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Rambam - 3 Chapters a Day

Teshuvah - Chapter Four, Teshuvah - Chapter Five, Teshuvah - Chapter Six

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Teshuvah - Chapter Four

1

There are 24 deeds which hold back Teshuvah: Four are the commission of severe sins. God will not grant the person who commits such deeds to repent because of the gravity of his transgressions.

They are:

a) One who causes the masses to sin, included in this category is one who holds back the many from performing a positive command;

b) One who leads his colleague astray from the path of good to that of bad; for example, one who proselytizes or serves as a missionary [for idol worship];

c) One who sees his son becoming associated with evil influences and refrains from rebuking him. Since his son is under his authority, were he to rebuke him, he would have separated himself [from these influences]. Hence, [by refraining from admonishing him, it is considered] as if he caused him to sin.

Included in this sin are also all those who have the potential to rebuke others, whether an individual or a group, and refrain from doing so, leaving them to their shortcomings.

d) One who says: "I will sin and then, repent." Included in this category is one who says: "I will sin and Yom Kippur will atone [for me]."

א

אַרְבָעָה וְעֶשְׂרִים דְּבָרִים מְעַכְּבִין אֶת הַתְּשׁוּבָה. אַרְבָּעָה מֵהֶן עָוֹן גָּדוֹל וְהָעוֹשֶׂה אֶחָד מֵהֶן אֵין הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מַסְפִּיק בְּיָדוֹ לַעֲשׂוֹת תְּשׁוּבָה לְפִי גֹּדֶל חֶטְאוֹ. וְאֵלּוּ הֵן. א) הַמַּחְטִיא אֶת הָרַבִּים וּבִכְלַל עָוֹן זֶה הַמְעַכֵּב אֶת הָרַבִּים מִלַּעֲשׂוֹת מִצְוָה. ב) וְהַמַּטֶּה אֶת חֲבֵרוֹ מִדֶּרֶךְ טוֹבָה לְרָעָה כְּגוֹן מֵסִית וּמַדִּיחַ. ג) הָרוֹאֶה בְּנוֹ יוֹצֵא לְתַרְבּוּת רָעָה וְאֵינוֹ מְמַחֶה בְּיָדוֹ. הוֹאִיל וּבְנוֹ בִּרְשׁוּתוֹ אִלּוּ מִחָה בּוֹ הָיָה פּוֹרֵשׁ וְנִמְצָא כְּמַחְטִיאוֹ. וּבִכְלַל עָוֹן זֶה כָּל שֶׁאֶפְשָׁר בְּיָדוֹ לִמְחוֹת בַּאֲחֵרִים בֵּין יָחִיד בֵּין רַבִּים וְלֹא מִחָה אֶלָּא יַנִּיחֵם בְּכִשְׁלוֹנָם. ד) וְהָאוֹמֵר אֶחְטָא וְאָשׁוּב וּבִכְלַל זֶה הָאוֹמֵר אֶחְטָא וְיוֹם הַכִּפּוּרִים מְכַפֵּר:

2

Among [the 24] are five deeds which cause the paths of Teshuvah to be locked before those who commit them. They are:

a) One who separates himself from the community; when they repent, he will not be together with them and he will not merit to share in their merit.

b) One who contradicts the words of the Sages; the controversy he provokes will cause him to cut himself off from them and, thus, he will never know the ways of repentance.

c) One who scoffs at the mitzvoth; since he considers them as degrading, he will not pursue them or fulfill them. If he does not fulfill mitzvot, how can he merit [to repent]?

d) One who demeans his teachers; this will cause them to reject and dismiss him as [Elishah did to] Gechazi. In this period of rejection, he will not find a teacher or guide to show him the path of truth.

e) One who hates admonishment; this will not leave him a path for repentance. Admonishment leads to Teshuvah. When a person is informed about his sins and shamed because of them, he will repent. Accordingly, [rebukes are] included in the Torah, [for example]:

”Remember, do not forget, that you provoked [God, your Lord, in the desert. From the day you left Egypt until here,] you have been rebelling....”(Deuteronomy 9:7).

”[Until this day,] God did not give you a heart to know....” (Deuteronomy 29:3).

”[Is this the way you repay God,] you ungrateful, unwise nation” (Deuteronomy 2:6).

Similarly, Isaiah rebuked Israel, declaring: “Woe, sinful nation, [people laden with iniquity...]” (Isaiah 1:4),

”The ox knows its owner, [and the ass, his master's crib. Israel does not know...]” (ibid.: 1:3),

I know you are obstinate... (ibid. 48:4).

God also commanded him to admonish the transgressors as [ibid. 58:1] states: "Call out from your throat, do not spare it." Similarly, all the prophets rebuked Israel until she repented. Therefore, it is proper for each and every congregation in Israel to appoint a great sage of venerable age, with [a reputation of] fear of heaven from his youth, beloved by the community, to admonish the masses and motivate them to Teshuvah.

This person who hates admonishment will not come to the preacher's [lecture] or hear his words. Accordingly, he will continue his sinful [paths], which he regards as good.

ב

וּמֵהֶן חֲמִשָּׁה דְּבָרִים הַנּוֹעֲלִים דַּרְכֵי הַתְּשׁוּבָה בִּפְנֵי עוֹשֵׂיהֶן. וְאֵלּוּ הֵן. א) הַפּוֹרֵשׁ מִן הַצִּבּוּר, לְפִי שֶׁבִּזְמַן שֶׁיַּעֲשׂוּ תְּשׁוּבָה לֹא יִהְיֶה עִמָּהֶן וְאֵינוֹ זוֹכֶה עִמָּהֶן בִּזְכוּת שֶׁעוֹשִׂין. ב) וְהַחוֹלֵק עַל דִּבְרֵי חֲכָמִים, לְפִי שֶׁמַּחְלָקְתוֹ גּוֹרֶמֶת לוֹ לִפְרשׁ מֵהֶן וְאֵינוֹ יוֹדֵעַ דַּרְכֵי הַתְּשׁוּבָה. ג) וְהַמַּלְעִיג עַל הַמִּצְוֹת, שֶׁכֵּיוָן שֶׁנִּתְבַּזּוּ בְּעֵינָיו אֵינוֹ רוֹדֵף אַחֲרֵיהֶן וְלֹא עוֹשָׂן וְאִם לֹא יַעֲשֶׂה בַּמֶּה יִזְכֶּה. ד) וְהַמְבַזֶּה רַבּוֹתָיו, שֶׁדָּבָר זֶה גּוֹרֵם לוֹ לְדָחֳפוֹ וּלְטָרְדוֹ כְּגֵיחֲזִי וּבִזְמַן שֶׁנִּטְרָד לֹא יִמְצָא מְלַמֵּד וּמוֹרֶה לוֹ דֶּרֶךְ הָאֱמֶת. ה) וְהַשּׂוֹנֵא אֶת הַתּוֹכָחוֹת שֶׁהֲרֵי לֹא הִנִּיחַ לוֹ דֶּרֶךְ תְּשׁוּבָה. שֶׁהַתּוֹכָחָה גּוֹרֶמֶת לִתְשׁוּבָה שֶׁבִּזְמַן שֶׁמּוֹדִיעִין לוֹ לָאָדָם חֲטָאָיו וּמַכְלִימִין אוֹתוֹ חוֹזֵר בִּתְשׁוּבָה כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב בַּתּוֹרָה (דברים ט ז) "זְכֹר (וְ) אַל תִּשְׁכַּח". (דברים ט ז) "מַמְרִים הֱיִיתֶם". (דברים כט ג) "וְלֹא נָתַן ה' לָכֶם לֵב". (דברים לב ו) "עַם נָבָל וְלֹא חָכָם". וְכֵן יְשַׁעְיָהוּ הוֹכִיחַ אֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאָמַר (ישעיה א ד) "הוֹי גּוֹי חֹטֵא". (ישעיה א ג) "יָדַע שׁוֹר קֹנֵהוּ". (ישעיה מח ד) "מִדַּעְתִּי כִּי קָשֶׁה אָתָּה". וְכֵן צִוָּהוּ הָאֵל לְהוֹכִיחַ לַחַטָּאִים שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (ישעיה נח א) "קְרָא בְגָרוֹן אַל תַּחְשֹׂךְ". וְכֵן כָּל הַנְּבִיאִים הוֹכִיחוּ לְיִשְׂרָאֵל עַד שֶׁחָזְרוּ בִּתְשׁוּבָה. לְפִיכָךְ צָרִיךְ לְהַעֲמִיד בְּכָל קָהָל וְקָהָל מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל חָכָם גָּדוֹל וְזָקֵן וִירֵא שָׁמַיִם מִנְּעוּרָיו וְאָהוּב לָהֶם שֶׁיְּהֵא מוֹכִיחַ לָרַבִּים וּמַחֲזִירָן בִּתְשׁוּבָה, וְזֶה שֶּׁשּׂוֹנֵא אֶת הַתּוֹכָחוֹת אֵינוֹ בָּא לַמּוֹכִיחַ וְלֹא שׁוֹמֵעַ דְּבָרָיו לְפִיכָךְ יַעֲמֹד בְּחַטֹּאתָיו שֶׁהֵם בְּעֵינָיו טוֹבִים:

