I had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine (he's not Jewish). At one moment he showed me Tehillim 58:4, which states that the wicked are evil since birth:

"זֹרוּ רְשָׁעִים מֵרָחֶם; תָּעוּ מִבֶּטֶן, דֹּבְרֵי כָזָב.

"The wicked are estranged from the womb; the speakers of lies go astray as soon as they are born."

If we sin, we are considered as not righteous. So, am I wicked since birth, because I did something wrong?

I know it may seem a simple question, but sometimes it's the obvious things that we got wrong.

  • 2
    My first reaction is twofold -- the first, that the technical label of r'sha'im is not given to just anyone who sins, and second, that committing a sin does not stop us from being righteous because we have the potential for repentance.
    – rosends
    Dec 23, 2018 at 19:18
  • 1
    I think you misinterpreted the verse, it says some wicked are "born that way"/bad from birth, like Esau, that fought Jacob in Rivka's womb (just like some are pious from the womb, like Jacob). It says nothing about "us" or the freedom of choice.
    – Al Berko
    Dec 23, 2018 at 19:25
  • If you ask about the verse, you should rephrase your question into "are some men born evil"?
    – Al Berko
    Dec 23, 2018 at 19:27
  • My question is general, this verse was just the one who made me think about it.
    – Katan
    Dec 23, 2018 at 19:28
  • I would love to understand who exactly is bad, righteous and in which moral support is a baby/child.
    – Katan
    Dec 23, 2018 at 19:29

2 Answers 2


The Rambam writes in Hilchos Teshuvah 5:2 :

אל יעבור במחשבתך דבר זה שאומרים טיפשי האומות ורוב גולמי בני ישראל, שהקדוש ברוך הוא גוזר על האדם מתחילת ברייתו להיות צדיק או רשע. אין הדבר כן, אלא כל אדם ואדם ראוי להיות צדיק כמשה רבנו או רשע כירובעם, או חכם או סכל, או רחמן או אכזרי, או כיליי או שוע; וכן שאר כל הדעות.

Chabad translation :

A person should not entertain the thesis held by the fools among the gentiles and the majority of the undeveloped among Israel that, at the time of a man's creation, The Holy One, blessed be He, decrees whether he will be righteous or wicked.

This is untrue. Each person is fit to be righteous like Moses, our teacher, or wicked, like Jeroboam. [Similarly,] he may be wise or foolish, merciful or cruel, miserly or generous, or [acquire] any other character traits. There is no one who compels him, sentences him, or leads him towards either of these two paths. Rather, he, on his own initiative and decision, tends to the path he chooses.

This was [implied by the prophet,] Jeremiah who stated [Eichah 3:38: "From the mouth of the Most High, neither evil or good come forth." Accordingly, it is the sinner, himself, who causes his own loss.

Therefore, it is proper for a person to cry and mourn for his sins and for what he has done to his soul, the evil consequences, he brought upon it. This is implied by the following verse [ibid.:39]: "Of what should a living man be aggrieved? [A man of his sins.]"

[The prophet] continues explaining, since free choice is in our hands and our own decision [is what prompts us to] commit all these wrongs, it is proper for us to repent and abandon our wickedness, for this choice is presently in our hand. This is implied by the following verse [ibid.:40]: "Let us search and examine our ways and return [to God]."


The Torah teaches, that as a result of Adam and Eve’s sin, mankind was given an inclination – or temptation – to do evil.

This inclination is described in Bereishis (8:21) as, “The inclination of man's heart is evil from his youth.”

An inclination is a pull or a drive. It acts upon the person, but it is not the person. This inclination does not make the person a sinner, nor is he in a constant state of sin. Rather, via the temptation to do evil, a person is endowed with freedom of choice and the ability to choose good over evil.

This is expounded in the following verses:

Devarim 30:15

"I have placed before you today life and what is good, and death and what is evil.”

Devarim 30:19

“I have placed life and death before you, blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live.”

The ability to rule over evil is not just wishful thinking. It is a directive expressed in the following verse, which mentions sin by name the very first time in the Torah (Bereishis 4:7) “Sin is crouching at the door; and it desires you, but you are able to rule over it.”

This passage teaches that although it is inevitable that we will be tempted to sin, we clearly have G-d’s promise of an inner ability to overcome the temptation.

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