Ask The Rabbi

Mr. Good-Man

The Color of HeavenArtscroll
Topic: Basic Goodness of Man

Marie Dupont wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

Thank you for your page. It is the most informative and enjoyable page on the web. I was wondering what Judaism say about man being born evil. Thank you for your answer. Regards.


Dear Marie Dupont,

No, man is not "born evil."

The Torah says that "the inclination in man's heart is evil from his youth." (Genesis 8:21) The Talmud explains "youth" here to mean from the time of birth. However, this evil inclination is external; it is not intrinsic to a person's pure soul. Our pure soul is given to us even earlier, at the time of conception.

So, Judaism sees man as basically good, created in G-d's image, but with temptation towards evil. While the evil inclination is strong, Judaism believes that a person can choose to overcome it. This is the concept of free choice, which is basically the purpose of our existence: To choose good over evil.

Sources:

  • Yerushalmi Berachot 3:5
  • Bereishet Rabba 34


 
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