3

Among these [24] are five [transgressions] for which it is impossible for the person who commits them to repent completely. They are sins between man and man, concerning which it is impossible to know the person whom one sinned against in order to return [what is owed him] or ask for his forgiveness. They are:

a) One who curses the many without cursing a specific individual from whom he can request forgiveness;

b) One who takes a share of a thief's [gain], for he does not know to whom the stolen article belongs. The thief steals from many, brings him [his share], and he takes it. Furthermore, he reinforces the thief and causes him to sin;

c) One who finds a lost object and does not announce it [immediately] in order to return it to its owners. Afterwards, when he desires to repent, he will not know to whom to return the article;

d) One who eats an ox belonging to the poor, orphans, or widows. These are unfortunate people, who are not well-known or recognized by the public. They wander from city to city and thus, there is no one who can identify them and know to whom the ox belonged in order that it may be returned to him.

e) One who takes a bribe to pervert judgment. He does not know the extent of the perversion or the power [of its implications] in order to pay the [people whom he wronged], for his judgment had a basis. Furthermore, [by taking a bribe], he reinforces the person [who gave it] and causes him to sin.

ג

וּמֵהֶם חֲמִשָּׁה דְּבָרִים הָעוֹשֶׂה אוֹתָן אִי אֶפְשָׁר לוֹ שֶׁיָּשׁוּב בִּתְשׁוּבָה גְּמוּרָה לְפִי שֶׁהֵם עֲוֹנוֹת שֶׁבֵּין אָדָם לַחֲבֵרוֹ וְאֵינוֹ יוֹדֵעַ חֲבֵרוֹ שֶׁחָטָא לוֹ כְּדֵי שֶׁיַּחֲזִיר לוֹ אוֹ יִשְׁאַל מִמֶּנּוּ לִמְחל לוֹ. וְאֵלּוּ הֵן. א) הַמְקַלֵּל אֶת הָרַבִּים וְלֹא קִלֵּל אָדָם יָדוּעַ כְּדֵי שֶׁיִּשְׁאַל מִמֶּנּוּ כַּפָּרָה. ב) וְהַחוֹלֵק עִם גַּנָּב, שֶׁלְּפִי שֶׁאֵינוֹ יוֹדֵעַ גְּנֵבָה זוֹ שֶׁל מִי הִיא אֶלָּא הַגַּנָּב גּוֹנֵב לָרַבִּים וּמֵבִיא לוֹ וְהוּא לוֹקֵחַ. וְעוֹד שֶׁהוּא מַחֲזִיק יַד הַגַּנָּב וּמַחְטִיאוֹ. ג) וְהַמּוֹצֵא אֲבֵדָה וְאֵינוֹ מַכְרִיז עָלֶיהָ עַד שֶׁיַּחֲזִירָהּ לִבְעָלֶיהָ, לְאַחַר זְמַן כְּשֶׁיַּעֲשֶׂה תְּשׁוּבָה אֵינוֹ יוֹדֵעַ לְמִי יַחֲזִיר. ד) וְהָאוֹכֵל שׁוֹר עֲנִיִּים וִיתוֹמִים וְאַלְמָנוֹת. אֵלּוּ בְּנֵי אָדָם אֻמְלָלִין הֵם וְאֵינָן יְדוּעִים וּמְפֻרְסָמִים וְגוֹלִים מֵעִיר לְעִיר וְאֵין לָהֶם מַכִּיר כְּדֵי שֶׁיֵּדַע שׁוֹר זֶה שֶׁל מִי הוּא וְיַחֲזִירֶנּוּ לוֹ. ה) וְהַמְקַבֵּל שֹׁחַד לְהַטּוֹת דִּין אֵינוֹ יוֹדֵעַ עַד הֵיכָן הִגִּיעַ הַטָּיָה זוֹ וְכַמָּה הִיא כֹּחָהּ כְּדֵי שֶׁיַּחֲזִיר, שֶׁהַדָּבָר יֵשׁ לוֹ רַגְלַיִם. וְעוֹד שֶׁהוּא מַחֲזִיק יַד זֶה וּמַחְטִיאוֹ:

4

Also among the [24] are five [transgressions] for which it is unlikely that the person who commits them will repent. Most people regard these matters lightly. Hence, [by committing such a transgression,] a person will sin without realizing that he has. They are:

a) One who eats from a meal which is not sufficient for its owners. This is a "shade of theft." However, the person who [partook from this meal] will not realize that he has sinned, for he will rationalize: "I only ate with his permission."

b) One who makes use of a pledge taken from a poor person. The pledge taken from a poor person would be his axe or plow. He rationalizes: "Their value will not depreciate and, hence, I haven't stolen anything from him."

c) One who looks at women forbidden to him. He considers the matter of little consequence, rationalizing: "Did I engage in relations with her? Was I intimate with her?" He fails to realize how looking [at such sights] is a great sin, for it motivates a person to actually take part in illicit sexual relations as implied by [Numbers 15:39] "Do not follow after your heart and your eyes."

d) One who takes pride in his colleague's shame. He tells himself that he has not sinned, for his colleague was not present. Thus, no shame came [directly] to his colleague, nor did he humiliate him. He merely contrasted his good deeds and wisdom against the deeds or wisdom of his colleague in order that, out of that comparison, he would appear honorable, and his colleague, shameful.

e) One who suspects worthy people. He will also say to himself "I haven't sinned," for he will rationalize: "What have I done to him? All I did was raise a doubt whether he committed the wrong or not." He does not realize that this is a sin, for he has considered a worthy person as a transgressor.

