|Tractate Peah, Chapter 1
A good thought is smelted2 by God into an action (i.e. God makes sure to turn it into an action). A bad thought is not smelted by God into an action (i.e. God makes sure that it does not become an action), as it is said, “Had I considered iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” (Tehillim 66:18)3 If so how is it true [when it says the following:] “Hear Earth, I bring evil to this nation, the fruit of their thoughts …”? (Yirmiyahu 6:19)4 But rather, [it should be stated as follows:] a good thought is combined by God with an action (i.e. God counts it as if it was done, even though it was not) and not a good [thought] is not combined by God with an action (i.e. God does not count it as if it was done).5
|מסכת פאה פרק א
מחשבה טובה המקום מצרפה למעשה, מחשבה רעה אין המקום מצרפה למעשה שנאמר (תהלים סו:יח) אָוֶן, אִם רָאִיתִי בְלִבִּי, לֹא יִשְׁמַע אֲדֹנָי. ומה אני מקיים (ירמיהו ו:יט) שִׁמְעִי הָאָרֶץ, הִנֵּה אָנֹכִי מֵבִיא רָעָה אֶל הָעָם הַזֶּה, פְּרִי מַחְשְׁבוֹתָם? אלא מחשבה טובה המקום מצרפה עם המעשה ושאינה טובה אין המקום מצרפה למעשה.
- The Tosefta continues on a similar subject as the previous Tosefta. It is not related to any Mishna.
- The Hebrew word צרף has two different meanings. It can mean to “smelt metal” or it can mean to “combine”. In the original statement of the Tosefta it makes more sense to translate it to smelt, because the Tosefta means to say that even though the person only had a thought God will make sure that it will become a real deed in the future. However in the final statement of the Tosefta not only changed the intent of the statement, but also the meaning of the word, which now means to combine, meaning that God counts a thought is if it was an action, even though in reality it was never implemented.
- The verse in Tehillim is taken literally in this case, that if King David would have thought to do something evil God would not have listened to his plea.
- The verse in Yirmiyahu is taken somewhat out of context since in the end of the verse which is omitted in the Tosefta God specifically addresses the Jewish people who He says performed evil deeds. However the Tosefta interprets this verse to be talking about people’s thoughts in general and about a particular people. It seems to me that the Tosefta’s question is really a philosophical question and this verse is simply brought as an Asmachta (reference). The question that bothers the Tosefta is that from the initial statement it would seem that whenever people have evil thoughts those thoughts should never become a reality, because God would make sure that it does not happen. However in the real world we see that people commit evil deeds all the time and clearly God does not prevent them from doing so, in which case the Tosefta’s original statement is simply not true.
- Due to this philosophical problem the Tosefta changes its statement. Now it means to say that when a person has a good thought even if the person has never implemented it into a good deed God counts it as if he did and will reward the person accordingly. However if a person had an evil thought, but he never implemented it into an evil deed, then God simply ignores it and does not punish him for it. Talmud Yerushalmi (Peah 1:1, Daf 5a) interprets the Tosefta’s final intent in this manner. The wording of the Tosefta’s last statement that I have quoted above is from the Erfurt manuscript. However in the Vienna manuscript it is different. There the Tosefta says as following:
But rather, [it should be stated as follows:] a thought that has fruit is combined by God with an action and a [thought] that does not have fruit is not combined by God with an action.
אלא מחשבה שעושה פירות המקום מצרפה עם המעשה מחשבה שאינה עושה פירות אין המקום מצרפה עם המעשה
Talmud Bavli (Kiddushin 40a) quotes this Tosefta, and although in the printed version of the Gemara the text reads as in the Erfurt manuscript, the Munchen manuscript of Talmud Bavli and Rashi (Kiddushin 40a, Machshava Sheosah Peirot, Metzarfah Lemaaseh) have the same reading in the Gemara as in the Vienna manuscript of this Tosefta. Rashi interprets it to mean that if a person took his thought and implemented it into a deed then God counts the thought on the same level as the deed and therefore if the thought and the deed were good then the person gets double the reward and if the thought and the deed were evil then the person gets double the punishment. However if the person never implemented his thought into a deed then God does not reward him at all if it was good and does not punish him at all if it was evil. I personally prefer the reading in the Tosefta according to the Erfurt manuscript since it flows better in the context from the Tosefta’s original statement.