> Judaism 101 > Philosophy > Deed and Creed

3. Original Sin

April 23, 2014 | by Rabbi Benjamin Blech and Rochelle Lev

The path to spiritual wholeness, post-Adam and Eve.


Required Reading Understanding Judaism – Introduction p. xvii – xxii

Required Reading Source 1: Deuteronomy 24:16
(p. 1061 ArtScroll Chumash, Stone Edition)

Parents shall not be put to death for their children, nor shall children be put to death for their parents; everyone shall be put to death for his own sin.

Required Reading Source 2: Exodus 20:4-6
(p. 409 ArtScroll Chumash, Stone Edition)

You shall not make yourself a carved image nor any likeness of that which is in the heavens above, or on the earth below, or in the water beneath the earth. You shall not prostrate yourself to them nor worship them, for I am Hashem, your God – a jealous God, Who visits the sin of parents upon children to the third and forth generations, for My enemies; but Who shows kindness for thousands [of generations] to those who love Me and observe My commandments.

Required Reading Source 3: Genesis 4:3-7
(p. 21 ArtScroll Chumash, Stone Edition)

After a period of time, Cain brought an offering to God of the fruit of the ground; and as for Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and from their choicest. God turned to Abel and to his offering, but to Cain and to his offering He did not turn. This annoyed Cain exceedingly, and his countenance fell.

And God said to Cain, "Why are you annoyed, and why has your countenance fallen? Surely, if you improve yourself, you will be forgiven. But if you do not improve yourself, sin rests at the door. Its desire is toward you, yet you can conquer it."



(1) What is Original Sin?

(2) Does Judaism believe that sin can be carried through the generations? Give a source for your answer.

(3) Read Source 2. This source, taken from the Ten Commandments, seems to contradict our conclusion that Original Sin is not accepted in the Torah. Explain how this source remains congruent with the Torah's stance on Original Sin.

(4) What is 'Zechut Avot' and how is that transmitted through the generations?

(5) If the Torah (Old Testament) denies the validity of Original Sin, how do the Christians view the Old Testament's place in Christianity?

(6) According to Jeremiah 13:23: 'It is easier for a leopard to change its spots than for a person to change his ways.' What is another Torah source for the Jewish faith in our ability to change, develop and grow as human beings?

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