ד

וּמֵהֶן חֲמִשָּׁה דְּבָרִים הָעוֹשֶׂה אוֹתָן אֵין חֶזְקָתוֹ לָשׁוּב מֵהֶן. לְפִי שֶׁהֵם דְּבָרִים קַלִּים בְּעֵינֵי רֹב הָאָדָם וְנִמְצָא חוֹטֵא וְהוּא יְדַמֶּה שֶׁאֵין זֶה חֵטְא. וְאֵלּוּ הֵן. א) הָאוֹכֵל מִסְּעֻדָּה שֶׁאֵינָהּ מַסְפֶּקֶת לִבְעָלֶיהָ שֶׁזֶּה אֲבַק גֵּזֶל הוּא. וְהוּא מְדַמֶּה שֶׁלֹּא חָטָא וְיֹאמַר כְּלוּם אָכַלְתִּי אֶלָּא בִּרְשׁוּתוֹ. ב) הַמִּשְׁתַּמֵּשׁ בַּעֲבוֹטוֹ שֶׁל עָנִי שֶׁהָעֲבוֹט שֶׁל עָנִי אֵינוֹ אֶלָּא כְּגוֹן קוֹרְדוֹם וּמַחֲרֵשָׁה וְיֹאמַר בְּלִבּוֹ אֵינָן חֲסֵרִים וַהֲרֵי לֹא גָּזַלְתִּי אוֹתוֹ. ג) הַמִּסְתַּכֵּל בַּעֲרָיוֹת מַעֲלֶה עַל דַּעְתּוֹ שֶׁאֵין בְּכָךְ כְּלוּם שֶׁהוּא אוֹמֵר וְכִי בָּעַלְתִּי אוֹ קָרַבְתִּי אֶצְלָהּ. וְהוּא אֵינוֹ יוֹדֵעַ שֶׁרְאִיַּת הָעֵינַיִם עָוֹן גָּדוֹל שֶׁהִיא גּוֹרֶמֶת לְגוּפָן שֶׁל עֲרָיוֹת שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (במדבר טו לט) "וְלֹא תָתֻרוּ אַחֲרֵי לְבַבְכֶם וְאַחֲרֵי עֵינֵיכֶם". ד) הַמִּתְכַּבֵּד בִּקְלוֹן חֲבֵרוֹ אוֹמֵר בְּלִבּוֹ שֶׁאֵינוֹ חֵטְא לְפִי שֶׁאֵין חֲבֵרוֹ עוֹמֵד שָׁם וְלֹא הִגִּיעַ לוֹ בּשֶׁת וְלֹא בִּיְּשׁוֹ אֶלָּא עָרַךְ מַעֲשָׂיו הַטּוֹבִים וְחָכְמָתוֹ לְמוּל מַעֲשֵׂה חֲבֵרוֹ אוֹ חָכְמָתוֹ כְּדֵי שֶׁיֵּרָאֶה מִכְּלָלוֹ שֶׁהוּא מְכֻבָּד וַחֲבֵרוֹ בָּזוּי. ה) וְהַחוֹשֵׁד כְּשֵׁרִים אוֹמֵר בְּלִבּוֹ שֶׁאֵינוֹ חֵטְא לְפִי שֶׁהוּא אוֹמֵר מֶה עָשִׂיתִי לוֹ וְכִי יֵשׁ שָׁם אֶלָּא חֲשָׁד שֶׁמָּא עָשָׂה אוֹ לֹא עָשָׂה וְהוּא אֵינוֹ יוֹדֵעַ שֶׁזֶּה עָוֹן שֶׁמֵּשִׂים אָדָם כָּשֵׁר בְּדַעְתּוֹ כְּבַעַל עֲבֵרָה:

5

Among the [24] are five [qualities] which have the tendency to lead the transgressor to continue to commit them and which are very difficult to abandon. Therefore, a person should be very careful lest he become attached to them, for they are very bad attributes. They are:

a) gossip;

b) slander;

c) quick-temperedness;

d) a person preoccupied with sinister thoughts;

e) a person who becomes friendly with a wicked person, for he learns from his deeds and they are imprinted on his heart. This was implied by Solomon [Proverbs 13:20]: "A companion of fools will suffer harm."

In Hilchot De'ot, we explained the [character traits] which all people should continually follow. This surely holds true for a Baal-Teshuvah.

ה

וּמֵהֶן חֲמִשָּׁה דְּבָרִים הָעוֹשֶׂה אוֹתָם יִמָּשֵׁךְ אַחֲרֵיהֶם תָּמִיד וְקָשִׁים הֵם לִפְרשׁ מֵהֶן. לְפִיכָךְ צָרִיךְ אָדָם לְהִזָּהֵר מֵהֶן שֶׁמָּא יִדְבַּק בָּהֶן וְהֵן כֻּלָּן דֵּעוֹת רָעוֹת עַד מְאֹד. וְאֵלּוּ הֵן. רְכִילוּת. וְלָשׁוֹן הָרַע. וּבַעַל חֵמָה. וּבַעַל מַחֲשָׁבָה רָעָה. וְהַמִּתְחַבֵּר לָרָשָׁע מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהוּא לוֹמֵד מִמַּעֲשָׂיו וְהֵן נִרְשָׁמִים בְּלִבּוֹ. הוּא שֶׁאָמַר שְׁלֹמֹה (משלי יג כ) "וְרֹעֶה כְסִילִים יֵרוֹעַ". וּכְבָר בֵּאַרְנוּ בְּהִלְכוֹת דֵּעוֹת דְּבָרִים שֶׁצָּרִיךְ כָּל אָדָם לִנְהֹג בָּהֶן תָּמִיד, קַל וָחֹמֶר לְבַעַל תְּשׁוּבָה:

6

All of the above, and other similar transgressions, though they hold back repentance, they do not prevent it entirely. Should one of these people repent, he is a Baal-Teshuvah and has a portion in the world to come.

ו

כָּל אֵלּוּ הַדְּבָרִים וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶן אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁמְּעַכְּבִין אֶת הַתְּשׁוּבָה אֵין מוֹנְעִין אוֹתָהּ אֶלָּא אִם עָשָׂה אָדָם תְּשׁוּבָה מֵהֶן הֲרֵי זֶה בַּעַל תְּשׁוּבָה וְיֵשׁ לוֹ חֵלֶק לָעוֹלָם הַבָּא:

Teshuvah - Chapter Five

1

Free will is granted to all men. If one desires to turn himself to the path of good and be righteous, the choice is his. Should he desire to turn to the path of evil and be wicked, the choice is his.

This is [the intent of] the Torah's statement (Genesis 3:22): "Behold, man has become unique as ourselves, knowing good and evil," i.e., the human species became singular in the world with no other species resembling it in the following quality: that man can, on his own initiative, with his knowledge and thought, know good and evil, and do what he desires. There is no one who can prevent him from doing good or bad. Accordingly, [there was a need to drive him from the Garden of Eden,] "lest he stretch out his hand [and take from the tree of life]."

א

רְשׁוּת לְכָל אָדָם נְתוּנָה. אִם רָצָה לְהַטּוֹת עַצְמוֹ לְדֶרֶךְ טוֹבָה וְלִהְיוֹת צַדִּיק הָרְשׁוּת בְּיָדוֹ. וְאִם רָצָה לְהַטּוֹת עַצְמוֹ לְדֶרֶךְ רָעָה וְלִהְיוֹת רָשָׁע הָרְשׁוּת בְּיָדוֹ. הוּא שֶׁכָּתוּב בַּתּוֹרָה (בראשית ג כב) "הֵן הָאָדָם הָיָה כְּאַחַד מִמֶּנּוּ לָדַעַת טוֹב וָרָע". כְּלוֹמַר הֵן מִין זֶה שֶׁל אָדָם הָיָה יָחִיד בָּעוֹלָם וְאֵין מִין שֵׁנִי דּוֹמֶה לוֹ בְּזֶה הָעִנְיָן שֶׁיְּהֵא הוּא מֵעַצְמוֹ בְּדַעְתּוֹ וּבְמַחֲשַׁבְתּוֹ יוֹדֵעַ הַטּוֹב וְהָרַע וְעוֹשֶׂה כָּל מַה שֶּׁהוּא חָפֵץ וְאֵין מִי שֶׁיְּעַכֵּב בְּיָדוֹ מִלַּעֲשׂוֹת הַטּוֹב אוֹ הָרַע. וְכֵיוָן שֶׁכֵּן הוּא פֶּן יִשְׁלַח יָדוֹ:

2

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." The Creator does not decree that a person should be good and refrain from being evil. 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]."

