In Hebrew, the word for sin in Hebrew is "chet," which means, "to miss the mark" or "to deviate." In other words, when a person sins, he is but deviating from the life direction and Divine purpose for which he or she was created.

Rabbi Allouche

Rabbi Nachman of Breslov (1772 – 1810) once shared a story about a royal prince who went insane. 

This prince began to believe that he had turned into a rooster. At every meal he would sit under the table unclothed, clucking and eating breadcrumbs off the floor. His parents, the King and the Queen, had tried everything to cure him but to no avail.

A wise man, who had heard about the prince’s disease, arrived at the palace and promised to cure the prince. His remedy was stunning: As he watched the prince act like a rooster under the king’s table, he too took off his clothes, joined him, and pretended to be a chicken too.

One day, the wise man asked him to wear a pair of pants and a warm shirt. The Prince objected, saying, “What do you mean, you can’t wear those pants and shirt. You’re a rooster!” The wise man retorted; “Well, who says a rooster can’t wear pants? Why should only humans have all the good things?”

The prince agreed. The next day, the wise man asked for comfortable shoes. Again the prince shouted: “How can you do that?” To which the wise man replied, “who says we can’t wear those too!” And so it went with a belt, a hat, proper eating manners, etc. Soon the prince was acting humanly once more.

The Talmud teaches, based on a verse in this week’s portion, that, “a person does not sin unless a spirit of folly has entered into him.” In other words, a sin is simply a deviant act of stupidity.

This perspective on sin speaks to the essence of man: Judaism believes that human beings are fundamentally good. We all possess a Divine soul. We are all born pure. In the history of mankind, we have yet to find an evil baby. Yet sometimes, we falter, act like roosters, and sin. But the sins we commit, do not, and cannot define us. For they are but anomalous, distant “spirits of folly” from without, that seek to invade our inner psyche.

Perhaps, this is why the Hebrew language does not have a word for “sin”. It’s not that people do not “sin.” Every person has imperfections. In the words of King Solomon: “For there is not a just man upon earth, that does good, and sins not.” (Ecclesiastes 7:20).

But Judaism’s view on sin is sharply different than the view of other faiths and philosophies who may interpret sin as “an immoral and impure act.” In Hebrew, the word for sin in Hebrew is “chet,” which means, “to miss the mark” or “to deviate.” In other words, when a person sins, he is but deviating from the life direction and Divine purpose for which he or she was created.

At times, we may forget who we are, and we too may begin to act like “roosters.” We may allow estranged “spirits of folly” to overcome us, to deviate us from fulfilling our Divine purpose, and to eclipse our real, royal self. But we ought to remember that, deep inside, lies a Divine soul. Deep inside, we are royal beings. Deep inside we are the children of the King of Kings.

May we act accordingly and bring illumination and goodness to our world. Amen.