Each and every one of the sons of man has virtues and vices. He whose virtues exceed his vices is a just man, and he whose vices exceed his virtues is an evildoer; if both are evenly balanced, he is mediocre. Even so is a state. If the virtues of all of its inhabitants exceeded their vices, it is, indeed, a just state; but if their vices exceeded, it is, indeed, a wicked state. Even such is a standard for the whole world.1Rosh ha-Shanah, 17a C.
A man whose vices exceed his virtues presently dies in his wickedness, even as it is said: "For the multitude of thine iniquity" (Hos. 9. 7). So is a state whose vices exceed presently destroyed, even as it is said: "Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorroh is great (Gen. 18. 20). So, too, is the whole world, if their vices exceeded their virtues they are presently destroyed, even as it is said: "And God saw that the wickedness of man was great" (6. 5). But the weighing of this is not according to the number of virtues and vices, but according to their magnitude. There is a virtue that overbalances many vices, even as it is said: "Because in him there is found some good thing" (I Kings, 14. 13); and there is a kind of vice which overbalances many virtues, even as it is said: "But one sinner destroyeth much good" (Ecc. 9. 18). Moreover these are not weighed by anyone, save only in the knowledge of the All-knowing God, for only He knoweth the estimate of virtues versus vices. (3Yebamot, 50a; Kiddushin 40a. C.)
One who renounces his observance of the commandments, and recants his virtues, saying in his heart: "In what have I advanced by observing these, fain would I not have observed them"!, he, indeed, lost the virtues of all of them, and by no virtue in the world should he be remembered, even as it is said". The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression" (Ezek. 312); on no other can this be said than on him who recants his first virtues. And, even as man's virtues and vices are weighed at the time of his death so are the vices and virtues of each and every one who cometh on this earth weighed on the holy time of Rosh ha-Shanah. He who is found righteous is sealed for life; he who is found wicked is sealed for death, and the midiocre is suspended till the Day of Atonement, if he did repent he is sealed for life, if not he is sealed for death.4Ibid. 40b; Rosh ha-Shanah, 16b. C.
Notwithstanding that the blowing of the ram's horn trumpet on Rosh ha-Shanah is a Scriptural statute, its blast is symbolic, as if saying: "Ye that sleep, bestir yourselves from your sleep, and ye slumbering, emerge from your slumber, examine your conduct, turn in repentance, and remember your Creator! They that forget the truth because of the vanities of the times, who err all of their years by pursuing vanity and idleness, which are of neither benefit nor of salvation, care for your souls, improve your ways and your tendencies, let each one of you abandon his evil path and his thought which is not pure! It is, therefore, necessary for every man to behold himself throughout the whole year in a light of being evenly balanced between innocence and guilt, and look upon the entire world as if evenly balanced between innocence and guilt; thus, if he commit one sin, he will overbalance himself and the whole world to the side of guilt, and be a cause of its destruction; but if he perform one duty, behold, he will overbalance himself and the whole world to the side of virtue, and bring about his own and their salvation and escape, even as it is said: "But the righteous is an everlasting foundation" (Prov. 10. 25), it is he, by whose righteousness he overbalanced the whole world to virtue and saved it. And, because of this matter, it became the custom of the whole house of Israel to excel in alms-giving, in good conduct and in the performance of duties during the intervening days of Rosh ha-Shanah and Yom ha-Kippurim above what they do during the whole year. It also became a universal custom to rise early during those ten days, to deliver in the synagogues prayers of supplication and ardor till the dawn of the day.5Kiddushin, 39b–40a. C.
When the vices and virtues of man are weighed neither the first nor the second time is taken into consideration, but from the third time onward; if his vices from the third time onward exceed his virtues, then those two transgressions, too are added, and he is tried on all; but if his virtues balance his vices from the third transgression onward, all of his transgressions are wiped off one by one, as the third transgression is counted as the first for the two long since had been forgiven, so is the fourth considered thereafter first, as the third long since had been forgiven, and this way till end of the transgressions. That is saying concerning an individual, of whom it is said: "Lo, all these things does God work, twice, yea thrice, with a man" (Job. 33. 29): but concerning a congregation, the first, second and third transgression is held suspended over them, even as it is said: "Thus saith the Lord: For three transgressions of Israel, yea, for four, I will not reverse it" (Amos. 2. 6) and when the reckoning comes up, the reckoning is made even in this manner, i. e. from the fourth transgression and onward. The intermediary category, if there be among the half of their transgressions such sins as never having put on phylacteries, each one is judged according to his transgressions, but has a share in the World to Come. Even so are the wicked whose vices are more than their virtues judged according to their transgressions but have a share in the World to Come; for all Israel have a share in the World to Come, even as it is said: "Thy people also shall be all righteous; they shall inherit the land for ever" (Is. 60. 21). So, too, do the righteous of among the nations of the world have a share in the World to Come.7Yoma, 86b; Rosh ha-Shanah, 16a; Sanhedrin, 102b. C.
And, the following are they that have no share in the World to Come but suffer excision and loss of identity, and are damned for ever and ever for their exceeding wickedness and sinfulness: atheists, infidels, traducers of the Torah, dissenters of resurrection and the coming of a Redeemer, apostates, enticers of many to sin, seceders from the congregation, a public perpetrator of sins emulating Jehoiakim,8See II. Kings, 23.36–24.6 G. informers, leaders who cast fear upon the congregation not for the sake of God, shedders of blood by defaming people in public, evil-tongued people, he who abolishes circumcision.9Rosh ha-Shanah, 17a. G.