ב

אַל יַעֲבֹר בְּמַחֲשַׁבְתְּךָ דָּבָר זֶה שֶׁאוֹמְרִים טִפְּשֵׁי אֻמּוֹת הָעוֹלָם וְרֹב גָּלְמֵי בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל שֶׁהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא גּוֹזֵר עַל הָאָדָם מִתְּחִלַּת בְּרִיָּתוֹ לִהְיוֹת צַדִּיק אוֹ רָשָׁע. אֵין הַדָּבָר כֵּן אֶלָּא כָּל אָדָם רָאוּי לוֹ לִהְיוֹת צַדִּיק כְּמשֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ אוֹ רָשָׁע כְּיָרָבְעָם אוֹ חָכָם אוֹ סָכָל אוֹ רַחֲמָן אוֹ אַכְזָרִי אוֹ כִּילַי אוֹ שׁוּעַ וְכֵן שְׁאָר כָּל הַדֵּעוֹת. וְאֵין לוֹ מִי שֶׁיִּכְפֵּהוּ וְלֹא גּוֹזֵר עָלָיו וְלֹא מִי שֶׁמּוֹשְׁכוֹ לְאֶחָד מִשְּׁנֵי הַדְּרָכִים אֶלָּא הוּא מֵעַצְמוֹ וּמִדַּעְתּוֹ נוֹטֶה לְאֵי זוֹ דֶּרֶךְ שֶׁיִּרְצֶה. הוּא שֶׁיִּרְמְיָהוּ אָמַר (איכה ג לח) "מִפִּי עֶלְיוֹן לֹא תֵצֵא הָרָעוֹת וְהַטּוֹב". כְּלוֹמַר אֵין הַבּוֹרֵא גּוֹזֵר עַל הָאָדָם לִהְיוֹת טוֹב וְלֹא לִהְיוֹת רַע. וְכֵיוָן שֶׁכֵּן הוּא נִמְצָא זֶה הַחוֹטֵא הוּא הִפְסִיד אֶת עַצְמוֹ. וּלְפִיכָךְ רָאוּי לוֹ לִבְכּוֹת וּלְקוֹנֵן עַל חֲטָאָיו וְעַל מַה שֶּׁעָשָׂה לְנַפְשׁוֹ וּגְמָלָהּ רָעָה. הוּא שֶׁכָּתוּב אַחֲרָיו (איכה ג לט) "מַה יִּתְאוֹנֵן אָדָם חָי" וְגוֹ'. וְחָזַר וְאָמַר הוֹאִיל וּרְשׁוּתֵנוּ בְּיָדֵינוּ וּמִדַּעְתֵּנוּ עָשִׂינוּ כָּל הָרָעוֹת רָאוּי לָנוּ לַחֲזֹר בִּתְשׁוּבָה וְלַעֲזֹב רִשְׁעֵנוּ שֶׁהָרְשׁוּת עַתָּה בְּיָדֵינוּ. הוּא שֶׁכָּתוּב אַחֲרָיו (איכה ג מ) "נַחְפְּשָׂה דְרָכֵינוּ וְנַחְקֹרָה וְנָשׁוּבָה" וְגוֹ':

3

This principle is a fundamental concept and a pillar [on which rests the totality] of the Torah and mitzvot as [Deuteronomy 30:15] states: "Behold, I have set before you today life [and good, death and evil]." Similarly, [Deuteronomy 11:26] states, "Behold, I have set before you today [the blessing and the curse]," implying that the choice is in your hands.

Any one of the deeds of men which a person desires to do, he may, whether good or evil. Therefore, [Deuteronomy 5:26] states:

"If only their hearts would always remain this way." From this, we can infer that the Creator does not compel or decree that people should do either good or bad. Rather, everything is left to their [own choice].

ג

וְדָבָר זֶה עִקָּר גָּדוֹל הוּא וְהוּא עַמּוּד הַתּוֹרָה וְהַמִּצְוָה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים ל טו) "רְאֵה נָתַתִּי לְפָנֶיךָ הַיּוֹם אֶת הַחַיִּים". וּכְתִיב (דברים יא כו) "רְאֵה אָנֹכִי נֹתֵן לִפְנֵיכֶם הַיּוֹם". כְּלוֹמַר שֶׁהָרְשׁוּת בְּיֶדְכֶם. וְכָל שֶׁיַּחְפֹּץ הָאָדָם לַעֲשׂוֹת מִמַּעֲשֵׂה בְּנֵי הָאָדָם עוֹשֶׂה בֵּין טוֹבִים בֵּין רָעִים. וּמִפְּנֵי זֶה הָעִנְיָן נֶאֱמַר (דברים ה כו) "מִי יִתֵּן וְהָיָה לְבָבָם זֶה לָהֶם". כְּלוֹמַר שֶׁאֵין הַבּוֹרֵא כּוֹפֶה בְּנֵי הָאָדָם וְלֹא גּוֹזֵר עֲלֵיהֶן לַעֲשׂוֹת טוֹבָה אוֹ רָעָה אֶלָּא הַכּל מָסוּר לָהֶם:

4

Were God to decree that an individual would be righteous or wicked or that there would be a quality which draws a person by his essential nature to any particular path [of behavior], way of thinking, attributes, or deeds, as imagined by many of the fools [who believe] in astrology - how could He command us through [the words of] the prophets: "Do this," "Do not do this," "Improve your behavior," or "Do not follow after your wickedness?"

[According to their mistaken conception,] from the beginning of man's creation, it would be decreed upon him, or his nature would draw him, to a particular quality and he could not depart from it.

What place would there be for the entire Torah? According to which judgement or sense of justice would retribution be administered to the wicked or reward to the righteous? Shall the whole world's Judge not act justly!

A person should not wonder: How is it possible for one to do whatever he wants and be responsible for his own deeds? - Is it possible for anything to happen in this world without the permission and desire of its Creator as [Psalms 135:6] states: "Whatever God wishes, He has done in the heavens and in the earth?"

One must know that everything is done in accord with His will and, nevertheless, we are responsible for our deeds.

How is this [apparent contradiction] resolved? Just as the Creator desired that [the elements of] fire and wind rise upward and [those of] water and earth descend downward, that the heavenly spheres revolve in a circular orbit, and all the other creations of the world follow the nature which He desired for them, so too, He desired that man have free choice and be responsible for his deeds, without being pulled or forced. Rather, he, on his own initiative, with the knowledge which God has granted him, will do anything that man is able to do.

Therefore, he is judged according to his deeds. If he does good, he is treated with beneficence. If he does bad, he is treated harshly. This is implied by the prophets' statements: "This has been the doing of your hands” [Malachi 1:9]; "They also have chosen their own paths” [Isaiah 66:3].

This concept was also implied by Solomon in his statement [Ecclesiastes 11:9]: "Young man, rejoice in your youth... but, know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment," i.e., know that you have the potential to do, but in the future, you will have to account for your deeds.

