I think that there are two kinds of consciences; one is intellectual and the other emotional. I think that the first fits in with the Jewish concept of cheit. Cheit is usually translated by people as “sin,” but this is wrong. Cheit means “missing the mark,” as when one shoots an arrow and misses the center of the target, but hits outside the circle. The concept of cheit teaches that if you miss the mark, if your behavior is improper, if you make a mistake, evaluate why you “missed the mark,” decide not to do so again, think how you can act properly to hit the target center, and find a way to assure that you do not deviate again in the future.


This intellectual, reasonable approach to improper behavior is radically different than the widespread Christian concept of “sin.” Sin supposes that people who made a mistake have marred their souls, need to go through an atonement ceremony, need an intercessor, preferably a priest. Jews who live in Christian countries have become convinced that the concept of “sin” is Jewish, but it isn’t. This concept of sin creates a feeling of anguish in people, and is passive and emotionally destructive. Thus, the intelligent way of looking at conscience, in my opinion, is a healthy and productive way of fixing up one’s life: it encourages people to improve, suggests a way to do it, and creates a better society.