There are two things I have been saying, and then a third item came along and surprised me.

I mentioned often that there is no concept of “sin” in the Hebrew Bible as a distorting stain upon the soul that requires a kind of supernatural atonement process, as the concept is understood today. I suggested that the concept of “sin” is Christian and that I feel that it is harmful. Jews came to mistakenly believe that Judaism accepts that there is a concept called “sin,” without realizing it not Jewish, because “sin” is mentioned so frequently, and they think it is assigned to Adam and others in the Hebrew Bible

This is wrong. In Judaism, improper behavior is seen in a rational, natural event. The Hebrew Bible speaks of three categories of misdeeds that are not synonyms. There is chet, the misstep, literally meaning “missing the mark,” as if one were shooting an arrow and hitting the outer rims of the target and missing its center. The Bible mentions it 34 times. The second pesha, occurring 93 times, is a conscious rebellious act such as taking revenge, stealing, murder. The third avon, cited in 233 instances, is an error, an unintentional act that nevertheless has harmful consequences. Understood in this natural way, it should be clear that the conduct is something that shouldn’t provoke passive feelings of guilt and prayerful recitations; individuals should recognize what they did wrong, think why they did the wrong, take actions that remedy the consequences, and assure that there will be no repetition.

The second idea that I stressed for decades is the brilliance of Maimonides (1138-1204), Judaism’s smartest thinker since the lawgiver Moses. I liked that he taught that the truth is the truth no matter what its source. He told us in his introduction to his Guide of the Perplexed that he therefore relied on the wisdom of the ancient pagan philosopher Aristotle (384-322) for many of his ideas. Maimonides explained chet and how to deal with it as stated above.

One of the things I do daily is read “ of the Day.” It comes to me free of charge every morning. I was surprised that on April 3, 2019, the word for the day taught the lesson about “sin.” The word was hamartia. f a tragedy; tragic flaw.

In the “Origin” of the word section, Word of the Day wrote: “In Greek the noun hamartíā means ‘failure, fault, error (of judgment), guilt, sin.’ Hamartia, if familiar at all, will be familiar as the term that the Greek philosopher Aristotle (384–322 b.c.) uses in his Poetics for the personal defect or frailty—the tragic flaw—that brings about the ruin of a prosperous or eminent man who is neither utterly villainous nor totally good, like, for instance, Oedipus. Hamartíā is a derivative of the verb hamartánein ‘(of a spear) to miss the mark, (in general) to fail in one’s purpose, fall short, go wrong.’”  

Surprisingly, both chet and hamartia are defined as missing the mark.