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According to the Rambam (Teshuvah 3,5):

"בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁשּׁוֹקְלִין עֲוֹנוֹת אָדָם עִם זְכֻיּוֹתָיו אֵין מְחַשְּׁבִין עָלָיו עָוֹן שֶׁחָטָא בּוֹ תְּחִלָּה וְלֹא שֵׁנִי אֶלָּא מִשְּׁלִישִׁי וְאֵילָךְ."

"When the vices and virtues of man are weighed neither the first nor the second time is taken into consideration, but from the third time onward;"

Is this to be taken literally? Does this mean that a person who murdered someone will not be punished for it unless he is doing it for the third time?

  • See Chullin 14 with the Ran and Tosfos which seems to say not like that – sam Feb 10 at 22:54
  • Also if you see ,the Rambam is discussing the chesbon of merits vs sins,but never says that it doesnt count like he never did it – sam Feb 10 at 22:57
  • @Natanav Were you basing it on Yoma 87a? לי למימר אחטא ואשוב אחטא ואשוב תרי זימני כדרב הונא אמר רב דאמר רב הונא אמר רב כיון שעבר אדם עבירה ושנה בה הותרה לו הותרה לו סלקא דעתך אלא נעשית לו כהיתר – Daniel Ross Feb 11 at 14:01
  • @Daniel Ross It is based on the Mishneh Torah. – Natanav Feb 11 at 15:34
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See my answer to "Weighing mitzvot/aveirot". There I try to establish that Hashem doesn't judge actions, He judges the state of a person as they shape themselves through those actions. As I wrote (after opening with sources) there, "Yishmael was repaid in terms of 'ba'asher hu sham -- as he was there.' The way your soul stands at that moment is the direct cause of reward or punishment."

I think that's what the Rambam is saying here too. A person who sins once or twice... they made mistakes. A person for whom the sin became a habit, that's who they are.

The Raavad (ad loc) in his objection to this Rambam, invokes the verse I did about how Hashem judged Yishmael "as he was there". He understands the Rambam as conflating two gemaros:

1- Rosh Hashanah 16b-17a:

תנא דבי רבי ישמעאל: "מעביר ראשון ראשון" -- וכן היא המדה. אמר רבא: ועון עצמו אינו נמחק, דאי איכא רובא עונות מחשיב בהדייהו.

[A beraisa] was taught in school of Rabbi Yishmael: "He passes over the first, first" and so is the attribute [of Mercy, to forgive the first sin]. Rava said: But that sin itself is not ; if the person['s actions] are [still] mostly sins, G-d accounts for [the first sin too] for him.

2- Yuma 86b:

תניא ר' יוסי בר יהודה אומר: אדם עובר עבירה פעם .ראשונה מוחלין לו. שניה מוחלין לו. שלישית מוחלין לו רביעית -- אין מוחלין לו. שנאמר, (עמוס ב:ו) "כה אמר ה' על שלשה פשעי ישראל ועל ארבעה לא אשיבנו" (ונאמר) (איוב לג:כט) "הן כל אלה יפעל אל פעמים שלש עם גבר."

It was taught [in a beraisa]: Rabbi Yosei bar Yehuda says: When a person commits a transgression the first time, he is forgiven; a second time, he is forgiven; a third time, he is forgiven; but the fourth time, he is not forgiven, as it is stated: “So says Hashem: For three transgressions of Israel, but for four I will not reverse it” (Amos 2:6). And it says: “All these things does God do twice or three times with a man” (Iyov 33:29).

According to the Raavad, these two gemaros refer to two different times of judgment. The gemara in Rosh haShanah is saying that when a person is judged at the end of life, Hashem will overlook an initial mistake, if it doesn't fit their general character; ie if after ignoring the initial errors, the person is overall not a sinful person. Whereas the gemara in Yuma is talking about during the course of life, and the person can still change their behavior. Then, it is not until the sin is habitual that G-d will address the sin.

The Raavad's understanding of the Rambam's sources supports my theory that the Rambam's intent was to talk about which sins become "of the person" rather than a history of activity.

  • In the back of my mind something is telling me that the “fourth Time” I think refers to sins of your father. Hope to find a source for it. – Daniel Ross Feb 11 at 17:25
  • @DanielRoss, are you thinking of the tail of the 13 Middos haRachamim? sefaria.org/Exodus.34.7 – Micha Berger Feb 11 at 18:56
  • Yes, but were you thinking of that originally? – Daniel Ross Feb 11 at 19:26
  • No, the rambam talks about three times, the Raavad says 4 -- but both talk about a given individual, not generations. My whole explanation (and the Raavad's counter-position) presumes that we're talking about when is a sin just something you did, and when is it part of who you are. And the answer is "do you do it habitually?" The generational spin you're suggesting doesn't fit that. Rather, it looks more like a reference to chazaqah -- 3 times sets a norm. – Micha Berger Feb 11 at 23:04

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