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Sukkat Shalom B'nei Noach




What is the diffirence between the “Orinigal Sin” thaught in Church and the “Evil Inclination” taught in Judaims.

What is the difference between the “Original Sin” taught in Christianity and the “Evil Inclination” taught in Judaism.

In Christianity, it is believed that after Adam and Eve chose to eat from the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:6), from that moment on, all their descendants are born with a corrupted nature. This is partially true, in the sense that the Evil Inclination exists within people as apposed to being an external figure, like the snake. Christianity teaches that every person from that moment is inherently inclined to rebel against G-d and cannot help but sin. This is a mistake, because it takes away personal responsibility. In short, when faced with the choice between good and evil, our nature inclines us to choose evil by default; this is also known as original sin. Christianity thus teaches that sin is a state in which humans find themselves from birth. For this, Psalm 51:5 (Hebrew Bible verse 7) is often cited.

KJV:  Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.

Mamre : Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.

We will examine this verse further on in this blog. First, we want to point out that Judaism, based on the Tanach, does not believe that sin is a state in which a person exists. Sin is an action, a wrong deed/choice that a person makes. We see this, for example, in Genesis 8:21

…for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth…  …כִּ֠י יֵ֣צֶר לֵ֧ב הָאָדָ֛ם רַ֖ע מִנְּעֻרָ֑יו …  

A tendency is not a state in which a person exists, but a choice presented to them, perhaps a choice that easily tempts them to choose wrongly, but a choice, nonetheless. G-d teaches that, as seen in Genesis 4:7, although it may be difficult, a person can overcome this inclination.[1]

If thou doest well, shall it not be lifted up? and if thou doest not well, sin coucheth at the door; and unto thee is its desire, but thou mayest rule over it.’הֲל֤וֹא אִם־תֵּיטִיב֙ שְׂאֵ֔ת וְאִם֙ לֹ֣א תֵיטִ֔יב לַפֶּ֖תַח חַטָּ֣את רֹבֵ֑ץ וְאֵלֶ֙יךָ֙ תְּשׁ֣וּקָת֔וֹ וְאַתָּ֖ה תִּמְשׇׁל־בּֽוֹ׃  

This is a fundamental difference. In Christianity, a person cannot really do good, but in Judaism, the question is posed to the individual about which choice they want to make, a choice they can make because it is close to their heart, as we read in Deuteronomium 30:14

But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.כִּֽי־קָר֥וֹב אֵלֶ֛יךָ הַדָּבָ֖ר מְאֹ֑ד בְּפִ֥יךָ וּבִֽלְבָבְךָ֖ לַעֲשֹׂתֽוֹ׃  

Ibn Ezra on Deuteronomy explains:

For the heart is the core of the commandments. The commandments that pertain to the heart are the most important ones. Among the latter are the commandments to believe in G-d, to love G-d, etc.

When a Person believe in G-d and Love G-d it wil be easy to choose the right thing.

See also Psalm 37:27

Depart from evil, and do good; and dwell for evermoreס֣וּר מֵ֭רָע וַעֲשֵׂה־ט֗וֹב וּשְׁכֹ֥ן לְעוֹלָֽם׃  

The Evil Inclination, or evil desire, in Judaism is considered to be what G-d created to make man’s free will possible. That G-d created evil is found in Isaiah 45:7

I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil; I am the L-RD, that doeth all these things.יוֹצֵ֥ר אוֹר֙ וּבוֹרֵ֣א חֹ֔שֶׁךְ עֹשֶׂ֥ה שָׁל֖וֹם וּב֣וֹרֵא רָ֑ע אֲנִ֥י ד’ עֹשֶׂ֥ה כׇל־אֵֽלֶּה׃   

The human being is created in the image of G-d, and without the Evil Inclination, humans would simply do what G-d desires, akin to angels, lacking free will. Angels are “only” created to fulfill a singular mission, one which defines the purpose of their magnificent, but limited, existence. However, free will is essential for humanity. This free will enables humans to willingly serve G-d, facilitating interaction between G-d and humanity. G-d rewards those who listen to Him and strive to improve the world, granting them life. Conversely, those who choose to oppose G-d choose death, as stated in Deuteronomy 30:19

I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before thee life and death, the blessing and the curse; therefore choose life, that thou mayest live, thou and thy seed;הַעִדֹ֨תִי בָכֶ֣ם הַיּוֹם֮ אֶת־הַשָּׁמַ֣יִם וְאֶת־הָאָ֒רֶץ֒ הַחַיִּ֤ים וְהַמָּ֙וֶת֙ נָתַ֣תִּי לְפָנֶ֔יךָ הַבְּרָכָ֖ה וְהַקְּלָלָ֑ה וּבָֽחַרְתָּ֙ בַּחַיִּ֔ים לְמַ֥עַן תִּֽחְיֶ֖ה אַתָּ֥ה וְזַרְעֶֽךָ׃  

Humans can make this choice between life and death, as we have seen in Deuteronomy 30:14.  From my perspective as a Noahide, this choice seems easier than for a Jew. The Noahide Laws are all logical commandments, and for those who believe in G-d, there is an understanding that G-d has provided these laws to ensure that the world and society remain habitable and just. Realizing that these commandments are divinely given for one’s own well-being and for the betterment of society makes it easier to adhere to them. Belief in G-d encourages individuals to reflect more deeply on the fundamental moral intuitions that resonate with all humanity. This is unlike some Jewish commandments that may not seem logical and are followed only because G-d commands them; for example, why should one not wear clothing made of wool and linen?[2]

