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Inherited Sin

A classic theme of Judaism is that God doesn’t punish people for the sins of others:

“Each man shall be put to death for his own sin.”

“The innocent cannot die for the wicked.”

“The son will not die for the sins of the father.”

Such sentiments – some of them from TaNaKh – are one of the strongest refutations of Christianity, in fact.

But we read among the thirteen characteristics of God: “He revisits the punishment of the fathers onto the sons, until the third and fourth generation.”

The two ideas seem inconsistent. The notion that sin and punishment can be inherited goes against everything I’ve learned as an Orthodox Jew. (I feel similarly about the restrictions placed on Mamzerim, but that’s another topic for another day.)

I texted my Rav about this issue, and he told me that Chazal say that one is only punished for parents’ sins if he/she repeats them. That explanation – a form of spiritual Lamarckism – doesn’t ring true to me.

Does anyone else have some good answers? I hope to see some thoughtful responses after Shabbos. Thank you!

submitted by /u/Upbeat_Teach6117
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Source: Reditt