 750:19, Bamidbar Rabbah 18:5, and Tanchuma (Buber), Bamidbar 13:1 and Korach 8:1.)

You should know that the opposite is true as well. To quote the continuation of the above Gemara in Sukkah:

טוב לצדיק טוב לשכינו שנאמר (ישעיהו ג, י) אמרו צדיק כי טוב כי פרי מעלליהם יאכלו

“Good unto the righteous, good unto his neighbor,” as it says (Yeshaya 3:10), “Say of the righteous that it is good, for ‘they’ will eat of the fruit of ‘their’ good deeds.”

While the Rambam doesn’t quote this concept directly, this seems to be his thrust when he rules in Deos 6:1:

דֶרֶךְ בְּרִיָּתוֹ שֶׁל אָדָם לִהְיוֹת נִמְשָׁךְ בְּדֵעוֹתָיו וּבְמַעֲשָׂיו אַחַר רֵעָיו וַחֲבֵרָיו וְנוֹהֵג כְּמִנְהַג אַנְשֵׁי מְדִינָתוֹ. לְפִיכָךְ צָרִיךְ אָדָם לִהִתִחַבֵּר לַצַּדִּיקִים וִלֵישֵׁב אֵצֵל הַחֲכָמִים תָּמִיד כִּדֵי שֵׁיִּלִמֹד מִמַּעֲשֵׂיהֵם. וִיִתִרַחֵק מִן הָרִשָׁעִים הַהוֹלְכִים בַּחשֶׁךְ כְּדֵי שֶׁלֹּא יִלְמֹד מִמַּעֲשֵׂיהֶם. הוּא שֶׁשְּׁלֹמֹה אוֹמֵר (משלי יג כ) "הוֹלֵךְ אֶת חֲכָמִים יֶחְכָּם וְרֹעֶה כְסִילִים יֵרוֹעַ". וְאוֹמֵר אַשְׁרֵי הָאִישׁ וְגוֹ'. וְכֵן אִם הָיָה בִּמְדִינָה שֶׁמִּנְהֲגוֹתֶיהָ רָעִים וְאֵין אֲנָשֶׁיהָ הוֹלְכִים בְּדֶרֶךְ יְשָׁרָה יֵלֵךְ לְמָקוֹם שֶׁאֲנָשֶׁיהָ צַדִּיקִים וְנוֹהֲגִים בְּדֶרֶךְ טוֹבִים. וְאִם הָיוּ כָּל הַמְּדִינוֹת שֶׁהוּא יוֹדְעָם וְשׁוֹמֵעַ שְׁמוּעָתָן נוֹהֲגִים בְּדֶרֶךְ לֹא טוֹבָה כְּמוֹ זְמַנֵּנוּ. אוֹ שֶׁאֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לָלֶכֶת לִמְדִינָה שֶׁמִּנְהֲגוֹתֶיהָ טוֹבִים מִפְּנֵי הַגְּיָסוֹת אוֹ מִפְּנֵי הַחלִי יֵשֵׁב לְבַדּוֹ יְחִידִי כָּעִנְיָן שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (איכה ג כח) "יֵשֵׁב בָּדָד וְיִדֹּם". וְאִם הָיוּ רָעִים וְחַטָּאִים שֶׁאֵין מְנִיחִים אוֹתוֹ לֵישֵׁב בַּמְּדִינָה אֶלָּא אִם כֵּן נִתְעָרֵב עִמָּהֶן וְנוֹהֵג בְּמִנְהָגָם הָרַע יֵצֵא לַמְּעָרוֹת וְלַחֲוָחִים וְלַמִּדְבָּרוֹת. וְאַל יַנְהִיג עַצְמוֹ בְּדֶרֶךְ חַטָּאִים כָּעִנְיָן שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ירמיה ט א) "מִי יִתְּנֵנִי בַמִּדְבָּר מְלוֹן אֹרְחִים":

In short: it’s natural for man to be influenced by his surroundings, so one needs to surround himself with the righteous and scholarly rather than the wicked, and if he has no choice but to be surrounded by the wicked, better that he flee to the desert or mountains where he can live alone.


I believe the answer to your question is "No".

First, you say "No one is inherently evil". Yet Torah says: Yetzer lev ha-adam ra' min'orav -- The inclination of a man's heart is evil from his youth. [Genesis 8:21; also 6:5]. The Talmud adds: "From his youth" means "from his birth". [Berachot Y 3:5]

We are taught to constantly fight this evil inclination, and when we fail we must repent. The Midrash says: "The gates of repentance are always open" [Lam. R. 3:43]. The apostate 2nd-century tanna Elisha ben Abuyah heard a heavenly voice saying that what he did was so monstrous that no repentance was possible for him:

"[Scripture says] 'Return, you backsliding children' (Jer. 3:22), 'Return to Me, and I will return to you' (Mal. 3:7), with the exception of Elisha ben Abuyah, who knows My might and yet rebelled against Me!" [Ecc. R. 7:16]

But his student Rabbi Meir rejected that, and when he saw him crying before dying he said:

"It appears that my master died while repenting... Elisha will be saved… by the merits of his Torah." [Ruth Rabbah 6:2]

I never heard of a Jewish teaching that says anybody is a lost cause.

  • 1
    I think you misunderstood the question. He’s asking for a term for someone whose actions influence others to sin as well, which none of your sources address.
    – DonielF
    Oct 17, 2018 at 20:22
  • @DonielF -- Sounded to me like he asked "Does such a person exist?", not just "What do you call him?" Oct 17, 2018 at 20:26
  • But such a person did exist - like Korach, or Miriam bas Bilgah, like I noted in my comments to the OP.
    – DonielF
    Oct 17, 2018 at 20:33

You must log in to answer this question.