ד

אִלּוּ הָאֵל הָיָה גּוֹזֵר עַל הָאָדָם לִהְיוֹת צַדִּיק אוֹ רָשָׁע אוֹ אִלּוּ הָיָה שָׁם דָּבָר שֶׁמּוֹשֵׁךְ אֶת הָאָדָם בְּעִקַּר תּוֹלַדְתּוֹ לְדֶרֶךְ מִן הַדְּרָכִים אוֹ לְמַדָּע מִן הַמַּדָּעוֹת אוֹ לְדֵעָה מִן הַדֵּעוֹת אוֹ לְמַעֲשֶׂה מִן הַמַּעֲשִׂים כְּמוֹ שֶׁבּוֹדִים מִלִּבָּם הַטִּפְּשִׁים הֹבְרֵי שָׁמַיִם הֵיאַךְ הָיָה מְצַוֶּה לָנוּ עַל יְדֵי הַנְּבִיאִים עֲשֵׂה כָּךְ וְאַל תַּעֲשֶׂה כָּךְ הֵיטִיבוּ דַּרְכֵיכֶם וְאַל תֵּלְכוּ אַחֲרֵי רִשְׁעֲכֶם וְהוּא מִתְּחִלַּת בְּרִיתוֹ כְּבָר נִגְזַר עָלָיו אוֹ תּוֹלַדְתּוֹ תִּמְשֹׁךְ אוֹתוֹ לְדָבָר שֶׁאִי אֶפְשָׁר לָזוּז מִמֶּנּוּ. וּמַה מָּקוֹם הָיָה לְכָל הַתּוֹרָה כֻּלָּהּ וּבְאֵי זֶה דִּין וְאֵיזֶה מִשְׁפָּט נִפְרָע מִן הָרָשָׁע אוֹ מְשַׁלֵּם שָׂכָר לַצַּדִּיק. הֲשֹׁפֵט כָּל הָאָרֶץ לֹא יַעֲשֶׂה מִשְׁפָּט. וְאַל תִּתְמַהּ וְתֹאמַר הֵיאַךְ יִהְיֶה הָאָדָם עוֹשֶׂה כָּל מַה שֶּׁיַּחְפֹּץ וְיִהְיוּ מַעֲשָׂיו מְסוּרִים לוֹ וְכִי יֵעָשֶׂה בָּעוֹלָם דָּבָר שֶׁלֹּא בִּרְשׁוּת קוֹנוֹ וְלֹא חֶפְצוֹ וְהַכָּתוּב אוֹמֵר (תהילים קלה ו) "כּל אֲשֶׁר חָפֵץ ה' עָשָׂה בַּשָּׁמַיִם וּבָאָרֶץ". דַּע שֶׁהַכּל כְּחֶפְצוֹ יֵעָשֶׂה וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁמַּעֲשֵׂינוּ מְסוּרִין לָנוּ. כֵּיצַד. כְּשֵׁם שֶׁהַיּוֹצֵר חָפֵץ לִהְיוֹת הָאֵשׁ וְהָרוּחַ עוֹלִים לְמַעְלָה וְהַמַּיִם וְהָאָרֶץ יוֹרְדִים לְמַטָּה וְהַגַּלְגַּל סוֹבֵב בְּעִגּוּל וְכֵן שְׁאָר בְּרִיּוֹת הָעוֹלָם לִהְיוֹת כְּמִנְהָגָן שֶׁחָפֵץ בּוֹ. כָּכָה חָפֵץ לִהְיוֹת הָאָדָם רְשׁוּתוֹ בְּיָדוֹ וְכָל מַעֲשָׂיו מְסוּרִין לוֹ וְלֹא יִהְיֶה לוֹ לֹא כּוֹפֶה וְלֹא מוֹשֵׁךְ אֶלָּא הוּא מֵעַצְמוֹ וּבְדַעְתּוֹ שֶׁנָּתַן לוֹ הָאֵל עוֹשֶׂה כָּל שֶׁהָאָדָם יָכוֹל לַעֲשׂוֹת. לְפִיכָךְ דָּנִין אוֹתוֹ לְפִי מַעֲשָׂיו. אִם עָשָׂה טוֹבָה מֵיטִיבִין לוֹ וְאִם עָשָׂה רָעָה מְרֵעִין לוֹ. הוּא שֶׁהַנָּבִיא אוֹמֵר מִיֶּדְכֶם הָיְתָה זֹּאת לָכֶם. גַּם הֵמָּה בָּחֲרוּ בְּדַרְכֵיהֶם. וּבְעִנְיָן זֶה אָמַר שְׁלֹמֹה (קהלת יא ט) "שְׂמַח בָּחוּר בְּיַלְדוּתֶיךָ" (קהלת יא ט) "וְדָע כִּי עַל כָּל אֵלֶּה יְבִיאֲךָ הָאֱלֹהִים בַּמִּשְׁפָּט". כְּלוֹמַר דַּע שֶׁיֵּשׁ בְּיָדְךָ כֹּחַ לַעֲשׂוֹת וְעָתִיד אַתָּה לִתֵּן אֶת הַדִּין:

5

One might ask: Since The Holy One, blessed be He, knows everything that will occur before it comes to pass, does He or does He not know whether a person will be righteous or wicked?

If He knows that he will be righteous, [it appears] impossible for him not to be righteous. However, if one would say that despite His knowledge that he would be righteous, it is possible for him to be wicked, then His knowledge would be incomplete.

Know that the resolution to this question [can be described as]: "Its measure is longer than the earth and broader than the sea." Many great and fundamental principles and lofty concepts are dependent upon it. However, the statements that I will make must be known and understood [as a basis for the comprehension of this matter].

As explained in the second chapter of Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah, The Holy One, blessed be He, does not know with a knowledge that is external from Him as do men, whose knowledge and selves are two [different entities]. Rather, He, may His name be praised, and His knowledge are one.

Human knowledge cannot comprehend this concept in its entirety for just as it is beyond the potential of man to comprehend and conceive the essential nature of the Creator, as [Exodus 33:20] states: "No man will perceive, Me and live," so, too, it is beyond man's potential to comprehend and conceive the Creator's knowledge. This was the intent of the prophet's [Isaiah 55:8] statements: "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor your ways, My ways."

Accordingly, we do not have the potential to conceive how The Holy One, blessed be He, knows all the creations and their deeds. However, this is known without any doubt: That man's actions are in his [own] hands and The Holy One, blessed be He, does not lead him [in a particular direction] or decree that he do anything.

This matter is known, not only as a tradition of faith, but also, through clear proofs from the words of wisdom. Consequently, the prophets taught that a person is judged for his deeds, according to his deeds - whether good or bad. This is a fundamental principle on which is dependent all the words of prophecy.

ה

שֶׁמָּא תֹּאמַר וַהֲלֹא הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא יוֹדֵעַ כָּל מַה שֶּׁיִּהְיֶה וְקֹדֶם שֶׁיִּהְיֶה יֵדַע שֶׁזֶּה יִהְיֶה צַדִּיק אוֹ רָשָׁע אוֹ לֹא יֵדַע. אִם יֵדַע שֶׁהוּא יִהְיֶה צַדִּיק אִי אֶפְשָׁר שֶׁלֹּא יִהְיֶה צַדִּיק וְאִם תֹּאמַר שֶׁיֵּדַע שֶׁיִּהְיֶה צַדִּיק וְאֶפְשָׁר שֶׁיִּהְיֶה רָשָׁע הֲרֵי לֹא יֵדַע הַדָּבָר עַל בֻּרְיוֹ. דַּע שֶׁתְּשׁוּבַת שְׁאֵלָה זוֹ אֲרֻכָּה מֵאֶרֶץ מִדָּה וּרְחָבָה מִנִּי יָם וְכַמָּה עִקָּרִים גְּדוֹלִים וַהֲרָרִים רָמִים תְּלוּיִים בָּהּ אֲבָל צָרִיךְ אַתָּה לֵידַע וּלְהָבִין בְּדָבָר זֶה שֶׁאֲנִי אוֹמֵר. כְּבָר בֵּאַרְנוּ בְּפֶרֶק שֵׁנִי מֵהִלְכוֹת יְסוֹדֵי הַתּוֹרָה שֶׁהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא אֵינוֹ יוֹדֵעַ מִדֵּעָה שֶׁהִיא חוּץ מִמֶּנּוּ כִּבְנֵי אָדָם שֶׁהֵם וְדַעְתָּם שְׁנַיִם. אֶלָּא הוּא יִתְעַלֶּה שְׁמוֹ וְדַעְתּוֹ אֶחָד וְאֵין דַּעְתּוֹ שֶׁל אָדָם יְכוֹלָה לְהַשִּׂיג דָּבָר זֶה עַל בֻּרְיוֹ. וּכְשֵׁם שֶׁאֵין כֹּחַ בָּאָדָם לְהַשִּׂיג וְלִמְצֹא אֲמִתַּת הַבּוֹרֵא שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות לג כ) "כִּי לֹא יִרְאַנִי הָאָדָם וָחָי" כָּךְ אֵין כֹּחַ בָּאָדָם לְהַשִּׂיג וְלִמְצֹא דַּעְתּוֹ שֶׁל הַבּוֹרֵא. הוּא שֶׁהַנָּבִיא אָמַר (ישעיה נה ח) "כִּי לֹא מַחְשְׁבוֹתַי מַחְשְׁבוֹתֵיכֶם וְלֹא דַרְכֵיכֶם דְרָכָי". וְכֵיוָן שֶׁכֵּן הוּא אֵין בָּנוּ כֹּחַ לֵידַע הֵיאַךְ יֵדַע הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא כָּל הַבְּרוּאִים וְהַמַּעֲשִׂים אֲבָל נֵדַע בְּלֹא סָפֵק שֶׁמַּעֲשֵׂה הָאָדָם בְּיַד הָאָדָם וְאֵין הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מוֹשְׁכוֹ וְלֹא גּוֹזֵר עָלָיו לַעֲשׂוֹת כָּךְ. וְלֹא מִפְּנֵי קַבָּלַת הַדָּת בִּלְבַד נוֹדַע דָּבָר זֶה אֶלָּא בִּרְאָיוֹת בְּרוּרוֹת מִדִּבְרֵי הַחָכְמָה. וּמִפְּנֵי זֶה נֶאֱמַר בַּנְּבוּאָה שֶׁדָּנִין אֶת הָאָדָם עַל מַעֲשָׂיו כְּפִי מַעֲשָׂיו אִם טוֹב וְאִם רַע וְזֶה הוּא הָעִקָּר שֶׁכָּל דִּבְרֵי הַנְּבוּאָה תְּלוּיִין בּוֹ:

