Young at Heart Evil at Heart?
When the flood is over, and Noach, his family and all living creatures emerge from the ark,
The traditional explanation of this verse is as translated above:
The word for youth, na’ar, is composed of the same letters as the verb ‘to shake’ (l’na’er). Young people want to develop “out of themselves.” Neither good nor bad impressions are permanently absorbed by them. A youth’s nature is not yet cloaked by hypocrisy and still ‘shakes off’ both good and bad impressions.
It is not true that children have a wicked nature and that they aspire to bad. We are not doomed by an evil inclination from youth. While young adults may do evil things, this is generally because they have not yet learned the art of subordinating themselves to a higher calling, the art of self-control and respect for duty. In their quest for independence, they seek to “shake off” these burdens. But it is this independence of will which will ultimately serve them well, when intellectual maturity teaches them to use it for moral development. They can learn to use this same obstinacy in the tenacious and steadfast pursuit of good.
Now, the adults who have not learned this art are the ones who remain addicted to base desire and greed. Once the adolescent quest for independence has passed, he learns to accommodate and conform, and also succumbs to desire and selfishness. The time when evil prevails is usually well past youth.
Our verse speaks of a most unusual era, when even the young consciously aspire to evil as their hearts’ ideal. Were this to be the case, all hope for the generation would appear to be lost. But even in this desperate era,
- Sources: Commentary, Bereishet 8:21