There are five categories of atheists;10Minim. G. (1) he who says that there is no God and no Omnipotence; (2) he who says that there is an Omnipotence but that there are two or more such; (3) he who says that there is One Lord; but that He is corporeal and has a form; (4) Likewise one who says that He alone is not the First Cause and Creator of all; (5) likewise he who worships a star, or planet, or any other as a mediator between him and the Lord of the universe; every one of these five is an atheist.13Sanhedrin, 26b. C.
There are three categories of infidels: (1) he who says that prophecy is altogether an invention, and that no knowledge reaches the heart of the sons of man from the Creator; (2) he who denies the prophecy of Moses our Master; (3) and he who says that the Creator knoweth not the affairs of the sons of man; every one of these three is an infidel. There are three categories of Torah traducers: (1) he who says that the Torah is not God given, even if he says that a single Verse or one word thereof was spoken by Moses on his own authority is, indeed, a traducer of the Torah; (2) he who denies its Oral explanation, that is the Oral Torah, or its exponents, even as Zaduk and Bythos did;14See Abot D’Rabbi Nathan, Ch.5; also I. Chro. 5.3G. (3) he who says that the Creator commuted this Duty for another duty and that the Torah had been nullified long ago though it really was God given; every one of these three is a traducer of the Torah.15Sanhedrin, 90a; Ibid. 99b. C.
There are two categories of apostates in Israel: (1) an apostate against one commandment; (2) an apostate against the whole Torah. The apostate against one commandment is; one who emboldens himself to transgress a given commandment consciously so that it becomes his habit of doing it publicly, even it be of the minor commandments, for instance, he persistently wears garment mixed of wool and flax, or rounds the corners of his head, as a consequence whereof it appears that such commandment no longer exists in his world, such one is, indeed, an apostate in this matter, if he does such spitefully. An apostate against the whole Torah is, a convert to the religion of the idolaters, for instance, at a time when they issue arbitrary edicts and he cleaves to them, saying: "Of what profit is there for me to cleave to Israel who are down-trodden and persecuted; it is rather best for me to cleave to these in whose hand lies the power", he, assuredly, is apostate against the whole Torah.17Hullin, 5; Sanhedrin, 26b. C.
How are they that cause the public to sin identified? All of the following are of one kind: whether one causes the public to sin in a major matter, as for instance, Jeroboam, Zaduck and Bythos did,18See I. Kings, 12.2. G. or whether he causes the public to sin in a minor matter, even to nullify one mandatory commandment; whether one causes others to sin by force as Manasseh did, for he slew the people of Israel unless they worshiped idolatry, or whether he deceived others and enticed them.19See Supra, (8) G.
One who secedes from the paths of the congregation, although he committed no transgressions, but remains separated from the congregation of Israel, observes no commandments together with them, does not include himself in their troubles, nor afflicts himself on their fast-days, but follows his own path as the rest of the people of the land, acting as if he was not one of them, he has no share in the World to Come. One who commits transgressions high-handedly like Jehoiakim,20See II. Kings, 23.36. G. whether his acts were against minor or against major commandments, he has no share in the World to Come. Verily, he is one of whom it is said: "He reveals a face in the Torah not according to law", seeing that he hardened his forehead, exposed his face and is not ashamed to disobey the Torah.21See Supra, (8). G.
There are two categories of informers: (1) he who informs against his neighbor so that he be turned over to an idolatrous hand either to be put to death or to be maltreated; (2) he who informs against his neighbor so that his money be turned over to an idolatrous hand, or to the hand of a robber, who is like an idolater; both categories of such have no share in the World to come.22See Rosh ha-Shanah, 16a-17b; and Yoma, 86a–87b. G.
They that cast fear upon the public for ungodly purposes are limited to one category; it is he who rules over the public by strong hand, and they fear and dread him, whereas his own objective is, self-aggrandizement, and all of his desires are not to glorify Heaven. An example of such, behold the idolatrous rulers.23Ibid. G.
Each and every one of the enumerated twenty-four different categories of persons, Israelites though they be, have no share in the World to Come. And, there are yet lesser transgressions than those referred to concerning which the sages, nevertheless, said, that he who makes a practice to violate them has no share in the World to Come, and that they are of sufficient importance to be kept at a distance, and to watch out against them. They are: he who gives an alias name to his friend; he who calls his friend by his aliases; he who shames his friend publicly; he who glorifies himself by disgracing his friend; he who insults scholars; he who insults his masters; he who despises holy times; he who profanes holy objects. That is saying, that none of these will have a share in the World to Come, if he dies without repentance; but if he repent from his wickedness and died in a state of repentance, he is, indeed, of the sons of the World to Come, as there is not a thing to stand in the way of repentance. Even if one who denied the existence of God all of his life but in the end repented, has a share in the World to Come, for it is said: "Peace, peace, to him that is far off, and to him that is near, saith the Lord; and I will heal him" (Is. 57.19). All of the wicked, and apostates and their like who turned in repentance, whether publicly or secretly, should be accepted back into the folds of Israel, even as it is said: "Return ye backsliding children" (Jer. 3.22)—though he still be backsliding, for, 10, he repented secretly and not publicly, yet is his repentence accepted.22Pirke Abot, 3.11; Sanhedrin, 99b; Baba Mezi’a, 58b; Megillah, 28a; Tosfot, Rosh ha-Shanah, 16b; Kiddushin, 38b; Abodah Zarah, 7a. C. G.