Teshuvah - Chapter Six

1

There are many verses in the Torah and the words of the prophets which appear to contradict this fundamental principle. [Thus,] the majorities of the people err because of them and think that the Holy One, blessed be He, does decree that a person commit evil or good and that a person's heart is not given over to him to direct it towards any path he desires.

Behold, I will explain a great and fundamental principle [of faith] on the basis of which the interpretation of those verses can be understood. [As a preface,] when an individual or the people of a country sin, the sinner consciously and willfully committing that sin, it is proper to exact retribution from him as explained. The Holy One, blessed be He, knows how to exact punishment: There are certain sins for which justice determines that retribution be exacted in this world; on the sinner's person, on his possessions, or on his small children.

[Retribution is exacted upon a person's] small children who do not possess intellectual maturity and have not reached the age where they are obligated to perform mitzvot [because these children] are considered as his property. [This concept is alluded to] by the verse [Deuteronomy 24:16]: "A man will die because of his own sins." [We may infer: This rule only applies] after one has become "a man."

There are other sins for which justice determines that retribution be exacted in the world to come with no damages coming to the transgressor in this world. There are [other] sins for which retribution is taken in this world and in the world to come.

א

פְּסוּקִים הַרְבֵּה יֵשׁ בַּתּוֹרָה וּבְדִבְרֵי נְבִיאִים שֶׁהֵן נִרְאִין כְּסוֹתְרִין עִקָּר זֶה וְנִכְשָׁלִין בָּהֶן רֹב הָאָדָם וְיַעֲלֶה עַל דַּעְתָּן מֵהֶן שֶׁהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא הוּא גּוֹזֵר עַל הָאָדָם לַעֲשׂוֹת רָעָה אוֹ טוֹבָה וְשֶׁאֵין לִבּוֹ שֶׁל אָדָם מָסוּר לוֹ לְהַטּוֹתוֹ לְכָל אֲשֶׁר יִרְצֶה. וַהֲרֵי אֲנִי מְבָאֵר עִקָּר גָּדוֹל שֶׁמִּמֶּנּוּ תֵּדַע פֵּרוּשׁ כָּל אוֹתָן הַפְּסוּקִים. בִּזְמַן שֶׁאָדָם אֶחָד אוֹ אַנְשֵׁי מְדִינָה חוֹטְאִים וְעוֹשֶׂה הַחוֹטֵא חֵטְא שֶׁעוֹשֶׂה מִדַּעְתּוֹ וּבִרְצוֹנוֹ כְּמוֹ שֶׁהוֹדַעְנוּ רָאוּי לְהִפָּרַע מִמֶּנּוּ וְהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא יוֹדֵעַ אֵיךְ יִפָּרַע. יֵשׁ חֵטְא שֶׁהַדִּין נוֹתֵן שֶׁנִּפְרָעִים מִמֶּנּוּ עַל חֶטְאוֹ בָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה בְּגוּפוֹ אוֹ בְּמָמוֹנוֹ אוֹ בְּבָנָיו הַקְּטַנִּים שֶׁבָּנָיו שֶׁל אָדָם הַקְּטַנִּים שֶׁאֵין בָּהֶם דַּעַת וְלֹא הִגִּיעוּ לִכְלַל מִצְוַת כְּקִנְיָנוֹ הֵן וּכְתִיב (דברים כד טז) "אִישׁ בְּחֶטְאוֹ יָמוּת" עַד שֶׁיֵּעָשֶׂה אִישׁ. וְיֵשׁ חֵטְא שֶׁהַדִּין נוֹתֵן שֶׁנִּפְרָעִין מִמֶּנּוּ לָעוֹלָם הַבָּא וְאֵין לָעוֹבֵר עָלָיו שׁוּם נֵזֶק בָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה. וְיֵשׁ חֵטְא שֶׁנִּפְרָעִין מִמֶּנּוּ בָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה וְלָעוֹלָם הַבָּא:

2

When does the above apply? When [the transgressor] does not repent. However, if he repents, his Teshuvah is a shield against retribution. Just as a person may sin consciously and willfully, he may repent consciously and willfully.

ב

בַּמֶּה דְּבָרִים אֲמוּרִים בִּזְמַן שֶׁלֹּא עָשָׂה תְּשׁוּבָה אֲבָל אִם עָשָׂה תְּשׁוּבָה הַתְּשׁוּבָה כִּתְרִיס לִפְנֵי הַפֻּרְעָנוּת. וּכְשֵׁם שֶׁהָאָדָם חוֹטֵא מִדַּעְתּוֹ וּבִרְצוֹנוֹ כָּךְ הוּא עוֹשֶׂה תְּשׁוּבָה מִדַּעְתּוֹ וּבִרְצוֹנוֹ:

3

A person may commit a great sin or many sins causing the judgment rendered before the True Judge to be that the retribution [administered to] this transgressor for these sins which he willfully and consciously committed is that his Teshuvah will be held back. He will not be allowed the chance to repent from his wickedness so that he will die and be wiped out because of the sin he committed.

This is implied by the Holy One, blessed be He's statement [related] by Isaiah [6:10]: “Make the heart of this people fat [and make their ears heavy. Smear over their eyes, lest they see with their eyes... understand with their hearts, repent and be healed].”

Similarly, [II Chronicles 36:16] states “ They mocked the messengers of God, scorned His words, scoffed at His prophets until the anger of God mounted up against His people until there was no remedy.”

Implied [by these verses] is that they willingly sinned, multiplying their iniquity until it was obliged to hold back their Teshuvah, [which is referred to as] the "remedy."

For these reasons, it is written in the Torah [Exodus 14:4], "I will harden Pharaoh's heart." Since, he began to sin on his own initiative and caused hardships to the Israelites who dwelled in his land as [Exodus 1:10] states: "Come, let us deal wisely with them," judgment obligated that he be prevented from repenting so that he would suffer retribution. Therefore, The Holy One, blessed be He, hardened his heart.