We see from the above that “original sin” and the “evil inclination” can primarily be linked to the free will that humans possess, with the ability to choose good. Judaism teaches, based on the Tenach, that people can make good choices, and therefore, they are also capable of understanding their wrong choices and feeling remorse for them. One can then choose to turn to G-d and ask for forgiveness, as King David did after his sin with Bathsheba, and immediately received forgiveness from G-d through the mouth of the prophet Nathan. See 2 Samuel 12:13

And David said unto Nathan: ‘I have sinned against the L-RD.’ And Nathan said unto David: ‘The L-RD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.וַיֹּ֤אמֶר דָּוִד֙ אֶל־נָתָ֔ן חָטָ֖אתִי לַד’  וַיֹּ֨אמֶר נָתָ֜ן אֶל־דָּוִ֗ד גַּם־ד’ הֶעֱבִ֥יר חַטָּאתְךָ֖ לֹ֥א תָמֽוּת׃  

This allows humans to improve themselves and achieve spiritual growth.

Christianity teaches that although humans can ask for forgiveness from G-d, He will not grant it. Because humans are inherently sinful, they must receive this forgiveness through an intermediary. This is a human-devised construct not found anywhere in the Tenach. Because humans are inherently sinful in Christianity, they are generally less inclined to improve their qualities; they may be more inclined to accept who they are, which generally leads to spiritual stagnation. It begs the question of whether a person can be spiritually stagnant or only capable of development or decline. In Christianity, we are more likely to observe a decline. To illustrate, consider weight loss: if you know you can reach your target weight, you’ll do whatever it takes, but if you believe it doesn’t matter what you do, you might indulge in an extra cookie, causing weight gain instead of loss.

Coming from a Christian background, a splinter group that believed in the ultimate salvation and redemption of all people, I can confirm that Christianity tends to make a person spiritually lazy. Those and I around me lived a life in which we recognized our faults and wanted to improve ourselves, but we never really started because it seemed like a futile effort. It was about accepting who you were and focusing on redemption ahead… In Judaism, you have the period before Rosh Hashanah (the time when the world is judged) where you consciously engage in reflecting on your behavior, what you did wrong in the past year, and how you will improve in the coming year. This period of reflection is also very useful and helpful for Noahides. Additionally, Jews have the period of the Omer count where they work on the various character traits of humanity. Although a Noahide does not explicitly count the Omer, he can still use this period to improve his character traits, precisely because during this period, one can more easily take advantage of various lessons, apps, and YouTube channels that focus extra attention on this aspect from Judaism.

Now you might say, all well and good, but we still have Psalm 51 where we read:

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.הֵן־בְּעָו֥וֹן חוֹלָ֑לְתִּי וּ֝בְחֵ֗טְא יֶחֱמַ֥תְנִי אִמִּֽי׃  

When we see texts in the Bible that teach that humans have free will and that they can make the right choice, it cannot be that there is a text that teaches the opposite. It is important to realize that this psalm was written by David regarding his sin with Bathsheba. Poetically, he expresses understanding of the magnitude of his sin. However, it is poetic, just as verses 9 and 10 are poetic. For since when does hyssop cleanse, and since when does G-d literally break the bones of a person?

Pure and Simple Bible” points out that if David were to say here literally that he was born in sin, he would actually be doing the opposite of confessing his sin. In fact, he would be holding G-d responsible for his sin. After all, David writes in Psalm 139:13 that it is G-d who formed him in his mother’s womb.

For Thou hast made my reins; Thou hast knit me together in my mother’s womb.כִּֽי־אַ֭תָּה קָנִ֣יתָ כִלְיֹתָ֑י תְּ֝סֻכֵּ֗נִי בְּבֶ֣טֶן אִמִּֽי׃  

So indirectly, G-d would be the cause of his sin, which reminds us of the story of Adam and Eve, who shifted the blame to the point that Adam actually accused G-d of the sin, since it was G-d who had given Eve to Adam.

This was exactly what I was taught when I was still a Christian. It was Adam’s fault that I was in sin, and it would be the merit of the second Adam (J’sus) that I would be without sin again, and everything in between, there was little to be done or changed.

May we come to understand that the Evil Inclination is there to ensure that we use our free choice to interact with G-d through the commandments He has given us, 613 for Jews and 7 for non-Jews, so that we learn to choose life.

By Angelique Sijbolts

Sources and Notes:

Youtube Rabbi Tovia Singer: Judaism vs Christianity on Sin
Youtube Pure and Simple Bible: Are we BORN in sin? | Psalm 51:5

[1] You are My Witnessess by Rabbi Yisroel C. Blumenthal
[2] The Lubavitcher Rebbe points out that all “non”-logical commandments ultimately have a logical reason, but that reason is often initially hidden from us as humans. The only commandment that truly seems to have no logical reason is the commandment concerning the red heifer, which is used to purify priests who have become impure by encountering a corpse.

Text Mechon Mamre

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