Life is indeed a learning process, whose ultimate destiny is to be, to have and manifest goodness as the sole purpose of God’s creation. We also become aware that evil exists as a reference to choose goodness, and that wickedness is something that we can overcome and remove from us.
One of the most misunderstood verses in the Torah speaks about this.
“For the desire of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” (Genesis 8:21)
The context of “youth” is presented here as ignorance, inexperience, clumsiness, foolishness, inability and incapacity, — lack of knowledge — to make the right choices, and to fully assimilate the dynamics of human consciousness.
Thus we understand evil as a negative tendency based or generated by poor judgment on what is supposed to be right or wrong.
However, this may not be applicable for those who knowingly and purposely make evil a choice and not a reference, and see nothing valuable in goodness even being fully aware that they can’t live without it.
“It is good for a man that he bears the yoke in his youth.”
This does not mean that man has the natural tendency to be evil or do evil from his birth or youth, but to make negative choices based on immaturity, lack of knowledge or adequate information to wisely exercise his free will.
We do this properly when we realize that evil exists as a reference and not a choice, for the choice must always be goodness. In this sense goodness is the “yoke” we have to fully learn from the beginning of life in order to carry it throughout our entire existence.
“Turn aside from evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it.”
All this is a direct admonition and warning that since early childhood we must receive and/or give the best possible intellectual, moral, ethical, mental and emotional education the Torah commands us to acquire for ourselves, our offspring and others, in order to make goodness “the desire of our heart” since the moment we are conscious of life.
“Educate a child on his way, so also when he is old will not turn from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)
Goodness is our essence, true identity and bond with our Creator, and what we are destined to be and do in the world. Thus we also understand why God created man in His image and likeness.
“I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness, and I hold in your hand and keep you, and make you a covenant for the people, and a light of the nations.” (Isaiah 42:6)
In this context, light is an abstract form of goodness that manifests itself as the right thing to do, for as we mentioned last week in our commentary on parshat Bereshit, goodness is the ruling principle in God’s creation to prevail as He commands us in His instruction.