Why did [God] send Moses to [Pharaoh], telling him: “Send [forth the people], repent”? The Holy One, blessed be He, had already told Moses that he would not release [the people], as [Exodus 9:30] states: “I realize that you and your subjects [still do not fear God].”

[The reason is stated in Exodus 9:16:] “For this alone, I have preserved you… so that My name will be spoken about throughout the earth],” i.e., to make known to all the inhabitants of the world that when the Holy One, blessed be He, withholds repentance from a sinner, he cannot repent, but he will die in the wickedness that he initially committed willfully.

Similarly, Sichon was held liable for repentance to be withheld from him, because of the sins he committed, as [Deuteronomy 2:30] states: “God, your Lord, hardened his spirit and strengthened his heart.”

Also, the Canaanites held back from repenting, because of their abominable acts, so that they would wage war against Israel as [Joshua 11:20] states: "This was inspired by God, to harden their hearts so that they should come against Israel in battle in order to utterly destroy them."

Similarly, the Israelites during the era of Elijah committed many iniquities. Repentance was held back from those who committed these many sins, as [I Kings 18:37] states: "You have turned their heart backwards," i.e., held repentance back from them.

In conclusion, the Almighty did not decree that Pharaoh should harm the Israelites that Sichon should sin in his land, that the Canaanites should perform abominable acts, or that the Israelites should worship idols. They all sinned on their own initiative and they were obligated to have Teshuvah held back from them.

ג

וְאֶפְשָׁר שֶׁיֶּחְטָא אָדָם חֵטְא גָּדוֹל אוֹ חֲטָאִים רַבִּים עַד שֶׁיִּתֵּן הַדִּין לִפְנֵי דַּיַן הָאֱמֶת שֶׁיְּהֵא הַפֵּרָעוֹן מִזֶּה הַחוֹטֵא עַל חֲטָאִים אֵלּוּ שֶׁעָשָׂה בִּרְצוֹנוֹ וּמִדַּעְתּוֹ שֶׁמּוֹנְעִין מִמֶּנּוּ הַתְּשׁוּבָה וְאֵין מַנִּיחִין לוֹ רְשׁוּת לָשׁוּב מֵרִשְׁעוֹ כְּדֵי שֶׁיָּמוּת וְיֹאבַד בְּחֶטְאוֹ שֶׁעָשָׂה. הוּא שֶׁהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא אָמַר עַל יְדֵי יְשַׁעְיָהוּ (ישעיה ו י) "הַשְׁמֵן לֵב הָעָם הַזֶּה" וְגוֹ'. וְכֵן הוּא אוֹמֵר (דה"ב לו טז) "וַיִּהְיוּ מַלְעִבִים בְּמַלְאֲכֵי הָאֱלֹהִים וּבוֹזִים דְּבָרָיו וּמִתַּעְתְּעִים בִּנְבִאָיו עַד עֲלוֹת חֲמַת ה' בְּעַמּוֹ עַד לְאֵין מַרְפֵּא". כְּלוֹמַר חָטְאוּ בִּרְצוֹנָם וְהִרְבּוּ לִפְשֹׁעַ עַד שֶׁנִּתְחַיְּבוּ לִמְנֹעַ מֵהֶן הַתְּשׁוּבָה שֶׁהִיא הַמַּרְפֵּא. לְפִיכָךְ כָּתוּב בַּתּוֹרָה (שמות ד כא) "וַאֲנִי (אֲחַזֵּק) [אַקְשֶׁה] אֶת לֵב פַּרְעֹה". לְפִי שֶׁחָטָא מֵעַצְמוֹ תְּחִלָּה וְהֵרֵעַ לְיִשְׂרָאֵל הַגָּרִים בְּאַרְצוֹ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות א י) "הָבָה נִתְחַכְּמָה לוֹ". נָתַן הַדִּין לִמְנֹעַ הַתְּשׁוּבָה מִמֶּנּוּ עַד שֶׁנִּפְרַע מִמֶּנּוּ. לְפִיכָךְ חִזֵּק הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא אֶת לִבּוֹ. וְלָמָּה הָיָה שׁוֹלֵחַ לוֹ בְּיַד משֶׁה וְאוֹמֵר שְׁלַח וַעֲשֵׂה תְּשׁוּבָה וּכְבָר אָמַר לוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא אֵין אַתָּה מְשַׁלֵּחַ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות ט ל) "וְאַתָּה וַעֲבָדֶיךָ יָדַעְתִּי" וְגוֹ' (שמות ט טז) "וְאוּלָם בַּעֲבוּר זֹאת הֶעֱמַדְתִּיךָ". כְּדֵי לְהוֹדִיעַ לְבָאֵי הָעוֹלָם שֶׁבִּזְמַן שֶׁמּוֹנֵעַ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא הַתְּשׁוּבָה לַחוֹטֵא אֵינוֹ יָכוֹל לָשׁוּב אֶלָּא יָמוּת בְּרִשְׁעוֹ שֶׁעָשָׂה בִּתְחִלָּה בִּרְצוֹנוֹ. וְכֵן סִיחוֹן לְפִי עֲוֹנוֹת שֶׁהָיוּ לוֹ נִתְחַיֵּב לְמָנְעוֹ מִן הַתְּשׁוּבָה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים ב ל) "כִּי הִקְשָׁה ה' אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֶת רוּחוֹ וְאִמֵּץ אֶת לְבָבוֹ". וְכֵן הַכְּנַעֲנִים לְפִי תּוֹעֲבוֹתֵיהֶן מָנַע מֵהֶן הַתְּשׁוּבָה עַד שֶׁעָשׂוּ מִלְחָמָה עִם יִשְׂרָאֵל. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (יהושע יא כ) "כִּי מֵאֵת ה' הָיְתָה לְחַזֵּק אֶת לִבָּם לִקְרַאת הַמִּלְחָמָה עִם יִשְׂרָאֵל לְמַעַן הַחֲרִימָם". וְכֵן יִשְׂרָאֵל בִּימֵי אֵלִיָּהוּ לְפִי שֶׁהִרְבּוּ לִפְשֹׁעַ מָנַע מֵאוֹתָן הַמַּרְבִּים לִפְשֹׁעַ תְּשׁוּבָה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (מלכים א יח לז) "וְאַתָּה הֲסִבֹּתָ אֶת לִבָּם אֲחֹרַנִּית" כְּלוֹמַר מָנַעְתָּ מֵהֶן הַתְּשׁוּבָה. נִמְצֵאתָ אוֹמֵר שֶׁלֹּא גָּזַר הָאֵל עַל פַּרְעֹה לְהָרַע לְיִשְׂרָאֵל. וְלֹא עַל סִיחוֹן לַחֲטֹא בְּאַרְצוֹ. וְלֹא עַל הַכְּנַעֲנִים לְהַתְעִיב. וְלֹא עַל יִשְׂרָאֵל לַעֲבֹד עֲבוֹדָה זָרָה. אֶלָּא כֻּלָּן חָטְאוּ מֵעַצְמָן וְכֻלָּן נִתְחַיְּבוּ לִמְנֹעַ מֵהֶן הַתְּשׁוּבָה:

4

This is what is implied in the requests of the righteous and the prophets in their prayers, [asking] God to help them on the path of truth, as David pleaded [Psalms 86:11]: "God, show me Your way that I may walk in Your truth;" i.e., do not let my sins prevent me from [reaching] the path of truth which will lead me to appreciate Your way and the oneness of Your name.

A similar intent [is conveyed] by the request [Psalms 51:14]: "Support me with a spirit of magnanimity;" i.e., let my spirit [be willing] to do Your will and do not cause my sins to prevent me from repenting. Rather, let the choice remain in my hand until I repent and comprehend and appreciate the path of truth. In a similar way, [one must interpret] all the [verses] which resemble these.

