7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Absolutely not! Certainly, I would not have known sin except through the law. For indeed I would not have known what it means to desire something belonging to someone else if the law had not said, “Do not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing the opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of wrong desires. For apart from the law, sin is dead. 9 And I was once alive apart from the law, but with the coming of the commandment, sin became alive 10 and I died. So I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life brought death! 11 For sin, seizing the opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it I died. 12 So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous, and good.
Yoma 72bBabylonian Talmud
Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: What is the meaning of that which is written: “And this is the Torah which Moses put [sam] before the children of Israel” (Deuteronomy 4:44)? The word sam is written with the letter sin and means put; it is phonetically similar to the word sam written with the letter samekh, meaning a drug. This use of this word therefore alludes to the following: If one is deserving, the Torah becomes a potion [sam] of life for him. If one is not deserving, the Torah becomes a potion of death for him. And this idea is what Rava said: For one who is skillful in his study of Torah and immerses himself in it with love, it is a potion of life; but for one who is not skillful in his studies, it is a potion of death.
Notes and References
"... Sifre Deuteronomy, He'azinu 306, Exodos Rabbah, Ta'anit 7a, Numbers Rabbah, Sukkah 52b, Kiddushin 30b, P. Yoma 6.4, 34d ... Paul affirms that although the purpose of the Torah is to give life (compare Leviticus 18:5, Deuteronomy 28:15-20, Provers 3:18, Ezekiel 20:11), the desire of the evil inclination is only for what is forbidden, and the punishment attendant on transgression means that its injunction can also bear fruit for death instead of the inheritance of eternal life ... Since God 'condescends' to human limitations in the commandments of the Torah, the Torah cannot make man live, despite (or even because of) the fact that it is 'holy and righteous and good' ..."
Shulam, Joseph, and Le Cornu, Hilary A Commentary on the Jewish Roots of Romans (pp. 246-247) Messianic Jewish Publishers, 1998