ד

וּכְעִנְיָן זֶה שׁוֹאֲלִין הַצַּדִּיקִים וְהַנְּבִיאִים בִּתְפִלָּתָם מֵאֵת ה' לְעָזְרָם עַל הָאֱמֶת. כְּמוֹ שֶׁאָמַר דָּוִד (תהילים כז יא) "הוֹרֵנִי ה' דַּרְכֶּךָ". כְּלוֹמַר אַל יִמְנָעוּנִי חֲטָאַי דֶּרֶךְ הָאֱמֶת שֶׁמִּמֶּנָּה אֵדַע דַּרְכְּךָ וְיִחוּד שְׁמֶךָ. וְכֵן זֶה שֶׁאָמַר (תהילים נא יד) "וְרוּחַ נְדִיבָה תִסְמְכֵנִי" כְּלוֹמַר תַּנִּיחַ רוּחִי לַעֲשׂוֹת חֶפְצְךָ וְאַל יִגְרְמוּ לִי חֲטָאַי לְמָנְעֵנִי מִתְּשׁוּבָה אֶלָּא תִּהְיֶה הָרְשׁוּת בְּיָדִי עַד שֶׁאֶחֱזֹר וְאָבִין וְאֵדַע דֶּרֶךְ הָאֱמֶת. וְעַל דֶּרֶךְ זוֹ כָּל הַדּוֹמֶה לִפְסוּקִים אֵלּוּ:

5

What was implied by David's statement [Psalms 25:8-9]: "God is good and upright, therefore, he instructs sinners in the path. He guides the humble [in the path of justice and] teaches the humble His way]"? That He sends them prophets to inform them of the path of God and to encourage them to repent.

Furthermore, it implies that He granted them the power to learn and to understand. This attribute is present in all men: As long as a person follows the ways of wisdom and righteousness, he will desire them and pursue them. This [may be inferred from] the statement of our Sages of blessed memory: "One who comes to purify [himself] is helped;" i.e., he finds himself assisted in this matter.

[A question may still arise, for] behold, it is written in the Torah [Genesis 15:13]: "They shall enslave them and oppress them," [seemingly implying that] He decreed that the Egyptians would commit evil.

Similarly, it is written [Deuteronomy 31:16]: "And this nation will arise and stray after the alien gods of the land," [seemingly implying that] He decreed that Israel would serve idols. If so, why did He punish them?

Because He did not decree that a particular person would be the one who strayed. Rather, each and every one of those who strayed to idol-worship [could have chosen] not to serve idols if he did not desire to serve them. The Creator merely informed [Moses] of the pattern of the world.

To what can this be compared? To someone who says, there will be righteous and wicked people in this nation. [Thus,] a wicked person cannot say that because God told Moses that there will be wicked people in Israel, it is decreed that he will be wicked. A similar concept applies regarding the statement [Deuteronomy 15:11]: "The poor will never cease to exist in the land."

Similarly, in regard to the Egyptians, each and every one of the Egyptians who caused hardship and difficulty for Israel had the choice to refrain from harming them, if he so desired, for there was no decree on a particular person. Rather, [God merely] informed [Abraham] that, in the future, his descendants would be enslaved in a land which did not belong to them.

We have already explained that it is beyond the potential of man to know how God knows what will be in the future.

ה

וּמַהוּ זֶה שֶׁאָמַר דָּוִד (תהילים כה ח) "טוֹב וְיָשָׁר ה' עַל כֵּן יוֹרֶה חַטָּאִים בַּדָּרֶךְ" (תהילים כה ט) "יַדְרֵךְ עֲנָוִים" וְגוֹ'. זֶה שֶׁשָּׁלַח נְבִיאִים לָהֶם מוֹדִיעִים דַּרְכֵי ה' וּמַחְזִירִין אוֹתָן בִּתְשׁוּבָה. וְעוֹד שֶׁנָּתַן בָּהֶם כֹּחַ לִלְמֹד וּלְהָבִין. שֶׁמִּדָּה זוֹ בְּכָל אָדָם שֶׁכָּל זְמַן שֶׁהוּא נִמְשָׁךְ בְּדַרְכֵי הַחָכְמָה וְהַצֶּדֶק מִתְאַוֶּה לָהֶן וְרוֹדֵף אוֹתָם. וְהוּא מַה שֶּׁאָמְרוּ רַבּוֹתֵינוּ זִכְרוֹנָם לִבְרָכָה בָּא לִטַּהֵר מְסַיְּעִין אוֹתוֹ כְּלוֹמַר יִמְצָא עַצְמוֹ נֶעֱזָר עַל הַדָּבָר. וַהֲלֹא כָּתוּב בַּתּוֹרָה (בראשית טו יג) "וַעֲבָדוּם וְעִנּוּ אֹתָם", הֲרֵי גָּזַר עַל הַמִּצְרִיִּים לַעֲשׂוֹת רַע. וּכְתִיב (דברים לא טז) "וְקָם הָעָם הַזֶּה וְזָנָה אַחֲרֵי אֱלֹהֵי נֵכַר הָאָרֶץ", הֲרֵי גָּזַר עַל יִשְׂרָאֵל לַעֲבֹד עֲבוֹדָה זָרָה. וְלָמָּה נִפְרַע מֵהֶן. לְפִי שֶׁלֹּא גָּזַר עַל אִישׁ פְּלוֹנִי הַיָּדוּעַ שֶׁיִּהְיֶה הוּא הַזּוֹנֶה אֶלָּא כָּל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד מֵאוֹתָן הַזּוֹנִים לַעֲבֹד עֲבוֹדָה זָרָה אִלּוּ לֹא רָצָה לַעֲבֹד לֹא הָיָה עוֹבֵד. וְלֹא הוֹדִיעוֹ הַבּוֹרֵא אֶלָּא מִנְהָגוֹ שֶׁל עוֹלָם. הָא לְמָה זֶה דּוֹמֶה לְאוֹמֵר הָעָם הַזֶּה יִהְיֶה בָּהֶן צַדִּיקִים וּרְשָׁעִים. לֹא מִפְּנֵי זֶה יֹאמַר הָרָשָׁע כְּבָר נִגְזַר עָלָיו שֶׁיִּהְיֶה רָשָׁע מִפְּנֵי שֶׁהוֹדִיעַ לְמשֶׁה שֶׁיִּהְיוּ רְשָׁעִים בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל. כָּעִנְיָן שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים טו יא) "כִּי לֹא יֶחְדַּל אֶבְיוֹן מִקֶּרֶב הָאָרֶץ". וְכֵן הַמִּצְרִיִּים כָּל אֶחָד וְאֶחָד מֵאוֹתָן הַמְּצֵרִים וְהַמֵּרֵעִים לְיִשְׂרָאֵל אִלּוּ לֹא רָצָה לְהָרַע לָהֶם הָרְשׁוּת בְּיָדוֹ. שֶׁלֹּא גָּזַר עַל אִישׁ יָדוּעַ אֶלָּא הוֹדִיעוֹ שֶׁסּוֹף זַרְעוֹ עָתִיד לְהִשְׁתַּעְבֵּד בְּאֶרֶץ לֹא לָהֶם. וּכְבָר אָמַרְנוּ שֶׁאֵין כֹּחַ בָּאָדָם לֵידַע הֵיאַךְ יֵדַע הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא דְּבָרִים הָעֲתִידִין לִהְיוֹת:

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The Mishneh Torah was the Rambam's (Rabbi Moses ben Maimon) magnum opus, a work spanning hundreds of chapters and describing all of the laws mentioned in the Torah. To this day it is the only work that details all of Jewish observance, including those laws which are only applicable when the Holy Temple is in place. Participating in one of the annual study cycles of these laws (3 chapters/day, 1 chapter/day, or Sefer Hamitzvot) is a way we can play a small but essential part in rebuilding the final Temple.
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